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CLASSIC TV: THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E.

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THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E.
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David McCallum, Leo G. Carroll and Robert Vaughn

THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E.
 
Quirk's Reviews takes a look at some of the more notable episodes of the famous television spy series.
Notes and reviews by WILLIAM SCHOELL.
 
The Man from U.N.C.L.E. ran on NBC-TV in the mid-sixties for three and a half seasons. The program was not an immediate hit, but it gradually built in popularity due to the public's obsession with bizarre spy stories due to the success of the James Bond films. The United Network Command for Law and Enforcement (U.N.C.L.E.) was an international crime-fighting organzation somewhat similar to Interpol. Robert Vaughn played slick spy Napoleon Solo [the name was taken from one of the hoods in Ian Fleming's Goldfinger with Fleming's blessing; he was involved in the early planning days of the series.] David McCallum was the Russian agent Ilya Kuryakin. Leo G. Carroll played their slightly forgetful boss, Alexander Waverly. In many of the episodes UNCLE fought against the forces of their evil counterparts THRUSH.
 
Most of the episodes were reasonable in tone, although they were generally told with a light touch and had a degree of humor. Some episodes were told almost completely straight with little humor. But the public seemed to respond more favorably to the funnier episodes so the network dictated that the program practically be turned into an out and out comedy similar to the spy spoof Get Smart. The use of often inappropriate comedy was particularly rife in the third season, which had so many silly episodes [fans of the program generally concede that “The Super Colossal Affair,” which had Ilya unplugging a stink bomb over Hollywood, was the series' nadir] that the ratings began to erode. With the fourth season the series returned to its roots, with much less comedy, but the damage had been done: the show was canceled halfway through the season. [The Girl from U.N.C.L.E., which ran during Man's third season, only lasted a year.] Although many episodes were real time-wasters, there were quite a few that were well-scripted, well-acted, and ingeniously plotted, even during the third season. On this page we present capsule reviews of some of the more interesting episodes of both Man and Girl, as well as of some of the paperback novel tie-ins and other UNCLE literary projects. Both Man and Girl can currently be seen Wednesday evenings on cable on American Life TV [AmLifeTV/channel 153 on Time-Warner Cable of New York]. If you are not in the New York City area, contact your local cable company for availability.

SEASON ONE EPISODES

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Episode # 1. THE VULCAN AFFAIR. Writer: Sam Rolfe. A not inauspicious debut for the series, this episode is light, with some mild humor, but is essentially played straight and works all the better for it. Napoleon Solo (Robert Vaughn) is sent to Washington with one Elaine May Bender (Pat Crowley), who was the college girlfriend of a man named Andrew Vulcan (Fritz Weaver). It seems that Vulcan is now the Eastern Seaboard Head of Operations for Thrush, who has given him a company to run as a front. UNCLE has learned that Ashuman (William Marshall), the Premier of an emerging African nation, is to be assassinated while taking a tour of the company's plant to see its new reactor. Elaine is to get close to Vulcan to ferret out any information she can. Unfortunately, Solo discovers that he has misidentified the target and he and Elaine wind up handcuffed to steam pipes in a boiling death trap. [Elaine: “You mustn't blame yourself.” Napoleon: “Of course I don't blame myself – it had to be done.”] This is a good story and script, although it does have its unfortunate moments, such as a communications cutie improbably sitting under a sun lamp in a bikini back at UNCLE HQ [what would Mr. Waverly say!]. Some of the FX work is lame, such as when Solo's car supposedly crashes into a lake, although there's a clever bit in which a parachuting dummy is used as a decoy. Mr. Waverly appears briefly in the story, and Ilya has virtually nothing to do. Weaver, Marshall and the effervescent Crowley are highly effective supporting players in this, and Vaughn is simply perfect as Solo. Rating: B+

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Episode # 3. THE QUADRIPARTITE AFFAIR. Writer: Alan Caillou. Another more or less “serious” episode introduces the evil Gervaise Ravel (Anne Francis) and her oily partner-in-crime Howard Buffington (John Van Dreelen). Together with the renegade Colonel Pattner (Richard Anderson), they plan to use a fear [as opposed to tear] gas to take over the military forces of certain unspecified governments. With Marion Raven (Jill Ireland), the daughter of a man they murdered, along for the ride, Solo and Ilya venture into their stronghold in the mountains of Yugoslavia. This episode plays very well, with an entertaining scene on a yacht, but once the story shifts to Yugoslavia there is a dip in quality and the climax is rather abrupt. One clever scene in the first half has Ilya inspecting a box of candy that's been sent to Marion Raven. He – and the audience – are expecting a bomb or poison but instead the sinister fear gas seeps out of one of the chocolates, making Ilya scared of his own shadow. Francis makes an excellent, coolly amoral villainess, and the other supporting players are all good. This episode was directed by Richard Donner, who later went on to direct such major motion pictures as Superman and The Omen. [NOTE: Jill Ireland was the real-life wife of David McCallum. After the two divorced before the end of the series' run, Ireland married Charles Bronson, who was a friend of the McCallums'.] Rating: B-.

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Episode # 7. THE GIUOCO PIANO AFFAIR. Writer: Alan Caillou. One of the best early episodes of the series features the return of billionaire Howard Buffington and the woman he loves, the cold-blooded super-bitch Gervaise Ravel. This time the pair are holing up in South America, and murder an UNCLE agent who's looking for them by firing at him from a helicopter and causing an avalanche. Ilya and Napoleon enlist the aid of the at first unwilling Marion Raven (Jill Ireland) to act as bait. The plan is for her to be captured by the gruesome twosome who will then arrange to turn her over to UNCLE in exchange for the lives of Solo and Kuryakin. As in her first appearance, Anne Francis is excellent as the attractive but lizard-like Ravel while John Von Dreelen has some terrific scenes as her wealthy and evil paramour. The episode has an excellent script with good dialogue and a few interesting twists and turns. James Frawley is a police lieutenant and director Richard Donner and others associated in the show appear as guests at Marion's party. [NOTE: The title refers to a chess gambit.] Rating: A.

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Episode # 17 THE YELLOW SCARF AFFAIR. Written by Robert Yale Lippincott and Boris Ingster. An unusual UNCLE adventure which has Napoleon and an agent from THRUSH (Linden Chiles) trying to get their hands on a special device that looks like a typewriter but operates as a lie detector; this brings them into contact with a modern-day sect of thuggees in India. This cult, which worships Kali and is run by a Maharajah (Murray Matheson), causes plane and train crashes so the members can steal valuable cargo; the “typewriter” was being carried on board a doomed flight by an UNCLE agent. The thuggees are every bit as evil as THRUSH, who – except for the one agent – has little to do with this caper. Batman's Aunt Harriet (Madge Blake) has an amusing cameo as an agent who transfers the device to the man killed in the plane crash [actually he's strangled with a “yellow scarf” used by the thuggees before the crash]. The Maharajah arranges so that his lovely niece Deirdre (Kamala Devi), who works for the airline, will not be on board the flight that crashes. Afterward Deirdre spots a woman that she knows was on the flight – only she's alive! This has an interesting premise that is not always developed as well as it could have been, but it holds the attention and is generally well acted. There is one very dumb moment at the end. It has been established that the case holding the new polygraph contains an explosive [which will go off if the wrong person opens it] – yet the authorities are perfectly willing to let Solo take it on the plane – only days after another plane crashed killing all aboard! Rating: B

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Episode # 18 THE MAD, MAD TEA PARTY AFFAIR. Written by Dick Nelson. This is one of the all-time best of the UNCLE episodes, a near-perfect mixture of humor, mystery, and action. As Solo and Kuryakin prepare for a special conference to take place in UNCLE headquarters, a strange man (Richard Hadyn) without a security pass is wandering about at will and strange things begin occurring. A toy plane flies at the building; the water from every tap is full of guppies; the walls and floor become electrified. Finally a bomb detector expert is found murdered. The episode is very suspenseful, especially a scene when a THRUSH infiltrator anxiously watches as someone threatens to put out a cigarette in an explosive ash tray! Lee Meriwether appears briefly as the sinister Dr. Egret [these scenes are generally cut for television reruns]. The episode is very well directed by Seymour Robbie, and features an exciting fight scene in an elevator. It also features two excellent guest stars in Zohra Lampert and Peter Haskell. Lampert plays a young woman about to be married who longs for a little adventure – and gets it. The seriously weird but talented Lampert offers a richly quirky portrayal. Haskell is boyishly nervous yet smooth as the man from THRUSH. Rating: A+

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Episode # 28. THE GIRLS OF NAZARONE AFFAIR. Teleplay by Peter A. Fields, from a story by Peter Barry. In the French Riviera Ilya and Napoleon come afoul of a sinister THRUSH agent, Madame Alceste Streigau (Marion Moses) who is also that master of disguise and mayhem, Dr. Egret. Streigau has gotten the formula for a serum which can greatly accelerate the healing process – when the tough and haughty female race car diver Lucia Nazarone (Danica d'Hondt), who is working with THRUSH, is shot repeatedly by Streigau, she not only survives but recovers in record time. Unfortunately, this same serum also hastens a person's end by driving them crazy and burning them out, making it impractical. The boys inveigle yet another schoolteacher, Lavinia Brown (Kipp Hamilton) into helping them. There are some interesting ideas in the story, but Fields' script is a little on the silly side. The poisoned needles in the pillows is a nice touch, but the death trap – Napoleon and Lavinia are tied to cushions that will sink in salt water in a pool (making it seem that they drowned) – is a little lame. The episode is greatly aided by good performances from Hamilton, Moses, and d'Hondt, a steel-eyed beauty who radiates strength and hostility in equal measure. Hamilton is amusing and likable and Moses highly professional. The episode is notable for the appearance of Dr. Egret, whose true identity was apparently never revealed. Sharon Tate has a small role as one of the blondes. Rating: B-

SEASON TWO EPISODES

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Episodes # 30 and 31. THE ALEXANDER THE GREATER AFFAIR. Written by Dean Hargrove. The Men from UNCLE go up against a megalomaniac named Alexander (Rip Torn) who wants to conquer the world as Alexander the Great did and break all ten commandments while doing so. To aid his goal, he has stolen a gas, BG30, which induces “opponents to lose the will to win.” His ex-wife Tracey (Dorothy Provine) only wants to get back the million she gave him and get him to sign some settlement papers. Alexander is so evil that he's chained up his own parents [Batman's Madge Blake plays his mother], who know his real name and humble origins, in a deserted mineshaft. Alexander's ultimate goal is to assassinate an Asian premier and thereby gain power over his territories and ultimately the world. This two-parter, which opened the second season, is the first in color. It is entertaining and has some good moments of black humor. Director Dean Hargrove keeps things moving at a fast pace. The episodes have somewhat better production values than usual, probably because it was always intended to release them as a feature-length theatrical movie [One Spy Too Many]. A highlight is a chess game played by Alexander and Napoleon in which the chess pieces are human beings on a room-sized chess board. The climax to part one is also memorable. Alexander and his right-hand “fiends” Parviz (David Sheiner) and Mr. Kavon (David Opatoshu) place the UNCLE Men and Tracey in doom traps inside an underground Greek temple. In a scene out of The Pit and the Pendulum Napoleon is placed beneath a swinging scimitar which threatens to cleave him in half length-wise, while Ilya and the woman are suspended over a bottomless pit by a rope, under which is placed a candle that slowly burns through it.

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In Part Two Napoleon has a zesty battle with a hulking bodybuilder named Ingo (Cal Bolder), and Ilya is nearly torn to shreds by threshing machines manned by Alexander's henchmen. [In a silly sequence Ilya is also wrapped up like a mummy by Mr. Kavon, who thinks the process will work better if the person is still alive before being wrapped!] The climactic battle between Alexander and Solo on the steps of the former's plane as it takes off from the runway is thrilling. As noted, there is some superior black humor in the script. Alexander looks forward to assassinating the dignitary by deadpanning, “I'll be there to make a good will speech. I'll kill him immediately after my remarks.” When a dead Parviz winds up being dragged into the back of a limo as newlyweds drive off there comes a sudden scream from inside the vehicle. “I knew it wouldn't last,” says one of the guests. Rip Torn makes a fine Alexander, never overplaying or chewing the scenery, but never entirely “serious,” either. As his ex-wife, however, Dorothy Provine overacts all over the place, although she's better when she's a little more subdued. David Sheiner, a familiar sinister face under his bald head, is dead-on as Parviz, and the other players are also good. As for THRUSH, they never enter the picture, although Alexander seems as well-equipped as they in both men, wickedness, and machinery. Rating: B+

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Episode # 39. THE CHERRY BLOSSOM AFFAIR. Teleplay by Mark Weingart. Story by Sherman Kellen. Directed by Joseph Sargent. A light, amusing, and entertaining episode that takes place mostly in Japan. A young lady named Cricket Okasada (France Nuyen), who dubs Japanese films into English, accidentally has her movie film switched with a film detailing plans of THRUSH Eastern's volcanic activator device. Ilya and Napoleon enlist her help in smashing the sinister plans of Thrush agents Harada (Jerry H. Fujikawa) and Kutuzov (Woodrow Parfrey). A raving beauty wields a razor sharp fan at one point, and Solo winds up tied on top of a bed of bamboo. “In a few hours,” says a polite THRUSH geisha (Grace Lee), “certainly no later than tonight, Solo san, the shoots will begin to prick your back – and then!” Ilya is trapped in a room whose floor pulls back into the wall, revealing spikes [with a skeleton in them] several feet below. In the climax, Solo and Cricket are turned into living Kabuki marionettes who must fight sword-wielding puppets. The script is very clever and shot through with a sharp sense of fun. When Harada tells Kutuzov that their device will be used to activate the volcanic Mount Kilo in Bulgaria, the latter wonders how the Bulgarian THRUSH representative will react. Harada tells him that said representative was skeptical of the whole business and preferred to go off to conduct some geological experiments. “Where will that be?” asks Kutuzov. “On Mount Kilo!” laughs Harada. The supporting cast, including a lovely Nuyen, gets into the spirit of things very well.

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Episode # 41 THE CHILDREN'S DAY AFFAIR. Ilya, Napoleon, and Mr. Waverly are in Geneva, Switzerland for a special conference, where there's a little rivalry between Waverly and his opposite Swiss Number, Carlo Forenti (Eduardo Ciannelli). Mother Fear (Jeanne Cooper) who runs a Thrush satrap in an exclusive boys' school with her lover Dennis (Warren Stevens) plans to use the students – whom she is training to be Thrush soldiers at an early age -- to wipe out the UNCLE bigwigs at the conference. The choir boys, who have guns under their robes, will pull out their weapons and shoot everyone at a prearranged moment. The Men from UNCLE, along with a social worker named Anna (the cute and spirited Susan Silo) prevent this from happening. The episode, written by Dean Hargrove, is silly but amusing, and has some good action sequences. At one point Solo is tied up and forced to keep pressing switches to keep two toy trains from colliding, which will result in his demise. Mother Fear is brought down by an explosive cake [“I didn't know the cake was loaded,” says Anna] and winds up being carted skyward on the slats of a windmill. In one funny bit, when both Ilya and Napoleon are locked in a cell, Napoleon plans to jump on their jailer from above when he opens the door and enters. Instead, the jailer tells them to come out. Ilya walks out of the cell, then turns around, looks up at Napoleon, and goes “You coming?”The episode is certainly enlivened by the excellent, restrained playing of Jeanne Cooper as Mother Fear. The honey-voiced harridan, while far more attractive, may have been an influence on Jack Kirby's Granny Goodness in his “Fourth World” comic books. Ms. Cooper is now, and has been for many years, one of the stars of the top-rated CBS soap The Young and the Restless. Sherman Marks turns in a solid directorial job. Rating: B-

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Episode # 48 THE WAVERLY RING AFFAIR. UNCLE learns that Thrush is planning something called “Project Windfall” just as it becomes clear that there is a well-established traitor within the organization. Is it rather nerdy George Donnell (Larry Blyden) or possibly the charming and efficient woman he has a crush on, Carla Drosten (Elizabeth Allen)? Waverly cooks up a plot to unmask the real Thrush infiltrator by handing out one or more of the infamous “Waverly Rings,” which will explode if removed by anyone other than Alexander Waverly himself. Anyone wearing the ring must be instantly obeyed. It all winds up at the Hazard Research and Development Center which turns out to be a front for Thrush, as well as the location of their weapons cache (which had been falsely leaked to be in Kyoto). A lot of suspense is generated as to who the traitor is – George or Carla – right up until nearly the very end of the episode. Jerry McNeeley's script is clever and the episode is well-directed by John Brahm. This episode is essentially a “serious” one, with the humor provided by Donnell's characterization. It is also funny to watch Solo and Donnell's nervousness as elderly Waverly seems to take forever to remove the explosive “Waverly Rings” from their fingers. Blyden and Allen are both excellent and a gal in a bar scene when Donnell is drunk after being “fired” is a flavorful supporting player. Both Blyden and Allen had appeared in Broadway musicals with scores by Richard Rodgers: Blyden was in Rodgers and Hammerstein's Flower Drum Song, and Allen starred in Sondheim and Rodgers' Do I Hear a Waltz? Rating: A-.

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Episode # 57. THE BAT CAVE AFFAIR. An alleged clairvoyant named Clemency (Joan Freeman) gets involved with the fellows when they take on a crazed Count Zarek (Martin Landau), who looks, talks, and acts like a modern-day vampire. It turns out that Thrush is transmitting her false information via a cortical stimulator hidden in the comb in her hair. Zarek, the Director of Flight Research for Thrush, has come up with Operation Night Flight, which will release millions of large ugly doctored bats into the air. The bats' radar will interfere with man-made radar and cause havoc in the airways. Ilya, Napoleon and Clemency eventually get inside Zarek's castle and put paid to his nefarious scheme. An in-joke has Napoleon and Clemency watching re-edited UNCLE feature One Spy Too Many [The Alexander the Greater Affair] while on a flight to Europe. Martin Landau's hammy performance as the count is not memorable, but – ironically – decades later he deservedly won an Oscar for playing famous Dracula interpreter Bela Lugosi in the film Ed Wood (1994). A not bad script with a good premise by Jerry McNeely. Directed by Alf Kjellin. Rating: B-

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Episode # 58 THE MINUS-X AFFAIR. A Thrush scientist named Professor Lillian Stemmler (Eve Arden), is pressured by her sinister colleague Arthur Rollo (Theo Marcuse) into doing what he wants when he kidnaps her gadabout daughter Leslie (Sharon Farrell) from her jet set party lifestyle. Stemmler has developed two formulas: plus-x will heighten one's senses to super-normal, while minus-x will dull the senses [in practice it actually makes people docile and child-like]. Rollo administers minus-x to soldiers at a top secret government installation that manufactures artificial “tutonium” by dropping paper laced with the formula into their coffee pots and so on. Ilya and Napoleon, with the help of Stemmler, stop Rollo before he and his men can steal the tutonium. It's interesting that Arden, who graced so many comedies and other kinds of films in the forties and fifties [Mildred Pierce is a good example] with her acerbic delivery and starred on the sitcom Our Miss Brooks, is given a serious role to play instead of a zany one. Arden gives a solid performance, making it clear that this is a no-nonsense gal who made some bad choices in life but still has a heart. Theo Marcuse is excellent, as ever, as Rollo, and Sharon Farrell offers a spirited performance with intelligent nuances. King Moody is good as a Thrush agent who blows a dart at Ilya when he's playing the trumpet. Paul Winfield has a small role as “lst M.P.,” one of the soldiers at the top-secret base. Written by Peter Allan Fields and directed by Barry Shear, who keeps things moving. Rating: B-

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SEASON THREE

Episode # 60. HER MASTER'S VOICE AFFAIR. Ilya is assigned to safeguard a young Japanese girl Miki Matsu (Victoria Young) who attends an exclusive Long Island girl's school that may have dark secrets; for one thing, all the students are daughters of prominent businessmen, politicians, and scientists. Napoleon goes undercover at the school, where he meets the elderly headmistress Hester Partridge (Estelle Winwood), an associate named Jason Sutro (Joseph Ruskin), and the physical education instructor Verity Burgoyne (Marianne Osborne). The last comes to Solo's aid when he determines that Partridge and Sutro have brainwashed all the girls in order to have them spy on their parents. Whenever they hear a recording of Brahms' Lullaby, they must do whatever they are told – including attack and kill Solo at Partridge's command. This leads into a lively climax with Solo fighting for his life against hypnotized nubile schoolgirls innocently out for his blood. At one point Verity even takes a fire axe to Napoleon! Winwood and Ruskin are highly professional, and Young is adorable as the gal with a crush on her bodyguard Ilya. A good script by Bernie Giler is well-handled by director Barry Shear. Rating: B+.

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Episode # 61. THE SORT OF DO-IT-YOURSELF-DREADFUL AFFAIR. It's strange that Her Master's Voice Affair, which featured [hypnotized] homicidal females, was immediately followed by another episode with deadly women, although these are “only” robots. When Napoleon is attacked by a woman who can shrug off bullets and has super-strength, an UNCLE scientist determines that she is a “living creature with artificial parts.” The woman is a dead ringer for Muriel (Willy Koop), the missing roommate of Andy Francis (Jeannine Riley). At the same time Solo poses as a banker when UNCLE learns that Thrush, despite having over a billion dollars in their treasury [“they're doing better than we are,” Waverly observes] is applying for a loan for a special project. This brings Napoleon into contact with nervous banker Toeffler (Fritz Feld), highly anxious Thrush Project Head Mr. Lash (Barry Atwater), and highly sensual Thrush agent Margo Hayward (Pamela Curran), who purringly responds to Solo's charms. The super-robots -- or A77s -- turn out to be the brainchild of nave scientist Anton Pertree (Woodrow Parfrey), who is unaware that Thrush plans to use his inventions as deadly weapons. Although the robot examined by UNCLE seems to have some “real” parts – dead Muriel with additions? -- the others are apparently all-mechanical and only look like Muriel [Pertree used the dead girl as a model]. Pertree not only makes super-robots, but he also has one of the world's first answering machines, with taped message, beep, and all. This is one of the best – if not the best – of UNCLE's “absurd” episodes, a highly entertaining and clever outing that is well acted by all (including the regulars) and is an excellent mixture of humor and action. Fritz Feld, who appeared in many movies of the Golden Age, is a riot as banker Toeffler. The climax, when the robots all go on the rampage, is exciting and is backed up by Gerald Fried's dynamically hip music. Because the low-budget precluded sophisticated effects, all of the robots but one wear face masks, which only make them look even weirder [and one of the robots has a completely different body type from the others, which adds more humor to the sequence]. Pamela Curran is a terrific Thrush villainess and Naomi Stevens has an amusing cameo as Madame Hecuba, a medium with a bad case of heartburn. Well-known science fiction and fantasy writer Harlan Ellison contributed the script, which was zestily directed by E. Darrell Hallenbeck. Rating: A

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Episode # 75. THE TAKE ME TO YOUR LEADER AFFAIR. This episode, written by Bernie Giler and directed by George Waggner, has a number of interesting ideas and elements which never quite jell. Nancy Sinatra guest stars as the unfortunately-named Coco Cool, daughter of the astrophysicist Adrian Cool (the ubiquitous Woodrow Parfry). Having kidnapped Coco along with Ilya, megalomaniac Simon Sparrow (Paul Lambert) pressures him into supporting a hoax that an asteroid in space is actually a spaceship whose alien occupants want to appoint as new Earth leader – you guessed it -- Simon Sparrow. Whitney Blake is Corinne Akers, ostensibly Sparrow's girlfriend, but really out for revenge because he drove a rival, the man she really loved, to his death. Sparrow puts Napoleon in a room with a wind machine at one point. To fool their jailers, Coco and Ilya sing a brief duet, which makes Coco exclaim that the two of them could be “the biggest thing since Herman and the Hermits!” The asteroid-spaceship used by Sparrow is a pretty lame affair. The most incredible thing about the story is that anyone could think they could possibly fool the scientific community with this harebrained scheme. Rating: C

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Episode # 76. THE SUBURBIA AFFAIR. Ilya and Napoleon rent a house in the suburbs [peaceful Haven Estates] because they're trying to find a Danish physicist named Rutter (Victor Borge) who has developed an antimatter formula he doesn't want put to use. Of course, Thrush is anxious to find Rutter as well. Rutter has taken the identity of a music teacher named Willoughby and has been befriended by a pretty young neighbor named Betsy (Beth Brickell). When Betsy discovers that men are after ”Willoughby,” Rutter tells her that he's a trigamist. This episode, scripted by Sheridan Gibney and Stanford Sherman, has some clever things in it but it is primarily memorable due to the performance of Reta Shaw as sinister Thrush agent Miss Witherspoon. With her stern bulldog face Shaw manages to be both serious and funny at one and the same time. When a real estate man named P. T. Berkeley (amusingly played by Richard Erdman) is accidentally captured in Rutter's place, Shaw has him write equations on a blackboard. “You've just written the formula for computing the interest on a 30 year mortgage!” she snaps. When she realizes she's got the wrong man, she sneers, “As for this unfortunate – well, you're too old for a spanking but I'm sure to think of something.” She continually berates a henchman, Barrows (King Moody), like a schoolboy for his inability to finish off the Uncle agents. Rutter has set his equation to music and Shaw forces him to cooperate by tying Betsy to a chair with a headpiece that will raise her temperature to an uncomfortable if not deadly degree. When she gets the formula, Shaw cries out “I'm master of the world!” The Suburbia Affair is an example of how the show increasingly began to resemble the comic spy show Get Smart [which was actually funnier]. The plot of the episode is perfectly reasonable [unlike The Sort of Do-It-Yourself-Dreadful Affair, for instance]; the absurdity comes from its internal illogic and its often dumb approach to situations. Ilya kidnaps the man he first thinks is Rutter by using an ice cream truck to steal away his mobile real estate office – why? Neither Ilya nor Napoleon recognize a Thrush agent who delivered an explosive milk bottle when he delivers an explosive raisin-rye bread the very next day – why not? It is hard to believe that Thrush can't find a Danish man of a certain age in this small bedroom community in the first place. [They have to try to induce his “Humboldt's syndrome” disorder by using pulses from light bulbs, which only serves to make everyone else irritable and angry. Eventually Ritter has to order his rare medication, which blows his cover.] Victor Borge hits the right, charming note as Rutter/Willoughby, and Herbert Anderson [Dennis the Menace's mild-mannered father] has a nice change of pace as the Thrush pharmacist Fletcher. As stupid as it is, The Suburbia Affair is fun, well-directed by Charles Haas.

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Episode # 77 THE DEADLY SMORGASBORD AFFAIR. Both UNCLE and THRUSH are after a suspended animation device that can literally freeze people in their tracks. The inventor is Dr. Nillson (Peter Brocco), whose daughter Neila (Lynn Loring) is taken captive by his turncoat THRUSH-employed assistant Inga (Pamela Curran) and her immediate superior [and presumed, if unlikely, lover] at THRUSH, Heinrich Beckman (Robert Ernhardt). At one point, in order to get Solo to cooperate, Neila is tied to a table top with leather straps around her neck that will tighten as the temperature increases in the heat lamps above the table. Beckman observes that it will be interesting to see if she dies of strangulation or from the heat. At the climax Beckman and Inga invade UNCLE headquarters in Oslow by freezing everyone they encounter with the doctor's crazy gadget, planting bombs in every corner. His plans stymied by the boys, Beckman says that he will simply blow them all up with his remote control. Alas, Inga is not quite ready to make such a sacrifice so she shoots Beckman as she says “Goodbye, darling.” The episode has a Batman TV show-like flavor at times, possibly because it was written by Stanley Ralph Ross, who scripted many episodes for that series. Director Barry Shear keeps things moving. There are some continuity problems in the episode. In the opening credits, Inga's last name is “Anderson” but Solo calls her something else later on in the show. There is a shot of Beckman freezing a running UNCLE agent whom we already saw stiff as a statue in a previous shot. Martin Kosleck [The Flesh Eaters] has a small role as Pederson, an UNCLE scientist. This is interesting because Kosleck was usually cast as a bad guy. Horst Ebersberg appears as UNCLE agent Swen. Pamela Curran had also played a THRUSH villainess in The Sort of Do-It-Yourself-Dreadful Affair. Rating: B+.

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SEASON FOUR

Episode # 92 THE J FOR JUDAS AFFAIR. While not every fourth season episode was memorable, they did tend to be more serious than the episodes of season three. This episode is played entirely straight [although McCallum and especially Vaughn maintain their relatively breezy style of playing] and is all the better for it. When UNCLE learns that THRUSH wants to take over Tenza, Inc., which manufactures munitions, among other things, they implore the owner, Mark Tenza (Broderick Crawford), to allow them to protect him. Tenza would rather rely upon his own security force, headed by Darian Dawson (Kevin Hagen). This brings Mark into conflict with his son, Adam (Chad Everett), who wants him to cooperate with UNCLE. After Mark is killed by a bomb upon returning from a trip to Tangier, Adam tells Ilya and Solo about his estranged brother James, or “J” (Claude Woolman), whom he believes is responsible for the murder of his father. The boys then head for Guatemala and a final confrontation with the true THRUSH traitor. The episode is greatly bolstered by the performances of the supporting cast, including Delphi Lawrence and Nula Thorp as the women in Mark Tenza's life. Broderick Crawford plays Tenza like a raging, insecure pit bull barking maniacally at everyone around him. Chad Everett plays with quiet strength as his more gentlemanly son. Kevin Hagen is splendid as the security man, as is Claude Woolman as “J.” Deceptively calm and sensitive in appearance, he bullies the UNCLE men in a way that makes it clear that however different he may be from Mark, he is still a chip off the old block. This is the fourth UNCLE episode to employ the death device of a poisonous gas coming out of a shower head. One of the very best episodes of the series. Rating: A

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EPISODE # 95 THE MASTER'S TOUCH AFFAIR. Mandor (Jack Lord), who used to be Number Two in THRUSH, is being pushed out and wants to defect; he insists that UNCLE protect him from his rival Valandros (Nehemiah Persoff). In the meantime he has inexplicably arranged for a fashion model named Leslie (Leslie Parrish) to be invited to, and held captive on, his estate in Lisbon. Even as UNCLE attacks and closes down several important THRUSH satraps in major cities, Ilya is captured by Valandros while Napoleon is blind-folded and taken to Mandor's hidden estate. But is Mandor on the level about defecting, and just who is playing whom? Barbara Moore plays Waverly's secretary, who also appears to be a trained agent. An interesting episode, which one wishes would have revealed even more secrets about sinister THRUSH. One odd shot has the UNCLE agents being chauffeured in a car with a steering wheel at the end of a long shaft, as if the director didn't have the camera pull in close enough to disguise the fact that the car was just a mock up. Mostly played straight, although this does have its lighter moments, including Ilya's groggy behavior when he's rescued by Solo. Rating: B+.

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Episode # 102 THE MAZE AFFAIR. UNCLE and THRUSH are both determined to get their hands on a new “molecutronic gun” invented by Dr. Fabray (William Marshall, who also appeared in episode # 1 The Vulcan Affair). THRUSH agent Oliver Barnes (Lawrence Montaigne) snatches both gun and inventor, takes them to a ghost town, and tests the device by firing it at a running Napoleon Solo, who is presumed killed. Ilya manages to get the gun away from THRUSH and brings it into UNCLE headquarters even as Solo discovers its true, deadly nature in a highly suspenseful and exciting climax. A “serious” if light adventure with some humor and several clever twists, well-acted by the guest stars and regulars, although neither Ilya or Waverly show that much emotion when they think their colleague Solo is dead. A stranded-in-the-desert-when-her-car-broke-down lady named Abbe (Anna Capri) is dragged into the action simply to fill the prerequisite pretty blond role, although her safety pin helps save the day. Written by Leonard Stadd and directed by John Brahm, this is one of the better later episodes of the series. Rating: A-

THE MAN FROM UNCLE BOOKS.

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THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. BOOK. Jon Heitland. St. Martin's Press; 1987. No fan of the series will want to be without this excellent book that is full of photos and behind-the-scenes information about the show. Heitland interviewed a number of actors, writers, directors etc. who worked on UNCLE and the book is bolstered with their insider memories. Sometimes Heitland is so carried away with the minutia of the show that it gets a little bogged down in tedious details, but you can easily skip over these sections. Although Heitland does critique the series in general, explaining why the first season was so superior to the third, and why the switch from humor to out and out comedy and even farce eventually sank the show, he does not offer critiques of individual episodes, nor list all of the important supporting players of each. However, there is a complete episode guide for each of the four seasons, an episode guide for The Girl from U.N.C.L.E., as well as a list of the UNCLE paperbacks and magazines and all other UNCLE-related merchandise. Heitland also provides biographies and where-are-they-now notes on the major figures, as well as a chapter on the telefilm Return of the Man from UNCLE. Highly recommended.

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THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. # 2. The Doomsday Affair. Harry Whittington. Ace; 1965. Napoleon and Ilya are after a mysterious THRUSH figure named “Tixe Ylno” [Exit Only] who is apparently the mastermind behind a sinister plot that will have far-reaching repercussions. A young lady who wants to defect from THRUSH and who may have information on “Ylno” has her face blown off by an exploding lei. Solo tracks down the woman who used to be her former partner in a bizarre club act, the improbably named Barbry Coast, and finds her so terrified of THRUSH reprisal that she can barely talk. Ilya is given a drug that makes him appear to be brain-damaged, unable to speak coherently or control his actions, and he, Solo and Barbry wind up imprisoned in the Broadmoor Rest Home, which sits atop a THRUSH installation full of traitorous scientists who have sold out and put together an atomic bomb. THRUSH agent Sam Su Yan and his immediate superior, who has connections right up to the U.S. President, plan to drop the bomb on Washington, bringing about a war between the United States and Russia, with THRUSH taking over the spoils. With good dialogue and descriptions, a lot of action, and some humor that never descends into camp, Whittington tells a harrowing story that would have made a great two-parter for the series. A sadistic villainess named Violet Wild appears all too briefly. The characterizations and prose are better than you would expect, and the compelling story moves along at a brisk pace. Barbry's terror over what might be done to her by sinister Sam Su Yan  is almost palpable. Although the whole “Tixe Ylno” business is rather silly, this is still one of the best of the UNCLE paperbacks. Rating: A+.

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THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. # 4 The Dagger Affair. David McDaniel. UNCLE and THRUSH join forces to take on a sinister new group called Dagger whose aim is the elimination of the human species via a device that can not only suck away energy [making modern-day electronics, engines, and so on inoperable] but shut down all human functions, causing death. Dagger is run by a nihilistic former THRUSH man named Kim Keldur, and his appalled, frightened sister Garnet tries to help UNCLE bring him down. Napoleon, Ilya and Mr. Waverly go to San Francisco to team up with Ward and Irene Baldwin, head of that city's THRUSH satrap, where Baldwin relates the origin of THRUSH, which began life as an outgrowth of the criminal organization of the late Professor Moriarity (of Sherlock Holmes fame) and eventually became the Technological Hierarchy for the Removable of Undesirables and the Subjugation of Humanity. [This term was never used on the TV show and in fact Baldwin explains that it was “reduced to its initials by a generation trained to speak and think in shorthand.” THRUSH gets some of its policy from George Orwell's 1984.] Ward remembers that Waverly once saved his life during the Great War, but is not above trying to betray their truce in the final chapters. There is a suspenseful sequence when the UNCLE boys try to find an energy damper at Boulder Dam before disaster can occur, and a perverse one when Baldwin, apparently with the approval of UNCLE. ties a Dagger man to the cable car system in an effort to get him to talk. Irene and Ward make gruesome bets on what will happen to the man's body when he comes to the end of the cable and is pulled through an “inch-wide cable slot.” The climax as everyone tries to destroy Keldur's ultimate energy damper before it puts paid to the planet is exciting. Although Baldwin and especially his wife are not really developed enough to be fully dimensional, and the Dagger people are a bit bland [compared to THRUSH], The Dagger Affair has many fascinating elements and is generally a good read (if slow in spots). The background detail on THRUSH alone makes it worthwhile. Rating: B+

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The Man from U.N.C.L.E. # 20: The Corfu Affair. . John T. Phillifent. 1967. Ilya and Solo go up against one of their most menacing antagonists, the beautiful and brilliant cosmetic surgeon Countess Anne- Marie Louise de St.-Denis who lives in a fabulous palace on the island of Corfu. She also grows mindless human beings in her labs, and wants to sell a slave for a quarter of a million dollars a piece to a number of THRUSH bigwigs. She will implant devices in both the slaves' and masters' brains so that the humanoid will obey every command its THRUSH master gives it. What THRUSH doesn't know is that the countess will also gain control of everyone with an implant, effectively allowing her to take control of the hierarchy from the inside. She can also control ordinary humans with her implants; when Napoleon is fitted with one he actually tries to shoot Ilya to death. The countess performs her surgeries virtually in the nude, and she has a beautiful cook named Miss Winters who spies on her for the CIA, as well as a mindless hunk named Adam who acts as brainless bodyguard. This is a zesty UNCLE adventure that could have used a little more developing, but is a pretty good and satisfying read as it is. It is one of the best of the UNCLE paperbacks. Rating: A-.

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British Edition

THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. # 21 [U.S.}. # 5 in U.K.] The Finger in the Sky Affair. Peter Leslie; 1966. This has one of the best – and darkest -- plot lines of any UNCLE paperback: UNCLE determines that THRUSH is heartlessly causing horrendous airplane disasters to gain control of an airline for profit and other advantages. To make matters worse, when Ilya and Napoleon track down the very few survivors of each crash to question them, they discover that THRUSH is brutally torturing and murdering these people - who have already been through a terrible physical and emotional ordeal - to keep them from talking. The whole thing centers around one particular airline, T.C.A., and the boys are aided in Nice – where most of the disasters have occurred -- by a woman executive named Helga Grossbreitner and a stewardess named Sheridan Rogers. Ilya and Napoleon actually get seats on a flight they suspect is doomed in hopes of preventing the tragedy and finding out exactly how THRUSH is downing the airliners [without giving anything away, let's just say that Leslie was amazingly prescient]. It all winds up in a little village outside Nice that is holding its annual fair and fireworks.

At one point THRUSH agents use an energy-dampening device that is reminiscent of a machine used in The Dagger Affair novel [this has nothing to do with the plane crashes, however.]. One bizarre (and somewhat dated) sequence has THRUSH trying to discredit/embarrass one of the aforementioned female T.C.A. employees by getting her drunk and sending her out to a nightspot with a pack of gay gals. The Finger in the Sky Affair is a tremendously good read, a real page-turner that grips from the first paragraph, although the prosaic climax is a bit of a letdown. The villains are rather colorless and hardly receive the punishment they deserve after causing so much terror and anguish. The book is essentially serious, but the occasional light episode with Solo flirting with secretaries and so on is at odds with the basic grimness of the story. Leslie's prose is quite efficient but he rarely delves below the surface of the situations. Still, this is a worthwhile read for both UNCLE and thriller fans. Rating: B+

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THE GIRL FROM U.N.C.L.E. # 1. The Birds of a Feather Affair. When it was decided to have a series of Girl from UNCLE paperbacks to go along with the Man from UNCLE set, veteran writer Michael Avallone was chosen to pen the first entry as he had for Man. Mark Slade disappears just as UNCLE is holding a prominent THRUSH scientist named Zorki who has invented a life everlasting formula – life everlasting for THRUSH and their allies of course. Investigating, April dancer is also captured and finds herself up against a beautiful and sadistic lady named Arnalda Van Atta. There's also a weird fellow named Mr. Riddle who hides his face behind a Frankenstein mask. If that weren't enough, there's a traitor in UNCLE, and rumor has it that the sinister THRUSH agent, the infamous Dr. Egret, is working behind the scenes as well. Despite some questionable moments, silly names, and near-camp episodes, this is miles ahead of the TV series, well-written by Avallone, who makes good use of the UNCLE mythos. He even adds a touch of pathos with a young Naval Intelligence officer named Joanna Paula Jones. Arnalda Van Atta tries to whip a naked Mark Slade at one point. Lots of fun. If only the TV series itself had been as good.

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THE GIRL FROM U.N.C.L.E. # 2. The Blazing Affair. Michael Avallone. 1966. This is the second and last in a series of American paperbacks [there were four titles published in England] based on the short-lived sister series to The Man from U.N.C.L.E. Although neo-Nazis had already been used as villains on the Man from UNCLE series – one episode even featured der Fhrer – Avallone creates a new group of Nazis in TORCH [The Order of Reich Crusade Hierarchy], a new super-group that might have rivaled THRUSH had it not been wiped out at the end of this story. April Dancer and Mark Slade are assigned to track down and deal with this group, who try to wipe them out early with half a dozen scuttling black widow spiders in a hotel room. Napoleon Solo and Ilya appear briefly in a conference with Waverly but take no part in the action. UNCLE trainee Randy Kovac also appears in scenes that are nothing but filler. TORCH is led by a disfigured man known as The Leader who tells the UNCLE agents that he is Adolph Hitler, although they think it more likely that he is merely demented. April winds up thrown into a cavern filled with decomposing corpses. Although there are some interesting moments, and Avallone's writing is always competent, this is not especially memorable. It just never grips or takes off. Rating: C

THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. COMICS AND MAGAZINES

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THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. Magazine. Vol. 1 # 6. July 1966. The Leo Margulies corporation came out with a series of digest-sized UNCLE magazines in the mid-sixties. Most of the UNCLE “novels” were actually novelettes with the rest of each issue taken up by a half dozen or so short mystery stories unrelated to the UNCLE series. This issue features The Ghost Riders Affair by Robert Hart Davis. The novella has a terrific premise, with long trains full of passengers completely disappearing somewhere along the tracks, but the head villain is undistinguished and the plot gets bogged down in silliness. Still, it has its moments and is generally fun. Most of the UNCLE magazine novellas were not written by the same folks who penned the UNCLE paperback novels.

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THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. Gold Key Comics # 11 (March 1967). The Three-Story Giant Affair. This is a pretty lame affair in which Ilya and Solo wind up in a town with tiny buildings which improbably causes them to think THRUSH has turned them into giant, three-story-high freaks. It actually turns out that all the people in the town are midgets – and THRUSH agents – who live in tiny buildings. The two UNCLE men must stop the little guys from hijacking a submarine disguised as innocent children. It has its moments, but the execution is nothing to write home about. Mike Sekowsky's rushed artwork is nowhere near as effective as it was on the classic Justice League of America. Sekowsky did better work for his run on Wonder Woman in the sixties when she lost her powers, uniform and lasso and became a kind of super-spy. Rating: C+.

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THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. # 2. Entertainment Publishing. Written by Skip Simpson and David M. Lynch. Illustrated by Penders. February 1987.
Part Two of “The Number One with a Bullet Affair” finds Ilya and Solo in a horrifying predicament. Although on separate coasts, both men are in doom traps that have Solo and rock singer “Psycho” Mann tied to explosives, and Ilya dangling from the top of a skyscraper. To make matters worse, both men hold the other's life in their hands, due to the fact that if they let down their guard they will set off the explosives on the opposite coast. The way they escape from this fiendish trap is quite ingenious. Teaming up again with "Psycho" along for the ride, they manage to stop THRUSH from sending out brainwashing signals that will drive people crazy. There are some campy elements – the main villain carries a large rabbit with him at all times – but the story is basically played straight. While Penders' black and white art hasn't a great deal of eye appeal, it is quite cinematic and effective, especially in detailing how our heroes get out of that sinister trap. Not bad at all. Rating: B-

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