Fleming and The Man from UNCLE

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  • caractacus pottscaractacus potts Orbital communicator, level 10Posts: 2,613MI6 Agent
    edited July 22

    chrisno1 said:

    Miss Diketon - did they misspell that...?

    Cripes.


    ha, if you notice I had to edit my post because I originally misspelled her name!

    At least in the first half she really likes Ilya, just not in a normal healthy way. I didn't watch the second clip, because I don't want to spoil the exciting conclusion for myself, but I'm assuming she doesn't like Leticia Roman's character, yet nonetheless finds the violence arousing. That thing where she catches her breath with the satisfied smile after she kills is totally what Xenia Onatopp would be doing 30 years later.


    Looking at her bio, Janet Leigh has done a lot of films I like, not just Psycho but Touch of Evil and the Manchurian Candidate, and I'd forgotten she was in Harper. So now this fine performance can join that list. I'd never really noticed her cheekbones before but I suddenly see the facial resemblance between her and daughter Jamie Lee.

  • BarbelBarbel ScotlandPosts: 32,004Chief of Staff

    Janet Leigh, a wonderful and underrated actress. It's sad that today she's mainly remembered for taking an unfortunate shower when she was in so many other good or great films.

  • Napoleon PluralNapoleon Plural LondonPosts: 9,366MI6 Agent

    That first clip I do seem to remember from my youth - this is quite nasty, sadistic stuff isn't it? I suppose the whole 'thank you' stuff is similar to Fatima Blush being given her kill by Largo in NSNA. It did seem to me that UNCLE did have that slightly pornographic side to it, odd that it was pitched more as for the kids than Bond.

    "This is where we leave you Mr Bond."

    Roger Moore 1927-2017
  • caractacus pottscaractacus potts Orbital communicator, level 10Posts: 2,613MI6 Agent

    reopen Channel D

    I might as well complete my report on The Concrete Overcoat Affair, as it'll be a while before I get to the end of Season 3.

    Secondary plot involves Solo hiding in the bedroom of a young lady in Sicily to evade the bad guys, then being forced into a shotgun wedding because he has robbed her of her honour. Her uncles are all mafiosos, played by vintage gangster cinema actors from the 20s and 30s. If you watch close you can even spot an Elisha Cook cameo, don't know why they wouldn't give him a bigger role.

    Solo's absolutely no productive use during part 1, Ilya probably could have saved the world all on his own if it weren't for Solo's problems with would-be inlaws repeatedly complicating matters.

    Second half we get a vast high tech villains headquarters, worthy of one of the better Bond films. On its own island, hundreds of minions, blinking lights and a wide variety of deadly gadgets, and an evil plot to start Global Warming 50 years early. There's even a big baddy behind our principal baddies, played Will Kuluva, who had been the original UNCLE boss Mr. Allison as seen in the pilot and first film. Fired by the teevee network from a good job as boss of the good guys, he gets his revenge as boss of the bad guys! This last half is actually better than the typical Bond finale, because of the character dynamics within THRUSH. Palance tells Kuluva he is dissatisfied with Leigh's performance and wants to have her transferred to another department, and Kuluva says might as well just have her killed, save the paperwork.

    and if you think the mafioso content is silly, consider their position in the plot structure is almost that of the Union Corse in the much revered oh-so-serious OHMSS...

    ...the shotgun wedding of course. But Waverly plans to destroy the island headquarters with a missile strike while Ilya nd the young Sicilian lady are still held prisoner. Solo has to recruit the mafiosos to launch his own attack and infiltrate the island and save the world. Thats pretty much the last act of OHMSS

  • chrisno1chrisno1 LondonPosts: 1,515MI6 Agent

    Wasn't some of this is The Spy With The Green Hat?

  • caractacus pottscaractacus potts Orbital communicator, level 10Posts: 2,613MI6 Agent

    precisely:  The Spy With The Green Hat was the feature film repackaging the same material. Starting with the second season, all the two-parters were repackaged as feature films. In all movie versions I've seen so far there is more sex and violence than than the teevee versions, which I why I'm eager to see what Janet Leigh gets to do in the film that she couldnt do on primetime teevee.

    Will Kuluva's big baddy behind the other baddies is the titular spy with green hat.

    ironically it is Ilya who kills this character. In real life, the network executives saw the pilot and told the producers to fire the guy whose name begins with K, whatever he's called. They meant the character Kuryakin. The producers thought they meant the actor Kuluva and replaced him with Leo G Carroll. A year later when David McCallum became a popculture phenomenenon especially with the young ladies in the audience, the network declared firing the wrong man was the best mistake they ever made. So now the poor actor gets to return to the show he was fired from, and its the character who was supposed to be fired that kills him off!

  • caractacus pottscaractacus potts Orbital communicator, level 10Posts: 2,613MI6 Agent
    edited August 28

    open Channel D

    I have now completed the notorious Season 3. As forewarned, it is indeed much much too silly. Research tells me this was the network's fault, they changed it from an adventure show that was effortlessly funny to a painfully forced comedy that references adventure show tropes. The shows creators distanced themselves from what the show was becoming. At least the stories have slightly more plot structure than the shortlived sistershow, but still fall into a lazy pattern of Solo and Ilya being captured before each and every commercial break.

    The music seems to have changed, a lot more zany saxophone and frantic organ in the theme and incidental bits. Often sounds like Benny Hill or a Flesicher Brothers cartoon.

    Ilya generally get more screentime than Solo throughout this season (David McCallum is now a real life teen idol and one reason so many young ladies are watching the show). We learn Ilya did postgraduate studies at the Sorbonne, and earned a PhD at Cambridge in quantum mechanics. Solo on the other hand is consistently portrayed as a leering sex maniac, and contributes little else to most plots. It is now a recurring joke that Solo looks slackjawed and confused while Ilya explains the science, and Ilya scores a better class of chick without ever trying.

    Waverly continues to show up for the final scene and pick up Solo's chick right in front of him. There is a running gag that Waverly is a cheap boss, who finds reasons not to compensate for expenses. Solo has to pay for his own typewriter ribbon. The tailor complains Waverly won't pay for a new paint job and speculates THRUSH would pay better, and in the same episode we learn THRUSH has their new headquarters in a much fancier men's clothing shop. In another Ilya is held for ransom, and Waverly refuses to pay the requested $209-.

    In two or three episodes Solo and Ilya drive a futuristic looking UNCLEmobile, but it never does anything and its existence not explained. Presumably to justify a toy with the show's branding? In The Five Daughters Affair (aka The Karate Killers) we see the car pursued by helicopters, and its vertically opening doors interfere with Solo's ability to shoot at the pursuers, or even get out quickly without fighting against its style-before-function design.


    Lets deal first with guest stars, shall we? By this point the show was more de riguer to the celebrity publicity circuit than Johnny Carson.

    There are at least three of ours: Nancy Sinatra plays Coco Cool in The Take Me to Your Leader Affair (s3e16 - December 30 1966), and jams with Ilya, suggesting he quit this square spy gig and start a pop duo with her.

    Telly Savalas and Curd Jürgens both appear in the The Five Daughters Affair (s3e28 & 29 - March 31 & April 7 1967, aka The Karate Killers, the sixth movie). Their parts are barely more than cameos. Joan Crawford and Terry Thomas (Kiss the Girls and Make Them Die) also have blink-and-youll-miss-em cameos, while Herbert Lom plays the big baddie and Kim Darby (True Grit) plays the innocent.

    as for other 60s celebs...

    Joan Collins appears in The Galatea Affair (s3e03 - September 30 1966), playing two roles, one posh and the other a showgoil from da Bronx. Mark Slate from the Girl from UNCLE also guests, trading spots with solo who was in the sistershow that week.

    The Concrete Overcoat Affair (s3e11 & 12 - November 25 & December 2 1966 aka The Spy With The Green Hat) stars Jack Palance and Janet Leigh as the villains (see upthread)

    Ted Cassidy (Lurch) is an evil henchman in The Napoleon's Tomb Affair (s3e20 - January 27 1967)

    Sonny and Cher's first acting roles ever are in The Hot Number Affair (s3e25 - March 10 1967)

    Also, Shelley Berman, Shari Lewis, and Victor Borge are all names I recognise but had never actually seen onscreen before. I'm sure theres lots of other guests who were someone in the 60s celebrity circuit I do not recognise at all decades later.

    ...and in a real tiny cameo, Doodles (Beetlebaum) Weaver from the Spike Jones Orchestra appears in The Pieces of Fate Affair (s3e23 - February 24 1967)

    Two episodes are written by Harlan Ellison: The Sort of Do-It-Yourself Dreadful Affair and The Pieces of Fate Affair

    Ilya performs two poetry raps, as well as playing guitar with Nancy Sinatra. Several episodes occur in the world of the arts: a Hollywood film set, a Greenwich village PopArt gallery and coffee shop, an offBroadway musical, a bestselling author doing the talkshow publicity circuit, and Cher plays a fashion model.


    But the real important question: just how silly does it get?

    Ilya rides a giant stinkbomb Dr Strangelove style as it is dropped over Las Vegas in The Super-Colossal Affair (s3e04 - October 7, 1966)

    Solo Ilya and Waverley sit in the little desks in a kindergarten class in The Thor Affair (s3e07 - October 28, 1966)

    A climactic fight scene spills over onto the stage during the closing number of an offbroadway show, saving it from bad reviews. The Off-Broadway Affair (s3e10 - November 18 1966)

    Ilya infiltrates a country similar to Tibet disguised as the Abominable Snowman. Mr Waverly receives a message by carrier pigeon (from Asia) and appears in the last scene riding an elephant. The Abominable Snowman Affair (s3e13 - December 9 1966)

    Solo dances to pop music with a Sheena Queen of the Jungle type and an extra in a gorilla costume in The My Friend the Gorilla Affair (s3e14 - December 16 1966)

    A visiting Kruschev type ends up wandering round New York dressed in a Santa Claus suit and saves the life of a sick child in The Jingle Bells Affair (s3e15 - December 23 1966) (I confess I actually found this one touching, as well as unusually political)

    Solo and Ilya move into a brand new subdivision, "two bachelors living in Serenity" and try to figure out how to do domestic chores. There is a chase scene in which both Ilya and THRUSH agents are driving ice cream trucks. Police unwittingly enter the villains headquarters and watch the close circuit tv, complaining they've seen this movie before, the fights always look so fake. All parts of The Suburbia Affair (s3e17 - January 6 1967)

    Solo and Ilya get pelted with rotten fruit in The Napoleon's Tomb Affair (s3e20 - January 27 1967)

    THRUSH New York is run by two squabbling brothers, who do not realise their own mother is their secret superior officer from THRUSH Central in The Hula Doll Affair (s3e22 - February 17 1967).

    The whole Sonny and Cher episode is one big joke, their characters work in the garment industry for two Morty Seinfeld type bosses who should speak lotsa "yo vant I should?" type dialog. The Hot Number Affair (s3e25 - March 10 1967).

    in The When in Roma Affair (s3e26 - March 17 1967) Ilya plays babysitter and reads from Captain Marvel and the Space Horse, which does not seem to be a real comic. Solo and Ilya search a landfill site for a perfume atomiser.

    in The Apple a Day Affair (s3e27 - March 24 1967) for the second time this season, Solo is trapped in a shotgun wedding while Ilya does all the real work without his help. This time its real hillbillies, and all the locals accuse the UNCLE agents of being revenooers.

    in season finale The Cap and Gown Affair (s3e30 - April 14 1967), Solo and Ilya hide from THRUSH in a sorority, where the jiggly sorority girls save them with their pillow fighting skills while clad in skimpy negligees.

    So if you can accept any or all of these kooky concepts, its still the same great spy show it always was.


    I realise all along I've been referring to our heroes as Solo and Ilya, not Napoleon and Kuryakin, which is inconsistent. That's because the names I've selected are only four letters and easy to spell wheras the alternatives are both eight letters and more difficult. But I'd never dream of calling Mr Waverly Alex. 

  • Charmed & DangerousCharmed & Dangerous Posts: 7,303MI6 Agent
    edited August 29

    Open Channel D

    Fantastic review, CP. I'm about to start watching season two again, this time in order. I watched season three in the early 90's when it was rerun on BBC2, and as you say found it a bit too silly. The ultra-camp Batman show was proving a huge hit so the network sadly pushed UNCLE in the same direction. Still, that car - the Piranha - does look pretty cool.


    "How was your lamb?" "Skewered. One sympathises."
  • BarbelBarbel ScotlandPosts: 32,004Chief of Staff

    Open Channel D...

    Seconded, that was a pleasure to read. Thanks ,cp.

    I can't remember if I mentioned earlier, but a few years ago I had the chance to buy a box set of UNCLE movies. I passed on it, and am regretting it now.

  • caractacus pottscaractacus potts Orbital communicator, level 10Posts: 2,613MI6 Agent

    Yes that set of the films would be a good deal if you can't find or afford the set with all the episodes. Almost like a Greatest Hits (though the episodes that got turned into films aren't always the best episodes) . So far I haven't found either set, I'm just watching online (thanks to my Uncle Earl).

    In the episode where they were being chased by helicopters, the car didn't fire rockets. That would almost justify the awkward design. And Solo couldn't even lift the door that high, it never raised higher than the level of the roof and he always had to crouch to get out from under it. They were much better off when they just rented a convertible to get where they're going.

    Maybe Waverly blew all the UNCLE budget on that car, and that's why he cant afford to pay for typewriter ribbons?

  • chrisno1chrisno1 LondonPosts: 1,515MI6 Agent

    @caractacus potts great reviews there. I am no longer feeling the need to watch The Man from UNCLE. You say this is the silly third series. Is this a thing with 60s US TV shows. Star Trek and Batman also had remarkably silly third seasons.

  • caractacus pottscaractacus potts Orbital communicator, level 10Posts: 2,613MI6 Agent

    whoops! I try to parse all subjective value judgements out of my reports, and objectively summarise the experience. It certainly wasn't my intent to discourage anyone from watching The Man from UNCLE. I think it's as essential as the big three ITV spy/adventure shows of the era, including this silly third season.

    But I would definitely suggest starting at the beginning, where the absurdities of the spyfantasy are deadpanned and the spy-plots are otherwise played straight. The comedy elements sneak in slowly but increasingly dominate the tone of the second season. By the time you get to some of the goofier moments in Season 2 you will know whether or not Season 3 is for you, and will at least have watched the most important stuff. Season 2 is preferred by some over Season 1 because it is in colour, and takes full advantage of the expanded visual pallette.

  • BarbelBarbel ScotlandPosts: 32,004Chief of Staff

    "Voyage To The Bottom Of The Sea" did the same thing, except that got a 4th season.

  • caractacus pottscaractacus potts Orbital communicator, level 10Posts: 2,613MI6 Agent

    comparing to contemporary shows, makes me think of two questions:

    Get Smart would have been in its second season at this point, and has a near identical concept. Aside from the laughtrack, was it now the more serious of the two shows?

    ...and, some of these silly scenes, like Ilya trapped in a room full of killer children's toys, could have just as easily been in an episode of Diana Rigg era Avengers, and we'd be praising it for its surrealism and wit. Is there a double standard where we assume a silly British spy show is art, but a silly American spy show is commerce?

  • Napoleon PluralNapoleon Plural LondonPosts: 9,366MI6 Agent

    I'm getting a whole load of notifications over this because of 'Napoleon'...

    "This is where we leave you Mr Bond."

    Roger Moore 1927-2017
  • caractacus pottscaractacus potts Orbital communicator, level 10Posts: 2,613MI6 Agent
    edited August 31

    more likely because you created the thread.

    (and a fine thread it is)

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