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Category:    Home > Reviews > Spy > Espionage > Action > Cold War > Drama > The Man From U.N.C.L.E. (2015 feature film remake/Warner Blu-ray w/DVD)/Scorpio (1973/United Artists/MGM/Twilight Time Limited Edition Blu-ray)

The Man From U.N.C.L.E. (2015 feature film remake/Warner Blu-ray w/DVD)/Scorpio (1973/United Artists/MGM/Twilight Time Limited Edition Blu-ray)

Picture: B & C/B Sound: B+ & C+/B- Extras: B/C+ Films: B-

PLEASE NOTE: The Scorpio Blu-ray is now only available from our friends at Twilight Time, is limited to only 3,000 copies and can be ordered while supplies last from the links below.

Here are two new Spy films on Blu-ray, one a remake of a classic that works, another with a serious following from the early 1970s part of the Cold War era that deserves its reputation and still holds up...

After many attempts that fell through over the years, we finally get Guy Ritchie's The Man From U.N.C.L.E. (2015), a revival of the hit 1960s TV series that made Robert Vaughn and David McCallum international stars. They even tried to reunite to do a theatrical film, but new duos were considered, nearly signed and maybe even signed before other feature film remakes were considered. Then Henry Cavill (looking more like Superman here than he does in Man Of Steel or Superman Vs. Batman) took on Vaughn's Napoleon Solo role and Arnie Hammer (almost in a nod to Robert Shaw's 'Red' Grant in the 1963 James Bond film From Russia With Love, reviewed elsewhere on this site) became a tougher Illya Kuryakin in a smartly-enough scripted rework that does not have them as friends and co-workers when we meet them; set in the period of the original show.

Instead, they are adversaries at first when solo has to get a young lady out of East Germany, which Kuryakin tries to stop. However, a deadly nuclear threat has the two being forced to work together in a pre-detante (the word is never used) arrangement to deal with the threat and they're off, clashing often and trying to solve the case in their own way. Some might remember Walter Hill's Red Heat (1986) when considering the East/West split, but this has more wit, if a little less punch to it. The story is consistent, good taste from all a plus, action well done and to my surprise, when the film gets a little lost, the Cavill/Hammer chemistry makes up for it pulling off the nearly-impossible task of bringing the classic characters back to life (and on their terms).

Hugh Grant, Alicia Viklander, Elizabeth Debicki and Jarred Harris are among the surprisingly solid supporting cast and the result is one of the years most underrated films. More than worthy of SPECTRE and Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation, this new U.N.C.L.E. miraculously brings back a part of the genre from the 1960s that is not over-the-top/satire (Matt Helm, Derek Flint, Austin Powers), the outright action on big budgets already noted or the very serious clinical realistic thrillers (Harry Palmer, Spy Who Came In From The Cold, the Callan TV series, or Scorpio below) but the action in the middle from many a forgotten film and forgotten TV shows (like U.N.C.L.E., as well as I Spy, Department S, Jason King, Man In A Suitcase, Honey West) that spoke to the high hopes of the era JFK set despite his loss and of an U.S. & U.K. of unlimited wealth and possibilities.

This one of Ritchie's best films yet, his best since Snatch, has been more popular with people I've talked to since its release, is a minor classic of the genre, deserves a serious sequel and is a must-see for all serious action and spy fans. Nice!!!

Extras include 6 behind the scenes featurettes (only one of which is on the DVD in A Higher Class Of Hero and also includes Spy Vision: Recreating '60s Cool, Metisse Motorcycles: Proper-And Very British, The Guys from U.N.C.L.E., A Man of Extraordinary Talents and U.N.C.L.E: On-Set Spy (in 6 parts), plus Digital HD Ultraviolet Copy for PC, PC portable and Apple Mac-type capable devices.

For more U.N.C.L.E., check out our coverage of the original series Man From U.N.C.L.E. DVD box set at this link:


Plus the Girl From U.N.C.L.E. TV series DVD sets here:


The 8 theatrical films from 1964 to 1967 built out of episodes of the show on DVD here:


and the Return Of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. Telefilm DVD here:


Michael Winner's Scorpio (1973) takes place only a few years later as the Cold War raged on, but this is a much more serious take on the subject with Burt Lancaster as Cross, a CIA veteran assassin who is about to find himself in the crossfire of Cold War politics, CIA office politics and worse when the agency wants his longtime partner Jean (Alain Delon) to get rid of him for the benefit of some higher-ups perverted needs for power. Jean is also an assassin known as Scorpio, but he's also at conflict with the agency pushing him into work when they have not signed any contract(s) with him. Thus, like Cross, he has other concerns that get in the way of a few semi-secret political agendas.

Cross starts dealing with old frienemies from the USSR and other contacts to save his wife and get out of the spy game altogether, but he is a threat that makes his opponents want to put him in the cold and freeze him out for good. Instead of an outright cat-and-mouse action film, we get action in between long, usually interesting stretches of suspense or interesting scenes (with a few moments that are flat on occasion) that includes Paul Scofield as Zharkov, an old school Soviet communist and fellow spy who has plenty to say to everyone. Wise and easily taking on those who try to cross him, he has an especially interesting moment where he tells Cross about how he stayed communist, even when Stalin arrived bringing mass murder and terror with him, permanently ruining the dreams that made their original revolution possible. It is powerful, painful, even heartbreaking and speaks to power even then that the Soviet Union was a permanent failure. No one could have known it would collapse less than two decades later.

Winner works well with Lancaster here, though I think Brian De Palma got a bit more out of Kirk Douglas as a spy in The Fury (1978, reviewed on Twilight Time Blu-ray elsewhere on this site) in as different kind of thriller that moved beyond the genre, yet Lancaster couldn't have played this one better. I believed him the whole time and the supporting cast is a strong one, including John Colicos, J.D. Cannon, Joanne Linville, Gayle Hunnicut, Vladel Sheybal, Mel Stewart, Jack Colvin, James B. Sikking, William Smithers, Celeste Yarnall, Sandor Eles, Frederick Jaeger and uncredited turns by Earl Cameron, Shane Rimmer and Bill Nagy. Serious filmmakers who know better would kill to get a cast like that today.

Needless to say this is one of Winner's best films and the film pretty much deserves the big reputation it has among its many fans and supporters. Scorpio is also at least a minor classic of the genre and its great we have this new special limited edition Blu-ray to enjoy, admire and celebrate it!

Extras include another great illustrated booklet on the film including informative text and one-the-money-as-always essay by Julie Kirgo, while the Blu-ray disc adds another exceptionally strong feature length audio commentary track by Kirgo, Nick Redman & Lem Dobbs, Original Theatrical Trailer and great (also in lossless DTS-MA, but 2.0 Stereo!) Isolated Music Score of the great music by the ever-amazing Jerry Fielding. It is so good and effective, he took several cues and repurposed them from this genre to horror for several episodes of the classic TV series Kolchak: The Night Stalker in new recordings that had and have the same strong impact there that these spy versions have here. His scoring sense when it came to narrative was one of the greatest of all composers ever and this just adds to the mounting evidence of that.

The 1080p 2.35 X 1 digital High Definition image on U.N.C.L.E. was shot on Arri Alexa HD cameras and save a few scenes with motion blur and more with obvious CGI work, this looks a bit better than expected, though color is sometimes too toned down despite being set in the mid-1960s. The entire original U.N.C.L.E. TV series, plus The Girl From U.N.C.L.E. TV series (all in MetroColor) and even later Return Of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. TV movie were all shot on 35mm film and hold up well, but tis new shoot is worth of the best from those productions (the original show went from black and white briefly, so moderate color to more keyed up color as the hit Batman TV series and Pop Art trends affected it and its Girl spin-off before it tried to get dark again). Ace Director of Photography John Mathieson, B.S.C., avoids any Austin Powers visuals, but Bond occasionally seeps into the visual. However, the biggest inspiration as far as any retro look are the American/Hollywood spy film and the many Italian spy flicks that became their own fun, underdiscussed cycle. Throw in some of Ritchie's editing approach, like it or not, and this is a really good-looking film. The anamorphically enhanced DVD version is very weak and is best skipped.

The 1080p 1.85 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer on Scorpio can show the age of the materials used with some specs of dirt (often from optical printing, par for the course in that era), but this is far superior a transfer to all previous releases of the film and color is consistent. Originally shot on 35mm film and issued in 35mm dye-transfer, three-strip Technicolor prints (though that is not always in the credits), Director of Photography Robert Paynter has lensed half of Winner's The Mechanic (reviewed on Twilight Time Blu-ray elsewhere on this site) and was more than capable of delivering here with some really good and interesting shots, including a few when you least expect it. The color here is not always up to a Technicolor print, but it can be and I like the look of this film, dark it ways you might not consider as you watch.

The Dolby Atmos 11.1 lossless mix on U.N.C.L.E. is here in a pretty decent Dolby TrueHD 7.1 lossless mixdown (rated above; we expect the 11.1 would rate higher) that can be restrained at times (unusual for a Ritchie film), but takes advantage of the multi-channel possibilities when it needs to and is one of the nest sound mixes of the year down to the new music score, sound effects and use of classic songs. The lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 on the DVD version is passable, but not great and sometimes flat by comparison.

The DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 1.0 Mono lossless mix on Scorpio is not bad for tis age, but can be on the flat side throughout, especially in regards to the music. This is more apparent when you compare it to the depth of the Isolated Music Track. Too bad there was not a 2.0 Stereo upgrade of some kind, but maybe the rest of the soundmasters were just not as good and MGM decided to pass on that possible idea? Otherwise, it sounds good for a theatrical mono film of its time.

To order the Scorpio limited edition Blu-ray while supplies last, go to these links for it and many more great exclusives:




- Nicholas Sheffo


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