Plot: What’s it about?
He was once one of the top secret agents in the world, but these days, Matt Helm (Dean Martin) is enjoying his retirement. He is no old man however, he is still on his game and can tackle dangerous assignments, he just decided to take time to soak in life a little. But his days of kicking back and taking it easy are soon to come to an end, as Helm is once again needed to battle evil and of course, save the entire world. A maniacal man known as Tung Tze (Victor Buono) has plans to obtain an atomic bomb, then detonate the device on American land and in the process, kick off a global war of epic proportions. He calls his plot Operation: Fallout and while it is ambitious, with the services of The Big O behind him, his plan is feasible. If his nefarious plans are carried out, it would mean immense casualties and losses, all innocents just caught in his crosshairs. But that wouldn’t be the end of the damages, as the initial confusion and backlash could trigger a third world war, one which could spell mankind’s doom. As it happens, there is only one agent with the kind of skills needed to thwart this epic plan. That man is Matt Helm and if he can’t stop Operation: Fallout, then the world is doomed. Even with his latest assortment of high end gadgets and female counterparts, can even Helm defeat The Big O?
The success of the Austin Powers films have sparked a new interest in older spy spoofs, such the movies based on the Matt Helm books. In these films, Dean Martin starred as Helm, a secret agent that was like James Bond, only much sillier. I happen to love the Bond series, as well as the spoof takes on the genre, such as Austin Powers and of course, the Flint films. So it might seem inevitable that these Matt Helm films would hit the mark, but in truth, I have never been that impressed. I do like this first installment, The Silencers and think the material holds solid potential, but the later volumes fail to keep up the same level of entertainment. Martin is having a ball in the part, but he never kicks it up to the proper notch, a common flaw in his performances. But the wealth of beautiful women that surround him more than balance out his slack, to be sure. The show is stolen by Stella Stevens in fact, who is excellent here and really nails her performance. As this is a spy movie, it is loaded with cool gadgets also, not to mention all kinds of powerful weapons, insane plots, innuendoes, and of course, outrageous costumes. I know I seem down on this movie, but I do enjoy The Silencers, it is just the sequels I found to be flat. So if spy spoofs are your bag, baby, then head out to the rental store now to nab The Silencers.
As I mentioned before, the man in the pivotal role here is Dean Martin, who could have given this franchise some real fuel. As he often did, Martin must have felt like his mere presence was enough, like people would be satisfied just seeing him on the screen. While his drunken, but suave presence does help out The Silencers, Martin’s performance is rather flat throughout. He should have gone with a more energetic approach, as opposed to this catatonic turn. I know, some people will always argue that a Rat Pack member can do no wrong, but I think Martin dropped the ball here and really brought down the entire picture. If he could have been more into the role, The Silencers could have been a lot more fun and perhaps the sequels would have turned out better. I do think he was the best choice for the role, as his persona matches the needed elements, but like I said, he just doesn’t seem to be on his game in this one. You can also see Martin in such films as Ocean’s Eleven, Road to Bali, The Young Lions, The Sons of Katie Elder, and Rough Night in Jericho. The cast also includes Stella Stevens (The Poseidon Adventure, The Blue Angel), Daliah Lavi (Some Girls Do, Casino Royale), and Victor Buono (The Mad Butcher, Boot Hill).
Video: How does it look?
The Silencers is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. The packaging doesn’t state that this is the case, just that the movie is in widescreen, but rest assured, this is indeed an anamorphic treatment. The rest of the news isn’t as good however, as this presentation is passable, but leaves a lot to be desired. I knew this wouldn’t be a perfect effort, but it seems like Columbia has rushed this out for no apparent reason. The print is clean, but very soft and that dulls the film’s vivid visuals and that’s no fun. The image has a flat, hazy texture in most scenes, which was expected, but to this degree. The colors, which are vital to the campish visuals, have lost some vibrance also, thanks to the softness. This is still a watchable presentation, but I think Columbia should have taken more time to produce a better effort than this.
Audio: How does it sound?
A mono soundtrack is provided here, which sounds more than solid and hasn’t been ravaged that much by the tolls of time. As expected, the material is on the dated side and some minor issues emerge, but under the circumstances, nothing worth fretting over. I mean, a mono track from the 60s will never be pristine and potent, but for what it is, this soundtrack has enough juice and sounds quite clean in most scenes. A few instances of hiss or distortion can be detected, but these are very minor and never prove to be a distraction. So all in all, a good presentation that makes sure the material is well represented. This disc also includes subtitles in English and French, should you need to enable those at some point.
Supplements: What are the extras?
This disc includes no bonus materials.