U.N.C.L.E. script: A future Oscar winner takes a turn

Richardo Montalban and Robert Vaughn in The Dove Affair

In the earliest days of making The Man From U.N.C.L.E. television series, one writer would go on to bigger things.

His name? Robert Towne, who’d win an Oscar for writing 1974’s Chinatown. The Dove Affair would be his only contribution to U.N.C.L.E.

A script he submitted dated August 1964, has some interesting differences with the episode that would air on NBC on Dec. 15, 1964.

As with the episode, the story begins after the death of the head of an Eastern European nation, Milo Jans and the leader’s body is laying in state. “His name ‘MILO JANS 1884-1964’ and the phrase ‘PRINCE AMONG BARBARIANS, AND BARBARIAN AMONG PRINCES’ is inlaid on the brick wall directly behind the tomb.”

An American teacher, Miss Taub, and her students are present. She tells her students about Jans’ historical importance.

A mysterious man prepares an explosive. Miss Taub continues her briefing for the students. An explosive goes off. The man breaks into the tomb and takes a medal on the body of Jans.

The man (still not identified) has hidden the medal and meets up on a bridge with Satine, an intelligent operative for Jans’ country. Eventually, Satine double-crosses the man, sending him to the water below.

Then, the secret police of the country come up to Satine. They ask what happened to the man. Satine says he would have preferred the man be apprehended alive.

We cut to U.N.C.L.E. headquarters. The man turns out to be a now-dead U.N.C.L.E. agent. There is video of the dead U.N.C.L.E. agent with Jans while he was alive. Alexander Waverly now ponders what to do next. Waverly *now turns* to Napoleon Solo, the Number One of Section Two (operations and enforcement).


Now why? Why would one of our best Section III people risk an international incident by defiling a national teasure?


Why in fact did Jans ask us there at all?

At this point, Waverly assigns Solo to the affair. The briefing includes some details about Satine. Since 1949, he has been first deputy chief of KREB, the country’s intelligence agency. Until 1962, it wasn’t known whether Satine was one man or several. It was discovered he was only one person because he imports special drugs for stomach trouble.

In the final episodes, things were simplified. Solo takes the medal from the body of Jans, is almost killed by Satine but comes back.

Ricardo Montalban was cast as Satine, and the stomach drugs bit remained. June Lockhart played Miss Taub and she was one of the best “innocents” in the story. Miss Taub and her students end up helping Solo get out of fix toward the end of the story.

Citadel ends its first season

Citadel, the streaming show on Amazon Prime, has ended its first six-episode season.

The best part of the sixth episode? A couple of clips from the 1966 feature film Seconds, directed by John Frankenheimer and starring Rock Hudson.

Other than that, there are a lot of double-crosses that are hard to follow. The story jumps across various time frames. I guess you should use a legal pad and take notes.

There are what are intended to be emotional high points. It all falls flat. It doesn’t help that Richard Madden, the male lead in this show, seems to have an acting range of oak to pine.

This series reportedly had a huge budget. It doesn’t come across that way. In the sixth episode, there’s a sky diving sequence that seems lifted from 2014’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier. That’s no surprise given the directors of the 2014 film, Anthony and Joe Russo, are among the executive producers of this project.

The climax of the sixth episode is supposed to be shocking. But Citadel is more exhausting than enthralling. Good luck trying to keep up.

The Wild Wild West now on Amazon Prime

Robert Conrad, right, in a publicity still with Ross Martin for The Wild Wild West

The Wild Wild West, which combined spies and cowboys, is now on (at least in the U.S.) the Amazon Prime streaming service.

The series ran for 104 episodes from 1965 to 1969. It featured Robert Conrad as agent James West and Ross Martin as Artemus Gordon, a disguise expert and inventor.

The duo traveled in a stylish train for their adventures. Conrad often did many of his stunts, including wild fight scenes. He was seriously injured in a third-season episode, which shortened that season.

The greatest adversary of West and Gordon was the dwarf mad scientist Michelito Loveless (Michael Dunn), who appeared in 10 episodes. For the first three of those installments, Loveless was aided by the giant Voltaire (Richard Kiel).

Other guest stars playing villains included Victor Buono, Robert Duvall, and Ted Knight. Future Bond woman Lana Wood appeared in two episodes.

Below is a fan edit mostly recreating a second-season promo. It features music composed by Richard Shores from the episode The Night of the Eccentrics.”

Obscure Bond fan gathering, 2008

For those who were there, it is known, 15 years later, as The Night of the Living Van.

On the night of May 31, 2008, a group of Bond fans went in a rented van to a casino in Joliet, Illinois, a few nights after the 100th anniversary of the birth of Ian Fleming.

For the purposes of this post, the names of the innocent will be excluded (similar to an episode of Dragnet).

After the outing, the people at the back of the van engaged in jokes and impressions (many which had nothing to do with Bond). The people at the front of the van pretended not to hear.

You had to be there.

Higson delivers a James Bond oasis in 2023

Charlie Higson, with his On His Majesty’s Secret Service book, has delivered a James Bond oasis for 2023.

The cinematic Bond isn’t close to another movie adventure. Ian Fleming Publications, overseen by the heirs of the author, is mostly dealing with Kim Sherwood’s “James Bond without James Bond” trilogy.

Higson’s novella — written and published quickly to coincide with the coronation of King Charles III — is what James Bond fans get for now.

Higson’s book is both modestly sized (noticeably smaller than current continuation novels) and a modest page count (161 pages).

Yet, Higson captures many of the Bond memes. A villain with an outrageous speech. A villain with an outsized plan.

Higson also provides long (relatively speaking) action sequences. His version of Bond observes a lot of about the world of 2023, the way Fleming’s Bond made observations about the world of Stalin, Kruschev, and U.S. leaders such as John F. Kennedy.

Higson uses Fleming’s Bond as a vehicle to comment about the 21st century in Europe and the U.S. I’ve seen some Bond fans on social media object to that.

Regardless, Higson’s book is what James Bond fans are going to get for the foreseeable future. Sherwood’s trilogy features new 00-agents. Who knows when Eon will be ready to get on with things after the end of the Daniel Craig era?

Higson has also transitioned an analog Bond into the digital era. On His Majesty’s Secret Service references YouTube, bitcoin, social media, etc.

Other Bond continuation authors “timeshifted” Fleming’s creation. But in recent years, Ian Fleming Publications has mostly emphasized period pieces. Perhaps Higson really does show the old boy still has a place in modern times.

Happy 115th birthday to Ian Fleming

Ian Fleming, drawn by Mort Drucker, from the collection of the late John Griswold.

May 28, 1908 (or 28-May-1908) marks the 115th anniversary of the birth of Ian Fleming.

Fleming, of course, was the creator of James Bond. He was also the co-creator (with Norman Felton) of the character of Napoleon Solo, the lead character of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. The latter gets less attention because Fleming sold off his interest for 1 British pound in 1963.

Regardless, without Fleming, the 1960s spy craze would never would had happened.

One can debate whether there were better versions of the spy craze (in particular John Le Carre’s stories).

Yet Fleming (and Fleming-inspired properties) lifted all boats in the ’60s. Without Fleming, things would have been much different.

Tina Turner dies at 83

Tina Turner in the music video to GoldenEye’s title song

Tina Turner, the soul singer whose career lasted decades, has died at 83, according to various obituaries, including one published by The New York Times.

Turner’s performances featured “rasping vocals, sexual magnetism and explosive energy” in the words of the Times’ obit. She died today at her home in Switzerland, according to a statement from her publicist.

Tina Turner became part of the James Bond film series by performing the title song to 1995’s GoldenEye. A lot was riding on the movie. No Bond film had come out since 1989’s Licence to Kill. Every aspect of the movie got a lot of attention, including a new leading man (Pierce Brosnan) to concerns about whether Bond could come back. Naturally, the song generated interest.

Turner’s song was written by U2’s Bono and the Edge. “The song offered a cool, sneaky Bond-like vibe and subtly incorporated the classic Bond bass line,” Jon Burlingame wrote in his 2012 book The Music of James Bond. Accompanying the song was Daniel Kleinman’s first main titles for the Bond film series. However, the film’s score, by Eric Serra, was a major departure for Bond.

Tina Turner’s career began in the late 1950s. She performed with Ike Turner. The latter’s group became known as the Ike and Tina Turner Revue, according to the Times. The two married but divorced. “Mr. Turner was abusive,” The Times said in its obit. Tina Turner established a solo career with songs like What’s Love Got to Do With It.

For more about Tina Turner’s career, you can check out several items by CNN and obits by Deadline: Hollywood, and ABC News.

Here is the music video to GoldenEye:

Bond (and his rights holders) try to decide what’s next

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

It’s a weird time to be a James Bond fan.

In terms of the films, we are — yet again — in another hiatus. This time, it’s entirely voluntary on the part of Eon Productions. Eon killed off the Daniel Craig version of Bond in No Time to Die. Where does it go from here?

The message from Eon: Don’t call us. We’ll call you.

Put another way: Bond 26? What’s that?

In the literary Bond world, Ian Fleming Publications wrapped up a trilogy written by Anthony Horowitz anchored in the Ian Fleming timeline. It’s now emphasizing a timeshifted “James Bond is missing” trilogy by Kim Sherwood with a quickly done timeshifted Charlie Higson story. The Sherwood and Higson stories have nothing to do with each other.

Higson’s tale, On His Majesty’s Secret Service, was connected to the recent coronation of King Charles III, the long-in-waiting monarch. Meanwhile, Sherwood’s trilogy still has two parts to go. More James Bond without James Bond.

For now, Bond overall is in neutral. Aside from Higson’s story, there’s not much actual Bond.

All of this, you might say, is obvious. And so it is. Regardless, it’s one of the oddest periods for Bond fans.

Jim Brown, football star and actor, dies

Ice Station Zebra poster

Jim Brown, one of the greatest players in the National Football League who went on to a long acting career, has died at 87, according to various obituaries including one published by CNN.

Brown retired from the NFL as a running back for the Cleveland Browns at the age of 30. At the time of his retirement, he had the most rushing yards in league history. When Brown played, the NFL had seasons of 12 or 14 games each year. The league now plays 17 games a year.

Brown moved to acting, quickly appearing in The Dirty Dozen.

The former running back had some appearances in spy-fi.

Brown was in an episode of I Spy titled Cops and Robbers during that show’s second season. Brown had a prominent role in the 1968 movie Ice Station Zebra, based on a novel by Alistair MacLean. The cast also included Rock Hudson, Ernest Borgnine, and Patrick McGoohan.

Jim Brown also was a civil rights activist.

Here is a tribute posted on social media by the Cleveland Browns team.

Ray Austin, stuntman and director, dies

Ray Austin, who went from being a stunt performer to a director on television programs in the U.K, and U.S., died this week at 90, according to an announcement on his website.

As a stuntman, Austin worked uncredited on films such as North by Northwest, Spartacus, and Operation Petticoat, according his IMDB.COM ENTRY.

He was also a stunt performer and stunt arranger on TV shows such as The Avengers in the 1960s. He transitioned into being a director on that series as well as its 1970s revival, The New Avengers.

Austin ended up helming a variety of shows, including Hawaii Five-O, Barnaby Jones, Return of the Saint, Wonder Woman, and A Man Called Sloane.

His credits also included the 1983 made-for-TV movie, The Return of the Man From U.N.C.L.E. That production reunited series stars Robert Vaughn and David McCallum. It also had a cameo with George Lazenby as “JB.”

Austin’s directing credits extended to 1999, according to IMDB.

In 2021, Austin conducted a livestream with some cast members of The Return of the Man From U.N.C.L.E. They included Anthony Zerbe, who played the villain on the TV movie and who later was a secondary villain in the 1989 James Bond film Licence to Kill.