The Ambushers (film)

The Ambushers is a 1967 American comedy spy-fi film starring Dean Martin as Matt Helm, along with Senta Berger and Janice Rule. It is the third of four films in the Matt Helm series, and is very loosely based upon the novel of the same name by Donald Hamilton as well as The Menacers that featured UFOs and a Mexican setting. When a government-built flying saucer is hijacked mid-flight by Jose Ortega, the exiled ruler for an outlaw nation, secret agent Matt Helm and the ship's former pilot Sheila Sommers are sent to recover it.

The Ambushers
Theatrical release poster by Robert McGinnis
Directed byHenry Levin
Produced byIrving Allen
Written byDonald Hamilton (novel)
Herbert Baker (screenplay)
StarringDean Martin
Senta Berger
Music byHerbert Baker
Hugo Montenegro
CinematographyEdward Colman, ASC
Burnett Guffey, ASC
Edited byHarold F. Kress
Distributed byColumbia Pictures
Release date
December 22, 1967
Running time
102 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$4 million[1]
Box office$10,000,000[2]


Helm is sent to the ICE (Intelligence and Counter Espionage) Training Headquarters to uncover a traitor in the organisation. While there he meets ICE agent Sheila Sommers, a test pilot who has been recovered from a Central American jungle with no memory of what happened to the experimental flying saucer she flew. Due to the electo-magnetic power of the saucer, only a woman is able to fly it, males of the species are killed by the energy.

Helm had worked with Sommers on an assignment where the two had posed as man and wife. When Sommers meets Helm, her memory comes back. Mac, the head of ICE, decides to send Helm and Sommers posing again as his wife undercover as a photographer doing a story on the Montezuma Beer Brewery, whose advertising jingle is the same tune as the anthem of Ortega's political movement.

Along the way, they must deal with Ortega's henchmen, Francesca Madeiros (an operative for Big O, Helm's main nemesis), who poses as a model and seduces Helm, an assassin named Nassim, plus a tough thug named Rocco.


The film was the third of four produced in the late 1960s starring Martin as secret agent Matt Helm. It followed The Silencers and Murderers' Row and like those earlier films followed the approach of being a spoof of the James Bond film series rather than a straight adaptation of Hamilton's novel. It was followed by one more, The Wrecking Crew in 1969.

This entry featured a scene similar to a scene from the first Roger Moore James Bond film Live and Let Die (1973) in which one of the hero's love interests, in this case Sheila played by Janice Rule, is stripped of her clothes by way of a magnetic gadget.


Actor Role
Dean MartinMatt Helm
Senta BergerFrancesca Madeiros
Janice RuleSheila Sommers
James GregoryMacDonald
Albert SalmiJose Ortega
Kurt KasznarQuintana
Beverly AdamsLovey Kravezit
John BrasciaRocco


The film was originally known as The Devastators.[3]


This film is generally considered the weakest of the four Helm films, and is cited in the book The Fifty Worst Films of All Time by Harry and Michael Medved. The Medveds also cited a review of The Ambushers by critic Judith Crist which stated: "The sole distinction of this vomitous mess is that it just about reaches the nadir of witlessness, smirky sexiness and bad taste - and it's dull, dull, dull to boot."[4]

Box office

The film earned North American rentals of $4.7 million in 1968.[5]


Hugo Montenegro became the third composer in as many films to do the score for the series. He wrote (along with Herbert Baker who worked on Murderer's Row) the theme song, "The Ambushers," which featured the vocals of Boyce & Hart, two of the songwriters from Murderer's Row. Montenegro went on to compose the score solo for the next Matt Helm film, The Wrecking Crew.

See also


  1. SEIDENBAUM, A. (1967, Aug 06). Oh, pity them all in acapulco! Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from
  2. "The Ambushers, Box Office Information". The Numbers. Retrieved May 23, 2012.
  3. Third Matt Helm Film Slated Martin, Betty. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 08 Jan 1966: 17.
  4. "Bombs",The Saint Petersburg Times, September 15, 1978 (p.16 D).
  5. "Big Rental Films of 1968", Variety, 8 January 1969 p 15. Please note this figure is a rental accruing to distributors.
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