The main difference between Fleming’s two spy heroes

"I would have thought the difference was obvious," Solo said.

“The difference is obvious,” Solo said.

In 2015, there will be two movies featuring two spy characters Ian Fleming helped to create. The one with the most publicity is SPECTRE, the 24th James Bond film. The other is The Man From U.N.C.L.E., a movie adaptation of the television series, coming to theaters a few months before the 007 film.

With U.N.C.L.E., Fleming’s involvement was limited (lasting from October 1962 until June 1963) and he exited the project after being bullied by 007 film producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman (whose film series was in its earliest stages) to quit.

There are some basic similarities. Both Bond and Napoleon Solo, the lead character in U.N.C.L.E., are womanizers. Both deal in espionage and death. But Solo has one major difference with Bond: The U.N.C.L.E. agent has a moral core than Bond doesn’t appear to possess.

Eon Productions co-boss Michael G. Wilson has called Bond an “antihero,” defined as “a central character in a story, movie, or drama who lacks conventional heroic attributes.” His stepfather, Eon co-founder Broccoli, used the same terms in his autobiography.

In Fleming’s first novel, Casino Royale, Bond describes how he got his 00-designation, which involved killing two people. In Fleming’s fifth Bond novel, From Russia With Love it’s stated that Bond had never killed in cold blood. (Collector Gary Firuta pointed this out and we looked up our copies of the novels to verify.) But fans say Casino Royale cancels that out. Dissenting fans say in Casino Royale the two kills were described by Bond (who may or may not have been lying) while the From Russia With Love reference is in the “voice of God” (i.e. Fleming’s “narrator” description).

Napoleon Solo, meanwhile, demonstrates a moral streak periodically throughout the 1964-68 series.

In the first-season episode The Finny Foot Affair, the “innocent” is a young boy played by Kurt Russell. Russell’s character has a rough time. He witnesses an U.N.C.L.E. agent fight to the death. The agent, with his dying breath, entrusts the boy with an object that may be of assistance to Solo.

Later, on a flight to Norway, the boy describes what he saw to Solo. The U.N.C.L.E. agent attempts to deceive the boy that what he saw wasn’t as serious as it seems.

Later, the boy witnesses Solo kill some of his opponents. “Chris,” Solo tells the boy at one point, “you know now this is for real.” At the end of the episode, the Russell character decides Solo may not be the best potential mate for his “beautiful widowed mother.”

The best example of Solo’s moral streak occurs during the last episode of the series, broadcast by NBC on Jan. 15, 1968. Its one of the best scenes in the entire show for star Robert Vaughn. Solo confronts a group that plans to bring the entire world under its control, ending the “fight between good and evil” once and for all. The leader of this scheme is named Kingsley (Barry Sullivan), a former top U.N.C.L.E. official.

SOLO: You intend — you seriously intend — to make the world world act and think like you want it to?
(snip)
It’s a blasphemy. Your plan denies humanity its freedom to find its own way to better times.

At the end of the episode, there’s this exchange between Solo and his boss, Alexander Waverly.

WAVERLY: Good job, gentlemen.

SOLO: Kingsley sincerely believed history would have said the same of him, sir.”

That’s not the kind of thing that Bond stops to reflect about.

Eleanor Parker, U.N.C.L.E.’s last villainess, dies

Eleanor Parker in the final episode of The Man From U.N.C.L.E.  That's Leslie Nielsen in the background. She's not going to like what his character does moments later.

Eleanor Parker in the final episode of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. That’s Leslie Nielsen in the background. She’s not going to like what his character does moments later.

Eleanor Parker, who played the final villainess in The Man From U.N.C.L.E. television series starring Robert Vaughn and David McCallum, has died at 91, according to AN ASSOCIATED PRESS OBITUARY ON THE MIAMI HERALD WEBSITE.

Parker played a wide variety of parts according to her HER ENTRY ON IMDB.COM. For spy fans, though, one significant role was filmed in 1967 and aired in January 1968. She was in the final two-part episode of The Man From U.N.C.L.E., The Seven Wonders of the World Affair. It was released outside the U.S. as a movie called How to Steal the World.

In that story, an U.N.C.L.E. official named Robert Kinsley (Barry Sullivan), decides to tip the fight between good and evil in favor of good via a “will docility gas” that will force the world’s population to be compliant. What Kingsley doesn’t know is that his wife (Parker) has been manipulating him in partnership with a Thrush operative named Webb (Peter Mark Richman).

Originally, the story, written by Norman Hudis, was intended as a one-hour episode. But, with NBC opting to cancel U.N.C.L.E. in the middle of its fourth season, executive producer Norman Felton had the script expanded to be a two-parter. It would be the eighth, and final, U.N.C.L.E. movie for international audiences.

Parker’s character meets her demise when Robert Kingsley, finally aware of his wife’s plans, orders a General accidently exposed to the docility gas (Leslie Nielsen) to kill her. Overall, the story’s quality varies greatly, in part because of the last-minute expansion. But it’s still a major part of U.N.C.L.E. lore.