In this sequel to The Silencers (1966), Dean Martin returns as womanising photographer-turned-secret agent Matt Helm to save Washington from dastardly millionaire industrialist Julian Wall (Karl Malden), operating from a secret island base in the French Riviera.
This time, Helm fakes his own death to thwart a new Big-O’s scheme, ‘Operation Scorch’, which involves assassinating ICE (Intelligence and Counter Espionage) agents and threatening the nation’s capital with a deadly ‘heliobeam’ that channels the heat of the sun into a fearsome death-ray.
Martin’s morning-after-the-night-before performance has a certain louche appeal and leading lady Ann-Margret is electrifying as Suzie Solaris, the daughter of the super-weapon’s inventor, most notably in a psychedelic disco scene where she delivers a go-go dance to melt Russ Meyer’s mind.
The glamour gauge hits maximum in Murderers Row with the introduction of the ‘Slaygirls’, a bunch of sexy spy babes who glamorously adorn various scenes. These ladies loom large in the movie’s title sequence, which comprises a series of close-ups of their near-naked, sun-dappled torsos.
Music-wise, Lalo Schifrin brings his trademark bossa nova pulsation to the score and, an act of towering nepotism on the part of Dean Martin, there’s a clanking nightclub cameo from the band Dino, Desi & Billy, featuring his son “Dino” (Dean Paul Martin Jr), Desi Arnaz, Jr (son of TV couple Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball) and their mate Billy Hinsche.
Based on the novel by Donald Hamilton, the plot is remarkably similar to Thunderball (1965). Murderers’ Row was a strong second salvo in the Matt Helm franchise and received less of a critical hiding than The Silencers, becoming the 11th highest US grosser that year.
Dr Norman Solaris
Dino, Desi & Billy