Our Man Flint - The American Bond

Our Man Flint

Our Man Flint is a fun 1966 tongue-in-cheek spy adventure directed by Daniel Mann that attempts to both parody and beat James Bond at his own game. The wealthy and urbane playboy Derek Flint (James Coburn) is an impossibly suave, sophisticated and brilliant secret agent and former employee of Z.O.W.I.E. - Zonal Organization World Intelligence Espionage. When three nutty rogue scientists - Doctor Krupov (Rhys Williams), Doctor Wu (Peter Brocco), and Doctor Schneider (Benson Fong) - from a SPECTRE type organisation known as "Galaxy" use advanced technology to gain control of the weather they hold the world to ransom with eco-terrorism, threatening earthquakes, volcano mayhem and obstreperous storms. With the best trained secret agents of intelligence organisations suddenly being killed around the world at an alarming rate, the Zen like Flint, a martial artist, scientist, and expert in languages, including Russian and Dolphin!, is empirically selected for the mission by a giant high-tech super computer - much to the chagrin of his former Z.O.W.I.E. boss Lloyd Cramden (Lee J Cobb). "Very well gentlemen," he sighs. "Flint it is." An initially reluctant Flint is finally persuaded to come out of retirement to tackle this dastardly threat after a pre-emptive assassination attempt on his life by Galaxy's section head Gila (Gila Golan) which nearly kills Cramden. "I'm going to put Galaxy into orbit," promises our hero.

The sixties spy craze that followed in the wake of the incredible success of the James Bond series by Cubby Broccoli and Harry Saltzman led to countless espionage films, copycats and parodies. Some were very good in their own right like Michael Caine's more downbeat and cynical Harry Palmer series, some were completely forgettable - Dean Martin as Matt Helm anyone? - and some were just nothing more or less than good old fashioned camp kitschy colourful fun like Our Man Flint, possibly the cheekiest of the Bond clones in that this is for all intents and purposes a James Bond film where James Bond just happens to be an American and called Derek Flint. Granted, Flint is even more knowingly, winkingly implausible than the more lavish gilt-edged sixties Bonds, but no attempt is made to hide the inspiration for this enjoyable piece of fluffy sixties nonsense. The guiding principle behind the film is that whatever James Bond can do Derek Flint can do too, only more so. This is James Bond with the volume turned up to 11 Nigel Tufnell Spinal Tap style. A very entertaining idea but slightly constricted by the fact that the direction and largesse of Our Man Flint, on the whole, is not quite up to Cubby Broccoli and Harry Saltzman standards, two men were fully prepared to build a lifesize volcano and a working monorail for a Bond film if they deemed it neccesary.

Our Man Flint
Like James Bond, Derek Flint is in possession of a neverending supply of arcane knowledge and  armed with numerous ingenious gadgets which, as an accomplished scientist with his own lab, he personally designs himself. "This has 82 different functions," says Flint of a gadget disguised as a lighter. "83 if you want to light a cigar." He frequently flies to Russia in his private plane to teach ballet at the Bolshoi (!) and can slow his heart to near-death stillness for three hours at a time. He is a mathamatical genius, an expert gourmet and can kill flies with blowdarts. He still of course finds time though to cavort with numerous beautiful women and lives in a Manhattan penthouse bachelor pad with his four personal Playmates - Leslie (Shelby Grant), Anna (Sigrid Valdis), Gina (Serra Gina), and Sakito (Helen Funai). He is the coolest cat in town and winningly played with dry wit and toothy charisma by James Coburn as he karate chops baddies and drives his boss mad ("Damn it, man, is there anything you don't know?") in a more exaggerated version of the manner in which the Connery/Moore Bonds used to irritate Bernard Lee's M by being a know it all on everything and anything, however obscure. 

James Bond references abound in Our Man Flint with the gadgets, a volcano island and even a cheeky cameo from a British agent known as "Triple-O-Eight" - who the film makes clear is no match for Derek Flint of course. The title sequence is enjoyably Bondish and Binderesque with dancing animated girls and spy caper silhouettes of Flint illuminated in doorways. A cliffhanger sequence has our whiskey voiced hero threatened with complete disintegration in an "electrofragmentizer" and he identifies a poison through a bouillabaisse recipe that is served in only one place on the planet. James Coburn looks great in a tux in Our Man Flint and Jerry Goldmsith's groovy and funky music score is a lot of fun throughout. Although the Austin Powers films essentially spoof the more fantastical and lavish Sean Connery Bonds of the sixties, Flint was clearly a big influence too with its un-PC swinging sixties flower power atmosphere, festooned with colour and bikini-clad centerfold models, not to mention a few choice double-entendres and some suggestive banter and jokes. "If you don't mind, Sir, I prefer to use my own personal code," says Flint. "I already know mine. It's a mathematical progression, 40-26-36. It's based on..." 
Our Man Flint

The pleasant locations in the film include Marseilles - where Flint starts a brawl in a strip club - and Rome. Before the picture concludes we have the far out premise of an island full of beautiful, brainwashed women which Flint must stealthily infiltrate. Although Our Man Flint is no Goldfinger or From Russia With Love, this is breezy and amusing fun at times and Coburn is well cast as the super suave American spy. The film is not as slick and expensive as the official James Bond pictures of the era but it stacks up pretty well against the slew of copycats that trailed 007 in the espionage crazed decade. Our Man Flint is not a film to be taken too seriously and very much a product of its time but as far as camp, colourful swinging sixties capers go this is not bad at all.

- Jake



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