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The Man From U.N.C.L.E.: Open Channel D


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#1

Mr. Excitement

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Posted Nov 4, 2007 @ 1:25 AM

A thread for that fondly-remembered product of the '60s superspy fad, NBC's The Man From UNCLE. (1964-68): roughly speaking, an American equivalent to The Avengers, but not quite as sexy.

It concerned the adventures of American Napoleon Solo (Robert Vaughn) and Russian Illya Kuryakin (David McCallum), large-headed agents of the globe-spanning transnational intelligence agency U.N.C.L.E. (United Command for Law and Enforcement), who traveled the world in their struggle to investigate and stop highly sinister and incredibly convoluted terrorist atrocities. The series was sometimes gripping and sometimes silly and often an uneasy mixture of the two, but it left so powerful an impression that, four decades later, both of its leads are still getting regular television work because of it (on Hustle and NCIS, respectively).

It seemed an opportune time to start this thread, since Time-Life is releasing a handsome if costly DVD set of the entire series on November 27, and in a tie-in, Turner Classic Movies is airing the eight movies taken from the series* on November 6 starting at 6:00 a.m. EST.


*Unusually, re-edited "supersized" movie versions of the series' two-part episodes were prepared for domestic and overseas sale as theatrical movies.

#2

auntdar

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Posted Nov 4, 2007 @ 1:52 AM

Thanks for the heads-up about the boxset. I have the whole series taped from various tv channels, and it will be great to get cleaned up versions of them (even the last season ones...)

I have very fond memories of setting my alarm clock in my teen years to catch Man From U.N.C.L.E. in syndication at 3 or 4 in the morning (pre-VCR age kids...). I loved the pairing of these two. It was obvious that they cared about each other as friends (or more than that, if you search the net :) ). The humor was often well done as well. While the stories were often cheesy, the action was fun. I have always enjoyed heroes who get the crap knocked out of them on a regular basis. I also love to play "Spot the stuntman" with this show (as with original Star Trek). It is suprising how much stuff they did themselves however.

Anyway, for folks who haven't seen the series, it definitely is worth a look. James Bond done on a very small TV budget. You'll see a few sets used for many different places, but that's half of its charm.

#3

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Posted Nov 4, 2007 @ 6:37 AM

Turner Classic Movies is airing the eight movies taken from the series* on November 6 starting at 6:00 a.m. EST.


Thanks for the heads up. I knew about the DVD's but not the movies airing on TCM.

I remember liking the show, back in the day, but haven't seen the series in forever. I'll catch the movies and see if what I remember liking as a youngster still holds up as an adult. If so, I'll be getting those DVD's.

#4

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Posted Nov 4, 2007 @ 9:29 AM

I have very fond memories of setting my alarm clock in my teen years to catch Man From U.N.C.L.E. in syndication at 3 or 4 in the morning (pre-VCR age kids...).


Then we must be the same age. ;)


Anyway, for folks who haven't seen the series, it definitely is worth a look. James Bond done on a very small TV budget. You'll see a few sets used for many different places, but that's half of its charm.


Interesting mention, given history of this show. And there was an era when I'd rather watch UNCLE any day than Bond. (Okay, and I modded the Bond RPG for UNCLE use...)

#5

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Posted Nov 4, 2007 @ 4:43 PM

I loved this show when it was on. I actually had a full sized Illya Kuryakin poster taped to my bedroom door.

#6

buttersister

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Posted Nov 4, 2007 @ 5:02 PM

I had a full sized crush on him.

#7

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Posted Nov 4, 2007 @ 5:49 PM

Hallelujah! Great to see this thread - I've been a huge fan for years. Agree that the parallel with The Avengers was very close - both were high-camp spy spoofs stuffed with innuendo and in-jokes. One of my all-time favourites; The Avengers comes out just ahead for me, but hey, more of my Diana Rigg issues later.

And there was an era when I'd rather watch UNCLE any day than Bond.

I'd place it way ahead of Bond myself. The budgets may have been smaller, but the scripts were sharper and the actors were far superior. There haven't been many suaver individuals than Robert Vaughn in recorded history ...

Edited by Mathonwy, Nov 4, 2007 @ 5:50 PM.


#8

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Posted Nov 4, 2007 @ 6:31 PM

I had a full sized crush on him.

buttersister, I should have known I'd find you here. I met David McCallum many, many years ago when he was in Agatha's Christie's "The Mousetrap" at a theater where I was apprenticing as a scenic carpenter. He was rather quiet and seemed very nice, at least to this kid in a toolbelt.

I'm tempted to say that I prefer The Avengers, but the fact is that while I've caught The Avengers in recent years via videotapes and the BBCA, I haven't seen U.N.C.L.E. since the seventies and can't judge if it still holds up or not. So thanks for the heads up, Mr. Excitement. I can at least catch part of one before work on Tuesday, and there may be a DVD purchase in my future.

Edited by AngusCrow, Nov 4, 2007 @ 6:32 PM.


#9

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Posted Nov 4, 2007 @ 6:52 PM

There haven't been many suaver individuals than Robert Vaughn in recorded history ...


That's the truth! And although, on the show I preferred Illya, in Real Life I have found myself drawn the dark handsome conman type.

My favorite Robert Vaughn role was in a space movie, I can't remember the name, but it was with John Boy from the Waltons and Robert Vaughn played a disillusioned mercenary...sorry, I was just remembering...

#10

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Posted Nov 4, 2007 @ 9:17 PM

Definitely an Illya fan myself. :D

My favorite Robert Vaughn role was in a space movie, I can't remember the name, but it was with John Boy from the Waltons and Robert Vaughn played a disillusioned mercenary...sorry, I was just remembering...


That would be Battle Beyond the Stars - quite cheesy, but fun. ;)

#11

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Posted Nov 4, 2007 @ 9:38 PM

That would be Battle Beyond the Stars - quite cheesy, but fun. ;)

Gosh, yes - Roger Corman does The Magnificent Seven in space. And Robert Vaughn played exactly the same role as he did in the original. Some great battles, though. Sybil Danning's battle to keep her cleavage inside her costume was especially enthralling.

Back to UNCLE, I've often seen it suggested that the later seasons were weaker, degenerating into silliness as opposed to the more straight-faced spoofing of the first couple of seasons. It's been a while since I saw any episodes - is this true?

Edited by Mathonwy, Nov 4, 2007 @ 10:36 PM.


#12

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Posted Nov 4, 2007 @ 10:21 PM

And leave us not forget that the show was at one point popular enough to spawn a spin-off, The Girl From U.N.C.L.E., starring a pre-Hart to Hart Stefanie Powers.

#13

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Posted Nov 4, 2007 @ 10:29 PM

And the only ep of that I could stand was the one where the "Girl" was on "Man", and Illya teamed with Mark Slade. ;)

#14

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Posted Nov 5, 2007 @ 12:44 AM

Mathonwy,

yeah, what you heard was true. While the first two seasons were very well done, the third and fourth slowly devolved into almost pure slapstick at times. Even as a rabid fan I have difficulty blocking out the image of Napoleon Solo fighting a gorilla in a treehouse (no, I am not making that up).

That being said, I still stick with them because I liked the interaction between the main leads, which is probably why I loved Simon & Simon and now Supernatural so much.

Also, you can put me on the "I Love Illya" bandwagon. Always thought the scruffy one was much more interesting than Napoleon "Call me Kirk" Solo.

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Posted Nov 5, 2007 @ 2:23 AM

He was rather quiet and seemed very nice

As always with the good taste, I see, AC. After a couple/few seasons, DMc released an album of orchestral music - iirc, he was the conductor. I figured that was in part to atone for the later years of the series which didn't quite measure up to the earlier ones, imo.(Yes, the gorilla! I had totally blanked, but it's been suuuuch a long time.) But even so, it was during the height of the Cold War and an American and Russian (born) were working together. That was something, even if clear that Illya was on 'our side.' Plus, Topper was their boss! (Alright, maybe I study TV history.)

Ironically, since TMFUNCLE was inspired by James Bond, it was a presage of what happened to the Bond movies - starting out Connery serious, albeit tongue in cheek (and anywhere else he could find) and then going over the top and kind of silly (I never liked Roger Moore's Bond).

The other reason for the album? Cashing in! At least he had the good grace not to sing (I'm looking at you, Shatner).

Edited by buttersister, Nov 5, 2007 @ 2:33 AM.


#16

Mathonwy

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Posted Nov 5, 2007 @ 7:15 AM

Even as a rabid fan I have difficulty blocking out the image of Napoleon Solo fighting a gorilla in a treehouse

Oh God, yes - I remember the gorilla ... *shudder*

#17

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Posted Nov 5, 2007 @ 8:41 AM

Mark Slade

Mark Slade was played by Noel Harrison - I think The Girl from U.N.C.L.E lasted less than a season. Even as girl I had thing for the accents. I laugh now because David McCallum is Scottish, I think, and they passed him off as a Russian.

I was very young, and most of the jokes in TMFU went over my head. I remember that it was on about the same time as the Monkees - hell, most of the jokes in the Monkees went over my head.

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Posted Nov 5, 2007 @ 9:41 AM

Sybil Danning's battle to keep her cleavage inside her costume was especially enthralling.

Yes, indeedy. I'm glad The Man From U.N.C.L.E. was never exploitive like that.

DMc released an album of orchestral music - iirc, he was the conductor.

Well, at least he comes by it honestly.

His father David McCallum Sr., was first violinist for the London Philharmonic and his mother, Dorothy Dorman, was a cellist, so it is not surprising that he was originally headed for a career in music (oboe)


Edited by Codger, Nov 5, 2007 @ 9:51 AM.


#19

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Posted Nov 5, 2007 @ 5:42 PM

I got to see the show now and then in first run; I shared one TV with four siblings, so it didn't always wind up the hour's choice. I don't remember ever seeing it in syndication. The DVD set is tempting, but that's a lot of $$ to drop at one time.

#20

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Posted Nov 5, 2007 @ 6:33 PM

I'm glad The Man From U.N.C.L.E. was never exploitive like that.

Codger, that pic deserves it's own captioning contest.

#21

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Posted Nov 30, 2007 @ 2:35 AM

Fun interview with Vaughn and McCallum at tvguide.com.

TVGuide.com: How did U.N.C.L.E all begin?

Robert Vaughn: I was doing a series with Gary Lockwood called The Lieutenant about the Marine Corps, and I got a call at Camp Pendleton to pick up a script that night at MGM and meet with Norman Felton [the producer] at his office at nine o'clock the next morning. I picked up the script around midnight, but then Gary and I went out on the Sunset Strip and picked up a couple floozies and I didn't get back to my place till around 4 am [Laughs]. I read a few lines of the script on my drive into MGM that morning, and when I got to Mr. Felton's office, he asked me what I thought and I said, "It's James Bond for TV, but I absolutely want to do it." He called New York and said, "Vaughn wants to do it," and the person on the other end said, "Fine, go ahead." And that's how business was done in 1963.



#22

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Posted Dec 1, 2007 @ 3:58 PM

There was a great shout out a year or so back on NCIS...

Q "I wonder what Ducky looked like when he was younger?"

A "He looked like Illya Kuraiakin."

Edited by Beausabre, Dec 1, 2007 @ 4:29 PM.


#23

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Posted Dec 4, 2007 @ 3:49 PM

So nice to see this thread. I was a diehard Illya fan back in the day. Truth be told, I still am. I have all the paperbacks, the monthly magazines, even the the Little Big Books.

I rate the seasons as follows: season 1 (black and white) was when they were trying to do fairly serious spy stories (far too little Illya for my taste but it got better toward the end.) Season 2 was the best with a good balance between the serious and the tongue in cheek. Season 3 was when it went over the top, Season 4 was trying to go back to the serious but couldn't do it and it was mercifully canceled in midseason (although I must admit that I refused to watch Laugh-In, the show that replaced it for a good year.)

The thing I liked best was its hook of always drawing an ordinary person into the spy stuff. It kept this viewer always hoping I would run into Illya outside some dry cleaner shop (Del Floria's!) and be asked to help out (I was very young.)

By the way, U.N.C.L.E. stood for United Network Command for Law and Enforcement. I still have my official U.N.C.L.E. Identification Card

#24

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Posted Dec 20, 2007 @ 4:44 PM

American equivalent to The Avengers, but not quite as sexy.


Depends on whether you like men or women. :) I've just gotten the DVD's and they are good. Haven't seen the gorilla one yet, nor do I remember it from the first run, so it really must have been bad.

I did like the ep where Mark Slade and Illya were together. I always did like the Girl from UNCLE. (hey I was young.) But even though most of my TV crushes were dark, my favorites were Mark and Illya. I always wanted to be April Dancer.

#25

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Posted Apr 12, 2008 @ 8:04 PM

Yay, UNCLE! I'm about forty years behind the times, but this past fall and winter I developed a huge "Man From UNCLE" obsession. Saw the movies on TCM, watched some episodes on AOL in2TV, and splurged on the Time Life set. School has prevented me from watching all of them, but they are fun. Times have changed though, to me Napoleon Man-Ho Solo just seems really slimy, I watch him pick up girls and think "Oh my god, eww! Who'd fall for that?!?!"

My first exposure was actually an old "Perry Mason" episode. (My Mom likes the reruns, I watch with her.) Years ago the episode came on and it opened with some poor klutzy blond guy with big '50s glasses and an accent. My mother sat straight upright on the couch and squealed "Illya!"

"Huh?"

"He was Iiii---llyyaa!" So for a while I knew that there was a Russian hearthrob named Illya Kuryakin on a '60s spy show called "The Man from UNCLE," but not much else. Fast forward several years, as I see the UNCLE movies on TCM, and I think "So that's why Mama was squealing at the Perry Mason..." Is it sad that I develop a huge fangirl crush forty years too late? (I'm 22, by the way, but with Mama's reruns I know old shows better than new ones. Perry Mason, Spencer, Wild Wild West, etc.)

#26

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Posted Jun 22, 2008 @ 8:36 PM

I'm also about 40 years behind the times...I just watched the Strigas Affair on YouTube - the one with William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy - and immediately came here to see if there was a thread. I think I've become hooked. I must go track down more episodes!

#27

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Posted Jun 27, 2008 @ 11:50 AM

Prices are dropping on the set:

Warners Gets the UNCLE Box

#28

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Posted Sep 10, 2009 @ 11:26 PM

The Strigas Affair was possibly the single most amazing piece of television I have ever seen. The sheer awesome nearly imploded my brain.

I think the show as a whole gelled beginning with The Bow-Wow Affair. I thought there was a real upward swing in pacing, balance, and sheer entertainment factor following that episode. It helped that that was also where Illya really ascended to costar ;)

#29

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Posted Sep 11, 2009 @ 12:17 PM

it opened with some poor klutzy blond guy with big '50s glasses and an accent. My mother sat straight upright on the couch and squealed "Illya!"
"Huh?"
"He was Iiii---llyyaa!" So for a while I knew that there was a Russian hearthrob named Illya Kuryakin on a '60s spy show called "The Man from UNCLE," but not much else.

"So that's why Mama was squealing at the Perry Mason..." Is it sad that I develop a huge fangirl crush forty years too late?

Not too late. You can still see him as Ducky on "NCIS." :-D

#30

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Posted Sep 11, 2009 @ 12:49 PM

I just caught that Perry Mason rerun a few days ago! You can also see David MacCallum in The Great Escape.

Robert Vaughnn spoke very highly of David in his memoirs and credits him with a lot of the show's success. He even mentions the little shout out to David's old character on his new show NCIS.