The Ambushers is a 1967 spy comedy flick that is so bad it’s fantastic. Filmed in Acapulco and starring Dean Martin, Senta Berger and Janice Rule, it is loosely based upon the novel of the same title by Donald Hamilton. The film was the third in a series of four produced in the late 1960s starring Dino as secret agent Matt Helm. Dino both spoofs James Bond and plays up his own wisecracking playboy persona with plenty of references to two of his favorite pastimes — singing and boozing. The Matt Helm series was reportedly Mike Myers’ inspiration for “Austin Powers.”
With a flying saucer, a bevy of beauties, a fight sequence inside a giant vat of beer, and a return to Acapulco in its glory days, The Ambushers is cinematic “queso dip” at its finest. Get a little taste of it in the intro song performed by Boyce and Hart:
This video is so cool, they need to invent a new word for cool. It mashes up iconic scenes from around the globe with two other pop-culture icons (James Bond of the ’60s and El Santo, Mexico’s most famous lucha libre star from the mid-century). And the song is great, too. Los Straitjackets are surf music icons in their own right and make us want to hop on the next plane headed to the coast.
To celebrate Modernism Week (even though I’m not able to take in Palm Springs’ famous festivities this year), I give you an original illustration of mine inspired by the 300 Bowl Building in Phoenix. The words “bowling alley” do not do justice to the soaring lines of this Googie-style building at Christown Mall. More appropriately, the steeply pitched twin roofs make this a veritable “bowling palace!” It’s a classic, and one of not many remaining examples of this fun and funky architectural style in the Valley of the Sun. For those of you lucky enough to be in Palm Springs Feb. 14-24, Happy Modernism Week!
More fantastic footage from the 1960s: the über-cool Herb Alpert plays his first big hit, “The Lonely Bull,” in a Tijuana bullring. The story goes that he was inspired by a mariachi band revving up the crowd at a bullfight in Tijuana and adapted his trumpet playing to a tune written by collaborator Sol Lake. He called the song “The Lonely Bull” and the single became a Top Ten hit in 1962. Shortly afterwards “The Lonely Bull” became the first album ever released on A&M Records (the label he co-founded). Mix mandolin, trumpet, maracas and a surf beat, and you get pure magic!
By the way, the song has been covered many times in the last 50 years. I think one of the best covers is by the ska group The Untouchables. Listen to it here:
This jewel, the Gold Pants Dance, is from the 1965’s film Pop Gear. The tune, the hair, the hip-shaking, and the bosoms are all so perky! The cheerleading squad meets King Midas. You couldn’t ask for a better dance to make this funky instrumental song come to life.
Above is one of the illustrations in my Mid-Century Modern Entertainment series. I was inspired by Eydie Gorme’s elegant performances with the Mexican trio, Los Panchos, in the 1960s. Eydie and Los Panchos collaborated on several records that became classics in the Latin America music scene. Check out the video below and see what the original hipsters were like: