The Silencers (1966)

105 mins | Comedy | 1 March 1966

Director:

Phil Karlson

Writer:

Oscar Saul

Producer:

Irving Allen

Cinematographer:

Burnett Guffey

Editor:

Charles Nelson

Production Designer:

Joseph C. Wright

Production Company:

Meadway--Claude Productions
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HISTORY

The 9 Feb 1965 DV announced a 20 Apr 1965 start for the first in a series of films based on the “Matt Helm” novels by Donald Hamilton. Director Phil Karlson was in the process of choosing one of eight actors who screen-tested for the lead role, while writer Maurice Richlin made revisions on the screenplay by Oscar Saul. A news item in the 19 Jan 1965 DV stated that the Ford Motor Company was designing a custom automobile for the film. As noted in the 24 Feb 1965 Var, the title was temporarily changed to The Silencer.
       On 22 Mar 1965, DV announced the casting of actor-singer Dean Martin as “Matt Helm.” An item in the 9 Mar 1965 DV mentioned child actor Alex Cord as under consideration for a role.
       Producer Irving Allen told the 6 Jul 1967 LAT that he decided to film the Matt Helm series after randomly purchasing one of the novels at an airport. Allen licensed the character the next day, and after shopping the series to several studios, he reached an agreement with Columbia Pictures, provided he used his own money to finance the option. Allen explained that actors such as Paul Newman refused the role, fearing they could not compete with Sean Connery’s “James Bond” films. After a comedy element was added, Allen cast Dean Martin, who was enjoying a wave of popularity with the launch of his television variety series that same year. The 9 Jul 1965 DV reported that Allen would produce the series ... More Less

The 9 Feb 1965 DV announced a 20 Apr 1965 start for the first in a series of films based on the “Matt Helm” novels by Donald Hamilton. Director Phil Karlson was in the process of choosing one of eight actors who screen-tested for the lead role, while writer Maurice Richlin made revisions on the screenplay by Oscar Saul. A news item in the 19 Jan 1965 DV stated that the Ford Motor Company was designing a custom automobile for the film. As noted in the 24 Feb 1965 Var, the title was temporarily changed to The Silencer.
       On 22 Mar 1965, DV announced the casting of actor-singer Dean Martin as “Matt Helm.” An item in the 9 Mar 1965 DV mentioned child actor Alex Cord as under consideration for a role.
       Producer Irving Allen told the 6 Jul 1967 LAT that he decided to film the Matt Helm series after randomly purchasing one of the novels at an airport. Allen licensed the character the next day, and after shopping the series to several studios, he reached an agreement with Columbia Pictures, provided he used his own money to finance the option. Allen explained that actors such as Paul Newman refused the role, fearing they could not compete with Sean Connery’s “James Bond” films. After a comedy element was added, Allen cast Dean Martin, who was enjoying a wave of popularity with the launch of his television variety series that same year. The 9 Jul 1965 DV reported that Allen would produce the series under his newly-formed Meadway Productions, and included writer Herbert Baker as a contributor to the screenplay. An article in the 20 Aug 1965 LAT noted that custom tailor Sy Devore created Martin’s $8,500 wardrobe for the film.
       A news brief in the 19 May 1965 DV stated that principal photography was postponed until summer. The production rented studio space at Desilu Studios in Hollywood, CA, with location shooting in New Mexico. Actor Victor Buono, cast as “Tung-Tze,” would likely be commuting between Hollywood and Palo Alto, CA, where he was appearing in a production of Molière’s Tartuffe. The 375-pound Buono told the 5 Sep 1965 LAT that he needed to gain another thirty pounds to give his “super villain” character a more sinister look. According to production charts in the 1 Sep 1965 Var, filming began 6 Jul 1965. An item in the 2 Jul 1965 DV stated that stunt men and women were needed for an automobile chase scene during the first five days of production. Coincidentally, the location was Stunt Road in the Hollywood Hills.
       While filming was underway, Geoffrey Shurlock of the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) disapproved several scenes, claiming they were too sexually explicit. Undaunted, Irving Allen told the 12 Jul 1965 DV that he intended The Silencers to be “sexier than James Bond.” On 21 Jul 1965, DV reported that Dean Martin played a scene in the nude, surrounded by a group of young women known as his “Slaymates.” The 9 Feb 1966 DV referred to the group as “Slaygirls,” which included Barbara Burgess, Jan Watson, Inger Nillson, Mary Jane Mangler, and Pamela Rogers. The 28 Jul 1965 Var announced plans by Columbia Pictures to introduce the actresses at a press event that day in New York City. Photography was completed in late Sep 1965, as noted in the 28 Sep 1965 DV. The 22 Oct 1965 DV estimated the budget at $3.5 million.
       The Silencers premiered 18 Feb 1965 in Chicago, IL, as reported in the 10 Mar 1966 Los Angeles Sentinel. Openings in Los Angeles, on 1 Mar 1966, and New York City, on 16 Mar 1966, followed. Although reviews were lukewarm, public response was enthusiastic, as evidenced by the 13 Nov 1966 LAT, which included the film among the highest earners in the history of Columbia Pictures. The 18 Mar 1966 DV reported that the picture’s explicit content resulted in a Kansas City, MO, official banning patrons under eighteen years of age. The ban was ultimately lifted by city welfare director James Reefer, who claimed it was “a misunderstanding.” According to the 22 Nov 1966 DV, the Spanish government was less tolerant, banning the film entirely. The Silencers received minor honors, such as the Rocky Mountain Motion Picture Association’s Best Actress Award for actress Stella Stevens, and the Interstate Theatres, Inc., Gold Star, awarded to Dean Martin and Irving Allen.
       In addition to promotional tours undertaken by Allen and the cast, the film received additional support from Warner Bros. Records, which released Dean Martin Sings Songs From “The Silencers” on its Reprise label. Assorted versions of the title song were also due for release by an array of artists and labels.
       A brief in the 9 Jun 1965 LAT credited singer Vikki Carr with performing the title song, providing the voice for actress Cyd Charisse in the opening sequence. John Willis, appearing as “M.C.,” was a Los Angeles television personality, as noted in the 4 Aug 1965 LAT. The film marked the screen debut of Carol Cole, daughter of late musician Nat “King” Cole. Other castings included Margie Nelson and Margaret Teele (22 Jul 1965 DV), Dirk Evans (9 Aug 1965 DV), Gary Lasdun (10 Aug 1965 DV), Clint Ritchie (3 Sep 1965 DV), and Pat Hawley (8 Sep 1965 DV). The 8 Mar 1966 DV noted that actor-singer Jean-Claude Pascal would voice Dean Martin in the French version.
       Martin starred in three more Matt Helm films: Murderers’ Row , The Ambushers , and The Wrecking Crew (1966, 1967, and 1968, see entries).
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SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
19 Jan 1965
p. 2.
Daily Variety
9 Feb 1965
p. 3.
Daily Variety
9 Mar 1965
p. 2.
Daily Variety
22 Mar 1965
p. 1.
Daily Variety
19 May 1965
p. 6.
Daily Variety
16 Jun 1965
p. 4.
Daily Variety
25 Jun 1965
p. 4.
Daily Variety
2 Jul 1965
p. 7.
Daily Variety
9 Jul 1965
p. 4.
Daily Variety
12 Jul 1965
p. 2.
Daily Variety
21 Jul 1965
p. 2.
Daily Variety
18 Aug 1965
p. 4.
Daily Variety
9 Aug 1966
p. 4.
Daily Variety
10 Aug 1965
p. 4.
Daily Variety
3 Sep 1965
p. 5.
Daily Variety
8 Sep 1965
p. 4.
Daily Variety
28 Sep 1965
p. 4.
Daily Variety
22 Oct 1965
p. 2.
Daily Variety
9 Feb 1966
p. 3, 17.
Daily Variety
22 Feb 1966
p. 3.
Daily Variety
1 Mar 1966
p. 3.
Daily Variety
2 Mar 1966
p. 2, 5.
Daily Variety
8 Mar 1966
p. 12.
Daily Variety
16 Mar 1966
p. 2.
Daily Variety
11 Mar 1966
p. 17.
Daily Variety
18 Mar 1966
p. 6.
Daily Variety
22 Jul 1966
p. 4.
Daily Variety
11 Aug 1966
p. 1.
Daily Variety
22 Nov 1966
p. 1.
Daily Variety
6 Feb 1967
p. 8.
Daily Variety
3 Oct 1967
p. 5.
Los Angeles Sentinel
17 Feb 1966
Section B, p. 20.
Los Angeles Sentinel
10 Mar 1966
Section D, p. 2.
Los Angeles Times
9 Jun 1965
Section D, p. 14.
Los Angeles Times
6 Jul 1967
Section E, p. 14.
Los Angeles Times
4 Aug 1965
Section C, p. 9.
Los Angeles Times
20 Aug 1965
Section D, p. 9.
Los Angeles Times
5 Sep 1965
Section SF-B, p. 2.
Los Angeles Times
21 Oct 1965
Section D, p. 12.
Los Angeles Times
13 Dec 1965
Section F, p. 9.
Los Angeles Times
8 Jan 1966
p. 17.
Los Angeles Times
4 Mar 1966
Section C, p. 19.
Los Angeles Times
18 May 1966
Section D, p. 12.
Los Angeles Times
13 Nov 1966
Section B, p. 1.
New York Times
16 Mar 1966
p. 49.
New York Times
17 Mar 1966
p. 35.
Variety
24 Feb 1965
p. 7.
Variety
28 Jul 1965
p. 22.
Variety
1 Sep 1965
p. 18.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
2nd unit dir
Asst dir
PRODUCERS
Assoc prod
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
ART DIRECTOR
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
SET DECORATOR
COSTUMES
Cost
MUSIC
VISUAL EFFECTS
DANCE
Choreog
MAKEUP
Makeup
Hairstyles
PRODUCTION MISC
Unit prod mgr
Unit prod mgr
Parodies
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel The Silencers by Donald Hamilton (New York, 1961) and his novel Death of a Citizen (New York, 1960).
SONGS
"The Silencers," music and lyrics by Elmer Bernstein and David Mack, performed on screen by Cyd Charisse, voiced by Vikki Carr
other songs sung by Dean Martin.
PERFORMER
DETAILS
Series:
Alternate Title:
The Silencer
Release Date:
1 March 1966
Premiere Information:
Chicago premiere: 18 Feb 1966; Los Angeles opening: 1 Mar 1966; New York Opening: 16 Mar 1966
Production Date:
6 Jul--late Sep 1965
Copyright Claimant:
Meadway--Claude Productions
Copyright Date:
1 March 1966
Copyright Number:
LP32469
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Pathé
Duration(in mins):
105
Country:
United States
Language:
English
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

When American Intelligence learns that an enemy ring led by Tung-Tze is planning to divert an American missile so that it will destroy a vital atomic testing base in the United States, retired secret agent Matt Helm is persuaded to take the case. Clues lead Helm and Tina Batori, his former colleague, to Phoenix, where they witness the murder of Sarita, a strip tease dancer, by a man named Sam Gunther. Before she dies, Sarita gives an American scientist's computer tape to Gail, a woman who had been with Gunther. Helm forces Gail to take them to Tung-Tze's hideout, and there they meet "The Cowboy," a double agent who is the real leader of the spy ring. Helm destroys the equipment designed to divert the missile, kills the members of the spy ring, and goes back into ... +


When American Intelligence learns that an enemy ring led by Tung-Tze is planning to divert an American missile so that it will destroy a vital atomic testing base in the United States, retired secret agent Matt Helm is persuaded to take the case. Clues lead Helm and Tina Batori, his former colleague, to Phoenix, where they witness the murder of Sarita, a strip tease dancer, by a man named Sam Gunther. Before she dies, Sarita gives an American scientist's computer tape to Gail, a woman who had been with Gunther. Helm forces Gail to take them to Tung-Tze's hideout, and there they meet "The Cowboy," a double agent who is the real leader of the spy ring. Helm destroys the equipment designed to divert the missile, kills the members of the spy ring, and goes back into retirement. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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