In the mid to late sixties rat pack crooner Dean Martin starred as American secret agent Matt Helm. The four movies, The Silencers, Murderer’s Row, The Ambushers, and The Wrecking Crew were very loosely based on the Donald Hamilton Matt Helm series. These spy movies were more camp than thriller and tried to out-babe and out-sexy the James Bond series. They were a genre unto themselves and you either like or dislike the series. The Matt Helm Lounge is a 4 DVD box set that features the four contributions Dean Martin made to the cool spy (he did work for ICE) thriller genre.
The first Matt Helm spy movie in the Matt Helm Lounge is The Silencers with Stella Stevens. It is the old tale of a madman wanting to start World War Three and take over the world. This is probably the funniest of the Matt Helm series because of the very funny Gail Hendricks, a klutzy blonde who steals quite a few scenes from Dean Martin. The writing is great if you like funny lines and funny situations but this, and any other Helm movie is not serious spy fare.
Murderer’s Row starred Ann-Margret and Karl Malden (as the bad guy with the obligatory theek accent out to conquer the world) and is the lesser of the 4 DVDs in the Matt Helm Lounge. There’s lots of go-go dancing, bodacious babes, and a plot to keep everything going. The writing features the usual one-liners spouted by Dean Martin and a few nods to Martin’s music and ability with the ladies.
The Ambushers is probably the funniest and least serious of the camp spy movie series. It involves a flying saucer that only a woman can fly. It is the third in the series, features the last appearance of James Gregory (of Barney Miller fame) as MacDonald, head of Ice. and is probably the campiest of the bunch. It features loaded bras that can kill a man, special lipstick, lots of cheap effects, and great fun.The last of the Matt Helm movies is The Wrecking Crew with Sharon Tate, Elke Sommer, and Tina Louise (Gilligan’s Island) in a minor role. The recipe is tried and true, Dean Martin drinks, seduces, and quips his way through this camp spy movie. the late Sharon Tate shows a definite flair for the comic as spoilsport agent Freya Carlson. The special effects and gadgets are cheesy but the movie itself is good fun.