Flint is an ultra-sophisticated operative of international intelligence agency Z.O.W.I.E. He's a master of martial arts, electronic gadgetry (his cigarette lighter can perform 83 special functions), languages both human and animal (he can communicate with dolphins in a pinch), and even gives ballet lessons to the dancers of the Bolshoi. So when his fellow agents begin dropping like flies, Z.O.W.I.E. assigns Flint the task of finding out who the killers happen to be. Eventually, Flint discovers that the killings are all part of the wicked machinations of G.A.L.A.X.Y., a cadre of world-wide villainy that plans to take over the world through weather control.
Directed by: Daniel Mann
. Starring: James Coburn
, Lee J. Cobb
, Gila Golan
, Edward Mulhare
, Benson Fong
, Shelby Grant
, Sigrid Valdis
, Gianna Serra
, Helen Funai
, Michael St. Clair
, Rhys Williams
, Russ Conway
, Ena Hartman
. Music by: Jerry Goldsmith
A fantastic piece of abstraction rare in the genre cinema, which, like the 'Don Quixote' of Cervantes, transcends its easy spoof origins to become a disturbing deconstruction of masculinity, rationality, narrative and plot. It is also remarkable in a decade of visual innovation for being one of the most exquisitely beautiful films of the 1960s. Supposedly a derivative of James Bond films, it leaves that narrow entity far behind, with its wit, daring, and intellectual reach.
The story is the usual 60s spy gubbins. A group of Utopian scientists have taken control of the weather, and are holding all the world's military powers to ransom by causing massive earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, dam-bustings etc. Their demands are that these governments give up their nuclear weaponry so that the scientists can govern a better, less fear-ridden society.
Normal measures against these obvious nutters fail; US intelligence reluctantly turn to maverick superspy and polymath, Derek (Derek!!) Flint, as proficient in ballet and modern art as he is in kung fu and promiscuous sex. Flint tries to infiltrate the enemy, while at the same time fending off their assassination attempts, led by the treacherously beautiful femme fatale, Gila. Eventually caught and seemingly dead, Flint travels to the scientists' secret island, a gleaming Shangri-La of rich verdure, peace, harmony, contentment and scantily clad babes.
FLINT's power is probably best appreciated in the context of its attack on the Imperialistic, macho and misogynistic ethos of Bond. Although very funny, it is not a spoof in the AUSTIN POWERS mould - no-one in the world of the film is aware of the joke; satire is largely achieved through exaggeration. For instance Bond is devilishly handsome, popular with women, mildly suave, handy with weoponry, and generally reliable in an awkward situation. These qualities more or less stay on the right side of plausibility.
Derek Flint, on the other hand, is impossible. He has not one or two Bond girls he dumps after use, but a regular harem whom he drags around with him to a preposterous extent. Happily the chief villainess is not punished for her transgression as she would in Bond, but welcomed to the fold. Bond's culture extended to a thorough knowledge of liquour. Flint's superior intellect allows him to uncover conspiracies through seemingly minimal details, such as being able to tell the whereabouts of a murderous gang from the garlic smell on a poisonous arrow dart. This excessive culture is hilarious and improbable, but it also seeks to feminise such a macho entity as the superstud superspy, and show up the impoverishment of both the Bond vision, as well as that of Flint's employers.
Bond's power comes from his ability to solve seemingly complex situations, to bring all loose ends of a global plot to himself, to master chaos with his potent masculinity. This is achieved through the clarity and swiftness of his action plots, from the centre of which he commands. The opposite is true here. Sure, Flint solves the crime, saves the world etc. But he does not master his plot, which slows itself down to a langorous, dreamlike trance, where music, editing, art direction and composition all conspire against, rather than motor, narrative coherence.
One's attitude to this is a matter of taste - I was enraptured; my wife was bored silly. But either way, you have to admire the daring. Every scene is drawn out to ridiculous length, focusing on elaborate ritual and hallucinatory set-pieces; all of which serves to befuddle, rather than enlighten. Flint's journey is from one of complacent power to complete mindblowing - for the first time in his life he is forced to make a choice; his detachment is compromised.
The scientists' Utopia is frightening and totalitarian, but no more so than the system Flint defends, so conclusively mocked in the film's uproarious opening sequences. They may brainwash women into being pleasure units, but Flint does the exact same; American brainwashing is as complicit as any other. And in fairness to the scientists, their haven is a compelling idyll, especially if you're a male. Despite Flint's protests of individuality and immunity, the island is his Id - in destroying it, he destroys himself, as can be seen in his dazed look at the end, in spite of his victory.
From the opening montage of nature manipulation, FLINT is a riot of artifice, with the dazzling colours and arousing set-designs hypnotising the viewer as much as the scientists. What the film needed to become a classic was a director like Seijun Suzuki, Godard, Fuller or Von Sternberg - journeyMann Daniel isn't quite in control of his explosive material. But James Coburn, in one of his two extraordinary time capsule roles (the other is THE PRESIDENT'S ANALYST) is: alert to the unsavoury aspects of the Bond-like character, yet impishly revelling in its pleasures, his move from power to pawn to self-destrucion is an act of great nimbleness, both physically and intellectually - his charming leer and skinny grace are a constant joy. You can take your Dustin Hoffmans and Jon Voights - this is 60s acting at its best.
Review by Darragh O' Donoghue from the Internet Movie Database.