Illya Kuryakin, U.N.C.L.E.’s loyal Soviet

David McCallum's main titles credit in the final season

David McCallum’s main titles credit in the final season

One change in The Man From U.N.C.L.E. movie compared to the original series: The film makes explicit that Illya Kuryakin is a loyal Soviet while the show tiptoed around the issue.

The 1964-68 series was the utopian spy show of the era. An American and a Soviet could work together to combat larger threats. But the show only went so far.

In one first-season episode, The Neptune Affair, Kuryakin (David McCallum) was dressed in a generic Soviet military uniform. He’s somewhere on the northern coast of the Soviet Union in the company of some Soviet sailors after rockets launched from the United States are destroying the grain harvest with a “chemical fungus.”

Afterward, there’s a brief scene back at U.N.C.L.E. headquarters. There has been a series of such rocket launches, timed to destroy the Soviet wheat harvest. The next spot where the wheat will be ready for harvesting is Orbesk “where I must be tomorrow,” Kuryakin says. The Soviet military is on alert and another attack and World War III will begin if there’s another attack.

The other major reference to Kuryakin as Soviet occurred in another first-season episode, The Love Affair. Napoleon Solo (Robert Vaughn) and Kuryakin arrive outside a party of rich people.

“Suddenly, I feel very Russian,” Kuryakin says.

“That’s just your proletarian blood,” Solo responds.

A moment later, there’s another exchange as Solo prepares to crash the party.

KURYAKIN: Well, let’s not keep the blue bloods waiting.

SOLO: If I’m not hour in a half-hour, start a revolution.

KURYAKIN: That would be a pleasure.

That’s some snappy banter, but the meaning also is pretty clear, particularly with the tone and expression actor David McCallum employs in the scene. After McCallum’s Kuryakin says starting a revolution would be a pleasure, Vaughn’s Solo shoots him a very interesting glance. (It’s at the 15:06 mark of the episode, according to the Spy Commander’s DVD player.)

Meanwhile, at this point, Kuryakin has been an U.N.C.L.E. agent for nine years. (A fourth-season episode establishes that Kuryakin graduated from U.N.C.L.E.’s “survival school” training facility in 1956.) Clearly, living and working with Westerners hasn’t changed the Russian’s outlook.

Still, there’s a portion of the original U.N.C.L.E. fan base that’s not convinced. Some fan fiction stories, for example, depict Kuryakin as a defector. Others simply say there’s no way Kuryakin could possibly work for a reprehensible government.

Interesting, except….that would be the easiest thing for the show to do.

Consider what was going on with other popular shows of the era.

I SPY: Soviets and Communist Chinese were villains.

THE FBI: Soviet bloc and Communist Chinese were villains.

MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE: Soviet bloc agents were villains.

HAWAII FIVE-O: Communist Chinese agents were villains until the United States normalized relations with China in 1972. Arch-villain Wo Fat, the chief Chinese intelligence operative in the Pacific, goes independent in a 1974 episode, and complains how the Chinese leadership has gone soft against the U.S. Wo Fat even attempts a coup to take over China in a 1976 episode.

So if Illya Kuryakin were a defector or something similar, that would be the norm of 1960s television. The notion of a Soviet working closely with an American is one of the main aspects of the series that differentiates it from other spy series.

It’s understandable why the show would be subtle about this angle. At the time, executives of television networks and advertisers got nervous about possible controversies. In the end, Kuryakin’s popularity conquered all, with his image used in an advertisement promoting U.S. Savings Bonds.

With The Man From U.N.C.L.E. movie coming out, the idea of Kuryakin as loyal Soviet is straight forward and is part of the film’s Cold War setting. Armie Hammer’s Kuryakin is a KGB agent. In this case, his partnership with Napoleon Solo (Henry Cavill) is more of a shotgun marriage.

The Spy Command’s guide to the U.N.C.L.E movie

U.N.C.L.E. movie poster

U.N.C.L.E. movie poster

Ahead of the Aug. 14 release of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. movie, we present the best posts this blog has made regarding the film.

It’s no secret The Spy Command has followed the development and filming of this project closely. What follows are links to the best posts the blog had to offer.

Pros and cons of an U.N.C.L.E. movie (June 9, 2013).

Elements that should be part of an U.N.C.L.E. movie (June 30, 2013): What made The Man From U.N.C.L.E. television series different from other spy entertainment and why those elements should be retained in a film version.

How the U.N.C.L.E.. movie will differ from the original show (Sept. 4, 2013): Taller lead actors, a younger Waverly and an “origin” story line.

The U.N.C.L.E. movie’s ‘Easter eggs’ (Sept. 27, 2013): Some passing references (maybe?) to the original show.

Some fan complaints about the U.N.C.L.E. movie (Oct. 6, 2013): Lead actors are too tall, Henry Cavill too muscular, Armie Hammer doesn’t have a David McCallum haircut.

The rise of the ‘origin’ storyline (April 11, 2015): It’s not just the U.N.C.L.E. movie that favors an “origin” storyline.

Will the U.N.C.L.E. movie have dash? (May 29, 2015) “Dash” was the word Norman Felton, executive producer of the original show, used to describe U.N.C.L.E. Will the move have dash?

Will Solo’s moral streak make it into the U.N.C.L.E. movie? (June 25, 2015)

The U.N.C.L.E. movie’s gamble (July 2, 2015): How the U.N.C.L.E. movie is paring itself to the basic DNA of Solo, Kuryakin and Waverly while dispensing with familiar memes of the original show.

In addition, on our sister site, The Man From U.N.C.L.E. episode guide, there’s a timeline for how the movie developed.

Quick recap of Eon non-007 projects

Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson, co-bosses of Eon Productions

Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson of Eon Productions

It’s not easy to get a movie made. Studios make fewer and more expensive films.

Even when producers with a good box office record aren’t guaranteed of seeing their projects become reality. That includes Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli, the co-chiefs of Eon Productions, which makes James Bond films.

The Eon leaders have been working on a number of film projects away from the world of James Bond, even as it continued work on the 007 film series.

Here’s a list of Eon projects that have been formally announced but are still in development.

Remake of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang: Referenced in this APRIL 2009 PRESS RELEASE issued by Sony Pictures.

The 1968 film musical, based on an Ian Fleming novel for children, was the final non-007 movie produced by Albert R. Broccoli co-founder of Eon Productions. Technically, it wasn’t made by Eon Productions but another Broccoli production company, Warfield. The movie’s crew included a number of 007 film series veterans.

Dana Broccoli, widow of Albert R. Broccoli, Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli produced a London stage production that opened in 2002. A Broadway production opened in 2005.

So, Sony, following the release of 2008’s Quantum of Solace, announced that the studio was developing a new film musical to be produced by Eon.

Film adaptation of REMOTE CONTROL NOVEL: The main subject of the same APRIL 2009 PRESS RELEASE. 

Here’s how the press release began:

CULVER CITY, Calif., April 14 /PRNewswire/ — Building on their successful collaboration on the two most recent and highest grossing James Bond adventures in the history of the franchise, Sony Pictures Entertainment has acquired the motion picture rights to REMOTE CONTROL, a thriller novel by Mark Burnell, to be produced as a feature film by Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli’s Eon Productions, it was announced today by Doug Belgrad and Matt Tolmach, presidents of Columbia Pictures. Ileen Maisel will join Wilson and Broccoli in producing the project. Burnell will adapt his novel into the screenplay.

Edward Snowden movie: Announced in May 2014 and reported widely, including this REUTERS STORY that appeared in The Huffington Post.

Sony acquired the film rights to a book by journalist Glenn Greenwald. The studio said Eon Productions would produce the movie, and that Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli would be producers.

A competing Snowden movie, simply titled Snowden and directed by Oliver Stone, and is scheduled to be released on Dec. 25. The Stone movie is based on two other books.

Eon has worked with Sony for the past decade. Sony’s Columbia Pictures has released the last four Bond films, including SPECTRE, due out this fall. Sony’s contract to release the 007 series expires with SPECTRE. Also, Sony executive Amy Pascal was forced out of her job earlier this year following controversies related to last year’s hacking at Sony. Whether any of that affects these projects isn’t clear.

 

THR analyzes the appeal of Tom Cruise’s M:I series

Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation's teaser poster

Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation’s teaser poster

The Hollywood Reporter has published an article examining why Tom Cruise’s Mission: Impossible film series remains popular.

Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation, the newest film in the series, is due for release on July 31. It’s the fifth entry in 19 years. Here’s an excerpt from The Hollywood Reporter story about the M:I series differs from other film franchises.

The Mission: Impossibles are almost a stealth series; they’re released some distance apart (Mission: Impossible II followed four years after the first, with the third six years after that; Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol arrived five years later, making this summer’s Rogue Nation seem almost rushed with just a four year window between movies), and lack the tight self-referential nature of modern genre franchises. You really can go into each movie entirely fresh and learn all there is to know within a matter of minutes. (Mostly because all you really need to know is “Tom Cruise plays an unstoppable super spy.”)

The initial M:I film in 1996 included Jim Phelps (Jon Voight), the lead character played by Peter Graves for six of the seven seasons of the 1966-73 series. But that movie turned Phelps into a villain, with Cruise’s Ethan Hunt vanquishing Phelps.

2011’s Mission: Impossible Ghost Protocol, directed by Brad Bird, actually dug into the original show for some major sequences (albeit bigger and better versions for the screen).

Paramount, the studio that releases Cruise’s M:I movies, originally scheduled the new film for Christmas but moved it up to the summer. Studios generally don’t move up movies on the schedule if they don’t believe in their prospects. We’ll soon see whether star-producer Cruise still has his golden touch.

U.N.C.L.E. director says he sought ’60s look for film

Logo for The Man From U.N.C.L.E. movie

Logo for The Man From U.N.C.L.E. movie

Guy Ritchie, during a press junket in London this week for The Man From U.N.C.L.E., said he tried to give the movie a ’60s look and make it different visually from his previous projects.

“I’m quite well known for using slow-mo shots and we did none of those,” the director told ScreenSlam.com in a video interview the website uploaded to YouTube.

The U.N.C.L.E. movie was done as a period piece and is set in 1963.

“It was a constant process of using either old techniques such as split-screen or doing as much as we could in camera,” he said. “We tried to stick to a theme of ’60s filmmaking.”

The director also said U.N.C.L.E. wasn’t “going to compete with $200 million movies in terms of action for action’s sake.” The U.N.C.L.E. movie had a $75 million production budget.

The ScreenSlam.com video is below. Ritchie was interviewed along with Lionel Wigram. Both co-wrote the film’s script and are among the four producers of the movie. The film will be released in the United States on Aug. 14. Shoutout to @laneyboggs2001 on Twitter, who flagged the video.

007 Magazine examines SPECTRE’s script issues

SPECTRE LOGO

No spoilers in this post. You’re on your own if you click on the links.

Graham Rye’s 007 Magazine has posted A LENGTHY STORY about SPECTRE, including A PORTION about script issues involving the 24th James Bond film.

The story by Luke G. Williams is split into two parts. The first sums up production developments involved with SPECTRE. The second part delves into the hacking at Sony Pictures, which caused at least some SPECTRE script drafts and numerous executive memos about the film to become available.

Some of the information about the scripts has been written about by other outlets, but 007 Magazine goes into further details.

The movie’s initial writer was John Logan, who was brought in to rewrite the efforts of Neal Purvis and Robert Wade on Skyfall. With SPECTRE, Purvis and Wade were brought in to revamp Logan’s efforts.

To read the entire article, CLICK HERE for part one, and CLICK HERE for part two. Spoilers are in part two.

Bond researcher analyzes new SPECTRE trailer

James Chapman as he appeared on the BBC

James Chapman as he appeared on the BBC

This week, the first regular trailer for SPECTRE came out. So, the U.K. MIRROR newspaper asked 007 researcher and academic author James Chapman to analyze it.

Chapman wrote Licence to Thrill, a 2000 book that analyzed the James Bond film series up until that time. It was deeply researched, with extensive footnotes that detail the sources of the information included. It’s one of the Spy Commander’s go-to sources for checking out 007 movies of the past.

Here’s a non-spoiler quote from Chapman from the Mirror story: “The Spectre trailer suggests that the film will combine aspects of the classic Bond movies of the 1960s with a modern twist.”

To read the entire article, CLICK HERE. There aren’t any serious spoilers, but the super spoiler adverse (such as those who consider movie trailers to be spoilers) should avoid.

SPECTRE will be released in October in the U.K. and Nov. 6 in the United States.

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