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In this first of four theatrical Matt Helm movies based on Donald Hamilton's popular spy novels, Helm (Dean Martin) is retired from ICE (International Counter Espionage), when he's pulled back in because a Eurasian bad guy (Victor Buono of "Whatever Happened To Baby Jane?") decides to hijack a U.S. nuclear missle mid-flight and send it back to the military base it launched from to blow it up and start World War 3.
Stella Stevens is around as a well-meaning klutz who's trying to "help" Matt, finally getting one of the bad guys (Robert Webber) near the end by handing him a backwards-firing gun. Roger C. Carmel, who went on to star in two Star Trek episodes as the scoundrel Harry Mudd (plus a third, animated ST ep), plays another one of the bad guys, as does Arthur O'Connell (the dad in "The Reluctant Astronaut"). James Gregory (the gorilla captain in 1968's Planet Of The Apes) plays Helm's boss in all 4 movies. Victor Buono was perhaps most recognized as recurring Batman tv-series villain "King Tut," and played the villain in the very first episode of the Wild Wild West tv series. Nancy Kovak is also in the cast somewhere.
An interesting sidelight to this movie is that Ian Fleming's 007 novel "Moonraker" was also about hijacking a missle mid-flight, but by the time the 1950s story was turned into a James Bond movie in 1979, NASA was test-flying "Enterprise," its first space shuttle prototype, so Moonraker became a space shuttle instead of a 1950s nuclear missle. A novelization of the movie "Moonraker" replaced Ian Fleming's original novel in bookstores.
There was also a sci-fi movie called "The Silencers," which was featured on TNT's MonsterVision 1-16-99, about secret service agent (Jack Scalia) who goes up against the Men In Black, who turn out to be human-appearing aliens out to conquer Earth. He teams up with an inter-galactic peace officer (Dennis Christopher) to defeat them. Clarence Williams III is also in the cast. Silencers review & host segments
The bad guy in this one (Karl Malden) kidnaps Ann-Margret's scientist father and threatens to destroy Washington, DC, with a "helio bean" weapon, somewhat similar to the heat ray Christopher Lee threatens James Bond with in "Man With The Golden Gun." Matt Helm must save the scientist and put his captor out of business. Supporting cast includes Camilla Sparv and Beverly Adams. Coming out just after the first one, this movie had a certain slapped-together, rushed look to it, though Karl Malden is good in a rare villain-role. And the finale has an interesting device: the bad guy has a speed boat hidden inside a yacht "cocoon."
Third in the Matt Helm superspy series. In this one, bad guy Albert Salmi steals a prototype flying saucer from the Air Force and has it somewhere in his jungle fortress south of the border. What's worse, he's already using its alien technology to build and arm his men with anti-gravity guns and a truck-mounted canon-size one. The pilot (Janice Rule) was found staggering out of the jungle, and the bad guy had done such unspeakable things that her hair had turned white (an idea used again in Stephen King's "The Stand"). The effects are on the cheesy side, but fans didn't mind. Supporting cast includes Senta Berger, Kurt Kasznar and Beverly Adams. And when we say bad guy Albert Salmi, we mean it. Not only did he specialize in nasty villains, in real life he later shot to death his wife and then himself.
The same year, Hollywood turned out "The Bamboo Saucer" (aka Collision Course), an oddball UFO film in which US and Russian teams race to be first to find a downed flying saucer in remote China. It was Dan Duryea's final movie. Lois Nettleton played a Russian scientist.
Lady In Cement
Not a Matt Helm film, Rat-Pack buddy Frank Sinatra starred as tough private-eye Tony Rome, investigating a case involving a nude female body found with her feet in cement. Cast included Dan Blocker of "Bonanza," Richard Conte, Martin Gablel, Richard Deacon, Joe E. Lewis and Lainie Kazan.
The Wrecking Crew
A billion dollars of gold bars are being moved somewhere by train - what could possibly go wrong? Hijackers, of course, in what fans consider the best in the series. Phil Karlson, who directed the first Helm movie, returns for this one. Bruce Lee coordinated the fight scenes, Sharon Tate plays a loveable klutz who "helps" Matt, and others in the supporting cast include Elke Sommer, Nancy Kwan, Tina Louise (playing a sexy vamp to go against her Gilligan's Island type-casting), and Nigel Green. Bruce Lee's pal Chuck Norris even shows up in a bar scene talking to Matt Helm. Next in the movie series was to be a team-up of Matt Helm and Tony Rome, but the fifth movie was suspended and finally cancelled when Sharon Tate was brutally murdered by the Charles Manson Family.
This TV-movie was actually a pilot for a one-season boring TV-series starring Tony Franciosa. He's on the trail of black market arms dealers and trying to protect a movie star. Cast included Patrick Macnee, Ann Turkel, Gene Evans, James Shigeta (Jack Klugman's fellow deputy coroner in Quincy, M.E.), John Vernon (the Principal in "Animal House"), and Catherine Bach (Barbara Bach co-starred in "The Spy Who Loved Me" in 1977, but I don't know if they're related).
Not a Matt Helm film, though made exactly 20 years later. Ice-T of MonsterVision's Surviving The Game stars as the head of the Wrecking Crew, a government hit-squad sent to Motor City to clean up a mess left by Snoop Dogg. Directed by Albert Pyun
"Two of the greatest turning points in my career: first, meeting Jerry Lewis; second, leaving Jerry Lewis." - Dean Martin (1967, Look Magazine)
The Story of the Inexperienced Chili Taster
These are notes from a New Yorker named Frank who was visiting friends in Texas:
Recently I was lucky enough to be the 10,000th attendee at a Texas State Fair and was asked to fill in to be a judge at a chili cook-off.
Apparently the original Judge #3 called in sick, and I happened to be standing there when the call came in. I was assured by the other two judges (Native Texans) that it would be a fun event and a true taste of Texas hospitality. They assured me that the chili wouldn't be all that spicy, and besides, they told me I could have free beer during the tasting. So I said OK.
Here are the scorecards from the event:
°Chili #1: Mike's Maniac Mobster Monster Chili
JUDGE 1: A little too heavy on tomato. Amusing kick.
JUDGE 2: Nice, smooth tomato flavor. Very mild.
FRANK : Holy smoke! What is this stuff? You could get dried paint off your driveway with it. Took me two beers to put out the flames. Hope this is the worst one. These Texans are crazy!!
°Chili #2: Mario's Mexican Standoff Chili
JUDGE 1: Smoky, with a hint of carne asada. Slight Jalapeño tang.
JUDGE 2: Exciting BBQ flavor—needs more peppers to be taken seriously.
FRANK : Keep this out of reach of children! I'm not sure what I am supposed to taste besides pain. I had to wave off two people who wanted to give me the Heimlich maneuver. They had to walkie-talkie in 3 extra beers when they saw the look on my face.
°Chili #3: Fred's Famous Afterburner Chili
JUDGE 1: Excellent firehouse chili! Great kick. Needs more beans.
JUDGE 2: A beanless chili, a bit salty, good use of red peppers.
FRANK : Call the EPA, I've located a uranium spill. My nose feels like I've been snorting Drano. Everyone knows the routine by now. The 300-pound barmaid pounds me on the back—my backbone is now in the front of my chest.
°Chili #4: Bubba's Black Magic
JUDGE 1: Black bean chili with almost no spice. Disappointing.
JUDGE 2: Hint of lime in the black beans. Good side dish for fish or other mild foods—not much of a chili.
FRANK : I felt something like molten lava scraping across my tongue, but was unable to taste it. Sally, the bar maid, was standing behind me with fresh refills—that flirty-eyed blimp is starting to look hot, just like this nuclear-waste I'm eating. My stomach feels like it's full of rusty barbed wire!
°Chili #5: Linda's Legal Lip Remover
JUDGE 1: Meaty, strong chili. Cayenne peppers freshly ground, adding considerable kick. Very impressive.
JUDGE 2: Chili using shredded beef; could use more tomato. Must admit the cayenne peppers make a strong statement.
FRANK : My ears are ringing, and I can no longer focus my eyes. I passed gas and four people behind me burst into flames. One contestant seemed offended when I told her that her chili had given me brain damage. Sally kept my tongue from bleeding by pouring beer directly on it from a pitcher. It really bugs me off that the other judges asked me to stop screaming. Screw these stupid rednecks!
°Chili #6: Vera's Very Vegetarian Variety
JUDGE 1: Thin yet bold vegetarian variety chili. Good balance of spice and peppers.
JUDGE 2: The best yet. Aggressive use of peppers, onions, and garlic. Superb.
FRANK : My intestines are now a straight pipe filled with gaseous, sulfuric flames. No one wants to stand behind me except that slut Sally. I need to wipe my butt with a snow cone!
°Chili #7: Susan's Screaming Sensation Chili
JUDGE 1: A mediocre chili with too much reliance on canned peppers.
JUDGE 2: Ho hum—tastes as if the chef literally threw in a can of chili peppers at the last moment. I should note that I am worried about Judge Number 3. He appears to be in a bit of distress as he is cursing uncontrollably.
FRANK : You could put a grenade in my mouth, pull the pin, and I wouldn't feel a thing. I've lost the sight in one eye, and the world sounds like it is made of rushing water. My shirt is covered with chili which slid unnoticed out of my mouth. At least during the autopsy they'll know what killed me. I've decided to stop breathing, it's too painful. I'm not getting any oxygen anyway. If I need air, I'll just suck it in through the 4-inch hole in my stomach.
°Chili #8: Helen's Mount Saint Chili
JUDGE 1: A perfect ending... this is a nice blend chili, safe for all, not too bold but spicy enough to declare its existence.
JUDGE 2: This final entry is a good, balanced chili, neither mild nor hot. Sorry to see that most of it was lost when Judge #3 passed out, fell on his ass and pulled the chili pot on top of hisself. Not sure he's gonna make it. But whadda y'all expect from a damnyankee?
FRANK : (Editor's note: Judge #3 was unable to report)