U.N.C.L.E. script: The show’s popularity surges Part II

Illya and Tracey, anxious for the blog to start Part II of its look at the script of Alexander the Greater Affair.

Dean Hargrove was assigned the task of writing the first two-part story for The Man From U.N.C.L.E. One question: How do you provide a recap at the start of Part II?

Instead of beginning directly with the story’s cliffhanger, Hargrove began back at U.N.C.L.E. headquarters in New York. There, U.N.C.L.E. boss Alexander Waverly wants all communications channels open should Solo and Illya report.

Agent Farrell complains to Waverly about the money Solo and Illya have been spending.

He’s interrupted by “AGENT FARRELL, a harried-looking man” who “enters with an open file.”

“When you do reach Mr. Solo and Mr. Kuryaking, Sir,” Farrell says, “I think it would be good policy to remind them that although they have unlimited expense accounts Budget Control feels this present mission is getting completely out of hand.”

The stage directions indicate Waverly’s reaction is “wry.” “Oh, really.”

Farrell then lists some of the agents’ expenses incurred during Part I. Waverly’s response, according to the script is “dry.” I’ll speak to Mr. Solo about it — as soon as I hear from him.”

FARRELL
Thank you, Sir. We have to hold the line somewhere.

WAVERLY (amused)
Yes, don’t we?

The scene was filmed and used in the TV version of Part II. However, it was clipped from the movie version, One Spy Too Many. As a result, it went unseen for almost 35 years until the TV version was shown on TNT in 2000.

Cliffhanger

Now, it’s back to the cliffhanger, with Alexander, his flunky Parviz and his advisor Mr. Kevon, who walks with a crutch. (Sorry, should have mentioned him in Part I of this post, but we were covering a lot of territory.)

Luckily, the villains have to leave to catch a flight to the United States. This enables Solo to get his legs free from his bonds. He catches the scimitar with his feet. During this maneuver, the script says Solo slices open his trousers. As filmed, that doesn’t happened.

Anyway, Solo uses the scimitar to cut his remaining bonds. As the rope holding Illya and Tracey burns through, Solo grabs it. “The weight of the two people pulls him forward.” Illya and Tracey are now down in the opening to the pit. But Solo ties the rope, preventing Illya and Tracey from descending any further.

Solo and Waverly discuss how to pick up Alexander’s trail.

At the start of Act I, the agents are back at headquarters. Their only lead to Alexander is a health club the industrialist owns in Washington.

‘Out of the Question’

Tracey is at headquarters, too. Waverly initially ponders using Tracyey as bait. “Of course, that’s out of the question,” he says. “It’s far too dangerous. We certainly couldn’t ask her to do that.”

“Solo and Illya share a glance,” according to the stage directions. “I think you’ll find her unusually cooperative,” Illya says.

The trio go to Solo’s office. Tracey latches onto Waverly.

“She stands, extends her hand,” read the stage directions. “In her own way, she takes command — which somewhat unnerves the Section One leader.” She asks to speak privately to Waverly.

SOLO (slyly)
We’ll be outside…in case you need us, Sir.

WAVERYLY (curt)
Thank you.

Naturally, Tracey suggests using herself as bait to get Alexander. And off we go.

Alexander and two generals have a pleasant chat about a planned assassination.

Next up is a “large, sedate-looking Virginia estate.” This is supposed to be at Alexandria, Virginia. Alexander is entertaining “two oriental gentlemen (more Indosesian-looking than Chinese), GENERAL BON-PHOUMA and GENERAL MAN-PHANG. Both are heavily-medaled, wear military uniforms and sunglasses.”

The generals are planning a military coup for their home nation, unaware they’re being manipulated by Alexander. The industrialist gives them the “will gas” he stole from the U.S. Army at the start of Part I.

Alexander will play a central part in the coup. “I have arranged for your Washington Embassy to hold a special party in honor of your country’s President,” Alexander says. “I will be there to make a ‘good-will’ speech. I’ll kill him immediately after my remarks.”

Bon-Phouma says, “I must admit your plan has an almost oriental subtlety.”

After sending the generals on their way home, Alexander is approached by Mr. Kavon. Alexander says the generals are “second rate intellects. I won’t have any trouble using their country as my personal power base. From there I can subvert all of Asia.”

In the course of the conversation, we now learn that Alexander is a protoge of Kavon’s. However, Kevon, is feeling alienated from Alexander. The latter has hinted (via a brochure for a retirement home) that Kevon should take it easier.

Alexander “exits,” according to the stage directions. “Kavon looks after him, a rejected man.”

Breaking a Commandment

It turns out that Alexander drives into Washington. He pays a call to Princess Nicole and breaks the Seventh Commandment with her. Her husband, Prince Phanong arrives.

PHANONG
I’ll kill you.

ALEXANDER
No, you won’t. You’re not suited for it. But don’t worry. I’ll see to it that no one knows you’re not ‘Prince’ enough to keep your own wife. I’m very reasonable.

Phanong knows it’s all too true.

Alexander is doing this to ensure Phanong will support “the junta that will overthrow you new government.” He hangs a framed number 7.

Elsewhere in Washington, Tracey goes into Alexander’s health club. She’s detained by the club staff, who are being supervised by Parviz. Eventually, Solo follows. He gets captured also and is left to the mercies of “INGO, a huge, blond man in a sweatsuit.” In the final version, Ingo would be played by Cal Bolder, who shaved his head and didn’t wear a sweatsuit.

Parviz takes Tracey to Alexander’s health farm. Illya follows but checks in with Solo first via their communicators.

“I’m going to be busy for awhile,” Solo said.

“Solo has his communicator out, backing away from Ingo,” according to the stage directions. “I’m going to be busy for awhile,” Solo tells Illya. “You go ahead.”

Naturally, Solo comes out on top but not without some effort. Illya, after arriving at the farm, walks on the property, where he’s menaced by Alexander’s men operating a variety of farm equipment.

The Russian U.N.C.L.E. agent escapes (thought not after being buried in mud).

Skipping ahead, Alexander plans to take Tracey to the dinner honoring Sing-Mok. He’s the leader of the Asian nation Alexander plans to assassinate. Kevon, who top of anything belongs to an ancient cult (the Sons of Medea), is going to use Illya as the guinea pig in a mummification experience.

Solo arrives but is discovered by Kevon. The latter has a metal blade in his crutch, pointing it at Solo. Illya, bound up like a mummy, falls on top of Kevon.

Eventually, Solo and Illya are following Alexander and Tracey. Alexander loses them, and takes Tracey to the dinner. Solo and Illya have to deal with Parviz and another thug.

Oops for Alexander

By now, U.N.C.L.E. is on alert. But Alexander still has time to try to kill Sing-Mok. However, the coup has failed (apparently without any assistance from U.N.C.L.E.) Sing-Mok is wearing a “protective vest” made by one of Alexander’s own companies.

Alexander makes a run for his farm, where a plane (which we saw earlier when Illya was roaming the grounds) is waiting for him. Solo and Illya give chase. Solo gets in through an open rear aircraft door.

The fight in the script is a bit more involved than the final version.

INT. COCKPIT
Kevon is at the controls. He removes his head-set, picks up his metal crutch and goes back to the passenger cabin. WE HEAR the O.S. SOUNDS of a terrific struggle.

INT. PASSENGER CABIN
Alexander has Solo by the door — choking him. Solo is in danger of falling out of the plane. Kevon moves over to them. Solo shoves Alexander back, Alexander inadvertently runs into Kavon –knocking him down.

Solo is back on his feet. He hits Alexander, knocking him back towards the cockpit. Kavon reaches over, trips Solo with his crutch. Solo falls to the door. Alexander picks up a parachute, throws it at Solo.

ANGLE – SOLO
The parachute hits him chest high — and Solo is knocked out of the plane.

Solo, however, manages to get the parachute on, open it and land safely. Back on the plane. The script description is again more elaborate than the final version.

Kevon tries to kill Alexander with the blade in his crutch. “Alexander deftly ducks aside,” according to the screen directions. Kevon, though, lunges and the crutch “jams into the instrument panel. Sparks. Smoke.”

CLOSE -ALEXANDER
Terror.

LONG SHOT – PLANE
It EXPLODES.

Back at the embassy, it’s a festive mood. Tracey gives Solo and Illya a kiss on the cheek. In the final version, she appears to give Illya a kiss full on the lips.

Tracey now is flirting with Sing-Mok. Director Joseph Sargent would stage the ending differently. Solo and Illya would each offer Waverly a glass of champagne. Waverly would take both. But here’s how Dean Hargrove wrote it.

ANGLE – TRACEY AND SING-MOK

She’s on his arm, talking animatedly.

WAVERLY
Sing-Mok is a single man, you know.

RESUME-GROUP

SOLO
I think she’ll do very well.

They smile, lift their glasses in agreement as we…

FADE OUT

THE END

Advertisements

U.N.C.L.E. script: The show’s popularity surges Part I

Lobby card for One Spy Too Many, the movie edited from Alexander the Greater Affair

The Man From U.N.C.L.E. had escaped cancellation in its first season. At the start of its second, the show’s popularity was surging.

Major changes were underway. Sam Rolfe, who had written the show’s pilot and produced its first season, had departed. Executive producer Norman Felton, who had co-created Napoleon Solo with Ian Fleming, moved over David Victor, producer of Felton’s Dr. Kildare series, to the same post at U.N.C..L.E.

Dean Hargrove, who had scripted two U.N.C.L.E. episodes late in the first season, was hired as “staff writer.” At least that’s how he described it in a 2007 interview that was part of an U.N.C.L.E. home video release.

Hargrove Takes Charge

Hargrove wrote a two-part story, Alexander the Greater Affair, early in pre-production for the second season. It would not be the first story filmed. But NBC would lead off the second season of U.N.C.L.E. with Alexander in September 1965.

NBC would air the two-parter only once After that, it’d be an MGM movie, One Spy Too Many. As it turned out, the TV version wouldn’t be seen (officially, anyway) until July 4, 2000, the final U.N.C.L.E. telecast on cable network TNT.

Hargrove’s script, though, has been available for years. I’ve had one since the 1990s. Re-reading it, you get the sense that U.N.C.L.E. was mostly a smooth-running machine by this point.

The script is pretty close to what NBC viewers saw in 1965. A few scenes are longer, but that’s not unusual. The script’s title page is dated June 14, 1965. Some pages are dated as early as June 1. Some pages are dated as late as July 1965.

We wish to thank the United Network Command for Law and Enforcement without whose assistance this blog post would not be possible.

The Ten Commandments

The plot concerns the mysterious industrialist Alexander (Rip Torn), whose real name is Baxter. Alexander is described in the script as “tall, intelligent-looking, enigmatic” and 32 years old. The part was cast with Rip Torn, 34 at the time the episode was broadcast.

Alexander intends to implement a coup at an unnamed Asian country. That will be part of his plan to eventually rule the world.

Alexander wants to do this with flair. He will have broken every one of the Ten Commandments by the time the coup takes effect.

The industrialist’s activities have come to the attention of U.N.C.L.E. after he has stolen “will gas” from the U.S. Army. One of Alexander’s companies was an Army supplier. So he was invited to a demonstration.

Alexander Waverly, the Number One of U.N.C.L.E.’s Section One gives Napoleon Solo (Robert Vaughn) and Illya Kuryakin (David McCallum) their respective assignments.

SOLO
Which leaves me with…

WAVERLY
Mr. Alexander. It’s most important to recover this gas, Mr. Solo, there was enough of it stole to cause considerable difficult if used improperly. Also, its composition is top secret.

(snip)

SOLO
I’ll find Mr. Aleander and if has the gas…
(wry smile)
I’ll ask him to return it.

Alexander’s primary lackey is Parviz, “a mustachioed Turk.” The part would be cast with character actor David Sheiner. He played an almost identical part in the I Spy episode Carry Me Back to Old Tsing Tao. His appearance and accent in both series is virtually identical.

However, when Sheiner was called back for extra scenes for One Spy Too Many, he’s wearing a bald cap. Sheiner also appeared in a later second-season U.N.C.L.E. episode, The Nowhere Affair. There, he’s wearing a hairpiece.

Meet Tracey

Along the way, Alexander’s ex-wife, Tracey (Dorothy Provine) shows up. She was rich when she married Alexander. She wants the million dollars she had Skipping ahead,

Tracey is the “innocent” for this story. However, I suspect this isn’t exactly what Norman Felton and Sam Rolfe had in mind when devising the show. Originally, the “innocent” was supposed to be a surrogate for the audience, someone who was “ordinary.” Tracey isn’t exactly “ordinary.” But, hey, that’s how things go.

Chess Game 

Skipping ahead, Solo and Illya crash a party Alexander is throwing. Alexander has already abducted Tracey, so she’s there also.

Solo has been investigating, but he’s getting some heat from Parviz. Thankfully (from Solo’s perspective), Alexander likes to play chess with human chess pieces (in this case the party guests). So Solo takes Alexander up on his challenge and avoids problems with Parviz.

The party is part of Alexander’s plans. Alexander explains it to Tracey.

ALEXANDER
The party that I’m holding this evening to honor Prince and Princess Phanong has a special significance. The Princess is an admirer of mine. Her husband, however, is an obsessively jealous man. He misinterprets the Princess’ appreciation for me.

TRACEY
Just how much does she appreciate you? If you don’t mind my asking.

ALEXANDER
(matter of fact)
She worships me. I allow it because I think it’s healthy for a young woman to have an idol.

Tracy knows better than to laugh, so she tries to appear very sincere.

The Princess is described as “a beautiful French girl in her middle twenties.” The part was cast with Donna Michelle, a one-time Playboy playmate. The prince was cast with veteran character actor James Hong.

Anyway, when we get to the chess game, there are some details that didn’t make the final version.

ALEXANDER
It’s a shame your husband was detained. A major disappointment.
(smiles)
Now when do you suppose he will arrive?

PRINCESS
(smiles knowingly)
The Prince received an emergency call to go and see his mother. I suspect she’ll keep keep him occupied for some time. They’re very close.

ALEXANDER
Well then, let’s begin the entertainment.

Solo prepares to play chess with Alexander. There’s another exchange that wouldn’t make the final version.

WOMAN – SOLO’S POV

A matronly woman standing on one of his square.

WOMAN (smiles)
I’m your queen.

RESUME – SOLO

SOLO (smiles wryly)
I’ll try very hard not to lose you.

The game unfolds. The script refers different diagrams that weren’t part of the script I have. After a few moves, Alexander makes a comment that doesn’t appear in the show.

ALEXANDER
I see. The Vienna gabmit. Rather pedestrian, Mr. Solo. Pawn takes pawn.

The script moves the game ahead. Solo sacrifices his Queen. “The matronly woman looks over at Solo, somewhat hurt,” according to the stage directions. But Solo puts Alexander into checkmate. Solo celebrates his win by dancing with the princess. What follows pretty much follows the final version.

“It’s lucky for you I’m a busy man,” Solo says while not drawing a revolver.

Suddenly, Solo is confronted by PRINCE PHANONG. The Prince slaps Solo.

PHANONG
I will kill any man who makes indecent advances to my wife. Let this be a warning to you.

The people around them are shocked. Even more so when Solo draws his revolver. (emphasis added.)

SOLO
It’s lucky for you I’m a busy man.

The problem: Solo never carried a revolver unless he relieved one off a thug. The U.N.C.L.E. Special was a semi-automatic pistol. The main version was based on the Walther P-38. Evidently, despite having written two U.N.C.L.E. episodes prior to this, Hargrove didn’t know much about firearms.

Later, Solo, Illya and Tracey check out a rock quarry owned by Alexander. They encounter his parents, Harry and Miriam Baxter, who are kept prisoners.

Middle-aged HARRY BAXTER, dressed in tattered evening clothes and middle-aged MIRIAM BAXTER, dressed in the ragged remains of a formal gown stand at the bottom of the pit. The Man holds a pick-axe in his hand, the woman lowers a wheelbarrow full of rocks to the ground as they look thi way. Their feet are chained.

The scene was only shown in the TV version. It would edited out of One Spy Too Many. In the TV version, David McCallum’s Illya has a line not in the script. “Let’s get those chains off!” It’s a great moment. Was it a last-minute revision in the script? Or a McCallum ad-lib? I don’t know.

Suffice to say, the U.N.C.L.E. agents rescue Alexander’s parents after a chase sequence. The agents also head to an ancient Greek temple where Alexander is running things.

Solo in a tight spot at the end of Part I.

Tables Are Turned

Solo gets to explain how he figured out the Ten Commandments angle and how this was all a trap. Nevertheless, Alexander gets the upper hand.

ALEXANDER
You see, Mr. Solo, you’ve only scratched the surface. I am breaking the universal law of morality — call them the Ten Commandments if you like — but for a special reason.

The script (as in the TV version) ends with a cliffhanger. Solo is tied up, a scimitar swinging ever closer to him. Illya and Tracey are tied together, held above a bottomless pit, with a candle burning the rope.

ANGLE – ILLYA AND TRACEY

TRACEY
Now what are we going to do?

ANGLE – SOLO AND THE SCIMTAR

The huge blade swings down, getting closer and close.

SOLO
The best we can.

FADE OUT

END OF PART i

Richard Irving: Key part of Universal’s TV Factory

Richard Irving’s title card for a Gene Barry episode of The Name of the Game

Another in a series about unsung figures of television.

Richard Irving was a major figure in the establishment of Universal’s television factory.

Irving, a one-time actor, helped get TV movies at Universal off the ground.

He directed two TV movie pilots for Columbo (Prescription: Murder in 1968 and Ransom for a Dead Man in 1971). He also produced and directed 1968’s Istanbul Express (a sort-of TV movie equivalent of From Russia With Love) and the TV movie pilot for The Six Million Dollar Man.

As a producer, he oversaw Universal TV shows such as Laredo, a western, and The Name of the Game.

With the latter, he produced the Gene Barry episodes of the first season. For the rest of the series, he assumed the title of executive producer, supervising the different producers for the episodes starring Barry, Robert Stack and Tony Franciosa.

Dean Hargrove, Irving’s associate producer for the first season of The Name of the Game, took over as producer of the Gene Barry episodes from the second season onward.

Irving was promoted to being a Universal television executive, which lasted until 1979.

Steven Bochco, working at Universal in the early 1970s, said in an interview for Archive of American Television, that it was Irving who got him involved in Columbo.

“I got a call from Dick Irving,” Bochco remembered. “‘Dick, it’s a mystery show. I don’t know anything about mystery writing. It’s a mystery to me.'”

According to Bochco, Irving said, “‘Do it. It’ll be great.'”

It was. Bochco wrote Murder by the Book, directed by Steven Spielberg, and the first series episode for Columbo. It also was the first installment of the NBC Mystery Movie aired by the network. Bochco went on the script a number of Columbo episodes on his way to being an important writer-producer on U.S. television.

The Los Angeles Times, in its 1990 obituary for Irving, put his contributions into perspective.

In an era when motion picture studios refused to release their old films to television, not wanting to contribute to declining theater attendance, Irving and such pioneers as William Link, Richard Levinson, Norman Lloyd and a handful of others filled the small screen with dramas, mysteries and comedies.

Irving died at the age of 73.

50th anniversary of the end of U.N.C.L.E. (and ’60s spymania)

The symbolism of a 1965 TV Guide ad for The Man From U.N.C.L.E. came true little more than two years later. (Picture from the For Your Eyes Only Web site)

The symbolism of a 1965 TV Guide ad for The Man From U.N.C.L.E. came true little more than two years later. (Picture from the For Your Eyes Only Web site)

Originally published Dec. 28, 2012. Adjusted to note it’s now the 50th anniversary along with a few other tweaks.

Jan. 15 marks the 50th anniversary of the end of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. It was also a sign that 1960s spymania was drawing to a close.

Ratings for U.N.C.L.E. faltered badly in the fall of 1967, where it aired on Monday nights. It was up against Gunsmoke on CBS — a show that itself had been canceled briefly during the spring of ’67 but got a reprieve thanks to CBS chief William Paley. Instead of oblivion, Gunsmoke was moved from Saturday to Monday.

Earlier, Norman Felton, U.N.C.L.E.’s executive producer, decided some retooling was in order for the show’s fourth season. He brought in Anthony Spinner, who often wrote for Quinn Martin-produced shows, as producer.

Spinner had also written a first-season U.N.C.L.E. episode and summoned a couple of first-season writers, Jack Turley and Robert E. Thompson, to do some scripts.

Also in the fold was Dean Hargrove, who supplied two first-season scripts but had his biggest impact in the second, when U.N.C.L.E. had its best ratings. Hargrove was off doing other things during the third season, although he did one of the best scripts for The Girl From U.N.C.L.E. during 1966-67.

Hargrove, however, quickly learned the Spinner-produced U.N.C.L.E. was different. In a 2007 interview on the U.N.C.L.E. DVD set, Hargrove said Spinner was of “the Quinn Martin school of melodrama.”

Spinner wanted a more serious take on the show compared with the previous season, which included a dancing ape. Hargrove, adept at weaving (relatively subtle) humor into his stories, chafed under Spinner. The producer instructed his writers that U.N.C.L.E. should be closer to James Bond than Get Smart.

The more serious take also extended to the show’s music, as documented in liner notes by journalist Jon Burlingame for U.N.C.L.E. soundstracks released between 2004 and 2007 and the FOR YOUR EYES ONLY U.N.C.L.E. TIMELINE.

Matt Dillon, right, and sidekick Festus got new life at U.N.C.L.E.'s expense.

Matt Dillon (James Arness), right, and sidekick Festus (Ken Curtis) got new life at U.N.C.L.E.’s expense.

Gerald Fried, the show’s most frequent composer, had a score rejected. Also jettisoned was a new Fried arrangement of Jerry Goldsmith’s theme music. A more serious-sounding one was arranged by Robert Armbruster, the music director of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Most of the fourth season’s scores would be composed by Richard Shores. Fried did one fourth-season score, which sounded similar to the more serious style of Shores.

Napoleon Solo and Illya Kuryakin, however, weren’t a match for a resurgent Matt Dillon on CBS. NBC canceled U.N.C.L.E. A final two-part story, The Seven Wonders of the World Affair, aired Jan. 8 and 15, 1968..

U.N.C.L.E. wouldn’t be the first spy casualty.

NBC canceled I Spy, with its last new episode appearing April 15, 1968. Within 18 months of U.N.C.L.E.’s demise, The Wild, Wild West was canceled by CBS (its final new episode aired aired April 4, 1969 although CBS did show fourth-season reruns in the summer of 1970) and the last episode of The Avengers was produced, appearing in the U.S. on April 21, 1969.

NBC also canceled Get Smart after the 1968-69 season but CBS picked up the spy comedy for 1969-70. Mission: Impossible managed to stay on CBS until 1973 but shifted away from spy story lines its last two seasons as the IMF opposed “the Syndicate.”

Nor were spy movies exempt. Dean Martin’s last Matt Helm movie, The Wrecking Crew, debuted in U.S. theaters in late 1968. Despite a promise in the end titles that Helm would be back in The Ravagers, the film series was done.

Even the James Bond series, the engine of the ’60s spy craze, was having a crisis in early 1968. Star Sean Connery was gone and producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman pondered their next move. James Bond would return but things weren’t quite the same.

2017: Spielberg’s future arrives

Title card for The Name of the Game episode LA 2017

Title card for The Name of the Game episode LA 2017

Some time back, the blog examined the television series The Name of the Game, about a publishing empire.

It’s now appropriate to take a look at the show’s most unusual episode:  LA 2017, a dystopian tale about, what seemed in 1971, a far-off year in the future.

It was also one of the early directing credits for Steven Spielberg. LA 2017 originally aired Jan. 15, 1971, less than a month after the director’s 24th birthday.

The Name of the Game tackled current events as experienced by key personnel at Howard Publications, headed by Glenn Howard (Gene Barry).

For LA 2017, the production team decided to address the environment — but in a way the series hadn’t previously attempted.

Producer Dean Hargrove commissioned a script by science fiction writer Philip Wylie. As the episode begins, Glenn Howard is driving in Southern California. The publisher is planning a campaign across his magazines to highlight environmental issues.

As Howard drives, he uses a tape recorder to dictate a letter to the president. “Priorities have to be established or this may very well be the beginning of the end for Earth as we know it,” he says.

Howard has an accident, and ends up in a ditch. He also, seemingly, is now in 2017. An ecological disaster has forced people to live underground. National governments have been replaced by corporate ones.

Despite being a CEO, Glenn Howard doesn’t like what he sees and sides with those resisting the corporate order. The episode eventually ends with it being revealed that it (probably) was a dream. Spielberg’s last shot is of a dead bird. presumably not to let the audience off too easily.

The episode’s title card, primary actors and the writer, producer and director credits are in a font used a lot at that time because it seemed futuristic.

Wylie turned the story into a novel, Los Angeles: A.D. 2017. He died late in 1971 at the age of 69. Spielberg’s career, meanwhile, was still gearing up.

5 U.N.C.L.E. stories to watch this weekend

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

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

With the passing of actor Robert Vaughn, a natural reaction for fans would be to view some episodes of The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

This list was originally devised last year ahead of the 2015 movie version. It was intended for people not familiar with the series.

It’s still a good list of episodes to view, even for long-time fans.

These aren’t necessarily the very best episodes. But the list was 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.

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.

Vincent Price and Patricia Medina as rival villains in The Foxes and Hound Affair.

Vincent Price and Patricia Medina as rival villains in The Foxes and Hounds Affair.

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

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.

Movie draws attention to U.N.C.L.E.’s origins

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

The Man From U.N.C.L.E. movie comes out this week, prompting the Los Angeles Times to examine the origins of the 1964-68 series it’s based on.

The story looks at a number of angles, including how 007 author Ian Fleming was involved in the first few months of the show’s development.

Susan King of the Times talked to the likes of Dean Hargrove, one of the main writers on the show; Steven Jay Rubin, author of books about James Bond; film and TV music expert Jon Burlingame, who produced a series of U.N.C.L.E. soundtrack recordings in the 2000s; and Ron Simon, curator of television and radio at the Paley Center for Media in New York.

Here’s an excerpt:

Young moviegoers checking out the feature film version Aug. 14 starring Henry Cavill as Solo and Armie Hammer as Kuryakin probably don’t realize the original TV series existed — let alone know of the show’s impact on baby boomers.

“Man From U.N.C.L.E.” hit at the right time. Noted Ron Simon, curator of television and radio at the Paley Center for Media in New York, “The same excitement seeing the Beatles live on television which happened a few months before, I think the same thing happened when ‘Man from U.N.C.L.E.’ debuted in fall 1964.

“There was something cool about it. It created an emotional resonance for TV. It became the most popular show on campus in 1964, ’65 and ’66 — the first two seasons. It was a cultural phenomenon.”

Separately, The Hollywood Reporter talk about how U.N.C.L.E. MAY HERALD THE RETURN OF SPY ACRONYMS.

U.N.C.L.E. helped popularize such acronyms, although Marvel Studios has beaten the U.N.C.L.E. movie to the punch by including SHIELD (which didn’t debut until a year after U.N.C.L.E.) in its films.

Meanwhile, if you’re interested in knowing more about the show, CLICK HERE for The Man From U.N.C.L.E. episode guide, produced by The Spy Command.