The Man from U.N.C.L.E.: original series & films

edited April 2016 in General Movies & TV Posts: 4,475
I don't believe there is an Uncle thread. I did search but didn't find. If so, apologies in advance. Please delete this thread and relocate comment.
===Ok that's out of the way. Anyway I just bought the complete Uncle TV series - now one of my proudest possessions. Amazon cut the price in half for one day so I pounced. Each of the 4 seasons are neatly packed in an official Uncle briefcase, which is real handy to have, in case you need to go on a mission. Each season has its own extras disc and there are two bonus discs with the set, dedicated to even more extras. Its a very complete set. What's missing though are 7 of the 8 Uncle theatrical releases. (one of the films is included as an extra) The season one extras-disc does though include the original "Solo" colour pilot, which was later heavily edited and transfered to black and white, as The Vulcan Affair, for the series debut, fall 1964. The pilot was also the basis for one of the films, so there are basically three versions of the same story and footage; the original TV pilot, the season-one debut episode and the theatrical film.
For completists, Warner Brothers has just this year, released the 8 theatrical films in one dvd set, along with the complete Girl From Uncle series, which lasted only one season. WB however has released Girl From Uncle as a Part One and Part Two set.
The good news though is that all of Uncle is now available for purchase, if you want to spend the cash. Basically 4 separate purchases are required.
1. The Man From Uncle complete series (1964-1968); Seasons 1-4 including the colour "Solo" pilot. Season One is b&w. Seasons 2-4 are in glorious Metro colour.
2. Complete movie set. All 8 films.
3. The Girl From Uncle, Complete Series Part 1
4. The Girl From Uncle, Complete Series Part 2
Of note about the films. None are original from the TV series. All 8 are two-part TV-show episodes, with additional footage and fresh titles for theatrical release. So if you watch the whole TV series, you've basically seen the films. However the films do have that extra footage and the extra film is a little less PG, not having to pass mustard with the TV censors.
Season two I think is Uncle at its absolute best. I am early into season two, having plouged through all 29 Season One b&w episodes. The colour makes such a difference. The producers clearly have made an effort to splash as much colour on the Uncle palette as possible to fully exploit the new colour tv medium, circa 1965.
We learn from the extras, that Uncle really found its audience off the back of Goldfinger, which was released Dec. 1964. Bondmania fueled Uncle mania. Uncle was one of the biggest shows in TV-land by the time Season One wound down. Both stars were bombarded with fan mail, especiallyMcCallum, who enjoyed a pop-star like status. So season two debuted in glorious colour with no expense spared.
I might even recommend starting with Season Two for maximum initial Uncle impact and then, when finished with Seasons 3 and 4, go back and watch how it all started with Season 1. One can see how the series finds its legs and style as Season One moves along. The show was perfected IMO by the time Season One was done.
The Season One extras disc devotes some quality time discussing how Ian Fleming and Bond were the impetus for the series. Uncle is truly a child of Bond. When Robert Vaughn first read the Uncle pilot script, he remarked it was "Bond on TV."
Producer Norman Felton says that the success of DN on screen is what prompted him to approach Fleming to help create a Bond-like TV show. Felton describes his initial meetings with Fleming. The two met in New York City, but because of Fleming's recent heart problems, Fleming insisted they walk and talk, as he needed the heart exercise. Felton recalls that Fleming spent much of their time together recounting his own intelligence exploits and really didn't offer up much in the way of developing a new series. It was Felton and Sam Rolfe who ultimately created the series, but Fleming did offer up the name Solo. Meanwhile, as Felton explains, when Eon caught wind of the project, they dissuaded Fleming from continuing, preferring he concentrate on Bond. Eon was also concerned that use of the character Solo would conflict with the upcoming GF, which of course included a Solo character. The compromise that was reached was that the name Solo would not be included in the title of the series, hence the dropping of the Pilot title "Solo" in favour of the iconic title that followed. Good move.
Uncle is noted for its awesome rotation of guest stars. It was one of the hippest TV shows for an actor to be on. Each season has its own extras feature detailing that season's notable guest-stars.
Of note for Bond fans: the Season One guest list included both Luciana Paluzzi and Richard Kiel. Paluzzi, fittingly plays a Thrush femme fatale, which foreshadows her TB role, which was just around the corner. Kiel turns up twice. First time in the pilot, in an uncredited henchman's role. He swings a pipe at Solo and that's it but its definitely Kiel. Kiel turns up later in another episode; this time in a meatier henchmen's role, in which he also has a few lines and a full credit. Kiel was battling the agents from Uncle long before he battled James Bond.
Season One also features an episode in which Shatner and Nimoy first appeared on screen together. The same episode also includes the future Colonel Klink, Werner Klemperer. Other notables that turn up in the first season; Get Smart's Babara Feldon, Klink's Hogan's Heroes' sidekick, John Banner (Sargeant Schultz), Trek's James Doohan, Batman's Cesar Romero (the Joker) and Yvonne Craig (Batgirl), Sharon Tate, Robert Culp, Eddie Albert, Carol O'Connor, Ricardo Montalban and a host of others.
The Uncle-girls are of course are a feast for the eyes. Not only the weekly guest star but also the female agents that populate the HQ and the Thrush enemy-agent ranks. TV just does not get any better than Uncle. Actually the Avengers gets equal props. The two shows are 1 and 1A IMO.
Side note on the Avengers. Even though the Avengers, first hit the airways in 1961, a year before DN, the show is still very much a child of Bond. The TV producers, readily admit to being influenced by Fleming's books and sagely forecast the Bond driven spy-mania that would flourish in the 1960's. The Avengers was their response. The Avengers found its style in its second season, post DN, when Steed's gentleman spy took over as the main focus, from Ian Hendry's doctor-detective, David Keel. We also meet Honor Blackman's glamourous, Bond-girlish, Steed partner, Cathy Gale in the second season and the Avengers was off and running.
Full rundown on Uncle's second season, when I'm done with it. Although I may take my time. It is 30 episodes and like a premium vintage, it should be savoured. Season 2, I think is Uncle at peak.

More Fleming Uncle background copied from wiki

From Wiki
Though executive producer Norman Felton and consultant Ian Fleming had conceived the character of Napoleon Solo, it was producer Sam Rolfe that created the U.N.C.L.E. hierarchy. Unlike nationalistic organizations like the CIA and James Bond's MI6, U.N.C.L.E. was a global organization of agents from many countries and cultures. The character of Illya Kuryakin was created by Rolfe as just such an U.N.C.L.E. agent, one from the Soviet Union.
Also from Wiki
the show was originally titled Ian Fleming's Solo and later just Solo. However, in February 1964 a law firm representing James Bond movie producers Harry Saltzman and Albert R. Broccoli sent a cease-and-desist letter demanding an immediate end to the use of Fleming’s name in connection with the planned Solo series, and an end to all use of the name and character "Solo", "Napoleon Solo" and "Mr. Solo". At that time filming was underway for the Bond movie Goldfinger, where Martin Benson was playing a supporting character named "Mr. Solo". The claim was the name "Solo" had already been sold to them by Fleming, and Fleming could not again use it. Within five days Fleming had signed an affidavit that nothing in the Solo pilot infringed on any of his Bond characters, but the threat of continued legal action resulted in a settlement where the character name of Napoleon Solo could be kept, but the title of the show had to change.
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Comments

  • Posts: 4,475
    Bond/Uncle update
    Teru Shimada (Osato, YOLT) has turned up in Season 2's, Alexander the Greater Affair: Part 2, as President Sing Mok, Thrush assassination target.
  • The Man From U.N.C.L.E. episode guide is back online:

    http://www.hmss.com/otherspies/uncleepisodeguide/

    And here's part of it that deals with UNCLE-Bond connections:
    http://hmss.com/otherspies/uncleepisodeguide/uncle007.html
  • Posts: 4,475
    Thanks Waverly for those links. That's great. Good to know the Bond links have already been compiled. The episode guide is handy too. I shall add those to my Uncle links.
  • @timmer: You're welcome. The site has been up since 1996 but it was down earlier this year because of some tidying up that needed to be done at the parent site, HMSS.
  • 4EverBonded4EverBonded Dancing at midnight under the BeBop Moon
    Posts: 9,832
    I vividly remember both series, and I also remember keeping the TV Guide cover of Stephanie Powers as April Dancer. :) Fun series.
  • Posts: 4,475
    Uncle is great fun. Norm Felton says he was particularly inspired by DN, the film, which planted the seed to do something similar. DN was a template film for the 60's spy craze in a way. You have Bond nicely grounded as a British agent on assignment in Jamaica, but there's also the fantasy element as Bond suddenly enters this spy-fi fantasy world of DN, with an elaborate villain-lair built into natural rock formations, high tech control room, henchman running around.
    The Uncle agents battle Thrush in many similar settings, (albeit scaled down and a little more tongue in cheek).
  • Posts: 13,094
    @timmer are you looking forward to the film adaptation?
  • edited November 2011 Posts: 4,475
    I'm looking forward to anything Uncle, but yes of course the new film has me greatly excited, but there doesn't seem to be much news of substance. In the meantime I am happy plowing through Uncle Seasons 1-4. Then I will have to track down Girl From Uncle complete series and the 8 movie pak. By track down, I mean find a decent price. I can order from Amazon but the pricing is daunting at this stage.
    Waverly is probably our Uncle authority on this board. I am only recently upgrading my status from fan to knowledgable fan.
    When I finish my Uncle odyssey,I want to move on to full Avengers immersion.
    IMO Uncle and Avengers are the uber-worthy twin children of the Bond legacy.
    I watched as much as I could of both series, back in the day, but now that both series are nicely packed on dvd, for completists, I think its time to bear down and immerse.
    A solid grounding in not only Bond but the offspring too, I think is essential to my being. :)
  • edited November 2011 Posts: 4,475
    @AlexanderWaverly
    I can add another Bond connection to the Uncle/Bond links page.
    Richard Loo ( Hai Fat in the TMWTGG) plays Thrush operative Dr. Yahama in Uncle Season 2, Episode 30, The Indian Affairs Affair(1966).

    http://hmss.com/otherspies/uncleepisodeguide/uncle007.html
  • @AlexanderWaverly
    I can add another Bond connection to the Uncle/Bond links page.
    Richard Loo ( Hai Fat in the TMWTGG) plays Thrush operative Dr. Yahama in Uncle Season 2, Episode 30, The Indian Affairs Affair(1966).

    http://hmss.com/otherspies/uncleepisodeguide/uncle007.html
    Much obliged. I need to centralize software from a couple of different computers so I can more easily update the site (which is also on its third different server). But I appreciate this.

    Also some recent HMSS posts about the UNCLE movie project:

    http://hmssweblog.wordpress.com/2011/11/15/yet-another-11-questions-about-the-u-n-c-l-e-movie/

    http://hmssweblog.wordpress.com/2011/11/10/could-johnny-depp-wreck-u-n-c-l-e-movie/

  • Well, the UNCLE movie project has crashed.

    http://bit.ly/rUx5hG
  • edited November 2011 Posts: 4,475
    That's too bad. The project does need a good lead. I was ok with Bradley Cooper as Solo. He could bring the necessary light touch that the role demands. Clooney - no way! Way too old. Damon-I wouldhave boycotted the film. I don't like him in anything. Tatum - too stocky. He looks like a linebacker. I really do think they should cast young if this project is ever revived. Get guys that look the part. If they are not stars, you can cast big names in the lead villain roles, or a name actor as Waverley. Superman took this approach with Christoper Reeve. Tobey Maguire as Spiderman etc Its important that both Solo and Kuryakin bring both the right look and right attitude. But please do cast young actors. The originals were quite young. Vaughn was early mid-thirties (perfect Bond/Solo age) which made him the square of the duo, while McCallum as Illya looked like a 60's pop-star.
  • timmer wrote:
    That's too bad. The project does need a good lead. I was ok with Bradley Cooper as Solo. He could bring the necessary light touch that the role demands. Clooney - no way! Way too old. Damon-I wouldhave boycotted the film. I don't like him in anything. Tatum - too stocky. He looks like a linebacker. I really do think they should cast young if this project is ever revived. Get guys that look the part. If they are not stars, you can cast big names in the lead villain roles, or a name actor as Waverley. Superman took this approach with Christoper Reeve. Tobey Maguire as Spiderman etc Its important that both Solo and Kuryakin bring both the right look and right attitude. But please do cast young actors. The originals were quite young. Vaughn was early mid-thirties (perfect Bond/Solo age) which made him the square of the duo, while McCallum as Illya looked like a 60's pop-star.

    Robert Vaughn turned 31 during the filming of the pilot (it was the same day as assassination of John F. Kennedy). David McCallum would have been 30 when the pilot was filmed.
  • edited November 2011 Posts: 4,475
    Its interesting that even though Vaughn and McCallum were roughly the same age, Vaughn played his character older than McCallum's character, which set up an interesting contrast. Vaughn played every bit his 31-34 years. 31 was a lot more button down and "square" in the 1960's than it is now. Vaughn had the severe, bryl-creamed,smart classic-tailored suit look while McCallum could do beatnik, blazers, turtlenecks. McCallum I thought did look much younger. He could swing with even the youngest actresses, while it didn't quite work IMO for Vaughn if the girls were too young. A couple of episodes I've watched so far, I thought the producers were hooking Solo up with girls that were too young - that might have been a better fit for Illya, but for the most part they get it right, and fix Solo up with young "women" as opposed to the more girlish type, which Illya basically has to fight off. He prefers women too, but the young ones really go for his groovy look, so he's got to deal with it. Rough life.
  • Posts: 562
    Nice! I'm all for it as long as Channing Tatum is nowhere near the film.

    How about Michael Fassbender as Solo and Paul Bettany as Kuryakin?
  • JWESTBROOKJWESTBROOK BeyondJamesBond.kinja.com
    Posts: 5,727
    I would love to see Fassbender in a spy role, only problem is this would delete any chance of him as Bond.
    :/
  • Posts: 4,475
    Good to see Solo and Kuryakin are back in business. The sabotage was clearly a Thrush plot. Bradley Cooper strikes me as a decent Solo. He brings the necessary light touch.
  • Agent005 wrote:
    Nice! I'm all for it as long as Channing Tatum is nowhere near the film.

    How about Michael Fassbender as Solo and Paul Bettany as Kuryakin?

    Fassbender was Soderbergh's choice (after Clooney dropped out), but Warner Bros was cool, yet signed Fassbender to another movie.

  • JWESTBROOKJWESTBROOK BeyondJamesBond.kinja.com
    Posts: 5,727
    Agent005 wrote:
    Nice! I'm all for it as long as Channing Tatum is nowhere near the film.

    How about Michael Fassbender as Solo and Paul Bettany as Kuryakin?

    Fassbender was Soderbergh's choice (after Clooney dropped out), but Warner Bros was cool, yet signed Fassbender to another movie.

    And I wait in eager silence for a cloning machine. Him and Ryan Gosling better be the first two in.
  • Why does Michael Fassbender have to be in everything?

    If you want an interesting choice of casting, then go for Neil Patrick Harris as Illya Kuryakin:

    David_McCallum_2.jpg

    Neil-Patrick-Harris-having-twins-via-surrogate1.jpg

    I'm sure Ducky would approve.
  • JWESTBROOKJWESTBROOK BeyondJamesBond.kinja.com
    Posts: 5,727
    U.N.C.L.E. the musical. :P
  • edited December 2011 Posts: 4,475
    Skyfall' s attack on Mi6 is clearly inspired by Uncle.
    Season 3, The Deadly Smorgasbord Affair. Uncle HQ comes under attack by Thrush agents utilizing the top secret Suspended Animation Device.
    With Uncle Chief Alexander Waverly frozen in suspended animation, Solo must thwart the machinations of evil Thrush mastermind, Heinrich Beckman and Thrush femme fatale, Inga Bergstrum. Riveting. btw, we learn in this episode, that Solo also likes his martinis shaken, not stirred.
  • Posts: 562
    Why does Michael Fassbender have to be in everything?

    If you want an interesting choice of casting, then go for Neil Patrick Harris as Illya Kuryakin...

    NPH was my second choice! Great idea, that. I also think Jon Hamm might be a good Solo.

  • SAMSAM
    Posts: 107
    Why is this production loosing so many high profile names ?

    List to date:

    George Clooney
    Bradley Cooper
    Steven Soderbergh
    Michael Fassbender ?

    The script maybe poor ...
  • SAM wrote:
    Why is this production loosing so many high profile names ?

    List to date:

    George Clooney
    Bradley Cooper
    Steven Soderbergh
    Michael Fassbender ?

    The script maybe poor ...

    Summarizing various accounts:

    Clooney = Soderbergh's old pal, not up to the physical rigors (old back injury).
    Fassbender = Soderbergh's next choice, but studio unsure, while casting him in another WB movie.
    Bradley Cooper = Not sure. Apparently his agents planted the story he would be Solo while the actor never agreed to it.
    Soderbergh = WB was cool to Clooney, cool to Fassbender (while casting him in another movie), cool to his choice of Kuryakin, didn't want to give him a budget of more than $60 million, wanted him to wait until 2013 when Matt Damon might be available while Soderbergh wants to end directing/take long sabbatical from directing by end of 2012.


  • Posts: 4,475
    Please not Matt Damon. Anyone but. Groan. He's such a pussy.
  • Posts: 2,341
    I just wonder why its taking so long to bring The Man From UNCLE to the big screen.
  • JWESTBROOKJWESTBROOK BeyondJamesBond.kinja.com
    Posts: 5,727
    OHMSS69 wrote:
    I just wonder why its taking so long to bring The Man From UNCLE to the big screen.

    I just watched "The American" **== starring Geroge Clooney as, well, an American spy and I have to say it was fantastic. Far different tone than Bond, but very enjoyable if your a fan of the genre.

    I'm sure it would have launched faster than Apollo if he had actually attached himself.

    But unfortunately he cant, and its best an actor does what they're confortable doing. It should be obvious they want the best story told possible considering their extensive search for a good lead.
  • Posts: 4,475
    They need a good lead, otherwise the movie will bomb. I don't think the UNCLE brand is strong enough to carry the movie on its own. It needs star power. Bradley Cooper I think would guarantee success. Another approach, maybe a little riskier, might be to cast lesser knowns (not unknowns, just lesser knowns) as the two leads, propped up by big names in the key supporting roles. Kind of the same approach that was taken with Chris Reeves first Superman film or even Michael Keaton's first Batman film or even the Brandon Routh Superman film. But even then, Batman and Superman are stronger brands than UNCLE.
  • timmer wrote:
    They need a good lead, otherwise the movie will bomb. I don't think the UNCLE brand is strong enough to carry the movie on its own. It needs star power. Bradley Cooper I think would guarantee success. Another approach, maybe a little riskier, might be to cast lesser knowns (not unknowns, just lesser knowns) as the two leads, propped up by big names in the key supporting roles. Kind of the same approach that was taken with Chris Reeves first Superman film or even Michael Keaton's first Batman film or even the Brandon Routh Superman film. But even then, Batman and Superman are stronger brands than UNCLE.

    At one point, Johnny Depp was interested in playing Kuryakin and that got Warner Bros. to want to delay casting to see if Depp would actually come aboard. He didn't and by that time Soderbergh's choices of Fassbender and Joel Kinnaman (sp?) had been signed to other projects. So I think Timmer is on to something.

    To use a superhero example, Daredevil isn't the biggest name in the Marvel universe of characters. So a movie didn't get made until a big name, Ben Afflect, became involved. He might not be the perfect casting, but his participation ensured the move would get made.
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