Friday, March 13, 2015

Our Man Flint

The CinemaScope Blogathon, hosted by myself and Becky from ClassicBecky's Brain Food, goes on all this weekend. Check the list of participating bloggers to find out who's writing about what. Once again, a big thanks to everyone for joining us for this. The turnout has been incredible and I appreciate everyone's enthusiasm for this event!

Our Man Flint
seen online via YouTube

I'm fairly sure I had seen Our Man Flint once before, during my video store days, but that was a long time ago and I didn't remember too much about it, so it was nice to see it again. It's less of a Bond spoof than I expected, but then again, I was expecting something closer to Austin Powers, which kinda raised the bar for Bond spoofs considerably. Flint isn't anywhere near as over-the-top as that. It has its humorous moments, but there are legitimate sequences of pure action as well. The humor is handled with a light touch.



As Derek Flint, James Coburn (whom I always confuse with Lee Marvin) is the ultimate man, as well as the ultimate secret agent: a high IQ, physically skilled, always one step ahead of the bad guys, always with some kind of gadget or method for getting around a problem, whether it means speaking in Italian or improvising a disguise or seducing the femme fatale (of course). Coburn looks like he had a lot of fun in the role, and indeed, this movie should be approached in the same spirit. (Fun fact: Faster Pussycat Kill Kill star Tura Satana has an uncredited part as a stripper!)

Flint was released in 1966 by 20th Century Fox (20CF), the studio that led the way in using the film process known as CinemaScope. Basically, it was an anamorphic (from the Greek, meaning "formed again") lens that created an image nearly twice as big as the standard film format of the day. First created by French inventor Henri Chretien in 1926 as "Anamorphoscope," it didn't catch on in Hollywood until the 50s, when television began to encroach on the movie industry's success. 



The curved screen of Cinerama, as well as the early experiments in 3D, encouraged 20CF chairman Spyros Skouras to commission Bausch & Lomb to adapt Chretien's lenses, which Skouras bought from him, so that their Biblical epic The Robe could be completed using this new process. 20CF producer Darryl F. Zanuck announced that all of their subsequent films would be shot in CinemaScope, and he encouraged other studios to get in on the action. With the exception of Paramount (who had their own VistaVision), all the other major studios jumped on board, and eventually, European filmmakers followed suit.

By the time Flint came out, CinemaScope lenses were being phased out in favor of Panavision lenses, which improved upon the former, and were also cheaper. The 1967 Flint sequel, In Like Flint, was one of the last films shot in CinemaScope.



Our Man Flint was directed by Daniel Mann, who also did BUtterfield 8, The Rose Tattoo and Come Back Little Sheba, and shot by Daniel L. Fapp, who served as director of photography for, among other films, West Side Story (for which he won the Oscar), The Great Escape and One Two Three. One advantage to shooting in CinemaScope that Fapp and Mann take full advantage of is the set design, by Raphael Bretton and Walter M. Scott. The sets of Flint's New York penthouse, ZOWIE headquarters, and the volcano lair of Galaxy are elaborate and stylish, and the camera takes them in fully. According to IMDB, the average shot length is about 5.8 seconds.

When I worked video retail in the 90s, I remember having to make a diagram pointing out the difference between the widescreen format and films that are "panned and scanned" for the TV format, because so many people weren't used to seeing those black bars on the top and bottom of the screen. Nowadays, more dramatic TV shows are formatted in widescreen, plus widescreen-sized TVs are more common, so an effort to make movies superior to television ended up with television becoming more like movies. With the film industry fighting back with things like IMAX, advanced 3D, higher frame-per-second resolutions, and theatrical luxuries such as better seating and food, who knows where the battle between film and TV will lead next?

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Other CinemaScope and related films:
Carmen Jones
Guys and Dolls
Mister Roberts
Forty Guns
Jailhouse Rock (Superscope)
Bells are Ringing (Panavision)
Ride the High Country (Panavision)

14 comments:

  1. It is really interesting to step back and realize how much technology influences art, even the art of making fun.

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  2. Making fun is SERIOUS BUSINESS.

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  3. Believe it or not, I have never seen Our Man Flint. When it came out I was 13 years old, and my Dad wouldn't let me. Too much adult stuff, sexy girls, all that. And for some reason, since then, I just never watched it. As you describe it, Rich, just the name Z.O.W.I.E. is enough to intrigue me and give a good laugh! You also make an insightful point about the war between TV and movies at the time: "... an effort to make movies superior to television ended up with television becoming more like movies." Well-put! Wonderful article for our blogathon, partner!

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  4. Well, thanks a bunch, partner! I think TV and film both have their unique strengths, but while having each of them try to be like the other, I wonder whether they'll both become homogenized one day - if they haven't already.

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  5. I saw this years back, or it might have been 'In Like Flint' probably panned and scanned, but don't remember a lot about it now. Interesting to hear that it has pure action along with the spoof elements... and also that CinemaScope was already on the way out by the time this was released! Thanks again for organising this blogathon!

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    1. Coburn gets to bust some kung fu moves here and there. Actually the use of action is fairly judicious.

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  6. I didn't realize this was one of the last movies to be filmed in CinemaScope. It sounds like a perfect movie for this format.

    Thanks for hosting this terrific blogathon!

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    1. It was, but one thing I've learned from this blogathon is that there can be an advantage to showing dramatic movies this way too. Not all the time, but occasionally.

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  7. It's somewhat of a backhanded compliment to call OUR MAN FLINT the "best James Bond spoof." It is that, but it's also a very clever secret agent film in its own right. Unlike the broadly comedic AUSTIN POWERS films or GET SMART, FLINT replicates the elements of a 007 outing and exaggerates them ever so slightly.

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  8. Agreed. Although I have a soft spot for Austin Powers all the same.

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  9. So happy I'm not the only one that gets Coburn and Marvin confused ;)
    I too haven't seen this for a long time (happy to see YouTube is obliging!) and I didn't realise it was shot at the end of the technology's 'heyday'. There's something nostalgic about CinemaScope, makes even the less entertaining of films special!

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  10. Honestly, I'm surprised more people don't confuse the two.

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  11. I first found this movie on YouTube through a blogathon (I think Caftan Woman was the one who wrote about it!). And, well, I haven't managed to watch Our Man Flint yet! But I can say a thing: I love James Coburn (especially after A Fistfull of Dynamite).
    I'm catching up on the readings for th blogathon and lovin' it!
    Thanks for hosting!

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