The second and last Derek Flint movie, In Like Flint (1967) is widely considered inferior even by die-hard fans of the first entry, Our Man Flint (1966). Probably due to my strong dislike of the original movie, my expectations were so low there was nowhere to go but up with the second one. Overall it's not an improvement, weaker as it is in some ways while a bit better in others, and like its predecessor at 114 minutes it's criminally overlong. One of my main complaints about Our Man Flint was that it smothers the viewer with 007-type iconography - sexy women, neat-o gadgets, larger-than-life villainy, etc. - without ever understanding or contextualizing any of its appeal. In Like Flint pulls back (out?) a bit, is less emphatically trying to out-Bond Bond, but in its place is an equally oddball script in which Flint's boss, rather than Flint himself, more or less becomes the main character. And where the oh-so-naïve villains of Our Man Flint tried to force the issue of nuclear disarmament, In Like Flint's premise, as outrageously sexist as its title, involves a group of smart, sexy women who actually think they can run the world better than men. "Women running the world?!" Flint asks, incredulous. "Wha-ha-ha-ha-ha! You can't be serious!" It may be the most anti-feminist movie of the entire 1960s.
From the start, Derek Flint was the spy game's Superman, an invulnerable, know-it-all hero who didn't even have Kryptonite to slow him down. In other words: hip but boring. Derek Flint was so fit, so knowledgeable, so confident and cocky, a story presenting any real conflict or threat was all but impossible. All Flint had to do was show up. Even James Bond worked up a sweat now and then.
A Twilight Time release licensed from 20th Century-Fox, the Blu-ray of In Like Flint is superior to their Blu-ray of Our Man Flint, released in January. Literally the last official movie photographed in CinemaScope (though the name continues to be applied to generic anamorphic widescreen movies to this day) it's a little grainy but impressively sharp and eye-pleasingly film-like. The color pallet is great. The opening titles and a sauna sequence, rich in primary reds, just about pop off the screen. The Blu-ray is packed with lots of extra features, nearly all ported over from earlier DVD versions, but also including an isolated track of Goldsmith's terrific score.
Following the successful launch of a space platform, Z.O.W.I.E. (the Zonal Organization World Intelligence Espionage), which seems to have taken over the space program from NASA, announces its great success to the world. The head of Z.O.W.I.E., Lloyd C. Cramden (a returning Lee J. Cobb), is invited to a game of golf with the President of the United States (Andrew Duggan), but on the course women from the Virgin Islands-based Fabulous Face organization substitute one of the Chief Executive's golf balls for a gas bomb that temporarily immobilizes everyone around him. The President is snatched, replaced with a surgically altered double. Cramden, who'd been timing the President's golf swing, notices that three minutes have mysterious passed.
Cramden visits Derek Flint's fantastic penthouse apartment to discuss the discrepancy, and the free-lance secret agent agrees to take up the matter after returning from a survival trip to the Mojave Desert (and to burn up running time?). At the same time, Fabulous Face agent Lisa Norton (Jean Hale) invites Matt's three live-in beauties (though not the same trio that appeared in Our Man Flint, which the script acknowledges) to visit the Fabulous Face Spa in the Virgin Islands.
Later, an only slightly disguised Lisa turns up at the same Italian restaurant where Cramden is dining, pretending to be a schoolteacher new in town. She drugs him and, in a strange scene in which Hale is obviously doubled by an older, heavier woman, an incriminating, compromising position with a "prostitute" is staged. General Carter (Steve Ihnat), secretly allied with the Fabulous Face conspirators, disgraces hapless Cramden.
Flint comes to Cramden's rescue, first making a side trip to Moscow, while both eventually converge on the Virgin Islands, with Cramden infiltrating the organization in drag.
On the plus side, In Like Flint is notably more polished than its predecessor. Our Man Flint was jam-packed with stock footage from other movies, props and set components borrowed from other Fox-produced movies and TV shows, all of which made the movie look a lot cheaper than it actually was. The set design here, credited to Dale Hennesy and Jack Martin Smith, is sometimes attractive and visually interesting. Director Gordon Douglas was no great auteur but his action scenes flow a little better. His staging and William Daniels's cinematography make full use of the CinemaScope frame and the photography is much more colorful and lively.
The film's structure is odd. Flint doesn't appear at all until about 15 minutes into the movie, then disappears for another 15 minutes or so but even after rarely seems to be driving the plot. De facto lead Lee J. Cobb becomes a sympathetic victim of Fabulous Face's grand plans for a worldwide matriarchy, aided by traitors within Z.O.W.I.E. determined to discredit Cramden. All that unexpected screentime probably pleased Cobb and his family but general audiences felt a bit cheated by this lop-sidedness.
Where Our Man Flint was over-the-top outrageous from start to finish, all in an effort to one-up the Bond movies that inspired it, In Like Flint is more relaxed but disappointingly unfocused. Most of the time it's lightweight but confident, never serious but also only intermittently broadly comic. However, a few attempts at satire fall flat: Flint, like Doctor Dolittle, attempting to compile a dictionary of dolphin phrases ("Bdwaaaa! Bdwaaaa!" he chirps); Flint leading a planeload of Castro-type communists in a chorus of L'Internationale in Russian, its lyrics subtitled in Cyrillic and accompanied by a bouncing Red Star; Herb Edelman (in his feature debut), as the Russian Premier, made-up with profoundly bushy eyebrows, suggesting Leonid Brezhnev. There are in-joke references to producer's Saul David's Fantastic Voyage and an end title song called "Your Z.O.W.I.E. Face."
Video & Audio
As noted above, the high-def transfer of In Like Flint is superior to its predecessor, with a sharper, brighter image throughout. Unexpectedly, there's a 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio remix of the original mono soundtrack, also included. The extremely modest remix hardly seems worth the bother, but it comes to life a couple of times. English SDH are available.
This limited (3,000 units) edition ports over loads of previously available supplements. Included are an audio commentary with film historians Lee Pfeiffer and Eddy Friedfeld; numerous if mostly lightweight featurettes putting the film into context, most notably one about a working conflict between producer Saul David and Fox head Darryl F. Zanuck that resulted in the film losing several minutes of running time. A screen test and a trailer are also included.
New to home video (and more valuable, ultimately) is Jerry Goldsmith's score presented as a 2.0 isolated track and more reliably good liner notes by Julie Kirgo.
Not good but required viewing for anyone with an interest in the spy genre and '60s popular culture generally, In Like Flint has little to recommend it but is still worthwhile for other reasons and Twilight Time's presentation is top-drawer. Recommended.
Stuart Galbraith IV is a Kyoto-based film historian whose work includes film history books, DVD and Blu-ray audio commentaries and special features. Visit Stuart's Cine Blogarama here.