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.”

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.

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.

Mission: Impossible 7 releases new trailer

Mission: Impossible Dead Reckoning Part One, the seventh film in the Tom Cruise series, came out with a new trailer today.

The emphasis was on stunts and action scenes. There weren’t many plot revelations. Cruise’s Ethan Hunt is in the midst of a major mission and has enemies who want to do him in.

The new trailer repeats Cruise jumping off a mountain on a motorcycle, similar to GoldenEye. A stunt new to this trailer is a fight on top of a train, similar to Octopussy.

The movie, directed by Christopher McQuarrie, underwent COV19-related delays.

The movie is scheduled for release on July 12. Part Two of Mission: Impossible Dead Reckoning is scheduled for next year. Here is the version released over Twitter:

60th anniversary of the end of Fleming and U.N.C.L.E.

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

The spring and summer of 1963 was a decisive period for Ian Fleming’s involvement — and in the end non-involvement — in The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

Fleming and producer Norman Felton had met just months earlier, Oct. 29-31, 1962. The two had co-created Napoleon Solo. Felton turned over that material to writer-producer Sam Rolfe to do the heavy lifting. Rolfe revamped the previous ideas into a series proposal. It was titled Ian Fleming’s Solo. Rolfe was not happy about that. It was mostly (actually, almost entirely) his work.

On May 8, 1963, the Ashley-Steiner agency sent a letter to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, which includes details about Fleming’s financial demands for being a participant in U.N.C.L.E.

“He definitely wants to be involved in the series itself if there is a sale and is asking for a mutual commitment for story lines on the basis of two out of each 13 programs at a fee of $2500.00 per story outline,” according to the letter.

Fleming also wanted a fee of $25,000 to be a consultant for the series per television season. In that role, the author wants two trips per “production year” to travel to Los Angeles for at least two weeks each trip and for as long as four weeks each trip. The author wants to fly to LA first class and also wants a per diem on the trips of $50 a day.

However, Fleming was under pressure from Bond film producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman to exit U.N.C.L.E. Fleming would sell off his U.N.C.L.E. rights for 1 British pound.

In early July 1963, Felton sent Fleming a letter: “May I thank you for meeting with me when I was in England recently. It was deeply appreciated in view of all of the pressures on you at that time. I am hoping, incidentally, that your move to the country has worked out satisfactorily.

“Your new book, ‘On Her Majesty’s Secret Service’, is delightful. I am hoping that things will calm down for you in the months to come so that in due time you will be able to develop another novel to give further pleasure to your many readers throughout the world.”

Fleming sent a reply to Felton on July 16, 1963: “Very many thanks for your letter and it was very pleasant to see you over here although briefly and so frustratingly for you.”

Paul Playdon, spyfi writer, dies

Paul Playdon (1943-2023), when he was a child actor, in a memorable episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents in 1957, The Glass Eye with Jessica Tandy.

Paul Playdon, who began his show business career as a child actor, then transitioned to being a television writer-producer, has died at 80.

His death was reported on Facebook by a friend, Danny Biderman in a detailed post. Biederman has an extensive collection of props from various examples of spy entertainment.

Playdon, born in the U.K., had been a child actor appearing in Alfred Hitchcock Presents, in the 1957 episode The Glass Eye. Other performers in the episode included Jessica Tandy and William Shatner.

Playdon moved to being a writer-producer. His work covered a number of television series, including Hawaii Five-O, Cannon, The Wild Wild West and The Magician.

Perhaps his biggest television impact was on the original Mission: Impossible series. He was brought on as story editor after ace M:I writer-producers William Read Woodfield and Allan Balter exited the show after a dispute with creator-executive producer Bruce Geller.

Playdon, with his story editor hat, had to revise scripts. His M:I input as writer also included a two-part story as well as the show’s only three-part story. Bits of both adventures showed up in the 2011 Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol movie.

An early 15th-anniversary post for The Spy Command

Happy Spy Command Day, says Griffey the Griffin

It’s very early to mark the 15th anniversary of The Spy Command. Still, the blog did come out in October 2008.

The blog has always sought to cut the wheat from the chaff. But some fans don’t appreciate that.

This blog has mostly been a hobby. And that has been the case for years.

Not everyone takes it that way. The blog has been accused of rooting for the box office failure of No Time to Die. Not true, but the blog posted the financial box office results.

More recently, a one-time prominent Bond fan criticized the blog. I won’t link it. Suffice it to say, the Bond fan sent me emails apparently looking for me to promote his recent publications.

Regardless, the blog will go on. The blog has always been more than James Bond. There are plenty of online places for promotion.