Murderers’ Row (1966)

Article 3047 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 9-11-2009
Posting Date: 12-17-2009
Directed by Henry Levin
Featuring Dean Martin, Ann-Margret, Karl Malden
Country: USA
What it is: Faux James Bond, Matt Helm style

Matt Helm must locate a scientist who has the secret to a powerful death ray… before he falls into the wrong hands.

Watching this movie so soon after having seen a Disney shopping cart movie gave me an interesting perspective on it. It occurred to me that, despite the endless drinking, pulchritude and double entendres that populate this movie, it felt like it exuded the same sense of innocence as the Disney comedies. The key here is in the double entendres; they’re handled with such a light touch that the movie has the air of a good-natured wink (unlike THE AMBUSHERS, where the same elements were handled so crassly that they came across like a smarmy smirk). This sense of innocent fun is what set the Matt Helm movies apart from the James Bond films, which they otherwise emulate. Unfortunately, as the movie goes along, it moves away from the humor and starts emphasizing the action, and when it does this, you’re fully aware you’re watching a second-rate James Bond imitation, and the lethargic pacing (which infects the whole movie) becomes especially noticeable. Still, it’s likable enough, with some great Ann-Margret dancing and some Crosby-Hope Road movie referential humor (in moments which involve Karl Malden, Frank Sinatra, and the group Dino, Desi & Billy). The ending, unfortunately, tries to get too much mileage out of a repeated running gag involving a time-delayed gun; it should have been used twice at best but it pops up repeatedly.

This leaves one more Matt Helm movie to go in the series.

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