The Silencers

Dean Martin As Matt Helm Sings Songs From “The Silencers”
LA Gloria Records 1966 (New Zealand pressing)
Produced by Jimmy Bowen. Arranged by Ernie Freeman and Gene Page.

When The Silencers was released at the cinemas in the mid sixties, two albums were released to accompany it. First there was Elmer Bernstein’s soundtrack album, which features the incidental music and a few numbers by Vicki Carr (Carr dubbed the singing for Cyd Charisse in the film). The second was Dean Martin As Matt Helm Sings Songs From “The Silencers”. It looks like a soundtrack album, but it is just Dean Martin singin’ a few songs that were featured in the movie – BUT with a difference. In the movie, Matt Helm spends a bit of time fantasizing about bikini clad dolly birds. During the fantasies, he sings a few old standards, but with cheeky revised lyrics. But here on the album, the songs are performed straight.

These are the notes from the back of the album cover…they are written in some weird sixties ‘hip’ jargon which at times borders on indecipherable…fun, none-the-less.

‘DEAN MARTIN, in his neat role as super secret Matt Helm – sophisticate of the world, gutty guy, virile adventurer, devil with the dollies – “thinks” snatches of favorite songs thruout “The Silencers”. These “think” songs explode in this album. Martin sings out loud all of the evergreen pops from the film, and sings them with some of the most exciting, hit-sounding arrangements ever suscitated.

Backed by the big bands of Ernie Freeman and Gene Page, Martin goes moseying through the grand songs from “The Silencers”, and does it with the same easy style that has recently made him into America’s most consistent best-selling recording artist. Surrounding his songs are four Elmer Bernstein-authored instrumentals, all themes from the picture, performed in lofty swinging style by the Freeman-Page orchestras.

In “The Silencers”, Martin plays no poor man’s secret agent. Martin secret agents right: dressed up snappy by Sy Devore…chased by nasty Chinese bandits…surrounded by kiss-n-kill cuties…ambushed in motel rooms with supine Slaygirls…every girl he meets makes Apassionata Von Climax look like one runt kid.

Fun as females can be, they can also be nasty-deadly, as “The Silencers” proves. But songs by Martin can never be deadly, nor nasty. This zingy album proves that. It’s the nicest thing that ever happened to a super secret agent.’

Side One
01 The Glory Of Love
02 Empty Saddles In The Old Coral
03 Lovey Kravezit (Instrumental)
04 The Last Round Up
05 Anniversary Song (Instrumental)
06 Side By Side

Side Two
01 South Of The Border
02 Red Sails In The Sunset
03 Lord, You Made The Night Too Long (Instrumental)
04 If You Knew Susie
05 On The Sunny Side Of The Street
06 The Silencers (Instrumental)

If you’re a fan of Dean Martin, then this album is okay. If you’re after a ‘soundtrack’ album, then you’re bound to be disappointed. The four instrumentals featured on the album aren’t really from the film either.

The Elmer Bernstein score can be found over at THXJay’s The Crime Lounge.

The Silencers

The Ambushers (1967)

Directed by Henry Levin
Dean Martin, Senta Berger, Janice Rule, James Gregory, Albert Salmi, Beverly Adams, The Slaygirls
Music by Hugo Montenegro
Based loosely on the novel by Donald Hamilton

Along with James Bond and Derek Flint, Matt Helm is one of the cinematic world’s best known super-spies. As portrayed by Dean Martin, Helm was an inebriated womaniser who consistently saved the world while delivering a string of boozing and bosom jokes.

The Ambushers is the third and weakest of the four Matt Helm films, following The Silencers and Murderers’ Row; and preceding The Wrecking Crew. As with all the films in the series, it is easy on the eye. Along with the scantily clad females, there are plenty of lurid fashions, set designs and colourful lighting. It seems like a large portion of the budget went into making these parts of the movie look great. But it appears no money was spent on the special effects which resemble a ‘sparkler’ on a birthday cake.

Onto the plot, what little there is. The film starts with I.C.E.’s latest weapon, a Flying Saucer, being stolen during a test flight. The saucer is unique in that it can only be flown by women as the electro magnetic field produced by the craft is deadly to men (makes perfect sense to me!)

The pilot of the Flying Saucer is Sheila Sommers (Janice Rule) and she is forced to make a landing in Mexico where she is captured and tortured by the maniacal Caselius. Caselius has a penchant for torture and deviant sexual behaviour.

Meanwhile, Matt Helm (Dean Martin) – international superspy and freelance photographer is at the ‘Intelligence Counter Espionage’ (I.C.E.) rehabilitation centre brushing up on the latest espionage techniques. As Helm brushes up against one of the Slaygirls, he discovers the booby-gun.

Also at the rehab centre is Sheila Sommers. After he ordeal with Caselius she is traumatised an cannot remember a thing. She is pale white and pasty and refuses to have anything to do with men. That is until some bad guys make an attempt on her life. Matt Helm comes to the rescue at the last minute, and wins Sheila over. But that’s not all he wins. It seems he also wins her hand in marriage. When Sheila comes out of her catatonic state she believes she is married to Matt Helm. It was an old cover that they had previously used on a mission together, and now it seems like that is all she can remember. And as only women can fly the Flying Saucer, she gets to tag along with Helm on his mission to Acapulco. Why are they going to Acapulco? The only clue that they have to go on is that Sheila remembers a jingle for a Mexican beer company called Montezuma. Figuring it must be a lead, Matt is assigned to do a photographic shoot for a magazine, for the Brewery and it’s owner, Jose Ortega (Albert Salmi). And naturally, Mrs. Helm goes along as his assistant.

Ortega just so happens to be the number one henchman for Caselius. Caselius isn’t affiliated with any evil organization, like “Big O”. He works for himself and plans to sell the Flying Saucer to the highest bidder.

But back to the brewery. Not that this needs to be pointed out, but as you can imagine, placing drunken Dino in a brewery results in our perpetually pissed superspy being, well …more perpetually pissed. The height of boozy excess occurs when Matt Helm falls into a vat of beer.

The matt Helm films were never meant to be high-art. In fact they aren’t even low-art. But they do provide a platform for Martin’s humour, and for the girls to show an ample amount of cleavage. What’s wrong with that, I ask? Apart from The Slaygirls who linger in the background of many of the scenes, the film features Janice Rule as Sheila Sommers. Rule, while being a talented actress (maybe too talented for a Matt Helm film), isn’t as strong and charismatic as Stella Stevens from The Silencers or Elke Somer from The Wrecking Crew. But in it’s favour, The Ambushers has the luscious Senta Berger in the all-too-small role of Francesca Madeiros. She too is trying to track down Caselius.

After musical scores by Elmer Bernstein and Lalo Schifrin for the first two films, the series turns to Hugo Montenegro for the score to The Ambushers. Montenegro’s swinging tunes are okay on the ear, but don’t really follow the action or the story as it progresses. The music never reflects danger, excitement or romance. It simply bops along happily whatever the scenario may be. It may make for a fine pop album, but doesn’t make for a really good soundtrack to a spy film.

At the end of the day, you either love or hate Dean Martin’s drunken antics. If you’re on the negative side, then nothing that I have said here will make you want to sit through this. But for the fans, it’s not the best, but it is harmless fun and provides plenty of opportunities for Martin to trot out a string of familiar one liners.

The Ambushers (1967)

Murderers’ Row (1966)

Directed by Henry Levin
Dean Martin, Karl Malden, Anne Margaret, Camilla Sparv, James Gregory, Beverly Adams
Music by Lalo Schifrin
Based on the novel by Donald Hamilton

Here’s a quick one. I don’t think too much needs to be said about the Dean Martin Matt Helm films. You either love ‘em or hate ‘em. Fans of Donald Hamilton’s book series generally hate them. And critically they get panned too. But sometimes I think the Matt Helm films get a bad wrap. Sure, they aren’t tough like the books they are based on, but they do have Dean Martin doing what he does best; boozin’ and having a good time. And is there anything wrong with that?

Murderer’s Row is the second Matt Helm film, following The Silencers and while not quite being up the the first movie’s standard, it is still a decent piece of swingin’ sixties espionage cinema.

The plot is simple enough. Julian Wall (Karl Malden), who works for the nefarious ‘Big O’ has kidnapped a scientist who has been constructing a ‘helio beam’. Once Wall has control of the ‘helio beam’ he intends to destroy Washington D.C. Secret Agent Matt Helm (Dean Martin) has to find the missing scientist and save the world. He does this with the aid of the scientist’s wild go-go dancing daughter (Anne Margaret). Yep, the plot is paper thin, but it is only there to hang Deano’s boozin’ jokes on.

Where the film starts to fall down is during the action sequences in the second half. They are all rather uninvolving. Maybe this is because they are mostly filmed as long shots, and even then you can clearly tell that the guy on the screen is not Martin but his stunt double.

At the end of the day you either enjoy Deano’s drunken lounge spy antics or you don’t. If you don’t this film will infuriate you, with some of the lame set ups and jokes. But if you don’t mind Deano’s breezy throwaway style, then Murderer’s Row will be a reasonably pleasant diversion.

One thing that Murderer’s Row has got going for it, is an absolutely fantastic musical score by Lalo Schifrin. The riff from the title tune will get stuck in your head for days. Although relatively short by today’s standards (around 30 minutes), the soundtrack album is well worth tracking down.

The four Matt Helm films are:
• The Silencers
• Murderer’s Row
• The Ambushers
• The Wrecking Crew

Murderers’ Row (1966)