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.

U.N.C.L.E. double feature in LA on Nov. 21-22

UNCLE DOUBLE FEATURE

Theatrical showings of two movies re-edited from The Man From U.N.C.L.E. are scheduled for Los Angeles on Nov. 21 and 22.

The Spy With My Face and One Spy Too Many are to be shown at the New Beverly Cinema, a revival movie house owned by director Quentin Tarantino. Each movie will be shown once on Friday, Nov. 21 and twice on Saturday, Nov. 22. The latter date also marks the 82nd birthday of Robert Vaughn, who played Napoleon Solo in the 1964-68 series.

For specific times and a link to buy tickets, you can CLICK HERE.

Each film contains scenes not in the television versions of their stories. For more information about The Spy With My Face, CLICK HERE and scroll down to episode 8. For more information about One Spy Too Many, CLICK HERE and read about episodes 30-31 at the top of the page.

The theater also plans another double feature of note for spy fans.

On Nov. 23 and 24, it will show The Venetian Affair, a serious 1967 spy movie also starring Robert Vaughn, with a cast that includes Luciana Paluzzi and Boris Karloff, and Hickey & Boggs, a 1972 movie reuniting Robert Culp and Bill Cosby as private eyes.Hickey & Boggs was directed by Culp and written by Walter Hill. Culp and Cosby had starred in I Spy, the 1965-68 espionage series.

Intrusion of real life paragraph:

Cosby has been in the news the past week because of rape allegations going back several years that he has denied (this CNN story summarizes the situation) and also because of his philanthropy (loaning 60 pieces of African art to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African Art as detailed in this NPR story).

The Man From U.N.C.L.E. movies available on DVD tomorrow

We overlooked this, but the eight movies re-edited from The Man From U.N.C.L.E. are available starting tomorrow, Aug. 23, from Warner Bros.

The movies were comprised of television episode footage plus additional scenes of sex and violence for the paying customer. The pilot episode was filmed in color, but broadcast in black-and-white. Extra scenes were shot to ensure enough running time as a film. A first-season epsiode, The Double Affair, was likewise shot in color to provide the basis of a movie, with extra footage. The series was popular enough that the first few films, primarily intended for the international market, were released in the U.S.

Then, the ever-thrifty Norman Felton, U.N.C.L.E.’s executive producer, took some of the extra footage from the first two films, had a script written to incorporate it with an entirely different story. The result was the 21st episode of The Man From U.N.C.L.E.,The Four-Steps Affair. There was one problem. In some of the footage, Napoleon Solo (Robert Vaughn) had his hair parted one way while having his hair parted the opposite way during the rest of the footage. So, there’s an insert shot of Solo combing his hair to change his part. Ain’t Hollywood great?

For the remaining films, Felton & Co. had two-part episodes produced for the series that could more easily be turned into films for the international market. For more information, including how to order, JUST CLICK HERE. There was a previous release by Warners of five of the eight movies outside the U.S.

Instead of relying on “Affair” for titles (as with episodes of the television series), the films relied on using “Spy” for six of the eight titles: To Trap a Spy, The Spy With My Face, One Spy Too Many, One of Our Spies Is Missing; The Spy In the Green Hat; The Karate Killers, The Helicopter Spies and How To Steal the World. All eight were shown in one day on TCM in late 2008. The Helicopter Spies is of note because it fixes a number of bad editing mistakes in the second part of the fourth-season story The Prince of Darkness Affair.

Here are a few of the trailers for the U.N.C.L.E. movies:

1966: Time reviews the other spies

By early 1966, there were several movies hoping to get a piece of the spy action started by Bondomania. So Time magazine did a review summarizing what was in theaters at the time, including the film debut of Matt Helm and movie versions of episodes of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. with Robert Vaughn and David McCallum.
First, the magazine gave its view of the genre as a whole:

Movie moguls have long sought the perfect pop-art hero, the infallible magnetic moneymaker with equal pull for kids under twelve and adolescents up to and beyond retirement age. Tarzan, a perennial favorite, still takes to the trees occasionally to fight for right, but with obsolete weapons. The Wild West gunfighter endures, though an hombre who traditionally hates kissin’ and gets his kicks by digging spurs into horseflesh seems equally ill-adapted to the times. The exquisitely contemporary hero is girl-happy, gadget-minded James Bond, whose legend has already tempted a host of imitators to bland larceny. Now five new spy spoofs reverently ape Bond, with more a-making to catch the rich financial fallout from Goldfinger and Thunderball.

The magzine then got down to cases. First off, it examined Matt Helm.
The biggest, noisiest and naughtiest contender in the new spystakes is The Silencers, with Crooner Dean Martin playing Matt Helm, a secret agent for ICE (Intelligence Counter Espionage)….The striptease fun, with Cyd Charisse as team captain, begins during the opening credits, then gets right down to business in Martin’s circular bed, which turns, travels, tilts, finally plunges him naked into a swimming pool with a naiad identified as Lovey Kravezit….Innuendo roars through Silencers, with nothing omitted save scrawling feelthy pictures on the screen. Now and then, Martin sleepily warbles a song parody, his way of adding sauce to all the gleeful violence, drunken driving and self-conscious smut.

As Jack Benny used to say, “Wellllllll….” Next up, a look at U.N.C.L.E.’s screen debut (kind of) in the double feature which added footage to two television episodes (plus alternative versions of some scenes intended for the screen rather than TV audiences).

Intelligence men’s intrigues wash cleaner in To Trap a Spy and The Spy with My Face. Originally designed for home use, these television retreads are expanded versions of two episodes from MGM’s The Man from U.N.C.L.E. series (the seams still show).

Time didn’t seem all that impressed with the others.

The man least likely to threaten Bond’s supremacy is That Man in Istanbul, with Horst Bucholz battling a one-armed villain atop a minaret and performing other improbable feats to rescue a kidnaped scientist. …Another elusive scientist is the excuse given for The 2nd Best Secret Agent in the Whole Wide World, the most flagrantly imitative spoof of the lot. Its second-best agent is played with studied respect by one Tom Adams, who vaguely resembles Sean Connery.

The magzine also said this era of spy movies couldn’t last.
A craze occurs when an acquired taste unaccountably becomes an addiction. Without ever believing in it, audiences find the spoofery easy to swallow. But mock espionage may be hard put to survive a throng of second-string undercover men who seem badly in need of vocational guidance.

To read the entire article, JUST CLICK HERE.

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