During the sixties there were literally hundreds of spy spoofs made following the popularity of the early James Bond films. One of the silliest of these was Norman Abbott’s Last of the Secret Agents? (1966), which was the first and last film that attempted to make cinema stars out of the comedy team Allen & Rossi (Marty Allen & Steve Rossi). Allen & Rossi were a comedic duo that became popular on the Ed Sullivan Show during The Beatles’ heyday and they were patterned after Martin & Lewis (Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis), but their style of comedy was becoming rather dated as the sixties wore on. Last of the Secret Agents? was butchered by critics on its initial release and Allen & Rossi never appeared in a film together again. They ended their partnership in 1969 and Last of the Secret Agents? was basically forgotten.

The years have not been kind to the film and as far as I know Last of the Secret Agents? has never been released on video, much less DVD. A quick look at the film’s IMDb page shows that most viewers have given the film a 3 star rating out of a possible 10 and the comments are less then flattering, but I happen to think the movie is worth a look if you enjoy slapstick style humor and silly sight gags, as well as sixties spy spoofs. The movie doesn’t contain much comedic gold, but it’s also not the unwatchable mess that so many critics seem to think it is. If you enjoy Mel Brooks’ style of humor or the Austin Powers films you’ll probably find yourself laughing a few times while watching Last of the Secret Agents? and if you like funny spy flicks with good soundtracks and stylish wardrobes, then you might actually enjoy this silly film as much as I do.

Last of the Secret Agents? (1966)

Last of the Secret Agents? (1966)

Last of the Secret Agents? (1966)

The plot involves Marty Allen and Steve Rossi as two American ex-pats looking for work in Europe. They soon discover that they’ve been unwillingly used as couriers for art thieves who are part of an evil organization known as THEM. They get recruited by the GGI (Good Guys Inc.) and help concoct a plan to put an end to the criminal activities of THEM. Naturally lots of chase scenes and fights take place in the process. Like any good spy film there are plenty of beautiful women that help and hinder the two stars. Last of the Secret Agents? also contains a musical number performed by Steve Rossi and it ends with an appearance of Allen & Rossi on the Ed Sullivan Show.

Allen & Rossi try hard to make the film work but they’re no Martin & Lewis and they end up being one of the film’s main problems. They don’t seem to have much chemistry here and the jokes they deliver often fall flat. I’m not sure if it’s the fault of the comedy team or the writers but it’s a shame that the script didn’t give them an opportunity to show off whatever made audiences enjoy their stand up act so much. Since Allen & Rossi are the stars of the movie I think it’s easy for viewers to get caught up in their rather lackluster delivery and overlook all the funny performances from their costars, which is a shame.

The talented character actor Theodore Marcuse is really terrific here and especially funny as the evil mastermind Zoltan Schubach who heads THEM. His character is obviously inspired by the notorious James Bond villain known as Ernst Stavro Blofeld and I’m sure Mike Myers was inspired by Theodore Marcuse’s performance as Zoltan Schubach in Last of the Secret Agents? when he created the character of Dr. Evil for the Austin Powers movies. The great British actor John Williams lends a nice sense of gravitas to the proceedings and the very funny Harvey Korman even shows up in a brief but memorable bit as an actor playing a frazzled German Colonel.

Top: Nancy Sinatra and Carmen Dell’Orefice
Bottom: Phyllis Davis and Thordis Brandt

The film also features plenty of lovely female co-stars. Nancy Sinatra gets top billing here, but unfortunately she doesn’t get enough screen time. She plays Steve Rossi’s neglected love interest and she ends up spending most of her time in the film trying to get him to notice her. Rossi is a good-looking guy but I couldn’t believe that he would turn down Nancy’s marriage proposals even if she would have gotten in the way of his swinging lifestyle. Fashion icon Carmen Dell’Orefice is really wonderful as the wicked Baby May Zoftig and she vamps it up on the set as much as possible. Unfortunately she only has a few lines in the film and I wish the director had given her more to do. Other sixties starlets and femme fatales in Last of the Secret Agents? include Russ Meyer’s lovely wife Edy Williams and the beautiful actress Thordis Brandt.

Besides the lackluster performances of the films stars Allen & Rossi, Last of the Secret Agents? is not without some other obvious problems. The stale looking set designs often make the movie look more like a television production instead of a feature length film. The movie would have really benefited from being shot on location in Europe. Last but not least, someone also should have hired a dialogue coach for the cast. There are a lot of actors in the film trying to sound like they weren’t born in America and most of them fail terribly. Since Last of the Secret Agents? is a comedy I found it easy to overlook the bad accents but they can still be a little jarring at times.

With all its problems, Last of the Secret Agents? still has something to offer potential viewers including one of the funniest opening sequences that I’ve ever seen. There’s also a terrific long-running sight gag that takes place on a train that is very cleverly shot and just plain fun to watch. The pop art style of the film gives it a comic book feel at times and the soundtrack by Pete King and Neal Hefti is truly terrific.

Last of the Secret Agents? (1966)

Last of the Secret Agents? (1966)

Last of the Secret Agents? (1966)

The film also boasts a wonderful theme song composed by Lee Hazlewood and sung by Nancy Sinatra. I personally think it’s one of Sinatra & Hazelwood’s best songs and it was released the same year that they released their huge hit single “These Boots Are Made for Walkin.” Unfortunately the title song for Last of the Secret Agents? wasn’t a big hit and I’m sure the movies lackluster reception was a factor. In retrospect, the theme song is just as good as any of Sinatra & Hazelwood’s early recordings so I can’t understand why the song didn’t become more popular after its release.

Before making Last of the Secret Agents? director Norman Abbott had previously made a name for himself working on popular television shows like Leave It to Beaver, McHale’s Navy and The Munsters. For better or worse, he brings that same comedy sense to Last of the Secret Agents? and as I mentioned above, the film often suffers from the somewhat stale television-like quality of the production.

Last of the Secret Agents? would become a minor launching point for some of the cast and crew to go on to bigger and better spy-related productions. Norman Abbott would return to television and direct episodes of the entertaining spy spoof Get Smart and Nancy Sinatra would go on to record the popular theme song for the James Bond film You Only Live Twice in 1967. Theodore Marcuse had acted in other spy spoofs before making Last of the Secret Agents? but afterward he appeared in the Doris Day spy comedy The Glass Bottom Boat and television shows like The Man from U.N.C.L.E. and The Wild Wild West, before his unfortunate and untimely death in a car accident in 1967.

It’s a shame that Last of the Secret Agents? isn’t available on DVD and is rarely shown on television anymore. With the popularity of the Austin Powers films, as well as current interest in the James Bond series, I hope that Paramount will consider releasing the movie in the future. It deserves to be seen by a wider audience that might enjoy its silly charm now that over 40 years have passed since the films initial release.

If you’d like to see more images from the movie please see my Last of the Secret Agents? Flickr Gallery.

Recommended Links:
Marty Allen’s Official Site
Hello Dere! (Allen & Rossi fan site)
Nancy Sinatra’s Official Site
Lee Hazlewood Fan Site

Original trailer for Last of the Secret Agents?

21 thoughts on “Last of the Secret Agents? (1966)

  1. I saw this a few years ago on AMC. The title song is the best part of the film. The one film with Nancy Sinatra I would like to see again on DVD, having seen it a couple of times theatrically, is For Those who Think Young.

  2. Good God, but it was brutally awful. It must’ve been a cheap date for the un-affiliated TV stations when I was young – it was on way too many times, which would be more than once or twice. Ever. I suppose everyone ought to see it, like the contemporaneous “Jan Pehechaan Ho” nightclub scene in Bollywood’s “Gumnaam”, just for the draw-jopping dialogue and the cheesy sets. That said, it was actually a better spoof than its “progeny” Austin Powers dreck, and Marcuse should’ve been in real Bond villain role – he even looks Smershish. I suppose it could be seen today as a relic of over-reaching Swinging Sixties refuse, but even Sinatra’s singing does nothing for me in this one, (‘tho I love her “You Only Live Twice”) and I’ll take “The Second Best Secret Agent in the Whole Wide World” for my slice of Bond-ian spoofing.

  3. Obviously I like the film a hell of lot more than you both, but as my blog makes pretty clear, I happen to love ’60s and ’70s era spy spoofs in general. I also enjoyed the first Austin Powers movie even if it was just a knock-off of previous spy spoofs like Last of the Secret Agents?

    One more thing – I’m one of those odd people who likes the original Casino Royale from 1967 much more than the unfunny 2006 remake with Daniel Craig.

    Peter – Btw, you should write about For Those who Think Young if you’ve seen it. There isn’t a lot of info available about the film and I for one would like to see it. I personally like reading about films that aren’t easily available on DVD and hopefully reviews of little seen films might help encourage studios to release some of the movies just gathering dust in their vaults instead of re-releasing the same movies over and over again on DVD.

  4. If not on VHS or DVD, is there anywhere you recommend I try looking for this film? I enjoy slapstick, goofy humor that most people find unfunny, and spy movie spoofs. :o)

  5. Well, I don’t remember much about it from childhood so I can’t say one way or the other. I remember Marty Allen because I loved him as a kid. I thought he was hilarious. He was all over tv – “Hollywood Squares” “Password”.

    Anyway, back to the movie, I remember seeing Marty in it but I can’t remember much else. Just like Matt Helm movies. I know I’ve seen them all but except for Stella Stevens falling all over the place in the mud in “The Silencers” I can’t remember a damn thing. The reason I saw them all is because I loved all the James Bond movies of the sixties and also loved “Get Smart”. The reason I loved them was their look and feel. One of the reasons Bond lost me in the eighties was that they lost that look and feel. They lost it for most of the seventies too but I enjoyed it when they finally decided after Live and Let Die and Man with the Golden Gun to get stupid again with The Spy Who Loved Me and Moonraker, two movies with absolutely ridiculous set-ups and set-pieces, and so I liked them.

    I haven’t seen the latest Bond yet. I got it from Netflix a couple of months ago and eventually sent it back without watching it. I’ll watch it one day I’m sure but without that sixties look and feel they might as well be making straight up crime films. The beauty of the “Secret Agent” movie is in it’s falseness, right down to the brightly colored plastic furniture. That’s why I also like the first “Austin Powers” – I thought it spoofed that look and feel very well. Secret agents just don’t work for me without it. A few weeks ago when I was watching Concrete Overcoat Affair during TCM’s Man from U.N.C.L.E. marathon and watching Janet Leigh and Letícia Román fight it out in one of those glorious plastic operation rooms with a big round table that every evil madman just had to have I thought to myself, “Why can’t Bond look like this anymore?”

    Anyway, I’ll stop before this comment goes on any longer. One last thing though. When I was a kid I wanted to live in an apartment just like the one Maxwell Smart lived in.

  6. What a great blog, Kimberly. I’ve heard of this film, but never had the chance to see it. You know how much I love spy spoofs. There were some many good ones in the 60’s. Some were so good because they were so bad. I can definitely see how this might have inspired Mike Myers as Austin Powers (I love those movies). Looks like it did have some beautiful ladies in the film. While I did enjoy the new version of Casino Royale, the 60’s spoof version has a special place in my heart.

  7. Hayley – I can only suggest keeping an eye out for it playing on TV. Also check ebay since bootleg copies may pop up there on occasion.

    Jonathan – If you enjoy the Matt Helm movies, Get Smart and The Man from U.N.C.L.E. you’ll undoubtedly find stuff to like in Last of the Secret Agents?

    While I liked aspects of the new Bond film (mainly Daniel Craig who is very good and believable as a brusier type Bond but lacks the wit and charm I prefer), there was a lot about it that really fell flat for me when I finally saw it. It takes itself way too seriously and the whole terrorist plot in relation to current events sort of left me cold. The soundtrack was dull as dishwater and even though I suppose the film had an element of style at times, it really just looked like countless other modern day Hollywood action movies made in the last 10 years. One reason I love the old Bond films and countless other spy spoofs made in the ’60s and ’70s, is the style and art direction.

    One other problem I had with the new Bond was the whole Eva Green/Daniel Craig love angle. I really like Eva Green a lot (she’s lovely and I thought she was terrific in The Dreamers), but I thought she looked really young in Casino Royale and I didn’t buy into any of the chemistry she supposedly had with Craig (we’re supposed to believe he gives up his entire career for her… I like my Bond a little more levelheaded when it comes to romance). Call me crazy, but Eva looked like Craig’s daughter half the time all dressed up in her mother’s wardrobe and makeup to me. I like the fact that the women in the old Bond films (Ursula Andress, Honor Blackman, etc.) with Connery looked like they could kick his ass and no matter how young they were, they didn’t look like his daughters. It seemed like there was 20 years between Green and Craig instead of just 12.

    With all its problems (at least in my eyes – and I’m in the minority obviously so I’m sure my opinion won’t mean much), I do think the new Casino Royale is well worth a look. I thought it was better than any of the unwatchable (at least for me) Bond films with Pierce Brosnan. It just can’t hold a candle to the wacky original in my opinion.

    Keith – Thanks! I’m glad you enjoyed the post. I think you would really like Last of the Secret Agents? and I hope you get the chance to see it sometime. It’s a fun film even with all its faults and Theodore Marcuse is really funny as the evil Zoltan Schubach!

  8. We see eye to eye again. I just went over to Flickhead’s place to copy part of a long comment on Bond I left on his blog about a month ago. He was saying that Moore was the worst Bond which I disagreed with. And he liked Brosnan which sent me into a tizzy. Anyway, I said quite a lot but here’s the Pierce Brosnan section of my comment. It’s a little harsh so I hope I’m not offending many Brosnan fans out there (sometimes I get myself all worked up):

    I never liked Brosnan’s Bond for a second. I would say he was worse than Moore, not better. Connery was tough, Moore was self-effacing and Dalton was the genuine article. [it was discussed how Dalton followed the Bond of the books] Brosnan was nothing. Nothing. He was a mediocre actor with no imagination which is why he never developed (as his successor already has) a “personality” for his Bond. Say what you want about any of the other Bonds now but I believe we can already begin to see what I think will be roundly accepted within twenty years: That Brosnan was the most indistinctive, insufferably boring Bond ever.

  9. Ha! I stayed the hell away from that conversation. 😉

    I happen to like Moore a lot and grew up watching in him in reruns of The Saint (sixties era version) where I thought he was terrific and I like his early Bond films. But I’m someone who enjoys ’70s exploitation films in general and Moore’s Bond films were often bordering on being exploitation/grindhouse fare.

    While I don’t think Moore’s Bond can hold a candle to Connery’s Bond, I couldn’t agree with you more about Bronson who was truly an “indistinctive, insufferably boring Bond.” I hated every Bond film he made.

    I’m also happy to discover you liked Dalton’s Bond since I really liked him too (and the often maligned Lazenby as well) and I was dissapointed that Dalton didn’t go on to make more Bond films.

    Clearly Bond fans come in every flavor imaginable. I’m the fun-loving type and I like my Bond dished up with a sense of humor and lots of style.

  10. I hadn’t thought of this comedy team in decades! Thanks for the memory. I remember watching them on ES with my parents back in the mid 60s. I didn’t find them particularly funny but my folks sure did. I do like the MATT HELMS because I love Dean Martin and his approach to comedy. THE SILENCERS and THE AMBUSHERS are great stuff. Dean Martin has character humor, he makes one smile just by the way he walks into a room. His clothes, his hair, everything about him add to the droll humor. He had Class. But I generally don’t like comedy mixed with spy antics. Unless it’s the very dry humor of Sean Connery and I don’t like any of the Bonds after the 1960s.

  11. Kimberly, your consistent good taste ASTOUNDS me! LAST OF THE SECRET AGENTS? has been a favorite of mine since I was a kid! Paramount also controls the fate of William Castle’s grotesquely maligned masterpiece – yes, I said masterpiece — THE SPIRIT IS WILLING as well, but they did manage to put out a sparkling DVD of Jack Arnold’s HELLO DOWN THERE! a few years ago, so there’s always hope.

  12. Robert – I could of sworn you were a fan of spy comedies (in particular Jess Franco’s films in the genre). Maybe I was mistaken? Either way, I personally love spy spoofs and the best ones were definitely made in the sixties, but I like a lot of ’70s era spy films as well. The Matt Helm movies are loads of fun! I’ve never seen Allen & Rossi’s act except in brief clips so I’m afraid I can’t really comment on it much, but they seemed to have a following for awhile. It’s sort of shame that they came apart after making this film. I’m sure the negative reviews didn’t help!

    HSB – I don’t know if “good taste” would be the right words to use when describing my tastes. “Eclectic taste” is probably a better way to describe it, but I appreciate the vote of confidence and it’s nice to know I’m not the only person who enjoyed this silly film. I’ve never seen The Spirit of the Willing, but now you’ve got me curious about it since I like Castle’s films. Here’s wishing that Paramount will continue to release more obscure films from their vaults!

  13. Kimberly, what I meant was that I think too much comedy, broad comedy, killed the Bonds for me in the Roger Moore’s and others. The Connery’s were serious films which had that dry, almost Sadean humor, quite different in tone from the ones in the 70s and later.

    I do like Franco’s LUCKY..THE INSCRUTABLE, but it’s almost a commentary on spy spoofs and I like the 60s CASINO ROYALE, but not the recent one. I also like the much maligned MODESTY BLAISE. And I enjoyed the recent TCM MAN FROM UNCLE spy movie marathon, those are colorful fun. But I separate the 60s spy films from all others because I find they have a special tone to them and I feel closest to them. Here are my favorite 60s spy films:

    THUNDERBALL (my alltime favorite Bond)
    THE WRECKING CREW (favorite Matt Helm)
    TOPAZ (still incredibly underrated)

  14. Sorry for the confusion Robert! I had assumed you also liked Franco films like Two Undercover Angels, The Girl From Rio and The Devil Came from Akasava too. I really like all of the Franco’s spy movies I’ve seen, but they don’t seem to appeal to a lot of Franco enthusiasts.

    I’ve never seen any of the Coplan films, but they all sound really interesting! Mexican cinema in general is an area that I’m not all that familiar with I’m afraid. You’ve got me curious to see these now.

  15. You know, I think Franco’s made more spy films than any other director. See OPERATION ’67 for a Mexi spy romp, very colorful fun with Santo and Jorge Rivero as a spy team.
    BTW, I interviewed Richard Wyler who appeared in GIRL FROM RIO, a Coplan film and other 60s Eurospy flicks. He had some very interesting stories about the making of these films.

  16. Robert – You might be right! Franco and Eurospy films seem to go hand in hand. I’d love to read your interview with Wyler.

    Peter – That place charges a lot for bootlegs. Be weary of what you buy. The quality of a lot of these is probably barely watchable. I speak from experience since I’ve probably bought from them on ebay.

  17. This is movie reminds me of The Bond film, From Russia With Love…

    except funny…

    It’s better than Casino Royale (1967), the one with David Niven…

    PUT IT ON DVD!!!

  18. I remember seeing this movie as a kid and have not seen it in about 30 years. WOuld love to see it again. I really hope thye put it on DVD someday. I was a big fan of Allen and Rossi as a kid and remember watching them on the Ed Sullivan show with my parents as a kid. Is it ever shown on TV anymmore? AMC or TCM perhaps? Hope to see it again someday.

  19. I hated the Austin Powers films ( too crude and predictable ) but ‘Last Of The Secret Agents?’ was really funny, and Sinatra’s title song was cool. It should be on D.V.D. – in widescreen!

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