The box-office success of Ian Fleming’s 007 led to a rash of “super-Bond” spoofs back in the 1960s, and secret agent Derek Flint was one of the more memorable creations.
James Coburn stars as the playboy, martial artist and occasional international ballet instructor(!) who is recruited by a secret espionage agency of the United Nations called ZOWIE (Zonal Organisation World Intelligence Espionage) when three lab-coated scientists threaten to throw the world into meteorological turmoil.
His mission is to track down GALAXY – a techno-futurist group bent on controlling the planet’s weather and run by the three scientists, Dr Krupov (Rhys Williams), Dr Schneider (Benson Fong) and Dr Wu (Peter Brocco), who demand that all nations surrender to their authority and leadership so they can transform the planet into a peaceful Garden of Eden.
After a struggle, and armed with nothing more than a gadget-packed gold cigarette lighter – albeit one boasting 82 separate uses that can melt steel, broadcast coded messages and do many other jobs, including lighting a cigarette – Flint succeeds in defeating the triumvirate of scientists.
In the brutally casual ending, the US Navy, Flint and his rescued harem of girls who have been converted to “pleasure units” laugh like children and party-on as the thousands of Galaxy Island citizens are wiped out.
The direction is rather stilted, the bad guys are rather unthreatening and the studio-bound locations betray a modest budget, but the panther-like Coburn – in his first lead role – keeps things moving, throwing himself into the chop-socky action (he was a pupil of Bruce Lee) and flashing those pearly whites with obvious glee.
The Bond-baiting, though, is grand, ridiculous fun – and allegedly Mike Myers’ inspiration for Austin Powers.
James Coburn’s polo-neck-wearing secret agent-cum-Renaissance Man actually appears in Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me (1999) courtesy of a brief clip from his second big-screen adventure, In Like Flint (1967). The Flint films’ theme is also Austin’s picture-phone ringtone.
Lee J Cobb
Michael St Clair