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. Unfortunately the DVD has been cut to remove a scene of do-it-yourself CPR because the BBFC think it might inspire kids to try it for themselves at home on their friends...
Rushed into production before our Man Flint was even released, 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.
Unlike the excellent Ultimate Flint NTSC Region 1 boxed set, which includes a plethora of extras and the dire 70s Canadian TV movie Our Man Flint: Dead on Target (starring Ray Danton and one of the worst hairstyles in television history as a very dull private eye), the only extra on the two Flint films are trailers. The 2.35:1 widescreen transfers are acceptable but not outstanding.
These DVDs are amazing value when you consider you get the two best spy spoofs ever made, beautiful locations, stunning girls, some wonderfully tongue in cheek humour and the supercool James Coburn saving the world not once but twice from villains so dastardly that you can't help but like them. Deserving of repeated viewings, the films recall a much missed age when special effects took a back seat to good solid storytelling. A breath of fresh sixties air.
Created from scratch as America's James Bond, Derek Flint was a supa-dupa agent called on by the American government when faced with a world threatening situation. Versed in karate, meditation and even the ability to stop his heart beating for minutes on end, Flint was in the Matt Helm mould of spoof agent, only a tad more sophisticated and boasting a better actor.
James Coburn , who had made his name as one of the Magnificent Seven and just missed out on A Fistful of Dollars, found his usual image being overhauled as the tuxedo clad, light witted, world class adventurer.
Flint is also an apparent second cousin to James Bond, with a bar room brawl scene in which Flint exchanges information with a unnamed Bond like agent while the pair pretend to fight and even mention SPECTRE as the suspects behind a plan to control the world's weather. Amazing that EON's lawyers were not straight onto this.
A second film followed soon followed. In Like Flint punned the old headline In Like Flynn (referring to Errol Flynn's reputed sexual prowess) but the film itself was less novel, being another rip off You Only Live Twice with some tired hangovers from the first movie and silly gags that could be seen coming a mile off. Non the less, a third film was announced in 1969 under the title F For Flint. It never materialised. Just as well, really.
Unlike the largely forgotten Matt Helm, Derek Flint has attained his own place in in nostalgia for 1960s pop culture. His appearance on the Our Man Flint movie poster; evening suit, gun in one hand, cocktail glass in the other has become part of sixties cinema iconography. Strange how the poster ( and a blatant copy cat of Bond's image at that) has become more famous than the film itself.
Flint, a James Bond all laughing now must defeat the supervillain organization that wants to conquer the world by controlling the weather, now delete the hags that through cosmetics play to dominate the world. Comedian quasi-comic, which stands up well according to the game. Coburn is truly a delicious hero, Cobb a good shoulder and the starletts flirting with Derek Flint, pleasant as an olive in the Martini. These films should be viewed with great irony of course, although I believe that films with Flint are the best kind of satire superspy James Bond.