US, 1967, 102 minutes, Colour.
Dean Martin, Senta Berger, Janice Rule, James Gregory, Albert Salmi, Kurt Kasznar, Beverly Adams.
Directed by Henry Levin.
The Ambushers is one of a series of spy spoofs from the mid-60s featuring Dean Martin as Matt Helm. They are based on novels by Donald Hamilton.
In retrospect, they seem fairly tame, the glamour, music and styles, costumed and psychedelia definitely belong to the mid-60s. The same is true of the plots – cut-rate versions of Ian Fleming’s stories. The story in The Ambushers is particularly weak – especially with the spacecraft being shot down by a Mexican, his attacking the woman pilot (men could not be pilots because of rays), raping and disturbing her, her rehabilitation and being teamed up with Matt Helm, posing as husband and wife in order to infiltrate the organisation and reveal the truth. Dean Martin is particularly laidback in the central role. Janice Rule brings some irony to her role as the pilot spy. Senta Berger is a spy for the organisation which is led by Albert Salmi. James Gregory, who appeared in three of these films, is the official. The other films in the series were The Silencers, Murderers’ Row and The Wrecking Crew. Two of them were directed by Henry Levin, two by Phil Karlson.
1.The popularity of these films in the 60s? The spoof of James Bond? Dean Martin’s popularity?
2.The style of the 60s, the credits sequences with the bikini girls, the parody of the Bond girls? The spoof of the spy, laidback, the gentleman? The Helm women? The weak plot – the government saucer, the Latin American villain? The spy, the henchmen? How well did it all come together? Colour photography, locations, musical score?
3.The plausibility of the plot, the weak special effects for the government saucer, its crash, the taking of the pilot? The scenes of flying – like a 1950s B-budget movie?
4.Dean Martin as Matt Helm, laidback, his exploits, in the rehabilitation, teaming up with Sheila, the mission, husband and wife, the fashion photography, at the hotel, spying, the encounters with Francesca, the pursuit by the villains, the discussions with Quintana? The final confrontation with Ortega? The death of Francesca? With Sheila – success? His responding to MacDonald?
5.Sheila, the pilot, in rehabilitation, the effect of the attack on her? Recovering her wits, the mission, attachment to Helm, jealousy, Francesca, being abducted in the car, getting free? The final confrontation and adventures?
6.Francesca, the glamorous spy, with Helm, Sheila’s jealousy? The revelation of the truth, her death?
7.Ortega, taking the space saucer, his kingdom, Quintana, his violence towards Sheila? Final confrontations, chases, shootouts? Quintana and the execution?
8.MacDonald, the government official, government secrets, government commissions?
9.The popular ingredients of spy stories of the time – a retrospect on the 60s?