Culture

Forget 'The Man from U.N.C.L.E,' Here Are 6 Unforgettable, Forgotten Spy Films from the Swinging '60s

The Man from U.N.C.L.E. came out this week. The story follows the adventures of two agents working for a super-secret international organization.

Spy-movie popularity has come and gone in Hollywood. Basically, there are two types of espionage films. One chronicles our angst.  The other family of spy movies feeds our craving for escapism. This new film honors the tradition of smug and sharp super-spies.

The original Man from U.N.C.L.E  television show was, of course, inspired by the successful James Bond film series.

Bond had more than his share of imitators. The most outrageous rip-off of all was the incomprehensible comedy version of Casino Royale (1967), but there were so many others. Here are six forgotten films worth remembering from the era when spying was all sex, tech, and cool.

#6. Our Man Flint (1966)  The first of a series of films starring James Coburn as master spy Derek Flint. He was America’s answer to Her Majesty’s Secret Service.

#5. The Silencers (1966)  Not to be outdone, the Americans also recruited Dean Martin to make four Matt Helm films starting with this spy-spoof. Being a successful spy was mostly a combination of cocktails and making out. In each movie, Helm is accompanied by a suitably beautiful babe (Stella Stevens, Sharon Tate, Ann-Margret, Elke Sommer, Janice Rule, and Tina Louise).

#4. Deadlier Than the Male (1967) Terrance Young (who had been the original choice to play James Bond) plays Hugh “Bulldog” Drummond, an international man of mystery who is recruited to solve a series of assassinations of prominent international businessmen. There was also a sequel, Some Girls Do. Drummond probably most resembles the model for the 1997 homage to the swinging-sixties spy movies, Austin Powers.

#3. Fantastic Argoman (1967) Well, its not really clear if Roger Browne as Argoman is a superhero or a super-spy, because he also has super powers including telepathy. Mostly he just takes out his adversaries by ordering them to “kill each other.” Produced in Italy and then dubbed into English, this effort to cash in on the craving for spy-movie mania is so horrendously bad it has to be seen to be appreciated. This could well be one of the worst films ever made. Not to be missed.

#2. What’s Up, Tiger Lily? (1966) Woody Allen takes out the soundtrack from a Japanese-made James Bond-type and delivers a hilarious film about tracking down a stolen egg-salad recipe.

#1. Modesty Blaise (1966) There are almost no women James Bond characters in the swinging sixties. Monica Vitti’s Modesty Blaise is a rare exception. Played for laughs, this is perhaps the sharpest and most satirical of the Bond parodies.