The Wrecking Crew (1969)
The Wrecking Crew (1969)

Genre: Action Comedy Running Time: 1 hr. 45 min.

Release Date: February 5th, 1969 MPAA Rating: PG

Director: Phil Karlson Actors: Dean Martin, Elke Sommer, Sharon Tate, Nancy Kwan, Nigel Green, Tina Louise, John Larch

 


 

“R

elax, men. Everything’s okay.” Opening with the tune of “House of 7 Joys” – a decidedly ’60s track, more at home in a beach party movie, which doesn’t appropriately prepare viewers for the coming adventure – “The Wrecking Crew” transitions to Denmark, where the Meyer Line train, carrying countless stacks of gold bullion, isn’t remotely guarded heavily enough. Sure enough, teams of infiltrators are standing by to receive orders concerning “Operation Rainbow” (a ludicrous 8-phase heist) from the shapely Linka Karensky (Elke Sommer), the fiancee and right-hand-woman of the quietly villainous Count Massimo Contini (Nigel Green) – who watches the hijacking through surveillance cameras (that are impossibly placed at angles that would dictate that oversized cameras encircle the entire area and are mounted in every nook and cranny of the speeding locomotive).

As the $1 billion worth of bullion is threatened, U.S. government agents scramble to intercept the armed terrorists – but to no avail. Back in Washington, the President himself summons elite I.C.E. spy Matt Helm (Dean Martin) to get to the bottom of the theft (assuming his standard cover of a freelance photographer). And the only lead from Interpol is a nightclub performer named Lola Medina (Tina Louise). “It’s got to be a one-man job.”

The fourth (and final) entry in the Matt Helm series, “The Wrecking Crew” falls somewhere between the silliness levels of “Casino Royale” and “Our Man Flint” (all of which competed with one another in the mid-’60s as spoofs on the more serious endeavors of James Bond). It clearly borrows plot points from “Goldfinger” (spy yarns in this era tended to favor the stealing of considerable valuables), along with the standard bevy of beautiful babes, and feels a bit similar to “Deadlier Than the Male” (also starring Sommer and Green) yet with less sincerity. Plus, there’s at least one ridiculous name: Nancy Kwan as Wen Yu-Rang. With its feathery tone – and Martin’s own songs permeating the soundtrack – it’s routinely difficult to admire the action as much as the fleshly visuals. “I know what you’re after and I like the way you’re going about it.”

There are explosions, shootouts, fist fights (there’s a lot of kung fu interactions for a film in which no one appears to know how to actually fight), and car chases, but they’re insignificant next to the continual attempts at slapstick comedy and the lineup of leggy ladies. The humor mostly falls flat, mixing poorly with the spy thrills, while the comely young women recite generic flirtations and get in the way of casual (or practically nonexistent) sleuthing. The biggest offender is clumsy Danish tourist bureau contact Freya Carlson (Sharon Tate, whose role would be her second-to-last before her famously untimely demise).

Helm’s regular circumventions of capture and death are quite goofy, paired with incredibly unconvincing combat choreography – though they’re ultimately only used to transition to additional scenes of mismatched seduction. The point is never to worry about whether Helm will survive or succeed; it’s really just a matter of which female costar will undress to the greatest degree (as it turns out, that award goes to Tate). The rest of it is rather boring and shoddy – save for an outrageously nonsensical moment in which Helm and Carlson build an entire gyrocopter using only the contents of a duffel bag, as well as a sequence involving Massimo’s bomb-rigged mansion – which are both, admittedly, remarkably stupid.

– Mike Massie

  • 2/10