Starring: Dean Martin, Stella Stevens, Daliah Lavi, Victor Buono, and James Gregory
Director: Henry Levin
Rating: Seven of Ten Stars
Retired secret agent turned fashion photographer Matt Helm (Martin) is coaxed out of retirement by his sexy former partner (Lavi) to help find the mole who has been feeding information to the enemy, and to stop a nefarious scheme to start World War III.
"The Silencers" is one of the films that Mike Meyers was trying to copy/spoof with his Austin Powers films, itself a tongue-in-cheek spoof of the James Bond series... as well as Dean Martin's image as a hard drinker and a womanizer. Of course, a sure-fire way to make an inferior picture is to attempt to spoof a spoof, so it's not surprising that this movie is superior to anything Meyers attempted in every way. (Except Dr. Evil and the various characters in his orbit. Dr. Evil is Meyers' singular great creation.)
If you have a high tolerance for slapstick spy antics, a steady stream of off-color jokes and puns, dream sequences narrated by a singing Dean Martin, and 1960s-style sexism and swingin' life styles, you'll enjoy this film. You'll enjoy it even more, because in addition to being a fun comedy, it's got a well-crafted script at its core that offers a few genuinely surprising twists and even more startling and well-timed moments that many serious spy movies can't match.
And then there's the fact that Matt Helm is probably the only spy in the world who has a tricked-out station wagon that converts to a love-nest on wheels, complete with mini-bar.
The cast is also amusing to watch, with Dean Martin excelling in the part of the reluctant hero who would rather be at home enjoying his models, sexy personal assistant, and hi-tech bachelor's pad; Daliah Lavi as a sexy secret agent that gives some of the best Bond Girls a run for their money; and Stella Stevens as the clumsiest femme fatale to ever bumble her way across the screen. Victor Buono also manages to strike a nice balance between creepy and outrageous as an overweight Fu Manchu-style villainous mastermind.
"The Silencers" is available on DVD along with the other three Matt Helm movies from the 1960s. Check them out, in time for the character's return to film in 2011.