Monday, December 10, 2007

The Man from U.N.C.L.E

THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. is finally out on DVD. You can buy the complete box set of episodes, all four seasons. For kids growing up in the 60s this is a big deal. THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. was TV’s answer to James Bond movies. Suave secret agents, acronym agencies, crazed villains with eye patches, beautiful women, daring stunts, gadgets, and lunch boxes you could take to school.

Robert Vaughn, who never met a line he didn’t deliver the same way, starred as Napoleon Solo (an odd choice of names since he always had a partner). Blond towhead David McCallum was his cohort, Illya Kuryakin. An American and Russian working together. I’m trying to think of today’s equivalent with an American and an Arab. Okay. Jack Bauer and Casey Kasem.

The first year of MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. was the best. Creator Sam Rolfe envisioned a somewhat gritty show. For his trouble he was replaced in year two. From there the series went to color and veered towards comedy and camp and went through five showrunners. Imagine HOW TO STUFF A WILD BIKINI as a spy show. The series even had a spinoff, THE GIRL FROM U.N.C.L.E. starring Stephanie Powers. That show was so off-the-charts stupid it made BATMAN seem like THE WIRE.

I’ve always had fond memories of THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. and was very excited last summer when one of those up-the-dial cable channels no one ever watches started replaying them. (American Life or Lifestyle, who the hell knows? The other 23 hours they show Juiceman informercials.) I was so geeked up. Set my Tivo season pass and settled in revisit those happier simple times when our enemies only had nuclear weapons and vowed to destroy us.

What struck me more than anything else was how utterly cheesy the show looked. Produced by MGM originally in black and white, each episode must’ve cost $49.99. How did I not notice this originally? Never an extra on any busy street or in any hotel lobby. The same exteriors for every worldwide location. Solo could meet his contact in Tokyo or Budapest – it was the same building. Every chase scene was on the same road. Every sign was printed on cardboard. AMERICAN EMBASSY. HONG KONG AIRPORT. Kuriyakin would be walking down a street and come to a sign that looked like a high school election poster that read UNITED NATIONS.

They had to go a big art auction once. The action took place in a small lobby that looked like a receptionist’s office, then a doorway, which supposedly led to a grand ballroom. Through the doorway you saw four people sitting on card chairs calling out bids.

The episodes usually had Solo & Kuriyakin thwarting THRUSH while getting some innocent MILF involved in the caper.

But one episode stood out. I was hoping to see it again and sure enough, there it was! It was called THE DEADLY GAMES AFFAIR (all episodes were “affairs”.)

In this “affair” it seems that Hitler was still alive but in suspended animation, being held for safe keeping by a mad professor in a bunker under his ranch style house in suburban Long Island. When it is discovered that Solo has the same blood type as der Fuhrer he is kidnapped and strapped to a table where his brain is to be switched with Adolph’s. (Didn’t they do this movie twenty times in 1933?) At the last moment Solo escapes, captures the professor, and while he’s in the neighborhood, kills Hitler. (Whew!!!)

And this was an episode of the GOOD year.

In later seasons there was the BAT-CAVE AFFAIR with Martin Landau (pre ED WOOD) as a vampire/Transylvania THRUSH agent. The plastic bats added a nice touch of realism. In THE INDIAN AFFAIRS AFFAIR, THRUSH kidnaps “Chief Highcloud”, Illya dons a wig and Indian garb and the episode could not be filled with more jaw dropping politically incorrect “how” and “wampum” references. THE GALATEA AFFAIR is a take-off of “My Fair Lady” with Joan Collins in the virginal Julie Andrews role. THE POP ART AFFAIR has the Man From Uncle battling THRUSH beat-niks and a drug that can induce fatal hiccups. Illya disguises himself as the abominable snowman in THE ABOMINABLE SNOWMAN AFFAIR. But maybe the worst of all was THE MY FRIEND, THE GORILLA AFFAIR. Napoleon Solo is in Africa trying to track down Illya and seeks the help of a girl named “Girl” (Vitina Marcus: pictured left) who was raised by apes. And later in the show Robert Vaughn dances with a man in a gorilla suit. Vaughn, who holds a PHD from USC, was nominated for an Academy Award five years earlier!

All of these "affairs" and more are included in the box set. Even with the bizarre plotlines and crappy production values I still want to get it.

If only the lunch box was included.

68 comments:

Frank Abe said...

Ken,
Boy you have great taste. You not only get Brian Wilson and the Mariners, you appreciate UNCLE. Yes, I've aleady got my set on order (plus I still have my battered UNCLE lunch box). The second season of UNCLE was also great in its own way, with "The Alexander the Greater Affair" with Rip Torn and "The Foxes and Hounds Affair" with Vincent Price. The show didn't begin to slip until halfway through the second season when Boris Ingster took over. Then you're right, it was Batman-camp all the way before Norman Felton realized what was happening to his property. He should have kept a tighter rein and maybe the show could have lasted a few more years. But the DVD's will be great to watch, and there are tons of extras.

John R said...

As a twelve year old boarding schoolboy in southern England in 1966. Imagine "St. Trinnian's" for boys, or perhaps "If...." (1968, Malcolm McDowell.) Sorry, distracted by memories.

Anyway Thursdays at 7pm to 8 on BBC TV (there were only 2 TV channels then) was "Top of the Pops," where our hormones would rage over the mod dancers.

But then from 8pm to 9pm was "Man from Uncle." We wouldn't miss that suave Yank spy (no match for Sean Connery's Bond of course) and Illya Kuryakin, who we knew was far superior to Robert Vaughn, since he was played by a Brit actor.

David McCallum has had quite a TV and movie career. I wonder how he feels about the "Man from U.N.C.L.E" DVD set being released.

For some reason I don't care what Robert Vaughn thinks.

john

ps I really enjoy your blog. Thank you!

Jake Hollywood said...

The Man from U.N.C.L.E. aired on American Life (they also aired Combat, which most kids in the sixties was a "must see")...I always liked Vaughn, but only because he was in The Magnificent Seven with Mr Cool himself, Steve McQueen (but then again McCallum was in The Great Escape
another favorite film which I'm pleased to say didn't have Yul Brenner, but which also starred Steve McQueen, who also starred in Bullet with Robert Vaughn...

Brent McKee said...

The Girl From U.N.C.L.E. may have been off-the-charts stupid, but who cares - it was a chance to spend an hour staring at a 24 year old Stephanie Powers, and let's admit it doesn't get any better than that.

R.A. Porter said...

I'm still trying to wrap my head around "...Joan Collins in the virginal...role"

jd said...

When I was a kid, I lived for that show, at least for a year or two. I had all the toys, especially the cool gun he had with the little rifle butt attachment. You didn't meation Leo G. Carrol as Mr. Waverly but he was great as well.

Funny how good I thought the show was as a kid but you're right - when I see it now, I cringe at the campiness of it all. Sad to think that was the highpoint of Robert Vaughn's career. He was suave, though, that you have to admit.

Scooter said...

Why buy Man from UNCLE when you can get the complete series of Get Smart?

A. Buck Short said...

And yet, had you been willing to watch even one of those twent-three other hours, you could have purchased The Juiceman from Uncle lunchbox. Sorry.

blogward said...

The Man from Uncle really went into tie-ins in a big way...that was the first complete set of bubblegum cards I ever collected, with the big composite picture printed on the back. Still available on ebay, mind you.

The Crutnacker said...

Ah, the joys of DVD. It's with a certain twinge of sadness that I think of my youth in the 70s and 80s, when you could get a steady diet of classic (and not so classic) shows from the 50's, 60's and 70's in reruns on your local stations. Now a kid would have to seek these shows out, and what self respecting kid would do that when there are cheesy cartoons to watch?

What shocks me is how some of these shows have held up. Leave It To Beaver, despite its dated attitudes toward moms and women has held up very well. The Brady Bunch was never a great show, but still can be fun to watch as an adult as comfort food. Gilligan's Island, which I used to watch EVERY SINGLE DAY on our local independent station is excruciating to sit through today.

It's also amazing how much production values have jumped in TV, even in the last 5 or 10 years. Even gritty dramas like St. Elsewhere and Hill Street Blues look like studio backlot shows compared to today's crime dramas. Even the sitcoms look like mini movies these days.

I've never seen a complete episode of UNCLE, but your descriptions of its cheesiness have me wanting to take a look at it

M said...

I was very young when U.N.C.L.E. originally aired, and became a diehard fan (I'm female, by the way). Learning of the release, I pre-ordered it, receiving the boxed set last week. I hadn't seen the series since childhood, with a few exceptions, but I have to say, from having watched a a dozen or so episodes since, I've enjoyed each and every one.

Things that might have seemed glaring to Mr. Levene, did not to me. Of course the quality of the writing, perhaps direction/production did go downhill after the first few seasons.. but even though, the quality rises far above much of the drek that passes for network (and cable) television these days.

I remembered that the series had a wide variety of guest stars, but was even more impressed rewatching and recognizing so many of them, including those who later went on to their own careers. The special features were a real treat as well. I have to say that given how badly some dvd set releases have been, I was thrilled with this.

VP81955 said...

David McCallum has had quite a TV and movie career. I wonder how he feels about the "Man from U.N.C.L.E" DVD set being released.

If he's getting residuals, he's all for it.

Sebastian said...

My UNCLE is called The A-Team :-)

Millions of rounds fired - no fatalities :-)

Steve from Vermont said...

My parents wouldn't let me watch The Man from U.N.C.L.E. so I lived in constant envy of my friends with more tolerant parents. In my imagination, it was the best show ever produced. I had the same sense of I Spy. I recently saw a couple of episodes of I Spy on DVD and was shocked at how bad it was. The writing was awful and -- I hate to say it about two of my favorite actors -- Cosby and Culp were just awful. So now I'm conflicted about whether or not to attempt to see Solo and Kuryakin.

A. Buck Short said...

The Crutnacker said...
Leave It To Beaver, despite its dated attitudes toward moms and women has held up very well.

Where we were, by strategically changing the channels, you could watch Leave It to Beaver reruns pretty much continuously from 8:30 in the morning until approximately 3:30 in the afternoon –generally way out of sequence.

It was terrific. Beaver’s face would break out, then it would clear up, then it would break out again. Wally’s voice would change, then it would change back. June would say, “Ward, I don’t know what’s wrong with the Beaver. He just hasn’t been himself lately.” Ward could have replied, “Well of course not, he’s been himselves, dear.”

Anonymous said...

David McCallum is now on NCIS as Ducky the medical examiner. He's something like 73 years old but looks 53.

Corporal Agarn said...

A wonderful summation of a great series. Looking forward to seeing these again, myself. I recently bought "The Take Me To Your Leader Affair" on video and all the cheese is present and correct. A few "tropical" pot-plants representing an all-but deserted island jungle. Nancy Sinatra as the island's second inhabitant (being the daughter of the other, an astrophysisist working on some top secret thing or other) spending her time lurking in the bushes in a pink bikini, bursting paper bags and giggling. And Illya gets to play guitar and sing at her...

Marvellous

estiv said...

Yes yes. When I was eleven, Robert Vaughn and David McCallum running through "Europe" seemed the height of sophistication. Since nobody was going to take me to see James Bond in the theaters, MAN FROM UNCLE was it. Never had the lunchbox, though. Some things were still beyond my reach.

Cathy Krasnianski said...

Illya Kuryakin - my first crush. Ahhh...good times...good times!

Mary Stella said...

I was 8 or 9 in the U.N.C.L.E. years and completely enthralled, particularly with that dashing Napoleon Solo. They shot an episode at Napoleon's Tomb. When my family visited France the following year I insisted that we had to go to Les Invalides, too. See -- American spies as cultural influences for children.

I wouldn't have known that show was cheesy if the living room smelled like Lindberger when it came on the tube.

Paul said...

If she was raised by apes, then why are her legs shaved?

tb said...

Hey jd I had that thing too! A radio that turns into a gun at the push of a button. Also had the camera that turned into a pistol.
But yes, it is amazing which shows hold up and which don't. I've been sitting through old "Wild Wild West" shows lately, yet another spy-era show, just Gawd-awful. Richard Pryor popped up as a guest star the other night. But like I said before, Ilya Kuriyakin - best TV name ever.

John R said...

Oh, Sebastian...
"My UNCLE is called The A-Team :-)
Millions of rounds fired - no fatalities :-)"

Check out:
"The A-Team - The Say U.N.C.L.E. Affair (1986)"
On IMDB

Robert Vaughn, David McCallum AND Mr. T!!!

Your dreams come true...

Mike McCann said...

Ken,

Save your money and wait a few months. I hear that the individual seasons will soon be sold as separate sets. That way you can get the superior first season before NBC camped it up. --MM

Scott said...

Honestly Ken...If we were gonna go out and get you a Television series Box Set it would be this:

http://www.amazon.com/Studio-60-Sunset-Strip-Complete/dp/B00005JPI6/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1?ie=UTF8&s=dvd&qid=1197403432&sr=8-1

:)

angel said...

Ken,
First off, I LOVE your blog! Thought I would get that out of the way. :-)


Regarding Man From Uncle...I think I did indeed have the lunchbox. I loved Illya! Echoing an earlier post...he was my first crush, too. Good times.

Robert Rouse said...

Not to be picky, but as a writer you should know that is "acronym agencies". An anagram is when you move the letters around.

jbryant said...

Hey tb and jd: As I mentioned in a previous thread, I had the pleasure of meeting David McCallum in the aisle of a CVS Pharmacy a few weeks ago. We actually had a little exchange about the radio/gun:

Me: Man, if I had a nickel for every time I ran around my yard playing The Man from UNCLE...
McCallum: Oh, well it's nice to finally meet you.
Me: I had the Man from UNCLE radio that changed into a rifle.
McCallum: Ah, if only you still had it!

He was very charming and amusing (and did indeed look much younger than his years). I also got a kick out of him having to repeat the word "curlers" for the CVS employee who was having a little trouble with his British accent. "Cuh-lahs." (I assume these were for his wife, who was with him).

Eme Kah said...

Joan Collins as virginal. That IS bizarre.

Barking Up Trees said...

silly me, i thought it was audrey hepburn who starred in *my fair lady*...

goes t'sho...

Anonymous said...

stevefromvermont: Man from Uncle walked all over I Spy.

Anonymous said...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xs3U83eTCQ0
Go here and wallow.

jd said...

Ah yes, the camera that turned into a pistol. I had forgotten about that one but I had it also.

On a related matter, does anyone remember the Sixfinger? It was a little gun-like thing that masqueraded as a sixth finger. A great little toy for it's time. Ah, childhood and the toys - great times! I am so glad we didn't have video games and the Internet back then. I really sort of pity kids nowdays - they lose their innocence way too soon.

Anonymous said...

My favorite guilty pleasure show, NCIS (don't ask), has David McCallum in the cast as Ducky, the idiosyncratic but wise medical examiner.

Last year one of the episodes was built around his character and a past love. At the end of the show one of the junior agents asks lead Mark Harmon:

"I wonder what Ducky looked like as a young man?"

Harmon replied: "Like Illya Kuryakin."

R.A. Porter said...

barking up trees: Audrey Hepburn *did* lipsync to Marni Nixon's lovely renditions of the Lerner and Loewe songs for which Julie Andrews had won the '57 Tony Award. But Julie wasn't a movie star, so she didn't get to play Eliza on film.

jbryant said...

A friend of mine was a producer on "The Say U.N.C.L.E. Affair" episode of The A-Team. I didn't know this until I related my McCallum encounter to him. He said it was his idea to try to land McCallum for a guest shot, since Vaughn was an A-Team regular at the time. Turns out the former men from U.N.C.L.E. hadn't seen each other much, if at all, since the series ended and quite enjoyed their reunion. My friend of course got a great thrill out of being involved in this. I'd love to see the episode!

RE I Spy, I caught a few episodes about ten years ago when KDOC was running them and thought they held up quite nicely. And I loved Cosby and Culp's low-key, cool cat byplay. Different strokes.

shermboy said...

Growing up on the westside of LA, we used to drive by Lot 2 at MGM all the time when UNCLE was in production. It was fun seeing those old sets every week on tv.
Also, that "Hitler" plot was also used in that great Republic tv series, "Fu Manchu." It's a riot. Fake caves and guys in business suits fighting Nazi's.

Cap'n Bob Napier said...

Marx, the great American toymaker, came out with a Man From U.N.C.L.E. playset. I have several of the figures from it.

If I recall correctly, U.N.C.L.E. stood for United Network Command For Law and Enforcement. Unlesss I misremember.

The Crutnacker said...

Speaking of Bill Cosby, when did he get a severe case of the unfunny? He was on Talk of the Nation on NPR and was downright nasty to some of the callers and seemed pissed at being there.

The Cosby Show is another one that is nowhere near as good as I remember it being. I'm probably one of the few that enjoyed his later sitcom more.

And for those who pointed out the acronym error, I work for a company that interchanges acronym and abbreviation, not realizing that one can be the other,but not necessarily vice-versa.

catrick339 said...

Yes indeedy, and T.H.R.U.S.H stood for Technical Hierarchy for the Removal of Undesirables and Subjugation of Humanity. Now, the sisty four dollar question: Does anyone remember the Fifteen Years Later Affair, the made-for-television U.N.C.L.E. show from circa 1982? (Or maybe Ten Years Later Affair, haven't seen it since it was new, but I remember George Lanzenby guest starring as James You Know Who)

Anonymous said...

By entering U.N.C.L.E. Headquarters through "Del Floria's Dry Cleaners", the show did the impossible... it made my father, a dry cleaner, somehow cool... for like 10 minutes anyway.
Brian Scully
P.S. I don't know why, but my username and password don't work anymore. Must be a THRUSH secret plot.

Paul Duca said...

Message to R.A. Porter...Julie Andrews did not win the Tony for MY FAIR LAD--that season It went to Judy Holliday, starring in BELLS ARE RINGING (and was passed over again for CAMELOT, in favor of Elizabeth Seal in IRMA LA DOUCE)

D. McEwan said...

About the name "Solo": Ian Fleming consulted on the creation of THE MAN FROM UNCLE, and he suggested the name, which he'd used for a gangster in GOLDFINGER. Solo was the gangster who got crushed in the Rolls Royce by Oddjob.

On THE GIRL FROM UNCLE, in the episode THE MOTHER MUFFIN AFFAIR, the evil old lady and THRUSH agent Mother Muffin was played by Boris Karloff IN DRAG! And he wasn't playing a man in drag. He was actually playing an old lady. I've been waiting for 40 years to lay hands on that episode on home video, any format. You give me hope.

In the late 60s or early 70s, Robert Vaughn played Hamlet at the Pasadena Playhouse. I still recall the review in the LA TIMES, which read: "HAMLET is the easiest of Shakespeare's plays to produce successfully. All you need is a reasonably good actor playing Hamlet. Last night, the Pasadena Playhouse opened a WRETCHED production of HAMLET."

D. McEwan said...

Oh, and when THE MAN FROM UNCLE was cancelled, the show that replaced it was a new program debuting called ROWAN & MARTIN'S LAUGH-IN

It did well.

Joe said...

I got my set today. I may not sleep tonight, there's so much to watch. Heck, in addition to the extras on each season set you get 2 DVDs of bonus footage that is over 5 hours worth of interviews, trailers, documentaries, you name it. HOLY COW. And, in the most pathetic display of fanboy geekiness ever, I even photographed the unboxing - it's at josephdickerson.com.

Griff said...

"Robert Vaughn, who never met a line he didn’t deliver the same way..."

I know what you mean here -- for much of his UNCLE work, anyway -- but I believe Vaughn can be a pretty good actor. [And I sincerely believe that, even after some years of watching a slew of depressingly sleazy commercials he did for a NYC legal firm.]

As far as oral interpretation goes, Vaughn put a wonderful spin on a line in Blake Edwards' "S.O.B.", in which the actor played an evil studio head. When a gloating Vaughn finally wrests control of Richard Mulligan's troubled film, he asks an assistant how long the picture runs. When advised of its length, Vaughn -- who hasn't seen a frame of the reworked movie -- immediately replies, "That's too long." He takes a beat, and then says, "Fortunately, I'm a superb editor."

Gabriel Ratchet said...

I used to love all those spy shows when I was a kid (dammit, I even had one of those camera/guns!). Even then, though, I think, I could recognize the cheesy production values -- I even developed a certain fondness for them that lingers to this day: one show that really managed to make a virtue of its minimal production budget was Secret Agent/Danger Man: I used to love how all they had to do was throw some Venetian blind shadows on the wall, then bring in some wicker furniture, a couple of potted palms, and a slowly-rotating ceiling fan and presto! you were instantly in Malaya or East Africa or some other Graham Greene-type post-colonial backwater.

gottacook said...

Someone above wrote, "does anyone remember the Sixfinger? It was a little gun-like thing that masqueraded as a sixth finger." I assume this was in an UNCLE episode. This is funny because in The Outer Limits, McCallum starred in an episode, "The Sixth Finger," that creeped me out as a kid. With experimental equipment he becomes a superbrain (with expanded cranium and a sixth finger on each hand), advancing through several stages and eventually returning to present-day form.

Hilarious line about making BATMAN look like THE WIRE. I appreciate it even though I've only ever seen one episode of the latter (in a hotel room; probably series 2).

Captain Obvious said...

The Man from U.N.C.L.E. was always one of my favorites. I also got a kick out of Get Smart.


I reiterate the first post. Good taste in mindless stupidity!

drmedula said...

I must leap to the defense of WILD, WILD WEST, which I'm delighted to say has fully lived up to my childhood memories of it. (Sure, SOME episodes are cheesy or silly, but the best ones- like NIGHT OF THE PUPPETEER- are suprisingly atmospheric). And the action scenes ROCK- I can see why Jackie Chan loved the show!(I do agree that DANGER MAN is the only one of the 60's spy shows that can be watched as a "straight" drama these days-MacGoohan is a really underrated actor.) THE AVENGERS is still my favourite, but who can deny the charms of Steed and Mrs. Peel?

Anonymous said...

David McCallum had a bit part in a movie about the titanic in the late fifties, can't recall the actual name. I liked MAN from UNCLE. Never saw much of I SPY. Of course the Avengers was the best show, with the likes of Diana Rigg, who could set the hearts of teenage boys like me a thumping.

Mary Stella said...

drmedula said:
I must leap to the defense of WILD, WILD WEST, which I'm delighted to say has fully lived up to my childhood memories of it.

I'm with you! I loved TWWW. (Will refrain from yakking about how good Robert Conrad looked in those tight pants. In an interview he said they split in fight scenes in almost every episode.) Speaking of fight scenes, the same actors and stunt people played the thugs in almost every show. Michael Dunn as Dr. Miguelito Loveless was a terrific villain. I think Victor Buono played two different villains.

Bob L said...

I echo Brent McKee's thoughts on "The Girl from U.N.C.L.E.". Plots? Stephanie Powers was the reason we watched. I even wrote a letter to get a photo of the future Mrs. Jonathan Hart. I'm not particularly proud of it, but...

BOB

R.A. Porter said...

paul duca: Thanks for correcting my stupid comment. I get what I deserve for not taking a few extra minutes to confirm if my recollections are the same as reality.

jbryant said...

anonymous: "David McCallum had a bit part in a movie about the titanic in the late fifties, can't recall the actual name."

Ironically enough, the title you can't remember is "A Night to Remember." :)

Ken Levine said...

Had to delete another idiot commenter who wouldn't leave his name. One rule. That's all I have.

drmedula said...

Buono appeared in 3 episodes of WWW, twice as Count Manzeppi...the only villian Jim and Artie NEVER apprehended!(He also appeared in the pilot, as well as MORE WILD WILD WEST-the last teaming of Conrad and Martin in their roles- providing an interesting set of "bookends" to the series.)

Dwacon® said...

I went to the network with "The Aunt from UNCLE" where Frances Bavier ("It's a Great Life", "The Andy Griffith Show") tracks down spies and feeds them home-cooked down home meals.

They released the hounds...

Jenny said...

You deleted my comment, Ken. Was it my likening Arianna Huff and I'll Puff, and anti-semetic Jane Hamsher (so named because of her swastika laden political "art" during the 2006 election season), to some of the battier members of THRUSH? Ian McShane compared Arianna to Magda Goebbels after appearing with her on Real Time.

Did I hit too close to home, Ken? I think it wouldn't be hard to put together a remake of UNCLE. There are certainly an entire cast of characters at the HuffPo one could model THRUSH members after, and they certainly do seem to have the tactics down.

John said...

Hey, NBC like them some virginal Joan Collins -- she popped up two years later as the hyman-intact urban misionanry Edith Keeler in a Season 1 "Star Trek" episode, though at least there she would have inadvertently let Hitler win the war if Kirk handn't allowed her to get plowed under by a truck.

Gary Farber said...

"THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. is finally out on DVD. You can buy the complete box set of episodes, all four seasons."

WTF?

Where?

Have you bought into a scam/counterfeit?

Dwacon® said...

You can get the DVD... Or if the American Life Network is on your cable system, you can watch both U.N.C.L.E. shows...

Stu Shiffman said...

Great post! Man from Uncle also had the best series of tie-in novels (until the Trek publishing cycle hit its stride) with the most superior books written by David McDaniel (aka SF fan Ted Johnstone) like The Vampire Affair and The Rainbow Affair (with a fine assortment of British detectives from Sherlock Holmes to Inspector West and Neddy Seagoon making cameo appearances).

Stu Shiffman said...

There were such a fine clutch of spy/detective shows back then: Man from Uncle, Wild Wild West, The Avengers, Secret Agent/Danger Man, T.H.E. Cat, Burke’s Law, and Mannix (when will that ever come out on DVD?), Longstreet. And Get Smart, in a class of its own (where it lives with the later Sledge Hammer and SF series Quark).

jbryant said...

gary farber,

The U.N.C.L.E. DVD set is available exclusively through Time-Life for the moment, but will hit stores in Fall '08. Check out timelife.com for details.

I think this is the same way the Get Smart set was done.

Kurt Hanson said...

Excellent observations, and I especially concur with stu's re: David McDaniel's novels.

One point I'd like to clarify: I believe the Instamatic-like camera that turned into a gun and other toys in that line were NOT "U.N.C.L.E."-branded merchandise, but were a Mattel line of their own.

Right?

BTW, you CAN buy individual seasons now from Time-Life. I am anxiously awaiting delivery of Season One, which is available at a nice discount rignt now, I believe.

Robert said...

I'm glad somebody else finds these shows you loved as a child don't age well. I was specifically hoping UNCLE might because I have never seen a single rerun or even clip since it went off the air eons ago. But now that you mention some of the cheesiness, I think I have my answer.

I also have an answer for another related old TV show (we'll see how they're related shortly). Anyway, Columbo is available on DVD, one season at a time. I really thought that one would hold up well. And it does to a certain extent, unless you get too picky. The thing I always used to think about Columbo was the writing and acting were first rate. Well the acting (Peter Falk's at least) holds up quite well, at least until the last season when he went from being eccentric/forgetful to just kind of weird.

But I'm afraid the plots just don't stand up. What I thought were iron clad cases with irrefutable proof wouldn't get past an L.A. jury in a million years. Personally, I blame O.J., along with Robert Blake and Rodney King. I mean, L.A. is a place where you can have a home video of a guy slashing somebody'e throat with the fingerprints on the murder weapon and gloves soaked in pints of the right blood type, not to mention confessions neatly signed in triplicate, and the jury still wouldn't convict. So I'm afraid Columbo's "mean, motive and opportunity" just won't cut it anymore.

The other thing is how old it looked. I watched most of them with my teenage son, and I couldn't believe the guest stars from a bygone era (Don Ameche, Ida Lupino, Jose Ferrer, Janet Leigh, Ray Milland). I remember some of the original episodes from the 70's (which I don't consider to be all that long ago, and man did I feel old. Most of the characters smoked and it seemed they all had a bucket of ice handy so they could mix a drink any time of the day (usually the afternoon). That part really seems dated.

Anyway, we really enjoyed watching Robert Culp's three performances, so we also rented an episode of I Spy. I had never seen so much as a scene from that series. I thought it wasn't too bad, including the acting (I think Culp carried Cosby). It appeared mostly low budget too, but I could swear that the episode I saw was actually shot in Venice. Unless, ... is there a part of L.A. that has canals?

The only thing I knew about I Spy was that it was basically a copy of TMFU, which I did see, at least a few episodes. Thanks to whoever mentioned the camera that turned into a gun. I had completely forgotten about that. But I didn't forget about the pen that turned into a radio. All you had to do was unscrew the top and insert it the other way around and voila! Open channel, ... channel... can somebody help me, was it channel D. It's been a long time.

It must have been the first season, because I thought some of the dialog wasn't bad. After they drop an explosive device onto a bad guy's back seat at an intersection he drives off only to be followed by a loud KABOOM. As the sound waves fade, with perfect timing, Ilya deadpans "too bad, he had the right of way". Better than anything in Bond. Or another time, they are planning some scheme to break into a fortified hideout. They are just donning the wetsuits as the reluctant third party who they need to show them the way exclaims "Are you crazy"? to which Solo replies "No. Ilya, are you crazy?" "No, but I'm chilly". Good stuff.

Not only was each show an "affair", but each of the four scenes had its own title. I'm sure the DVD chapters have the same ones. The only one I can remember was "Put the mistake in the tub". I don't know why I can barely barely remember my own phone number, but can recall that one from the fading memory banks.

Just to come full circle, Robert Vaughn appeared twice on Columbo. The second episode was unique. It looked like he done it, but didn't. Then he ended up getting whacked, and it turned into an actually whodunit. You didn't find out who was guilty until the final scene, the only such episode. Now to come even fuller circle, the "evidence" would not have survived an L.A. jury, especially with Johnny Cochrane (may he rest in peach/burn in hell, you decide): "If it does not tick, you cannot convick". Damn that O.J. too.

claudia said...

Hi Uncle Fans, Just wanted to let you know that there is currently an NBC Man from Uncle promo booklet sent to potential advertisers in the first season on auction on Ebay.
There may not be another like it out there. It is very cool. Check it out. Thanks, Claudia