Twilight Time // 1966 // 107 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Daryl Loomis // February 11th, 2013
He was the best. Undisciplined, but the best.
When people watched the ultra-popular Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery series, they saw a spoof of spy movies and immediately thought, "James Bond." Certainly, there are plenty of jokes in those movies that were drawn directly from 007, but the substance and style of those movies really owes its debt to one man: Derek Flint. He's the swinging sixties superspy with a twinkle in his eye who set the stage for the wackiness that Mike Myers would deliver thirty years later. While sometimes overlooked today, the two Flint movies, Our Man Flint and In Like Flint, have received increasingly strong home releases over the years, and the first of the two now has its definitive edition on Blu-ray from Twilight Time.
The nefarious Galaxy organization announces their new system for weather control and their plans to use it, the spy agency Z.O.W.I.E (Zonal Organization for World Intelligence and Espionage) is called into action. Run by long-time leader Lloyd Cramden (Lee J. Cobb, The Exorcist), he leaves it to the world leaders' computers to decide what operative to send. They all come up with one name: Derek Flint (James Coburn, Affliction), a hotshot former operative who played by his own rules. Cramden is incensed, but is forced to draw him out of retirement to help. Flint refuses until an attempt on his life causes him to reconsider. He still doesn't care much, though, until his beloved harem is kidnapped by Galaxy, who intends to turn them into "pleasure units." Once he finds out about that, it's on.
Every single moment of Our Man Flint screams 1966. If you've never seen the movie, how much that resonates with you will probably determine your enjoyment of it. It bleeds '60s style and culture, features all the Cold War paranoia and fascination with new technology (computers!) you can stand, and yes, is just about as chauvinistic as it could possibly be. It's also one of the most enjoyable films that I know of, with a near perfect combination of action and humor.
It starts fast, using apocalyptic stock footage of weather phenomena, and while there's a bit of a lull in the middle of the film, Our Man Flint maintains that pace for the entirety of the film. It's a spoof of the Bond craze, but not in the same way as other contemporaries like I Spy and The Man from U.N.C.L.E.. It takes its jabs and has plenty of fun with the genre (including quite a funny bit involving an "information brawl" with a Connery lookalike named 0008), but it never winks at the camera, even for a moment. Director Daniel Mann (The Rose Tattoo), mostly known for his piercing dramas, does well by making everything appear serious and letting the true absurdity of the situation handle the comedy.
The real success of Our Man Flint, though, comes from the title character and James Coburn's excellent rendering of it. Unlike Bond, who is a generic, albeit extremely effective, assassin, Derek Flint can kill just as efficiently (though without primitive guns), while also being able to perform emergency surgery, teach ballet, manage a harem, and communicate fluently in over forty languages, among innumerable other skills. He knows everything and does it all with a smile, making him as cool a customer as ever was. Coburn treats it all with a twinkle in his eye and a smirk on his lips, sashaying through every scene like he knows he's going to win and couldn't care less. During the film, he dispatches maybe 25 people directly, and possibly four or five times that indirectly (depending how many innocents actually escape the final scene...not many, I would guess), while still making time to kiss his lovelies and invite a new one into the fold. He's the proverbial man that women want and men want to be and watching him is a true pleasure.
The rest of the cast comes secondary to Flint, but they serve their purposes just fine. Lee J. Cobb is just about perfect as the exasperated Z.O.W.I.E. leader. Like the director, he was known for his dramatic excellence and uses that cache really well to deliver some excellent comedy. The villainous leading lady Gila Golan (Three on a Couch) is well-cast, though her acting talents were clearly less important to producers than her other assets (she was crowned Miss Israel in 1961). Nobody else in the cast has much to do except dance or get killed, which pretty much sums up 1960s action comedies.
The one thing about Our Man Flint that is a sticking point for today's audiences is that, unlike other spy spoofs, and especially the Austin Powers films we've become accustomed to, this isn't a laugh-a-minute gut-buster. It's funny, and highly amusing for its entire running time, but there aren't very many direct gags to get viewers rolling in the aisles. Accepting this really helps in the film's enjoyment which, for me, is one of the finest comedies of its decade and a genuine pleasure to watch.
Twilight Time brings Our Man Flint to fans with an excellent limited edition Blu-ray disc. The 2006 3-disc DVD release (featuring both films) was very good, but this upgrade is big step toward greatness. The 2.35:1/1080p image transfer is nearly perfect. There's a bit of dirt here and there, but it's otherwise pristine and as good as it has ever looked. Crisp and colorful, with excellent detail, deep black levels, and bright whites, it shows off the image as well as it ever has. The sound mix is almost as good, with a noise-free lossless DTS-HD Master Audio mono track. It clearly doesn't have the dynamics of more modern sound design, but it fares extremely well from the single channel. The dialog and effects are perfectly clear, with a few large sound effects thrown in, and Goldsmith's brilliant score is very strong, though the 2.0 Master Audio track for the isolated score as part of the supplements is even better.
Speaking of extras, this disc has plenty. Most of them are ported over from the previous release, but there's enough new here to satisfy fans. It starts with that isolated score track, which sounds fantastic (if only there was a way to transfer it to my computer, but that's okay). Next is an audio commentary featuring film historians Eddie Friedfeld and Lee Pfeiffer, which is a more amusing listen than I often find these talks. They go into all aspects of the film, from the fun of it to the goofs, to its context within the time and place it was made.
A series of featurettes follows, which are a mixed bag, but mostly worth a watch. These include Our Man Flint in context of the spy craze that the James Bond films started, relating the film directly to Ian Fleming's hero, profiling Coburn as the star, and a discussion about bouillabaisse. Another featurette explains the story of how legendary critic Pauline Kael lost her job at McCall's magazine in large part due to her views on the Flint films, which is very interesting (at least for the guy writing this).
Closing out the disc are some shorter bits, including a pair of screen tests, one with Coburn alongside eventual star Gila Golan and the other with proposed leading lady Raquel Welch, who wound up doing Fantastic Voyage instead of this picture. It's highly interesting here to see how different the chemistry is comparing the two actresses and, despite the fact that Welch had skills far beyond Golan's, it was Gila who was obviously more appealing in the role. Three sets of storyboard-to-screen pieces show how closely the original conceptions made it to the final product, and a trailer closes out the disc.
From the ridiculous clothes to all the psychedelia thrown around, Flint is a brilliant relic of its time, perfectly encapsulating the weirdness and paranoia of the age, as well as spoofing an entire genre while it was still happening. Derek Flint as a character and James Coburn as an actor essentially sum up my idea of "cool" and Our Man Flint on Blu-ray is an absolute winner. Highly recommended.
As usual, Flint walks away unharmed and without charges. Case dismissed.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Twilight Time
* 2.35:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 1.0 Mono (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 107 Minutes
Release Year: 1966
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Isolated Score
* Screen Tests