In the biography ‘Dino: Living High in the Dirty Business of Dreams’, author Nick Tosches sums up Dean Martin’s approach to life and work with the noun menefreghismo, which translates from the Italian as – roughly – ‘Don’t give a shit’.
There’s no surviving evidence that Dean Martin ever gave a shit about anything, including the movies he made.
Which brings us to The Wrecking Crew, Martin’s blessedly last outing as the priapic super spy Matt Helm, and the final film of Sharon Tate’s to be released during herlifetime.
Perhaps it’s unfair to choose The Wrecking Crew as the opus that ends our Sharon Tate trilogy – for she was capable of playing more than Dean Martin’s bimbo stooge.
The film is so inexorably horrible that it induces a kind of self-immunizing hypnosis.
It is unfair, even mean, to seriously review a film like The Wrecking Crew – for it was never the intent of anyone involved that its shelf-life extend beyond that of sliced bread: it’s simply a Dean Martin vehicle, like Speedway was an Elvis vehicle.
But for us, and Sharon Tate, it is perhaps a little more. She was being backed by a major studio and groomed for the big time. In 1968, Dean Martin was a huge star. In professional terms, she made a smart career move.
However, it is not possible to watch a Sharon Tate film without somehow considering her murder. In that way, though the Wrecking Crew was indeed work for Sharon Tate, it was also a waste of time. James Dean made only three motion pictures, yet all had good directors, compelling scripts, and strong casts.
Menefreghismo does indeed exhibit a limited charm. And it bolstered Dean Martin’s boozy persona. But given her lifespan, and her ambition, it’s unfortunate that Sharon Tate was never offered, or perhaps couldn’t achieve, lasting work. She’s now remembered for how she died, not for how she lived or what she accomplished.
“My whole life has been decided by fate,” Tate once said. “I’ve never planned anything that’s happened to me.” Sounds like Menefreghismo Lite. That’s the thing about Fate – it’s never to be trusted.
I.M. Clarke’s musings on 1960s pop culture can be uncovered at http://60spop.blogspot.ca
The Wrecking Crew
Director: Phil Karlson
Producer: Irving Allen
Writer: William P. McGivern
Starring: Dean Martin, Elke Sommer, Sharon Tate, Nancy Kwan
Music: Hugo Montenegro
Cinematography: Sam Leavitt
Editor: Maury Winetrobe
Distributed by Columbia Pictures
Release date 30 December 1968
Running time105 minutes