DVD Review HTF REVIEW: Matt Helm Lounge

Discussion in 'DVD' started by Aaron Silverman, Dec 10, 2005.

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  1. Aaron Silverman

    Aaron Silverman Executive Producer

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    [​IMG]
    Matt Helm Lounge[​IMG]

    US Theatrical Release: The Silencers: February 18, 1966; Murderers’ Row: December 20, 1966; The Ambushers: December 22, 1967; The Wrecking Crew: February 5, 1969 (Columbia)
    US DVD Release: December 6, 2005
    Running Time: The Silencers: 1:42:21 (28 chapters); Murderers’ Row: 1:45:02 (12 chapters); The Ambushers: 1:41:52 (12 chapters); The Wrecking Crew: 1:44:54 (12 chapters)
    Rating: The Wrecking Crew is PG (For Sensuality, Violence and Some Language); the others are unrated, but sport a similar amount of cartoonish sex and violence
    Video: All four films are 1.85:1 Anamorphic
    Audio: All feature English DD2.0 mono (the box lists The Wrecking Crew as including Japanese DD2.0 mono, but it doesn’t)
    Subtitles: The Silencers has English and French; the other films all have English, Japanese and Spanish
    TV-Generated Closed Captions: English
    Menus: Not animated.
    Packaging: Two half-thickness double-disc keepcases with a cardboard outer slipcover; no inserts. The entire package is about as thick as a regular plastic keepcase in a slipcover, and the discs are securely held and easy to access.
    MSRP: $34.94

    Come back with me now to a time of swingin’ secret agents, go-go chicks in go-go boots, and completely automated robotic boudoir furniture. No, it’s not another Austin Powers sequel – it’s the real deal. The original swinger, Dean Martin, smirks his way through four mid-‘60s spy spoofs as secret agent/ girlie mag photog Matt Helm with a drink in one hand, a smoke in the other, and a buxom babe (or seven) at his side.

    The Silencers

    THE WAY I FEEL ABOUT IT: 2.5/5

    The Silencers opens with a low-rent Bondesque song-and-dance, and follows that with 100 minutes of low-rent Bond spoof. It features “The B.I.G. O.,” a low-rent SPECTRE copy, and evil mastermind Tung-Tze (Victor Buono), who takes a low-rent Blofeld even lower with that most dated of dated ‘60s devices, the Ridiculous Oriental Portrayed By A White Comic. The special effects are on par with those of contemporary television shows such as Star Trek. Stella Stevens and Daliah Lavi are, shall we say, earthier than the girls generally featured opposite Connery and Moore. Where Bond drove an Aston Martin with machine guns and an ejection seat, Matt Helm tools around in a woodmobile station wagon with an automatic built-in bar.

    Of course, it’s all played for laughs, and laughs it gets. It should entertain those who find the whole swingin’ lounge culture amusing. A number of running gags are introduced that continue through the sequels, such as silly trick guns, evil henchmen who wear absurdly mundane security guard uniforms (and are dumb enough to fall for the gun tricks), and the occasional dig at Deano’s pal Sinatra. There are also the “Slaygirls,” a bevy of buxom lasses who – well, they don’t really do much at all, but they sure do look swell.

    The plot should be fairly obvious by now. Don’t expect it too make much sense, though. Just sit back and enjoy the goofs. Unfortunately, though, The Silencers does have its issues. For one thing, it suffers from poor editing. Many scenes go on just a bit too long, sometimes with unnecessary dialogue, other times simply with shots that linger for no apparent reason. Also, the use of incidental music is a little strange – it’s mysteriously absent in some scenes (for example, a car chase), while at other times it pops up in weird places (for example, during some dialogue immediately following said car chase). These flaws detract from what is otherwise a nicely silly guilty pleasure.


    THE WAY I SEE IT: 2.5/5

    The picture is pretty average. Colors are rich and not quite realistic, with a very ‘60s look. Darker scenes occasionally display some weird discoloration – look closely at faces to see some purplish splotching. Detail is only OK. Close examination will reveal some digital artifacting, but it won’t be very noticeable on smaller sets. There is a bit of edge enhancement of the ghosted edge sort (as opposed to the white haloes).


    THE WAY I HEAR IT: 3.5/5

    The DD2.0 mono soundtrack is not too shabby. Dialogue and music are crisp and clear. Don’t look for much in the way of extreme high and low end, but this is probably as good as a film of this sort is going to sound without heavy processing.


    THE SWAG: 0.5/5 (rating combines quality and quantity)

    Previews:
    • Don’t Raise The Bridge, Lower The River (2:36) (DD2.0 mono; 1.85:1 anamorphic)
    • Fun With Dick And Jane (1:52) (DD2.0 mono; 1.85:1 anamorphic)
    • The Mouse That Roared (2:30) (DD2.0 mono; 1.85:1 non-anamorphic)
    Murderers’ Row

    THE WAY I FEEL ABOUT IT: 3/5

    Murderers’ Row, for the most part, is more of the same. However, it’s better put together. It doesn’t suffer from the pacing issues as The Silencers, and the incidental music is less jarring. This time around, Ann-Margret tickles Matt’s fancy, and Karl Malden leads the evil security guards of the B.I.G. O. He does effect a strange accent, but thankfully, it doesn’t seem Asian.


    THE WAY I SEE IT: 3/5

    In some ways, Murderers’ Row is slightly improved over its predecessor, but in other ways, not so much. Colors are a bit more realistic, and the picture is just a hair more detailed. On the other hand, more edge enhancement is visible, and the source print appears to have suffered some damage. From time to time, there is some flicker in the image.


    THE WAY I HEAR IT: 3.5/5

    The DD2.0 mono track is on par with that of the first film. It gets the job done nicely.


    THE SWAG: 0.5/5 (rating combines quality and quantity)

    Previews:

    There is a Play Previews button on the main menu that plays the trailers in sequence. They can’t be selected individually.
    • The Ambushers (1:02) (DD2.0 mono; 1.33:1 non-anamorphic)
    • Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle (2:32) (DD5.1; 1.78:1 anamorphic)
    • Seinfeld (2:58) (DD2.0; 1.33:1 non-anamorphic)
    The Ambushers

    THE WAY I FEEL ABOUT IT: 3/5

    The Ambushers is basically comparable to Murderers’ Row. The supporting players aren’t quite as well-known – they include Senta Berger as a femme fatale wearing colors that just don’t exist anymore, with Janice Rule as Helm’s agent partner, and Albert Salmi as his nemesis (it’s unclear whether his theft of a US Government UFO or his hairstyle is the greater crime against humanity). As with the other films, the plot is tertiary to the jokes and the booty.


    THE WAY I SEE IT: 3/5

    The image is quite comparable to that of Murderer’s Row. It’s OK, but not great.


    THE WAY I HEAR IT: 3.5/5

    The DD2.0 mono track is on par with that of the first two films. It gets the job done nicely.


    THE SWAG: 0.5/5 (rating combines quality and quantity)

    Previews:

    There is a Play Previews button on the main menu that plays the trailers in sequence. They can’t be selected individually.
    • Murderers’ Row (2:59) (DD2.0 mono; 1.33:1 non-anamorphic)
    • Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle (2:32) (DD5.1; 1.78:1 anamorphic)
    • Seinfeld (2:20) (DD2.0; 1.33:1 non-anamorphic)
    The Wrecking Crew

    THE WAY I FEEL ABOUT IT: N/A/5

    In the interest of getting this posted, I didn’t have time to watch The Wrecking Crew. I’ll update this review once I see it. I did sample a few scenes to get a taste of the A/V quality.


    THE WAY I SEE IT: 3.5/5

    The Wrecking Crew looks the best of the four films. Colors are solid and realistic, but the image shows less digital artifacting than the others do, and the source print is in a little better shape.


    THE WAY I HEAR IT: 4/5

    This is also the best-sounding of the films in the set. The DD2.0 mono audio is a little richer and has more space to it.


    THE SWAG: 0.5/5 (rating combines quality and quantity)

    Previews:

    There is a Play Previews button on the main menu that plays the trailers in sequence. They can’t be selected individually.
    • Murderers’ Row (2:59) (DD2.0 mono; 1.33:1 non-anamorphic)
    • The Ambushers (1:02) (DD2.0 mono; 1.33:1 non-anamorphic)
    • Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle (2:32) (DD5.1; 1.78:1 anamorphic)
    SUMMING IT ALL UP

    The Silencers

    The Way I Feel About It: 2.5/5
    The Way I See It: 2.5/5
    The Way I Hear It: 3.5/5
    The Swag: 0.5/5

    Murderers’ Row

    The Way I Feel About It: 3/5
    The Way I See It: 3/5
    The Way I Hear It: 3.5/5
    The Swag: 0.5/5

    The Ambushers

    The Way I Feel About It: 3/5
    The Way I See It: 3/5
    The Way I Hear It: 3.5/5
    The Swag: 0.5/5

    The Wrecking Crew

    The Way I Feel About It: N/A
    The Way I See It: 3.5/5
    The Way I Hear It: 4/5
    The Swag: 0.5/5


    Gloriously goofy, the Matt Helm Lounge makes no apologies as it steps up and demands royalty checks from Mike Myers. As an action hero, Dean Martin is about as believable as Leslie Nielsen – that’s Naked Gun Leslie Nielsen, not Forbidden Planet Leslie Nielsen. But that just adds to the fun. It’s all about the double entendres and risqué innuendo. Make no mistake – these aren’t great films by any stretch of the imagination; they’re just a good choice for a silly mood. On the plus side, this isn’t a case of one decent movie followed by a string of worthless sequels – they’re all (pending a look at the final film) pretty entertaining in their own cheeseball way. The complete lack of special features is a shame, but the A/V quality of these discs is adequate. Fans will be pleased; others may want to try before they buy.
     
  2. Mark Oates

    Mark Oates Supporting Actor

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    Woo-hoo. Well, anything's an improvement on my old VHS off-airs. Finally (when my set arrives) I'll have a copy of Murderers' Row - I only have an 18-minute digest copy on 8mm at present.

    I've always included these pictures in my "comfort movie" list, and I've also been long of the opinion that Mike Myers owes these pictures more than he does to the Bond franchise.

    At the risk of being burned as a heretic, I'd have been happy if these had been released 4:3 as I'm used to seeing them shown open-matte on tv or my old VHS of The Silencers. You tend to see a lot more of things in those prints than you do in the 1.85 presentation.

    While I adore all four Matt Helm pictures and desperately wish there had been more, I'd consider The Wrecking Crew to be possibly the best. It's the supporting cast - Nigel Green and Elke Sommer (three years after giving Richard Johnson's Bulldog Drummond grief), Nancy Kwan, Tina Louise and of course Sharon Tate. Sharon Tate's chilling fate makes watching the movie something of a bittersweet experience, as her bumbling agent character Freya frequently steals the show. She's shrill and annoying and disaster-prone, but so was Stella Stevens in the first picture. I don't know if the publicity from the murder also brought about the demise of the franchise, but the studio was lining up The Ravagers as the next movie and talking about a Matt Helm/ Tony Rome crossover involving Sinatra. Whatever the circumstances, a fun franchise came to an abrupt end.

    I think I've seen the Tony Franciosa TVM once and thought it had none of the style of the original. I do, however, like to indulge in a little what-iffing. My dream scenario ties in nicely with Roger Moore taking over as James Bond in 1973. Columbia decides to resurrect the Helm franchise and looks around for a new actor. They look at the same source the Bond team found their man - an expensive but charming romp of a tv show made by Lew Grade - The Persuaders. Tony Curtis signs for a three-movie deal, popping out The Ravagers, The Devastators and The Intriguers at a rate of one-a-year and featuring a bevy of glamorous actresses...

    If only...
     
  3. Aaron Silverman

    Aaron Silverman Executive Producer

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    You may get your wish! While researching the release dates on IMDB, I found Untitled Matt Helm Project, dated 2007. [​IMG]
     
  4. Mark Oates

    Mark Oates Supporting Actor

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    Now that's a movie I'd love to be attached to.
     
  5. Jaime_Weinman

    Jaime_Weinman Supporting Actor

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    If they do make another Helm movie it will probably (at least, I hope) be based on the Hamilton novels, which of course are very different from the movies. (Though "The Silencers" does use some of Hamilton's material in between Dino's specialty bits.) These are very badass, violent stories that could make for a film that's a cross between Jason Bourne and Sin City.
     
  6. Aaron Silverman

    Aaron Silverman Executive Producer

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    Anyone know what Hamilton thinks of the kooky films they made from his serious novels?

    I was curious when I watched them as to whether the source material was humorous or not. Now I know! [​IMG]
     
  7. Mark Oates

    Mark Oates Supporting Actor

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    According to the IMDb, the new MH project will be based on "Death Of A Citizen", which contributed some plot details to "The Silencers". I believe Donald Hamilton loathes the Deano movies as they bear no resemblance to his anti-hero.

    Personally, I'd rather see a movie like the Dean Martin pictures - a lighter, comedic action picture rather than the usual thud and blunder that most actioners have turned into. Not a vehicle for a comic, though. Mike Myers got away with some shockingly indulgent behaviour with the Austin Powers pics, which would have been a hell of a lot funnier played Adam-West-straight.
     
  8. Aaron Silverman

    Aaron Silverman Executive Producer

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    Not in the third one he didn't -- Goldmember was stunningly bad.
     
  9. Andy Sheets

    Andy Sheets Cinematographer

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    Not just that - the movies more or less killed his writing career. He's had a completed Matt Helm novel sitting on the shelf for years but can't sell it because no one wants to publish a book "like those cheesy old Dean Martin movies."
     
  10. Mark Oates

    Mark Oates Supporting Actor

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    *Sigh* Blacktop syndrome** rears its ugly head again.

    **Nobody in the entertainment industry will look at anything unless it's "dark, gritty and realistic".
    [​IMG]
     
  11. John_S

    John_S Stunt Coordinator

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    Well said Mark-- I couldn't agree more!
     
  12. Mike Heenan

    Mike Heenan Second Unit

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    Hmm it looks like they didn't include trailers for all of them, just only a few. It's too bad, alot of them are really funny, I have a reel with the Helm and Flint trailers together. Some of the Helm ones Dino introduces with some of the girls... great classic stuff.
     
  13. LaurenceGarvey

    LaurenceGarvey Second Unit

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    I can't picture Tony Curtis filling in for Dean Martin, though, in a '70s Matt Helm revival. Jim Garner, yeah (so long as he didn't sing).

    I've always thought that DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER was a Matt Helm film at heart.
     
  14. Mark Oates

    Mark Oates Supporting Actor

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    Good point. So's Man With The Golden Gun. Call me a heretic and burn me at the stake, but I always preferred that style of 007 adventure as well.

    Incidentally, ever played "swap the lead" with Licence To Kill (which looks, tastes and smells like a Bruce Willis picture) and Hudson Hawk (which looks, tastes and smells like a Bond script that's had one vodka martini too many (or a Matt Helm script) [​IMG] )?

    That's cheered me up - I was heading for a major sulk - my Helm box set has gone missing in the mail and I won't be able to get a replacement this side of the New Year. Grr. [​IMG]
     
  15. Mark Oates

    Mark Oates Supporting Actor

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    My order turned up on the 28th - I can only assume the postie swam across the Atlantic to bring it.

    I've checked out all four discs and watched Murderers' Row (which I hadn't seen for something like 15 years) right the way through.

    I'm very impressed (although they are extremely bare-bones editions). The images are a little grainy, mostly around transitions, but I was kind of expecting that. I'm most familiar with the movies in their open-matte 4:3 presentation, and these are resplendent in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen, so image faults tend to be more noticeable. The prints are nice and clean, with minimal wear and tear obvious. Colours are beautifully strong and detail sharp, so all in all I'm a happy bunny. There are a couple of promotional trailers in with the later movies which are a nice bonus (considering there will be little promotional material from the era). Yak-tracks would have been nice, but with Deano jamming with the rest of the Rat Pack the other side of the pearly gates these days, the finished result would never have been what it could have been.

    Viewing the movies I've been struck by two things (three if you include the back of Mother's hand on the back of my head requesting I stop watching that damn movie and help her get tomorrow's dinner out of the freezer for her.)

    One) Mike Myers owes more to these movies than he does to the Bond franchise, and these movies are a hell of a lot funnier than his.

    Two) The Bond franchise owes a lot to these movies as well. Consider when the movies were made (1966-68). The same era that covers Thunderball (1965) and You Only Live Twice (1967). Although YOLT has a strong fantasy element, it's still comparatively "straight" with the traditional Bond elements. After YOLT, you get the introduction of the Bond Eye-Candy Harem in OHMSS. You get more humour and wilder gadgets in subsequent movies (Diamonds Are Forever - which has Helmian overtones as LaurenceGarvey pointed out). Although Live And Let Die is a more serious-based storyline, it still has plenty of humour, some seriously barmy gadgets (the shark pellet and the buzzsaw watch). The Man With The Golden Gun is pure Matt Helm with Britt Ekland perfecting the style of girl sidekick that Sharon Tate coined in The Wrecking Crew. The Spy Who Loved Me even disposes of the villain's sidekick in the same way as Murderers' Row (by electromagnet) before out-Helming Helm with the patent lunacy that is the magnificent Moonraker.

    Call me a nutcase (it's my middle name), but I think the more bonkers the story McGuffin, the more fun these spy movies are. Now, I've also got the Flints, Modesty Blaise, Fathom and the Man From Uncle movies - I'm racking my brains for what else in the genre I could get.

    If Warner Home Video want to make my year in 2006, they could announce season sets of The Man From Uncle.
     
  16. HenryH

    HenryH Auditioning

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    Could someone clarify the issue of aspect ratio. It appears that the films in this package are taken from 4:3 prints with the top and bottom of the screen simply matted to produce a "widescreen" format. Is this true widescreen as seen in theatres or something else?
     
  17. Aaron Silverman

    Aaron Silverman Executive Producer

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    Henry,

    Films like this are shot on 35mm film, which has a 4:3 shape, then they are matted for projection in the theater, so these discs are framed as they were seen in the cinema (perhaps someone old enough to remember them can verify this [​IMG] ).

    References to "open-matte" mean that a 4:3 fullscreen version has been created using the unmatted 35mm image as opposed to using pan&scan on the widescreen image. This is how things like microphone booms and pants show up where they're not supposed to. [​IMG]
     
  18. Blimpoy06

    Blimpoy06 Stunt Coordinator

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    It has been 50 years now since the peak of the spy film craze in 1967. Do we have a chance of seeing Matt Helm in HD? Twilight Time has a deal with Columbia, are they a good candidate to do a blu ray release? These films are the guiltiest of guilty pleasures for me. Dean is having a fun time, and there are so many lovely actresses in each film.
     
    John Hermes and atcolomb like this.
  19. atcolomb

    atcolomb Supporting Actor

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    The Sony HD channel does broadcast them sometimes and they did look very good compared to the dvd releases. Still have that dvd lounge box set and I do hope a Blu-ray will come soon too.
     
  20. Blimpoy06

    Blimpoy06 Stunt Coordinator

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    The Matt Helm Lounge seems to be going OOP and commanding a high price on the secondary market now.
     

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