Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, November 8, 2012


Robert Vaughn

With the spy craze at its height, and bolstered with the name of a leading character provided by no less than James Bond-creator Ian Fleming, The Man from U.N.C.L.E. was primed to succeed and it did, although it took a while to gather steam. There was always a light, playful element to the series, although eventually it was practically -- and unfortunately -- turned into a comedy. The first season black and white episodes are often considered the best in the program's [almost] four year run, although later seasons also had their highlights. Especially memorable episodes include: "The Double Affair" in which Napoleon Solo (Robert Vaughn) is replaced with a double; "The Giuoco Piano Affair" in which villainess Gervaise Ravel (an excellent Anne Francis of Honey West and Forbidden Planet fame) hides out and causes mischief in the Andes; "The Deadly Decoy Affair" in which a top Thrush agent (Ralph Taeger) is transferred by UNCLE agents besieged at every turn; "The Yellow Scarf Affair" which involves airline crashes and Indian Thuggees; "The Brain Killer Affair" with Dr. Dabree (Elsa Lanchester) hoping to operate on Alexander Waverly (Leo G. Carroll); "The Bow Wow Affair" in which very dangerous dogs play a key role;'The Secret Sceptre Affair" with an unusual turn from old-time star Gene Raymond; "The Gazebo in the Maze Affair" with George Sanders and Jeanette Nolan as a weird old husband and wife; and "The Odd Man Affair" with Martin Balsam as a long-retired UNCLE agent helping out on a case and overstepping his bounds. Two episodes featured the evil mistress of disguise, Dr. Egret : "The Girls of Nazarone Affair" featured pumped-up female Thrush agents, and -- possibly the best first season episode -- "The Mad,  Mad Tea Party Affair" had the quirky Zohra Lampert giving a fine performance as an innocent and baffled woman embroiled in bizarre and dangerous events inside UNCLE headquarters. Egret, who was played by Lee Meriwether and Marian Moses, was never seen on the series again; neither was Dr. Dabree [even though she vowed vengeance] or Angelique (Janine Gray), a sexy THRUSH assassin who appeared only once in "The Deadly Games Affair." Even the lesser episodes of the show were of interest, and Vaugh, Carroll and David McCallum as Ilya were perfectly cast. True, the show was on occasion stupider and sillier than it needed to be -- it got worse in later seasons -- but it was slick, well-made for the most part, and quite entertaining.

Verdict: Can't beat these boys! ***1/2.

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