AUSTIN POWERS, INTERNATIONAL MAN OF MYSTERY
US, 1997, 89 minutes, Colour.
Mike Myers, Elizabeth Hurley, Michael York, Mimi Rogers, Robert Wagner, Seth Green, Fabiana Udenio, Mindy Sterling, Paul Dillon, Charles Napier, Will Ferrell.
Directed by Jay Roach.
This was the first film in the series of three, featuring Mike Myers as a 1960s parody of James Bond, spy Austin Powers, and also featuring Mike Myers as the nemesis, Dr Evil, a parody of Dr No and Blofeld with his cat.
The film is set in in the swinging 1960s in London, the spoof of the Bond world. The success of the comedy depends on Mike Myers, his style, manner of speaking, trendy clothes, glasses, sex preoccupations. It also depends on Mike Myers and his Dr Evil evil look, his uniform, his way of speaking, his cat, the henchmen and women, and his son.
While the film has activities in the 1960s, Mike Myers in the company of MI6 as Mrs Kensington (Mimi Rogers), happily married, and then being seconded by Basil (Michael York) to confront Dr Evil. Despite attempts to confront him, Dr Evil escapes and is cryogenically preserved. The decision then is to preserve Austin Powers cryogenically and for him to wake up in the 1990s.
A lot of the comedy consists in the very 1960s Austin Powers with his permissive perspectives waking up in the 1990s, the changing sexual and social mores, the period of AIDS, and some more respect between men and women not automatically calling them “baby”. Nevertheless, Austen is fairly oblivious despite all the advice he gets, especially from his associate, Vanessa, Elizabeth Hurley, the daughter of Mrs Kensington who is guided by the mores and behaviour and anti-sexist attitudes and language of the 1990s.
The film capitalises on Elisabeth Hurley’s career as a model, and there are several scenes poking fun at nudity and all the devices that the director can count up to conceal private parts. The final credits a photo shoot.
Dr Evil is equally out of date, spelling out hypotheses, confrontation suggestions from the Cold War period which have already been tried. His Number 2, Robert Wagner, has had plans of his own over the 30 years and is continually telling Dr Evil how out of date he is and confronting him.
Dr Evil has had many advisers but has had little tolerance with them, having a button where he can project them into fire and get rid of them – with a comic episode, getting rid of Will Ferrell (before he really became famous) who takes a long time to die. Mindy Sterling is also present as the Germanic Frau – and becomes more important in the sequel.
Dr Evil does not know that he has a son, played by Seth Green, who meet his father for the first time, is resentful of him, trying to bring him down, but agreeing to go to group work in therapy sessions – with an amusing touch of parody.
Eventually, Austin with Vanessa confronts Dr Evil – who, again, is able to make his escape into space.
Mike Myers obviously enjoyed playing the role of both Austin Powers and Dr Evil, with jokey dialogue which he wrote, some corny jokes, sex references and innuendo, references to movies, the re-creation of the psychedelic 1960s.
There were two sequels, Austin Powers, The Spy who Shagged Me and, three years later, Austin Powers, Goldmember.
The film was directed by Jay Roach at the beginning of his directing career. He moved on to the Meet the Parents series but then became much more serious in his films looking at political issues, including the 2000 Florida vote for the presidency, Recount, and the portrait of blacklisted screenwriter, Dalton Trumbo, Trumbo.