Having been introduced to the James Bond series at the tender age of 10 with the release of Goldfinger in 1964, you could say I was primed early for the spy-flick craze of the era. I became totally entranced with all things Bond (still am since I’ve seen every bloody one in the series at least three times apiece). Two years later, who would have suspected I’d fall for the inevitable American remake (slash) parody that arrived in 1966. Looking back on it now 45 years later, Our Man Flint, directed by Daniel Mann, shouldn’t have worked for me. It didn’t take itself seriously and it was decidedly un-British.
What the film did have going for it, though, was its clear American bent on the British spy film, writing credit goes to Hal Fimberg and Ben Starr. Plus the involvement of James Coburn as the maverick secret agent, Derek Flint. And just as importantly, American composer/conductor Jerry Goldsmith. The bevy of beautiful women sprinkled gorgeously throughout the cast doesn’t hurt either. The lanky Coburn, like many of his The Magnificent Seven co-stars of the time (Yul Brynner, Steve McQueen, and Charles Bronson, for sure) epitomized the decade’s style and cool. Plus, Jerry Goldsmith just happened to be one of the best damn music composers to ever grace a film score this side of the Atlantic. Period. Both of their contributions made Our Man Flint a minor classic in the genre, and a film that was unabashedly diverting. Even with its tongue firmly planted in cheek. It was a great example of pure 60s entertainment.
To be sure, the title sequence from Our Man Flint remains one of my most-liked segments, and it’s nothing to sneeze at (even as I get over my annual head cold). Using the photographic techniques by L.B. Abbott, Howard Lydecker, and Emil Kosa, Jr., this sequence skillfully takes off on its famous Bond film counterparts in a very… ahem… colorful manner. Not that there’s anything wrong with nudity, mind you. However, it was more a fond homage than a cheap rip-off, I think. Plus, Jerry Goldsmith’s theme music from the film’s soundtrack was simply wonderful in the clip as it ably improvised off of John Barry’s well-known and impressive OO7 work:
Furthermore, another place in the film where his melodious efforts made a singular statement occurred during the culminating action sequence in the picture. Conceivably, Our Man Flint was a satire of the action-spy movie. But it nailed its set pieces with Guy Hamilton-like proficiency.
(btw, there’s a funny reference and meeting with the ‘famous 0008’ character in the plot).
I should note James Coburn was perhaps the antithesis of his British analog (modeled on Sean Connery‘s interpretation of James Bond at the time) in style and looks in the film. To tell the truth, a few years later, an old girlfriend of mine (and Coburn fan) said to me, “… Coburn’s unhandsome features actually made him good-looking.” I didn’t argue. What can I say? The telltale James Coburn traits come through and make the film great. With that, he performed most of the physical demands of the sequence, including the 4-story climb up an industrial ladder — something he achieved with aplomb. The man possessed a rangy grace that became a physical trademark.
In any event, what fires the sequence was the composer’s supporting instrumental piece, IMO. The You’re a Foolish Man, Mr. Flint track keenly takes full advantage of the OO7 vibe with its use of the recurring rhythmic fuzz guitar part in the melody (something Wall of Voodoo sampled years later for their cover of Ring of Fire). Along with the accustomed brass and strings accompaniment, this element totally drives the song and fuels the set’s flow with an infectious tempo. Jerry Goldsmith definitely deserves praise here for coming up with another of his splendid and energetic music creations for this film. Besides, his soundtrack realized something that should have been impossible. Mimicking and appreciating Barry’s Bond music, all the while making it distinctly his own.
Trivia: in my recent re-screening of Our Man Flint , I discovered something the film had in common with a seminal actioner of the 80s. The henchman (Michael St. Clair) Derek Flint dispatches in the men’s room at the Marseille club is named Hans Gruber, which is the name (same spelling) of Alan Rickman’s character from Die Hard (1988).