The Wrecking Crew figures into new Tarantino movie

The Wrecking Crew, the fourth and final Matt Helm film, figures into Quentin Tarantino’s new movie, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.

The cast includes Margot Robbie as actress Sharon Tate. The movie’s trailer includes a scene where Tate goes to a theater playing The Wrecking Crew. In the Helm film, Tate played a klutzy British agent who ends up teamed with Dean Martin’s Helm.

A fifth Helm movie, The Ravagers, was announced at the end of The Wrecking Crew. The plan was to have Sharon Tate return. However, she was among seven people murdered by the Charles Manson family in 1969. Eventually, The Ravagers was called off and the Helm series ended.

You can view the trailer below.

Dino’s Matt Helm movies to be shown Sept. 26 on TCM

Dean Martin and Stella Stevens in The Silencers.

Movie channel TCM will present all four of Dean Martin’s Matt Helm films on Sept. 26. It’s part of a month-long salute to Dino, with Martin movies being shown on Wednesdays.

The Helm movies were produced by Irving Allen, former partner of Albert R. Broccoli. That partnership ended, in part, because Broccoli wanted to make movies based on Ian Fleming’s 007 novels. Allen wasn’t enthusiastic about the idea.

After the early Bond films, produced by Broccoli and his new partner, Harry Saltzman, had become a success, Allen searched for his own spy property to pursue.

He ended up with Donald Hamilton’s Matt Helm series of serious spy novels. But Allen got Dean Martin to participate as a partner. So the movie adaptations took a much lighter tone and, in effect, were spy versions of Martin’s variety show.

The Silencers will be shown at 8 p.m. ET, followed by Murderers’ Row at 10, The Ambushers at midnight and The Wrecking Crew at 2 a.m., Sept. 27.

For more about the Helm film series, read MATT HELM, AMERICA’S LOADED WEAPON.

h/t to reader Mark Henderson, who flagged this on The Spy Command’s Facebook page.

Wayne Fitzgerald, title designer for movies and TV

Wayne Fitzgerald’s title card (along with others, including Bruce Lee) for The Wrecking Crew, the final Matt Helm movie with Dean Martin.

When it comes to titles, names such as Saul Bass, Maurice Binder and Robert Brownjohn get a lot of attention. However, there’s another prolific designer who had an extensive impact on movies and U.S. television: Wayne Fitzgerald.

Fitzgerald, 88, went to work at Pacific Title in 1951, according to his bio at the Art of the Title website.

Pacific Title did title work for Warner Bros., Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and 20th Century Fox. But no one at Pacific received on-screen credit. As a result, Fitzgerald’s name doesn’t appear on such films as The Music Man and My Fair Lady, according to the website.

Fitzgerald went independent in 1967. His work appeared in such films as The Green Berets; The Wrecking Crew, the final Matt Helm film with Dean Martin; Chinatown; and McQ,

The designer also got a lot of television work. He was hired often by Universal’s “television factory.” As a result, the Universal shows he worked on had titles with a bit of visual flair.

Start of the main title of The NBC Mystery Movie

For example, he designed the main title to The NBC Mystery Movie (later The NBC Sunday Mystery Movie), where a man with a flashlight walks with stills of the different components (Columbo, McClous, McMillan & Wife and others) being shown while accompanied by a Henry Mancini theme.

As the title ended, announcer Hank Simms (also the go-to announcer for shows made by QM Productions) would then tell viewers which Mystery Movie segment was being shown tonight.

That title is rarely seen today. The Mystery Movie’s different entries are syndicated separately as TV movies. As a result, they usually don’t include Fitzgerald’s main title.

The designer’s other Universal credits included  It Takes a Thief, The Bold Ones, Switch and Night Gallery.

In all, Fitzgerald’s IMDB.COM ENTRY lists more than 400 credits, extending into the early 21st century.

Happy 100th birthday, Dino

Dean Martin (1917-1995), a lover not a fighter

Dean Martin (1917-1995), a lover not a fighter in The Ambushers (1967).

Today, June 7, is the 100th anniversary of the birthday of Dean Martin. Dino, in his day, was the epitome of cool and charm. For many, he still is.

His contribution to spy entertainment was starring in the four-film Matt Helm series produced by Irving Allen, former partner of Eon Productions co-founder Albert R. Broccoli.

To entice Dino, Allen made the actor his partner. As a result, Martin enjoyed a bigger pay day for the first Helm film, The Silencers, than Sean Connery got for Thunderball. Connery noticed and wanted to be a partner in the Bond franchise..

The Helm series doesn’t get respect in the 21st century. Many who like the movies refer to their affection as a “guilty pleasure.”

The Helm movies, rather than doing straight adaptations of Donald Hamilton’s serious novels, incorporated Dino’s “lovable lush” act.

One of the movies, Murderers’ Row, even had a plot point where Matt gives his boss Mac (James Gregory) a clue by deliberately misstating his alcohol preference. (“Matt Helm never drank a glass of bourbon in his life!” Mac says as he tries to figure out the traitor in his organization.)

For the record, this blog would greatly appreciate a new Helm movie that faithfully adapted the Hamilton novels. At the same time, the Spy Commander discovered the novels *because* of the Dean Martin films. Speaking strictly for myself, I’m very fond of both, despite the flaws of the movies.

Regardless, today is a day of celebration. Bottoms up, Dino.

A cool U.N.C.L.E. publicity still (1965)

Toward the end of the first season of The Man From U.N.C.L.E., David McCallum, playing Illya Kuryakin, posed for a series of publicity stills during production of The Girls of Nazarone Affair, the next-to-last episode of the show’s first season.

In this photo, he’s in a convertible with Sharon Tate, who had a small role in the episode. Tate, in this photograph, shows off her personality that made an impression on casting directors. She soon would soon get larger roles.

Looking at this image, you can understand why Dean Martin wanted Tate to return for a planned fifth Matt Helm movie, The Ravagers. Tate had been his co-star in The Wrecking Crew.

It wasn’t to be. Tragically, she would be murdered in 1969 by the Charles Manson family.

David McC, Sharon Tate

Bruce Lee working on The Wrecking Crew

There’s really not much to be said here. During production of The Wrecking Crew, the fourth and final Matt Helm movie, Bruce Lee was credited as “karate adviser.” In reality, he was the fight arranger.

This photo popped up Facebook. Here, Lee (1940-1973) works with Sharon Tate (1943-1969) and Nancy Kwan (b. 1939) on a fight sequence toward the end of The Wrecking Crew.

Even though Lee didn’t appear on camera, his stunt work/fight arranging made The Wrecking Crew a unique entry in the four-film series starring Dean Martin and produced by Irving Allen, Albert R. Broccoli’s former producing partner.

Bruce Lee supervises Sharon Tate (left) and Nancy Kwan

Bruce Lee supervises Sharon Tate (left) and Nancy Kwan

Matt Helm audio books coming in August

Matt Helm cover image that debuted with 1963's The Ambushers novel

Matt Helm cover image that debuted with 1963’s The Ambushers novel

Audio book versions of Donald Hamilton’s first five Matt Helm novels are coming starting in August.

Death of a Citizen, The Wrecking Crew, The Removers, The Silencers and Murderers’ Row will make their audio book debut, You can CLICK HERE for ordering information. UPDATE Sept. 8: See comment below which has updated pricing information.  

The five novels were published 1960 to 1962. They were part of a 27-book series, with the last published in 1993. Titan Books returned the Helm series to print in 2011.

For a detailed description of the first five novels, you can check out The Matt Helm Dossier’s descriptions of Death of a Citizen, The Wrecking Crew, The Removers, The Silencers and Murderers’ Row.

You can CLICK HERE for the website’s list of all of the Helm books.