Spy 100, #61: Our Man Flint

I’ve long ago dispensed with the notion that the Spy 100 list constitutes the genre’s best films; like most lists, clearly it’s more about generating discussion than gauging quality. Our Man Flint (1966) provides more evidence to back this idea. A colorful Bond spoof, this one is noteworthy, perhaps, as an early (groundbreaking?) example of the comedy spinoffs that followed in the wake of 007’s debut. Beyond that, it’s pretty avoidable.

The plot, such as it is: a trio of mad scientists are holding the world hostage with a weather control device. The world government organization ZOWIE  (Zonal Organization World Intelligence Espionage — yep, you heard me), led by the blustering Cramden (Lee J. Cobb), needs to shut down the dastardly scientists, but none of their regular agents are up to the task. Enter dashing superspy Derek Flint (James Coburn), a wealthy womanizing playboy hero who’s selected, much to Cramden’s dismay, by the ZOWIE computers as the perfect man for the job. Flint’s globetrotting adventure takes him all across Europe before eventually depositing him, for the final confrontation, on the vocalnic island paradise of the criminal organization Galaxy.

Our Man Flint was probably an inevitable reaction to the 007 phenomenon: a much deserved send-up of the fantasy-adventure wish-fulfillment nature of the James Bond universe. Unfortunately, it’s not really funny or clever enough to vindicate its concept, and anyway to me it feels too much of a piece with the franchise it’s lampooning, rather than a subversion of it. Fatally, the humor misses the mark far more than it hits; the only high-concept laugh (“spoiler” alert) comes when Flint learns that the villains are actually trying to create a utopia, which only inspires him rather sociopathically to destroy them anyway. Past that, it’s little more than a poorly paced, unfunny comic-book spy travelogue, full of lovely ladies and flashy visuals, but ultimately tedious. It’s not entirely without camp value, but if you’re in the mood for this kind of thing, you’re much better off watching the OSS 117 movies.

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