The Man From U.N.C.L.E. episode guide returns

"Yes, the website is back up, sir."

“Yes, the website is back up, sir.”

THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. EPISODE GUIDE, one of the first U.N.C.L.E. fan sites, is back online.

The site, which debuted on Dec. 1, 1996 and provides detailed reviews of all 105 episodes of the 1964-68 series, originally had a home at AOL. When AOL ceased providing that service in 2008, the episode guide moved to the now-defunct Her Majesty’s Secret Servant website. But that website ceased operations earlier this year.

The U.N.C.L.E. episode guide went back online on Oct. 18. It’s now housed at WordPress.com, which also hosts this blog. The site is still being reconstructed but all of the episode reviews are online, as are reviews for The Girl From U.N.C.L.E. and The Return of The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

The site also includes an updated page for major connections between U.N.C.L.E. and James Bond, running from Ian Fleming to Henry Cavill.

There’s additional work to be done, including trying to recover other pages on the episode guide site. Still, The Man From U.N.C.L.E. episode guide is back.

New U.N.C.L.E. book coming out in 2015

The original U.N.C.L.E.s

The original U.N.C.L.E.s

A new book about The Man From U.N.C.L.E. television series is due out next year.

“Solo and Illya: The Secret History of The Man From U.N.C.L.E.” by Craig Henderson is to be published by Bear Manor Publishers, according to the Facebook page of THE GOLDEN ANNIVERSARY AFFAIR, the two-day event held in the Los Angeles area last month in connection with the show’s 50th anniversary.

Henderson created the File Forty fanzine in 1970, according to a Jon Burlingame response to the post. Henderson also assisted Burlingame when the latter produced a series of U.N.C.L.E. soundtracks in the 2000s.

“He’s uncovered a lot of information about the show no one else has,” Burlingame wrote.

Finally, Henderson produced A CENTURY OF U.N.C.L.E., which details how the worlds of U.N.C.L.E. and James Bond intersected for more than a century, beginning with the birth of Ian Fleming in 1908 until the death of U.N.C.L.E. executive producer Norman Felton in 2012. It’s a resource this blog has cited numerous times.

Casino Royale (1954), a reappraisal

Barry Nelson in 1954's Casino Royale

Barry Nelson in 1954’s Casino Royale

If there’s a red-headed stepchild in the world of James Bond, the 1954 CBS production of Casino Royale would be it.

The television Bond is mostly ignored. When it does come up in fan conversation, it’s the subject of derision.

An American as James Bond? Outrageous — although Eon Productions, which makes James Bond movies, seriously considered the notion twice, for Diamonds Are Forever (John Gavin was signed before Sean Connery was enticed back) and again for Octopussy (James Brolin was screen tested before Roger Moore was enticed back).

And he’s called Jimmy Bond! Outrageous — although Bond never calls himself Jimmy, other characters do. The only time he refers to his own name, he is making a telephone call and says, “This is James Bond.” Actor Barry Nelson also is clearly billed as playing James Bond in the end titles.

The television production, part of CBS’s Climax! anthology series and airing live on Oct. 21, 1954, is more like a televised play. While Ian Fleming’s first novel was short, it still covered too much ground to be covered in a 60-minute time slot. Excluding commercials and titles, only about 50 minutes was available to tell the story.

Antony Ellis and Charles Bennett, who adapted the novel for television, certainly took plenty of liberties with the source material.

Two Fleming characters, Vesper Lynd and French agent Rene Mathis, are merged into one character, Valerie Mathis (Linda Christian), a woman from Bond’s past who is working for French intelligence. Meanwhile, Bond is changed from being a British agent to an American one. Felix Leiter is changed to a British agent and his name is now Clarence Leiter (Michael Pate).

Presumably, the idea of an American Bond stemmed from how this was airing on U.S. television. At this point, Fleming and Bond weren’t huge names among the American public.

Anyway, to get things going, Act I opens with Bond being shot at outside a casino. It’s not terribly convincing, mostly because of the limited resources of the production, which was broadcast live. Bond ducks behind a column and the audience can see squibs going off to simulate gun fire.

Shortly thereafter, Bond makes contact with Leiter, who explains to Bond (and the audience) how the agent’s mission to bankrupt Le Chiffre (Peter Lorre) in a high stakes game of baccarat. No M, no briefing from M.

At one point, Leiter says Bond’s nickname is “card sense Jimmy Bond,” while Valerie calls Bond “Jimmy.” However, she also calls him “James Bond” when introducing the agent to Le Chiffre ahead of the big baccarat game.

Peter Lorre is the first actor to play a Bond villain referring to the agent constantly as “Mr. Bond,” something that would be repeated throughout the Eon films.

There are some bits from Fleming’s novel, particularly during Bond’s card game with Le Chiffre. Even here, Ellis and Bennett do some tinkering. After Bond is cleaned out, he gets additional funds not from Leiter, as in the novel, but from Valerie. What’s more, Bond’s torture is considerable milder than the novel or 2006 feature film. The ending from Fleming’s novel isn’t used and things end happily.

This version of Casino Royale’s main value is that of a time capsule, a reminder of when television was mostly done live. Lorre is suitably villainous. If you find him fun to watch on movies and other television shows, nothing here will change your mind.

Barry Nelson’s Bond won’t make anyone forget the screen 007s. Still, Nelson was a pro who had a long career. He does the best he can with the material and production limitations. He even gets to deliver the occasional witticism. (“Are you the fellow who was shot?” Leiter asks. Bond replies, “No I was the fellow who was missed.”)

UPDATE: Casino Royale was the third broadcast of the Climax! series. The first was an adaptation of The Long Goodbye, with Dick Powell reprising the role of Philip Marlowe. So in two of the first three broadcasts, Climax! tackled novels by Raymond Chandler and Ian Fleming.

Geoffrey Holder, Live And Let Die villain, dies at 84

Geoffrey Holder in Live And Let Die's final scene

Geoffrey Holder in Live And Let Die’s final scene

Geoffrey Holder, whose long career as an actor and dancer included an appearance as a James Bond villain, has died at 84, according to AN OBITUARY IN THE NEW YORK TIMES.

Holder played Baron Samedi, a secondary foe for Bond in 1973’s Live And Let Die. At times, Holder’s Samedi drew attention from Roger Moore’s Bond (the actor’s first outing in the role) and Yaphet Kotto as the film’s primary villain, Dr. Kananga.

The movie, loosely based on Ian Fleming’s second 007 novel, is the only film in the Eon Production series include a supernatural element. Solitaire (Jane Seymour) has the ability to see into the future until she loses her virginity to Bond. As Steven Jay Rubin wrote in The Complete James Bond Movie Encyclopedia, Baron Samedi “may or not be a supernatural being.”

With his imposing laugh, sinister manner and often outlandish costumes, Holder’s Baron Samedi certainly stands out in the film.

Late in the movie, it would seem Baron Samedi is merely a man taking advantage of the fear generated by voodoo. Bond punches Samedi into a casket full of deadly snakes. He cries out in agony as he seems to expire.

Yet, at the very conclusion of the movie, Baron Samedi is sitting on the front of the train Bond and Solitaire are taking to New York. His long laugh is the last thing the audience hears before the end titles version of the Paul and Linda McCartney title song.

As James Chapman wrote in 2000’s Licence to Thrill:

Inexplicable in narrative terms, this is the only explicitly supernatural moment in the Bond series which elsewhere, for all its implausibility, is insistent on rationality.

Besides acting in the film, Holder also worked behind the camera as Live And Let Die’s choreographer, arranging dances that were supposed to be part of voodoo ceremonies.

The Times described Holder thusly:

Geoffrey Holder, the dancer, choreographer, actor, composer, designer and painter who used his manifold talents to infuse the arts with the flavor of his native West Indies and to put a singular stamp on the American cultural scene, not least with his outsize personality, died on Sunday in Manhattan. He was 84.

(snip)
Few cultural figures of the last half of the 20th century were as multifaceted as Mr. Holder, and few had a public presence as unmistakable as his, with his gleaming pate atop a 6-foot-6 frame, full-bodied laugh and bassoon of a voice laced with the lilting cadences of the Caribbean.

The obituary describes Holder’s career in detail, including a 1975 Tony Award, how he gained fame in the 1970s and ’80s for 7-Up and other highlights.

Here’s a sample of an oral history interview with Holder about his life and career:

New 007 author: novel’s title won’t be ‘Murder on Wheels’

Anthony Horowitz, hired by Ian Fleming Publications to write a new James Bond novel, took to Twitter to say what the title isn’t.

Here’s the text of the Tweet:

IFP, in AN OCT. 1 STATEMENT, said Horowitz’s novel would be based on an Ian Fleming outline for an episode of a never-produced 007 television series. The outline has the title Murder on Wheels. IFP never said that would be the title of the novel. But Horowitz evidently felt there was enough confusion he wanted to clarify — and added a tidbit of information in the process.

IFP announces new James Bond novel for 2015

IFP says new novel to inspired by "unseen Fleming material."

IFP says new novel to inspired by “unseen Fleming material.”

Ian Fleming Publications said Oct. 1 a new James Bond continuation novel is coming out next year inspired by “previously unseen material written by Ian Fleming.:

Here’s an excerpt of A STATEMENT ON IFP’S WEBPAGE.

Ian Fleming Publications Ltd. and the Ian Fleming Estate are delighted to announce that bestselling and award-winning author Anthony Horowitz has been invited to write the next James Bond novel, due for worldwide release on 8th September 2015.

Horowitz is one of the UK’s most successful authors and has over forty books to his name including his recent Sherlock Holmes novel, The House of Silk, and his enormously successful teen spy series featuring Alex Rider. As a TV screenwriter he created both Midsomer Murders and the BAFTA-winning Foyle’s War, and is looking forward to taking on his next project:

(snip)
Set in the 1950s, Horowitz’s story will be unique among the modern James Bond novels, in that a section will contain previously unseen material written by Ian Fleming. (emphasis in original)

Since 2008, the 100th anniversary of Fleming’s birth, IFP has mostly commissioned period Bond novels. Offerings by Sebastian Faulks (Devil May Care) and William Boyd (Solo) were set in 1967 and 1969 respectively. The one exception was Jeffery Deaver’s Carte Blanche, featuring a timeshifted Bond in the “present day” of its 2011 publication.

The Horowitz project goes backward, based on the IFP statement. A Fleming great niece, Jessie Grimond, is quoted as saying the novel is based episode treatments Fleming wrote for a never-made televisions series. Fleming subsequently turned some of the television story outlines into short stories in 1960’s For Your Eyes Only collection. Grimond says in the statement “there are a few plot outlines which he never used and which, till now, have never been published, or aired.”

Specifically, according to IFP, the starting point for the new novel is a Fleming treatment titled Murder on Wheels, which “follows Bond on a mission in the world of motor racing.”

The move continues IFP’s strategy of a series of one-offs featuring “adult” Bond while also commissioning “Young Bond” novels and other projects. IFP management changed in the 2000s. For a long period before that, it employed an author to do an ongoing series of “timeshifted” Bond novels written by John Gardner, which ran from 1981 to 1995, and Raymond Benson, from 1997 to 2002. After Benson’s finale, the literary “adult Bond” went into hibernation until Faulks’ 2008 novel.

None of the Bond continuation novels has drawn any serious interest from Eon Productions, which produces the 007 films. The publication of the Horowitz novel will come shortly before Bond 24 is set to be released.

Goldfinger’s 50th anniversary: the golden touch

Sean Connery and Honor Blackman projected onto the iconic "Golden Girl."

Sean Connery, Honor Blackman and the “Golden Girl.”

This month marks the 50th anniversary of Goldfinger, the third James Bond film.

Where Dr. No and From Russia With Love were wildly successful, Goldfinger turned 007 into a phenomenon. Where the first two films were escapist, Goldfinger was outlandish — a woman killed with gold paint, a car equipped with an ejector seat, machine guns and other weaponry, a plot to invade Fort Knox and a henchman who killed people by throwing a steel-rimmed hat at them.

Audiences could not get enough. Worldwide, Goldfinger’s box office was 58 percent higher ($124.9 million) than the box office of From Russia With Love ($78.9 million). In the U.S., Goldfinger’s box office more than doubled that of its 007 predecessor ($51.1 million compared with $24.8 million).

Sean Connery had become a star as Bond, his status confirmed by having his name “above the title” in the main credits. In the first two films, it was “Starring Sean Connery” immediately after the name of the movies was shown.

As noted here before, Goldfinger was the tide that lifted all boats of the 1960s spy craze.

In the U.S., The Man From U.N.C.L.E., which had struggled in the ratings early in its run, rallied around the time Goldfinger made its American debut. By the fall of 1965, spy shows would be a major attraction on U.S. television.

In theaters, Bond’s success encouraged both wildly escapist films (the Flint and Matt Helm series) and the occasional serious, “anti-Bond” film (The Spy Who Came in From the Cold and The Ipcress File, the later produced by 007 co-producer Harry Saltzman and having several 007 production crew members aboard.).

Television commercials likewise were inspired by Goldfinger and 007. Harold Sakata, who played henchman Oddjob, starring in a series of spots for cough medicine. Butterfinger candy bars had a spot that utilized the hit John Barry-Leslie Bricusse-Anthony Newley Goldfinger title song.

The movie has been analyzed in many, many places, including five years ago at this blog. It was a difficult film to script, with Richard Maibaum, and later, Paul Dehn tackling storytelling issues in Ian Fleming’s novel. The final script turned Fleming’s longest novel into a tight film that ran below two hours.

In the 21st century, some Bond fans will say Goldfinger isn’t the best 007 movie. Some even say they’ve seen it so many times they’re really not sure they can watch it again.

Still, whatever one’s opinion, Goldfinger changed everything in the 007 universe. For years, producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman sought “another” Goldfinger. Richard Maibaum’s first take on Diamonds Are Forever included Goldfinger’s twin brother, an idea that was rejected.

You can make the case that various 007 films are better. Some fans cite From Russia With Love, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, Casino Royale and Skyfall among them. But Goldfinger, because of its impact not only on the 007 franchise but on other popular entertainment, may be the most important.

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