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Film / The Wrecking Crew

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The Wrecking Crew is a 1968 film, starring Dean Martin, Elke Sommer, Nancy Kwan, Tina Louise, and Sharon Tate. It is the last entry in a series of American comedic Spy Fiction films featuring Martin as a secret agent named Matt Helm, a spoof of the James Bond films.

Helm (Martin) is assigned by his secret agency, ICE, to bring down an evil count named Contini (Nigel Green), who is trying to collapse the world economy by stealing a billion dollars in gold. Helm travels to Denmark, where he is given a guide, Freya Carlson (Tate), a gorgeous but bumbling woman from a Danish tourism bureau. Equally gorgeous women are Contini's accomplices, who attempt to foil Helm's plans.

This was the last film of Tate's to be released in her lifetime before her murder at the hands of Charles Manson's followers on August 9, 1969. Excerpts from the film are prominently featured in Quentin Tarantino's Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, which is set at the time of said murder.


The Troping Crew:

  • Aristocrats Are Evil: Contini, the Big Bad of the film, is a count.
  • Aside Glance: Matt looks at the camera in exasperation as Freya takes her time putting on a hat when they're in the middle of being chased.
  • Bomb Whistle: The explosive gadgets Matt wields make the iconic whistling noise when activated (they don't have to be thrown). At one point that's how he realizes he accidentally handed Freya a bomb instead of a handkerchief.
  • Captain Obvious: Freya is "afraid the car is broken". No shit, she just threw a bomb at it.
  • Clock King: Contini is obsessed with ensuring his plans adhere to his projected schedule.
    Contini: Ten seconds behind schedule.
    Linka: Is that catastrophic?
    Contini: Yes. I deplore sloppiness.
  • Crash-Into Hello:
    • Freya Carlson introduces herself this way to Matt Helm when she first meets him.
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    • As does Lola Medina. But whereas it was purely accidental with Freya, with Lola it was very much a ploy to seduce Matt.
  • Cute, but Cacophonic: Matt and Contini tend to visibly wince and sometimes cover their ears when Freya gets loud.
  • Cute Clumsy Girl: Freya bumbles her way through the movie. She's even introduced tripping all over herself. Matt is annoyed by her, but not enough to prevent him from falling in love.
  • Designated Girl Fight: Whereas Matt has several scenes of beating up and getting beat up by Contini's goons, Freya's only full-on fight scene is a karate bout with Yu-Rang.
  • Double Entendre: Matt takes issue with Freya insisting she was ordered to "work under him".
    Freya: I was told to work directly under you and you refused to cooperate.
    Matt: You say that again and I'm gonna teach you to watch your language.
  • Dragon Lady: Yu-Rang is main villain Contini's Asian female minion, skilled in martial arts (as seen in her fight with Freya), up for some sexual trickery (she seduces Matt with the intent of stabbing him), and frequently wears clothes that at least resemble qipao, with a 60's twist.
  • Evil Brit: Taken to logic-defying levels; the Big Bad Massimo Contini has an Italian name, but the accent he speaks with is definitely British. The good guys all have American accents, even Freya who's supposedly a British agent.
  • Feng Schwing: A rare example of a female, Lola Medina, having a room like this (including mood lighting), which she uses to try to seduce Helm.
  • Girl of the Week: Matt flirts around with four girls in this movie. The main one is his unhelpful ally Freya Carlson, and then there are the vamps Linka Karensky, Wen Yu-Rang and Lola Medina. Out of the four, only Freya survives the movie and there were even plans to make her a recurring character due to her popularity, but due to Tate's death and the movies getting canned as a result, this didn't happen.
  • Heel–Face Door-Slam: Lola offers to work with Matt against her former boss/lover Contini. However her motivations are not very noble, being driven by jealousy that she was replaced with Linka. Whether her siding with Matt would have led to a full face turn will never be known because she is killed in an explosion just as they celebrate their agreement.
  • High-Speed Hijack: After using a ploy to slow it down, eight of Count Contini's men climb aboard a moving train, kill the guards and hijack its cargo: A billion dollars in gold.
  • In Name Only: The Matt Helm book series also had an entry titled The Wrecking Crew, but it seems as if all that this film has taken from it is the title and a vaguely Scandinavian setting (the book is set in Sweden, while the film is set in Denmark). The book's plot is about Matt trying to assassinate a Russian agent.
  • Interrupted Intimacy: Freya interrupts nearly all of Matt's encounters with Contini's henchwomen.
  • Leitmotif:
    • Matt's is a sensual and relaxed lounge-sounding tune.
    • Freya's is groovy and high-energy.note 
    • Yu-Rang's is an instrumental version of the theme song "House of 7 Joys".
    • Lola Medina's is flamenco.
  • Let's Fight Like Gentlemen: Freya and Yu-Rang salute each other before fighting, despite being on opposite sides and having no friendliness for each other (and also, Matt is fighting for his life at the time).
  • Letting Her Hair Down: Freya spends the first half of the movie in modest clothes, pinned-up hair and unflattering large-framed glasses. She definitively loses those last two after she and Matt go to his apartment and bask in their sexual tension after dodging Linka's assassination attempt.
  • Meaningful Name: In a story ostensibly set in Denmark, the main Girl of the Week's name is Freya, after the Norse goddess of love and beauty.
  • The Mountains of Illinois: This film may have been the direct inspiration for the "England looks in no way like Southern California" gag in Austin Powers. The movie takes place in Denmark. Some portions of the film, though perhaps only second-unit stuff, appear to have been shot in Denmark. The finale, however, with its exciting car chase along twisty mountain roads that ends with a confrontation on a cable car connecting two of the Danish Alps... wasn't. In reality, the highest point in Denmark, Møllehøj, is 170.86m high. The caption for Wikipedia's picture of Møllehøj, notes that the actual high point is "obscured by the farm buildings" in the picture's foreground. California locations doubled for the "Danish Alps".
  • Multiple Gunshot Death: Linka and a nameless henchman meet their demise through machine gun fire in a trap meant for the heroes.
  • Murder by Mistake: Linka and another henchman of Contini's are mistakenly shot to death in a trap meant for Matt at the House of 7 Joys.
  • Not Even Bothering with the Accent: Whether Freya is supposed to be British or Danish, the accent she speaks with is definitely American, her actress' default.
  • Plucky Girl: Freya is determined to accomplish the mission and certainly seems more serious than Matt about it. Her repeated mess-ups also barely put a dent in her ability to be chipper even under serious circumstances.
  • Rule of Pool: Matt and Freya pass by Contini's pool while escaping his mansion and Freya takes the time to shove Linka into it.
  • Shave And A Haircut: Freya victoriously honks the car horn to this tune after getting Matt away from Linka.
  • She Cleans Up Nicely: Matt is floored when Freya gets rid of her glasses, pinned-up hair and somewhat conservative outfit, which made her seem less overtly sexy than the other female characters. The "transformation" sticks for the rest of the film.
  • Skewed Priorities: Freya genuinely admiring Yu-Rang's fashion sense after saving Matt from an assassination attempt, Freya taking her time in putting on a hat when they're in the middle of a car chase, Freya wondering whether her hair is a mess after she nearly fell off a speeding train...
  • Smart Ball: Freya is very competent at the House of 7 Joys, as Matt lampshades, managing to fight off some goons all on her own. She is never so competent again (except for when she fights Yu-Rang) and Matt sarcastically quips it must've been the wig she was wearing for the mission.
  • Tap on the Head: Freya is fond of using karate chops on the opponent's neck, though due to her clumsiness they're usually ineffective, or hit someone she didn't mean to, like Matt.
  • Train Job: The film features the train robbery of a fortune in gold bullion.
  • Unwanted Assistance: Freya is sent to aid Matt in his mission, but her clumsiness often creates more problems, as Matt keeps lampshading.
  • V-Sign: Freya gives one to Matt as she waits in the car after he gets away from Linka. He responds with the insulting variation of the sign. Freya is unfazed and winks at him.
  • "Will Return" Caption: At the end of the film, there's a caption that says "Matt Helm will return in The Ravagers". The Ravagers would have been the fifth Matt Helm film, but it was never made.
  • Woman Scorned: Lola Medina was Contini's squeeze before Linka came along. She tries to partner up with Matt to get revenge on Contini for dumping her, but she's killed in an explosion set up by him before that goes anywhere.