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"The Wrecking Crew" (1968): Fun Product of Its Time

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This isn't supposed to make sense. It's just supposed to be sexy.

This isn't supposed to make sense. It's just supposed to be sexy.

The Wrecking Crew is probably more famous now as the movie Margot Robbie's Sharon Tate goes to see herself in in Quentin Tarantino's Once Upon A Time In Hollywood than it is in it's own right. But at the time, it was the fourth movie in a series that starred one of the most popular entertainers of the era, Dean Martin.

Sexism Baked Into Film

One thing that has to be said up front, the movie is a product of it's time. There are jokes that seem at least mildly offensive now. The attitudes are at times practically Neanderthal. If we're being honest, this movie was made to aim squarely at middle aged men and teenaged boys. Women constantly throw themselves at Matt Helm, and do so wearing as few clothes as the standards of the time would permit.

Much of the movie consists of women suddenly showing up looking like this:

Tina Lousie (Lola Medina)

Tina Lousie (Lola Medina)

or this

Elke Sommer (Linka Karensky)

Elke Sommer (Linka Karensky)

or this

Nancy Kwan (Wen Yu-Rang)

Nancy Kwan (Wen Yu-Rang)

or this

Sharon Tate (Freya Carlson)

Sharon Tate (Freya Carlson)

and Dean Martin reacting like this.

Dean Martin (Matt Helm)

Dean Martin (Matt Helm)

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Plot Secondary to Scenery

If you're looking for serious intrigue or action, this is the wrong movie. The plot seems almost incidental. The villain is not at all threatening. Even though Bruce Lee was the fight coordinator, the fight scenes aren't even up to the standards of cheap TV shows of the time. The soundtrack music is lame, including the comedic verses Dean sings about the various ladies he encounters. The sets look as cheap as the fights look fake.

There is really no doubt about what the point of this movie is, which is to be a thinly veiled excuse to ogle some thinly veiled women. That being said, I didn't hate it. In fact, once I was able to get past things like the joke about the Chinese woman being named Yu-Rang, or the many double entendres about coming, I thought it was kind of fun.

And when it comes to the eye candy, the movie sure delivers. The main sidekick of the villain is played by Elke Sommer. The jilted ex-lover/henchman of the villain is played by Tina Louise, most widely known for playing Ginger on Gilligan's Island. The bumbling secret agent assisting Matt is played by Sharon Tate, who stands out in this by being better than everyone else in it. Another evil henchman is played by Nancy Kwan, a pioneering Asian in Hollywood.

Movie Is Fun, Even If Plot Is Ridiculous

It is really saying something about this cast that you end up having so much fun watching them that you don't care about things like the villain being able to see practically anything on his monitors from multiple changing angles without the need for cameras to relay those images.

It's lucky for him he had those magical invisible cameras though, as everyone who acts as a lookout in this movie is terrible at their job. The guys protecting the gold on the train don't see six dudes in dark suits lying in the grass, and the guy watching the villain's villa lets a bad guy—who is not sneaking or making any attempt to hide—walk up to within five feet of him and shoot him.

You forgive the fact that one character is killed in what is basically a gag from a Daffy Duck cartoon or that Matt is at one point trapped in what is essentially a Tilt O' Whirl. Although that last bit does lead to one of the few actual clever twists of the movie.

Sharon Tate battling Nancy Kwan, both of whom were trained by Bruce Lee.

Sharon Tate battling Nancy Kwan, both of whom were trained by Bruce Lee.

Sharon Tate Deserved Better

One thing that was disappointing was the treatment of Sharon Tate's character. Not that I expected any feminist themes in a movie of this era, but I did kind of expect to discover that the bumbling doofus persona was an act put on by a highly capable agent.

But no, instead they stuck with her being a ditzy broad character, who wants to sleep with Matt despite his constantly insulting her. She also seems to get more shrill as the movie goes on. And his insults aren't in any way clever or fun, just sort of mean.

Again, if you're willing to just enjoy a goofy movie with lots of attractive ladies to look at (this movie has to have some kind if record for close up shot of women's asses), then the movie is fun enough. If that's not your bag, no one can fault you and you should probably just skip this one.

Manson Family Ruins Everything

One final sad note, the credits mention the next movie will be called The Ravagers. That move was never made, in part because Dean Martin was so upset about Sharon Tate's murder by the Manson family just months after this movie's release.

© 2022 Gracchus Gruad

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