I was really unprepared for how lousy this was. Not only as a purported sequel to the two James Coburn films of the 1960s. No, I mean just how bad it is technically.
I had known there was a TV pilot that turned Flint from a super-spy to a private detective. Admittedly, even that basic premise makes no sense. Flint was primarily a scientist, not to mention a best-selling author, the world’s greatest ballet dancer and about a hundred other things. It’s nearly impossible to imagine the circumstances which would see him deciding to become a PI, much less the one we get here.
Aside from the specific case of Flint, however, the general idea wasn’t in itself unusual. If the 1960s was the decade of the spy, the ‘70s were, at least on television, the decade of the private eye. Indeed, the year before our current subject thudded upon the airwaves, Tony Franciosa starred as Matt Helm in a short lived TV series. Sure enough, Helm was similarly converted from a secret agent to a private detective.
Mr. Franciosa’s advantage was that his show was based on a series of four movies that were, to be blunt, not very good. Moreover, he was following in the shambling, staggering footsteps of Dean Martin. Mr. Martin didn’t so much phone in his performances as Helm as drunkenly leave them on an answering machine.
In contrast, although there were only two Derek Flint films (perhaps Coburn, made a star by the first Flint movie, didn’t wish to be typecast?), they are rather better works. Indeed, the first entry, Our Man Flint, is good enough to stand with the best James Bond had to offer. It might arguably rank a bit below Goldfinger or From Russia with Love, but I’d certainly put it over Thunderball or You Only Live Twice or Diamonds are Forever.
And whereas Dean Martin provided the Helm series with some of the laziest performances you are ever likely to witness, a half century later James Coburn remains an absolute delight as Derek Flint. Moreover, Mr. Coburn was ably supported by fine comedic performances by the great dramatic actor Lee J. Cobb.
Although I think the sequel, In Like Flint, veers a little too much into overtly jokey territory, the first film is note-perfect, combining mild spoofing with genuinely exciting spy action. And that Jerry Goldsmith score! It’s just wonderful stuff.
Indeed, from this standpoint alone, the biggest problem is that Dead on Target’s Derek Flint in no way resembles James Coburn’s Derek Flint. You might as well (or more aptly, as poorly) have called him Sam Spade or Nero Wolfe or Simon Templar or Murray the Cop from The Odd Couple.
It’s not just the job, it’s the personality. Coburn’s Flint was a scientist and only a reluctant spy, and pretty much a genius about everything. He basically embodied in the most fantastic way the once-fabled Playboy Life Style. He lived with three, four or even five beautiful women, was ultra-suave and urbane and lived in a gorgeously chic (and, of course, ridiculously huge) New York City apartment building. This latter, naturally, came equipped with every nifty gadget you could think of, even ones that didn’t exist at the time.
Coburn’s Flint genuinely liked people, even super-villains. He always took them seriously and treated them with respect, even when he was dedicated to their downfall. The only folks he clearly disdained were outright brutes like Edward Mulhare’s vicious killer in Our Man Flint.
Unlike Sean Connery’s snarky Bond, Derek Flint seemed to exist in a near-constant state of delight. He could be effectively murderous when he needed to be (which unsurprisingly was fairly often). Yet on the whole he generally seemed to be enjoying nearly everyone’s company all the time.
Dead on Target’s Flint, in contrast, seems to enjoy pretty much no one’s company. He’s a sarcastic git whose most common interplay with others involves bluntly-issued insults and the sort of strenuous eye-rolling that would have Mantan Moreland nodding in approval. This is even when he’s reacting to people he supposedly nominally likes.
Moreover, despite the fact that I believe we’re supposed to take this version of Flint as being smart, he’s actually kind of a moron. By which I mean, he does dumb stuff all the time, but the script always proves him right for no apparent reason. It’s rather like the Adam West Batman and Robin’s rococo but always correct solutions to one of the Riddler’s puzzles. Of course, those were inane on purpose, whereas Flint’s actions here are just evidence of really bad writing.
The only element of the film that’s even remotely Flint-like—emphasis on the remotely—is that the character employs some hi-tech gadgets in his work. Even then, they are a far more pedestrian idea of hi-tech. Still, I’m straining to find even a rudimentary connection to the Coburn character.
Coburn’s Flint wielded a self-created cigarette lighter that performed 82 functions. (“83 if you want light a cigar,” he explains.) This ‘Flint’ uses things like an in-house car-tracking monitor. And even that’s actually run by his telephone answering service (!!).
I could go on and on. Coburn’s Flint didn’t like guns much. He shot two villains to death in one scene in the first film (the gun was theirs). Otherwise he relied on his wits and his superb physicality when dishing out mayhem. This version of Flint, meanwhile, shoots down characters in numerous scenes. And his brawling skills leave a lot to be desired compared to Coburn’s too. Of course, the latter trained with Bruce Lee, so there you go.
Here Flint is brought to…well, not life…by one Ray Danton. To call Danton wooden would be doing oak trees a profound disservice. Mr. Danton was a modestly successful character actor. He is now probably best remembered for starring in the Euro-Spy film Super Agent Super Dragon. And that picture’s fame largely rests on its being pilloried on Mystery Science Theater 3000.
Being unconversant with Mr. Danton’s oeuvre, I was generally appalled by how terrible he was here. (This impression was not aided by the fact that I watched Coburn’s two films directly before viewing this.) However, I later realized that the cast included many at least somewhat successful character actors, male and female alike. This didn’t strike me at first because I didn’t recognize any of them.*[*In contrast, Tony Franciosa’s Matt Helm pilot featured a full roster of famous faces, including Patrick McNee, John Vernon, Gene Evens, Laraine Stephens, Benson Fong, Val Bisoglio, James Shigeta and Catherine Bach. ]
The fact remains that despite all available evidence, I was watching actors who had managed to make a fairly busy living at their craft. I doubt Mr. Danton was ever a great thespian. Even so, it should be stipulated that here he’s appearing amongst a number of veteran actors, none of whom even look remotely competent. It’s just Mr. Danton’s misfortune to be the center of the proceedings, meaning his failings are all the more evident.
So on the Derek Flint front, the picture is an utter failure. How is it just as a movie? It’s a fiasco. Pretty much everything that can be wrong with a film is wrong with this one. The acting is bad. It’s poorly written. How poorly? The name of the oil company that features prominently in the plot is “Oilco.” Seriously, I’m not kidding. Meanwhile, the script is replete with ‘clever’ badinage of a sort that defies common sense and sentence construction.
The direction is stolid. It especially relies way too much on overly extreme close-ups. The director also seems to have been an aficionado of the “more, more!” school of dramatic arts. The actors have clearly been told to play things broadly. Dalton, for instance, gives eye-rolls that make one fear he will snap his extraocular muscles. It’s like he’s making an instructional film for sarcastic 14 year-olds.
The editing is disjointed, stilted and clumsy. The pacing is atrociously slow, especially for a film lasting but 76 minutes. This again adversely affects the acting, indicting that the actors were continuously told to slow down their delivery. Overall the film suggests a desperate effort to fill out 76 minutes of running time with maybe 50 minutes’ worth of material. Even the cars are driven slowly, an especially irksome aspect considering there’s about 15 minutes of car footage and establishing shots alone.
The lighting is poorly judged, making some scenes overlit and others overly dark. Said lighting is often poorly sourced. It’s often so harshly lit as to make the film’s actresses (including Kim Cattrall in a bit part) look unattractive. Sometimes weird shadows are cast over their faces.
On other occasions it bounces off their faces in a way to make their skin look greasy, indicating their make-up was incompetently applied. On the other hand their make-up often calls to Darryl Hanna in Blade Runner. Also adding to the film’s general ugliness are some spectacularly horrible ‘70s fashions and a cornucopia of awful ‘70s décor.
The production budget was patently threadbare. They used endlessly grating ‘70s funk instrumentals for the soundtrack. This is an awful choice for a purported Derek Flint sequel, since Coburn’s entries are so associated with Goldsmith’s lush, witty orchestral scores. Adding insult to injury, the producers were so cheap they didn’t even hire a composer. The score instead entirely consists of library music cues to save another buck.
Why stop there? The blocking is clumsy. The fight choreography is half-assed. The film stock is bad. So’s the sound, which often swallows the dialogue. The opening credits are overlong and very poorly animated, making a fifth grader’s flipbook drawings look like something out of Tex Avery. The production design is so poor even door signage looks patently fake. Hell, I’m assuming the guy who operated the clapboard was inept, snapping it shut on his fingers and calling out the wrong scene number.
I was literally shocked by all this when I started watching it. This is a network made-for-TV movie from the ‘70s. The vast majority of those were pretty solidly put together. The participating studios basically replicated their B-movie model of the ’30s and ‘40s, creating subdivisions to crank out these cheaper but generally competent movies.
Dead on Target plays much, much worse than that. It’s more like watching an Al Adamson or Ted V. Mikels movie. Pretty much every aspect is clunky. The film’s one extravagance was to hire a helicopter to film overhead shots of cars driving around. (I wouldn’t be surprised if one of the producer s owned said ‘copter and rented it to the production.) Sadly, the end result is seemingly endless reels of driving footage. This isn’t exactly thrill a minute stuff. It’s barely thrill an hour stuff.
Wincingly, 20th Century Fox has their logo all over this. “20th Century Fox Home Entertainment” the film rather ironically proclaims. Fox made the original Flint films, but quite obviously farmed out the actual production to some outfit in Canada. I can only assume heads rolled when higher ups from Fox and ABC, which got stuck broadcasting the picture, got a gander at it. It’s just incredibly shoddy work.
We open with nearly a minute of generic stock cityscape shots, accompanied by equally generic library funk music. Despite being filmed in Canada, a bit of stock footage is used here and there to suggest things are transpiring in San Francisco. Not sure why Flint left his posh New York digs and harem of beautiful women for a suburban McMansion outside San Fran, or again why he became a private eye, but there you go.
We cut to a hopelessly ‘mod’ ‘70s office, supposedly the business suite of Wendell Runsler, the President of Oilco. (Oilco!) The space outside his office is replete with foxy secretaries, including the briefly seen Kim Cattrall. Driving whakka-chika music further sets the scene, as does Foleyed-in typewriter sounds. Attention is paid to one Ms. Carter, a slinky blond who is Runsler’s executive secretary.
Two dudes in overalls appear to install a large, wide file cabinet in Runsler’s office. Meanwhile, Ms. Carter serves her boss a cup of coffee. An extreme close-up makes sure we notice her dropping a pill into the contents. Runsler drinks the pill and mimes being drugged. He does so in a manner that calls to mind Charlie Callas. Astounding, this is not meant to be played for comedy.
Ms. Carter has exited while allowing the bogus workmen to enter. The latter two stuff the unconscious Runsler inside the hollowed-out file cabinet. They then leave, telling bystanders that Runsler changed his mind about the cabinet. Moments later Ms. Carter allows two men to enter the office for an appointment. This accomplished, she quickly departs the office behind the workmen.
When the men emerge from Runsler’s office and announce he isn’t there, the secretary played by Ms. Cattrall follows them back inside. Seeing that Runsler is indeed missing, and noting the spilled coffee on the desk (apparently a sure sign of foul play), she runs out to call security.
Cue the opening credits. These play over animation that would embarrass Clutch Cargo and seems to run forever. When I went back to time them later, I was literally shocked to discover they only run for three minutes. (That’s still crazy long, of course.) At one point an androgynous face appears opposite the cut-out representing Danton. I thought it was a guy’s face, but since it comes together with Danton’s to lock lips with all the seeming passion of those little magnetic kissing dogs, I guess not.
The credits are accompanied by more generic funk music. Given 20th Century Fox’s involvement, I wonder why they didn’t just reuse Goldsmith’s score? Would he have been entitled to residual payments and they were just too cheap? Or did they hilariously think that music sounded dated? Because I’ve listened to both scores recently, and it’s not Goldsmith’s that seems laughably of its own time.
We cut to stock footage of the Golden Gate Bridge, inevitably inspiring me to yell “Go! Go! Go! Go!” Hey, I wish I was watching The Room right now. Here we get our first (blurry) helicopter shot of Flint’s rather boxy sky blue Mercedes as it crosses the bridge. If they were going for a classic car thing, they didn’t choose all that well. We then get a close-up of Danton sitting in the driver’s seat as off-camera grips all too obviously rock the car back and forth. Let’s just say the illusion that he is driving is not completely sustained.
The three minutes of credits is followed by over a minute and a half of driving footage. Here’s an experiment; stare at a clock for four and a half minutes, without doing anything else. This will not only bring home how long four and half minutes is, but it will actually be more entertaining than watching the film.
Finally we cut to *cough* Flint sitting inside Runsler’s office. He is meeting with, uh, I guess the chairman of Oilco (Oilco!) or something. Runsler was the President of the firm, so it must be something like that. Unsurprisingly, this is the sort of movie where characters appear and often aren’t named, which is always annoying. Anyhoo, he’s a portly gentleman wearing a polyester blue blazer that screams J.C. Penny. In other words, he’s dressed exactly as you’d expect an oil magnate to dress.
The guy is talking about how amazing their security is. We have had no indication that this is true. Still, telling us it is, I guess, is as good as showing us it is. Right? Here we get our first taste of the new Flint, who is sarcastic and blunt. Again, this is the opposite of Coburn’s Flint, but then he would never be a private eye working for an oil company anyway.
To prove the security isn’t all that, Flint flings his hand and small holes are blown into the paneling of a nearby wall. “Plastic,” he notes of his explosive devices, “[and thus] undetected by your scanners.” Huh. I could be watching Scanners right now. Or a nearby wall. Flint proceeds to explicate further holes in the security, coming off as smug in a way that Coburn never did.
Did I mention how nasally Danton sounds in this? Because he really does. It’s like he had a bad head cold the entire time he was shooting this.
Moving on, the Chairman explains that Flint’s job will be to handle negotiations with the kidnappers. They are members of B.E.S.L.A., the Ba-El-Sol Liberation Army. Ba-El-Sol is a fictional and quite lame Middle Eastern country, awash in injustice and oil money. You know the kind.
Flint nonchalantly expounds on the obscure subject of Ba-El-Sol. This is actually true to the character, although Coburn would have sounded like less of a dillhole doing it. His Flint sounded genuinely fascinated about everything he talked about. Danton’s just seems like he’s showing off. He’s the Philo Vance of ex-spies turned private eyes.
Oilco (Oilco!), unsurprisingly, holds the contracts for Ba-El-Sol’s oilfields. Flint snidely suggests that if the news of the kidnapping got out there might be a major drop in Oilco’s (Oilco!) stock. I’ll stop beating this horse, but here it is: the biggest reason this isn’t Derek Flint is because this guy is unlikable. That really about sums it up.
Also, I’m not sure what his point is. It is supposedly cynical for the Chairman of a multi-national corporation to be *gasp* concerned with its stock price?
“Thanks to your State Department,” The Chairman (really, can’t they mention his name by now?) replies, “the police have kept out of it, and hopefully the press.” First, that’s not how the State Department works. Second, kidnapping is a federal rap, so the FBI would be handling this. Good lord, anyone who watched Barnaby Jones would know that much.
Third, and most vexing, what does that “your” mean? Flint worked for ZOWIE, a fictional organization like U.N.C.L.E., not the State Department. And the Chairman is presumably supposed to be American* too, so again, why “your” State Department?[*Admittedly, Danton is apparently the only actor in the film who’s actually American. The others, including I’m guessing this guy, are actually Canadian. However, the film is I’m pretty sure meant to be set in San Francisco. And there aren’t too many films that feature corrupt Canadian oil companies. So…I don’t know.]
Then we get a Flint-ish gadget. Sort of. Flint’s watch starts beeping, and he announces that means there’s an intruder at his house. However, they couldn’t be bothered to rig up a flashing light in a watch. Instead, they reflect a flashing red light off of the watch’s glass housing. (!!) Flint interprets this to mean that BESLA knows he’s on the case. Uhm…ok. Anyway, he takes his leave to intercept them.
We cut to the offices (identified by a very poorly composed door sign) of Citywide Charitable Fund Raising Inc. Fundraising is actually one word, but c’mon, even artistic geniuses like these can mess up once in a while. Inside is, uh, Jonny—if they aren’t going to name these guys, I will—a suave fellow with a pencil mustache. He’s looking out the office window, from which he can see Flint’s car leave the parking lot. Then he turns around and *gasp* there’s the treacherous Ms. Carter.
So Citywide Charitable presumably is in the same building as Oilco. (Oilco!) After all, Jonny was able to watch Flint leave through his window. But…didn’t Ms. Carter mysteriously and rather conspicuously disappear seconds after Runsler was kidnapped? One can therefore only assume she’s under suspicion of the crime. Then why is she meeting Jonny in the very same building she used to work in?!
Cut to…three guesses…more helicopter footage of Flint driving his car across the Golden Gate Bridge. Then more helicopter footage of him driving through a housing development. Finally he arrives outside an admittedly pretty posh-looking house. I mean, it’s not a patch on the ultra-swank New York City apartment Coburn’s version of the character had, but it’s a nice house nonetheless. I assume it’s the producer’s or something.
The niceness of the house is obliterated the moment we see its decor. Yikes! It’s amazing how good designs from the ‘60s still look, and how appalling stuff from the ‘70s is. From the horrible giant flower pattern on the wallpaper to the gaudy glass chandelier to the foyer’s plum-hued shag (!!) carpeting, which also lines the upstairs steps, it’s eye-bleeding stuff.
Flint finds the front door open and enters. There he finds sitting on said steps a pert, not to mention patently braless, blonde named Bonita Rogers. To her chagrin Flint ignores her and steps over to his none too impressive dry bar. This features a handful of bottles, including some Canada Dry Ginger Ale and an egregiously horrible vessel shaped like a black guy wearing a sombrero.
Still perplexed at his lack of interest towards her, Bonita finally asks, “Don’t you want to know why I’m here?” She then attempts to pass her presence off as motivated by her attraction to him. He plays along, but when he leans in for a kiss she hurriedly retracts her assertion. (So why issue it in the first place?)
Her bluff called, she lays down her cards. “You’re the best in the business,” Bonita avers. Yep, she wants to be his gal Friday / apprentice. “I took criminology at State University,” she explains. You know the one. She also worked for nine months for “Stanco (Stanco!) International.” Well, with credentials like that, how can he turn her down? Besides, her dad is well off and will pay him to train her.
They exchange more ‘witty’ dialogue, but of course he ends up taking her on. She smiles in relief, and reveals that she’s handcuffed her ankle to the staircase balustrade in case he tried to get rid of her. Then of course Komedy! she can’t find the handcuff key in her purse. Flint pops them open with a wee karate chop, because that’s how handcuffs work, you see.
Flint helps her up from the stairs, and then suddenly judo (I guess) tosses her onto his sofa. To prove…I don’t know. Something. However, she’s a firecracker. Rather than being intimidated, she instantly produces a pistol. Actually, she was clearly already holding it in her hand, although that makes no sense.
“I’m a top marksperson,” she clunkily warns, “and I have a permit.” Nothing intimidates like hearing that the person holding a gun to your midriff has a permit, I guess. Also, her vaunted skills as a “top marksperson” seems a tad unnecessary, given that Flint is standing all of about a foot away from her. And “marksperson”? Really?
Her new boss sends her off to library of the “the University downtown” (you know the one) to study up on Ba-El-Sol. She’s excited to begin her apprenticeship, and he shares her anticipation.
Flint: “It’s the perfect wedding between brain and beauty.”
Feminist Bonita, bridling: “We might as well get something straight, Mr. Flint. Just because I’m a woman, I won’t be treated as a sex object!”
Puckish Flint: “Oh, you misunderstood me! When I remarked to ours as a ‘marriage of brains and beauty,’ I was referring to you as the brains!”
See, it’s funny.
Two seconds after she leaves the house Flint turns around to find a ski-masked fellow pointing a Colt M1911 at his head. Since neither Flint nor Bonita noticed this guy, I can only assume he teleported in. The fellow holds Flint’s attention while yet another masked thug comes from behind. You know, Flint may want to work on his home security system.
Flint is quickly knocked out with a blackjack. The guys march Flint outside, in that fashion where the guy being ‘carried’ actually walks himself while pretending to be unconscious. They then stuff him into the front seat of Flint’s own Mercedes. Did the crooks take the bus to his house?
In an absolutely glorious moment, they open the car door and the reflection of the cameraman is CLEARLY visible in the car window. Oh, and the second thug removes his mask before starting up the car (why?) and *gasp* proves to be Ms. Carter, because…some reason.
We cut from footage of Flint’s car driving away to footage of Bonita driving around the city. This goes on for about an hour and a half, allowing us a good gander at the British Columbia license plate on her little sports car.
Eventually she arrives at The University and visits the rather desultory bookshelves in the *cough* campus library. Still, as something who worked in a library back in the day, it evoked warm nostalgia when we see her digging through the card catalogue for books on the Middle East. Although it doesn’t say much for her detective skills, given that a display of such books is sitting right atop the card catalogue.
Meanwhile, she is being observed by a Greasy Little Dude who looks like (fellow Canadian) Joe Flaherty playing a Greasy Little Dude on SCTV. Apparently he’s been staking out the library in case anyone came to examine books on the Middle East. The guy’s on the phone—they have a public phone right in the middle of the library floor?!—and receives instructions to follow her when she leaves.
The director rather unhappily frames the guy standing behind Bonita, and then zooms in on him. I guess he wanted us to ‘get’ that he’s watching her. However, as the shot tightens on him, we can’t help noticing the colorful balloons tethered above his head or the kids’ themed bulletin board behind him. Good job sustaining the illusion that this is a university library.
The Guy was ordered to call back in when Bonita was preparing to leave. Instead he waits about two minutes, right as she leafs through one of the very first books she’s pulled off the shelf, and calls in then. “Make sure she gets the message,” he’s instructed. Yeesh, not two minutes ago he was just told to follow her.
Bonita, for her part, is looking at a few pictures of antique jewelry. This has absolutely nothing to do with the case. Her self-satisfied ‘eureka’ smile indicates otherwise, though. Maybe it’s just because she’s a girl and they like jewelry.
Flint’s Mercedes pulls up outside a warehouse and Our Hero is hustled inside. Waiting inside is Jonny. Joining him are two armed henchmen. They are kept in the shadows, I’m guessing because one of them is probably the same actor who’s supposedly in the library at the moment.
A now revived Flint is shown Runsler, currently imprisoned inside the warehouse’s freight elevator. I’m not sure why they had to knock Flint out to bring him to talk to Runsler. It seems like a blindfold would have done the job.
In any case, the two talk for less than a minute. Then Jonny tells one henchman to blindfold (see!) Flint and drive him back home. Flint unsurprisingly objects. Jonny explains that Flint has seen that Runsler is still alive, and that’s all he needs to know.
Uh…then why kidnap Flint? Why not have Runsler call his boss on the phone, or take a picture with him holding today’s newspaper or something? This seems a lot of work to establish something like that. Jonny then gives Flint the terms that must be met if Runsler is to be released. I would have given him those before I ordered Flint dragged from the warehouse, but then I’m not a criminal mastermind.
Anyhoo, they want the usual political concessions as well as two million bucks. Oh, and they finally mention the Chairman’s name. It’s Simon Dela-something or other. Jonny (whose ‘real’ name we still don’t know) promises that if their demands aren’t met, Runsler will die, and the Chairman will be next. Yes, I can certainly see why the State Department wouldn’t want the FBI getting involved in this. Anyway, Flint is finally taken away.
Bonita is back inside Flint’s house. How does she keep getting inside that place? She’s scanning through her stack of general interest library books, like A Short History of the Arab Peoples by John Bagot Glubb. Yes, the movie uses real library books as props. Either the budget was too paltry to allow them to mock up some fake covers, or they were too lazy, or both.
Hearing a car pull up, she runs outside and finds Flint again slumped unconscious in his parked car. I should note that in the first Flint movie he largely decimated the staff of an entire volcano mad scientist base by his lonesome. I guess he’s really let himself go.
We cut to him revived on his sofa and dialing what I guess is his answering service. If so, it’s the sort of answering service that also does electronic surveillance for you. You know the kind. Reporting that their quarry just left, Flint tells Bonita to “turn the set on.” This is a small monitor sitting on a low shelf of his bookcase. Despite the fact that she only met the guy today, Bonita unerringly turns and sees to her task.
The monitor shows a street map. “We tracked you into downtown in the older section,” the phone guy says. Luckily for Flint (not to mention the plot) the villains transported him via his own car, which I guess has a tracking device or something. Hearing the location where they stopped, Flint grabs his coat and he and Bonita head out.
AERIAL BRIDGE DRIVING FOOTAGE!!!!
After further driving footage, and more generic funk music, we see Flint’s car arriving outside the designated address. (Flint, who used to disdain guns, now carries a Dirty Harry-like .44 Magnum revolver.) To no avail, however, as the canny villains have decamped from the warehouse and taken Runsler with them.
However, they have left behind the bookcase they had used to trundle the unconscious executive from his office. Bonita reaches to examine it but Flint violently grabs her and pushes her back towards the door. Raising his gun, he fires into the cabinet, and sure enough it explodes. Sort of kinda. It’s not exactly the sort of thing that would impress Michael Bay or anything.
Yes, the cabinet was booby trapped. Because…er, because…the kidnappers wanted to blow up the guy negotiating with them? Well, OK, that might not make a lot of sense. Still, pretty damn neat, huh? Exploding file cabinet! I mean, that’s cool. Right? Isn’t it?
And look how awesome Flint is. He knew the cabinet would blow up, and then he shot it with his gun so it would blow up. Because…uh……. Anyway, this clearly led into a commercial break, so viewers could recover from all the tension and suchlike.
NEIGHBORHOOD AERIAL DRIVING FOOTAGE!!
Man, you can’t get enough of watching Flint’s tiny sky blue Mercedes driving around his neighborhood, or the city, or across a bridge. Not to mention the generic funk music. Flint arrives home. I don’t know when this is, but Bonita isn’t with him anymore. He pulls into his driveway and walks up the steps towards his house.
However, instead of entering he diverts himself to his bushes and exposes a woman in a bright red jacket. This is naturally the exact perfect thing to wear when attempting to blend into someone’s greenery. The woman declares herself to be Claire Runsler. Flint ushers her inside. I’m not sure why she didn’t just walk in there and wait for him. Everyone else does.
Lush (if generic) Sad Music wells up, so that we get that Claire’s worried about her husband. “He’s a fine administrator, Mr. Flint,” she gushes. I wish I had someone in my life who would remember me with such tenderness. “We’ve been married for many years,” she continues. Many years, wow, that’s quite a while. After a bit more pointless yakking, Flint steps outside to see her off.
Scene of Pathos concluded—the film means a lot more now that we care—Flint reenters his house. Inside he is met by a young woman in a tied off red shirt. She has a massage bed ready, and Flint takes off his clothes and lies down. “I press the muscles, not the pants,” she quips after he tosses his laundry at her. Can you believe the scripter wasn’t even nominated for an Emmy?
This woman pops up in several over scenes, so I guess (maybe?) she’s his live-in masseuse / lover. If so, it’s kind of a downgrade from Flint’s old harem of exotic beauties. But then, he used to be played by James Coburn. Just as she begins her job, however, the phone rings. I think his frustration is supposed to be of the comic variety, although that’s just a guess.
It’s Bonita calling. Pretending to be a potential supporter of BELSA, she’s arranged a meeting with the guy who tailed her at the library. Flint tells her to go ahead and not to worry (about being murdered or kidnapped, I guess). “They always throw back the little ones,” he says. Quite a guy, that Flint.
However, Flint actually proves to be on the job and we cut to him tailing after her. Bonita stands on the street holding a red rose. Soon she is met by Jonny and one of his henchmen. Flint, watching from his distinctive car which the same guy earlier used to drive him to the warehouse, hits a red toggle switch on his dashboard.
This actives a rapidly blinking panel light, one accompanied by a loud repeating beeping sound. It’s just the thing for covert operations. This is tracking the cigarette lighter he earlier stashed in Bonita’s purse.* Although how a single blinking, beeping light on a dashboard is used to track something is left to our imaginations.
The guys and Bonita drive off, with Our Hero following along about twenty feet behind their car. Smooth tail job, Flint. Meanwhile, the loud nasal beeping continues. This presumably so he doesn’t lose them if they get, oh, thirty feet in front of him. Anyway, I can’t imagine listening to that beeping for a couple of hours.
MORE (WAY TOO MUCH) DRIVING FOOTAGE. However, a bus eventually gets in Flint’s way for about five seconds and he loses them and his tracking device stops working, so good job there, Flint. Yeesh.
Meanwhile, Jonny (they still haven’t named him) has parked his car in a parking garage. There they are by Ms. Carter. Jonny unsurprisingly knows Bonita is Flint’s assistant, and believes having her gives him another card to play.
Ms. Carter disagrees. “He has lots of girls!” she sputters. “You must be insane!” Here we get our first hint that she and Jonny are using Runsler to achieve different objectives. Despite her discontent, she accedes to Jonny’s demands that she find a place to stash their new hostage. Sneering, she turns and flounces off.
Cut to Flint’s house. I wish we had seen some more driving footage, because now I’m not sure how he’s gotten there. Having lost his newly acquired apprentice, Flint is pouring himself a drink. Wow, this guy’s awesome. Not to worry, though. The film’s real hero, the phone guy who tracks stuff for Flint, in on the case.
He reports over the speaker phone that he’s tracked the location of the number Bonita had called from earlier. He gives Flint the address, and we cut to Flint emerging from his parked car. He’s in disguise as a telephone repairman, by which I mean he’s wearing a hard hat, tool belt, sports jersey and jeans.
This brilliant ploy is potentially undercut in that he has arrived in his distinctive Mercedes and parked it right outside the kidnappers’ front door. Apparently renting a van or just parking his friggin’ car down the block required too much effort.
Inside two armed BESLA members are covering the door. It’s interesting how when talented people make something, you can believe the hero is in danger despite the fact that obviously he isn’t going to be killed. Then there’s the opposite, where you are bored and just waiting for the hero to overcome ‘danger’ so that you can get to the next scene.
This is the latter, just in case you were wondering. Mostly it’s the difference between feeling that the hero is doing something honestly clever and having him triumph no matter how lame he seems.
In a course ‘workingman’ accent, Flint identifies himself as a repairman. One guy answers the door while the other guy, holding a shotgun, stands behind it out of sight. When the guy replies there is no phone problem, Flint answers, “How about a kidnapping?” Then he punches the guy and, being magically omniscient, slams back the door to hit the guy standing behind it. The brawl is accompanied by truly blaring music, which doesn’t help much.
Flint ends up with the shotgun. A bored looking Jonny (he’s not the only one) enters the frame. Flint laughs and, having made his point—which I guess is how trés awesome he is—he passes Jonny the gun. Jonny is nonplussed at Flint’s casual nature. “We’ll, I don’t know whether to laugh or to cry,” Flint answers. He’s not the only one.
Now that the movie’s half over, Jonny finally gives his name. Screw it, I’m sticking with Johnny. “You’re babes in arms,” Flint tells him. They just don’t measure up to the awesome Derek Flint, you see. (Well, not the old one, certainly.) He details their shortcomings, including “a telephone anyone can trace with an answering service.” And heaven knows Flint has one of those.
Anyway, he’s figured out that these guys don’t have the “expertise” to have planned Runsler’s kidnapping. This might seem a more impressive deduction if said kidnapping seemed at all clever to begin with. Yes, only a Moriarty-level genius would think to stuff the guy into a file cabinet.
Anyway, Flint has figured out that Carter was behind it. Remember when Carter was the one in a ski mask to knock Flint out? I mean, that made no sense, right. Well, it’s an IITS sort of deal. That happened so that Flint could intuit she was a woman. Maybe the outline of her boobs under the jacket gave it away? That’s sort of what I noticed.
Expanding on this chain of thought, Flint figures that Jonny and company are behind the political demands, while Carter is only interested in the filthy lucre. Jonny confirms that this is so. He and his men are political idealists, “revolutionaries, not criminals.” The kidnapping and the attempted murders aside, that is.
Anyway, Jonny lets Flint go, since he’s still in charge of getting their demands met. Yep, I love it when movies just tread water. However, just to give Flint something to think about, Jonny uses a butcher knife to vorpal blade through a loaf of French bread. (This is actually done off-camera because it’s harder to just cleave through a loaf of bread than you’d think.) Chilling. Don’t even ask what he can do with a cucumber, Mr. Flint.
Cut to night time. Flint is in his house, setting the table for an intimate candle-lit dinner. The doorbell rings and his guest proves to be *GASP!* Ms. Carter. This is supposed to be one of those things were two cagey antagonists talk around what is actually happening and pretend to be all civilized and sophisticated while each pursues their agenda. It’s not, as you’d imagine, a particularly good example of that trope, however.
Oh, and we learn that Ms. Carter’s name is Sondra. Why not, it’s only 41 minutes into things.
“I expected a negotiation, not a seduction,” Sondra notes as Flint pours her some Champagne. I guess that’s why she did up her hair and arrived in a slinky black evening dress.
Meanwhile, I finally noticed that Flint’s sports jacket and turtleneck combos call to mind Dean Martin’s Matt Helm a lot more than Coburn’s Derek Flint. Indeed, Dalton looks a lot more like Dean Martin. Finally, the Matt Helm films were a lot dumber, and hence also a better fit with this. Maybe they could just superimpose a new title on the thing and make things easier for all of us.
While this all was happening, we occasionally cut to Bonita. She’s first seen picking the lock of a room that, from the patently cheap paneling, is clearly in somebody’s basement. She manages to get the door open, proceeding down a hallway to find the room where Runsler is kept. She tries to get him to go, but he’s fearful and unenthusiastic. Runsler makes a little too much noise and their captors appear. Bonita is hauled back to her room.
Meanwhile, Flint has struck out too. Sonda, ascertaining that Flint is too honest to turn to her side, reiterates her own demand for two million dollars and takes her leave. Flint later meets with the Chairman. The latter is annoyed with Flint’s lack of progress and fires him. Flint avers that he’s staying on the case until he gets Bonita back.
With Flint refusing to butt out, the Chairman has his secretary bring in (I guess) the two million dollars loaded up on a drink tray. However, he also tells Flint that the kidnappers’ political demands are no go. They can’t dump the country’s Shah without losing their oil rights.
Cut to Flint suddenly out in some park or rural area. Huh? Did they just skip over ten minutes of the movie? Not that I’m complaining if they did. Anyway, he walks into a clearing, and there’s Bonita.
His assistant is shackled to the first of a row of those round archery targets. He walks toward her. She shouts out a warning, and an arrow thunks into the target closest to him. He turns and there are all the bad guys (all four of them) armed with bows. How the hell had he not noticed them before?
Sondra has a fancy compound bow. She fires again, and another arrow hits right in front of the now paused Flint. She smirks. Flint turns away from Bonita and walks over to them. Sondra offers him another bow, and the inevitable contest starts. I don’t want to blow your mind, but Flint wins.
This would be more exciting and credible (well, no, not really) if either of the two could actually handle their bows, which they clearly can’t. It’s like watching two actors who have never touched a violin before to pretend they are expert musicians. Indeed, Flint’s arrow skitters all along the bow surface before he manages to release it.
Sondra tries to get him to shoot again, but Flint is (of course) too crafty for her. He intentionally fires off center to knock the target aside. Because that’s how those things are constructed, you know. This reveals that *gasp!* Runsler was tied up right behind the target.
Since the arrows only penetrated about an inch into the target I can’t see how Flint could have possibly killed him, but I think that’s the idea. Meanwhile, even Jonny is shocked by Sondra’s cruel attempted trick.
She replies that Bonita is more important to Flint anyway. First, that’s the very opposite of what she argued to Jonny before. Second, so what? Flint is only the go-between for Oilco (Oilco!). He’s not paying the ransom, they are. I’m not sure why they’d be expected to cough up two million in 1976 dollars for Flint’s secretary.
Flint has the money, but knows he can’t fulfill Jonny’s demands. So he signals Sondra, who plays along, since she only wants the money anyway. She tell Jonny that “my contacts” confirm that BESLA’s demands have been met. Since Jonny is suddenly a moron, he falls for it.
In a really dumb “cool” moment, Flint thumbs a remote control in his pocket. At this a nearby model airplane takes off into the air. This buzzes around for a while (have to eat up that running time), before he causes it to release a tube it was carrying. Needless to say, this proves to be carrying the cash. There’s no way that sort of thing could possibly carry all that weight, but let’s just move on.
As the others head towards the landed tube, Flint grabs a few more arrows and runs toward Bonita. He knows the handcuffs on her ankle are the same ones he karate chopped open before, so he quickly gets her free.
By this time the others have gotten the rolled up money out of the tube. Instead of running towards Runsler, Flint knocks an arrow and yells for Runsler to join them. (If only Flint had brought a gun, or a cop or two, this whole mess would be over right now. We still have 25 minutes to go, though.)
Runsler again proves too cowardly to try anything. He argues that the others are still armed (with bow). “Sondra is a crack shot!” he yells back. “She could bring me down with one shot!” As soon as she hears this, she indeed brings up her bow and shoots Runsler in the leg. Why Flint doesn’t shoot her is left to our imaginations, other than ‘still 25 minutes left’ thing. With Runsler down, Flint grabs Bonita and they run for it.
However, once they reach the trees Flint starts chuckling. He (like everyone in the audience at least ten minutes ago) has figured out that Runsler was in on the whole thing with Sondra. Uhm, OK. Then wouldn’t the sensible thing have been to just go with Flint? He could have passed himself off as the rescued hostage, not been shot, and met up later with Sondra and run off with her. So none of this really makes any sense.
That night at the Oilco (Oilco!) offices, a secretary is working late. Mrs. Runsler—remember her?—shows up and they yak awhile to run down the clock. Sad music plays, because, you know, her kidnapped husband. Then Mrs. Runsler asks the sympathetic younger woman for a favor….
Back to Flint’s house. He’s finally getting that massage. Only—Komedy Ahoy!—the phone rings again. “Do you know what time it is?!” Flint peevishly barks into the receiver. Here’s a tip, guy; don’t answer it.
Anyway, it’s the Chairman and he wants Flint to meet him outside. Soon they are both in the backseat of the Chairman’s chauffeured car. The latter is pissed that Runsler is still in the enemy’s hands, and wounded now to boot. Moreover, Flint has also lost their two million dollars.
Well, yeah, when you put it like that it does sound bad.
However, the Chairman mostly just wants to make sure Flint is off the case. And indeed, since Flint has Bonita back now, the scripter doesn’t have any excuse for why he would stay involved anyway. But of course he intends to. Otherwise the movie would just end.
Like that’s a bad thing.
Foreseeing Flint’s truculence, the Chairman has arranged for a car phone call from the Secretary of State. (Hearing this, Flint literally rolls his eyes like a teenager,) I again want to be clear: Derek Flint never worked for the State Department.
Indeed, ZOWIE was an international agency, and Flint was always a freelancer anyway. He was only ever a scientist who moonlit as a spy. So why the State Department would be able to tell him what to do, I don’t know. Neither does Flint, and he goes into full “You’re not the boss of me” mode.
Flint is next seen making out with his barefoot, seemingly 19 year-old masseuse in her tank top and shorty-short Daisy Dukes. Again, a long way from the bevvy of hyper-elegant socialites he once lived with. This young lady looks more like the kind of girl you’d pick up at a Wavy Gravy concert, so as to make love in your Chevy van.
Just then Mrs. Runsler arrives. Lady Masseuse takes her leave, walking slowly up the stairs so we can watch the bottom of her butt cheeks peek out from her shorts.
A distraught Mrs. Runsler asks Flint for any news, or even hopes he may have for her husband. Despite the fact that people who are long married supposedly have some physic connection (or some damn thing), Mrs. Runsler admits she hasn’t have “a thought wave, or even a feeling” from him.
Flint admits her husband has been wounded. “Not badly, just painfully,” he adds. He then shakes her hand as she leaves. Quite the bedside manner there, champ. Then, having no way to get the plot going, we suddenly see a dot moving on Flint’s street map monitor display. We also hear the latest report from the answering service. Again, as far as I can tell, that guy’s the real star of this picture.
“Laser beam is fine,” Answering Service Guy reports, “the computer is fine and the radioactive signal is loud and clear.” Apparently Flint doctored the cash with “radioactive powder.” Well, even if the bad guys aren’t caught, at least you don’t have to worry about them having kids. Yet despite using a “laser searching beam”—really?—they have suddenly lost the signal. Flint asks if there are any lead mines in the area–in downtown San Francisco, I mean–but is told there aren’t. There’s a big surprise.
Flint and Bonita decide to break into Oilco (Oilco!) office building. This is accomplished by opening a junction box marked “Security Door System” and rubbing the end of an alligator clip on an exposed screw head. At this the security door pops open, because that’s how they work.
The pair then make their way to Runsler’s office to rifle through his private safe for clues. Flint of course quickly finds the safe and gets it open. Sadly, all it contains are “old travel plans, job evaluations, [and] expense accounts.” I guess Runsler has a safe-deposit box for his take-out menus.
Flint decides to hunt down Runsler’s receptionist. AERIAL DRIVING FOOTAGE!!! They go to her apartment. Despite the fact that woman freely opens the door, Flint manhandles her back into the apartment. What a jerk.
Anyway, she soon admits that she had earlier broke the rules by letting Mrs. Runsler into the safe. (I’m not sure why the receptionist would know the combination to the President’s private safe, but there you go.) She also gossips about how Ms. Carter was a jerk, one who Runsler recently brought in from outside the firm to be his private secretary.
Out in their car, Flint and Bonita tune into the Plot Point Radio broadcast whereupon they immediately hear (what else?) a plot point. Runsler is reported to have been in a horrible car accident, one that left his body burned beyond all recognition. Gee, I wonder where this is going.
They go to the Morgue, where they meet Mrs. Runsler as the latter is leaving. She looks dazed but dry-eyed as she heads for home. Bonita demands to see the burned body (how did they get permission to do this?), but of course runs off nauseated once she does. Dames, huh? Bonita buys into the whole story, thinking the kidnappers killed Runsler as an example for their next run at Oilco. (Oilco!)
Flint isn’t buying it, though. “Why does a woman married to a man she loves for 20 years stop getting his vibes, his mental messages?” Flint muses. Egad, what kind of New Age crap is that?
Flint answers his own question. “Runsler turned off, that’s what. His wife knew it. She went to his office, got into the safe, got his letters. So when she saw the body, no tears. Runsler was already dead to her.” Man, that’s some solid detective work right there.
Bonita is surprised to hear Flint aver that wasn’t Runsler’s body in the Morgue. Despite the corpse being supposedly burned to a crisp, he could tell it lacked the leg wound from the arrow. The two then drive to the address where the kidnappers’ car disappeared from their monitor. Meanwhile, Bonita under Flint’s goading finally figures out that Runsler was in on his own kidnapping with Sondra.
They enter the lobby of the office building at that same address. There they peruse the occupant directory, which reveals there’s a “lead ingot exhibit” in the building (!!!!). This (whatever) explains why they lost the signal when tracking the money. And, presumably, when Bonita got kidnapped earlier in the movie. The office directly under the exhibition is that of bum bum bum Citywide Charitable Fund Raising Inc.
The pair draw their guns and kick open the door. It’s the end of the movie, so they find Jonny and Sondra there, although they should have left town by now. The two henchmen are there too, but Flint quickly guns them down. Good grief, he’s denuded BESLA of two thirds of its manpower in one stroke.
“Divvying up the loot, I see,” Flint observes. Uh, there were maybe half a dozen rolls of banknotes (representing, again, two million bucks in cash). How that could have taken all this time? Ten seconds should have done it.Why even go back to the office. Why not just divide the loot at the archery range?
Flint is naturally all smug and pauses to gloat, doing so while sitting with his back to the open office door. (!!) Shockingly, this allows Runsler to enter the office door behind them with an M14. I guess he just came walking through the office building hallway with that.
Flint and Bonita drop their guns. Meanwhile, Jonny finally figures out that he was Runsler and Sondra’s patsy in all this. As Sondra smiles and starts packing up the money, Jonny reaches into a drawer. Unseen by anyone, he pulls out a pistol, tucking it into his jacket. He does all this about six inches away from where Sondra is standing, but just go with it.
A bit later Jonny shoots Runsler, who has the sort of death throes that call to mind Fred Sanford having The Big One. Before expiring, Runsler shoots Jonny. There’s a HUGE blare of music, because, you know, the Excitement. For her part, Sondra is sad at her lover’s death. Crime doesn’t pay, you know. Nor does, apparently, making bad TV pilots featuring a very bad version of a popular cultural icon.
There’s a brief teaser gag where Bonita is annoyed that Flint isn’t trying harder to get in her pants. Oh, that Flint. And then, finally, the movie is over.
Thank goodness. Goodbye, Derek Flint. We Knew Ye, and this wasn’t you.