Brawls, Broads and Booze
by The Finn
What was it about the mid-sixties that inspired so many cool spies ? Was it the broads ? The booze ? The suits ? Or just the tensions of the Cold War that seemed to surface in everyday life ? What ever it was, I love the spy shtick from the sixties. Now don’t get me wrong, there’s no smoother spy than James Bond (Connery, of course. Are you trying to insult me ?). But some days you don’t want the smooth sixties spy. You want the wacky one. Or the sinister one. Or best yet, the hipper than thou spy duo. Two, two, two spies for the price of one! I love them all and here’s a quick look at some of my favorites.
Matt Helm (as portrayed by Dean Martin in four films) is a smooth, sauced, roll with the punches kinda guy. Dean Martin basically took his onstage persona for these films (The Silencers, Murderer’s Row, The Ambushers and The Wrecking Crew) and applied to the tried and true “spy film” formula. Hilarity ensues as he fires off one liners and get himself out of all kinds of sticky situations with humor, wit and just a dash of cunning. And, as always, the beautiful thing about the Matt Helm movies isn’t the gadgets (although his “ten second delay” gun is pretty hot) or the dames. It’s Dino, being Dino. Throughout most of “The Silencers”, he’s a little hit or miss with the “I’m a little drunk and people are trying to kill me” routine but by the time we get to “Murderer’s Row”, the man’s got it down pat. He’s suave, debonair, half in the bag and he always gets the girl. It’s entertaining as hell to watch Dino does what he does best, be Dean Martin.
When I think of James Coburn, I don’t think wise talking International Man of Mystery. I think of the cool, calculated killer he’s played a million times. But that was before I saw “Our Man Flint” and “In Like Flint”. Super cool secret agent Derek Flint lives in seclusion, surrounded by beautiful women and a doting staff that care for this no retired secret agent. But when a mysterious organization called GALAXY threaten the planet; he’s called into action once again. Armed only with his sidearm, a multifunction cigarette lighter and that sly Coburn smile, Flint saves the world and looks good doing it. While Bond can be interpreted as pretentious and self confident to the point of arrogant, Flint is the epitome of cool. There’s no questioning it. Any man who can fight his way through a madman’s army using only his feet and walk away with five new girlfriends is a man to be reckoned with.
I Spy wasn’t originally a movie (and if one person brings it up, it’s curtains for ya….) but was instead a fairly complex, dialogue heavy show about a pair of secret agents who worked for the US Government. Robert Culp played Robinson and Bill “Puddin’ Pops” Cosby played Scott, a pair of agents who masqueraded as a tennis pro and his trainer. Their cover was that they were a couple of tennis guys who bummed around and played tennis against rich people, mainly for cash and room and board. In reality, they were tracking spies and traitors and taking them down. The interplay between Culp and The Cos is why this show is still a classic. I haven’t seen chemistry this good between two men in well… Let’s not go into that now. Let’s just say that I was young and my girlfriend thought it’d be hot. These two play off each other so well that at times you forget that they’re out to kill and imprison people for the government. Can’t recommend this one highly enough.
There’s tons of other good spies and these are just a few off the top of my head. So, how about you ? Who are some of your favorites ?
thefinn is often glad his wife doesn't have a bra gun. Archives