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Murderers' Row (film): Wikis


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Murderers' Row

film poster by Robert McGinnis
Directed by Henry Levin
Produced by Irving Allen
Euan Lloyd
Written by Donald Hamilton (novel)
Herbert Baker (screenplay)
Starring Dean Martin
Karl Malden
Music by Lalo Schifrin
Cinematography Sam Leavitt
Distributed by Columbia Pictures
Release date(s) 20 December 1966
Running time 105 min
Country Flag of the United States.svg
Preceded by The Silencers
Followed by The Ambushers

Murderers' Row (sometimes spelled Murderer's Row) is the title of a 1966 American comedy-spy-fi motion picture starring Dean Martin and very loosely based upon the Matt Helm spy novel Murderers' Row by Donald Hamilton, which was published in 1962.



The film begins with a shot of the United States Capitol being destroyed. It turns out to have been a model at a demonstration of a heliobeam[1] weapon in the headquarters of the Brotherhood of International Government and Order ("BIG O"). BIG O is a One World organisation with a goal of world domination that previously appeared in The Silencers.

With the aid of a mole, BIG O conducts a worldwide assassination campaign against various secret agents working for ICE (Intelligence Counter Espionage). Matt Helm fakes his own death, as in the next year's Bond film, You Only Live Twice, that also would begin by faking the lead character's demise and having his funeral. Helm meets his "M"-type boss, Mac (James Gregory) to receive his twin mission briefing. Helm is to track down a Dr. Solaris (Richard Eastham), who has developed a powerful heliobeam weapon that uses the concentrated power of sunlight in a beam capable of mass destruction. Helm is told if he can not rescue Solaris he is to kill him, and if captured to kill himself, lest BIG O brainwash him.

Posing as an American gangster named Jim Peters, Helm travels to the French Riviera to follow his only lead, Solaris's daughter, Suzie (Ann-Margret).


The film was the second of four produced by Albert R. Broccoli's former partner Irving Allen and Martin's Meadway-Claude Production company for Columbia Pictures in the mid-1960s starring Martin as secret agent Matt Helm. Euan Lloyd, a former Warwick Films publicity specialist and producer of The Poppy Is Also a Flower, assisted Allen in production chores. Like its predecessor The Silencers, it took a much more light-hearted approach to the source material; treating it more as a gadget-laden spoof of James Bond films than Hamilton's original serious spy story. Unlike Hamilton's world weary professional, Martin plays Helm with his own persona; a fun-loving, wise-cracking alcoholic playboy.

Co-starring is Karl Malden as Dr. Julian Wall, whom New York Times film critic Bosley Crowther describes as a "Kansas type Dr. No".[2] Also in the film are Tom Reese as his Oddjob-type henchman named "Ironhead" and Beverly Adams returns as secretary Lovey Kravezit, as do the Slaygirls, a group of beautiful and dangerous women. Columbia starlet Camilla Sparv plays Malden's assistant Coco Duquette and Soon Tek-Oh makes a brief appearance.

The first script was by Oscar Saul, who had written The Silencers. Herbert Baker, who had received a screen credit after he wrote the final version of The Silencers script, was brought in to rewrite Saul's first draft of Murderers' Row and received sole credit.[3] Baker had written several Martin and Lewis screenplays and was a writer for The Dean Martin Show.

The film was originally intended to be shot on location, but Martin, who also co-produced the film, refused to go to Europe. A second unit team shot sequences in Monte Carlo instead. Malden had the idea that his character speaking in a different accent every time he spoke would be amusing.[4] The then new hovercraft appearing in the film's sea and land chase through the streets of Monte Carlo was provided by Hoverwork Hovercraft as their first assignment.[5] Henry Levin who had previously directed the Dino DeLaurentiis superspy film Kiss the Girls and Make Them Die for Columbia directed and would also direct the following Matt Helm film The Ambushers.

Like its predecessor, the film is full of jokes,[6] bizarre secret weapons like a modified AR-7 pistol configuration that only fires several seconds after the trigger is pulled, plenty of beautiful women, and fashionable mod 1966 costumes by Moss Mabry. The titles are again by Wayne Fitzgerald.

Martin and Levin made several shorts for the United States Treasury on the set of the film.


The film score is by Lalo Schifrin, replacing Elmer Bernstein. In addition to the driving main theme and spy time score, Schifrin includes some jazz pieces with one having a cover version by Bud Shank as well as a song with lyrics by Howard Greenfield ("I'm Not the Marrying Kind") for Martin that, due to contractual rights, didn't appear on the soundtrack album. It did however appear on Martin's LP, Happiness is Dean Martin.[7].

Billy Strange slightly changed Schifrin's main title to be an "original" composition entitled "Spanish Spy" on his James Bond Double Feature album.

The pop group Dino, Desi & Billy (which featured Martin's son, Dean Paul Martin) make an appearance and sing the Boyce & Hart song, "If You're Thinkin' What I'm Thinkin'".


Released only ten months after The Silencers, Murderers' Row was the eleventh highest grossing film of the year.[8] The film received 1967 second place Laurel Awards for Best Action Drama and Best Action Performance for Martin.[9]

Murderers' Row was followed by The Ambushers (1967) and The Wrecking Crew (1969). A fifth film, The Ravagers with Sharon Tate reprising her Wrecking Crew character and Dean Martin doing a dual role, was announced but never produced. Martin refused to make The Ravagers so Columbia reportedly held up Martin's share of the profits on Murderers' Row.[10]

The 1960s Helm spoofs seemed to become the template of the 1970s Bond films and in some cases Helm film setpieces were copied by the later Bonds. In Diamonds Are Forever, SPECTRE threatens the world with a heliobeam device from an orbiting satellite. The electromagnetic demise of Ironhead in the film happens to the giant "Jaws" villain in The Spy Who Loved Me, the hovercraft chase on sea and land reoccurs with a gadget filled gondola in Moonraker with that film's evil mastermind Hugo Drax making jokes similar to Julian Wall.


  1. ^ Heliobeaming
  2. ^
  3. ^ Finding Aid for the Herbert Baker Papers, 1939-1978
  4. ^ Malden, Karl. When Do I Start?, Simon & Schuster, 1997.
  5. ^
  6. ^ Murderers' Row (1966) - Memorable quotes
  7. ^ LP Discography
  8. ^ p.41 Lisanti, Tom; Paul, Louis; O'Neill, Eileen Film Fatales: Women in Espionage Films and Television 1962-1973 2002 McFarland
  9. ^ Murderers' Row (1966) - Awards
  10. ^ Tosches, Nick Dino Living High in the Dirty Business of Dreams 1999 Delta

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