Fleming and The Man from UNCLE

13

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  • caractacus pottscaractacus potts Orbital communicator, level 10Posts: 3,394MI6 Agent
    edited July 2021

    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: 33,425Chief 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: 9,713MI6 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: 3,394MI6 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: 2,057MI6 Agent

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

  • caractacus pottscaractacus potts Orbital communicator, level 10Posts: 3,394MI6 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: 3,394MI6 Agent
    edited August 2021

    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: 7,354MI6 Agent
    edited August 2021

    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: 33,425Chief 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: 3,394MI6 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: 2,057MI6 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: 3,394MI6 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: 33,425Chief 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: 3,394MI6 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: 9,713MI6 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: 3,394MI6 Agent
    edited August 2021

    more likely because you created the thread.

    (and a fine thread it is)

  • caractacus pottscaractacus potts Orbital communicator, level 10Posts: 3,394MI6 Agent
    edited December 2021

    open Channel D

    I have now completed the fourth and final season of The Man from UNCLE, and is time to file my Report.

    This season makes a Serious course-correction after the comedy hijinks of Season 3, maybe overcompensating to the point this is not our ideal show either. For the most part it is played more straight than even the first two seasons, with the witty repartee between our two heroes incongruously squeezed in amongst the serious spy drama, occasionally missing altogether. A bit like our own 1980s Glenn-era films, come to think of it, where they tried to be more dark and realistic yet the comedy elements kept slipping through. They do challenge themselves to come up with original variations on the formula, after too many kidnapped scientists and their daughters in the previous season.

    The season is cut short, only half as many episodes as the previous seasons. Like somebody knew the direction needed to change, but the network didnt give it a chance to see if the changes would work. Last episode January 15, 1968, is this date therefor the end of SpyMania? It would be interesting to plot this date against a list of spy films and teevee series throughout the sixties to see what came after and how the tone changed (eg OHMSS is the next BondFilm following this date)


    We learn more about the UNCLE organization. There is a new character Barbara Moore as Waverly's assistant Lisa Rogers in most episodes, unfortunately she gets too few lines to distinguish herself beyond being cool and efficient. Specifically UNCLE-centric episodes include:

    The Summit-Five Affair (s4e01 - September 11 1967) shows Waverley and his four fellow UNCLE chiefs getting together for a conference in Berlin.

    The Survival School Affair (s4e10 - November 20, 1967) takes place on a remote island where aspiring UNCLE agents train.

    Final episode ever The Seven Wonders of the World Affair (s4e015 & 16 - January 8 & 15, 1968), aka How to Steal the World, is about a rogue UNCLE agent with his own crackpot idea of how to save the human race.

    I do wish throughout the show I had taken more notes and screencaps documenting all the details we are shown about UNCLE, as well as THRUSH. I now know it was a deliberate choice of the showrunners to establish the two organisations as underlying conceptual components capable of generating plots themselves, consistent and ubiquitous, yet so large we only ever glimpse parts of the imaginary whole. Sort of like StarFleet is to Star Trek, the UNCLE organisation both grounds the fantastic concept within its own reality and stimulates our imagination to fill in the gaps.


    There are several solo Solo episodes, where Ilya is typically held prisoner til the very last scene, gets few lines and otherwise does not contribute to the plot. And The Survival School Affair is a solo Ilya episode where Solo does not appear at all. in these there is more plot flexibility without the requirement for both characters to get screentime and interact, so thats interesting, but we also lose the most important element in the show without their interpersonal dynamic. On the other hand, in a couple of these they are paired with previously unseen UNCLE agents (Richard Beymer as Harry Williams in The Survival School Affair, and Robert Wolders as Andreas Petros in The Man From THRUSH Affair (s4e12 - December 4, 1967)). I wonder if these actors were being tested out in case either Vaughn or McCallum chose not to renew their contract? (sort of like Special Agents Doggett and Reyes in later seasons of the X-Files)


    Some of those very different plot variations:

    Solo is tortured by UNCLE in The Summit-Five Affair when he is suspected of being a mole, in an episode that also features (representations of) Berlin geography. Torture scenes are shot with fish eye lens. This in particular makes a dark start to the season, they're practically doing le Carre here.

    The Deadly Quest Affair (s4e08 - October 30, 1967) Solo is trapped by the villain in a cat-and-mouse game in a condemned Manhattan neighbourhood that seems to stretch for blocks, looking a lot like Escape from New York. In a particularly unusual image, we get to watch Solo fight an actual leopard (better than dancing with a fake gorilla).

    in The Fiery Angel Affair (s4e09 - November 6, 1967) Ilya plays bodyguard to an Evita Peron type, while Solo goes undercover to infiltrate the counterrevolutionaries who oppose her. Vaughn is playing it very different, all mysterious like, none of his usual camera-muggings.

    The Man From THRUSH Affair (s4e12 - December 4, 1967) Solo goes undercover as a THRUSH efficiency expert, infiltrating a slave labour camp building a doomsday device. 

    It does seem most of these more original, serious minded plot variations require breaking up our comedy duo to work.


    Not so many recognisable celebrity guest stars as previous seasons:

    Broderick Crawford is owner of a big industrial corporation in The 'J' for Judas Affair (s4e03 - September 25 1967), a twisty plot full of unlikable characters.

    First two part episode, The Prince of Darkness Affair (s4e04 & 5 - October 2 & 9 1967) aka The Helicopter Spies, guest stars two notable ladies: Lola Albright used to play Peter Gunn's girlfriend Edie Hart, a fictional lounge singer. In the second part, Julie (Cry Me a River, Nice Girls Don't Stay for Breakfast, etc) London plays the villain's wife, though its just a cameo. So one actress who played a 50s jazz singer on TV, and an actual 50s jazz singer who barely gets two lines of dialog, neither gets to sing. Story begins as the old recruit-the-jewel-thief-for-the-heist-with-promise-of-a-pardon plot, then builds to a Moonraker style ending, sources say this was the most expensive UNCLE episode ever. This one is more silly like earlier seasons.

    Maybe the best guest of the season is Jack Lord (one of ours) as as a phony THRUSH defector in The Master's Touch Affair (s4e06 - October 16 1967). This one also features spectacular location photography in two different neo-classical villas surrounded by beautiful landscape architecture, supposedly Portugal but probably California.

    The Gurnius Affair (s4e11 - November 27, 1967) Laugh-In regular Judy Carne plays a stylish mod journalist, and rejected UNCLE regular Will Kurula returns as a Nazi scientist. Ilya impersonates the son of a Nazi collaborator rejoining his fathers comrades in South America and gets to torture Solo.

    Leslie Nielsen is a villain in the last ever episode The Seven Wonders of the World Affair, and steals every scene in a story with a large group of villains. Surely this actor has a fine career ahead of him!

    Did better known actors perhaps start avoiding the show after Sonny and Cher guested?

    (actually looking at my previous reports, the best guests were in Season 1, many young actors who went on to better things in beloved cult films, whereas season 3 was definitely mainstream 60s celebrities who might as well be doing Hollywood Squares)


    Here are two very important screencaps I did remember to make, THRUSH's photo IDs of Solo and Ilya! this is the UNCLE-verse equivalent to SMERSHS's zapiska on Bond in From Russia with Love. From The THRUSH Roulette Affair (s4e07 - October 23, 1967) in which Ilya is brainwashed to kill Solo. Apologies, I could not screencap the complete image without that progress bar in the bottom of the screen. Solo's file of course says "...inclination toward opposite sex."

    So that's all the teevee episodes, but there is one more ...Affair to go. Will it err on the side of serious or silly?

  • chrisno1chrisno1 LondonPosts: 2,057MI6 Agent

    This is a great thread. Thanks for these excellent summary reviews @caractacus potts . I have no idea how you managed to watch so much so fast.

  • caractacus pottscaractacus potts Orbital communicator, level 10Posts: 3,394MI6 Agent
    edited January 3

    the week after The Man from UNCLE went off the air it was replaced by a new show called Laugh-In. Supposedly Leo G Carroll appeared in the very first sketch, as a busboy at a party scene, using his pen-phone to report he has found THRUSH headquarters. Unfortunately i cannot find this online.

    ________________________________________________________________________________________________________

    Is that noise the battery in my pacemaker? No, its this old pen I've been carrying around for 15 years and forgotten about! Lets see, how's this work again? ahem, Re-open Channel D


    Return of the Man from UNCLE: The Fifteen Years Later Affair, originally broadcast April 5 1983 as the CBS Tuesday Night Movie.

    Made for TV reunion movie with Vaughn and McCallum, but otherwise few of the original behind the scenes team. Neither Felton nor Rolfe were involved, the project was written and produced by a younger generation fan named Michael Sloan. This has a very lowbudget look to it, and little of the style of the original. Soundtrack is mostly synths with a bit of wahwah guitar.

    up on youtube

    Anybody know why this was made? The Bond films had been going through a bit of a Renaissance since The Spy Who Loved Me, which inspired The Get Smart movie a few years previously. Were there other attempts to exploit the revival of BondMania? This reunion seems a bit late to ride that wave, as the Bond films were already changing tone again and starting too struggle in the 1980s action blockbuster market. I do understand this was a failed pilot for a new version of the show, or occasional series of teevee movies but again, why now?


    Fifteen years have passed. UNCLE still exists, but apparently THRUSH collapsed after The Seven Wonders of the World Affair, and Solo retired and lost touch with the old organization. He is now a computer salesman living in the penthouse suite above a posh Manhattan hotel. Ilya retired three years after Solo, when a mission in Yugoslavia went wrong and the innocent got killed. Now he is a fashion designer. (Surely science nerd Ilya and girlchasing Solo have got their careers mixed up?). Mr Waverly has recently passed away (in real life Carrol died in 1972) and new UNCLE Section 1 Number 1 is Patrick Macnee (one of ours) as Sir John Raleigh, whom we see moving into his office in the early scenes.

    A senior THRUSH operative played by Anthony Zerbe (another one of ours) has just broken free of prison, and immediately engaged in a Thunderball type plot to blackmail the free world with stolen doomsday device. His particular demand is the ransom be personally delivered by Napoleon Solo, who Sir John must now track down. 

    Vaughn makes his appearance eleven minutes in, introducing himself in a casino scene with the words "Solo ... Napoleon Solo". No other means of communication have worked, until Sir John thinks to try the pen-phone, not used in fifteen years. Channel D makes its reappearance with all the pomp and buildup of the Enterprise in Star Trek the Motion Picture! hooray!!! Solo just happens to still be carrying the pen, and when it rings excuses himself from the gambling table with the words "excuse me, must be, er, the new battery in my pacemaker".

    Solo then can't find UNCLE headquarters, as they have moved. A new tailor runs the shop, and thinks Solo is a nut when he taps the walls of the dressing room. When we finally see the new UNCLE headquarters, its just a boring old real life office floor with the words UNCLE stuck onto on one of the walls. They didn't have the budget to rebuild that fabulous set even though it was a character in its own right in the original show!

    Solo insists on working with Ilya again, and must persuade him to return to action despite the tragedy of his final mission. Their promised reunion comes about 37 minutes in. Ilya punches Solo in the nose during this scene! Then our heroes visit UNCLE's new armourer Z for the gadgets they shall need for this mission. 

    Solo's instructions to a cabbie tell us the tailor shop is at 2nd and 40th, so approximately here, three blocks from the UN building. We are told the new UNCLE HQ is behind a toy shop, but we do not actually see this toy shop. (there was a scene filmed but not used showing the entrance to the new HQ, also a flashback scene showing Ilya's resignation Prisoner style. Some other scenes jump without explanation, so I suspect there were more unused scenes)


    I shall skip the actual mission, as that's the least interesting part, though there is a villains headquarters, a large scale raid by UNCLE reinforcements, and a Goldfinger style ticking time bomb finale. But the problem is Solo and Ilya are separated for the last 45 minutes of their reunion, meaning we only get about twenty minutes at best of their rapport, which is the main attraction! Low budget replications of classic Bond scenarios are not enough when the story is sold as a UNCLE reunion! Also the scenes where they are together, their rapport is a lot more touchy-feely than the classic shows where they would routinely laugh at each others misfortune. Now they're middle aged and its the 1980s so they're talking about feelings and such, yecch!

    In the final scene, Solo and Ilya meet for a drink and try to show interest in each others' careers even though neither cares about their own any more. They struggle to make conversation, until they see a breaking NewsFlash on the bar's teevee about a new crisis and when their pen-phones go off a second later they both smile. This was a failed pilot after all, thus a new origin story and we have to assume they went on to have new adventures which we shall never see. 


    As for the BondActors who show up:

    Zerbe is playing it posh and snobby here, completely different than the sniveling sleeze we know from his actual BondFilm. In most films I've seen he's generally sleazy, so this is more of his impersonation of a classic Bond villain.

    Macnee's character is unfortunately not Steed, nor even a pseudoWaverly. He gets few lines and reads them completely straight, a waste of a big co-star. I have not seen The New Avengers, but is Steed not promoted to a managerial position in that one? Did no-one think to at least hint they were the same character? or maybe someone did when he was hired but they got legal advice not to overdo the stunt-casting. which brings us to...

    George Lazenby's cameo (from 24:00 to 27:30 minutes, with hints of The Theme) must be discussed in more detail, as it is an unofficial James Bond appearance by the actor who only made one film. So this should be his second right? Surely the world has been waiting for a second LazenbyBond adventure? But there's not much to discuss. He is in the Aston with the custom JB license plates, outfitted with gadgets. (Still not a good enough spy to resist blowing his own cover!) He appears during a car chase near the start, recognises Napoleon Solo moving past at great speed, and joins in the action. I'm pretty sure his scenes were filmed separately and edited in, as the characters don't meet, in fact I think neither actor was actually in the car chase, just stunt drivers. Solo doesn't recognise his anonymous benefactor, but his passenger, a defecting Russian ballerina who quotes Western films from memory, specifically states that's the guy from On Her Majesty's Secret Service. I understand Lazenby was actually going to be identified as Bond, until legal advice suggested ambiguity. As this was 1983 this therefor qualifies as a third competing BondFilm in the Battle of the Bonds, though what Lazenby contributes barely qualifies as a performance.

  • BarbelBarbel ScotlandPosts: 33,425Chief of Staff

    Open Channel D….

    Hi @caractacus potts ! I have a slightly different perspective on “The Return” since I saw it at the time. When I read that it was to be shown on UK TV, I was excited since I had been of course a fan back in the 60s and even more excited that George Lazenby would be making a guest appearance as Bond. Remember, this was the early 80s- no such thing as Internet, all information obtained by magazines and newspapers.

    Of course I realised that Lazenby couldn’t be playing Bond per se- there was no way Cubby Broccoli would allow that to happen, he was having enough trouble with Kevin McClory and his Connery-starring “Never Say Never Again”. He couldn’t stop that (and he certainly tried- again, newspapers and magazines were the only source of info), but he definitely would stop some low budget TV movie from using his biggest asset. I was keen to see how this would be done in the story.

    You mention that Anthony Zerbe and Patrick Macnee were “ours”- well, not yet they weren’t so their appearances didn’t seem particularly significant at the time. I was more intrigued by Gayle Hunnicutt since she was nearly one of ours, being on the shortlist to play Solitaire in LALD. In this film, she was certainly fine and I believe that 10 years earlier would have also been fine as Solitaire (no offence to Jane Seymour).

    Overall, I found the film a letdown with little of the style of the originals. As you say, keeping Napoleon and Ilya separated for large parts of the story was a mistake since much of the attraction was seeing the two of them work together.

    Lazenby’s cameo was brief, but good-humoured. His performance was excellent- I particularly love the part where he turns straight to camera having disposed of a car full of villains and says “shaken, not stirred” or very similar (haven’t watched in a while). They got round legalities by not naming him (Solo cuts the lady off when she’s about to say his name- twice, if I recall correctly). In the credits he’s listed as “JB”, just like the number plate on his Aston Martin. He looked great, the fifteen (ha!) or so years since OHMSS having improved his looks, if anything. Being a music man, I also enjoyed how the music when he’s on is almost but not quite the Theme for obvious legal reasons.

  • caractacus pottscaractacus potts Orbital communicator, level 10Posts: 3,394MI6 Agent
    edited January 3

    but you did know Lazenby was going to be a Bond-like character before you first saw it? there were rumours before it was broadcast?

    MacNee you must have appreciated as John Steed, even if it were another two years before he'd be Tibbett. Its the Steed connection that makes his casting interesting anyway. The director of Return of the Man from UNCLE was Ray Austin, who turns out to have worked on the Avengers as stunt coordinator and director, so I wonder if he was the one to bring in MacNee?

    I did not realise Gayle Hunnicutt was an almost-Bond Girl. Her dialog in the film was rather meta-fiction-y anyway, as the Russian who only understood the West from movies she had seen, so took the situation she found herself in with Solo as what life must be like. she compares the car chase to the film Bullitt, which Solo admits to having seen: In fact Robert Vaughn was in that film! The level of reality is very loose during this scene anyway, and then someone called JB shows up to save the day. The fact she's a genuine onetime almost-BondGirl sort of adds an additional twist.

  • BarbelBarbel ScotlandPosts: 33,425Chief of Staff

    Oh yes, it was no secret that Lazenby was guesting.

  • Napoleon PluralNapoleon Plural LondonPosts: 9,713MI6 Agent

    1983 was 'the biggest Bond year of them all' as the US magazine Starlog repeatedly trumpeted and this meant more over there because it seems Connery was still very much associated with Bond whereas in the UK his Bond films seemed to be rationed somewhat, possibly at the insistence of Cubby Broccoli looking to protect his new star, so Connery was a bit forgotten by the younger generation imo. Anyway, it was a fun idea to also bring back UNCLE and this too got publicity in Starlog. The idea that Solo would be into computers and Ilya a fashion stylist was deliberate 'fun' irony as you'd think they'd be doing the opposite jobs, like having Hoffman and Beautty miscast in Ashtar as a joke, at least it's a brief one here.

    I was excited to see this new UNCLE film in the cinemas and disappointed to learn it was a TV movie so unlikely to be shown over here. But its was, with no great fanfare and I knew Lazenby - who'd got his interview in Starlog, I can scan you the copy if you like - would be in it. As he appeared in his Aston, Dad at that very moment arrived home and began chatting at me in his cheery self-absorbed way and that was that, I missed it really.

    So, as pointed out, at the time all the actors who'd played Bond in the official series were acting Bond, in 1983.

    "This is where we leave you Mr Bond."

    Roger Moore 1927-2017
  • caractacus pottscaractacus potts Orbital communicator, level 10Posts: 3,394MI6 Agent
    edited January 3

    Napoleon Plural said:

    ...Lazenby - who'd got his interview in Starlog, I can scan you the copy if you like....

    if you don't mind Napoleon I'm sure we'd all like to see a Lazenby interview, especially one promoting his lesser known second BondFilm.

    With all this hype, I am definitely surprised at myself for missing this when first broadcast. I certainly knew Connery had a BondFilm coming out. I was going to suggest that I was in my late teens and getting too cool to watch teevee, but a year or two later a local cable station (CityTV) reran The Prisoner on Sunday nights (I think they looped the whole series a couple times straight through over the course of a year) and I was smart enough to watch that.


    here are the dates of release for our three 1983 BondFilms, Lazenby got an early lead!:

    April 5, 1983 - Return of the Man from UNCLE

    June 6, 1983 - Octopussy

    October 7, 1983 (U.S.), 15 December 15 1983 (U.K.) - Never Say Never Again

  • Napoleon PluralNapoleon Plural LondonPosts: 9,713MI6 Agent

    I'll look out to see if I can upload a copy, @caractacus potts Hype? There was no hype for the UNCLE reunion in the UK, if I recall, it was very niche. And I don't think it appeared in the UK on the date you suggest, not sure though. It may have been much later that year.

    When NSNA premiered in the UK it was December, so over here there was the sense of flat Champagne, as the Americans had it months ahead of us and it was said to be a smash. Here, it played second fiddle in fleapit cinemas to Jaws 3 which says it all really, not only that but as per tradition ITV showed Thunderball on telly that Christmas to steal its thunder, so to speak, just as telly showed West Side Story this Christmas as if to negate Spielberg's remake.

    But I am going off topic.

    "This is where we leave you Mr Bond."

    Roger Moore 1927-2017
  • caractacus pottscaractacus potts Orbital communicator, level 10Posts: 3,394MI6 Agent
    edited January 4

    yes the person who started this thread will be very upset to see you going offtopic @Napoleon Plural

    the delayed UK opening for NSNA does support your argument Connery was somehow forgotten in Bond's home country, but I don't understand why. I know I was boring all my friends senseless with my predictions Connery's new BondFilm would prove once and for all silly Roger was just a poor imitation of the real thing. I think with a few years having passed since ...Spy... and Moonraker we'd all had the chance to see the original 60s films on teevee and generally agreed they were better, whether we'd read Fleming or not.

  • CoolHandBondCoolHandBond Mactan IslandPosts: 4,756MI6 Agent

    I’m not sure when Return showed up on tv in the UK, but I first watched it on VHS from my local video library, so I’m guessing that was before the first terrestrial broadcast.

    I liked the film, and to have Lazenby return as Bond was something special.

    Yeah, well, sometimes nothin' can be a real cool hand.
  • Napoleon PluralNapoleon Plural LondonPosts: 9,713MI6 Agent
    edited January 4

    Connery wasn't quite forgotten in the UK, but didn't register with younger viewers who made up the bulk of Moore Bond fans. The UK press did quite a lot to publicise the film, not on a par with EON's movie, but quite a few double page spreads and magazine interviews. But as I said, Connery seemed In his look like yesterday's man, the 60s seemed almost as far back as the 40s, I mean the Beatles were seen as great but somehow more dated with supercool bands like The Police, the Pretenders, Madness, Frankie etc than they are now where their music and memory is kept alive as if by State instruction, lots of magazines like Mojo or what have you going into that, and such magazines make money from going into the reviews of DVDs or BluRay or new mark BluRay etc whatever it is.

    I was a mage Bond fan! But no video or DVD as it didn't exist meant the TV premiere of Live and Let Die got 27million viewers. I never got to see FRWLuntil about 1982, when I was 12. There was a showing Xmas 78 but I was on a skiing holiday so missed it. I got to see Dr No during a rerun at the London Pavilion cinema in about 1980, and it was great, on a double bill with Moonraker. but nobody else did much because when Dr No gotreshown on telly eventually around Xmas 1986 it got a massive 24 million viewers I think, because it was the first and amazingly, so few people had got to see it, it has this aura of mystery hard to convey in the internet age, I think the nearest would be trying to track down an outfit you once liked from years ago, or a song where you don't know the lyrics only the memory. My point being, Connery therefore was a bit forgotten and this before his renaissance later in the decade with The Untouchables etc his reputation was for doing heavy stuff, uncommercial 'challenging' movies, stuff like The First Great Train Robbery not withstanding.

    NSNA wasn't helped by having a rubbish song, normally a Top 5 can help generate buzz, not that OP did anything that year.

    "This is where we leave you Mr Bond."

    Roger Moore 1927-2017
  • Napoleon PluralNapoleon Plural LondonPosts: 9,713MI6 Agent

    Well, I got around to scanning the 1983 edition of the US magazine Starlog. Starlog did two major issues on 'the biggest Bond year of them all!' as they dubbed it, the first and perhaps best being the spring edition with showed Connery and Moore on the cover with a Cold War backdrop.

    However, my memory fails me because though some of what I've scanned re the Lazenby interview is interesting, I can find zero reference to his Return of the Man from Uncle film cameo. This could be because the interview had been done earlier in the year before it had come to light, or because legalities prevented him from suggesting his character might be James Bond. Quite possibly the interviewer didn't know about it.

    I scanned the front and back of the magazine, you'll see why.

    I never did any of these role playing games...

    "This is where we leave you Mr Bond."

    Roger Moore 1927-2017
  • Napoleon PluralNapoleon Plural LondonPosts: 9,713MI6 Agent

    And here's the George Lazenby interview, I think CR's Barry Nelson gets a go too!

    That headline - the 'forgotten James Bond' - would have fans spluttering on their coffee with rage now but that's how it was back then before the time of VHS, DVD or the internet. It was actually quite hard to find out what order the films were released, the information just wasn't to hand. Articles like this were gold dust, and on this side of the point Starburst, with its pieces by John Brosnan, author of James Bond in the Cinema, were very helpful.

    Anyway, enjoy! The yellowed pages and downbeat black and white photos have a kind of charm.

    "This is where we leave you Mr Bond."

    Roger Moore 1927-2017
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