A cartel of mad scientists set about murdering top espionage agents while plotting to take over the world with an earthquake-inducing machine. Playboy Derek Flint is commissioned by Chief Cramden to thwart the evil plot.
While James Bond was obviously the king of the international spy boom of the 1960s, there were many pretenders to the throne – Dean Martin’s Matt Helm, the Men (and Girl) From U.N.C.L.E., Richard Johnson’s Bulldog Drummond, television’s Maxwell Smart. even Neil Connery as 007’s alleged relative in Operation Kid Brother. The only super-agent who came close to Bond on the big screen was James Coburn’s know-it-all Derek Flint, the man from ZOWIE (Zonal Organisation for World Intelligence and Espionage).
Flint is the sort of fellow who meditates by suspending his life functions for a three hours, fills his spare time by compiling a dictionary of dolphin language or teaching ballet in Russia, and lives in a chic, gagdet-filled penthouse with four varied glamorous girlfriends. It doesn’t pretend to be a serious thriller, though Coburn – the man who made silver hair and roll-neck pullovers into icons of cool – has some Bruce Lee-tought martial arts moves in acrobatic fight scenes which require him to toss stuntmen around the room.
The plot is the usual hokum and Edward Mulhare isn’t really eccentric enough to compete in the villainy stakes, but Coburn is plainly enjoying himself so much, and the trimmings are so stylish, that it’s impossible not to enjoy.
Jerry Goldsmith provides a jaunty, hummable score. Coburn and Cobb returned, in similarly lightweight style, in a sequel, In Like Flint, which took the super-agent into outer space a decade before Roger Moore got there in Moonraker. The character reappeared, played by Ray Danton, in Dead on Target, a 1976 TV pilot that didn’t go anywhere.