12/30/08

Retro Film Report #2: The Silencers

I'm starting my review of The Silencers (1966) with this image because I think it encapsulates the movie better than any other frame: the ultra-cool Dean Martin has butts and boobs in his face the entire film.



I'm not going to outline the plot of the film, or even give a real review; however, I will say that I was astounded at how similar it was to the Austin Powers films. It is so neatly identical that I'd sue Mike Myers for every penny he made from it. Of course, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery (and The Silencers borrows an awful lot from James Bond).... so, I guess I'd hold off on the litigation for right now.

Anyway, Dean is his usual cool likeable self as the special agent Matt Helm, and nothing at all like the goofy Austin Powers... except for an extreme case of excessive mojo. I lost count of how many beautiful women throw themselves at his feet begging for some lovin'... I'm sure it would make a great drinking game. In one scene, Dean literally rips Stella Stevens' clothes off and then manhandles her. This is Austin Power's mojo times ten.



But the similarities don't end there - not by a longshot.

There's an evil mastermind who looks and talks remarkably like Dr. Evil, and he even has an underground lair. Furthermore, the evil mastermind has a diabolical (and hilariously convoluted) plan to destroy the world. His plans are implemented by an actor bearing a striking resemblance to Robert Wagner, aka "Number Two" (seen below).

The evil mastermind has plenty of nameless henchmen whom Dean kills haphazardly one by one just as in the Austin Powers movies. There's also plenty of nifty Bond gadgets, Dean's boss is just like Michael York - straight laced and uptight, and there's even a character named Lovey Kravesit! I could go on and on, but you get the point. Sure, Austin Powers borrows a lot from Bond and the Flint movies (not to mention Jason King), but The Silencers seems to be its principal inspiration (yet it's not even mentioned in the Austin Powers Wikipedia article).

The storyline is just as convoluted as Dr. Evil's plans - things seem to happen for no other reason than to provide a sexy moment or a killing to wake up the audience a little. At one point Nancy Kovack is shot twice in the back and at another point Cyd Charisse is shot dead on stage - in both cases we never fully understand why. Then again, it doesn't really matter does it? We're having way too much fun to be bogged down with things like a backstory and motives.



Dean acts like he's been hitting the sauce since the first day of filming - he's half awake and slightly slurred for the better part of the picture. My favorite scene would have to be where Stella Stevens and Dean Martin are driving down a winding road and drinking like there's no tomorrow. Dean's got a veritable wet bar in the backseat, and the pair of them do shots!

I think there was a plot in the film somewhere, but really the story is nothing more than a means to carry the audience from one cool-funny-and/or-sexy scene to another. But that's okay, since the movie delivers mightily on all three counts.

12 comments:

  1. Oh, the days when you could have a liquor cabinet in the back seat of your car! I was born 15 years too late, or so.

    As far as Meyers goes, I like that there is a lot of subtle fanservice in the AP movies, but I wish he would, like Tarantino, tell people what inspired him. Think of all the poor slobs who loved Austin Powers, but don't know Matt Helm or Our Man Flint, and those are the easy ones!

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  2. I was being completely facetious in the Myers lawsuit comment (I should proofread more before I click "publish"). In fact, I think AP movies are a wonderful tribute to the Bond clones of the latter half of the sixties.

    That being said, I read the entire Wikipedia article on AP: International Man of Mystery and not a reference to Matt Helm! I knew AP borrowed from the Helm movies, but I didn't realize the extent - especially the Dr. Evil aspect. There should more of an acknowledgement out there.

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  3. Hey Gil. Thanks for the mention about my blog. I appreciate it. I do my best to show my respect to the King of Cool himself, Dean Martin. I'm glad there are others that enjoy what I do there.

    Great write-up on this film. I love The Silencers. While I'm a huge fan of 007, etc., I really dig Matt Helm. Dean Martin essentially plays the character as himself. That's what is so cool about it.

    It doesn't seem to have much of a plot. That doesn't really matter at it. It's just pure escapist fun. You sure can't go wrong with a hot babe like Stella Stevens. Dino does act like he was hitting the sauce during the making of this movie. This film or its star didn't take itself too seriously. It was just a fun ride for all of us to enjoy.

    Happy New Year! Cheers!

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  4. Hey pallie Gilligan, stellar Dinoprose on the first of the Matt Helm quartet...glads to see that you really dig our Dino....never was, never will be anyone as cool as the King of Cool...oh, to return to the days when Dino walked the earth. btw, you just might wanna checks out the original Dinoblog...ilovedinomartin...just clicks on my tagg to Dinoarrive...btw, woulda you mind if I feature this Dinoarticle at the ol' Dinoblog?

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  5. I am happy to see you doing some film reviews here lately. You have a good writing style for this sort of thing. I have not seen any of the Matt Helm films since I was a kid and obviously I need to find some online soon and check them out. Stella Stevens is so beautiful. I just saw her in Jerry Lewis' The Nutty Professor. A true doll.

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  6. Keith - I just couldn't do a Dino post and not mention your awesome blog. Very good point about this being pure escapist fun - the plot is not just secondary, it may be tertiary in this case. But who cares? Dean and his surrounding chicks are what it's all about and audiences STILL love it!

    dino martin peters - I'll have to check out yer blog next chance I get. Of course you can feature it - I consider it an honor from such an obvious Dino fan. Cheers and Happy New Year to both you and Keith!

    Bill- You're absolutely right that I should do more movie posts. I may try even a few Uranium Cafe-ish B-movies for the hell of it. I appreciate the positive feedback as usual. As I've said many times before, this blogging thing isn't earning a red cent, so a guy's got to get some Pavlovian positive stimuli every once and a while in lieu of a check! Thanks for your continual support and help - Have a great new year!

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  7. I will almost certainly be rewarded with new jewelry once I tell my husband about this review AND the existence of The Dino Lounge. Thanks, Gilligan.

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  8. PZR- Your husband obviously has impeccable taste.

    Hope you get your jewelry. I like to think of Retrospace as the cubic zirconia of blogs.

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  9. I just watched this movie the other night! I kept wondering if it was only about the women or if there was going to be a plot. A little one showed up eventually. I'll do a sort of review in the next few weeks. As a side note, I hated Austin Powers.

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  11. The great thing about movies of this era is that they were all movies that were what movies were originally intended to be, pure fun and entertainment, no political subtext, no social engineering. They were just plain fun, something that is sadlyt missing from today's politically partisan Hollywood products.

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  12. It was a great time to be alive, those days

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