Do you enjoy retro-style spy films like the Connery-era of James Bond, but want to look outside the Bond franchise? If so, then this movie will be right up your alley. Our Man Flint is a ‘60s-style spy flick that offers viewers an alternative experience to the market and genre--dominating James Bond. However, the feel is largely familiar for Bond fans as Our Man Flint provides an interesting story full of twists and turns.
Our Man Flint focuses on a nefarious organization, GALAXY, described as being even bigger than SPECTRE (move over, Bond, there’s room for others in the genre too!), that gains control over the world’s weather patterns. The group provides a public demonstration of its power and shows control over the global weather systems translates into complete global domination. When one controls the weather, they can control the sea levels, volcanic activity, and hurricanes, among other things.
Because of the magnitude of GALAXY’s threat, the good guys, operating under the global organization, ZOWIE (Zonal Organization for World Intelligence and Espionage), are left with no other choice than to send their best man to thwart GALAXY’s operation. Much to the chagrin of the head of ZOWIE, Cramden, its members vote to send Derek Flink, an agent known for being bull-headed and arrogant.
The movie’s pace moves along at a moderate speed. It spends a good amount of time setting up the situation and showing Cramden and his men attempting to recruit Flint to help them stop GALAXY. Flint eventually agrees, but makes it clear that he will work on his own terms – he is to use his own code, not the government’s standard communication code, and he brings his own gadgets into the field. Once Flint decides to help ZOWIE, the pace accelerates and the true adventure begins.
The movie’s pace feels constant for the first two acts and narrative is presented in a way that audiences can easily grasp the plot developments. However, the pacing shifts in the third act as an additional layer of GALAXY’s plan is uncovered.
It becomes evident later in the movie that GALAXY is using “programming” and social engineering as part of their operation. While on GALAXY Island, the headquarters for the group, Flint learns that GALAXY, in an attempt to establish a hedonistic utopia, brainwashes people. This is especially bad for the women involved as they are referred to as “pleasure units” and are branded with identification numbers. Even more shocking, they are conditioned to please anyone. This radical shift in pace, tone, and genre did not sit well with me. It felt like the third act of the movie morphed into an entirely different film.
The tone is very standard of a ‘60s-era spy flick. In this case, a malevolent global organization seeks to obtain world domination and impose its vision throughout the world. Much like the Bond films, the good guys – spy agencies of the “free” world – are incompetent and unable to effectively combat the threat. Instead, the matter falls on a lone spy to save not only the day but the entire world.
Flint, like Bond, is a known womanizer, though Flint is a more ostentatious and grandiose character. His penthouse is decorated with explicit artwork and he seems to have a penchant for fur and animal print. Additionally, he lives with four attractive women. He hasn’t just slept with four women, he actively lives with them.
With the twist in the third act (described in the SPOILER section above), Our Man Flint takes on a decidedly more retro sci-fi/dystopian feel, tone, and overall presentation. I personally wasn’t a big fan of this shift. I enjoyed the traditional spy story of the movie until that point. The overall activity on GALAXY Island was surprising and felt odd. This may alienate some viewers who are looking for a traditional spy film, not a pseudo-sci-fi story.
Our Man Flint features nice use of gadgets and other spy tools. Flint’s contraptions are fun and reflect creative design both from a story-telling aspect, as well as a production design aspect. Flint has a wide knowledge of seemingly strange and obscure things, but he freely admits that he does not know everything. Nevertheless, he uses fun, MacGyver-esque solutions and remedies for the problems he faces. These are at once clever and comedic.
James Coburn’s portrayal of Derek Flint is great. He really assumes the role of the character and you see Derek as Derek, not Coburn. His calm demeanor and self-sufficiency is portrayed nicely. Lee J. Cobb’s Cramden is a great character as well. You empathize a bit with him in his interactions with Flint. This is evidenced in the fact that Flint largely acts like he’s inconvenienced by Cramden and ZOWIE.
The main antagonists, Gila and Malcolm Rodney, performed by Gila Golan and Edward Mulhare respectively, offer great performances that add to the story and provide a counter-balance to Flint. The two characters’ vastly different approach to GALAXY’s plan makes them feel unique and provides diversity on the villain’s side. Viewers will be pleased that another agent of GALAXY’s is named Hans Gruber. Yes, you read that correctly.
Gila, Rodney, and Gruber are GALAXY’s main agents, but the leaders of GALAXY are actually three scientists, Dr. Schneider, Dr. Krupov, and Dr. Wu, portrayed by Benson Fong, Rhys Williams, and Peter Brocco respectively. However, the real heads of GALAXY do not have nearly as much screen time and development as their henchmen, namely Gila and Rodney. They pop up here and there taunting ZOWIE, but are pretty scarce until the third act.
As mentioned briefly above regarding Flint’s tools, the production design is great. Our Man Flint’s spy aesthetic is both appealing and intriguing. The set pieces are good overall, the science equipment on GALAXY Island pleasantly reminded me of Dr. No’s base in Dr. No. The models and dioramas used in scenes illustrating the destruction caused by GALAXY’s weather manipulation are terrific and hold up well. They probably looked particularly impressive when the movie was first released.
Daniel Mann does a good job of directing, though I wish he would have been more intentional about communicating the “other” intentions of GALAXY (see SPOILER section). If that portion was meant to be a surprise, which I have no doubt it was, then it was fairly executed. But the resulting change in tone and genre felt bizarre, especially since it was the third act and was the way in which the movie concluded.
In the end, if you are a fan of or are looking for a movie with a similar style to the classic Bond films, Our Man Flint is worth watching. If, on the other hand, you dislike retro sci-fi/dystopian elements in movies, then you may want to give it a pass; particularly since that’s how the movie ends. Our Man Flint can be most easily described as this: If the core Indiana Jones trilogy is to the classic Bond films, then Our Man Flint is to Bond what Romancing the Stone (1985) is to Indiana Jones. They’re both box office successes and provide alternatives for viewers eager to watch films similar to their counterparts.
Distributor: Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation
Production: Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation
Director: Daniel Mann
Producer: Saul David
Screenwriter: Hal Fimbery and Ben Starr (screenplay); Hal Fimberg (story)
Director of Photography: Daniel L. Fapp
Editor: William Reynolds
Art Director: Ed Graves; Jack Martin Smith
Music: Jerry Goldsmith
Orchestrator: Arthur Morton
Visual Effects: L.B. Abbott, Emil Kosa, Jr., and Howard Lydecker (special photographic effects)
Costume Designer: Ray Aghayan
Budget: ca. $3,525,000
Release Date: January 16, 1966 (USA)
Cinematographic Process: CinemaScope
Copyright Holder: Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation
Cast: James Coburn; Lee J. Cobb; Gila Golan; Edward Mulhare; Benson Fong; Shelby Grant; Sigrid Valdis; Michael St. Clair; Rhys Williams; Peter Brocco
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Rating: Not Rated
Running Time: 1 hour and 48 minutes (108 mins.)