Blu-ray Review: Our Man Flint - Twilight Time Limited Edition

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Long before the Austin Powers series spoofed the James Bond films, there was Our Man Flint. Starring James Coburn as superspy Derek Flint, this is a far drier and more straight-faced lampooning of the 007 series. Of course, there was less to spoof at the time of Flint’s 1966 release with only four Bond films having preceded it. Twilight Time has issued the film for the first time on Blu-ray (limited, as are all their titles, to 3,000 copies), which is how I came to finally see it after having heard about it for years.

If I didn’t know better, I might not have even realized this was intended as a parody. Accustomed to many viewings of Austin Powers over the years, I was expecting something more along those broad, silly lines. While Flint is undoubtedly over the top, it almost plays like a half-serious attempt to top Bond at his own game. Derek Flint, played with such confident nonchalance by Coburn, comes off like a surprisingly legitimate American answer to Agent 007. He’s called out of retirement by his former employers, Z.O.W.I.E. (alright, an admittedly silly acronym for Zonal Organization for World Intelligence and Espionage), to take down a group of deranged team of scientists who have discovered how to manipulate Earth’s climate.

That’s not to say they can make it rain. These people, known as Galaxy, can cause all sorts of catastrophes, including earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. Galaxy flexes their collective muscles with an aggressive display of these abilities. Flint initially wants nothing to do with the case being forced upon him by Z.O.W.I.E. top dog Lloyd Cramden (J. Lee Cobb). But after a failed attempt on his life, Flint springs into action, embarking on a one-man mission to save the world.

In Like Flint cover (192x250).jpgTo discuss such things as explosives-rigged cold cream jars, a multi-purpose cigarette lighter that functions as a weapon, and Flint’s ability to stop his own heart for hours at a time, Flint’s comic intent might seem painfully obvious. However, director Daniel Mann reigns in any temptation to take the film in a purely farcical direction. This works both for and against Flint. As mentioned earlier, by today’s standards of action-comedy, this can honestly be viewed more or less at face value as an international thriller. The downside is that it’s just not very funny. While a few clever bits, such as the way Flint discovers the source of a poisonous dart, were enough to make me crack a smile, I didn’t find any of it laugh-out-loud funny. Still, Flint is a supremely cool character—a jack of all trades, Renaissance man, expert at all things—and Coburn anchors the film with a fun, engaging performance.

Licensed from 20th Century Fox by Twilight Time and presented for the first time on Blu-ray, the 1080p, AVC-encoded transfer is quite impressive. With all the stock footage used in Our Man Flint, it’s not at all surprising that there are some visual anomalies throughout. The transfer can’t be blamed, of course. It’s just interesting to note the differences in quality whenever stock shots are inserted (including, incidentally, dam-bursting footage from another recent Twilight Time Blu-ray, The Rains of Ranchipur). The footage shot for Flint, lensed by Daniel L. Fapp, looks tremendous for the most part. There’s a pleasing level of fine detail evident and if the colors don’t quite pop, they definitely look realistic.

The audio is presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0 and dialogue is rock solid, distortion-free and mixed at an appropriate level. If the celebrated music by Jerry Goldsmith sounds just a bit tinny, that’s probably the result of the age of this mono mix. Luckily, Twilight Time has included their customary isolated score track. Goldsmith’s stylish, evocative music is offered in DTS-HD MA 2.0 and sounds notably better than in the full movie mix (not that it’s a problem there, but the isolated track is more expansive).

Our Man Flint booklet cover (212x250).jpgPorted over from Fox’s previous DVD release, Twilight Time has packed in a bunch a supplementary material. Probably the best extra is the audio commentary by Eddy Friedfeld and Lee Pfeiffer. These guys know everything there is to know about Flint and superspy movies in general. Of the many featurettes, the 25-minute “Derek Flint: A Spy is Born” is the centerpiece, but “Spy Style,” “Spy-er-rama,” and “Directing Flint: Daniel Mann” are all valuable shorter pieces. “Flint vs. Kael” is a brief look at film critic Pauline Kael’s controversial trashing of the film. There’s also screen test footage, storyboard sequences, and the film’s lengthy theatrical trailer.

For fans of vintage international espionage films, Our Man Flint is probably already a favorite. If you’re a younger viewer just discovering the subgenre, most likely via the James Bond series, the film is essential viewing (just don’t expect a laugh riot a la Austin Powers). Our Man Flint is available, while supplies last, exclusively through Twilight Time’s distributor, Screen Archives.

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Chaz Lipp writes for The Morton Report.

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