Our Man Flint is the best of the American wannabe Bond spinoffs to hit the big screen in the wake of Thunderball's phenomenal box-office success. Unlike the all-but-unwatchable Matt Helm films or the myriad of one-off Fathoms and Modesty Blaise's or the Le Carre and Deighton anti-Bonds, it manages to embrace the absurdity but knows enough to play it straight for maximum effect. James Coburn's playboy adventurer Derek Flint shares Bond's ability to master anything he turns his hand to, but his is an almost throwaway expertise - when a bewildered Lee J. Cobb asks "You went all the way to Moscow just to watch a ballet?", he replies "No, to teach." as if it were the most natural and mundane thing in the world. The humor is often anarchic (an anti-American eagle or Benson Fong playing a Dr Steiner) and anti-establishment, at times much more of an influence on Austin Powers than the 007s, and it beats Bond to the hollowed out volcano lair by two years (the President's phone tone also turns up in Hudson Hawk while the weather-altering plotline was also used for The Avengers movie, but we'll skip over them). Edward Mulhare has fun as an old school tie-and-blazer combination villain called Rodney, there are some extremely good action scenes in finale, including that old 20th Century Fox favorite, a high dive into the lake on the Fox ranch (see also Jesse James, Planet of the Apes, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid among others), and Jerry Goldsmith contributes a terrific score that is every bit as versatile as Flint himself.
In Like Flint is considerably less successful. In the opening half hour Coburn only has one scene, while the film strains a little too hard to be wacky and loses the straight faced charm of the original. With the exception of one excellent fight in a gym the action scenes are sloppier too. Then there's the sexism to contend with (although the notion of brainwashing the women of the world via hairdryers is ingenious), not to mention the sight of Lee J. Cobb in drag... Still, Goldsmith does have fun providing nifty variations on his themes from the first film while generally adding a more Neal Hefti tone to the proceedings.
But worse was to come with busted 70's TV pilot Dead On Target, which scrapes beneath the soil beneath the concrete beneath the bottom of the barrel for something so lazily incompetent it looks like it was made in the Stone Age with primitive tools. Cheap doesn't cover it. Aside from being shot for next to nothing in Canada with a cast who, for the most part, only recently seem to have mastered the art of connected speech, the film stock is so cheap it looks like it was shot on Super 8mm with sound recorded on a well-used Memorex cassette tape. The same aerial shots of cars driving across the same bridge or along the same road are used over and over again almost as punctuation while in one sequence you can even see the cameraman reflected in the car window more clearly than Flint and his kidnappers. Even the uncredited clumsy wakka-wakka 70s score comes from a music library to save hiring a composer while there aren't even any end credits aside from a copyright notice.
Ray Danton and one of the worst hairstyles in television history share the lead, no longer a superhero super agent but now a very dull private eye with a masseur, a phone answering service and a female apprentice so unflatteringly photographed that in several shots she looks like a man in drag. Unless you count Lawrence Dane, Canada's answer to William Windom, or the actor who played Dutch in Soap, here cast as an Arab terrorist (and his is the best performance), the biggest name in the supporting cast is an unbilled Kim Cattrall, who can briefly be glimpsed for about four seconds as an extra just before the wildly overlong title sequence that is as seemingly endless and clumsily timed as everything else in this horrendous misfire. There is a certain train wreck fascination to it, but it's still a very, very long 74 minutes.
Unlike the UK double-disc of the first two films, which contains only trailers (and which includes a censor cut in the first film), along with the three films the Region 1 NTSC Ultimate Flint Collection contains a multitude of extras, from featurettes (more celebratory than revealing), screen tests, trailers and interviews to a recipe for the perfect bouillabaisse. The transfers on the two features are good but not great - a little too dark in places while the score in particular could have stood some remastering - but more than acceptable.
For those with deeper pockets, it's well worth seeking out Twilight Time's limited edition (3000 copies) region-free US Blu-ray releases of the two features, which are available separately. Our Man Flint is especially loaded with extras, including several which are exclusive to their release - featurettes on director Daniel Mann, one on an ill-advised review claiming her rivals had been bought off by the studio to give the film good reviews that got Pauline Kael fired from her job at McCalls Magazine, a 24-minute retrospective making-of documentary, three storyboard sequences, James Coburn's screen tests with Gila Golan and Racquel Welch, an isolated track for Goldsmith's terrific score and a booklet. And that's on top of featurettes that have been carried over from the boxed set (Spy-er-rama, A Gentleman's Game, Spy Style and The Perfect Bouillabaisse) and the original trailer!