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.

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.

TCM includes From Russia With Love in LA film festival

FRWLposter

TCM is including From Russia With Love, the second James Bond film, for the opening day of its DESTINATION HOLLYWOOD classic film festival on April 25-28.

TCM promotes the event as a way for “movie lovers from around the world can gather to experience classic movies as they were meant to be experienced: on the big screen, in some of the world’s most iconic venues, with the people who made them.”

With much of the cast and crew of Terence Young-directed From Russia With Love no longer with us, there won’t be a veteran of the Bond movie on hand for the April 25 showing at the Chinese Multiplex 1 in Hollywood at 9 p.m. local time. However, screenwriter Bruce Feirstein, who labored on three 1990s 007 films, will be part of the program, according to TCM.

Here’s part of the TCM DESCRIPTION OF THE MOVIE:

The second James Bond film contained a series of impressive firsts. It was the first of the series to feature Desmond Llewelyn as Q, the first scored entirely by John Barry, the first with a title song and the first to become a huge international success. With a tautly constructed plot, a witty script and two unforgettable villains (Lotte Lenya’s Rosa Klebb and Robert Shaw’s Red Grant), it’s little wonder it’s often hailed as among the best of the Bonds.

Festival passes RANGE FROM $249 TO $1,599 EACH. Individual movies can be seen FOR $20 EACH but tickets won’t be sold until just before show time (pass holders get seated first). According to TCM, “individual ticket seekers should be able to attend many of their desired screenings. We advise that you arrive a minimum of 30 minutes prior to the start time of your desired events to get in the stand-by line.”

You can view the festival schedule BY CLICKING HERE. You’ll first see the Thursday, April 25 schedule. Use the tabs at the top to check each day. You can CLICK HERE to see the list of films being show.

Thanks to Mark Henderson for pointing this out to us.

Two non-007 homages in Skyfall

Dude (Dean Martin) survives his moment of crisis in Rio Bravo

SPOILERS lie ahead if you haven’t seen Skyfall.

007 fans are comparing notes about Skyfall’s homages to past Bond movies. What’s not getting as much attention are homages to non-Bond films in the 23rd 007 entry.

First, there are Daniel Kleinman’s main titles include Daniel Craig’s James Bond shooting at mirrors. This appears to be an homage to Orson Welles and his 1948 film, The Lady From Shanghai. The movie wasn’t a commercial hit but gained attention over the years as noted in an article on TCM.COM. An excerpt:

Film critic Pauline Kael once pointed out that Welles’s contribution to the evolution of film language lay in his dramatizing the techniques of cinema. That is obvious in every frame of The Lady from Shanghai. Jump cuts in the editing, the almost Brechtian distancing effect of the stylized performances, the doubling of the film frame in the Chinese theater scene, the deep focus that disorients by giving far backgrounds equal weight with extreme close-ups, the use of optical devices ranging from water tumblers to windshields to (in the film’s most famous set pieces) aquarium glass and multiple mirrors – all of these serve to forefront the experience of watching cinema and to push the envelope of what is expected and permissible on screen. (emphasis added)

Mirrors have figured into set pieces in movies such as Blake Edwards’ Gunn (1967), Enter the Dragon (1973) and, appropriately enough, The Man With the Golden Gun (1974).

The other homage, intentional or not, is Howard Hawks’ 1959 Western, Rio Bravo. One of its main characters is Dude (Dean Martin), who has substance abuse problems (he’s an alcoholic) and has trouble shooting straight until, in a moment of crisis, it all comes together for him. There’s also a scene where an attractive woman (Angie Dickinson) shaves him with a straight razor.

In Skyfall, of course, Daniel Craig’s 007 has substance abuse problems (he’s been hitting the sauce pretty heavily while presumed dead), can’t shoot straight (he records sub-standard scores on the MI6 shooting range) and gets shaved by fellow agent Eve (Naomie Harris). Like Dude, Craig’s Bond gets it together when he’s needed the most and is suddenly a crack shot.

Ironically, both Welles and Hawks have 007 ties. Welles was part of the cast in the 1967 spoof version of Casino Royale. Hawks in 1962 briefly considered directing a movie adaptation of Casino Royale until he saw an early print of Dr. No.

TCM to have an evening of the Other Spies on Jan. 24

Turner Classic Movies is having an evening of the “other” spies on Jan. 24, emphasizing lighter fare.

The evening starts at 8 p.m. New York time with In Like Flint (1967), the second of two James Coburn outings as Derek Flint. The intrepid adventurer shows off his ability to talk to porpoises, infiltrates the Kremlin and ends up in outer space.

Next up at 10 p.m. is Where The Spies Are (1966) with David Niven, once Ian Fleming’s preferred choice to play James Bond in what amounts to a warmup for the 1967 Casino Royale spoof. Midnight brings Agent 8 3/4 (1964) with Dirk Bogarde. At 2 a.m. (actually on Jan. 25, of course), TCM is scheduled to telecast 1966’s The Silencers, the first of four films with Dean Martin performing a spoof version <a.of Donald Hamilton’s counter assassin, Matt Helm.

TCM’s final spy entry at 4 a.m. is Salt and Pepper (1968), with Sammy Davis Jr. and Peter Lawford. The duo had done an episode of The Wild, Wild West together (The Night of the Returning Dead) and liked how director Richard Donner operated. Thus, Donner was hired to direct Salt and Pepper, one of Donner’s first theatrical films.

TCM 007 update

On the Saturday afternoon telecast of Diamonds Are Forever, TCM weekend host Ben Mankiewicz didn’t mention his family’s connection to the movie. According to imdb.com, Ben is cousin once removed of Diamonds co-screenwriter Tom Mankiewicz.

Ben Mankiewicz in his introduction said United Artists paid Sean Connery $2 million to come back to the role. Robert Osborne, in the Friday night telecast, quoted $1.25 million, a sum also referenced in the documentary Inside Diamonds Are Forever. Mankiewicz described On Her Majesty’s Secret Service as the series’ first “major hiccup.”

Mankiewicz’s summary after the movie concentrated on how Diamonds was the last film appearance of Bruce Cabot, whose best-known credit was appearing in the original King Kong.

After the movie, TCM telecast a short bit where director Sidney Lumet, who worked with Connery on five films, discussed Connery. Lumet said the Bond films “appeared to be nothing but charm.” The director added, “‘Nothing but charm’ ain’t easy” and that most of that was because of Connery’s acting. Most of this short feature had Lumet talking about Connery’s work in The Hill, their first movie together.

Questions about You Only Live Twice

While watching You Only Live Twice for the umteenth time on TCM, we starting stockpiling a few nagging questions about the movie’s plot. Yes, it’s not intended to hold up to such examination but what the heck. For example:

1. Bond trains to be a ninja at Tiger Tanaka’s top-secret ninja training facility. Yet, not one but two SPECTRE assassins infiltrate the place. Is it that top secret?

2. What happened to the two Soviet cosmonauts and one American astronauts that Bond freed? Did they slip into the same limbo the reformed scientist did when he fell off the Disco Volante in Thunderball?

3. A number of others have posed this question, so we’ll repeat it here. Japanese agent Aki tells Tiger to arrange “the usual reception please.” A helicopter with a giant magnet hauls a car of thugs and drops it into Tokyo Bay. Usual? How often the Japanese Secret Service do this? Weekly? Monthly? Quarterly?

4. Did screenwriter Roald Dahl screw up when Henderson hands Bond a stirred Martini? Or was Bond merely being polite and not commenting that Henderson got it wrong?

5. Another one we’ll have to credit to others but…when did Siberia (where the Soviets launch their spaceships) develop palm trees?

6. Just what was in all those barrels labeled “Osato Chemicals” on the floor of Blofeld’s volcano hideout? At one point, Bond shoots a thug standing right by one of those barrels. What would have happened if Bond had missed and hit the barrel instead? Looks like workplace safety wasn’t one of Blofeld’s strong points.

7. Is it really a full-time job for one guy to open and close the crater? It looks like only one SPECTRE guy is entrusted with the task. Yet after Bond kills him, he figures out pretty quickly which lever to pull. Perhaps workplace efficiency wasn’t one of Blofeld’s strong points, either.

8. Earlier in the movie, Bond is flying in the “Little Nelly” mini-copter over the volcano hideout. Suddenly, he’s being attacked by four SPECTRE helicopters. Had SPECTRE just done nothing, wouldn’t have Bond just flown by, never the wiser?

9. Again a question posed by others, but what camera is in outer space beaming back all those live pictures back to SPECTRE?

10. It seems to take Bond and Kissy all day to climb up to the top of volcano containing Blofeld’s hideout. In fact, it’s past midnight when they finally get down to the crater (the U.S. spacecraft has launched and we’re told that was happening at midnight Japan time). Bond tells Kissy to get Tanaka. Despite a long swim (and avoiding a helicopter firing at her), she seems to get back a lot faster. So: did Bond and Kissy walk up *really* slowly in the first place? Or did Kissy somehow bend the time-space continum? Or did Peter Hunt and his editing crew either not notice this or were unable to do anything about this?

11. Was anyone even slightly fooled by Bond being disguised as a Japanese man?