Spring 1964: U.N.C.L.E. gets a new chief

Leo G. Carroll's title card for first-season U.N.C.L.E. episodes

Leo G. Carroll’s title card for first-season U.N.C.L.E. episodes

With less than a month before regular series production began, The Man From U.N.C.L.E. had some tweaks, both major and minor.

Superficially, star Robert Vaughn changed his hairstyle, switching his part and going for more of a “dry look” compared to the pilot that would air as the first episode.

More substantively, U.N.C.L.E. would have a new chief: Leo G. Carroll, a mainstay of several Alfred Hitchcock films, was cast as Alexander Waverly, replacing Will Kuluva’s Mr. Allison.

Carroll was three decades older than Kuluva. He had two basic on-screen personas: kind and bumbling (the 1955 comedy We’re No Angels or the Topper television series) or cold and calculating (“The Professor” in Hitchcock’s North by Northwest).

Occasionally, he got to a character where he displayed *both* personas (such as THIS EPISODE of the Boris Karloff Thriller anthology series where his character’s seeming bumbling masked his true persona).

Here’s an entry from Craig Henderson’s U.N.C.L.E. TIMELINE:

Monday, May 18, 1964

(Executive Producer Norman) Felton officially informs NBC that (Rober) Vaughn and (David) McCallum will remain to play running characters but Will Kuluva has been dropped. The new chief at U.N.C.L.E. will be played by Leo G. Carroll, and the character’s name has changed from Allison to Alexander Waverly.

Arguably, Carroll’s Waverly is an extension of his “Professor” character. Waverly is calculating and, as the series went on, showed he was more than willing to sacrifice his operatives if necessary. In one second-season episode (The Foxes and Hounds Affair), Waverly drops Solo (just returning from a vacation) into the middle of a complicated assignment where the ace agent’s life is in danger.

The official casting of the new U.N.C.L.E. chief came less than two weeks before series production began on June 1. The first draft for The Double Affair, which would be the eighth episode broadcast, still refers to Allison as the U.N.C.L.E. chief.

As the first season unfolded, the production team would seek to expand Carroll’s role. Waverly would be given a cousin who bore an uncanny resemblance (The Bow-Wow Affair) and would occasionally demonstrate he had once been a pretty mean operative himself (knocking out a lackey in The Deadly Decoy Affair).

The on-camera team was now complete. The question now was whether the show would work — or even survive.

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.

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.

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.)

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

Spy entertainment to watch in 2014

It’s only a few days before the near year. So it’s not too early to think about spy-related entertainment coming up in 2014.

Daniel Craig during the filming of Skyfall

Daniel Craig during the filming of Skyfall


Bond 24 begins filming: The 24th 007 film produced by Eon Productions probably will go into production toward the end of the year to meet is October (U.K.)/November (U.S.) 2015 release date.

There’s not much hard information, other than Daniel Craig is back as Bond, Sam Mendes is again directing and John Logan is writing the script.

Ralph Fiennes, whose Mallory became the new M at the end of 2012′s Skyfall, TOLD REUTERS IN A DEC. 24 STORY that, “I know nothing, I’ve not been told anything, I have no information, no dates, no sense of the journey of my character at all! I don’t!”

If Bond 24 follows the same path as Skyfall, casting details will dribble out, though not be confirmed initially. With Skyfall, the casting of Fiennes, Naomie Harris and Javier Bardem were all reported long before the movie started principal photography in November 2011.

U.N.C.L.E. movie (probably) arrives in theaters: Director Guy Ritchie’s movie version of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. wrapped production the first week of December. Warner Bros. hasn’t publicly announced a release date but there’s certainly enough post-production time for a fall 2014 release.

Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer (Art by Paul Baack)

Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer
(Art by Paul Baack)


The movie, starring Henry Cavill as Napoleon Solo and Armie Hammer as Illya Kuryakin, will be the first U.N.C.L.E. production since the 1983 television movie The Return of The Man From U.N.C.L.E., which reunited Robert Vaughn and David McCallum, the stars of the original 1964-68 television series.

The film will also be a test whether there’s a mass audience in the 21st century for U.N.C.L.E., a “utopian” spy concept in which agents from opposing sides in the Cold War could unite against common menaces. The movie will be set in the 1960s, the same as the original show.

Mission: Impossible 5 starts production: Tom Cruise is back for a fifth time as the star of a Mission: Impossible film, which will be released at Christmas 2015. Cruise had been slated to star in the U.N.C.L.E. movie as Solo but dropped out as M:I 5 (which his production company produces) developed. That move gave the opening for Cavill’s casting in the U.N.C.L.E. movie.

Cruise’s most recent M:I film, Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol, was a hit while while paying homages to the original 1966-73 television series, while the original 1996 movie turned Jim Phelps into a villain. Since then, Cruise has had his ups and downs. So he could use another financially successful M:I movie.

Golfinger’s 50th anniversary: 1964′s Goldfinger turned Bond into a worldwide phenomenon. Dr. No’s 50th anniversary got a lot of attention, in part because Skyfall was coming out. It’ll be interesting to see if Goldfinger’s golden anniversary draws attention.

Are cameos in movies worth it?

Alfred Hitchcock's cameo right after his "directed by" credit in North by Northwest

Alfred Hitchcock’s cameo in North by Northwest

This fall, fans of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. television series wondered if the show’s original stars would have a cameo in a new film version underway. Some fans were vocal, arguing that of course they should.

It’s not known if such a cameo took place for the U.N.C.L.E. movie. (Robert Vaughn said more than once he’d welcome the opportunity; David McCallum made comments suggesting he wouldn’t participate.) The subject though got this blog to thinking: are such cameos worth it, or are they more of a distraction for a finished film?

The king of such cameos was director Alfred Hitchcock, who made a cameo in his more than 50 films. They can be something of a mixed bag. In North by Northwest, he appears right after his “directed by” credit as a man missing his bus in New York City. The appearance, in effect, is an extension of the main titles designed by Saul Bass. At this point, the viewer hasn’t been watching the actual story of the film.

In other cases, Hitchcock’s appearance almost draw attention to themselves. In 1969′s Topaz, there’s an airport scene. The viewer is drawn to Hitchock, in a wheelchair, guided by a nurse. Hitchcock meets a man, abruptly stands up and shakes the man hand before walking off. By this point, more than 20 minutes of the story have been told. You could argue it’s a distraction, although it’s over pretty quickly.

In the James Bond series produced by Eon Productions, co-boss Michael G. Wilson has been performing cameos for decades. Again, they’re a bit of a mixed bag. In some cases (Skyfall, The World Is Not Enough), they’re fleeting, something for the hard-core fans while more casual 007 cinema goers aren’t likely to notice. In others (Tomorrow Never Dies, Casino Royale), they draw attention to themselves. Here are some:

The interest among U.N.C.L.E. fans whether the movie has cameos is different. Vaughn and McCallum established the original show’s popularity. There’d be no movie if there hadn’t been a television show in the first place. If one was filmed, would it distract from the Guy Ritchie-directed story? The counter question: do you owe it to the original actors if they’re interested? (Especially since Ritchie appears to have squeezed former soccer star David Beckham into the movie.)

None of these questions have right or wrong answers. Fan tastes vary. Hitchcock fans, for example, take pleasure in trying to spot the director’s cameos. In any case, it’s likely such cameos will continue in movies.

Actor says U.N.C.L.E. movie may come out in December 2014

U.N.C.L.E. insignia from a second-season episode

U.N.C.L.E. insignia from a second-season episode

Thanks to @Laneyboggs2001 who told the blog about this on Twitter.

The Man From U.N.C.L.E. movie may have a December 2014 release date, according to a member of the cast.

Misha Kuznetsov, who is listed on the movie’s IMDB.COM ENTRY as playing “Oleg (KGB),” posted a picture of himself and co-star Armie Hammer on the VK social network site. The caption read, “Armie Harmer … Лондон на съемках Man from Uncle!! Comming next December 2014 !!!!”

Warner Bros. hasn’t disclosed a release date for the film, in which Hammer’s Illya Kuryakin will be oppose Henry Cavill’s Napoleon Solo. The official Warners site lists Horrible Bosses 2 for Nov. 26, 2014, and The Hobbit: There And Back Again for Dec. 17.

December would seem like a tight fit. Presumably Warners wouldn’t want to put U.N.C.L.E. too close to one of its own releases, particularly the finale of The Hobbit trilogy. According to A CHART on The Numbers website, other December 2014 releases include an Annie remake from Sony and Night at The Museum 3 from 20th Century Fox.

The Guy Ritchie-directed U.N.C.L.E. movie completed principal photography last week. If the December 2014 date does materialize, that would be three months after the 50th anniversary of the original television series starring Robert Vaughn and David McCallum. We’ll see.

U.N.C.L.E. enters the standee era

U.N.C.L.E. standees are based on this publicity still.

Standees are taken from this publicity still.

There hasn’t exactly been a lot of new collectibles sold in recent decades related to The Man From U.N.C.L.E. television series, which originally ran 1964 to 1968. However, on eBay, there are now U.N.C.L.E. standees for sale.

There’s a new, licensed 5-foot-9 standee of ROBERT VAUGHN AS NAPOLEON SOLO and a matching standee the same size of DAVID MCCALLUM AS ILLYA KURYAKIN. They sell for $36.95 plus $14.95 shipping and handling.

Also available are 20-inch versions of each actor/character for $19.50 plus $4 shipping and handling. (Click HERE for information about Vaughn/Solo or HERE for McCallum/Kuryakin.)

The standees are taken from a 1960s publicity still used in the end titles of the third and fourth seasons of the original series. That still is also known for what some fans view as a questionable choice in footwear for Solo. Interestingly, the feet of the Solo standees appear to have been darkened a bit, making it harder to notice he’s wearing white socks and clogs with his business suit.

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