Our Man Flint Review
During the sixties, the greatest cinematic superspy was James Bond, and despite efforts to cast him otherwise, Agent 007 remained British. Americans were clearly keen to jump on this bandwagon, producer Irving Allen casting Dean Martin of all people as Matt Helm in a series kicked off by The Silencers, a weak effort that was quickly forgotten. Realising that Bond was still cashing in even by the time of the third sequel Thunderball, Fox studios decided that they wanted their own American bond, in the form of Derek Flint.
Flint was not to be played by McQueen, Garner, Newman, Redford - any of the charismatic subjects you'd associate with such a role, but by James Coburn, star of The Magnificent Seven and The Great Escape. In hindsight, Coburn's image as a suave sixties' icon has been usurped by his rugged, ruthless screen persona demonstrated in films such as Affliction and Pat Garrett & Bill The Kid, and it's strange to see the actor in such a carefree and fun state. Coburn is one of the few good things about Our Man Flint.
Plot wise, the film rips off Bond (and reveals many original targets for Austin Powers to poke fun at) and doesn't try to hide it. It claims to be a spoof, but at times you sense that the film would rather be considered as a rival to Bond instead, taking itself very seriously and playing action sequences with a straight face. Anyhow, after world-wide water levels rise, ZOWIE (Zonal Organisation for World Intelligence Espionage) send in their top agent Derek Flint to solve the problem, despite the reluctance of Flint's Boss Cramden (Lee J. Cobb), who is angered by Flint's disregard for authority. Soon, Flint discovers an organisation named GALAXY, run by three scientists who plan to replace the world with their own 'perfect' society. Unless the world destroys their entire array of military weapons and lets GALAXY rule, they threaten to activate many dormant volcanoes around the world, and Flint must stop them.
Sure, the film is fun on a light-hearted level, but cannot escape being boring for the most part. It certainly thinks it is funny, but rather than act as a comedy spoof Our Man Flint simultaneously tries to outdo Bond in an effortless fashion, and comes off a poor second. The main problem with Flint as a character is that he is almost too good at everything he does. You never sensed that about James Bond; he always relied upon quick wits rather than supreme intelligence. At times, Flint is nothing more than Fox's own Batman without the costume, second-guessing the most cryptic of plot points as if it were easy. The film isn't helped by the character of Cramden, who is far too annoying to ever extract any sense of humour out of the film. Cobb does his best with Cramden, but appears to be going through the motions. An actor of his calibre should never have agreed to such a role anyhow, it's the sort of role in which a camper actor would have achieved more with. Gina Golan is very sexy as Gila, the stock 'femme fatale' of the film, and she again owes more to Catwoman as opposed to Pussy Galore or Honey Ryder.
It's a pity, because other than the weak script and pedestrian direction, the film is fine. It contains tremendous set creations that tie-in suitably with the imaginative worlds conjured up by megalomaniac villains, and the cinematography by Daniel L. Fapp is deliciously colourful. Jerry Goldsmith's score is bouncy and funky, and the editing is quick and concise. Daniel Mann the director frequently pushes sequences too far until every ounce of pace has been squeezed out. Some scenes are so long that you forget how the narrative even found its way to that point, and frequently the film is nothing more than an incomprehensible collection of set-pieces designed for spectacle rather than cinematic enjoyment. Even so, the film hasn't garnered a cult following for nothing, and is interesting if viewed as a failed attempt by Hollywood to create its own incarnation of James Bond. Expect a sixties' actioner with all of the usual dated trappings, and you just may enjoy Our Man Flint.
Presented in anamorphic widescreen 2.35:1, the transfer for Our Man Flint is generally very good indeed, with sharp colour tones and vivid images. Occasionally a low amount of grain and artefacts are present, but considering the film is nearly forty years old, the presentation is excellent.
Presented in mono, the film's sound mix has been recorded with a good volume level and is clearly audible, with a decent dynamic range for a mono mix. Explosions are booming and vibrant, and dialogue is fresh and sharp.
Menu: A static, psychedelic menu equipped with portions of Jerry Goldsmith's score from the film.
Packaging: Presented in a colourful red amaray casing with a 'groovy' cover artwork and a one-page chapter listing insert.
Trailer: Sadly, trailers are the only feature present on the disc, with the original trailers for Our Man Flint, its sequel In Like Flint and two other Fox 'Spoofs' released in the same collection, Fathom and Modesty Blaise. Each are presented in fairly poor quality and in non-anamorphic widescreen.
Despite the sequel In Like Flint being inferior to Our Man Flint, one cannot help but feel that Fox has missed an opportunity to feature them both as a single release. Considering the lack of extras, this would have been a wise mood. As separate purchases, both Our Man Flint and In Like Flint are likeable abut sadly not very good, and contain little value in terms of films you'd want to watch more than once.