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

Joseph Sargent talks about directing U.N.C.L.E.

Joseph Sargent (1925-2014)

This weekend, the blog caught up on a 2006 interview that director Joseph Sargent (1925-2014) did for the Archive of American Television and checked out what he had to say about The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

Sargent said the 1964-68 spy show helped him develop as a director.

Sargent working on episodic television in general was a training ground “not the least of which was Man from U.N.C.L.E. That was like summer stock is to an actor in terms of training.”

U.N.C.L.E., he said, gave him “the opportunity to break the envelope a little bit.”

“It was an  innovative and very daring and very wild, free style kind of show. It had whip pans for instance for the first time, it gave it a sense of energy.”

Whip pans (sometimes call zip pans) have the camera move suddenly, creating a blur. U.N.C.L.E. used whip pans as a transition between scenes.

“There was this twinkle Bob Vaughn and David (McCallum) had about the whole role,” Sargent said in the 2006 interview.

The series involved “a very broad, wonderful concept of peace and cooperation between, in effect, the two major antagonists of the Cold War, the Soviet Union and America.” At the same time, he said, it employed humor which “saved it from being a heavy polemic.”

Sargent directed 11 episodes of the series, plus one episode of its spinoff, The Girl From U.N.C.L.E. The series was made at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer while the studio still had its legendary production lots still in tact.

As a result, Sargent said, scenes were devised “using the available infrastructure of MGM Studios,” which was like being “a kid in a candy store.”

U.N.C.L.E. episodes were shot in six days, often in a hurry.

Getting Napoleon Solo out of this fix had to be devised during lunch.

“We had a script that was incomplete,” Sargent said. “In this case, they were writing and still writing and I was on the scene that hadn’t been written yet and it was going to be filmed right after lunch.”

The scene to be filmed, but not yet written, involved Illya Kurykin (McCallum) having to rescue fellow agent Napoleon Solo (Vaughn) from being executed by the villains.

Over lunch, Sargent talked to the prop man who gave him a small tape recorder. After lunch, the scene was filmed. Two agents assisting Kuryakin play the tape, which is a cavalry charge, and provide Kuryakin protective fire which he performs the rescue.

“Of course, you couldn’t do that today,” Sargent said.

Two asides:

–In the interview, Sargent mis-remembers one aspect of the scene. He describes a character played by Ricardo Montalban as trying to kill Solo. Actually, that character was double crossing his allies in the story. They catch on and are trying to kill Montalban’s character as well in the scene. Remember, though, the interview was done 40 years after the episode aired.

–The episode is titled The King of Diamonds and has its oddities. It was plotted and co-scripted by Edwin Blum, who co-write Stalag 17 with Billy Wilder. The script was rewritten by Leo Townsend, a co-writer on Beach Blanket Bingo. The tone is a bit uneven.

Anyway, the portion of the 2006 interview dealing with U.N.C.L.E. is in the video below. It begins around the 11:30 mark.

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.

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 Dreelen), 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.

Joseph Sargent, accomplished director, dies

Joseph Sargent (1925-2014)

Joseph Sargent (1925-2014)

Joseph Sargent, an Emmy-award winning director, has died at 89, according to AN OBITUARY AT VARIETY.

Sargent won a total of FOUR EMMYS and was nominated for five others. He also directed some feature films, including 1974’s The Taking of Pelham One, Two, Three and 1977’s MacArthur.

His main connection to spy entertainment was how he directed 11 episodes of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. during that show’s first three seasons as well as one episode of its spinoff, The Girl From U.N.C.L.E.

On U.N.C.L.E., his debut was The Project Strigas Affair, which featured the first pairing of William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy two years before they acted together in Star Trek. Several of his episodes rank among the best of the series. One of his Emmy wins was for the 1973 television movie The Marcus-Nelson Murders, which begat the Kojak television series.

One of his last public appearances was at THE GOLDEN ANNIVERSARY AFFAIR, a fan gathering in late Septmeber in the Los Angeles area to celebrate U.N.C.L.E.’s 50th anniversary.

UPDATE: Here’s another obituary on the DEADLINE HOLLYWOOD website.

49th anniversary of the first Shatner-Nimoy pairing

Napoleon Solo has to steady an "innocent" who's had too much to drink

Solo helps an “innocent” who’s had too much to drink

This month marks the 49th anniversary of the first pairing of actors William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy. On Nov. 24, 1964, two years before Star Trek, Shatner was the featured guest star on The Man From U.N.C.L.E., with Nimoy as a supporting player.

The episode was The Project Strigas Affair, in which U.N.C.L.E. agents Napoleon Solo and Illya Kuryakin (Robert Vaughn and David McCallum) are assigned to bring down a leading diplomat of an unnamed nation that’s causing major friction between the U.S. and Soviet Union.

Strigas is one of the highlights of the show’s first season, and not for being the answer to a Shatner-Nimoy trivia question. Strigas is almost like a blueprint for Mission: Impossible (which also didn’t debut until 1966); the viewer is only given teases of the Solo-Kuryakin plan. The U.N.C.L.E. operatives also have to improvise to keep the scheme on course.

Shatner gets the primary guest star billing because he’s the “innocent” of the story, a man who departed a high-paying corporate job to start his own pest-extermination business. U.N.C.L.E. utilizes the man’s background as part of the plan. Nimoy is the deputy of the targeted diplomat (Werner Klemperer).

Shatner and Nimoy actually don’t have that many scenes together. One occurs during a party where Shatner’s Michael Donfield is supposed to be a little tipsy (and talkative, to further the trap) but may have gotten into his part too much.

A disguised Illya about to spring the trap

A disguised Illya helps to entice the target of the affair

Strigas (short for “strike gas,” the supposed name of a secret operation) was the first of 11 Man episodes directed by Joseph Sargent, one of the best directors to work on the series. Based on Strigas, it’s easy to see why Sargent was brought back repeatedly. Sargent would helm U.N.C.L.E. episodes into the third season.

Finally, the episode has what seems to be an amusing in-joke. McCallum’s Kuryakin spends much of the episode disguised as a young Leon Trotsky. While Kuryakin was Russian (and U.N.C.L.E. an international organization), the show was always careful to keep the references low key.

To long-time U.N.C.L.E. fans, this is old hat. But with The Man From U.N.C.L.E. movie now in production, The Project Strigas Affair is an episode potential new fans should check out.

Season one episodes of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. on
THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. EPISODE GUIDE

The Project Strigas Affair entry on IMDB.COM

Purvis & Wade: who loves ya, baby?

Robert Wade, left, and Neal Purvis, going from Walther PPKs to lollipops.

Robert Wade, left, and Neal Purvis, going from Walther PPKs to lollipops.

Neal Purvis and Robert Wade, having concluding a run of working on five James Bond movies, have been hired to script a Kojak film starring Vin Diesel, according to the Deadline entertainment news Web site.

Here’s an excerpt:

EXCLUSIVE: Universal Pictures is getting serious about Kojak, hiring the scribe team of Neal Purvis & Robert Wade to script a movie around the tough-talking, smooth scalped cop played by Telly Savalas on the CBS series. Vin Diesel, who just wrapped Fast And Furious 6 for the studio, will play the chrome-domed cop in the film, which he’s producing with Samantha Vincent for their Universal-based One Race Films.

The original 1973-78 series originated with a made-for-TV movie called The Marcus-Nelson Murders that first aired in March 1973. That original project was scripted by Abby Mann, an Oscar winning screenwriter, and directed by Joseph Sargent. It gave Telly Savalas, normally cast as villains (including 1969’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service), a chance to play a sympathetic role. The story was based on the Wylie-Hoffert murders, also known as the Career Girls Murders, which led to to Miranda warnings.

Director Sargent won an Emmy and a Directors Guild of America award for The Marcus-Nelson Murders while Mann was nominated for an Emmy.

The CBS series made Savalas a big star and, for a time, a sex symbol (starting in the second season he doffed neckties a lot and didn’t button the first button or two of his dress shirts). Kojak’s catchphrase was, “Who loves ya, baby?” Kojak, trying to quit smoking, frequently sucked lollipops. The cast included the star’s brother George as one of the New York City detectives that worked with Kojak. The first season of the series included Christopher Walken and Harvey Keitel as guest stars. Richard Donner directed some episodes.

Savalas reprised the role in a some TV movies on ABC (part of a Mystery Movie revival that included Peter Falk as Columbo). There was also a brief revival series on cable television in 2005, starring Ving Rhames as Kojak.

To read the entire Deadline story, just CLICK HERE.

Happy 80th birthday, Robert Vaughn

Happy birthday, Mr. Solo

For people of a certain age, it’s doesn’t seem possible, but it’s true. Robert Vaughn, The Man From U.N.C.L.E., turns 80 on Nov. 22.

The 1964-68 spy series was just one stop on a long, and still continuing, career.

He’s the last surviving actor of those who portrayed the title characters in 1960’s The Magnificent Seven. He picked up a nomination for Best Supporting Actor in 1959’s The Young Philadelphians, holding his own in a veteran cast. He was twice nominated for an Emmy in political-related drams and received one playing a thinly veiled version of H.R. Haldeman in the 1977 mini-series Washington: Behind Closed Doors. And he’s played more than his share of oily and/or villainous businessmen and/or politcians, thanks to 1968’s Bullitt.

Still, when he shows up at collectible shows, he’s more than often or not autographing stills of himself as Napoleon Solo, the television spy with a name courtesy of 007 creator Ian Fleming and developed by Sam Rolfe under the supervision of executive producer Norman Felton. For those who weren’t there during its run on NBC, U.N.C.L.E. really was a big deal.

The production values may look cheap compared to modern-day television. The series did all of its filming within about a 30-mile radius of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer’s Culver City, California, studios. None of that matters. Vaughn established a U.S. beachhead for 1960s spy entertainment beginning in the fall of 1964. U.N.C.L.E. was pitched as “James Bond for television” but it successfully developed its own spin on the genre. Other fondly remembered shows followed, starting in the fall of 1965.

Vaughn had help, of course. His co-star, David McCallum, became popular in his own right. Early episodes were directed by the likes of Richard Donner and Joseph Sargent, who’d go on to direct feature films. Writers including Alan Caillou, Dean Hargrove and Peter Allan Fields spun tales that hold up today, despite the modest production budgets.

Still, it was up to Vaughn to sell everybody on all this. And sell it he did. Vaughn last played the character in the 1983 television movie The Return of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. But he remains tied to Solo. So happy birthday, Mr. Vaughn.

The Girl From U.N.C.L.E. available on DVD this week

The Girl From U.N.C.L.E., the spinoff series from The Man From U.N.C.L.E. will become available on Aug. 23 on DVD from Warner Bros.

The price is $59.95. Be warned: the picture has not been digitally remastered (similar to Warners Bros.’s releases of The FBI) and appears to be a “manufactured on demand,” or MOD. That means no extras. That’s a far cry from Warners’s 2007 release of The Man From U.N.C.L.E., which was loaded with extras.

Girl featured the adventures of agent April Dancer (Stefanie Powers), assisted by fellow U.N.C.L.E. operative Mark Slate (Noel Harrison). Leo G. Carroll played U.N.C.L.E. boss Alexander Waverly in both the spinoff and parent series. The pilot for Girl was a second-season episode of Man called The Moonglow Affair, which featured Mary Ann Mobley and Norman Fell, playing a frumpy, older-than-40, American Mark Slate.

Norman Felton, Man’s executive producer, wasn’t particularly keen on the spinoff, which was the brainchild of executives of NBC. Girl, which ran during the 1966-67 season, often had even goofier humor than Man’s third season. But it has some gems, including The Double-O-Nothing Affair, written by ace Man scripter Dean Hargrove, who also wrote The Moonglow Affair. Double-O-Nothing features Edward Asner is a Thrush operative, with a used-car lot as his cover.

Another notable episode was The Mother Muffin Affair, where Man’s Napoleon Solo (Robert Vaughn) appeared to oppose independent woman criminal Mother Muffin, played by Boris Karloff. Thus, it was the one production with both U.N.C.L.E. characters named by Ian Fleming. (Fleming had suggested the name of April Dancer for a Miss Moneypenny-type character when he met with Felton in 1962.)

Douglas Benton, Girl’s producer, in a late 1990s interview said the production team was thinking about casting Dame Judith Anderson. Joseph Calvelli, the writer, was asked to describe Mother Muffin and he replied, “Boris Karloff in drag.” Benton had worked with Karloff on the 1960-62 anthology series Thriller, offered him the role and Karloff, according to the producer, immediately accepted. (The interview is recreated on a commentary track on the Thriller DVD set, with Benton’s son reading his father’s words.)

Finally, for Bond fans, Luciana Paluzzi is a guest star in Girl’s first episode, The Dog Gone Affair.

For more information about the DVD set, including how to order, JUST CLICK HERE. Meanwhile, here’s a clip from The Mata Hari Affair, the fourth episode. Truth be told, it’s not that good despite being directed by Joseph Sargent, one of the best of the Man directors. For some viewers, though, this scene is still a highlight:

45th anniversary of TV spy mania part I: U.N.C.L.E.’s 2nd season premier

September is the 45th anniversary of television spy mania. With James Bond films helping to create a market for spy entertainment, U.S. television networks decided they needed to meet that demand. The Man From U.N.C.L.E., already on the air for a year, had a head start but faced its own challenges as well as new competitors.

To begin with, NBC shifted the show to Fridays from Mondays, plus moving it to 10 p.m. ET. Would the show’s viewers follow suit? Also, Sam Rolfe, who had written the show’s pilot and had been its first-season producer, had departed. Rolfe’s associate producers (Joseph Calvelli in the first half of season one, Robert Foshko in the second half) were also long gone.

Executive Producer Norman Felton initially brought over David Victor, producer of Felton’s Dr. Kildare series to U.N.C.L.E.’s producer chair. The production team also relied heavy on two writers, Dean Hargrove and Peter Allan Fields, who had penned U.N.C.L.E. scripts during the second half of season one. As it turned out, Victor would be but one of three producers that season, but he would oversee production of the first several episodes.

NBC opted to begin season two with the show’s first two-part story, written by Hargrove and directed by Joseph Sargent, Alexander the Greater Affair (no “The” in the title). Felton’s Arena Productions would then re-edit the story into the movie One Spy Too Many. Hargrove’s story featured the mysterious industrialist Alexander, whose idol was Alexander the Great. Alexander also wanted to take over the world, starting with an unnamed Asian country and break each of the Ten Commandments as part of his plan.

The television version of the story was never rerun by NBC and was left out of the syndicated package MGM would offer later. A print was discovered in Atlanta in 1999 and would be shown by TNT on July 4, 2000. It has been available (including on DVD) ever since.

Here’s a clip from midway part one, where U.N.C.L.E.’s Napoleon Solo (Robert Vaughn) plays Alexander (Rip Torn) in an unusual game of chess. Fellow agent Illya Kuryakin (David McCallum) and Alexander’s ex-wife (Dorothy Provine) look on:

UPDATE: We originally embedded a clip from Part I, but the person who uploaded it took it down. So instead, here’s a sampling of the footage that was added to the movie version. Yvonne Craig showed up in One Spy Too Many as an U.N.C.L.E. woman Solo supposedly had scheduled a date with but can’t remember doing so: