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

Thursday, July 9, 2009


TO TRAP A SPY (1964). Director: Don Medford.

"What's that got to do with me? I'm just a housewife with two children."

Before the sixties spy show The Man from U.N.C.L.E. hit the airwaves, a pilot episode was filmed under the name Solo. When the show became a big hit, it was decided to increase the coffers a bit by expanding the first episode into feature-length and releasing it to theaters in color instead of black and white as it was shown on TV. To further make it a little different, it was decided to use the Solo pilot instead of the subsequent U.N.C.L.E. episode [Both of which were "The Vulcan Affair" with some changes]. Therefore the sinister organization in To Trap a Spy isn't Thrush but Wasp, and Solo's boss isn't Alexander Waverly but Mr. Allison (Will Kuluva). Sexy Luciana Paluzzi, who was a hit woman in Thunderball, figures in the added footage, which includes an after-bedroom scene with Solo. [Actually Paluzzi gives a good and more nuanced performance than she did in the Bond film.]

The plot has Solo (an excellent Robert Vaughn as a very classy spy) importuning a pretty housewife, Elaine May Bender (an equally good Patricia Crowley) to distract old boyfriend Andrew Vulcan (Fritz Weaver), who is planning an assassination of African dignitary Ashumen (William Marshall). But things are never as they seem, and complications arise, leading to desperate circumstances for Solo and the fish-out-of-water Elaine. Weaver and Marshall are both in good form, and Kuluva, frankly, makes a more realistic head of a super-spy agency than the lovable but rather dithery Leo G. Carroll. Some very good scenes and Vaughn and Paluzzi especially play well together. NOTE: David McCallum/Ilya doesn't have much to do in this.

Click here for more on The Man from U.N.C.L.E.

Verdict: The Birth of UNCLE. ***.

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