The Wrecking Crew (1969 film)

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The Wrecking Crew

original film poster by Robert McGinnis
Directed byPhil Karlson
Produced byIrving Allen
Written byWilliam P. McGivern
StarringDean Martin
Elke Sommer
Sharon Tate
Nancy Kwan
Music byHugo Montenegro
CinematographySam Leavitt
Editing byMaury Winetrobe
Distributed byColumbia Pictures
Release date(s)
  • 1968 (1968)
Running time105 minutes
 
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The Wrecking Crew

original film poster by Robert McGinnis
Directed byPhil Karlson
Produced byIrving Allen
Written byWilliam P. McGivern
StarringDean Martin
Elke Sommer
Sharon Tate
Nancy Kwan
Music byHugo Montenegro
CinematographySam Leavitt
Editing byMaury Winetrobe
Distributed byColumbia Pictures
Release date(s)
  • 1968 (1968)
Running time105 minutes

The Wrecking Crew, released in December, 1968 and starring Dean Martin, Elke Sommer, Nancy Kwan and Sharon Tate is the fourth and final film in a series of American comedy-spy-fi theatrical releases featuring Martin as secret agent Matt Helm.

As with the previous three Helm spy movies (The Silencers, Murderers' Row, and The Ambushers), it is based only loosely upon Donald Hamilton's 1960 novel of the same title and takes great liberties with the plot and characters, being developed as a spoof of the James Bond films. The Wrecking Crew was the second Helm novel published and the earliest of the books to be adapted.

This was the last film of Tate's to be released before her murder at the hands of Charles Manson's followers on August 9, 1969.

Contents

Plot

Matt Helm is assigned by his secret agency, ICE, to bring down an evil count named Contini who is trying to collapse the world economy by stealing a billion dollars in gold.

Helm travels to Denmark, where he is given a guide, Freya Carlson, a beautiful but bumbling woman from a Danish tourism bureau.

A pair of Contini's accomplices, the seductive Linka Karensky and Yu-Rang, each attempt to foil Helm's plans. The former is killed in an ambush intended for Helm, the latter in an explosion. On each occasion, Freya's clumsy attempts to assist Matt are helpful but not particularly appreciated.

McDonald, his chief at ICE, turns up to aid Helm, but is wounded in action. McDonald confides to Helm that the seemingly inept Freya is actually a top secret agent herself, using a clever guise.

They go to Contini's chateau for a showdown and Helm creates chaos and destruction with a variety of unique gadgets. Contini escapes on a train bound for Luxembourg, but with a mini-helicopter, Helm and Freya are able to catch up.

Contini is killed on the train, dropping through a trap door. Successful and alone at last, Helm finally has an opportunity to thank Freya as only he can.

Cast

Uncredited

Miscellaneous credits: Bruce Lee as choreographer for the fight scenes. World Karate and Kickboxing Champion Joe Lewis and American Kenpo Founder Ed Parker both had fight scenes with Dean Martin.[1]

Production

Chuck Norris makes his film debut in a small role, and Bruce Lee is credited with being the film's karate advisor.

Also appearing in the film are Nancy Kwan as Wen Yu-Rang, Tina Louise as Lola Medina, and Nigel Green as the villainous Count Contini.

Helm's chief at ICE, MacDonald, is John Larch in this film, replacing James Gregory, who played the role in the other three films. Gregory said in an interview in Filmfax magazine that he was sent a reduced amount for his fee in the film. He was told that the film was reducing its budget, but Gregory refused to take the lower fee.[2]

This is the only film in the series not to feature Helm's secretary, Lovey Kravesit, played by Beverly Adams.

Music

Hugo Montenegro composed the score and Mack David and Frank DeVol wrote the theme song played over the opening and end credits, "House of Seven Joys", which was the working title of the film.[3]

Reception

Critical response to this film varies, with some calling it the worst of the series, where it mostly features Helm playing up to glamorous women and the storyline is the bits that join those many encounters together. There was also some poor acting and the film had many minor mistakes in it which should have been edited out as well as so-so special effects. Others called it the best due to its reduced reliance on outlandish gadgets and story lines. It was the first film in the series to not be written by comedy writer Herbert Baker but by former police reporter and crime novel author William P. McGivern. It is also notable for the appearance of Tate and martial arts scenes choreographed by Bruce Lee.

Legacy

The film ends with the announcement of a fifth Matt Helm film, The Ravagers (which would have been based upon Hamilton's 1964 novel of the same title). However, Dean Martin declined to return for another film in the face of a declining box office. When Martin refused to make The Ravagers, Columbia held up Martin's share of the profits on Murderers' Row.[4] The project was then cancelled.

A "Tony Rome Meets Matt Helm" movie with Frank Sinatra reprising the character he had played in the films Tony Rome (1967) and Lady in Cement was also bandied about, but never amounted to anything.

Several years later, a Matt Helm TV series featuring Tony Franciosa would be attempted, but in a much more serious vein, and it was unsuccessful. As of 2009, early planning for a new Matt Helm-based film was underway through DreamWorks.

References

  1. ^ http://www.ikfkickboxing.com/JoeLewis.htm
  2. ^ James Gregory Interview Filmfax Magazine #84 Apr 2001
  3. ^ p.166 Freedland, Michael F. Dean Martin: King of the Road
  4. ^ Tosches, Nick Dino Living High in the Dirty Business of Dreams 1999 Delta

External links