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Mystery Movies - The Ambushers

Buy The Matt Helm Lounge
Dean Martin, James Gregory, Janice Rule
Directed by Henry Levin
Columbia Pictures 1967
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment 2005
102 minutes

 Trouble is brewing for Matt Helm in this movie set in a Mexican brewery. The Ambushers is the third of four Matt Helm movies starring crooner Dean Martin in the Matt Helm Lounge box set. Loosely based on the novel The Ambushers by Donald Hamilton, this third installment in the Matt Helm series is not the best in terms of story
--that would be The Silencers—but it is definitely the funniest of these so-called spy movies.

The Ambushers also features the last appearance of James Gregory (of Barney Miller fame) as MacDonald, head of ICE. This time the bad guy, Jose Ortega (played by Albert Salmi) has diverted the prototype American flying saucer (yeah, right!) that, unfortunately, can only be piloted by a woman because of the “weird effects” of “an electromagnetic field” (egad!). This flying saucer was piloted by agent Sheila Sommers (Janice Rule) who somehow escaped but remains deeply traumatized and only remembers she is married to Matt Helm, her cover on a previous mission. The Ambushers also features the Slaygirls, deadly but bodacious and barely dressed bad girls headed by Francesca Madeiros (Senta Berger) whose kiss is deadly.

The most accurate explanation for the Matt Helm spy movies is they were James Bond without the spying but with all the funny lines, funny named gorgeous women (Matt Helm’s personal assistant is Lovey Kravezit), and all the levity of the more serious Ian Fleming novel based movies. James Bond movies definitely had a bigger special effect budget and Matt Helm movies were the quintessential B-movie spy thriller but you have to admit Dean Martin seemed to enjoy himself immensely most of the time without having to stretch his acting talents too much.

Matt Helm movies may not have had James Bond’s Q to develop weapons but The Ambushers features the only ray that forces men to drop ‘trou, something very useful when the bad guys are chasing you. Perhaps the best and funniest of the special gadgets ever featured in a spy movies are the bras that can shoot a bad guy when he gets too close. As Matt Helm says, “Don’t point those .38s at me!”

Matt Helm movies, all four of which are available in the Matt Helm Lounge box set, were cheesy and campy beyond belief. If you are looking for a serious spy movie, pass. If you are looking for a fun, funny, enjoyable, and fairly mindless form of entertainment, a spy thriller that is more camp comedy than thriller, Matt Helm movies are great fun.

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