U.N.C.L.E. script: The well-meaning villain

Captain Shark (Robert Culp) during a dramatic moment with Solo in The Shark Affair.

The Shark Affair, the fourth episode broadcast of The Man From U.N.C.L.E., would feature a different antagonist — well meaning but in the end one who had to be stopped.

Captain Shark (Robert Culp) is convinced the world will soon go up in atomic war. He is kidnapping people of various talents from ships. He disables and sinks the ships while sending the rest of the passengers on their way in lifeboats. Shark’s ship is a sort of modern day Noah’s Ark.

The episode was written by Alvin Sapinsley (1921-2002), a veteran with credits going back to 1949. The Shark Affair would be his only U.N.C.L.E. script.

Sapinsley would later be a key writer on the original Hawaii Five-O series, where his contributions included the only three-part story. He also wrote Sherlock Holmes in New York, with Roger Moore as Holmes and Patrick Macnee as Dr. Watson.

Saplinsley’s script, dated June 22, 1964, is very close to the final episode. A ship in his script is called the Woonsocket. It would be changed to the Whippett for broadcast.

At the end of the episode, Captain Shark’s real name is revealed as Arthur Englander Courtney. It would be changed to Arthur Farnley Selwyn. Those changes are noted on the page after the title page. But the original names are used in the script itself.

Normally, U.N.C.L.E. writers didn’t specify act titles. Those were usually added in post-production. But Sapinsley’s script has “chapter” titles.

All match the final broadcast version except for Act I (or Chapter One as specified in the script). Saplinsley’s original is “Of Shoes and Ships and Sealing Wax.” It would be shortened to “Of Shoelaces and Ships” in the broadcast version.

U.N.C.L.E. has been drawn into the affair after a series of ships, from various nations, have been sunk and a handful of passengers abducted. One is a librarian, Harry Barnman.

Solo (Robert Vaughn) and Illya (David McCallum) interview his wife, Elsa (Sue Ane Langdon), “a warm, earthy girl in her late twenties.” Later, she receives airline and ship tickets and bolts her New York apartment.

Mr. Waverly, the agents’ superior, decided to strand the agents on a raft in the path of the ship the librarian’s wife is on. But they end up being intercepted by Captain Shark’s vessel instead. Regardless, the agents are where they want to be.

An ‘Urbane’ Villain

Curiously, the script doesn’t provide much in the way of description for Captain Shark. He is “urbane, spotless, commanding” in an opening scene where he commandeers a ship.

Guest star Robert Culp, who turned 34 in August 1964, would have his hair streaked gray at the temples to make him look older. It’s not until the end that the audience is told Captain Shark/Selwyn commanded a ship in World War II, which would probably make the character a decade or so older than the actor.

After being brought aboard Shark’s ship, Solo and Illya encounter Harry Barnman, described as “a mild-mannered man of thirty.” The part would be cast with actor Herbert Anderson,, 47 at the time of production. Harry acts as “Leo the Explainer,” a character who explains things to the heroes as well as the audience.

Solo and Illya prove careless at a key moment and Shark discovers they’re with U.N.C.L.E. The captain decides to give Solo a taste of discipline. It’s here where Sapinsley’s script goes into more detail than audiences would see. Shark delivers a line about how he and Solo will get along nicely once Solo receives his discipline.

He gestures toward the deck. Immediately each of the two sailors holding Solo places a foot across his ankles, then jerk his arms forward, dropping him to the deck. They drop him into a sitting position and shift their feet to pinion him into the attitude of a crucifix, face down towards the deck. (NOTE: This is the old slave-whipping position: each man holding a wrist, one foot planted in the victim’s armpit, the other braced between his neck and shoulder.) As Shark snakes out his whip, the two sailors lie back flat against the deck, pulling Solo’s arms taut. Illya steps forward, his eyes glittering.

ILLYA
Do not do this.

SOLO (to Illya)
It’s just a spanking, Illya. Don’t make a fuss.

 

Later, Shark gives Solo a tour. They go to the ship’s library where Harry Barnman is at work. There are no books. Everything is on microfilm.

“The stored wisdom of man’s brain — from Plato’s Republic to Freud’s Interpretation of Dreams,” Shark says. “When we create the new world we’ll have this for a foundation.”

Gravitas

Nevertheless, you can’t keep good agents down. Solo and Illya are seemingly out of options. The passengers, freed from their everyday responsibilities, mostly are contented. But Solo decides to search for explosives to sink the ship, which will force everyone to abandon the vessel.

The plan works. The explosion goes off in the middle of a big party on the ship. As the ship is ready to go down, it sets up a chance for some moralizing by both Solo and Shark. (An early example of how Solo, co-created by Ian Fleming, has more of a moral core than Fleming’s James Bond.)

SOLO (moving forward)
Room for one more, Captain
(no answer)
I want to help you.

SHARK
Help me? You’re like all the others — the leaders, the parliaments, the senates and houses of government! When you see something that’s good and useful, you must step in and destroy it. I tried to create a safe harbor —

SOLO (interrupting)
There is no safe harbor, not here, not anywhere. The only safety lies in agreements between people. Now I want you to come with me.

SHARK
No, my friend. Yours is a world I don’t believe in. Perhaps only the optimists, like yourself, can go on living in it. I don’t know which of us is the right one…or which is the strong one. I only know that I must sail this dream to wherever it takes me.

SOLO
It’s not a dream, it’s a nightmare. Abandon it.

SHARK
I can’t!
(stiffens, lifts gun)
I will stay with my ship.

Solo hesitates, but the ship begins to list dangerously. Finally, as the smoke almost obscures Shark from this view, he realizes saving the man is impossible — the Captain’s dream has disintegrated and he wishes to perish with it. Solo starts away, but hesitates as:

SHARK
You’ll see! They’ll destroy your world! Soon! A few months. At most three or four…
(muttering)
Three…four…

SOLO (softly)
…Shut the door…

To be clear, this episode is escapist entertainment. But the Sapinsley-scripted scene provides it more gravitas even at this early point in the series than audiences were used to. At this point in a 1960s Eon-produced James Bond film, Sean Connery’s Bond would be impatient to make out with the female lead ahead of the end titles.

At the end of the Act IV, Mr. and Mrs. Barnman are back in their New York apartment. Mrs. Barnman (who loves to cook) has whipped up a large dinner while Mr. Barnman (who can’t keep up with his wife’s cooking) gets to take an evening off while Solo and Illya (the latter always enjoying a large appetite) get ready to chow down.

Not Quite the End

However, that’s not where the script ends. The Shark Affair was among the early U.N.C.L.E. scripts that included never-filmed introductions that break the fourth wall, as detailed in THIS POST.

Sapinsley also wrote an unused epilogue with Solo again breaking the fourth wall to show previews of the next episode. To be hones, had it been filmed it probably would have ruined the mood of the episode’s ending.

FADE IN:
EXT.-LIFE RAFT-SOLO

It is bright and clear now. Solo in foreground looking into CAMERA. In b.g. we see the girl.

SOLO
Well — too bad about Captain Shark — but as Mother always said — “Never put off until tomorrow what you can do today.”
(beat)
Let’s see what kind of trouble we have for our next adventure —

SERIES OF SHORT SCENES FROM SHOW TO COME

BACK TO SOLO

He picks up oars, saying:

SOLO
Well — I guess it’s time to shove off — I’ve got a two thousand mile row back to headquarters — Tired, lonesome — and thirsty — but it’s all in the day of the life of a dedicated U.N.C.L.E. agent —-

The POP of a cork makes Solo react slightly. HOLD on his reaction, then he shrugs it off and begins to row again. CAMERA MOVES PAST Solo and we see the girl with a bottle of champagne and two glasses. She pours the wine — MOVE IN on her face as she gives the CAMERA a big wink.

FADE OUT.

THE END

Patrick Macnee, an appreciation

Patrick Macnee's image in an end titles to an episode of The Avengers

Patrick Macnee’s image in a titles sequence of an episode of The Avengers

Patrick Macnee had a career that last decades. His acting credits in his IMDB.COM ENTRY begin in 1938 and run through 2003.

During that span, he didn’t get the role that defined his career — John Steed on The Avengers — until he was 39.

Even then, it took a while for The Avengers to become a worldwide phenomenon. Macnee’s Steed was the one consistent element in a show that changed cast members often.

It’s easy to see why. John Steed didn’t just know the right wines. He knew which end of the vineyard where the grapes had been grown. Steed could handle himself but — as the epitome of the English gentleman — he could adeptly out think his foes as well as out fight them.

It was all outrageous, of course. Steed and his various colleagues encountered robots, mad scientists, Soviet agents and all sorts of dangers. All were dispatched with a sense of style and elegance.

After that show ran its course, he seemed to transition effortlessly to an in-demand character actor. The captain of a cruise ship on Columbo. An alien menace on Battlestar Galactica. Dr. Watson in the made-for-TV movie Sherlock Holmes in New York.

All done with style, seemingly without effort. It seemed like he’d go on forever. He couldn’t, of course. He died today at 93.

Anytime it seems like a performance was effortless, chances are it wasn’t. To keep getting acting gigs is tough. However, watching Macnee it’s understandable why casting directors would keep turning to him.

Even with lesser material, he established a presence. For example, the 1983 TV movie The Return of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. had an uneven script. Yet Macnee shined as new U.N.C.L.E. chief Sir John Raleigh. When performing great material — such an Avengers script by Brian Clemens or Philip Levene — Macnee made it even more special.

Part of it was his distinctive voice. In the 1990s, when documentaries were made about James Bond movies for home video releases, he was a natural to narrate them. (He didn’t narrate Inside A View to a Kill, presumably because he was in the cast of the 1985 007 movie.)

On social media today, fans all over the world expressed sadness. That’s very understandable. Macnee was so good, for so long, it was easy to take him for granted. Nobody is doing so today.

Edward Asner to reprise role from old Five-O in new Five-0


The new Hawaii Five-0 evidently is going to bend the space-time continuum by having having 82-year-old Edward Asner reprise a role from the original Hawaii Five-O.

Here’s an excerpt from a report on the Deadline entertainment news Web site.

EXCLUSIVE: Ed Asner is upgrading his status on Hawaii Five-0 from a guest star to recurring. In a very unusual series guest arc spanning 36 years, the multiple Emmy winner will guest star on CBS’ Hawaii Five-0 reboot in the spring, reprising the role of August March, which he played in an episode of the original series in 1975.

That episode, Wooden Model of a Rat, aired in the eighth season of the original show. Logically, he can’t play the same role unless you accept the idea that there are two Steve McGarretts, two Dannos and two Chin Ho Kellys in the same fictional universe. August March was the villain going against a 49-year old McGarrett (the series established a 1926 birth date for the Big Kahuna; star Jack Lord was older than that, being born in late 1920) and a Chin Ho who was less than a perfect physical specimen. At least both Dannos (James MacArthur and Scott Caan) are short compared with their McGarretts (Lord and Alex O’Loughlin).

Then again, as the old saying goes, it’s just a television show.

According to the Deadline story, the new show will use footage from the original Asner appearance. The 1975 episode was written by Alvin Sapinsley, one of the best writers on the original show. His other credits include Sherlock Holmes in New York, the 1976 TV movie where Roger Moore played Holmes.