Dick Gautier, who played Hymie the Robot, dies

Don Adams and Dick Gautier in Get Smart

Don Adams and Dick Gautier in Get Smart

Dick Gautier, perhaps best remembered as Hymie the Robot on Get Smart, has died at 85, according to an obituary posted by The Hollywood Reporter.

Gautier’s career lasted more than 50 years, according to his IMDB.COM entry. His career highlights included a 1961 Tony nomination for Bye Bye Birdie, according to the Reporter obituary.

Still, he made a big impression in six episodes of the spy spoof Get Smart as Hymie, a robot with a super computer for a brain and incredibly strong. Hymie was originally built by the villainous organization KAOS but became an ally of Maxwell Smart (Don Adams).

Hymie, being a robot, sometimes took things too literally such as one episode where the Chief of Control (Edward Platt) said, “Hymie will you knock that stuff off?” Hymie proceeded to knock some papers on a desk to the floor. In another episode, Hymie said he’d like to work for IBM because “it’s a nice way to meet some intelligent machines.”

The six Hymie episodes were written by actor Gary Clarke under the name C.F. L’Amoreaux, a variation of his real name. Clarke’s acting credits included The Virginian television series.

Gautier appeared one final time as Hymie in a 1989 TV movie, Get Smart, Again! It would be his only appearance without Clarke writing for Hymie.

Happy New Year, hoping for a better 2017

Our other annual greeting

The Spy Commander had considered retiring this greeting with the death of Robert Vaughn in November. But I decided against it.

It’s an amusing image and a perfect example of how Vaughn created the role of Napoleon Solo. Also, art outlives the artist. That’s the way of the world.

So, to all our readers, here’s hoping you have a great 2017 — or at least, you have a better year than 2016.

Once more, Napoleon Solo reminds everyone to party responsibly.

solonye

Bernard Fox, busy character actor, dies at 89

Bernard Fox in The Thor Affair, one of the better episodes in the third season of The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

Bernard Fox in The Thor Affair, one of the better episodes in the third season of The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

Bernard Fox, a busy character actor whose career extended into the 21st century, has died at 89, according to an obituary in The Hollywood Reporter.

Fox, born in Wales, had roles beginning in the mid-1950s to 2001, according to his entry in IMDB.com.

The actor made guest appearances in a number of 1960s spy shows.

Among them: Three episodes of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. (a two-parter in the second season as well as the title character in The Thor Affair in the third), one episode of The Girl From U.N.C.LE. (The Mother Muffin Affair, where he played a bumbling lieutenant of Boris Karloff’s Mother Muffin), The Wild Wild West and It Takes a Thief.

Fox could do both drama and comedy, but was often cast in comedic roles. The Hollywood Reporter obit led with his role as Dr. Bombay in Bewitched. He also played RAF Colonel Crittendon in Hogan’s Heroes.

In the latter role, Fox’s character didn’t know about Colonel Robert Hogan’s espionage operation in Stalag 13. But Crittendon, because he had more seniority, outranked Hogan (Bob Crane) and became the ranking Allied officer in the German prison camp every time he was stationed there.

This, of course, complicated whatever operation Hogan had underway at the time.

1963: The Outer Limits tackles espionage

Episode title card for The Hundred Days of the Dragon

Episode title card for The Hundred Days of the Dragon

The Outer Limits is one of the leading examples of a cult television show. It only lasted a season and a half on ABC. In fact a revival on cable television lasted seven years (1995-2002) on cable television, far longer than the orignal.

Yet, the first version, created by Leslie Stevens, remains fondly remembered. The anthology series emphasized science fiction, although the first season usually featured “the Bear,” the production crew’s nickname for a monster.

The show’s second episode, The Hundred Days of the Dragon, mixed espionage and science fiction, but with no “bear.”

An Asian nation hostile to U.S. interests has developed a serum that turns human tissue pliable for short period of time. The nation’s leader, Li-Chin Sung (Richard Loo) intends to make use of the scientific breakthrough.

One of the nation’s operatives has the same physical dimensions as William Lyons Selby (Sidney Blackmer), the leading American candidate for president who is almost certain to be elected. The operative has even had a finger removed because Selby lost a finger in a hunting accident.

The serum is injected into the operative. Once his skin becomes pliable, a mold of Selby’s face is pressed upon his face. The agent can now pass for the American candidate. Naturally, he’s already had voice training and can mimic Selby’s voice.

Later, in the United States, the agent assassinates Selby. He uses the serum on Selby and uses a mold to make him look like someone else. The agent again ingests the serum to make him look like Selby.

Selby’s double is elected president. Eventually, the new vice president, Ted Pearson (Philip Pine), suspects something is up. The double intends to replace other U.S. with doubles.

The episode was written by Allan Balter and Robert Mintz. Balter would form a partnership with William Read Woodfield and the pair would write key episodes during the first three episodes of Mission: Impossible.

When first broadcast on Sept. 23, 1963, viewers no doubt felt they had just watched some escapist television. Less than two months later, President John F. Kennedy was assassinated for real, although no science fiction serum was involved.

Looking back, the main weakness of the episode is the ease the operative assassinates Selby. There should have been a lot more security around. Still, for its day, The Hundred Days of the Dragon is suspenseful and sells you on the science fiction involved.

Vice President Pearson gets revenge for the operative who assassinated Selby.

Vice President Pearson gets revenge for the killing of Selby.

At the end, the conspiracy has been broken. We see another apprehended agent who looks exactly like Vice President Pearson. U.S. officials also now have samples of the serum.

Pearson injects Selby’s double one more time with the serum. In an act of vengeance, Pearson disfigures the killer’s face.

However, Pearson’s vengeance only goes so far. A military aide tells the now-president a nuclear strike can be made immediately. Pearson declines, because it would only start a war with no victors.

One of the highlights of the episode was the score by Dominic Frontiere, composer for the first season and a production executive for the series. More than a half-century later, The Hundred Days of the Dragon remains a memorable entry for The Outer Limits.

Changes made to home video of our favorite series

“I don’t understand these changes, Illya.”

Many of the blog’s favorite television series have made it to home video over the past decade — but not exactly as they appeared during their original run.

Some of this is a given. “Bumpers,” where we’re told the show will be back after a station break, and previews for coming episodes are usually clipped before going out for home video.

Still, sometimes changes are made for other reasons. Here’s a look at the differences between the shows as they appeared first run and what you get on home video.

The Man From U.N.C.L.E. (1964-68): When the series made its home video debut in 2007 some musical changes were made.

For example, some first-episodes use a different version of Jerry Goldsmith’s U.N.C.L.E. theme. The Project Strigas Affair, the ninth episode aired, uses the version of the theme (arranged by Morton Stevens) utilized for most of the second half of the season.

There are similar substitutions in other first-season episodes, though why they were made isn’t apparent.

One plus, however, was the third-season set included one “bumper” (for The Abominable Showman Affair) in which veteran cartoon voice June Foray told the audience the show would return after station identification.

Another plus is how the first-season set included the original color version of the pilot, when the plan was to call the series Solo.

However, it doesn’t include another, black-and-white version of the plot which has a short presentation by star Robert Vaughn explaining the show and its format to network executive and potential advertisers. Bootleg versions of that have circulated among collectors for years.

Hawaii Five-O logo in the main title

Hawaii Five-O logo in the main title

Hawaii Five-O (1968-1980): In the first season, James MacArthur’s title card read, “With James MacArthur as Danny.” Starting with the second season, it said, “With James MacArthur as Dan Williams.” However, in the home video versions of seasons two through four, the first-season title card remains.

The second-season set, meanwhile, doesn’t include the episode “Bored, She Hung Herself.” That episode aired only once and has never been repeated on CBS or shown in syndication. That ban has continued into the home video area.

The 11th season set has episodes that involve music clearance issues. The two-part story Number One With a Bullet involves the Kumu, the Hawaiian mob, trying to force its way into Hawaii’s disco business.

Both parts include disco hits of the late 1970s. In the home video version, the original hit songs are only heard in Part I while “generic” disco music is substituted for Part II.

Another episode, The Execution File, included a rendition of “If You Think I’m Sexy” performed by a Rod Stewart soundalike. But in the home video version, it gets cut in favor of generic disco music.

The FBI logo from the main titles.

The FBI logo from the main titles.

The FBI (1965-1974): For a number of seasons, lead sponsor Ford Motor Co. got its logo in the main titles. This was clipped when the show went into syndication.

As a result, most of the home video episodes also don’t include the Ford logo. However, there a few episodes in the season two, three and five sets that include the automaker’s familiar oval.

Another change occurs in the end titles, starting with the third-season set. During the 1967-68 season, Warner Bros. changed its logo from the familiar WB shield to a shield with a single W. In other seasons, Warners changed the logo a few times.

With the DVD release, all of those alternate Warners logos are gone, except for a couple of third-season episodes with the single W logo. Almost all of the alternative company logos were replaced with the old WB shield that the company went back to a number of years ago.

The biggest plus for the home video release is in the second half of the first season. It includes an episode never aired on ABC, The Hiding Place. According to Jonathan Etter’s book Quinn Martin, Producer, Ford didn’t want the episode aired for fear it would spur a boycott.

UPDATE: 20 years of the U.N.C.L.E. episode guide

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

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

Originally posted May 18. Re-posting (with some tweaks and additions) today, Dec. 1, the date of the actual anniversary.

The Man From U.N.C.L.E. episode guide marks its 20th anniversary today. Naturally, after researching some things, the Spy Commander couldn’t wait to do a post.

The episode guide was one of the first U.N.C.L.E. fan sites. It first went live on Dec. 1, 1996. It wasn’t complete at the time by any means, but there were at least some reviews for each of the four seasons of the show.

The following summer, the Spy Commander did a geeky thing, sending a printout of the website to retired executive producer Norman Felton. After putting it in the mail, I immediately had the equivalent of buyer’s remorse.

Some of the Season Three reviews (when the show often took a campy approach) were pretty rough. What if Felton became offended? I wondered. Yikes.

Not to fear. Felton sent a letter dated June 23, 1997. At the top, there was a cartoon of someone critiquing a frustrated William Shakespeare. “Good, but not immortal.”

The letter read thusly (underlined words are highlighted with asterisks) in part:

Terrific! The pages from the Web page — yes, and there were ‘duds’ along the way — but enough *good enough* for our *fans*, yes?

In a P.S. he said he might send a copy of a screenplay he was about to finish. “*Not* in the vein of U.N.C.L.E. — and certainly *not* immortal. Wow!”

Also included were two strips of film with a Post It Note. “Enclosed bits of film made to checking lighting for the cameraman” during filming of U.N.C.L.E.’s pilot.

The Spy Commander did a second geeky thing. Making yet another printout, I went to a collectible show in suburban Chicago in the late 1990s where Robert Vaughn, who played Napoleon Solo, had a table signing autographs.

“What’s that?” he asked.

“It’s a printout of a website.”

No reaction from an actor. I began to try to explain but simply felt embarrassed for bringing the printout. Later, I was told from someone who talked to him extensively he wasn’t on the internet much at the time.

The episode guide also generated a response from writer Stanley Ralph Ross, a frequent writer for the 1966-68 Batman show, who also penned some third-season U.N.C.L.E. episodes. He liked how the episode guide noted how the writer used the same joke in U.N.C.L.E. and Batman.

An e-mail interview ensued. “I have some funny stories about the show, especially when I was in The Pop Art Affair,” he wrote in a June 21, 1999, e-mail. Ross said he did an uncredited rewrite on the episode and got a part in the third-season episode as part of the deal.

“David  asked me to stand on a box,” Ross wrote. “I am already 6:6 and said that he would look like a midget but he replied that the taller I was, the stronger and more macho he would seem for having me beat up.” Ross referred to 5-foot-7 David McCallum, who played U.N.C.L.E. Russian agent Illya Kuryakin.

The U.N.C.L.E. episode guide, meanwhile, has had its share of ups and downs. It originally was hosted by AOL. But in 2008, AOL stopped hosting websites. It moved to the Her Majesty’s Secret Servant website. But when HMSS went offline in 2014, the episode guide went dark with it — missing the show’s 50th anniversary in September of that year.

But you can’t keep a good U.N.C.L.E. agent down. The episode guide returned on Oct. 18, 2014 on WordPress, part of a family of websites including The Spy Command.

Since then, the site has been improved, including finally finishing reviews for The Girl From U.N.C.L.E.  and updating and adding features because of the 2015 movie version of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. with Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer.

As far as those two geeky incidents? I don’t really have regrets. Felton died in 2012 and Vaughn on Nov. 11 of this year. My interactions with them may have been awkward. But at least I did gain some insight because of them.

In particular, I remember Vaughn talking about the end of the series at one of the collectibles shows. He said he wasn’t crushed about the show being canceled.  “I just went on to the next thing I had to do.”

Hopefully, the episode guide will remain around for a while — good, but not immortal.

Al Brodax, cartoon producer, dies at 90

Art for a home video release of Cool McCool

Art for a home video release of Cool McCool

Al Brodax, a busy cartoon producer in the 1960s, has died at the age of 90, according to an obituary posted by The New York Times.

Brodax was in charge of the motion picture of King Features Syndicate. In that capacity, he produced Popeye cartoons for television as well as cartoons based on King Features comic strips such as Beetle Bailey, Snuffy Smith and Krazy Kat.

Broadax also became involved with the 1960s spy crazy with Cool McCool, which originally aired on NBC on Saturday mornings from 1966 to 1969.

Brodax co-created the show with Bob Kane, the co-creator of Batman. This took place at the height of popularity for the Batman television show on ABC. Thus, Kane’s involvement gave Cool McCool a foot in two popular genres of the day.

Cool McCool was closer to Get Smart than James Bond as its hero bumbled his way through assignments from the unseen “No. 1” (voiced by Chuck McCann). No. 1 often lost his cool with McCool (voiced by Bob McFadden) and used an ejector seat (or similar device) to send the operative on his way.

A half-hour show would consist of three cartoons. The first and third featured McCool against a variety of Batman-esque villains such as the Owl, Hurricane Harry (“with all the wind he can carry” according to the catchy title song) and the Rattler. The second cartoon was about McCool’s father, Harry, who had been a cop.

The obituary by the Times focuses on one of Brodax’s biggest successes, the 1968 animated Beatles film Yellow Submarine. However, he also had a notable flop, the 1968 live-action Blondie situation comedy on CBS. It only aired a half season.