Some U.N.C.L.E. myths, goofs for April Fool’s Day

U.N.C.L.E. insignia from a second-season episode

It may be April Fool’s Day, but one website apparently takes its readers for fools. It has some myths and goofs about The Man From U.N.C.L.E. television series.

The CrimeReads website has an April 1 article proclaiming, “These are plot descriptions of actual episodes from the 1960s spy television series The Man From U.N.C.L.E., and wow they are…insane.”

But not necessarily accurate. Time for a fact check.

The acronym for the villainous organization is T.H.R.U.S.H, which I think is also some kind of yeast infection.

In the series, the villainous organization was just named Thrush. No acronym. A tie-in novel, The Dagger Affair by David McDaniel, invented one. But it was never canon in the show. In fact, it was never referenced.

The Iowa Scuba Affair (S.1, Ep. 2)

When a young air force officer is shot to death in an Iowa cornfield, Solo finds scuba-diving suits, a fresh-scrubbed farm girl and a “farmer” whose silos contain not grain but a super-secret missile.

The air force officer is really a saboteur. He was shot to death by Solo. It turns out the saboteur murdered the air force officer and took his place.

The Finny Foot Affair (S.1, Ep.10)

A 12-year-old boy, a beautiful stripper, a dog named Spike and a murderous Japanese warlord send Solo and Illya to a mysterious castle where they discover a strange plague that ages its victims.

There is no stripper in the episode. I have no idea where CrimeReads got this from. I’ve seen the episode more times than I count. The boy was played by Kurt Russell, 13 years old at the time.

The Bow Wow Affair (S. 1, Ep. 20)

When world leaders are found dead with their throats slashed, Solo, Illya and Mr. Waverly suspect THRUSH has electronically gained control of the brain of each victim’s pet dog and turned it against its master.

One, Thrush isn’t part of the episode. Second, world leaders aren’t found with their throats slashed. They are rich people who have been attacked by their dogs. The person behind the threat is a gypsy. The gypsy is trying to get control of a major company. The rich people attacked by their dogs are major shareholders in the company.

The See-Paris-and-Die Affair (S. 1, E. 22)

A singing student is turned into a glamorous Parisian nightclub singer by Solo, Illya and Mr. Waverly when they use her to trap jewel thieves.

Waverly doesn’t appear in the episode.

The Discotheque Affair (S. 2, Ep. 5)

Solo, Illya and Mr. Waverly Watusi, frug and swim into a wild bunch of deadly dancers at a discotheque run by THRUSH.

Waverly is in the episode but goes nowhere near the discotheque until the end of the story when other U.N.C.L.E. agents arrive to mop things up. He certainly doesn’t Watusi, frug or swim.

The Thor Affair (S. 3, Ep. 7)

The Men from U.N.C.L.E. travel to Switzerland to protect an Asian leader and receive unexpected help when a vacationing schoolteacher’s dental work can tune in THRUSH’s radio communications.

Thrush isn’t part of the episode. The title refers to the villain, Brutus Thor, who is working for himself.

1965: Jesus and the spy (actors)

Blu Ray cover for The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965)

The death this week of actor Max Von Sydow was a reminder for the blog of a Biblical film that highlighted actors from the 1960s spy craze.

The movie was The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965), about the life of Jesus Christ, played by Von Sydow.

The movie was years in the making. The writing of the script alone took about two years. Filming occurred in 1962 and 1963.

The producer-director was George Stevens (1904-1975). Over the years he had helmed movies such as Gunga Din (1939), I Remember Mama (1948), A Place in the Sun (1951), Shane (1953) and Giant (1956).

With the release of 1959’s The Diary of Anne Frank, Stevens was at the height of his powers. The film was both a popular and critical hit, winning three Oscars and nominated for five more.

For his next project, Stevens opted to tackle the story of Jesus. The film originated at 20th Century Fox (which had released The Diary of Anne Frank) but ended up at United Artists.

Major stars wanted to be part of the project. John Wayne got one line as a Roman centurion (“Truly this man was the son of God.”). Charlton Heston (as John the Baptist), Sidney Poitier, Jose Ferrer, Claude Rains, Dorothy McGuire (as the Virgin Mary), Shelly Winters and Ed Wynn were in the cast.

And then there was the future spy actor contingent.

There were three future Blofeld actors — Von Sydow (Never Say Never Again), Donald Pleasance (You Only Live Twice) and Telly Savalas (On Her Majesty’s Secret Service). The latter shaved his head for the role of Pontius Pilate, a look he’d keep until the end of his life.

There was one Illya Kuryakin (David McCallum as Judas), one future Felix Leiter (David Hedison) and one future Rollin Hand (Martin Landau). In a 2007 extra for a home video release of The Man From U.N.C.L.E., Robert Vaughn told McCallum that he, too, had sought the Judas role that McCallum won.

Also present: Victor Buono, who screenwriter Richard Maibaum had recommended to play Goldfinger. Buono had his share of work during the 1960s spy craze in The Silencers, The Wild Wild West, The Man From U.N.C.L.E. and I Spy.

The Greatest Story Ever Told had an actual tragedy. Director of photography William C. Mellor, who had worked with Stevens on other films, died of a heart attack during production.

The movie proved to be a flop. By the time it came out in early 1965, the market for such films had seemingly run its course. The movie was earnest and sincere. So was Ben-Hur (1959), but that project had also ship battles and the famous chariot race.

Stevens would direct only one more film, 1970’s The Only Game in Town.

The Greatest Story Ever Told was nominated for five Oscars, including special visual effects. It lost out to another United Artists release.

Dark side of 1960s escapist entertainment

Solo tells Chris that “the game is over.”

1960s TV shows are often dismissed as escapist. But even some escapist TV episodes have their dark side.

Case in point: The Finny Foot Affair, the 10th episode of The Man From U.N.C.L.E., which originally aired in 1964.

Here are a few examples from the episode.

–U.N.C.L.E. agents Napoleon Solo (Robert Vaughn) and Illya Kuryakin (David McCallum) investigate an “island off Scotland” where all the inhabitants are dead from old age. That’s not the real reason, but it’s a grim mystery to start off an episode.

–The episode’s innocent, Christopher Larson (played by Kurt Russell, then 13), witnesses an U.N.C.L.E. agent stabbed to death during a fight by a thug working for the villain. The agent apparently dispatches the thug with some kind of gas, although this isn’t fully explained. But Christopher saw everying.

— Christopher watches Solo kill one of the villain’s thugs, using one of Christopher’s toys as decoy.

— Christopher watches Solo kill the villain in a shootout.

One might think Christopher would suffer psychological trauma from all this. He might even have mental health issues later in life. Perhaps, perhaps not.

Looking for a suit? Here’s an U.N.C.L.E. version for $735

Henry Cavill as Napoleon Solo in 2015’s The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

The Man From U.N.C.L.E. (2015) wasn’t a big box office hit. But that hasn’t stopped the marketing of a suit based on the film.

Magnoli Clothiers is offering a three-piece suit based on the movie for $735. Here’s a description.

This retro three-piece suit features a three-button single-breasted jacket with cloth-covered buttons, three flapped pockets and a square-cut bottom. The six-button waistcoat has matching buttons and two welted pockets. The pleated trousers have angled side pockets and plain bottoms with no cuffs.

Shown in a premium wool blend, dark blue with double window-pane and hand-stitched detailing

Henry Cavill wore a variety of three-piece suits in the 2015 film. Cavill, a one-time contender to play James Bond, portrayed Napoleon Solo in the U.N.C.L.E. film.

Solo was the role originated by Robert Vaughn in the 1964-68 television series. The Solo character was created by television producer Norman Felton and James Bond author Ian Fleming. The bulk of the series was created by writer-producer Sam Rolfe.

When the U.N.C.L.E. movie came out, some who didn’t like the movie (done as a period piece set in 1963) commented about the costumes, including Solo’s suits.

High-end merchandise related to James Bond is old hat. Currently, you can buy a $6,000 backgammon set, a $3.5 million replica Aston Martin DB5 with gadgets (but not street legal so you can’t drive it on the open road) and another Aston Martin model for $700,007.

Also, clothier N. Peal has come out with a line of James Bond-related clothing such as sweaters.

h/t Robert Short of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. — Inner Circle page on Facebook.

The Man From U.N.C.L.E.’s 55th anniversary

Familiar third-season publicity still for The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

Adapted and updated from a Sept. 22, 2014 post

The Man From U.N.C.L.E. debuted 55 years ago today with the telecast of The Vulcan Affair on NBC.

The series had false starts. First Ian Fleming was a participant, then after several months he wasn’t, bowing out to pressure from Bond movie producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman. Then there was threatened legal action from Eon Productions stemming from the show’s original title, Solo.

In turn, the series got a new title and the legal problems went away. The makers of Goldfinger did make one change in their film. A gangster named Solo died the most spectacular death among hoodlums invited to Goldfginer’s Kentucky stud farm, a change from earlier drafts and from Fleming’s original novel. (Adrian Turner’s 1998 book on Goldfinger details the changes in the movie’s script.)

Rough Start

Nor did U.N.C.L.E. get off to an easy start. Airing on Tuesday nights, it was up against The Red Skeleton Show on CBS, which nearly led to cancellation before a mid-season switch to Monday nights.

But the audience discovered the series, eventually ensuring a renewal for a second season for 1965-66, which would be its highest-rated campaign.

Executive Producer Norman Felton (1913-2012) faced other challenges.

His developer-producer Sam Rolfe (1924-1993) departed after the first season and things weren’t quite the same, certainly not as consistent.

Various other producers — David Victor, Boris Ingster and Anthony Spinner among them — put their own stamp on the show with varying degrees of success. Major contributions were made by writers such as Alan Caillou (who arguably shaped the Illya Kuryakin character), Dean Hargrove and Peter Allan Fields.

Time Takes Its Toll

Few of the creative personnel are still with us. In the five years since the show’s 50th anniversary, time has taken its toll. Frequent U.N.C.L.E. director Joseph Sargent died in December 2014, three months after the anniversary. Star Robert Vaughn died in 2016. Fred Koenekamp, who work as director of photography on U.N.C.L.E. got him movie jobs, passed away in 2017. Peter Allan Fields died earlier this year at 84.

Dean Hargrove

There are still survivors. David McCallum just celebrated his 86th birthday. Dean Hargrove, 81, in a long interview in March with the Writer’s Guild Foundation provided some insights into the show. He acknowledged it put him on the map, setting up a long and successful career as a TV writer-producer.

The franchise is in limbo. A 2015 movie based on the series wasn’t a financial success. There was talk of trying to get a sequel going but there’s no sign much is happening.

Hargrove, in the interview this year, said studio Warner Bros. may have simply waited too long to do a movie version.

All of that is a story for another day. For now, happy anniversary, U.N.C.L.E.

Peter Allan Fields, U.N.C.L.E. writer, dies

Movie poster for The Spy in the Green Hat, movie version of The Concrete Overcoat Affair, scripted by Peter Allan Fields

Peter Allan Fields, one of the key writers of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. whose career also extended to The Six Million Dollar Man and Star Trek, has died, according to the Gizmodo website.

He was 84, according to his Wikipedia entry.

Fields had worked at the William Morris Agency. He switched careers to television writing.

Midway during The Man From U.N.C.L.E.’s first season, he was assigned to write an U.N.C.L.E. script.

In the documentary that was part of a 2007 DVD release of The Man From U.N.C.L.E., star Robert Vaughn said Fields simply didn’t know how long it was supposed to take to write a script for a one-hour TV show. As a result, Vaughn said, Fields turned out a “shootable” script in four days, writing one act a day.

His first U.N.C.L.E. credit was The Fiddlesticks Affair. It was the second episode after NBC switched the show to Mondays during its first season (1964-65).

The story evoked Mission: Impossible (which wouldn’t debut until the fall of 1966) where agents Solo (Vaughn) and Kuryakin (David McCallum) plot to blow up a key treasury of the villainous organization Thrush. The episode even was scored by Lalo Schifrin, who’d later do the classic M:I theme.

From that point through the show’s third season, Fields was a major U.N.C.L.E. contributor. Fields also became a friend of Vaughn’s.

Fields’ final writing credit for U.NC.L.E. was the two-part The Concrete Overcoat Affair, which was re-edited into the movie The Spy in the Green Hat for international audiences.

Fields turned out scripts for various shows, including The FBI, McCloud, and The Six Million Dollar Man. He was also one of the story editors for A Man Called Sloan, a 1979 series from QM Productions that contained elements from U.N.C.L.E. and James Bond movies.

The Gizmodo obituary emphasized Fields’ contributions to Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Fields; death was referenced by Ira Steven Behr, a producer for that series.

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UPDATE (July 10, 2019): The Writers Guild gave a belated tribute on Twitter to Peter Allan Fields.

 

U.N.C.L.E. script: Nazis and a femme fatale Part II

Solo is about to get the shock of his life when he realizes the identity of “the sleeper.”

Dick Nelson, in writing The Stamp Affair (renamed The Deadly Games Affair when broadcast) came up with a mix of a fugitive Nazi scientist, a femme fatale and (as we’ll soon see) a bit of science fiction.

This wouldn’t be The Man From U.N.C.L.E. without an “innocent,” an ordinary person who gets caught up in the adventure.

Nelson’s script supplies two: a college couple, Chuck Boskirk and Sue Brent (who would be renamed Terry Brent in the final version). They’re planning on getting married.

Chuck has been contacted by an anonymous person. It is Chuck who sold the rare stamp, acting as a middleman, in return for a percentage. For the couple it’s a chance to make extra money and get married sooner.

Chuck calls the auction house. The stamp fetched $6,500. Chuck arranges to come by later to pick up the proceeds.

We soon learn why Chuck was selected to perform this service. One of his instructors at the college is Professor Amadeus, who is none other than fugitive Nazi scientist Wolfgang Krug (Volp in the broadcast version).

Thrush Makes Its Move

At the auction house, U.N.C.L.E. agents Napoleon Solo and Illya Kuryakin await. Chuck and Sue retrieve the money (all in cash, per the seller’s instructions). Before the agents make their move, a Thrush assault team disguised as security guards (the script calls them “Brinks” men) strikes.

A fight breaks out, some of the Thrush operatives are killed but the criminal organization still manages to kidnap Chuck.

Back at U.N.C.L.E. HQs, Sue is with Solo and Illya. Sue was brought through an alternate entrance (rather than through Del Floria’s), but it’s only described and not shown. Some reference sources refer this as the Mask Club entrance described in Sam Rolfe’s series proposal titled Ian Fleming’s Solo. But there’s no explicit mention of that in the script.

The scene also has Solo describe Thrush to Sue, in effect also reminding the audience about the villainous organization. Thrush was used less in the first season than it would be in subsequent seasons.

In any case, Solo says he has an idea where Chuck may be. In the next scene, Thrush operative Angelique, the story’s femme fatale, appears to rescue Chuck and kill one of the guards.

After Angelique speeds off in her Corvette (supplied by Chevrolet, sponsor for the first-half of the show’s first season), the guard “gets to his feet, unhurt, and brushes himself off.”

Cup of Coffee?

Angelique and Chuck arrive at Chuck’s home. She tells the college student that she’s with U.N.C.L.E. She offers to make him some coffee.

Solo, however, comes by. He’s brought a policeman with him, who arrests Angelique for immigration violations.

Solo fills Chuck in on the real situation and enlists his help. U.N.C.L.E. has been monitoring his telephone from its New York headquarters. Chuck has been getting calls at regular intervals.

Chuck is present at U.N.C.L.E. HQ for another one of the calls with the seller of the stamp and they set up a meeting. Chuck will wear a homing device so Solo can keep track of him.

The meeting goes bad, Professor Amadeus/Krug sets off a bomb and gets away. Sue is injured and is hospitalized. Once Chuck knows Sue is OK, Solo agrees to take Chuck back to the college so he can get Sue’s books.

Solo looks at him for a moment, feeling deeply sympathetic for the boy, who might very well feel resentment for what happened tonight. At this moment, Solo decides he likes Chuck very much. His voice and expression tell us so.

SOLO
It won’t be out of the way.

When Solo and Chuck arrive at the college, Angelique is prowling about. Solo decides to keep her busy while Chuck retrieves Sue’s books. Solo and Angelique engage in some banter for a bit.

Amadeus Runs For It

Unfortunately for Chuck, he encounters Professor Amadeus “who seems to be leaving the premises for good.”

Amadeus convinces Chuck to help load some of his papers to his pickup truck. The Nazi knocks out the student, leaving him in the rear of the truck. Amadeus/Krug drives off. But he’s unaware that Angelique is following him.

Amadeus arrives at his home but is intercepted by Angelique before he can get far. He forces her inside his garage. It turns out the garage is also the entrance to an underground laboratory.

The script has a bit from Angelique that didn’t make the final version where she describes how she made the connection between Krug and Amadeus.

ANGELIQUE
…and when we had young Mister Boskirk under sodium pentathol, we made him name all his acquaintances, you see. And, of course, Professor Amadeus was on the list. Now, earlier this evening, I had a few hours to think….and I recalled Doctor Wolfgang Krug had been named for one of my favorite classical composers…Wolfgang Mozart. I also remembered Mozart had an unusual middle name
(snip)

Angelique’s dialogue in the script goes on for a bit, but she put together that Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart might to a clue to Wolfgang Krug.

Solo, meanwhile, is on the way. Chuck’s homing signal still works and he finds the home of Amadeus/Krug. He contacts Illya at headquarters. Solo will break into the house while Illya and back up agents are on the way.

Solo finds a way to the underground lab. While Amadeus and Angelique talk back and forth, the U.N.C.L.E. agent find himself in a room full of tanks that “are vaguely coffin-shaped, are covered with heavy glass, and some kind of liquid bubbles softly inside them.”

In the other room, Amadeus/Krug tells Angelique just how important he was in the Third Reich hierarchy. As he talks/brags, Solo checks out the first tank. Inside is “something shaped like a man.”

CLOSER – SOLO

As he squints down through the vapor and liquid at the face, and in B.G., hears Amadeus’ voice continuing, he begins to realize who it is he is looking at. We see his dawning recognition, incredulity and then horror as Amadeus’ voice rises to a climax:

AMADEUS’ VOICE (O.S. offscreen)
The world thinks he died when Berlin fell…but like Barbarossa in the legend, he only sleeps, waiting to rise up when the fatherland needs him. And I who perfected a process for suspended animation — I alone can wake him!

Solo’s face confirms what Amadeus is saying……he stares as though hypnotized into the face (BELOW FRAME) in the tank. And then, too late, he realizes that the vapor he has been inhaling — the fumes from the tank — are poisonous. He tries to stifle a coughing fit, but does not succeed. Choking, clutching his throat, he slumps to the floor, unconscious.

FADE OUT

To recap, Solo has had a long, hard day. The hunt for a fugitive Nazi scientist has led the intrepid agent to finding ADOLPH HITLER in “suspended animation,” as Krug/Amadeus calls it elsewhere in the script.

What else can go wrong?

Fugitive Nazi scientist Prof. Amadeus about to drain Napoleon Solo of his blood.

Solo: The Human Blood Bank

Well, it turns out Krug/Amadeus tried to revive the SS officer with his own blood, preserved for 20 years. But to make the scientist’s rejuvenation process work, fresh blood (and the same blood type of the individual) is needed.

As an aside, this idea wasn’t new, even in 1964. A 1963 Fantastic Four comic book featured a villain called the Hate Monger, who was revealed to be Hitler. An episode of The New Avengers in the 1970s had Hitler in suspended animation. So did a 1980s story line in the Dick Tracy comic strip.

Amadeus/Krug needs blood that matches the same blood. He intended to discreetly purchase blood from blood banks. Time has run out. However, Solo’s blood type matches that of the sleeper.

As things turn out, Solo’s blood type actually matches Hitler’s. although this wouldn’t be established until a fourth-season episode. In any case, Krug/Amadeus now plans to drain all of Solo’s blood to revive the “sleeper.”

To ensure his privacy, the Nazi scientist detonates another bomb, destroying his own home.

So, to recap, Solo is about to be drained of his own blood while Angelique and Chuck look on.

Luckily, Illya is on the scene. And he’ll help Solo get out of this mess.

Amadeus/Krug was a little too quick to activate that last bomb. The scientist’s underground laboratory is about to catch fire. Solo begins to get himself out of his fix. Illya finds his way to the underground lair and overcomes Angelique.

Solo uses the sudden change in fortune to put an end to the “sleeper,” which has managed to grab the agent while receiving rejuvenation fluid as part of the process.

CLOSE – SOLO AND SLEEPER

as Solo, face contorting in hate and revulsion, struggles to free himself from the thing’s inhuman grip. He finally rips free, and then in a reaction of pure animal hate, he gives the gurney [where the sleeper is lying on} a violent shove forward.

The gurney with the “sleeper” goes into flames. Amadeus “follows the ‘sleeper’ into the burning gasoline. There is one horrible cry, then silence.”

Illya tells Solo he better tend to the disturbance at the security entrance.

‘Better Attend To It’

After the long night, Chuck and Sue are at U.N.C.L.E. HQs. Solo tells them about the honeymoon they’ll receive for their cooperation. On top of that, U.N.C.L.E. has recovered Krug’s stamp collection and will give it to them.

Chuck and Sue, however, feel the latter gift isn’t correct. As a result, the stamp collection will be donated to the collection.

Just then, Illya arrives to inform Solo there’s a disturbance at the security entrance (Del Floria’s). “Better attend to it….before the place gets a bad name.”

Solo goes outside where Angelique awaits. After some banter, the sometime adversaries “drive off together.” One can only imagine the time Solo will have this coming evening.

NOT QUITE THE END

Like other early U.N.C.L.E. scripts, Dick Nelson’s The Stamp Affair had off-beat introductions where Solo broke the fourth wall. To read a summary of the one for this episode, CHECK OUT THIS NOVEMBER 2018 POST. It involves Solo at a coffin store.

The Nelson script also has a preview for the next episode where the fourth wall is smashed.

INT. COFFIN ROOM ROOM – MED. SHOT – NIGHT

The Girl is standing besides the coffin as Solo talks to The Camera.

SOLO
Now those are what I call real first class villains. I mean, they just don’t make them like that anymore…
(straight)
…at least let’s pray they don’t.
(lightens)
But now…for next week…
(indicates off stage.
FLASH PAN TO:
TRAILERS
A series of trailer scenes. Then:

BACK TO SCENE
Solo is signing the girl’s order book. He looks up Into Camera, smiles.

SOLO
With action like that coming up, I may have to ask for a raise.
(to girl)
Would you like..? cash…?check…? trading stamps…?

She reaches up, pulls his head down gently, and kisses him for a moment. As she releases he looks Into Camera:

SOLO (clears throat)
Well..! From each, according to his ability. to each, according to her needs.

He smiles, turns, picks up the coffin, and walks out with it under his arm (NOTE: or, if the coffin is too heavy, it is on a small dolly and he merely rolls it away with him). Girl turns, looks Into Camera and winks:

FREEZE FRAME
FADE OUT

THE END

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