This may be the best hope for an U.N.C.L.E. sequel

Billionaire Warren Buffett (b. 1930), who's old enough to remember The Man From U.N.C.L.E.'s original TV run

Billionaire Warren Buffett (b. 1930), who’s old enough to remember The Man From U.N.C.L.E.’s original TV run

Parody alert

Mr. Warren Bufffett
Chief Executive Officer
Berkshire Hathaway Inc.

Dear Mr. Buffett,

You’re of an age when The Man From U.N.C.L.E. television show was big stuff. Last year, there was an U.N.C.L.E. movie released by Warner Bros. but things didn’t work out for the studio.

But U.N.C.L.E. is such an optimistic concept — West and East united against a common foe — it deserves another chance. And you could be the person to make that happen.

Warner Bros., a unit of Time Warner, is having its problems these days. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice needed to be a billion-dollar blockbuster but fell short. It may have even lost money in its theatrical release.

Warners needs a break. And having a well-known billionaire — one who has a positive image — backing a movie would be a boost to the studio and to Time Warner.

You may ask, “But shouldn’t I back The Justice League movie instead?” The problem is, that would be too obvious. The Justice League is the next huge movie and for Warner Bros. to turn to you for financing would look like panic. Financing an U.N.C.L.E. sequel would be a much more subtle play.

By backing an U.N.C.L.E. sequel (50 percent of the production cost? 60 percent? 70 percent?) you could cast it as an investment in man’s better nature. Afterall, U.N.C.L.E. was the utopian 1960s spy show. It was a post-Cold War show that aired in the midst of the Cold War.

What’s more, your involvement would give Warner Bros. a much-needed boost of good publicity. In turn, that would give you the leverage to negotiate a purchase of a stake of Time Warner stock under good terms, as you’ve done with other companies as explained in a 2014 Forbes.com story. Also, when Warren Buffet takes a stake in a company, it usually results in good press for that company.

Finally, you’re at a stage of life where you’re testing out potential successors for Berkshire. You could give one of those possible successors as an assignment. A test, so to speak.

Finally, if you pursue this course, you’d easily be able to get Alicia Vikander (who just picked up an Oscar for a different movie), Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer to show up for the Berkshire annual meeting. That would be the talk of Omaha.

Just some food for thought.

Regards,

The Spy Commander

 

The secret behind U.N.C.L.E.’s “whip pan”

The "whip pan" is reversed, reveal an image from U.N.C.L.E.'s original main titles

The “whip pan” is reversed, revealing an image from U.N.C.L.E.’s original main titles

Who says you can’t learn something new about a show that’s a half-century old?

On Facebook, Ken Kopacki, a member of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. Inner Circle page (named after the show’s original fan club), deconstructed the famous “whip pan” of the 1964-68 spy series.

The whip pan — intended to simulate the effect of suddenly whipping your head around — was used as a transition device between scenes. It was cheaper than doing a dissolve, which required more work in the film lab. With a “whip pan,” the film editor simply inserted a short piece of film between scenes.

Kopacki said he was editing a clip and saw how the “whip pan” had a name embedded in it. He reversed the image and saw how it included the name of actor Fritz Weaver.

The reversed image was from U.N.C.L.E.’s original pilot, simply titled Solo. Weaver was one of the guest stars, playing the first villain to clash with agent Napoleon Solo (Robert Vaughn).

The Solo version of the pilot utilizes the whip pan in its main titles (where Weaver’s name appears) as well as a few places in the episode itself.

At some level, this is akin to how if you played certain rock songs backwards there were hidden messages. In real life, the U.N.C.L.E. “whip pan” is how creative things can happen under tight television budgets.

In 1983, The Return of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. television movie created a “whip pan” at a Las Vegas casino. The 2015 movie version of The Man From UN.C.L.E. didn’t include a whip pan.

Jason Bourne trailer debuts

The trailer for Jason Bourne, the fifth Bourne film from Universal, came out today.

The trailer, understandably, primarily features star Matt Damon, making his fourth Bourne film and third directed by Paul Greengrass. But it also gives viewers a bit more of a look at co-stars Tommy Lee Jones and Alicia Vikander.

The movie is due out in July.

Jason Bourne trailer scheduled for Thursday

The trailer for Jason Bourne, the fifth Bourne film from Universal and the fourth with Matt Damon, is scheduled to be released Thursday.

A six-second teaser for the trailer was sent out over Twitter on Monday. The tweet is embedded below.

Jason Bourne is due out in July. An advertisement for the film aired during the Super Bowl in February.

Batman ’66 to feature team up with (TV) Avengers

DC Comics illustration evoking one version of The Avengers' main titles.

DC Comics illustration evoking one version of The Avengers’ main titles.

DC Comics’ Batman ’66, based on the Adam West television show, will feature a team up with the British TV version of The Avengers, DC announced April 15.

The official title of the mini series is “Batman ’66 Meets Steed and Mrs. Peel.” While The Avengers television series started in 1961, it didn’t reach American audiences until a few years later. Meanwhile, in 1963, Marvel Comics started its The Avengers title.

The mini series “will feature Batman and Robin coming face-to-face for the first time with the other (and English) dynamic duo John Steed and Mrs. Peel – characters from the hit ’60s British TV series The Avengers starring Patrick Macnee and Diana Rigg,” according to DC’s press release.

Here’s DC’s plot summary.

As Bruce Wayne shows the beautiful head of a UK electronics company the sights of Gotham, they are interrupted by the felonious feline Catwoman! Unwilling to leave Miss Michaela Gough unprotected, Bruce resigns himself to the fact that Batman cannot save the day. But some new players have arrived in town – though even as the lovely, catsuit-clad Mrs. Peel and her comrade John Steed take control of the situation, nefarious plots continue apace!

As an aside, character actor Michael Gough (1916-2011) played Alfred the Butler in four Batman movies from 1989 to 1997. He also appeared in two episodes of The Avengers, including The Cybernauts.

DC last year canceled the regular Batman ’66 title. It is being replaced with a series of mini-series. The first, still underway, is a crossover with The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

The Avengers crossover story will become available digitally on June 8 (99 cents for a download) while the print version is scheduled to go on sale on July 6 for $3.99. The digital version is broken up into 12, bi-weekly installments while the print version consists of six monthly issues.

 

Mission: Impossible’s human computer

Barry Crane (1927-1985)

Barry Crane (1927-1985)

Another in a series about unsung figures of television.

When it debuted in 1966, Mission: Impossible was unlike other television series. Its pilot involved a covert team of operatives stealing two atomic bombs. The question was whether such a show could be sustained on a weekly basis.

One of the people who ensured it would was Barry Crane. His official title when the show began was associate producer. Crane helped break down M:I stories into shooting schedules which could be filmed efficiently. M:I was always going to be an expensive show. Crane helped the production get the most bang for its buck.

“To make it simple, he was a walking computer,” Stanley Kallis, one of M:I’s producers, told author Patrick J. White in 1991’s The Complete Mission: Impossible Dossier. “He had perfect recall and could juggle in his mind eighty facts at any moment.”

Before joining the M:I crew, Crane (born Barry Cohen) had been production manager for a number of series at Four Star, including Burke’s Law. Crane came aboard M:I after the pilot had been made and production was ramping up on the series.

M:I executive producer Bruce Geller sold another series a year later with Mannix, the private eye drama with Mike Connors. Geller shifted Crane to that series, where he also directed an episode toward the end of the first season. For the 1968-69 series, Crane held the associate producer post on both series. Along the way, he ended up directing 15 episodes of M:I and six episodes of Mannix.

Before the end of M:I’s seven-year run, Crane was promoted to producer of that series. By this time, the show was under more pressure to control costs. The last two seasons focused on the Impossible Missions Force doing battle with “The Syndicate,” a reference to the Mafia. According to White’s book, Crane “was effective at designing good-looking shows on a practical basis.”

During his television career, Crane was also a noted player of Bridge. Here’s an excerpt of a Crane bio on an unofficial website about the history of the Amercan Contract Bridge League.

Crane became ACBL’s top masterpoint holder in 1968, a position previously held only by Oswald Jacoby and Charles Goren. Crane amassed points at an astounding rate until, at the time of his death, he had 35,138, more than 11,000 ahead of any other players.

By the mid-1970s, Crane primarily was a director, working on various television series. His credits included helming the final episode of Hawaii Five-O, “Woe to Wo Fat,” in 1980.

Crane’s story, however, would not have a happy ending. He was found at his home, “apparently the victim of a bludgeoning,” according to a July 7, 1985 story in the Los Angeles Times.

The murder was never solved, according to Crane’s entry on Wikipedia.

 

Richard Markowitz’s wild wild TV scoring career

A sampling of Richard Markowitz's title cards.

A sampling of Richard Markowitz’s title cards.

Another in a series about unsung heroes of television.

Composer Richard Markowitz, over more than three decades, produced one of the most memorable television themes and contributed to many series.

Yet, more than 20 years after his death, Markowitz is far from a household name. With each passing year, Markowitz passes further into obscurity, save for those few (led by writer Jon Burlingame) who follow the careers of television composers.

Markowitz’s primary legacy is the theme to The Wild Wild West. The composer scored the pilot to the 1965-69 series’ pilot. Originally, CBS hired Dimitri Tiomkin (who earlier wrote the theme song to the network’s Rawhide series) to write the show’s theme song.

According to a Markowitz audio interview that’s an extra on the season one set of The Wild Wild West, producer Michael Garrison didn’t want the Tiomkin theme (which Markowitz described as a ballad). Markowitz, according to this account, was a last-minute hire. Markowitz, in the interview, says he was paid considerably less than Tiomkin.

Regardless, Markowitz came up with a classic theme. During the run of the show, Markowitz only received a credit (“Music Composed and Conducted by”) for episodes he scored. (According to his IMDB.COM ENTRY, that was 29 of the show’s 104 episodes). He wasn’t credited for the theme.  Thus, when other composers did scores for the show, there was no mention of Markowitz.

It wasn’t until 1979’s The Wild Wild West Revisited TV movie that Markowitz an on-screen credit for his greatest creation. The theme showed up in a scene in the 1999 Wild Wild West theatrical movie, but the composer yet again didn’t get an on-screen credit.

Also, according to that same audio interview, Markowitz had clashes with Morton Stevens, who took charge of CBS’s West Coast music operation in the spring of 1965. That contributed to Markowitz not being around when the show concluded with the 1968-69 season.

Despite that, Markowitz had too much talent for other television productions to ignore.

Quinn Martin’s QM Productions hired him frequently (including 16 original scores for The FBI, an episode of The Invaders and some episodes of The Streets of San Frnacisco). He scored nine episodes of Mission: Impossible, including the show’s only three-part story. Universal’s TV operation was another frequent employer, including 71 episodes of Murder, She Wrote.

Markowitz died on Dec. 6, 1994 at the age of 68.

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