The Silencers was the fourth novel to feature Donald Hamilton's counter-agent Matt Helm. Hamilton's hardboiled take on the spy thriller genre was a popular pulp staple from his first appearance in print in 1960 up through his 27th appearance in the 1990's. Even moreso than Fleming's Bond novels, the movies took a far more lighthearted tone with the character than the bullet-riddled, bone-crunching, punch-throwing stories of the books. Produced by Albert "Cubby" Broccoli's former partner, Irvin Allen, the filmmakers felt that the only way to compete with Bond was to stick to a more comedic vein.
|A cover that screams "light-hearted romp"...|
Hell, Marvel comic's superspy, Nick Fury, fought more Russians than any of his movie counterparts did. But, as per usual, I digress...
|Could I have a second helping of innuendo?|
The story is fairly thin. There's a threat to the U.S. There is a big bad villainous consipiracy. Do you need to know more than that? What the movie has is banter...by the truckload. Dean Martin spends nearly the entire run of the movie spitting out one-liners that range from good laughs to the nearly painful. Now, you can't say the movie is a character study, because it's not exactly an in-depth study of Matt Helm, nor does it waste any time delving into anyone else. It's more like a movie of archetypes, characters we already sort of recognize so the filmmakers don't have to say more about them. We've covered Matt Helm, but Daliah Lavi is the dark femme fatale, and Stella Stevens is the ditzy sidekick.
|The man who would be King...King Tut on Batman...|
Which leads me to the funniest aspect of the movie: Do we care? Do we care that Lavi turns out to be the enemy agent, Cowboy? Do we care that Matt's going to be melted by what was perhaps the funniest early interpretation of a laser I've ever seen? Do we really care if the Big O detonates the missle freeing the underground fallout (is that an oxymoron?)? The answer is...well, no. Did that stop me from enjoying the hell out of this movie? Again, the answer is no. Was it a good movie? No. Was it enjoyable? Yes. Do you see where I'm going with this?
|That's what the 60's called feminism...|
|Looks like my average Tuesday...|
If you're looking for Bond, you're going to be let down. And though Austin Powers was more obviously inspired by Matt Helm than Bond or Flint, you're not going to exactly find that kind of humor either. Certainly, if you were old enough to have seen the movie in it's initial release, you may or may not see what I find so funny and/or entertaining about it in the first place. You have to take it for what it is. It's a product of it's time, star, and studio in much the same way as say Indiana Jones (not that there's any comparing the two in terms of quality).
Basically, a good rule of thumb is: If you can enjoy Death Race 2000, Gamera Vs. Guiron, and Santa Clause Conquers the Martians then you can certainly enjoy The Silencers. I say that because I enjoy all of those movies.
Give me some time, and I'll return to cover Muderer's Row the Dino's 2nd Matt Helm adventure...and who know, from there I may do the whole series.