It all started with Errol Flynn. Flynn, accused of statutory rape by two under-age girls in November 1942 was defended by (among others) the American Boys’ Club for the Defense of Errol Flynn. That’s right: ABCDEF. One member of the organization was William F. Buckley, Jr. Ah Buckley…not the heroic Bill Buckley who died in Beirut (after helping to expose Project MKUltra). Nay, we speak of the harpsichord man. The Knight of Malta (like Ronald Reagan).
In 1943 (that is, the next year) the Buckley in question would go from ABCDEF (Z.O.W.I.E. anyone?) to being a student at the National Autonomous University of Mexico. After a short stay, he entered (?) WWII out of U.S. Army Officer Candidate School and soon enough (at war’s end) was at Yale and in the loving arms of Skull and Bones (being a member in good standing).
Buckley was recruited by the CIA in 1951. The story goes that he served just two years, but strikingly one of those two was back in Mexico City as a “political action specialist” in the Special Activities Division under E. Howard Hunt.
Now there’s a name… Hunt, along with G. Gordon Liddy (what is it with these guys and first initials?), engineered the first Watergate burglary on behalf of President Richard Nixon and his administration. That is to say: in 1972 the President of the United States of America’s “people” broke into the headquarters of the Democratic National Committee. In on this whole thing was another fellow keen on the aforementioned self-referent nomenclature: L. Patrick Gray (the acting head of the FBI at the time).
This immense tangent serves to set the stage for what is not really that great a movie: In Like Flint. Yes, the phrase is thought to have originated in reference to good old Errol Flynn (the demigod [not to be confused with demagogue] of our friends the ABCDEF).
All of this is to say that the “plot” of In Like Flint is beyond fanciful (and utterly jaw-dropping in its dated sexism). Yet, every day the machinations of strange organizations with nefarious plans swirl around us in orbits mostly unnoticed.
I must say that I preferred the direction of Daniel Mann’s Our Man Flint to the staging here of Gordon Douglas. Don’t get me wrong: there are some priceless moments herein. At one point James Coburn utters the phrase “an actor as President…” (as if the whole thing seemed too preposterous to be real). Of course the U.S. would go on to actually have an actor as President when Reagan assumed the position for the majority of the 1980s.
The tape recorders in hair dryers idea bears a spooky resemblance to what the other Bill Buckley observed at McGill University in Montreal (under the horrific guidance of Dr. Ewen Cameron): that is to say MKUltra.
More light-hearted is Coburn’s hilarious “dolphin talk” near the top of the film. Fans of The Illuminatus Trilogy will doubtless find this particularly poignant.
Spy Chief Framed As Libertine… This brings to mind the strange case of Gen. David Petraeus. In the film, intelligence (?) chief Lloyd Cramden is stoned and dethroned in just such a manner by a junta of which Gen. Carter is head. Once again Flint shows his boundless talents (including a stint as hypnotist and another as a ballet dancer). Rahm Emanuel would surely be proud. Leave it to the polymath Flint to deduce female cosmonauts from a cardiograph (80 BPM) on Earth.
Coburn as a Cuban is definitely a knee-slapper. And there is plenty of eye candy (as in the appropriately-named Operation Smooch). All in all this is great downtime for spy and enthusiast alike.