The Film: 4/5
Masquerading as a health and beauty resort called "Fabulous Face" located in the Virgin Islands, a collective of intelligent and resourceful led by Miss Elizabeth (Anna Lee) and Miss Norton (Jean Hale) are plotting to seize control of the world from the ruling chauvinistic male power elite. They initiate "Operation Duffer", the first stage of which is to install two of their comely agents as cosmonauts on the planet's first manned scientific research platform in outer space. Next they kidnap U.S. President Trent (Andrew Duggan) and replace him with a surgically-altered duplicate played by a hammy Shakespearean actor. The switch occurs during the President's golf game with Lloyd Cramden (Lee J. Cobb), the director of the international spy agency Z.O.W.I.E. (Zonal Organization World Intelligence Espionage) unbeknownst to the other participants. When Cramden notices his stopwatch is running three minutes fast but he can account for what happened during those missing minutes of the golf game he enlists his best agent Derek Flint (James Coburn) to investigate. Flint is reluctant to take the assignment as he has more pressing matters, as well as a bevy of sexy female companions, to attend to until Cramden is seduced, set up, and relieved of his duties by a conspiracy run by the women of "Fabulous Face" and the rogue U.S. general Carter (Steve Ihnat). Flint's search for answers takes him to Moscow, where he enjoys the romantic company of beautiful ballerina Natasha (Yvonne Craig) and becomes a target for the KGB, and finally to the headquarters of "Fabulous Face" where he uncovers their plans for world domination and must halt a plot to turn the space platform into an orbiting nuclear weapon.
Blame it on Bond. When Ian Fleming's iconic British superspy leaped from the printed page to conquer the silver screen, Walther PPK in one hand and a dry martini in the other, every movie studio from Burbank to Bucharest jumped at the chance to create their own globe-trotting spy franchise. James Bond was also one of the prototypes for the modern action hero that would come to be associated with names like Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger, men of action defined by their healthy supply of witty quips and deadly weapons. But Derek Flint was different; though the original Our Man Flint had been greatly influenced by the Bond movies and their sterling international box office grosses, the titular dashing secret agent's personality only owed part of its existence to Fleming's creation. Flint had trained his body and his mind to be even more effective tools of accomplishing his objectives and defeating a multitude of heavily armed adversaries than any lethal gadget or firearm at his disposal. As not so much played but as embodied by the late James Coburn, a terrific actor and underrated screen presence who could deliver magnificent performances when given the right material, Derek Flint was equal parts Bond, Sherlock Holmes, and Doc Savage. He was a literal jack of all trades; give him any job and the question you will have to ask yourself will not be "Can he do it?" but rather "How long will it take him?" Granted that didn't always make for the most relatable movie hero because it is virtually impossible to take your intellect and physical being to the dizzying heights Flint scaled on a regular basis. Even when he was seemingly down for the count you could always count on Derek Flint to think or fight his way out of every deadly trap he always found himself somehow getting into.
After two movies and a failed attempt to branch out into television the adventures of Derek Flint were no more. Coburn never got that tentpole franchise an actor of his towering talents so richly deserved. But Flint was not long for this world anyway. Without a single relatable characteristic he was just too damn perfect a movie hero for audiences to stick around for further sequels. The series was already showing signs of fatigue by the time In Like Flint, the first and only theatrical follow-up to the successful initial outing Our Man Flint, rolled into theaters thirteen months after the release of Our Man. In Like Flint would not prove profitable enough to continue the franchise, but at least the aborted franchise went out on quite the high note. The opening credits sequence, meant to invoke the artistic montages created for most of the Bond movies by Maurice Binder, declares the movie's intentions right out of the starting gate to bring its audience thrills, camp humor, and lots of shots of women dressed in bikinis, bath towels, and occasionally even less than that. Just to give you an idea of how far a major studio picture could go in the liberated years between the collapse of the Production Code and the rise of the MPAA, the credits for In Like Flint - a movie that was not restricted to mature audiences even in the late 60's - actually give us a brief glimpse of a woman's bare breasts. This is not comical nudity, this is sensual "Gettin' a boner yet guys?" nudity. In Like Flint was never intended to be a thinking man's spy thriller, even though Flint is way smarter than the average big screen secret agent man. It was the logical precursor to the Austin Powers movies; in fact Mike Myers's buck-toothed, eternally horny British superspy claims In Like Flint is his favorite movie in Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me.
Flint may have seen his prospects as a new icon of celluloid action heroics fade away when the Matt Helm series was still going, but out of all the Bond spoofing spy movie franchise wannabes that emerged in the 60's and 70's it was Flint who would have the greatest staying power of all the pretenders. I would credit that mostly to the greatness that is James Coburn. He made Flint a likeable character through his own understated grace and poignant charm. His performances in the role contained not a solitary shred of ego and whenever Coburn was called on to imbue some humor in the proceedings he never did in an over-the-top, winking at the camera way. The character of Flint and the plots were plentiful amusing without that unnecessary overkill. Plus thanks to his martial arts training under the tutelage of the legendary Bruce Lee, Coburn was able to convincingly kick some ass on screen, though he had more than a little help from some exquisitely skilled stunt doubles. His fight scenes are one of the undisputed highlights of the Flint movies; Coburn quite literally throws himself into the hand-to-hand bouts with raw energy and fierce abandon, putting the full strength of his body into every punch and kick, leaping and bounding from catwalk to platform with the cool grace of a tiger stalking its prey. In Like Flint gives Coburn a real lulu of a fight scene when Flint comes up against an army of corrupt soldiers in the gymnasium of the Fabulous Face complex, and the execution of the scene is a technical marvel that warrants repeat viewings. Coburn succeeded in the part of Flint because there were few actors in the industry who could downplay the sheer absurdity of the character and his outlandish exploits but still manage to make a great impression upon viewers without becoming a laughing stock. James Coburn was one of the coolest movie stars of all time and it's a damn shame he was undervalued by the studios during his later years.
Growing up a huge fan of movies like The Exorcist and Twelve Angry Men I never though character acting demigod Lee J. Cobb could be so great as a befuddled straight man, but he was one of the Flint movies' secret weapons as the often outmatched but never outgunned Z.O.W.I.E. honcho Cramden. In Like Flint gives Cramden a lot more to do this time around when he's set up for disgrace and career ruin as part of Fabulous Face's plot, and at one point during the final act Cobb gets to dress up in drag in order to infiltrate their "ladies only" island resort. He makes one ugly woman but the gag itself is too priceless to not enjoy. The whole movie is like that basically; very little of it makes a lick of sense but when you're surrounded by lovely ladies, goofy action without serious consequence, Jerry Goldsmith's sexy music score, and Coburn's prototypical Buckaroo Banzai by way of MacGyver coming up with a situation for every problem he encounters you stop trying to apply logic after a while and just go with the flow. The movie is expertly crafted with dependable direction from Gordon Douglas (Them!, The Detective), a solid, witty script from Hal Fimberg (co-writer of Our Man Flint), crisp cinematography by Erich Von Stroheim's cameraman of choice William Daniels, and stylish art direction from Dale Hennessy (Dirty Harry, Battle for the Planet of the Apes). The women are all gorgeous and elegant and perform their underwritten roles admirably, but it's future Batgirl Yvonne Craig as the vivacious Russian ballerina who briefly captures Flint's wandering libido who has them all beat.
In Like Flint was the last movie to be filmed in 20th Century Fox's once-revolutionary CinemaScope process that ultimately gave way to Panavision. Twilight Time presents the film in its original 2.35:1 widescreen aspect ratio and the 1080p/AVC-encoded HD transfer is simply remarkable. The colors in the dazzling production design literally pop off the television screen at times and the high contrast nighttime cinematography features impressive use of shadows and silhouettes. The level of grain is pretty low and print damage appears to have almost completely eliminated. For our audio options we get the film's original 1.0 mono track and a newly-created 5.1 sound mix, both in English DTS-HD Master Audio. The differences between the two mixes is quite noticeable; there is level distortion in the 5-channel mix but the mono track is slightly louder and makes the occasionally clipped and hushed dialogue easier to hear. Goldsmith's fantastic swingin' music score benefits greatly from the boisterous 5.1 track. Thus both audio tracks have their advantages and disadvantages so it all depends on the viewer to decide which is best, but for myself personally I would choose the 5.1 option as it does a better job of balancing out the volume levels for the dialogue, music, and sound effects mixes. English subtitles are also provided.
Twilight Time has ported over all of the great, extensive extra features that were initially created for Fox's 2006 "Ultimate Flint Collection" DVD set. Leading the pack is an film historian commentary track with Cinema Retro editor and publisher Lee Pfeiffer - who also had a hand in creating the multiple documentary featurettes on this disc - joined by film critic and entertainment journalist Eddy Friedfeld. Both men have a lot to say about the movie, the brief history of the Flint franchise, and many other topics and theirs is a lively and intelligent discussion that makes for an enlightening listen.
"Derek Flint: The Secret Files" (16 minutes) takes a look back at the development and production of In Like Flint with fresh interviews with critics, historians, and select surviving members of the cast and crew. James Coburn's daughter also contributes some stories about her father's involvement with the series. Many of these interviewees also turn up in the other featurettes. "James Coburn: The Man Behind the Spy" (15 minutes) gives us a brief look into the life and career of the Flint series' charismatic star and proves a worthwhile viewing but it should have been a bit longer; cramming a screen legend's biography into a running time less than that of an average episode of The Big Bang Theory just doesn't do Coburn and his legacy justice.
"Designing Flint" (12 minutes) is devoted to the zany art and production design of the sequel, while "Flint Vs. Zanuck: The Missing Three Minutes" (7 minutes) documents the editing room battle between director Gordon Douglas and Fox studio head Richard Zanuck, the latter demanding that a speech Flint gives to the women of Fabulous Face setting them straight about their foolish grand design as well as a final line of dialogue given to Coburn that would have made for a nifty last laugh both be deleted from the movie. Douglas opposed the decision but Zanuck naturally prevailed and the cut footage appears to have been lost forever, but fortunately the participants interviewed here helpfully use the original shooting script to give us a taste of what was lost. "Feminine Wiles" (6 minutes) examines the film's somewhat antiquated portrayal of feminism. "Future Perfect" (7 minutes) devotes its time to the scientific and futuristic designs and concepts presented in the Flint films that appeared to have been realized in real life. "Spy School" (6 minutes) focuses on the portrayal of spies and intelligence gathering services in the Flint series and most Hollywood espionage thrillers and features an interview with a former CIA operative to provide historical context and shatter some media-sculpted preconceptions of the realities of being a spy. "Musician's Magician" (5 minutes) is another all too brief tribute to one of the driving forces behind the success of the Flint films, composer Jerry Goldsmith, featuring interviews with his offspring Carrie and Joel. "Spy Vogue" is the last of the new mini-documentaries and is dedicated to the retroactive style of the series and how it was reflective of the changing political and social climate in the U.S. and abroad during the 1960's.
Some archival supplements are also presented here, including a two-minute actress screen test and twelve minutes of footage from the film's Puerto Rico premiere including interviews with Coburn, Cobb, and....Sammy Davis Jr. ? He must be there strictly as a fan. Dig it baby. "Take It Off" (9 minutes) is a vintage production featurette packed with behind-the-scenes footage and a bevy of beautiful women to ogle. Two theatrical trailers are included, one for In Like Flint that runs less than a minute and the other for another Fox spy romp from the late 60's - The Quiller Memorandum, directed by Michael Anderson and starring George Segal, Alec Guinness, and Max Von Sydow. The print quality of both trailers is scratchy and degraded and from inexplicable reason the Quiller preview is listed on the special features menu merely as "Trailer # 2". Jerry Goldsmith's fun music score gets its very own isolated audio track and the zippy and jazzy effort sounds wonderful. Wrapping things up are a catalogue of other releases from Twilight Time and a booklet of liner notes regarding In Like Flint written by writer and film historian Julie Kirgo.
One of the best of the Bond imitators, In Like Flint is a cool, funny, and entertaining late-60's spy romp captained by a game James Coburn having the time of his life in a terrific star role. The movie looks and sounds better than it has since its initial theatrical release on this new Blu-ray and Twilight Time has packed in enough juicy and informative bonus features to keep a Flint fan happy and occupied for a few hours at least.