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In Like Flint

(1967) ** 1/2 Unrated
114 min. Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment. Director: Gordon Douglas. Cast: Jean Hale, James Coburn, Lee J. Cobb.

/content/films/4474/1.jpgIn the 1999 romp Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me, Mike Myers' comical superspy identifies In Like Flint as his favorite movie. It's an in-joke that works on two levels: 1) The Austin Powers series pretty much owes its existence to Our Man Flint (1965) and In Like Flint (1967) and 2) it makes perfect sense that infamous sexist Powers would love the conspicuously sexist In Like Flint.

It's a shame that In Like Flint plays as such a defensive reaction to on-the-rise American feminism—what with its cabal of women (and their Amazonian brigade), headed up by sleek blonde Jean Hale, plotting world domination—because, in most other respects, it's a worthy-enough sequel to Our Man Flint (itself an enthusiastic endorsement of the Playboy lifestyle). Though neither co-screenwriter Ben Starr nor director Daniel Mann returned to action, original Our Man Flint screenwriter Hal Finberg and new director Gordon Douglas (as well as legendary Hollywood composer Jerry Goldsmith, returning with his Flint theme) keep the adventure percolating well enough with the usual camp nonsense, and Douglas demonstrates an adeptness for staging and shooting the action sequences.

Though the feminist twist lands like a ton of bricks, the rest of the gimmickry of this Fox flick plays not unlike the camp familiar to viewers of Fox's 1966 TV supersmash Batman, which took off between the release of the two Flint flicks (and whose soon-to-be Batgirl Yvonne Craig appears in In Like Flint). When the President of the United States (Andrew Duggan) gets replaced by a doppleganger, spy agency Z.O.W.I.E. falls victim to conspiracy, leading its chief Lloyd C. Cramden (Lee J. Cobb) again to depend on independent superspy Derek Flint (James Coburn) to save the day. Most of the humor revolves around alpha male Flint shaming every other human being with his ultra-competence. There's nothing he can't do: dance undercover with the Bolshoi Ballet, speak dolphin to his cetacean houseguest, write books on scientific breakthroughs, and take on all comers with his, err, unique martial-arts form (though you wouldnt know it to look at him, Coburn proudly studied under Bruce Lee).

Gadgets galore share the screen with entertaining fight sequences on a rooftop, in a gymnasium, and, briefly, in the vicinity of a conveyor belt heading for an incinerator, a close cousin to the strapped-to-a-log-heading-toward-a-buzzsaw trope found in so many serials of yore. But it's impossible to ignore the film's sexual politics, which are confused at best (the female characters come closest to triumph by using sex against hapless men, but this ain't exactly Lysistrata) and insulting at worst (Flint laughs off the women's plans with a deeply condescending "Ladies—forget it"). And Flint still keeps a harem, having replaced the disposable quintet of the previous film with a fresh sexy trio ("I'm trying to cut down"). Nostalgic spy junkies can put all this style over substance in cultural context and "look back and laugh," but that's easier to do with the first Flint than the second.

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