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.

Fact checking TCM’s To Trap a Spy presentation

Luciana Paluzzi and Robert Vaughn in To Trap  a Spy

Luciana Paluzzi and Robert Vaughn in To Trap a Spy

TCM on July June 13 showed To Trap a Spy, the movie version of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. pilot during prime time, part of a evening featuring films with actor Robert Vaughn, the original Napoleon Solo.

The cable channel has showed the film before but usually in off hours. The 10:15 p.m. eastern time presentation meant it’d get an introduction from TCM host Robert Osborne, a one-time actor (he makes a brief appearance in the pilot for The Beverly Hillbillies) who has written extensively about movies for decades.

However, there were a few errors. Most of these are old hat to long-time U.N.C.L.E. fans. But with a new U.N.C.L.E. movie coming out in August, potential new fans may have watched. With that in mind here’s some fact checking.

The Man From U.N.C.L.E. was an immediate hit. No. It originally aired on NBC on Tuesday nights against The Red Skelton Show on CBS. U.N.C.L.E.’s ratings struggled, but rallied after a mid-season change to Monday nights. The show’s best season for ratings was the 1965-66 season when it aired at 10 p.m. eastern time on Fridays.

The show was “created by producer Norman Felton.” The situation is a bit more complicated. Felton definitely initiated the project. He consulted Ian Fleming, who contributed ideas but the one that stuck was naming an agent Napoleon Solo.

The vast bulk of U.N.C.L.E. was created by Sam Rolfe (who wrote the pilot and gets the “written by” credit on To Trap a Spy), including the character of Illya Kuryakin. The show had no creator credit and Rolfe had a “developed by” credit.

Felton’s “inspired idea.” Osborne said Felton always intended to turn some of the episodes into feature films released internationally (true). He then said the films were actually two episodes of the series edited together along with extra footage. (Not 100 percent true).

The first two movies, To Trap a Spy and The Spy With My Face, were based on first season single episodes: the pilot, The Vulcan Affair, and The Double Affair, with additional footage.

Starting with the second season, the show did two-part episodes that were edited, with some additional footage, into movies for the international market. That was the case for the rest of the series, including the two parter, The Seven Wonders of the World Affair, that ended the series in January 1968.

Osborne also made it sound as if all of the first season were filmed in color, even though it was broadcast in black and white on NBC. Not true.

Both The Vulcan Affair and The Double Affair were filmed in color, as was the extra film footage with each. The rest of the season, however, was filmed in black and white.

One oddity is the first season episode The Four-Steps Affair. Ever efficient, Felton took some of the extra footage from the first two U.N.C.L.E. movies (including Luciana Paluzzi in To Trap a Spy) and had a new story written to incorporate it. Sexy scenes for To Trap a Spy between Vaughn and Paluzzi were toned down for Four Steps.

Some of Four Steps is a black and white print from a color negative. The same applies to the broadcast versions of Vulcan and Double. But the new material for Four Steps was filmed in black and white, like most of the first season. There’s a slight change in contrast as the story goes back and forth between the two sources of footage.

Meanwhile, in Osborne’s closing remarks after the movie, he worked in a plug for the Guy Ritchie-directed U.N.C.L.E. movie coming out in August. TCM is owned by Time Warner, also the parent company of Warner Bros., the studio releasing the August film.

Will The Man From U.N.C.L.E. movie have dash?

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

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

The Henry Cavill Online website has TRANSCRIBED ALL OF EMPIRE MAGAZINE’S recent story on The Man From U.N.C.L.E. movie.

As a result, there are a few more details compared with other summaries posted recently.

Among the tidbits: director Guy Ritchie says he’s “not really a fan” of the original 1964-68 television series but he liked the basic components. “Just as I did with Sherlock (Holmes), I felt I could reinvent this,” he told Empire. The other main tidbit is that Hugh Grant, the new version of Alexander Waverly, did see the show, to the point of owning an U.N.C.L.E. toy car.

Anyway, Ritchie’s comments, while sharper, are consistent with another interview he gave to Empire last year.

So, with less than three months before the movie’s Aug. 14 premier, there really aren’t a lot of unanswered questions. There’s the detail of whether Jerry Goldsmith’s U.N.C.L.E. theme will be unused. But the far larger question is will the U.N.C.L.E. movie have dash?

Dash was a word Norman Felton, the executive producer of the television show, used to describe the feel of the series. It probably wasn’t so much the dictionary definition (“run or travel somewhere in a great hurry”) as a reference to “dashing” (“stylish or fashionable.”). In any case, it stuck and was something Felton’s colleagues always remembered. CLICK HERE for an interview with Sam Rolfe, the show’s developer, for an example.

Essentially, the U.N.C.L.E. movie has been stripped of its memes. No secret headquarters (Kingsman: The Secret Service utilized a very U.N.C.L.E.ish HQ). No evil organization Thrush (Marvel, in movies and TV shows is using Hydra, created in 1965 and inspired by Thrush).

Instead, the movie strips Napoleon Solo and Illya Kuryakin to their essentials. Even there, some parts have been altered (Solo has a history of having once been an art thief).

In the Empire story, Ritchie says, “I suppose I wanted to make a spy movie of sorts… It was the first thing since Sherlock to which I’ve had a visceral reaction.”

But will it still have dash? We’ll have to see.

TCM schedules To Trap a Spy for June 13

Luciana Paluzzi and Robert Vaughn in To Trap  a Spy

Luciana Paluzzi and Robert Vaughn in To Trap a Spy

Turner Classics Movie has scheduled a prime time showing ON JUNE 13 at 10:15 p.m. New York time of To Trap a Spy, the movie version of The Man From U.N.C.L.E.’s pilot episode.

The production has an unusual history.

The U.N.C.L.E. pilot was filmed in color. During production in late 1963, there was an internal debate within the production team whether U.N.C.L.E. agent Solo’s first name should be Napoleon. (Academic Cynthia W. Walker has written about this subject IN HER BOOK ABOUT THE SERIES.)

In the actual pilot, originally titled Solo, Robert Vaughn’s character is only called Solo. In the pilot, as originally filmed, the end titles said, “Starring Robert Vaughn as Solo.”

According to a timeline researched and compiled by Craig Henderson, additional footage was filmed March 31 through April 2, 1964, to turn the pilot into a feature film. The footage includes Luciana Paluzzi playing a femme fatale named Angela. Her character is very similar to the Fiona Volpe character she’d play a year later in Thunderball, the fourth James Bond film.

In that footage, Solo introduces himself to Angela as “Napoleon Solo.” Evidently, by the spring of 1964, the internal debate about the agent’s name had been settled in favor of the moniker bestowed upon him by Ian Fleming, the creator of 007.

In the end, Solo becomes a series, but under the title The Man From U.N.C.L.E. To Trap a Spy initially is shown in international markets, but with U.N.C.L.E.’s popularity, it is shown in the United States in 1966 as part of a double feature with The Spy With My Face, another movie based on an U.N.C.L.E. episode with additional footage.

U.N.C.L.E.’s executive producer, Norman Felton, was nothing if not thrifty. A tamer version of the Luciana Paluzzi footage shows up in a first-season episode that aired in the spring of 1965 called The Four-Steps Affair. It also includes some of the extra footage used in The Spy With My Face.

Another curiosity: in To Trap a Spy, the name of the villainous organization is changed from “Thrush” to “Wasp.” If you watch closely, you can see the actors saying “Thrush” with “Wasp” on the audio track. To Trap a Spy also includes the original U.N.C.L.E. boss, Will Kuluva as Mr. Allison. With the pilot, scenes were reshot with Leo G. Carroll playing Mr. Waverly, Solo’s new superior.

Regardless, To Trap a Spy is the first “official” U.N.C.L.E. movie. TCM has shown the film previously, but usually nowhere near prime-time.

Who’s in, and out, of the U.N.C.L.E. movie poster credits

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

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

We decided to take a look at THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. OFFICIAL WEBSITE and examined the credits that go with the teaser poster. If you go to the page, you can view them, but you have to put your cursor on the lower left where it says “Legal.”

A reminder before we go further. Credits in a poster sometimes vary from the film. With 2012’s Skyfall, for example, the poster only listed one editor, but the movie’s credits listed two, the second being listed in small type. With that in mind:

Who’s not there: The credits simply say, “Based on the Television Series The Man From U.N.C.L.E.” No mention of developer Sam Rolfe, nor of Norman Felton and Ian Fleming, who came up with the character Napoleon Solo.

Vanity credits: We’re told it’s “A Witchie/Wigram Production,” “A Davis Entertainment Production,” and “A Guy Ritchie Film.”

Who gets the “p.g.a.” mark: Since mid-2013, most movies include “p.g.a.” after those considered the primary producers of the film by the Producers Guild of America.

The movie lists four producers, with John Davis (who has been involved trying to develop an U.N.C.L.E. movie since the early 1990s), Lionel Wigram and Guy Richie getting the p.g.a. mark. (It’s in lower case letters with periods to avoid confusion with the Professional Golfers’ Association, or PGA.)

Steve Clark-Hall, listed second among the four, doesn’t get the mark. David Dobkin gets an executive producer credit. In television, executive producer is supposed to be the big boss. That’s not true for movies. Regardless, Dobkin’s name was associated with the project, circa 2010.

Writing credit: “Story by Jeff Kleeman & David Campbell Wilson and Lionel Wigram & Guy Ritchie, Screenplay by Lionel Wigram & Guy Ritchie.” This was included in the teaser trailer but it goes by very quickly.

Others jobs that get credits: Composer, costume designer, editor, production designer and director of photography.

Other tidbits: According to this, the soundtrack will be available on Watertower Music.

The U.N.C.L.E. movie: Easter eggs? What Easter eggs?

Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer (Art by Paul Baack)

Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer
(Art by Paul Baack)

We have no idea how The Man From U.N.C.L.E. movie will turn out. But we know this much: Don’t expect a movie version of the original 1964-68 television series.

Movie makers want to put their own spin on things. It happened with the 1999 Wild Wild West movie. It happened with the 1993 The Fugitive movie. It happens with the Mission: Impossible movies that began in 1996 (which made Jim Phelps a villain before killing him off) and whose fifth installment is in production.

The U.N.C.L.E. movie has thrown a few bones out. Or, to use a popular term, “Easter eggs” — little items for hard-core fans. The name of the film’s villain is the same as a villain in the television series. But that’s superficial. They’re different characters. The clapperboards of the movie used the same font as the main titles of the television show. But, when push comes to shove, Warner Bros. during test screenings of the movie, made sure than older fans wouldn’t be admitted to those showings.

At this point, there’s no way to know whether the Jerry Goldsmith theme music for the series will even be used in Daniel Pemberton’s score. Then again, Wild Wild West in 1999 included Richard Markowitz’s theme from the 1965-69 television series (though not in the film’s main titles). That didn’t make the movie — which many fans thought too goofy — any more like the show.

All of this doesn’t mean the movie, due for release in August 2015, won’t be good. It may be. But there’s enough circumstantial evidence to suggest it will be a completely different take than that of executive producer Norman Felton and developer-producer Sam Rolfe as well as stars Robert Vaughn and David McCallum. Henry Cavill, who plays Napoleon Solo, the role that Vaughn made famous, has already said he never saw an episode.

New U.N.C.L.E. book coming out in 2015

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

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

A new book about The Man From U.N.C.L.E. television series is due out next year.

“Solo and Illya: The Secret History of The Man From U.N.C.L.E.” by Craig Henderson is to be published by Bear Manor Publishers, according to the Facebook page of THE GOLDEN ANNIVERSARY AFFAIR, the two-day event held in the Los Angeles area last month in connection with the show’s 50th anniversary.

Henderson created the File Forty fanzine in 1970, according to a Jon Burlingame response to the post. Henderson also assisted Burlingame when the latter produced a series of U.N.C.L.E. soundtracks in the 2000s.

“He’s uncovered a lot of information about the show no one else has,” Burlingame wrote.

Finally, Henderson produced A CENTURY OF U.N.C.L.E., which details how the worlds of U.N.C.L.E. and James Bond intersected for more than a century, beginning with the birth of Ian Fleming in 1908 until the death of U.N.C.L.E. executive producer Norman Felton in 2012. It’s a resource this blog has cited numerous times.

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