The Silencers (film)
Australian film poster
|Directed by||Phil Karlson|
|Produced by||Irving Allen|
|Written by||Donald Hamilton (novels)
Oscar Saul (screenplay)
|Music by||Elmer Bernstein|
|Edited by||Charles Nelson|
|Distributed by||Columbia Pictures|
The Silencers is an American spy film spoof motion picture released in 1966 and starring Dean Martin as agent Matt Helm. It is loosely based upon the novel The Silencers by Donald Hamilton, as well as another of Hamilton's Helm novels, Death of a Citizen.
Co-starring with Martin are Stella Stevens, Daliah Lavi and Victor Buono. Cyd Charisse opens the film with a sexy striptease-style dance while lip synching Vikki Carr's vocals of the titular theme song. James Gregory makes his first appearance as Macdonald, Helm's superior and a recurring character in the series (although Gregory does not play him in all four films).
Once a photographer by day, spy by night, Matt Helm is now a happily retired secret agent, shooting photos of glamorous models instead of guns and enjoying a close relationship with his assistant, the lovely Lovey Kravezit. But then his old boss, Macdonald, coaxes him back to the agency ICE to thwart a new threat from the villainous organization Big O.
The sinister Tung-Tze is masterminding a diabolical scheme to drop a missile on an underground atomic bomb test in New Mexico and possibly instigate a nuclear war in the process. Helm's assignment is to stop him, armed with a wide assortment of useful spy gadgets, plus the assistance of the capable femme fatale Tina and the seemingly incapable Gail Hendricks, a beautiful but bumbling possible enemy agent.
Along the way, Helm is nearly sidetracked by a mysterious knife-wielding seductress. And he witnesses the murder of a beautiful Big O operative, the sultry striptease artist Sarita.
In the end, Helm prevails, with Gail by his side as he all but singlehandedly destroys Tung-Tze's evil enterprise and plot to rule the world.
The film was the first of four produced between 1966 and 1969 starring Martin. Whereas Hamilton's books were generally serious spy novels about a former Second World War assassin who is recruited to continue killing for an American government agency, the film versions were lighthearted spy romps spoofing the James Bond series in the same spirit as Our Man Flint, which was released the previous month. The Helm series has been cited as one of the principal inspirations for the Austin Powers spy comedies of the 1990s and early 2000s.
- Dean Martin as Matt Helm
- Stella Stevens as Gail Hendricks
- Daliah Lavi as Tina
- Victor Buono as Tung-Tze
- Arthur O'Connell as Wigman
- Robert Webber as Sam Gunther
- James Gregory as Macdonald
- Nancy Kovack as Barbara
- Roger C. Carmel as Andreyev
- Cyd Charisse as Sarita
- Beverly Adams as Lovey Kravezit
- Richard Devon as Domino
Film producer Irving Allen had been in partnership with Albert Broccoli in Warwick Productions, who released through Columbia Pictures. Broccoli wanted to buy the rights to the James Bond series of novels but Allen was not interested. The partnership broke up, Broccoli went into partnership with Harry Saltzman and United Artists on the Bond films and enjoyed tremendous success.
Allen decided to make his own spy series. He optioned film rights to the Matt Helm novels in 1964 in association with Columbia Pictures. The Silencers was to be the first. Dean Martin signed to play the lead.
Director Phil Karlson had the idea to make the film in a tongue-in-cheek style. Comedy writer Herbert Baker revised Oscar Saul's original script. Dean Martin was a co-producer of the Helm series. Moss Mabry provided the costumes, except for Martin's Sy Devore suits.
Released at the height of James Bond mania, The Silencers was a major box office hit in 1966, earning $7 million in North American rentals that year.
Elmer Bernstein provided the score, with Vikki Carr singing the title song and "Santiago." Two soundtrack albums were released — Bernstein's original score on an RCA Victor album that does not feature any artwork of Dean Martin, and a Reprise album by Martin singing several songs that were featured in the film, along with some instrumentals by the Mike Leander Orchestra.
Recently, English label Vocalion have issued full movie soundtrack on a CD (cat number CDLK4573)
The Silencers borrows a plot element from the first Helm novel, Death of a Citizen, as it begins with the agent being coaxed out of retirement. Helm's mission is to stop an evil organization called "BIG O" (the Bureau for International Government and Order) from their plan of "Operation Fallout": diverting an American missile into an underground atomic bomb testing site in New Mexico.
- "The Silencers, Box Office Information". The Numbers. Retrieved April 16, 2012.
- Pair Acquire Rights to 'Spawn of Evil': Pakula and Mulligan Step Up Activities; Players Loyal Scheuer, Philip K. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 10 July 1964: C11.
- Looking at Hollywood: Horton Throws 79th Birthday Party Hopper, Hedda. Chicago Tribune (1963-Current file) [Chicago, Ill] 22 Mar 1965: b3.
- MOVIE CALL SHEET: O'Neal Signs for Top Role Martin, Betty. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 12 Aug 1965: D8.
- "Big Rental Pictures of 1966", Variety, 4 January 1967 p 8