The Wrecking Crew (1968 film)

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The Wrecking Crew
TheWreckingCrew.jpg
Directed by Phil Karlson
Produced by Irving Allen
Written by William P. McGivern
Starring Dean Martin
Elke Sommer
Sharon Tate
Nancy Kwan
Music by Hugo Montenegro
Cinematography Sam Leavitt
Edited by Maury Winetrobe
Distributed by Columbia Pictures
Release dates 30 December 1968
Running time 105 minutes
Budget $2.4 million (US/ Canada rentals)[1]

The Wrecking Crew, released in December, 1968 and starring Dean Martin, Elke Sommer, Nancy Kwan, Tina Louise and Sharon Tate, is the fourth and final film in a series of American comedy-spy-fi theatrical releases featuring Martin as secret agent Matt Helm.

As with the previous three Helm spy movies (The Silencers, Murderers' Row, and The Ambushers), it is based only loosely upon Donald Hamilton's 1960 novel of the same title and takes great liberties with the plot and characters, being developed as a spoof of the James Bond films. The Wrecking Crew was the second Helm novel published and the earliest of the books to be adapted.

This was the last film of Tate's to be released before her murder at the hands of Charles Manson's followers on August 9, 1969.

Plot[edit]

Matt Helm is assigned by his secret agency, ICE, to bring down an evil count named Contini who is trying to collapse the world economy by stealing a billion dollars in gold.

Helm travels to Denmark, where he is given a guide, Freya Carlson, a beautiful but bumbling woman from a Danish tourism bureau.

A pair of Contini's accomplices, the seductive Linka Karensky and Yu-Rang, each attempt to foil Helm's plans. The former is killed in an ambush intended for Helm, the latter in an explosion. On each occasion, Freya's clumsy attempts to assist Matt are helpful but not particularly appreciated.

McDonald, his chief at ICE, turns up to aid Helm, but is wounded in action. McDonald confides to Helm that the seemingly inept Freya is actually a top secret agent herself, using a clever guise.

They go to Contini's chateau for a showdown and Helm creates chaos and destruction with a variety of unique gadgets. Contini escapes on a train bound for Luxembourg, but with a mini-helicopter, Helm and Freya are able to catch up.

Contini is killed on the train, dropping through a trap door. Successful and alone at last, Helm finally has an opportunity to thank Freya as only he can.

Cast[edit]

Uncredited[edit]

Miscellaneous credits: Bruce Lee as 'Karate Advisor' (choreographer) for the fight scenes. Dean Martin's double is Karate Champion and stuntman Mike Stone. World Karate and Kickboxing Champion Joe Lewis and American Kenpo Founder Ed Parker both had fight scenes with Dean Martin.[2]

Production[edit]

The film is the first in the series to not be written or co-written by regular screenwriter Herbert Baker who was working on Irving Allen's more serious spy film Hammerhead. The film was written by former police reporter and crime novel author William P. McGivern.

Chuck Norris makes his film debut in a small role, and Bruce Lee is credited with being the film's karate advisor.

Also appearing in the film are Nancy Kwan as Wen Yu-Rang, Tina Louise as Lola Medina, and Nigel Green as the villainous Count Contini.

Helm's chief at ICE, MacDonald, is John Larch in this film, replacing James Gregory, who played the role in the other three films. Gregory said in an interview in Filmfax magazine that he was sent a reduced amount for his fee in the film. He was told that the film was reducing its budget, but Gregory refused to take the lower fee.[3]

This is the only film in the series not to feature Helm's secretary, Lovey Kravesit, played by Beverly Adams who was also appearing in Hammerhead.

Music[edit]

Hugo Montenegro composed the score and Mack David and Frank DeVol wrote the theme song played over the opening and end credits, "House of Seven Joys", which was the working title of the film.[4]

Reception[edit]

Critical response to this film varies, with some calling it the worst of the series, where it mostly features Helm playing up to glamorous women and the storyline is the bits that join those many encounters together. There was also some poor acting and the film had many minor mistakes in it which should have been edited out as well as so-so special effects. Others called it the best due to its reduced reliance on outlandish gadgets and story lines. It is also notable for the appearance of Tate and martial arts scenes choreographed by Bruce Lee.

Legacy[edit]

The film ends with the announcement of a fifth Matt Helm film, The Ravagers (which would have been based upon Hamilton's 1964 novel of the same title). However, Dean Martin declined to return for another film in the face of a declining box office. When Martin refused to make The Ravagers, Columbia held up Martin's share of the profits on Murderers' Row.[5] The project was then cancelled.

A "Tony Rome Meets Matt Helm" movie with Frank Sinatra reprising the character he had played in the films Tony Rome (1967) and Lady in Cement was also bandied about, but never amounted to anything.

Several years later, a Matt Helm TV series featuring Tony Franciosa would be attempted, but in a much more serious vein, and it was unsuccessful. As of 2009, early planning for a new Matt Helm-based film was underway through DreamWorks.

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Big Rental Films of 1969", Variety, 7 January 1970 p 15
  2. ^ http://www.ikfkickboxing.com/JoeLewis.htm
  3. ^ James Gregory Interview Filmfax Magazine #84 Apr 2001
  4. ^ p.166 Freedland, Michael F. Dean Martin: King of the Road
  5. ^ Tosches, Nick Dino Living High in the Dirty Business of Dreams 1999 Delta

External links[edit]