The Silencers is the title of an American spy film spoof motion picture produced in 1966 and starring Dean Martin as agent Matt Helm. It is only loosely based upon the novel The Silencersby Donald Hamilton, as well as another of Hamilton's Helm novels, Death of a Citizen.
Co-starring with Martin are Stella Stevens, Daliah Lavi and Victor Buono. Cyd Charisse opens the film with a sexy striptease-style dance while lip synching Vikki Carr's vocals of the titular theme song. James Gregory makes his first appearance as Macdonald, Helm's superior and a recurring character in the series (although Gregory does not play him in all four films).
Once a photographer by day, spy by night, Matt Helm is now a happily retired secret agent, shooting photos of glamorous models instead of guns and enjoying a close relationship with his assistant, the lovely Lovey Kravezit. But then his old boss, Macdonald, coaxes him back to the agency ICE to thwart a new threat from the villainous organization Big O.
The sinister Tung-Tze is masterminding a diabolical scheme to drop an missile on an underground atomic bomb test in New Mexico and possibly instigate a nuclear war in the process. Helm's assignment is to stop him, armed with a wide assortment of useful spy gadgets, plus the assistance of the capable femme fatale Tina and the seemingly incapable Gail Hendricks, a beautiful but bumbling possible enemy agent.
Along the way, Helm is nearly sidetracked by a mysterious knife-wielding seductress. And he witnesses the murder of a beautiful Big O operative, the sultry striptease artist Sarita.
In the end, Helm prevails, with Gail by his side as he all but single-handedly destroys Tung-Tze's evil enterprise and plot to rule the world.
The film was the first of four produced between 1966 and 1969 starring Martin. Whereas Hamilton's books were generally serious spy novels about a former Second World War assassin who is recruited to continue killing for an American government agency, the film versions were light-hearted spy romps spoofing the James Bond series in the same spirit as Our Man Flint, which was released the previous month. The Helm series has been cited as the principal inspirations for the Austin Powers spy comedies of the 1990s and early 2000s.
- Dean Martin as Matt Helm
- Stella Stevens as Gail Hendricks
- Victor Buono as Tung-Tze
- Daliah Lavi as Tina
- James Gregory as Macdonald
- Robert Webber as Sam Gunther
- Nancy Kovack as Barbara
- Arthur O'Connell as Wigman
- Roger C. Carmel as Andreyev
- Cyd Charisse as Sarita
- Beverly Adams as Lovey Kravezit
Director Phil Karlson had the idea to make the film in a tongue in cheek style. Comedy writer Herbert Baker revised Oscar Saul's original script. Dean Martin was a co-producer of the Helm series. Moss Mabry provided the costumes, except for Martin's Sy Devore suits.
Released at the height of James Bond mania, The Silencers was a major box office hit in 1966, earning $7 million in North American rentals that year.
Elmer Bernstein provided the score, with Vikki Carr singing the title song and "Santiago." Two soundtrack albums were released — Bernstein's original score on an RCA Victor album that does not feature any artwork of Dean Martin, and a Reprise album by Martin singing several songs that were featured in the film, along with some instrumentals by the Mike Leander Orchestra.
The Silencers borrows a plot element from the first Helm novel, Death of a Citizen, as it begins with the agent being coaxed out of retirement. Helm's mission is to stop an evil organization called "BIG O" (the Bureau for International Government and Order) from their plan of "Operation Fallout;" diverting an American missile into an underground atomic bomb testing site in New Mexico.