I recently caught up with The Man from U.N.C.L.E. 8-Movie Collection (eight movies, on four discs), released on DVD some time back from Warner Archives. Fans had been surprised when, a few years ago, The Man from U.N.C.L.E. episodes DIDN’T include the movies.
The theatrical releases–edited mostly from U.N.C.L.E. two-parters–orginally caused controversy in the United States in the late 1960s, because MGM was essentially just asking folks to pay for what they had already seen on television, for free!
But it’s always fascinating to see the color version of U.N.C.L.E.’s pilot, fleshed out with new scenes featuring Luciana Paluzzi. The Paluzzi scenes, along with additional sequences shot for the feature The Spy with My Face (“The Double Affair”), were cleverly combined to make up much of another first-season show, “The Four Steps Affair.”
It’s also intriguing to see Will Kaluva as the first head of U.N.C.L.E., “Mr. Allison,” before the producers decided to recast Leo G. Carroll as Mr. Waverly. The uncut Solo pilot, without the additional footage, is available on the aforemented U.N.C.L.E. TV set.
One of Our Spies Is Missing (“The Bridge of Lions Affair”) also features “new” scenes shot with Yvonne Craig as an U.N.C.L.E. secretary (and Mr. Waverly’s niece!), the role she previously played in the two-part “The Alexander the Greater Affair” (One Spy Too Many).
MGM ultimately stopped releasing the movies in America, but it’s interesting to realize that in many European nations, and elsewhere, these movies would have been shown in advance of their publics’ chance to see them on television.
In fact, the U.N.C.L.E. films were contemporary with the James Bond blockbusters, Thunderball and You Only Live Twice. (The Karate Killers commences with a pretty spiffy aerial attack by mini-choppers–no doubt designed to take advantage of the vast advance publicity for You Only Live Twice’s special Q-branch helicopter, “Little Nellie”!)
The Warner Archives set might seem only for completists, but is well worth it at that! It’s disappointing, though, that many of the movies’ opening credits are simply shown over footage from the adapted episodes’ initial minutes…sometimes played out in ultra-slow motion. And surely only the most die-hard of fans would notice that some of the later films might possibly include alternate takes, or moments, from their televised versions. But to me, the collecton is almost worth its purchase price alone for what struck me as an incredibly rare bit of U.N.C.L.E. arcania: the theatrical trailers/coming attractions for five of the films (and one “double feature” rerelease)!
For those “cousins” among you, here are all the film titles, with the episodes they were drawn from: To Trap a Spy (Solo pilot, aka “The Vulcan Affair”), The Spy with My Face (“The Double Affair”), One Spy Too Many (“The Alexander the Greater Affair”), One of Our Spies Is Missing (“The Bridge of Lions Affair”), The Spy in the Green Hat (“The Concrete Overcoat Affair”), The Karate Killers (“The Five Daughters Affair”); The Helicopter Spies (“The Prince of Darkness Affair”), and How to Steal the World (“The Seven Wonders of the World Affair”.)
James H. (Jim) Burns was a pioneer of the second wave of fantasy and science fiction movie magazines, being one of the first writers for Starlog (and several other late 1970s publications), and a contributing editor to Fantastic Films, and Prevue. He wrote the earliest of these articles, when he was 13! Jim was also a key figure in many of the era’s North Eastern American comic book and Star Trek conventions. Burns was one of the field’s first writers to cross over to such mainstream fare as Gentleman’s Quarterly, Esquire, and American Film, while still contributing to such genre stalwarts as Cinefantastique, Starburst, Heavy Metal and Twilight Zone magazines. He also wrote articles for Marvel and DC Comics. As an actor, Burns has been seen in a handful of films (including with James Earl Jones), on television, and on stage with the New York Actors Ensemble, among others. More recently, Jim has made several behind-the-scenes contributions to Off-Broadway, and Broadway productions, become active in radio, and written Op-Eds, or features, for Newsday, CBS-NY.COM, The Village Voice, The Sporting News and The New York Times. Feel free to contact Jim at email@example.com