The Derek Flint franchise didn’t last long; the success of 1966’s Our Man Flint led to a very quick turnaround for this sequel, which doesn’t offer the same large-scale climax and feels more like a prequel with reduced stakes and smaller set-pieces. In Like Flint brings back most of the same elements, from Lee J Cobb as boss Lloyd C Cramden to Jerry Goldmith’s soaring score, but the effect, while diminished, still has enough pep to keep things watchable.
If the first film saw Flint as a women’s liberator, In Like Flint sees him caught up in a war between men and women, specifically the Fabulous Face organisation created by women to attack the patriarchy. Based on the evidence of this film, that kind of overthrowing of male oppression might well be a good thing; men seem stuffy and complacent, while the feminist rebels are well attired, forward thinking and have considerable agency. They kidnap the US president mid-golf swing and plan to use him to commandeer nuclear missiles to achieve their goals; there’s only one man for the job, and Derek Flint (James Coburn) is pressed into service.
Fabulous Face might have their hearts in the right place by 2019 standards, but their methods are clearly oppressive; brainwashing women with subliminal messages transmitted through hair-dryers in salons. Such ingenuity comes in flashes in Gordon Douglas’s film, which otherwise gets bogged down in such resistable trivia as Lee J Cobb in drag. Crucially, Flint himself spends a lot of time off-screen, leaving a number of scenes high and dry and without purpose. Excursions to Moscow to see Flint perform at the ballet are unconvincingly rendered, and despite the Cinemascope vistas, there’s usually not much to see other than half-dressed women sidling up to Flint with seduction or deception on their minds.
In Like Flint wasn’t as bad as I remembered; the glossy look, daft ideas and Coburn’s super-cool performance keep things on track. But it’s a shame that Flint will always be remembered as an ersatz Bond; the character had mileage, but In Like Flint lacks the budget to deliver on it’s hero’s debonair promise.