Saturday, March 10, 2018

Bond Lite - Our Man Flint!

Like many I really love to sit down and watch the infection super-spy adventure Our Man Flint. I hesitate to dub it a spoof, though I won't long argue the point, in that this first Flint outing is only marginally outside the rather wide parameters of straight spy movies as laid down by the world-beating Bond franchise. By the time Our Man Flint hit the screens in 1966, the Bond movies were already picking fun at themselves, so it doesn't require a parody to do the same. There are aspects of this story which are clearly intended as send-ups of the Bond franchise and the whole schmear would not have existed outside the shadow of Bond, but there's also at its core a real adventure here to hang a hat on.

That feeling comes more than anything from the way James Coburn plays the infectiously attractive Derek Flint, a supremely individualistic hero who works for the government only when it suits him to do so. A man who has a literal harem in his upscale ultra-hip apartment but who nonetheless seems to be totally supportive of the women in his life. Bond used women, Flint seems to really care for them, though the end result can often be the same. There's a core element of sadism in James Bond which is completely lacking in Derek Flint and that makes this rogue someone we can really root for and not merely support.

The story of Our Man Flint (also told in a contemporaneously available novel which I've never read) is that the world's weather is under the control of three scientists who for seemingly benign reasons want to save the world from itself and create their own skewed version of paradise on the planet. That paradise appears to reduce women to "pleasure units" and make men the masters of a sprawling resort. The scheme comes undone when the capable Derek Flint invades the remote volcano island base of operations and defeats the scheme to control the world's weather. There's a dame played by Gila Golan who ends up helping Flint and a nasty villain played by Edward Mulhare who gives him a decent opponent, but mostly this is a frothy adventure which allows us to watch Flint ply his trade, show off his smarts and exude his charm, all to save the world. It's done with a twinkle in the eye and a slight veneer of irony, but only occasionally slips over into parody and then only momentarily.

The movie proved to be a real success, and so much so that a sequel was demanded and made. More on that next time.

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  1. I'm not big on reboots, but I would love to see Derek Flint brought back to the big screen, just so we could remember what it was like when we thought being a spy would be fun. Cast someone like Ryan Gosling as Flint, and you've got yourselves an awesome franchise.

    1. I really don't think it's possible to revive Flint. He is a delightful synthesis of an era which is now gone, a blend of naivete and sophistication which has been marred by decades of self-conscious irony. The Flint movies at once take themselves seriously and foolishly and I don't know if that's allowed. The Austin Powers trilogy from some years ago approached the Flint territory but fell apart in a spree of nitwit gags.

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  2. Bond can be played by different actors, but much more difficult to find another Flint. Maybe the only actor who could pull it off is none other than another lovable, silly, rogue: Captain Jack Sparrow! Yes, Admiral Johnny Depp, are you listening? The plus is that he could bring something new to Flint. After all, he basically re-created Captain Jack against the powers-that-won't be at Disney, who envisioned the Captain to be in the Errol Flynn mode.


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