25 SECRET AGENT MOVIES FROM THE SWINGIN’ 60S!
Secret agent and spy films have been with us since silent movies. But it wasn’t until the 1960s that it became a craze like Beatlemania! James Bond was the forerunner but he was by no means the only secret agent. I have compiled a list of 25 of the hundreds of secret agent/spy movies made between 1962 and 1969. Also these are American and British productions. Next time I’ll do eurospy movies for you.
DR. NO (1962)
In his first movie James Bond seeks answers in Jamaica to a mystery involving the disappearance of a colleague and the disruption of American missiles.
Although certainly not the first secret agent movie ever made it is the one that started the explosion of spy movies in the 1960s – an explosion we’re still feeling right now. For that alone this film should get a looksee. On top of that it is a damn fine spy thriller and one of the better James Bond movies.
I give DR. NO Four Gray Geeks.
FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE (1963)
James Bond willingly walks into a S.P.E.C.T.R.E. trap when he sees the Russian beauty sent to trap him – all in order to obtain a Soviet encryption device.
Rarely are sequels better than the first but this film proves the exception. It also has Daniela Bianchi as Tatiana Romanova. I spent my teen years in love with this woman.
I give FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE Four and a Half Gray Geeks.
James Bond is sent to investigate a gold smuggler named appropriately enough Goldfinger. He then uncovers a plot to not rob Fort Knox but blow it up and radioactively contaminate U.S. gold reserves.
Okay, if FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE was better than DR. NO then this one is better than the both of them. Come see the movie that invented the word Blockbuster.
I give GOLDFINGER Four and a Half Gray Geeks.
THE IPCRESS FILE (1965)
Its swingin’ London and a counter espionage agent named Happy Palmer has to deal with a hated boss and red tape while investigating the kidnapping and brainwashing of British scientists.
Okay this film stands out for several reasons. Some of them are even good. First it stars Michael Caine one of Sean Connery’s best friends. Second, it was produced by Harry Saltzman one of the producers of James Bond. Third, it led to four more Harry Palmer movies. Ya gotta love it!
I give THE IPCRESS FILE Three and a Half Gray Geeks.
THE LIQUIDATOR (1965)
The head of British Intelligence has too many leaks and wants them plugged. He then has Colonel Mostyn – one of his section chiefs – to find a man who can eliminate the leaks without any fuss. They want James Bond. Instead they get Boysie Oakes who is as not James Bond as you can get. Oy Vay!
This is one of my favorite secret agent movies of the 60s. It is funny, it is exciting, and it hits all the right buttons. This was supposed to be the first of a series but it never happened. By the way, Rod Taylor was offered the role of James Bond and turned it down. Boy did he make a mistake.
I give THE LIQUIDATOR Four Gray Geeks.
THE 2ND BEST SECRET AGENT IN THE WHOLE WIDE WORLD (1965)
British secret agent Charles Vine (say it fast and it sounds like James Bond) is assigned to bodyguard a Swedish scientist in town to negotiate the sale of ReGrav (whatever that is). Bad guys have already killed his brother and it is up to our dashing hero to keep him alive no matter what they throw at him.
This was a film entitled LICENSE TO KILL that Joseph E. Levine bought, changed the name, got Sammy Davis Jr. to do the theme song, and promoted the heck out of to become a hit. How much of a hit? There are two more Charles Vine movies after this one. By the way our hero’s gun is a broomhandle Mauser. Way cool!
I give THE 2ND BEST SECRET AGENT etcetera etcetera Three and a Half Gray Geeks.
James Bond is in the Bahamas to stop S.P.E.C.T.R.E. from using two stolen atomic warheads.
With all the competition this movie was geared to remind us that James Bond is still the best. This is one of my favorite Bond movies and an incredibly enjoyable romp. But I have to admit it does come across as more of a lighthearted adventure than a spy thriller.
I give THUNDERBALL Four Gray Geeks.
LIGHTNING BOLT (1966)
Special agent Harry Sennet is sent undercover as a rich playboy with an unlimited expense account. His mission is to stop a megalomaniac from destroying a NASA moon project.
What made Harry Sennet so special was his unlimited expense account. He actually pulls out his checkbook and tries to bribe the bad guy to stop. I had never seen that before or since. Harry is played by Anthony Eisely one of my favorite actors so I have a soft spot for this only fair movie.
I give LIGHTNING BOLT Two and a Half Gray Geeks.
OUR MAN FLINT (1966)
Three mad scientists use their control over the weather to impose their will on the world. It is up to superspy (emphasis on the super) Derek Flint to save the world and look good doing it.
This is arguably the best of the American secret agent movies made in the wake of the James Bond craze. James Coburn as Flint never looked better and the fight scenes are superb!
I give OUR MAN FLINT Four and a Half Gray Geeks.
KISS THE GIRLS AND MAKE THEM DIE (1966)
American secret agent Kelly (no first name given) is tasked to stop a madman who is secretly planning on sterilizing the world and repopulating it with beautiful women of his own choice. Hey! Isn’t that the plot of MOONRAKER 13 years later?
Mike Connors was all set to play Matt Helm when Dean Martin entered the picture. As a conciliation prize they gave him this movie. For that reason it’s a should see. Otherwise the film is forgettable.
I give KISS THE GIRLS AND MAKE THEM DIE Two and a Half Gray Geeks.
FUNERAL IN BERLIN (1966)
Harry Palmer is sent to East Berlin to bring back a high-ranking Communist defector. It’s when the bodies start dropping that he realizes things are more complicated than that.
The second of the Harry Palmer movies and my personal favorite. The tone is completely different from that of a James Bond movie and things are more serious. What keeps it from being depressing like many serious spy thrillers is Michael Caine.
I give FUNERAL IN BERLIN Four Gray Geeks.
THE SILENCERS (1966)
Matt Helm is a retired agent who doesn’t want to un-retire. But the bad guys won’t leave him alone. He is then forced to stop the evil organization BIG O from irradiating the central U.S. and starting World War III.
The first of the Matt Helm movies. If you like serious spy films, if you like dark plots, if you like realistic intrigue – boy! is this film not for you. But if you want a good old-fashioned romp with action and laughs this is the perfect picture.
I give THE SILENCERS Four and a Half Gray Geeks.
MODESTY BLAISE (1966)
Modesty Blaise is a female secret agent tasked by the British government with stopping a criminal from stealing diamonds that are supposed to go to a sheikh.
I’m a big fan of the Modesty Blaise character and have read her books as well as graphic novels. That is why I included here her. That and the fact that she is the only female secret agent in the bunch. As to this movie – it seems as if the filmmakers were having an LSD trip when they made the movie and the only way to understand it is to go on an acid trip yourself. Or better yet just read the book.
I give MODESTY BLAISE Half a Gray Geek and if I could go lower I would.
MURDERER’S ROW (1966)
Matt Helm’s second mission has him seeking a missing scientist with the secret of how to burn up Washington DC. Along for the rise is his very sexy daughter.
This is my favorite of the Matt Helm movies. Okay he does seem to be robbing the cradle a bit with Ann Margaret. Who cares?
I give MURDERER’S ROW Four and a Half Gray Geeks.
WHERE THE SPIES ARE (1966)
Doctor Jason Love is recruited by British Intelligence to go on a very secret, very important mission in the Middle East. His mission is complicated by a very beautiful female agent and the fact that real spying ain’t like in the movies.
This is a nice little spy thriller. Not award winning but fun. It was meant to be the first of a series but nothing came of it. By the way, David Niven who plays the hero Doctor Jason Love was Ian Fleming’s choice to play James Bond.
I give WHERE THE SPIES ARE Three and a Half Gray Geeks.
YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE (1967)
James Bond is in Japan and looking for trouble. SPECTRE is messing with American and Russian space flights hoping to start World War II. Bond and the Japanese are out to stop them because that ain’t nice.
Sean Connery’s final romp as James Bond. Unfortunately this movie has more in common with an episode of THUNDERBIRDS ARE GO! than anything secret agent.
I give YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE Three and a Half Gray Geeks.
IN LIKE FLINT (1967)
Derek Flint is back! His old boss loses three minutes while playing golf with the President. If it had been Trump he would have lost a lot more. Flint figures out the President has been replaced by a double and sets out to stop a bevy of beauties from taking over the world.
Most times sequels are not as good as the first. This is one of those times. James Coburn is still great, the women are incredible, and the action spectacular. But the original was a spoof of James Bond and this one seems to be trying to spoof itself and therefore becomes laughable.
I give IN LIKE FLINT Three Gray Geeks.
THE AMBUSHERS (1967)
Matt Helm is back for some undercover action! The U.S. has a flying saucer they made – I kid you not – and someone hijacked it. Matt has to get it back and has a blast doing it.
This is my least favorite Matt Helm movie. Let me tell you even a bad Matt Helm movie is a good movie. The Slaygirls alone are worth the price of admission. And then there is Senta Berger – lay still my beating heart.
I give THE AMBUSHERS Three and a Half Gray Geeks.
BILLION DOLLAR BRAIN (1967)
British secret agent Harry Palmer is brought back into the fold to foil a plot to destroy communism using a super-computer. This time around the Americans are the bad guys.
This is my least favorite of the Harry Palmer movies. One of the charms of a Harry Palmer film is that it is realistic as compared to James Bond. That is not the case here and poor Harry seems to have been dragged into a Bond adventure and it doesn’t fit.
I give BILLION DOLLAR BRAIN Two and a Half Gray Geeks.
DANGER ROUTE (1967)
Jonas Wilde is a British government assassin who kills with his bare hands. He is told to kill a defector held by the CIA but this straightforward assignment turns complicated with double agents and no one you can trust.
It is based on a book THE ELIMINATOR. It was meant to be the first of a series. It flopped and there went that idea. The book was better.
I give DANGER ROUTE Two Gray Geeks.
DEADLIER THAN THE MALE (1967)
Bulldog Drummond fights to stop archenemy Carl Petersen from using beautiful women to kill!
Richard Johnson, who also starred in DANGER ROUTE, plays Bulldog Drummond. Johnson had been the director’s choice to play James Bond in DR. NO but lost out to Sean Connery. Here we get an idea of how he would have played James Bond. Not bad at all. The movie is pretty good as well and you can’t beat Elke Sommers, Silva Koscina, and Suzanna Leigh in bikinis.
I give DEADLIER THAN THE MALE Three and a Half Gray Geeks.
British agent Charles Hood is assigned to stop an eccentric madman who’s into pornography and branching out into stealing and selling state secrets.
This one is brought to you by the people who made the Matt Helm movies. Unfortunately it lacks the charm of Matt Helm. After Dean Martin quit Matt Helm this was supposed to be the first of a series of Charles Hood films. That didn’t happen. Vince Edwards hurt his back before filming the climax and that is why it comes across as kind of lame.
I give HAMMERHEAD Three Gray Geeks.
THE WRECKING CREW (1968)
A crazy power mad Count steals 1 billion dollars from a moving train and he really thinks the United States is going to let him get away with it. American and British forces team up and Matt Helm is sent to Copenhagen to teach him the error of his ways. Along the way there are girls, gadgets, guns, and fun!
This is the last of the Matt Helm movies. So sad to see them go. Dean Martin’s co-star in this movie was Sharon Tate. After her death and the way she died Dean Martin’s heart wasn’t in it anymore and he decided to quit. Rather than replace him the filmmakers decided not to make anymore. But at least the series ended with a bang because this is one of the very best. Elke Sommars and Nigel Green make a terrific bad guys couple. The locales are awesome and the scenery great. Dean Martin plays Matt Helm as, well, Dean Martin plays Matt Helm as Dean Martin – which is what you expect. If you have seen the other Matt Helm movies you know what I mean. Check out the fights scenes that were choreographed by Bruce Lee himself. I kid you not!
I give THE WRECKING CREW Four and a Half Gray Geeks.
A MAN CALLED DAGGER (1968)
A mad scientist in a wheelchair wants to revive the Third Reich through mind control. American agent Richard Dagger is assigned to stop him. Along the way we are treated to girls, guns, and giants before a man called Dagger makes the world safe again.
By the time of this movie the secret agent craze of the 60s was beginning to wind down and you can tell by this picture. Paul Mantee gives it a terrific effort and tries to James Bond-like. Jan Murray is a great comedian but makes a lousy super-villain bad guy. See Richard Kiel as the giant henchman years before playing Jaws for James Bond. By the way the poster art was done by Frank Frazetta. Yes, THE Frank Frazetta. I kid you not.
I give A MAN CALLED DAGGER Two Gray Geeks for effort.
ON HER MAJESTY’S SECRET SERVICE (1969)
James Bond is back and on the trail of his archenemy Blofeld who seems to be running an allergy clinic in Switzerland. A clinic filled with beautiful women from around the world. While trying to figure out what Blofeld is doing our hero falls in love. I kid you not. But James Bond doesn’t let being in love stop the girls, gadgets, and guns.
This is George Lazenby’s one and only appearance as James Bond. Too bad because if he had stuck around he would have become the best. The love interest is Diana Rigg – perfect casting. Blofeld is Telly Savalas – more perfect casting. The action is amazing and the ski chases will take you breath away. This is hands down one of he best Bond movies ever made.
I give ON HER MAJESTY’S SECRET SERVICE Five Gray Geeks.
This one gets an honorable mention because as much as it is a part of the 60s secret agent craze it didn’t come out until 1972.
INNOCENT BYSTANDERS (1972)
Battered British secret agent John Craig must retrieve a defecting Soviet scientist from Turkey. Along the way a pretty innocent female bystander gets swept up in a mess she had nothing to do with.
This is another one of those movies based on a series of novels but no movie series came out of it. Which is a shame because this picture is really good. Stanley Baker plays a great John Craig and with his mustache he kind of looks like Sean Connery. By the way, Stanley Baker is one of those actors who was offered the role of James Bond but turned it down.
I give INNOCENT BYSTANDERS Four and a Half Gray Geeks.
That is it for now gang thanks for watching, erm . . . reading. I hope you enjoyed it and I hope it made you want to check out some of these movies. Until next time happy trails and hasta la vista.