The Dean Martin movies, released as a set on DVD and making the rounds on Turner Classic Movies from time to time, have found a new generation of fans that appreciate the pop art sensibilities, the boozy satire, and Dean Martin’s greasy charm. With any luck, the books will find a new audience as well.
If Bond films were the epitome of cool, then The Silencers were their leering lounge lizard cousin. Everything is cheaper and cruder. Ursula Andress emerging from the ocean in Dr. No became an iconic image of sophisticated sex appeal. The Silencers is like a high schooler drawing pictures of naked ladies on the bathroom wall.
It’s possible that Martin could have handled a more serious script. He’d recently proven himself quite capable of a powerful dramatic turn, both as the drunken deputy in Rio Lobo and again alongside Marlon Brando and Montgomery Clift in The Young Lions. But everyone, including Dean himself, figured no one wanted to see a dark and violent turn from the popular entertainer.
“I was taking a martini across the room…” If that line, the first sentence in the first Matt Helm novel by Donald Hamilton, had been the only sentence in the book, then there would have been very little stylistic conflict between the Matt Helm of the books and the incarnation of the character that eventually fond its way onto movie screens.