The Silencers (1966) with Dean Martin

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1966 the silencers

Follow Matt Helm secret agent from bedroom to bedlam with guns, girls and dynamite!

Although the last generation would think of the Austin Powers series as perhaps the most popular of all the humorous tongue-in-cheek parodies of the James Bond film franchise, it is not the best.

That claim rightfully falls to the ingenious if ever so campy Matt Helm series of the late 1960s.  Written by Donald Hamilton, the written canon of the Matt Helm novels span twenty seven entries, quite a bit more than even Fleming’s own 007.  Unlike Fleming’s creation, the films bear almost no relation to the books, outside of Matt Helm’s presence in them.  Even the most tepid of the Bonds (at least those based on a Fleming originals) has a few points of similarity.  Hamilton’s original writings are rather hard hitting spy novels, and nothing could be farther from the truth in the Matt Helm series.  If anything, the exact opposite is the case.  However, that doesn’t make the films anything less than fun.

Like their successor Austin Powers films, the Matt Helm is a blending of camp, humor, and action.  The blend for Helm is a bit more even with the action being quite a bit less comical.    The Silencers was the first of the four Helm pictures.

The Silencers 1966 2The Silencers opens with our semi-retired hero, played by Dean Martin, enjoying himself in the swankiness of his 1966 bachelor dive, which is full of all of the latest gadgets.  There’s a spinning bed which also transports Helm- and any potential lady love- to a good sized swimming pool.  It can even tilt to dump its occupants in as well for a nice touch.  Other comforts of home are dual automatic coffee makers, rotating drying spindles (making bath towels unnecessary), and automated dressing devices.  Way too cool and you’ll see variants in later Helm films in addition to various homages in the Austin Powers films.

Though it looks dated now, and if you didn’t know better you’d think The Silencers came out in the last few years given the current trend for retro campiness.  Helm also has his own version of “Q” branch which provides a camera with throwing knives, a gun which shoots backwards, and a coat with detachable grenades disguised as buttons among other things.  Again, everything is a parody, but we are all in on the joke.

The Silencers 1966 1Helm too has a veritable bevy of women around him, with Stella Stevens, Daliah Lavo, Nancy Kovack, and Cyd Charisse all sharing screen time with the Ohio-born crooner.  There is more than enough skimpy clothing to go around and between the flashes of flesh, repeated dousing of women with water, and dialogue full of double entendres the sexual tension gets pretty well stoked, especially given the times.  But again, it was the last 60s.  There are also other “A” listers involved, ranging from the score by Elmer Bernstein to the producer, the infamous Irwin Allen.

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