U.N.C.L.E. breaks the fourth wall

The original U.N.C.L.E.s, Robert Vaughn and David McCallum

In the early days, The Man From U.N.C.L.E’s production team had a notion of its characters breaking the fourth wall and talking to the audience.

It began with the pilot. A black and white version with the original title of Solo includes a short segment after the end titles. It wasn’t intended for broadcast. It was aimed at network executives and would-be advertisers.

“My name is Robert Vaughn,” the series star begins, looking into the camera, “but when that camera rolls, well, Napoleon Solo is the name and espionage is the game.”

Vaughn mentions cast members, including Will Kuluva as “my boss, Mr. Allison,” and David McCallum as Illya Kuryakin. Illya, Vaughn says, “is an interesting young man — you’ll see him often.” That would certainly turn out to be the case.

The actor says U.N.C.L.E. is located in “the East Fifties” of New York City rather than the East Forties. He also says the organization has nothing to do with the United Nations. “It’s merely a code. We call it UNCLE.”

Meanwhile, Vaughn says  “the viewers of television” will be part of the series, just like Patricia Crowley’s “innocent” character in the pilot. “So what do you have to lose, except your boredom?” Vaughn says, smiling. “Or your lives?”

Robert Vaughn as Napoleon Solo in the early moments of Act I of The Iowa-Scuba Affair

The Iowa-Scuba Affair: This was was the first episode to be produced after the pilot. An opening was scripted, but apparently not shot, of Robert Vaughn as Solo talking to the audience.

It’s very much in the same spirit as the segment attached to the end of the pilot.

INT. THE CAVE – FULL SHOT – NIGHT

SOLO is kneeling on the ground between the Pressure Suit and the Scuba Suit. He is examining the suits. A pretty girl is wearing each suit, striking a modeling pose. Solo ignores the girls throughout. He glances around, looks directly INTO THE CAMERA. He swings around, sitting amiably between the two suits.

SOLO
Good evening. My name is Napoleon Solo…or have we met? Here we are, tonight, in Iowa…
(indicates cave)
…land of corn and hogs…
(points downward)
underwater scuba suits…
(points upwards)
high altitude pressure suits for up in the stratosphere…
(does a small take at the suits)
Oh, aren’t these on your list of clothing to take along on a trip to Iowa? You’ll need them tonight.
(rises, brushing himself clean as he talks)
In a minute you’ll meet what seems to be a nice, bright young American soldier. Don’t get to know him too well…he won’t be staying around long. There’ll be a wealthy oilman with suspicions about me. A young lady’s maidenly aunt who views me with suspicion for…uh…other reasons. There’s a lovely lady from the continent to the south. A little old scrubwoman…with some unique ideas how to scrub me out.
(indicates suits)
There’ll be the men who wear these suits…and the bizarre reasons they have for wearing them. I hope you’re in good shape. We’ll have to run for our lives, hunted through the woods by strange men with strange weapons.
(sudden thought)
Oh…and since this is farming country we’re in, we’ll need a young, fairly attractive farm girl. One that smells of country soap…
(looking over the audience)
…one of you will be fine. Do hear any volunteers?

As he smiles:

WHIP PAN TO:

Hit with TITLES

Captain Shark (Robert Culp) during a dramatic moment with Solo in The Shark Affair

The Shark Affair: The episode concerns an antagonist (Captain Shark, played by Robert Culp) who is convinced the world will soon go down in flames from nuclear war. He’s abducting people of special skills from ships so mankind can go on after the war comes.

The unused scripted introduction has Solo on a raft with a parakeet in a cage. He again introduces himself and mentions elements of the upcoming story.

“A mystery ship, naturally. A rather odd-ball Captain aboard the mystery ship? Of course — Some strange characters in the crew? You bet — And — let’s see — what else have I forgotten.”

Just then, a woman in a bikini comes out of the water and boards the raft.

SOLO
Ah yes —
(indicates parakeet)
Sam, here — a parakeet from the Bronx.

Fugitive Nazi scientist Volp is about to drain Napoleon Solo of his blood in The Deadly Games Affair.

The Deadly Games Affair: Originally titled The Stamp Affair, U.N.C.L.E. is seeking Volp, a fugitive Nazi scientist. Volp had a collection of very rare, very valuable stamps. Those stamps are showing up at auction. Apparently, Volp is selling them off to finance…what? The villainous organization Thrush also is on Volp’s trail.

The unused introduction has Solo inside a coffin with a plexiglass top. A woman opens the coffin and Solo steps out.

“This one seems to fit,” he tells the woman. “I’ll take it. Have ‘Napoleon Solo’ inscribed upon it.”

The woman moves off “to take some notations in an order book.” Solo finds the camera and begins addressing the audience.

“I thought I’d make my selection now since I might an abrupt need for one. My work, you know.”

Solo notes he’s an agent for U.N.C.L.E.

“My organization is involved with all sorts of evil all over the world. Sometimes we encounter an outfit named Thrush…they rate number one on our ‘evil outfits’ list. I’m going to meet one of their more attractive members tonight. Along with some free-lance evil types. Some history is involved in this escapade. So I think I’ll take along a couple of college students. Are you ready?”

Instead of these scripted openings, the production crew filmed a sequence that would be used to introduce the second through seventh episodes. Solo and Illya enter U.N.C.L.E. headquarters through the security entrance at Del Floria’s. They reach Waverly’s office. Each talks to the audience.

Staring with the eighth episode, The Double Affair, the series shifted to an “action introduction” based on the pilot. We see the shawdow of a mysterious intruder (in real life, George M. Lehr, who had the title assistant to producer) at U.N.C.L.E. headquarters. He fires at Solo standing behind the bullet-resistant screen.

Solo about to address the audience at the start of The Deadly Decoy Affair.

This would be used for the rest of the first season. However, there was one episode with one key change.

The Deadly Decoy Affair was the first episode aired in a new time slot, 8 p.m. eastern time on Monday. The “action introduction” proceeds as normal until Solo comes out from behind the screen with the “spider web” pattern after being struck by bullets.

“Good evening,” Solo says into the camera. “Tonight, we of the United Network Command for Law and Enforcement have an affair involving Thrush. Now of course you remember Thrush…that nasty international band of renegades. Well, let’s see how nasty they’re going to be tonight, hmm?”

5 Responses

  1. I find this utterly amazing! I’ve never heard of this Fourth wall before except when Solo ex[lains about THRUSH.

  2. In terms of theatrical devices, and being curious about why the fourth wall would be broken, nothing came up about the Deadly Decoy episode. But among possibilities, it can be used to convey “insider information” or “introduce the character as likable.” Reading Benzadmiral’s DD episode review, made him uncomfortable, suggesting the material wasn’t being taken seriously (“nasty” Thrush) and IMO with Vaughn over playing the intro. But we are not the average 60’s decade TV viewer. So perhaps the producer’s more noble intention was to deepen (in pure escapism style) the confidence between our heroes and the fans! If continued though, would’ve been tedious and a distraction for the series in syndication. By being too obvious and a betrayal of the seamless (fantasy/action) spirit of the show!

  3. […] However, that’s not where the script ends. The Shark Affair was among the early U.N.C.L.E. scripts that included never-filmed introductions that break the fourth wall, as detailed in THIS POST. […]

  4. […] introductions where Solo broke the fourth wall. To read a summary of the one for this episode, CHECK OUT THIS NOVEMBER 2018 POST. It involves Solo at a coffin […]

  5. Pacific Sun,

    Thanks for the mention of my blog and review of this episode! It wasn’t so much that it made me uncomfortable, as you put it, but that the “Decoy” intro seemed *clumsy* in comparison with the standard good writing of the series. The intros and previews that our host provides seem awkward too. Imagine if Roddenberry, Coon, & Co. had done something similar with “Star Trek”?

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