1967: The U.N.C.L.E./Invaders connection

A first-season episode of The Invaders directed by Sutton Roley…

….and a fourth-season U.N.C.L.E. episode directed by Sutton Roley

The final season of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. (1967-68) included a major change in tone. The show got a lot more serious after a campy third season.

The primary reason was a change in producers. In came Anthony Spinner, a veteran of some Quinn Martin series. His time at QM Productions up to that point included being associate producer for the first season of The Invaders.

Spinner had written a first-season U.N.C.L.E. episode, The Secret Sceptre Affair. But he also wrote a number of episodes for Quinn Martin series such as 12 O’Clock High and The FBI.

QM Productions hired Spinner for the Invaders, where he was deputy to the day-to-day producer, Alan A. Armer.

The show was a departure for QM — it was a science fiction series about how architect David Vincent (Roy Thinnes) tries to convince humanity the Earth is being invaded by an alien race.

The Invaders was a mid-season replacement series that debuted in January 1967 on ABC. Spinner departed the show after the first half-season and he landed as the new day-to-day producer for U.N.C.L.E.

Spinner, along the way, hired some contributors from The Invaders. Among them were writers Don Brinkley, Robert Sherman and John W. Bloch. Bloch, like Spinner, had also worked on a first-season U.N.C.L.E. episode. Sherman’s U.N.C.L.E.’s script was among those that went unproduced because the series was canceled at mid-season.

But perhaps the most significant contributor from The Invaders was director Sutton Roley (1922-2007).

Roley was known for filming shots from unusual angles. He helmed two episodes of the first season of The Invaders, including one titled The Innocent.

The aliens try to fool David Vincent about their intentions, claiming they really want to help mankind.

The episode includes a point-of-view shot where Vincent, having not been fooled, looks up at the aliens.

Roley would direct three episodes in U.N.C.L.E.’s Spinner-produced final season, including the two-part series finale, The Seven Wonders of the World Affair. The director practically duplicates his shot from The Invaders as we see Napoleon Solo (Robert Vaughn) look at people hovering over him.

For U.N.C.L.E., the changes brought by Spinner didn’t pan out. The show got clobbered in the ratings by Gunsmoke on CBS (a series which had been initially canceled but reprieved).

Nevertheless, a number of contributors to The Invaders had an impact on the tone for the final 16 episodes of The Man From U.N.C..E.

Footnote: The main guest star in The Innocent was Michael Rennie. He’d be the villain in the fourth-season U.N.C.L.E. episode, The Thrush Roulette Affair. Rennie would also return in the second season of The Invaders for the show’s only two-part story.

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.

1964: U.N.C.L.E.’s Soviet history in-joke

For much of The Project Strigas Affair, Illya Kuryakin (David McCallum) wears a disguise that appears to resemble…

Next month marks the 55th anniversary of The Project Strigas Affair, the ninth episode of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. It’s mostly known today for being the first time William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy acted together.

However, it’s also an example of an in-joke, albeit one that many members of the audience might not catch.

For much of the story, U.N.C.L.E. agent Illya Kuryakin (David McCallum) wears a disguise consisting of a black wig, fake mustache and wire rim glasses.

It’s part of an elaborate con to ensnare a diplomat (Werner Klemperer), whose government is plotting to get the United States and Soviet Union to declare war on each other.

…Russian revolutionary Leon Trotsky

Students of Soviet history might recognize the disguise. That’s because the disguised Illya appears to resemble Leon Trotsky, a Russian revolutionary who had a falling out with Stalin. Trotsky was assassinated in Mexico City in 1940.

Kuryakin was U.N.C.L.E.’s resident Russian operative. The U.N.C.L.E. series treated the agent’s nationality very gently. This was the 1960s, after all, and the Cold War was on.

The show mostly had subtle references (“Suddenly I feel very Russian,” he says as he parks near a Long Island party held by rich people in the first-season episode The Love Affair.)

Illya’s disguise for The Project Strigas Affair, assuming it really was an intentional in-joke, falls into this category. The Man From U.N.C.L.E. was escapist entertainment, first and foremost. But the Kuryakin disguise shows there’s a bit more at work.

Happy 86th birthday, David McCallum

David McCallum in a Man From U.N.C.L.E. publicity still

Today, Sept. 19, is David McCallum’s 86th birthday.

There’s not a whole lot that needs saying. He’s had a great career. He still has many fans who admire him. Happy birthday. We’ll leave it at that.

Carol Lynley dies at 77

Carol Lynley (1942-2019)

Carol Lynley, an actress who was busy in movies and TV shows in the 1960s and ’70s, has died at 77, according to Variety.

In films, she appeared in Harlow, Bunny Lake Is Missing and The Poseidon Adventure.

Lynley also made the rounds on U.S. television shows, including The Man From U.N.C.L.E., Mannix, The FBI, It Takes a Thief and Hawaii Five-O.

Her IMDB.COM entry lists more than 100 acting credits from 1956 to 2006.

Without whom, etc. (55th anniversary)

Headline for a 1964 obituary for Ian Fleming

Today, Aug. 12, is the 55th anniversary of the death of Ian Fleming.

Without Fleming (1908-1964), much of the 1960s spy craze wouldn’t happen.

Without Fleming, there’d be no James Bond series of novels.

Without Fleming, there’d be no James Bond series of movies.

Without Fleming, there’s be no Man From U.N.C.L.E. television series. The show came about because an inquiry was made whether Fleming’s Thrilling Cities book could be turned into a television series.

Without Fleming, there’d be no attempts to cash in on 007 films.

U.N.C.L.E. fanfic: Adventures of George and Quentin

1998 fanzine with the first, and only (thankfully), installment of The Adventures of George and Quentin

Director Quentin Tarantino is a fan of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. In the 1990s, he talked about directing an U.N.C.L.E. film with himself as Illya Kuryakin and George Clooney as Napoleon Solo.

This week, I found out he’s apparently a (silent) member of an U.N.C.L.E. page on Facebook. That caused me to recall a one-time fanfiction series, The Adventures of George and Quentin.

Of course, I wrote it. So naturally I’d remember it.

It was a Mad magazine-like takeoff. It was written after 1997’s Batman and Robin, where Clooney got a lot of flak for his portrayal of Batman. Also, the takeoff imagined a Pulp Fiction version of Kuryakin.

All of this was filler for a fanzine with more conventional U.N.C.L.E. stories. The format was to rewrite, in script form, original U.N.C.L.E. scripts with the George and Quentin team.

Here’s one example:

THE ADVENTURES OF GEORGE AND QUENTIN IN THE DEADLY GAMES AFFAIR

INT. NIGHT. STAMP SHOP

STAMP EXERT (holds tweezers)
It is a desecration!

SOLO
Uh, is that bad?

STAMP EXPERT
Would you wipe the smile off the Mona Lisa?

ANGELIQUE (Uma Thurman)
Well, hotcakees, I guess we’re back to square one.
(pins flower on SOLO)

ANGELIQUE
Maybe I’ll see ya around.

ANGELIQUE leaves. In comes ILLYA who has been observing this scene from the window of the front door.

ILLYA
Why is that b**** so f****** happy? Who got killed?

SOLO
(bobs head, smiles)
Aw lay off, Illya. Everything is OK.

CUT to another angle where we see the flower has gotten ILLYA’s attention.

CUT to extreme close up of the flower. There is a deadly spider on it.

CUT BACK to the original shot. ILLYA swats the spider off the flower and then stomps on it.

CUT to close up of ILLYA’s foot stomping the spider. The camera lens is stained.

CUT back to the original shot.

ILLYA
G****** it. Napoleon! Can’t you keep your f****** fly zipped?

STAMP EXPERT
You mean that beautiful woman just tried to kill him?

ILLYA
Do you have s*** for brains? Of course she tried to f****** kill him!

SOLO
You know Shakespeare, my friend?

STAMP EXPERT
No.

SOLO
(smiles, bobs head)
Oh. Well never mind then.

There were four others of these, with George and Quentin versions of The Shark Affair, The Foxes and Hounds Affair, The Mad, MAD Tea Party Affair and The Project Strigas Affair.