U.N.C.L.E. movie gets January 2015 release date

U.N.C.L.E. logo on a second unit crew T-shirt

U.N.C.L.E. logo on a second unit crew T-shirt

The movie version of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. won’t be out in time for the 50th anniversary of the original series.

Warner Bros. assigned the U.N.C.L.E. movie a Jan. 16, 2015 release date in the U.S., ACCORDING TO VARIETY.COM.

It apparently got squeezed out of the 2014 Thanksgiving-Christmas holiday season (which for studios begins at the start of November). Already scheduled during that period were films such as Interstellar, Christopher Nolan’s first movie since his Batman trilogy, and the final of three Hobbit films.

An excerpt from Variety about the competition U.N.C.L.E. will face:

“Man From U.N.C.L.E” is the fourth title set to open on next year’s Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend after Fox’s “Frankenstein,” Sony/Screen Gems’ “The Wedding Ringer” and Universal’s untitled Michael Mann project.

The original series, which starred Robert Vaughn and David McCallum, will mark its golden anniversary in September. Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer will play Napoleon Solo and Illya Kuryakin in the 2015 film. The Guy Ritchie-directed movie portrays the origin of U.N.C.L.E.

Anatomy of a television inside joke

Never let it be said television writers don’t have a sense of humor — especially when making inside jokes about their profession.

"Who's the funny guy?"

“Who’s the funny guy?”


We were watching an episode of Mannix from the 1973-74 season called Sing A Song of Murder. In it, intrepid P.I. Joe Mannix (Mike Connors) gets the drop on a guy who’s been tailing him. The interloper is a P.I. from Chicago named Anthony Spinner, who’s revealed later to be really a hitman.

That caught our attention since another Anthony Spinner was the producer for the fourth, and last, season of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. and would go on to be producer for a number of Quinn Martin series, including The FBI, Caribe and Cannon.

The Mannix episode was written by Stephen Kandel, who wrote for a number of spy-related series including I Spy, Mission: Impossible, Hawaii Five-O and A Man Called Sloane. He also has a bit of cult fame as the writer of the two Harry Mudd episodes on the original Star Trek series.

Anyway, Kandel also wrote for a Quinn Martin series that ran during the 1970-71 season called Dan August, whose producer happened to be….Anthony Spinner. He later wrote for Cannon when Spinner was producer of that QM show.

Coincidence? Perhaps, but given the background, an inside joke for viewers seems the more likely explanation.

2014: numerous big 007 anniversaries

"Order plenty of Bollinger -- '55, of course."

“Order plenty of Bollinger — ’55, of course.”

We were reminded that 2014 will mark a number of significant James Bond film anniversaries. Thus, there’s more reason than normal for 007 fans to dip into their home video copies.

50th anniversary of Goldfinger. The first mega-hit for Agent 007.

45th anniversary of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. An early attempt to bring 007 back down to earth, but one that wasn’t judged a success by United Artists.

40th anniversary of The Man With The Golden Gun. A box office misstep after Live And Let Die set a worldwide 007 box office record (though not in the U.S. market).

35th annivesary of Moonraker. Producer Albert R. Broccoli’s extragant follow-up to The Spy Wh Loved Me.

25th anniversary of Licence to Kill. A controversial Bond entry that preceded a six-year hiatus for the series.

15th anniversary of The World Is Not Enough. Pierce Brosnan’s third 007 entry and a preview of attempts to bring a more dramatic take to the world of 007.

UPDATE: As reader Stuart Basinger reminds us:

60th anniversary of the CBS television broadcast of Casino Royale. The first, and so far only, adaptation to feature an American (Barry Nelson in this case) playing Bond.

50th anniversary of Ian Fleming’s death on Aug. 12. 007′s creator passed away the month before the film version of Goldfinger’s U.K. debut.

And one more that’s related:
50th anniversary of The Man From U.N.C.L.E.: Debut of the series featuring Ian Fleming’s other spy, Napoleon Solo, co-created with television producer Norman Felton.

Search now available on home video

Search's main title logo

Search’s main title logo

Search, a spy-ish series that lasted only one season on NBC, is now available on home video in the U.S. through Warner Archive, Warner Bros.’s manufactured on demand arm.

The show ran during the 1972-73 season and featured the exploits of operatives of the World Securities Corp. Here’s an excerpt of the series description:

Hugh O’Brian, Doug McClure and Tony Franciosa rotate leads as elite high tech espionage operatives for Probe Division of World Securities Corporation in this spy-sensational SF-flavored actioner… Each agent, dubbed a “Probe”, is wired up for worldwide surveillance thanks to their Scanners (miniature video cams) and dental/ ear implants. Tracking their telemetry and giving real-time mission advice is the team of specialists gathered together at Probe Control under the direction of the brilliant, irascible V.C.R. Cameron (Burgess Meredith). O’Brian plays Lockwood, Probe One, ex-astronaut and lead agent, McClure plays CR Grover, Standby Probe, brilliant beachcomber goofball and Franciosa plays Nick Bianco, Omega Probe, street savvy ex-NYC cop tasked with organized crime capers.

The series was created by Leslie Stevens, who had created The Outer Limits. The pilot was a television movie called Probe, but either Warner Bros. (which made the series) or NBC decided Search was a more appealing name.

Members of the production team had previously worked on the original Star Trek series and The Man From U.N.C.L.E. Robert H. Justman, who had been associate producer on Trek (and had worked on The Outer Limits as well) was producer of the first half of the series. Anthony Spinner, the fourth-season U.N.C.L.E. producer was initially the story editor and took over as producer.

The price is $49.95 and you can find more information on ordering by CLICKING HERE.

Christopher Jones dies at 72

Christopher Jones, center, one of Thrush's "test tube" killers in a fourth-season Man From U.N.C.L.E. episode

Christopher Jones, one of Thrush’s “test tube” killers in a fourth-season Man From U.N.C.L.E. episode

Former actor Christopher Jones has died at 72 from complications of cancer, ACCORDING TO AN OBITUARY IN THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER.

The obituary focuses on credits such as Wild in The Streets and Ryan’s Daughter that were part of a “brief but dazzling career.” But given he mostly worked in the 1960s, Jones was drawn into the world of spy entertainment.

On television, he was the title character of The Test Tube Killer Affair, the second episode of the final season of The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

The story centers on efforts by Thrush, the villainous organization of the show, to develop so-called perfect killers, bred for the task from a young age. Such killers have been conditioned to turn their emotions on and off as necessary.

Jones’s character, Greg Martin, kills a number of people, including three U.N.C.L.E. agents and one of his fellow “test tube killers” who has been judged to be “defective.” Martin is to blow up a dam in Greece to demonstrate the effectiveness of the Thrush project. The episode is a prime example of a much darker tone U.N.C.L.E. had in its final season.

Jones also starred in The Looking Glass War, a 1969 film directed and scripted by Frank Pierson, based on a 1965 John Le Carre novel.

UPDATE: After re-watching The Test Tube Killer, Greg Martin’s death toll was five: U.N.C.L.E. agent Miguel (pre-credits sequence), fellow “test tube” student No. 7 (Act I), an employee of the Athens airport (Act II) and two U.N.C.L.E. agents in a helicopter (Act IV). He also unsuccessfully tries to kill U.N.C.L.E. agents Solo and Kuryakin in Act I and Act III.

Stan Lee to make appearance on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

The SHIELD helicarrier in the first SHIELD story in Strange Tales No. 135.

The SHIELD helicarrier in the first SHIELD story in Strange Tales No. 135.

Stan Lee, the 91-year-old former editor-in-chief at Marvel Comics, is going to make an appearance on the Feb. 4 installment of ABC’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. series.

Lee gave AN INTERVIEW TO IGN where he talked about the appearance and a bit about the original comic book. An excerpt:

IGN TV: My first question with you appearing on S.H.I.E.L.D. is, what took so long?! Were you saying, “Hey, why am I not in the first episode of this show?”

Stan Lee: Oh, I like the way you think! I felt the same way. Why was it not called Stan Lee and the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.? [Laughs] No, I’m glad that they gave that one little cameo, though. It’s a little bit longer than a cameo. It’s almost a supporting role. Instead of the usual three or four or five seconds, I think this took almost half a minute.

IGN: You were there for the beginning of S.H.I.E.L.D.

Lee: Well, I’m glad they invited me, because I did the first S.H.I.E.L.D. story in the comics with Jack Kirby. I love the whole concept of S.H.I.E.L.D.. I don’t know if you’d remember, but years ago, there was a television show called The Man from U.N.C.L.E., and U.N.C.L.E. was a secret organization and so forth. I got the idea for S.H.I.E.L.D. from U.N.C.L.E.. I thought it’d be great to have an organization like that, but because we were doing comic books, I’d make it bigger and more colorful and more far out. We had a book called Sgt. Fury and His Howling Commandos, which we stopped publishing after awhile. The fans would wonder, “What happened to Sgt. Fury? Where is he now?” So it occurred to me that if I did this group S.H.I.E.L.D., why not put Sergeant Fury at the head of it, except he’d now be a Colonel. So he’d be Colonel Fury and the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. — and that’s how it all started. I loved the idea, and I’m so glad that it’s a TV series. As it moves along, I hope it just gets wilder and wilder.

Nick Fury's first post World War II appearance

Nick Fury’s first post World War II appearance


Lee’s memory is a little faulty in the interview.

Actually, the Sgt. Fury World War II title continued to be published after S.H.I.E.L.D. debuted in 1965. Thus, for a few years, Nick Fury appeared in two different titles (Sgt. Fury and Strange Tales, which S.H.I.E.L.D. shared with Dr. Strange) with stories set in two different time periods.

Also, Lee and Kirby, who created the Fury character to begin with, first established Nick Fury had survived World War II in Fantastic Four No. 21, published in 1963. At that point, Fury was with the CIA. He was still with that agency when he was recruited to lead S.H.I.E.L.D. in Strange Tales No. 135.

In the comics, S.H.I.E.L.D. didn’t hit its stride until Jim Steranko took over as writer-artist in 1966-68.

1966: F Troop’s spy parody of a spy parody

Pat Harrington as spy B Wise with Ken Berry's Capt. Parmenter

Spy B Wise shows off a gadget to Capt. Parmenter

In 1966, everybody was getting in on the spy game, even the Western comedy F Troop. But instead of directly parodying James Bond, the Warner Bros. show instead did a takeoff of a takeoff.

In Spy, Counterspy, Counter Counterspy, the U.S. War Department has developed a top secret weapon, a bullet proof vest. It’s to be tested at Fort Courage, whose commanding officer is the bumbling Capt. Wilton Parmenter (Ken Berry).

Security for the test is handed to top secret spy B Wise (Pat Harrington Jr.), who mimics the rapid fire delivery of Don Adams on Get Smart. He even says, “Sorry about that!” (without saying chief) and has a gimmicked shoe (which has a gun instead of a telephone).

The thing is, when this episode aired on ABC, it coincided with Get Smart’s first season on NBC. Adams infused Maxwell Smart with some of his own comedy bits, but F Troop more or less does a full takeoff on Max and didn’t wait very long to do so. Meanwhile, there’s a woman spy (Abbe Lane) prowling about and one of the spies is a traitor.

Some U.N.C.L.E. movie visual effects to be done in Canada

U.N.C.L.E. logo on a second unit crew T-shirt

U.N.C.L.E. logo on a second unit crew T-shirt

Cinesite, a U.K. visual effects company, is opening a Montreal facility and its first project will be The Man From U.N.C.L.E. movie, according to A JAN. 20 HOLLYWOOD REPORTER STORY.

An excerpt:

London-based Cinesite will open a VFX facility in Montreal’s historic quarter, with a capacity for 250 artists, it was announced on Monday.

The international expansion for Cinesite, starting in Canada, follows the sale last year of the U.K. VFX house to private equity firm Endless LLP as part of a management buyout

Cinesite will split the U.N.C.L.E. work between London and Montreal, according to the story. The movie’s home base during production was Warner Bros.’s U.K. studio at Leavesden.

The Hollywood Reporter didn’t offer much in additional details about the movie, which was filmed from early September through early December.

The movie, directed by Guy Ritchie, has a reported $75 million budget. That’s considerably less than Skyfall, Man of Steel (which had Henry Cavill, who plays Napoleon Solo in U.N.C.L.E.) or The Lone Ranger (which had Armie Hammer, who plays Illya Kuryakin in U.N.C.L.E.), all of which had budgets of $200 million or more. So it remains to be seen how elaborate the U.N.C.L.E. visual effects will be.

UPDATE: @laneyboggs2001 on Twitter informs us that BLUE BOLT, ANOTHER U.K. VISUAL EFFECTS HOUSE is doing some U.N.C.L.E. (See right margin of link in this paragraph.)

Tweaked U.N.C.L.E. insignia shows up on Twitter

U.N.C.L.E. logo on a second unit crew T-shirt

U.N.C.L.E. logo on a second unit crew T-shirt

Thanks to @laneyboggs2001 on Twitter for the heads up.

An image of a revamped U.N.C.L.E. insignia has SHOWN UP ON TWITTER in the form of a photo of a second unit crew T-shirt.

It’s very similar to the logo used in the 1964-68 series The Man From U.N.C.L.E. But with the new insignia, the “Man” image has been revamped to more closely resemble Henry Cavill, who plays Napoleon Solo in the movie filmed last year. Robert Vaughn played the role in the ’60s series and a 1983 television movie.

The new logo’s Man wears a three-piece suit while the original Man was clad in a basic suit. Also, the gun the Man is holding appears to be slightly different than the original.

It’s not known if the crew T-shirt logo will actually be used to market the new movie. Warner Bros. hasn’t yet announced a release date for the Guy Ritchie-directed film.

Happy New Year From the HMSS Weblog!

Our other annual greeting

To all our readers, we hope you have a great 2014.

And if you’re going out tonight for a New Year’s Eve gathering (like this year’s James Bond Gala in Washington, D.C.), Napoleon Solo reminds everyone to party responsibly.

solonye

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