I’m going to be real blunt: I love Derek Flint more than I will ever and could ever love James Bond.
When the army tries to arm Flint, they offer him a Walther PPK and an attache case with a concealed throwing knife. He replies that they are both crude. He even fights Agent 0008, who says that Flint is going up against people more evil than SPECTRE.
Everyone talks about how many women Bond has. Derek Flint has at least four girlfriends at all times. In this film, they’re Leslie (Shelby Grant, The Witchmaker), Anna (Sigrid Valdis, Hilda from Hogan’s Heroes and the second wife of Bob Crane), Gina (Gianna Serra, who was Miss Italy for 1963) and Sakito (Helen Funai, who had a twin sister named Keiko; they often appeared as The Ding-a-ling Sisters because the 1970’s were racist and were also members of Dean Martin’s Golddiggers dance troupe).
Nothing is ever all that serious in these films. And in a life that is gray and dark, they’re the perfect balm for what ails you.
Flint was once a member of Z.O.W.I.E. (Zonal Organization for World Intelligence and Espionage), but he retired so he could get more out of life. But Galaxy — a group of scientists led by Doctor Krupov (Rhys Williams, How Green Was My Valley), Doctor Wu (Peter Brocco, who was in Spartacus and went into ceramics for a living while he was blacklisted in the 50s) and Doctor Schneider (Benson Fong, who started the Ah Fong restaurant chain) — have taken the very scientific tact that governments are ill-fit to rule the world and only reason can lead. So they start controlling the climate and blowing up the world real good, all in the hopes of getting every nation to give up all their nukes.
Yeah — that’s not going to end well.
There’s a bad guy named Hans Gruber years before Die Hard, an explosive jar of cold cream, a search for bouillabaisse, Flint faking his death via a yogic suspended animation state, Edward Mulhare from The Ghost and Mrs. Muir and Knight Rider as a villain, Mr. Whipple, Lee J. Cobb as the put-upon leader of Z.O.W.I.E. named Cramden and The Green Hornet star Van Williams doing a voiceover impression of LBJ.
How much of an influence on Austin Powers is this movie? Well, Cramden’s presidential red phone has a ringtone that shows up in that film, as well as Hudson Hawk, which features Flint himself, James Coburn.
Coburn is the most perfect leading man ever in this film. He’s bemused — as if he’s in on a joke none of us get to hear. Not that he’s above being in this movie; he’s just on a plane beyond it. He trained with Bruce Lee — indeed, he was one of Lee’s pallbearers, saying that the karate star had brought his “physical, spiritual and psychological selves together” in his eulogy. He’s the coolest, smartest and best-looking person in every room; in effect, he is Derek Flint and wholely imbues the role in a way that no other actor could.
How good is he? The scene where Flint relaxes by suspending his body supported by only a chair under his head and another under his feet? That was really something Coburn could do.
The more astute of you — like my friend Mark Rosato — will be able to pick out the USOS Seaview from Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea in this movie. Plenty of the props and costumes from Land of the Giants are in this movie as well. But can you find James Brolin in an early role as a villainous technician? Or hear a young Randy Newman create the song “Galaxy a Go-Go?”
This is a perfect movie. If only all of life could be this good.