The Wrecking Crew (1968)

Directed by Phil Carlson (Walking TallBen), the last of the Matt Helm movies dispenses with screenwriter Herbert Baker, James Gregory as MacDonald and Beverly Adams as Lovey Kravesit.

Thanks to Once Upon a Time…In Hollywood, this is probably the best known of the four Matt Helm movies (not to mention the Tony Franciosa-starring TV series).

Matt Helm is assigned by ICE to bring down Count Contini (Nigel Green, Countess Dracula), who is trying to Auric Goldfinger the world economu. Matt’s assistant is now Freya Carlson (Sharon Tate), a gorgeous but goofball Danish tourism bureau agent.

Elke Sommer (Baron BloodLisa and the Devil) and Nancy Kwan (Wonder Women) play the women out to kill Matt. It turns out that Freya is actually a deadly British agent who, of course, ends up in Matt’s bed. It’s kind of funny that Sommer and Green play pretty much the exact characters as they did in Deadlier then the Male.

Matt’s boss is played by John Larch (Bad Ronald, The Amityville Horror) this time and Tina Louise — Ginger Grant herself! — also makes an appearance.

While The Ravagers was revealed as the next Matt Helm movie in the credits, it was not to be. Martin had no interest in returning after the death of Sharon Tate. So when he refused to make the film, Columbia held up his share of the profits on the second Matt Helm film, Murderers’ Row. As we learned from Airport, Dean was about to be rich and no longer care. Man, I wish the proposed Martin and Sinatra double bill of Matt Helm Meets Tony Rome had been made.

This movie is packed with pro wrestlers and karate experts. That makes sense, as Bruce Lee was the karate advisor for the film. Some examples include:

  • Karate champion Mike Stone was Dean Martin’s fight double. You may know him better as Elvis’ karate instructor who ran away with his wife Priscilla.
  • Prince Wilhelm von Homburg, who is perhaps better known as Vigo the Carpathian in Ghostbusters II.
  • Pepper Martin, a pro wrestler who was friends with Woody Strode; he also appears in the 1981s slasher Scream.
  • Boxer, stuntman and friend of Henry Miller, Joe Gray.
  • Joe Lewis, considered the best American karate fighter in the 1970’s.
  • Ed Parker, founder of American Kenpo karate.
  • And in his first movie ever, Chuck Norris.

I’m sad to see the Matt Helm movies end. Hollywood has been discussing remaking them, but I’ll always have my four DVD box set to go back to.

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