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.

Impressions from an extended U.N.C.L.E. movie preview

The Man From U.N.C.L.E. teaser poster

The Man From U.N.C.L.E. teaser poster

By Kevin Bertrand Collette, Guest Writer

Ok , so you did not want to dance …
Would you want to wrestle , then ?

(Gaby Teller/ Alicia Vikander)

Ok, I’ll be the first to admit it, I’m not really a fan of Guy Ritchie’s movies.

And although I attended the Strasbourg French shooting of Sherlock Holmes: a Game of Shadows, it was more out of curiosity than anything else.

I was therefore a bit anxious about the result of his adaptation of the Cult TV series of the Sixties (based on various ideas by Ian Fleming himself), The Man From U.N.C.L.E .

Warner France organised at its Neuilly headquarters this Wednesday a Show Case of the new movie, consisting of 40 minutes of extracts of the upcoming movie, completed by a wonderful exhibition of storyboards, costumes drawings and various pre- production sketches.

So open channel D!

And stop reading right there if you do not want to learn some massive spoilers at every turn of my little compte-rendu …

First extract takes place in KGB headquarters in Moscow, where some top ranking officer lectures Illya Kuryakin about Napoleon Solo.

We then learn practically everything that is to know about the CIA man,an ex art dealer (a talent he acquired during World War II when stealing stuff back from the Nazis for the allied forces) .

Solo’s natural talents for smooth undercover action is rapidly noted, he is hired by the Agency and quickly became one of their top operator. All this is explained to Kuryakin – a massive silent giant who has just be chosen to team up with the American to dismantle a new terrorist organization .

Second extract is a (much) longer version of the East Berlin car chase, where Solo and his lovely protégée try to lose Kuryakin through the cobbed streets of Berlin. But nothing seems to stop the Russian (not even concrete walls. I surprise myself thinking there of Richard Kiel’s Jaws character … ).

After a lengthy chase ( without the ‘ cheek-to-cheek car waltz appearing in the trailer, btw), abandoning their car which tires have been shot at by the persistent Soviet agent , the duo enter a building situated just in front of the infamous Berlin wall .

Solo pulls up a gadget ( à la Goldeneye grappling hook belt) and with the help of a fellow agent parked just on the other side of said Wall, the two Westerners escape the fury of the Russian in the nick of time …

Third extract takes place in a U.S. novelty shop where Solo, Kuryakin and the girl choose various Haute Couture dresses for their lady companion. The plan is to infiltrate in Rome the evil organization with Kuryakin and madame posing as a couple of Russian architects, while Solo will tail them . It’s an amusing sequence where Illya is horrified by the decadent tastes of Western women, while Solo keeps on mocking him for his peasant tastes.

Fourth extract takes place in a Rome Hotel bedroom, where Madame is getting bored while Illya quietly tries to play chess. The nerves of the Russian slightly began to crack when she turns up the volume of the Radio and starts to dance.

Fifth extract sees Illya and Madame strolling by the Colisée and being then abruptly mugged by a couple of local thieves. Since Kuryakin’s specific instructions are him to pass for a gentle spirit (understand : a coward) , he has to refrain himself not to knock out both thugs with just one hand! A rather funny sequence indeed, with Solo finally commenting, “Not sure you were made for that part.”

Sixth and final extract took place in an unidentified harbor – where Solo and Kuryakin manage to escape the commando after them.

While Solo slips very early in the water (without Kuryakin realizing that) and then comfortably settles down in a truck parked nearby to observe the nautical chase going on, his partner’s speedboat is finally gunned down .

Solo immediately enters in action full throttle and throws his truck right into the Villain’s boat!

He then manages to save Illya (who was slowly drowning) and bring him back to terra ferma .

Screening concluded with a much longer version of the trailer (with a line of hugh Grant I instantly memorized, “You are from now on a very special agent , Mr Solo.”)

So, what to think of it, in the end ?

I , for one, was instantly immersed into that Cold war drama setting. And I never honestly try to put the faces of Mr. Vaughn nor Mr. McCallum in lieu et place of their modern counterparts, Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer.

I guess some die hard U.N.C.L.E fans will scream in rage at the new Illya Kuryakin (who is first presented as a bully-type character but then mellows into a nice individual of his own. The Russian accent is much more pronounced than in the TV series of course , but Illya finally appears as a much more interesting character than dapper Napoleon Solo. It reminds me in place of the Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Red Heat police officer: subtle and unstoppable as a T80 soviet Tank, but with a very big heart and sense of friendship.

Alicia Vikander is a great Female element. She frequently conjures images of Audrey Hepburn, and her interaction with both Hammer and Cavill is genuine and quite fun . Miss Vikander is quite a feisty girl indeed.

As for the music, no classic UNCLE theme heard anywhere but a very 1960s type style , à la John Barry.

Can’t wait to see the final version of the movie .

U.N.C.L.E. stars to promote movie at San Diego Comic Con

The Man From U.N.C.L.E. teaser poster

The Man From U.N.C.L.E. teaser poster

The stars of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. movie will promote the film at the San Diego Comic Con on July 11, according to a WARNER BROS. PRESS RELEASE.

Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer, who play Napoleon Solo and Illya Kuryakin, are scheduled to be joined by female leads Alicia Vikander and Elizabeth Debicki, the studio said in announcing its activities at the convention.

Cavill and Hammer reprise the roles that Robert Vaughn and David McCallum played on the 1964-68 television series. Vikander plays Gaby Teller, the “innocent” of the story while Debicki is the lead villain. The movie, directed by Guy Ritchie, is a different take on U.N.C.L.E., without familiar memes such as the organization’s secret headquarters.

The convention appearance will take place a little more than a month before the U.N.C.L.E. movie’s Aug. 14 release date.

Cavill is doing double duty for Warners at the event. He’s also scheduled to be promote Batman v Superman: The Dawn of Justice. That movie, which comes out in March 2016, features a conflict between Superman (Cavill) and Batman (Ben Affleck). It also an attempt to be Warners’ answer to Disney/Marvel’s Avengers franchise. The press release leads off with details about the Batman v Superman promotion.

Cavill first played Superman in 2013’s Man of Steel. He was cast as Solo in U.N.C.L.E. around the time Man of Steel came out in June of that year.

A cool U.N.C.L.E. publicity still (1965)

Toward the end of the first season of The Man From U.N.C.L.E., David McCallum, playing Illya Kuryakin, posed for a series of publicity stills during production of The Girls of Nazarone Affair, the next-to-last episode of the show’s first season.

In this photo, he’s in a convertible with Sharon Tate, who had a small role in the episode. Tate, in this photograph, shows off her personality that made an impression on casting directors. She soon would soon get larger roles.

Looking at this image, you can understand why Dean Martin wanted Tate to return for a planned fifth Matt Helm movie, The Ravagers. Tate had been his co-star in The Wrecking Crew.

It wasn’t to be. Tragically, she would be murdered in 1969 by the Charles Manson family.

David McC, Sharon Tate

SFX magazine plays up U.NC.L.E.’s ties to Fleming

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

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

SFX magazine has come out with a cover story about The Man From U.N.C.L.E. movie. The tireless Henry Cavill News HAS PUBLISHED A POST with screen images.

Among other things, SFX begins with playing up Ian Fleming’s ties to the original 1964-68 series.

Napoleon Solo is Fleming’s other great contribution to the espionage game, brought to deadly, dapper life by Robert Vaughn…Teamed with David McCallum as taciturn, Beatle-mopped Soviet operative Illya Kuryakin, Solo fought the Cold War on the small screen while 007 ruled the big.

That’s a tad oversimplified, but within bounds. Fleming was involved with U.N.C.L.E. from October 1962 until June 1963. Writer-producer Sam Rolfe did much of the heavy lifting. And the whole project originated with producer Norman Felton, who initially devised the Solo character before meeting with the James Bond author. Fleming’s main contribution to the finished product was the name Napoleon Solo.

The SFX spread also includes an question-and-answer sidebar with Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer, who took on the Solo and Kuryakin roles that Vaughn and McCallum originated. Cavill, in one brief answer, address the Fleming connection between Solo and Bond, a role he auditioned for in 2005, but lost out to Daniel Craig.

HC: James Bond’s a very different thing. As much as Ian Fleming may have created both characters, they’re different — especially with the way Bond is in style now. If we were talking about previous Bonds then perhaps you could call them similar, but Napoleon Solo is a very different animal. He’s not for Queen and country. He’s for Napoleon Solo and Napoleon Solo.

To view the entire Henry Cavill news post, CLICK HERE. For information on how to order the SFX issue, CLICK HERE.

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