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The Intelligence Men

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Intelligence Men
Theatrical release poster
Directed byRobert Asher
Written byDick Hills and Sid Green
Peter Blackmore
Produced byHugh Stewart
StarringEric Morecambe
Ernie Wise
William Franklyn
April Olrich
CinematographyJack Asher
Edited byGerry Hambling
Music byPhilip Green
Distributed byRank Organisation
Release date
  • 13 April 1965 (1965-04-13) (London)
Running time
104 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom

The Intelligence Men (U.S. title: Spylarks[1]) is a 1965 comedy film directed by Robert Asher and starring the British comic duo Eric Morecambe and Ernie Wise.[2] It is subtitled "M.I.5 plus 2 equals 0".

Morecambe and Wise made two further films, That Riviera Touch (1966) and The Magnificent Two (1967).

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Eric, in his London coffee bar, is happily serving black coffee to a sinister-looking man when the man tries to persuade him to remember a tune. Unfortunately, Eric is tone-deaf. Ernie Sage enters the coffee bar and Eric tries to get him to identify the tune, without much success. Eventually, Sage realises that this could be something to do with a forthcoming visit by a Russian trade delegation and an assassination attempt by an organisation known as "SCHLECHT" (a parody of SPECTRE from the James Bond films; the word is German for "bad" or "evil", although there is little evidence of German involvement to sabotage this mission).

He reports this to his superiors in Military Intelligence (although he is little more than an office-boy), and they reluctantly agree that only Eric, having heard the tune, will be able to lead them to the centre of the plot. Eric is persuaded to pose as a British agent – the recently deceased Major Cavendish – who had managed to infiltrate SCHLECHT. After a few set-piece comedy interludes, the tune is identified and the plot switches to a performance of Swan Lake at the projected venue for the assassination, where the star Russian ballerina Madame Petrovna is in grave danger.

This section provides some of the funniest moments of the film: for example, Eric, masquerading as a Russian, adopts a broad Scottish highland accent; and during the ballet performance itself, Eric and Ernie, dressed in Egyptian costumes, get mixed up in the "Dance of the Little Swans". Finally, however, the villain is unmasked and all ends happily.



It was the last of several collaborations between Hugh Stewart and Bob Asher. Stewart says this was because he fired Asher's brother Jack, the cameraman, who Stewart thought was too slow.[3]



The Monthly Film Bulletin wrote: "This exceptionally unfunny comedy makes it very hard to understand what, on any level, has contributed to the popularity of Morecambe and Wise. A formal dinner party scene, not by any means devoid of farcical possibilities, is so appallingly mishandled by the director that it emerges as an almost classic example of how not to amuse while apparently trying."[4]

The Radio Times Guide to Films gave the film 2/5 stars, writing: "Eric Morecambe and Ernie Wise found the transition from TV celebrities to film stars a difficult one to make. They were not helped by the fact that, for their big-screen debut, Sid Green and Dick Hills (scriptwriters of their ITV series at the time) failed to marry the familiar Eric and Ernie characteristics that kept audiences in stitches week after week with the demands of what is, in all honesty, a fitfully entertaining spy spoof."[5]

Critic Leslie Halliwell awarded the film no stars, describing it as an "inept and rather embarrassing big-screen debut for two excellent television comedians".[6]

Box office

The film was one of the 12 most popular movies at the British box office in 1965.[7] Stewart says the film was not a success in America, but it made a profit, and led to two more Morecombe and Wise movies.[3]


  1. ^ "SPYLARKS Eric Morecambe Ernie Wise MI5 UK SPY COMEDY Vintage US Movie Flyer | eBay". Archived from the original on 2 September 2017. Retrieved 1 September 2017.
  2. ^ "The Intelligence Men". British Film Institute Collections Search. Retrieved 13 April 2024.
  3. ^ a b "Hugh Stewart". British Entertainment History Project. 22 November 1989.
  4. ^ "The Intelligence Men". The Monthly Film Bulletin. 32 (372): 75. 1 January 1965 – via ProQuest.
  5. ^ Radio Times Guide to Films (18th ed.). London: Immediate Media Company. 2017. p. 467. ISBN 9780992936440.
  6. ^ Halliwell, Leslie (1997). Halliwell's Film and Video Guide. HarperCollins. p. 379. ISBN 0-00-638779-9.
  7. ^ "Most Popular Film Star." Times [London, England] 31 Dec. 1965: 13. The Times Digital Archive. Web. 11 July 2012.

External links

This page was last edited on 4 June 2024, at 17:06
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