Released between ’66 and ’69, Dean Martin‘s Matt Helm films (The Silencers, Murderers’ Row, The Ambushers, The Wrecking Crew) were lightweight James Bond spoofs, but even within that cynical realm they felt cheap — third-rate, oddly antiseptic, visually tepid flotsam. And not even vaguely amusing.
Below is a passage from The Wrecking Crew (’69), portions of which are seen in Quentin Tarantino‘s Once Upon A Time in Hollywood. It’s a lame, Man From Uncle-level martial-arts fuel between Sharon Tate and Nancy Kwan, and presented in short clips during Margot Robbie‘s “Sharon Tate catches an afternoon show inside Westwood’s Bruin theatre” sequence.
It’s an immediate drop-out because the bleached-blonde Robbie and the red-haired Tate resemble each other only slightly, which makes you wonder why Tarantino didn’t re-shoot the Wrecking Crew footage with Robbie and a Kwan stand-in.
But the scene plays even worse when you watch it without the “Robbie chuckling in her theatre seat” inserts. Right away you’re thinking this is extra-level godawful. Tate was a flat and wooden actress — she had no special gifts or moves, no sparkle in the eye, nothing going on inside. The combat choreography (Bruce Lee was credited as “karate advisor”) feels absurdly phony. Hugh Montenegro‘s music is atrocious — every note and stanza announces “this movie is bullshit.” Director Phil Karlson shoots like some disengaged second-unit guy — no edge or style. Sam Leavitt‘s cinematography decimates with overly bright lighting.