5 U.N.C.L.E. TV stories new fans should see before the movie

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

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

The Man From U.N.C.L.E. hasn’t gotten a lot of exposure since its last broadcast on Jan. 15, 1968. Yet, seemingly against long odds, a big-screen version comes out on Aug. 14.

There are a lot of new fans — particularly those who are fans of actors Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer — who haven’t had a lot of opportunity to catch the original show. With that in mind, here are five U.N.C.L.E. stories from the 1964-68 series that may enhance the experience of new fans ahead of the film.

These aren’t necessarily the very best episodes. But some have elements in common with the movie. Also, this list is intended to include examples from all four seasons of the show. Stories told over two episodes are listed as a single entry here.

The Quadripartite Affair/The Giuoco Piano Affair: These two episodes were filmed together but presented as separate, but related episodes.

Solo verbally jousts with Harold Bufferton (John Van Dreelen) in The Giuoco Piano Affair

Solo verbally jousts with Harold Bufferton (John Van Dreelen) in The Giuoco Piano Affair

Quadripartite was the third episode broadcast. It’s also the first episode where Napoleon Solo (Robert Vaughn) and Illya Kuryakin (David McCallum) function as a team. There’s plenty of good “bits of business” for both characters.

The story involves a power-hungry woman, Gervaise Ravel (Anne Francis), whose lover, Harold Bufferton (John Van Dreelan), is one of the world’s richest men and who’s more than willing to finance her plans. That’s not unlike the new film, where Elizabeth Debicki, is the lead villain.

Giuoco Piano (the seventh episode broadcast) is even better than Quadripartite, showing how manipulative Solo can be. The title comes from a chess gambit that symbolizes Solo’s plan. If James Bond is the blunt instrument, this story demonstrates how Solo is the sharp operator.

Both episodes were written by Alan Caillou, who did intelligence work for the British in World War II. Think an Ian Fleming, who actually went out into the field. Caillou’s two scripts helped define the Kuryakin character. Sam Rolfe, who wrote the pilot, envisioned Kuryakin as a large, massive man. Caillou provided McCallum with the material so the actor could make Illya his own.

Also, the two episodes were directed by Richard Donner, who’d become an A-list film director in the 1970s.

The Never-Never Affair: Through the first season, the show tried to find the right balance of drama and humor. Never-Never, aired late in the season, became the model for future episodes.

"I can't believe everything that's going on, Illya."

Solo and Illya during the theater shootout in The Never-Never Affair

In the story, Solo feels sorry for U.N.C.L.E. translator Mandy Stevenson (Barbara Feldon), who yearns for an adventure. He sends her to get pipe tobacco for U.N.C.L.E. chief Waverly (Leo G. Carroll), while telling her she’s acting as a courier. However, she accidentally is given a valuable microdot covered by the villainous organization, Thrush.

The episode includes a memorable set piece, where a Thrush assassin is firing through a movie theater screen at Solo and Kuryakin, who are having to deal with other Thrush operatives. A high percentage of the jokes work, and writer Dean Hargrove would become one of the main scribes of the series. It was the second episode of show helmed by Joseph Sargent, one of the best directors on the series.

The Foxes and Hounds Affair: A breezy episode that aired early in the show’s second season. The new movie’s tone is supposed to be similar to the second season and Foxes and Hounds is one of the season’s better entries.

U.N.C.L.E. and Thrush are both after a mind-reading machine. That’s pretty fantastic, but no more so than what can be seen in a Marvel Studios film of the 21st century. Both Solo and Kuryakin get chances to shine. We also see that Waverly is perfectly capable of being cold blooded. On top of everything else, Vincent Price is a very good villain who has to watch his back for attacks from a rival in Thrush (Patricia Medina).

The Concrete Overcoat Affair: This two-part episode was edited into a movie for international audiences called The Spy in the Green Hat. Thrush has another ambitious plan that U.N.C.L.E. is trying to foil. But some retired gangsters end up becoming involved and act as a wild card.

This ran during the third season, when the drama-humor balance got out of whack in favor of humor. This Joseph Sargent-directed story reins that in to an extent. There’s also a good scene early in Part II where Solo wants to go save Kuryakin but Waverly disapproves. The U.N.C.L.E. chief relents, but only reluctantly. It’s an unusual moment of drama in a season where that was in short supply.

The Test Tube Killer Affair: In the fourth season, new producer Anthony Spinner wanted to dial the humor way back. This episode, early in the season, is one of the better entries produced by Spinner.

Christopher Jones, center, one of Thrush's "test tube" killers in a fourth-season Man From U.N.C.L.E. episode

Christopher Jones, center, as Greg Martin, in The Test Tube Killer Affair.

Thrush’s Dr. Stoller (Paul Lukas) has been raising young men from childhood to be the perfect killing machines, able to turn their emotions on and off as needed. Stoller’s prize pupil, Greg Martin (Christopher Jones), has been chosen to blow up a dam in Greece. It’s strictly an exercise and the dam has no strategic importance but many will die if Martin succeeds.

Meanwhile, the young killer is highly intelligent — intelligent enough where it appears Solo and Kuryakin may have met their match. The episode has a less-than-happy ending, something not common on the show.

Our Ian Fleming U.N.C.L.E. primer

Ian Fleming

Ian Fleming

Less than a month from now, The Man From U.N.C.L.E. movie will be in theaters. The point of this post is to keep everything concerning Ian Fleming’s connection to the original television series in perspective.

1962: There is interest in developing Ian Fleming’s non-fiction book Thrilling Cities into a television series. (For specific dates, as compiled by Craig Henderson’s For Your Eyes Only website, CLICK HERE.)

Late October 1962: Television producer Norman Felton meets with Ian Fleming in New York City. The duo eventually hash out some ideas for a television series.

Late May 1963: Fleming, under pressure from 007 film producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman, sends a message on his 55th birthday that he intends to exit the television project.

June 1963: Fleming signs away his U.N.C.L.E. rights for 1 British pound.

November 1963: The pilot for The Man From U.N.C.L.E. begins filming. The script is written by Sam Rolfe (1924-1993).

1964: Broccoli and Saltzman try to stop U.N.C.L.E. from going into production. There’s a settlement where the lead character in U.N.C.L.E. keeps the name Napoleon Solo (a Fleming suggestion) For specific dates, check out Craig Henderson’s website by CLICKING HERE.

Sept. 22, 1964: The pilot episode of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. airs on NBC.

Nov. 26, 1965: NBC pre-empts The Man From U.N.C.L.E. to show the special The Incredible World of James Bond. Originally, Sean Connery was to be the narrator but pulls out at the last minute. Character actor Alexander Scourby takes over the narration duties. Many U.N.C.L.E. fans discover the world of 007 as a result.

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.

Second U.N.C.L.E. movie trailer arrives

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

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

The second trailer for The Man From U.N.C.L.E. arrived in some U.S. theaters this weekend — or at least one in the Detroit area.

The new longer trailer for the Guy Ritchie-directed film contains several scenes that were part of the teaser trailer released on Feb. 11. But there are some additions. Among them:

Kuryakin as large, powerful man: The character of Illya Kuryakin was created by Sam Rolfe, who wrote the pilot for the 1964-68 television series. Rolfe’s original version was a large “slavic” man.

That changed when 5-foot-7 David McCallum was cast in the role. The character was further refined by writer Alan Caillou in a number of first-season stories.

The movie Kuryakin is going back to the Rolfe version, based on the second trailer. We see Napoleon Solo (Henry Cavill) complaining to his CIA superior (Jared Harris) that a mission in Berlin was supposed to be “a simple extraction” but that the agent ran into something “barely human.”

That was Kuryakin (Armie Hammer) who, we see, managed to rip off the trunk lid of Solo’s car as he was trying to get away.

More sexual innuendo: The new trailer includes some sexual innuendo between Solo and femme fatale Victoria Vinciguerra (Elizabeth Debicki) as well as Kuryakin and “innocent” Gaby Teller (Alicia Vikander). Included: a scene where Our Heroes strap a 1963 version of a track device on Gaby’s thigh.

Different music: The second trailer has different music than the Feb. 11 teaser trailer. There’s no way to tell whether this is from Daniel Pemberton’s score.

Solo in peril: Solo is in an electric chair at one point.

A bit more Waverly: Hugh Grant, the new-look Alexander Waverly, still has only one line (as he did in the teaser trailer) but there’s an additional shot of him in a sequence filmed in Rome.

As of May 31, the official movie website still has THE TEASER TRAILER.

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.

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.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 192 other followers