5 U.N.C.L.E. TV stories new fans should see before the movie

The original U.N.C.L.E.s

The original U.N.C.L.E.s

The Man From U.N.C.L.E. hasn’t gotten a lot of exposure since its last broadcast on Jan. 15, 1968. Yet, seemingly against long odds, a big-screen version comes out on Aug. 14.

There are a lot of new fans — particularly those who are fans of actors Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer — who haven’t had a lot of opportunity to catch the original show. With that in mind, here are five U.N.C.L.E. stories from the 1964-68 series that may enhance the experience of new fans ahead of the film.

These aren’t necessarily the very best episodes. But some have elements in common with the movie. Also, this list is intended to include examples from all four seasons of the show. Stories told over two episodes are listed as a single entry here.

The Quadripartite Affair/The Giuoco Piano Affair: These two episodes were filmed together but presented as separate, but related episodes.

Solo verbally jousts with Harold Bufferton (John Van Dreelen) in The Giuoco Piano Affair

Solo verbally jousts with Harold Bufferton (John Van Dreelen) in The Giuoco Piano Affair

Quadripartite was the third episode broadcast. It’s also the first episode where Napoleon Solo (Robert Vaughn) and Illya Kuryakin (David McCallum) function as a team. There’s plenty of good “bits of business” for both characters.

The story involves a power-hungry woman, Gervaise Ravel (Anne Francis), whose lover, Harold Bufferton (John Van Dreelan), is one of the world’s richest men and who’s more than willing to finance her plans. That’s not unlike the new film, where Elizabeth Debicki, is the lead villain.

Giuoco Piano (the seventh episode broadcast) is even better than Quadripartite, showing how manipulative Solo can be. The title comes from a chess gambit that symbolizes Solo’s plan. If James Bond is the blunt instrument, this story demonstrates how Solo is the sharp operator.

Both episodes were written by Alan Caillou, who did intelligence work for the British in World War II. Think an Ian Fleming, who actually went out into the field. Caillou’s two scripts helped define the Kuryakin character. Sam Rolfe, who wrote the pilot, envisioned Kuryakin as a large, massive man. Caillou provided McCallum with the material so the actor could make Illya his own.

Also, the two episodes were directed by Richard Donner, who’d become an A-list film director in the 1970s.

The Never-Never Affair: Through the first season, the show tried to find the right balance of drama and humor. Never-Never, aired late in the season, became the model for future episodes.

"I can't believe everything that's going on, Illya."

Solo and Illya during the theater shootout in The Never-Never Affair

In the story, Solo feels sorry for U.N.C.L.E. translator Mandy Stevenson (Barbara Feldon), who yearns for an adventure. He sends her to get pipe tobacco for U.N.C.L.E. chief Waverly (Leo G. Carroll), while telling her she’s acting as a courier. However, she accidentally is given a valuable microdot covered by the villainous organization, Thrush.

The episode includes a memorable set piece, where a Thrush assassin is firing through a movie theater screen at Solo and Kuryakin, who are having to deal with other Thrush operatives. A high percentage of the jokes work, and writer Dean Hargrove would become one of the main scribes of the series. It was the second episode of show helmed by Joseph Sargent, one of the best directors on the series.

The Foxes and Hounds Affair: A breezy episode that aired early in the show’s second season. The new movie’s tone is supposed to be similar to the second season and Foxes and Hounds is one of the season’s better entries.

U.N.C.L.E. and Thrush are both after a mind-reading machine. That’s pretty fantastic, but no more so than what can be seen in a Marvel Studios film of the 21st century. Both Solo and Kuryakin get chances to shine. We also see that Waverly is perfectly capable of being cold blooded. On top of everything else, Vincent Price is a very good villain who has to watch his back for attacks from a rival in Thrush (Patricia Medina).

The Concrete Overcoat Affair: This two-part episode was edited into a movie for international audiences called The Spy in the Green Hat. Thrush has another ambitious plan that U.N.C.L.E. is trying to foil. But some retired gangsters end up becoming involved and act as a wild card.

This ran during the third season, when the drama-humor balance got out of whack in favor of humor. This Joseph Sargent-directed story reins that in to an extent. There’s also a good scene early in Part II where Solo wants to go save Kuryakin but Waverly disapproves. The U.N.C.L.E. chief relents, but only reluctantly. It’s an unusual moment of drama in a season where that was in short supply.

The Test Tube Killer Affair: In the fourth season, new producer Anthony Spinner wanted to dial the humor way back. This episode, early in the season, is one of the better entries produced by Spinner.

Christopher Jones, center, one of Thrush's "test tube" killers in a fourth-season Man From U.N.C.L.E. episode

Christopher Jones, center, as Greg Martin, in The Test Tube Killer Affair.

Thrush’s Dr. Stoller (Paul Lukas) has been raising young men from childhood to be the perfect killing machines, able to turn their emotions on and off as needed. Stoller’s prize pupil, Greg Martin (Christopher Jones), has been chosen to blow up a dam in Greece. It’s strictly an exercise and the dam has no strategic importance but many will die if Martin succeeds.

Meanwhile, the young killer is highly intelligent — intelligent enough where it appears Solo and Kuryakin may have met their match. The episode has a less-than-happy ending, something not common on the show.

‘Mr. Warner’ steps up ad spending for the U.N.C.L.E. movie

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

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

“Mr. Warner” has boosted ad spending for The Man From U.N.C.L.E. movie ahead of the film’s Aug. 14 release, VARIETY REPORTED on July 29.

The entertainment news site estimated Warner Bros. spent almost $11 million in its most recent weekly report of movie advertisement expenditures. The studio, a unit of Time Warner paid for “1,398 national airings across 42 networks, led by ESPN and Comedy Central,” according to Variety. Warners has spent $14.78 million on U.N.C.L.E. since July 14, according to a chart that accompanied the story.

Originally, Warner Bros. scheduled U.N.C.L.E. for a mid-January release, not considered a prime time for movie releases. “Mr. Warner” switched it to August, part of the summer movie season but after most “tentpole” films have arrived in theaters.

It appears Warners is betting The Man From U.N.C.L.E. can find a new audience. The original series ran from September 1964 to January 1968. The last U.N.C.L.E. production was the 1983 television movie The Return of The Man From U.N.C.L.E., which featured original stars Robert Vaughn and David McCallum.

With next month’s film, director Guy Ritchie has stripped out familiar memes from the show, including its secret headquarters, while providing new takes on the characters of Napoleon Solo (Henry Cavill) and Illya Kuryakin (Armie Hammer). The film had a production budget of $75 million.

No. 2 on the Variety ad-spending list was Paramount’s Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation at $6.57 million during 1,633 national telecasts over 44 networks. That film has showings tonight and its formal release date is Friday.

To see the Variety story and its list of the top five movies for ad spending, CLICK HERE.

Shoutout to Cynthia W. Walker and The Man From U.N.C.L.E. Inner Circle page on Facebook.

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.

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.

2015: a great time to be a spy fan

“Sorry Spy Commander, suck it up. Some of us have bigger fish to fry!”

It has been an embarrassment of riches for the Spy Commander these days.

“Mr. Warner” keeps putting out more promos for The Man From U.N.C.L.E. movie that the Spy Commander can keep up with. A new SPECTRE trailer is out, demonstrating the 24th James Bond movie will attempt to combine Daniel Craig style with “classic” Bond elements. Oh, yeah. A new Mission: Impossible movie is coming out next week.

On top of that, the Spy Commander has had an unexpected opportunity to delve into 007’s cinema past, thanks to copies of scripts from Bond collector Gary J. Firuta. (Bond and Scaramanga calling each other “punk”? PROSPECTIVE BUYER instead of J.W. Pepper?)

Occasionally, there’s the bitter with the sweet. This blog has never been “Rah! Rah!” Some readers don’t like that. Then again, if you send posts for public consumption, there are always going to be critics. That’s the way of the world.

As Napoleon Solo observes in the accompanying image, people have bigger fish to fry.

Despite arguments (“Why are they making an U.N.C.L.E. movie anyway?” or “That’s a spoiler!”), this is actually a great time to be a spy fan. We’ve already had new spy entertainment this year, and “The Year of the Spy” is now kicking into high gear.

So whatever happens in the next few days, weeks and months, remember to enjoy it. The Spy Commander intends to do so.

U.N.C.L.E. movie stars to take questions via Twitter

The stars of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. will take fan questions via Twitter, it was announced on, well, Twitter.

Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer will take questions using the hashtag #AskUNCLE.

If this sounds familiar, well, Paramount earlier today announced a similar promotion where the cast of Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation would answer questions using the hashtag #AskMissionImpossible. Those answers are to be posted on Saturday.

What follows is the embedded tweet of the U.N.C.L.E. promotion. It was posted Monday evening. You can CLICK HERE to see the questions that have been written.

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