Monday, April 21, 2008

Matt Helm Week Day 1: The Silencers!

Before I get started on The Silencers, I just want to clear up one thing about yesterday's post: I am by no means critical of Dean Martin's work ethic. In fact, I aspire to it. No one has had more influence on my own work ethic and pedagogy as Dino has had. I look forward to the day that I can walk into a classroom, randomly open up a literature book, and begin talking cold about a poem that I've never laid eyes on before. WWDD?

The Silencers opens, after the fantastic credit sequence I posted yesterday, with a scene we find common to later Matt Helm movies: Helm must be stirred from his playboy lifestyle and his fashion photographer cover to once again enter the espionage game for his government employers, ICE (Intelligence and Counter-Espionage).

In this case, he must be woken from the verge of a nocturnal emission (or in Matt Helm's case, more like an afternoonal emission):

Although this is a (wet) dream, at other points in the movie, when Matt is contemplating his mission, we hear Dean singing standards, but with new lyrics pertaining to the film's plot. Therefore, we are to assume that Matt Helm's interior monologue consists entirely of songs, which makes perfect sense.

In this scene, we also get to see that Matt Helm has the least efficient high-tech spy pad ever created. The rotating, motorized, pneumatic bed is one thing, but he also uses large, pulsing velour rods to dry off from the unnecessarily large bubble bath.

We are also introduced here to Helm's secretary, Lovey Kravezit--an employee for whom Matt just learns her first name despite the fact that she apparently does most of her work naked in his bubble bath.

There is, in fact, too much awesomeness to comment on in this scene.

The plot of this movie is relatively inconsequential. Helm's constant nemeses, The BIG O--led here by Victor "King Tut" Buono as "Tung-Tse"--plan something called "Operation Fallout" to disrupt some underground nuclear test in the Southwest by redirecting an American missle and blah blah blah.

Helm is reluctantly drawn back into the game when BIG O sends a female assassin after him. Helm returns to his pad to find a trail of women's clothes leading to his bedroom. Apparently, this is a common enough occurence for Helm that he is nonplussed by it. Helm assumes she comes from ICE as a means to entice him into the mission, and he explains that he has already taken a photography assignment to Acupulco.

"What's in Acupulco that you can't find here?" she asks, as she wraps herself around him.

"Mexicans," Helm responds, in a joke that is even funnier today (to Republicans).

In addition to having the least efficient spy pad, Matt Helm also gets the most useless gadgets. In The Silencers, his gadgets include a gun that shoots backwards so that it kills the person pulling the trigger and a sportcoat with giant buttons that function as grenades when they are pulled off. Both of these are rife with the potential to do more harm to the user than good.

And neither are as crazy or as awesome as the belt that turns into a sword when it gets wet, which we will see in a later movie.

In the course of the movie, Helm picks up Stella Stevens, who is a witness to the BIG O's plot and a potential double agent. In this scene, Helm tries to interrogate her while they drive to the site of BIG O's project, and we get to see just how much Helm's station wagon beats the shit out of any car James Bond has ever driven:

In this scene, we get two common tropes that reappear in later Matt Helm movies. First, the drinking and driving, which occurs with a frequency that is both alarming and entertaining. Second, the postmodern, metatextual gag where Matt Helm disses Frank Sinatra in favor of Dean Martin. We are to assume from these gags that Matt Helm exists in a world where there is also a Dean Martin, and that is a world that is too awesome to contemplate without causing an innercranial explosion.

Also, Stella Stevens is pretty hot here, though her character, Gail Hendricks, gets treated terribly throughout the movie, in ways that might, honestly, make some modern viewers uncomfortable. As everyone should know, Stevens also starred with Dino's former partner, Jerry Lewis, in the classic The Nutty Professor. According to Stevens, her appearance in The Silencers just a few years after costarring in The Nutty Professor led to Jerry shutting her out for over twenty years.

Next: The best of the Matt Helm movies--Murderers' Row.

6 comments:

dino martin peters said...

Hey pallie K, dude it is clear that you are not only a master of the English language, but a true Dinoholic as well....I like you aspire to become more and more like our great man....thanks for the great Dinocommentary on "The Silencers"....see that you also loves MR the best..can't wait for the next Dinoinstallment....

Dr. K said...

Hey DMP, thanks for reading! Love the comments, and please bring along any of your Dinoexpertise that you'd like to share!

dino martin peters said...

Hey pallie Dr. K, no problemo dude. I think we musta be Dinosoulmates. I have long wanted to do my PHD in Dinostudies and I think you are just the guy to study under. Thinkin' the program would be very Dinointerdisciplinary...incorporatin' the arts...music, drama, and film, philosophy (our Dino is the wisest 'round....Nick Tosches tagged him "an American Buddha"), sociology...the amazin' influence that our Dino has on modern American culture, history....the life and times of our Dino, and literature...several great Dinobios to read and expound on. And I think you are just the teach that coulda pull this off. What d'ya think pallie Dr. K....you and your school could be the first place of higher education to offer Dinology!!!! So lookin' forward to your Dinoreflections on MR.

Chris Sims said...

This movie is sique.

The King Of Cool said...

Hey there, Dr. K. Wow! What an awesome review of The Silencers. I love Dean Martin and the Matt Helm spy flicks. This is my second favorite of those movies.

Anonymous said...

Daliah Lavi made at least five movies in which she played a spy and got blown up with a bomb in every one of them. Luciana Paluzzi made at least three spy movies and got shot in all of them.