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Category:    Home > Reviews > Spy > Espionage > Action > Secret Agent > Adventure > TV > The Man From U.N.C.L.E. – The Complete Series Collection (Time-Life/Warner Home Video DVD)

The Man From U.N.C.L.E. – The Complete Series Collection (Time-Life/Warner Home Video DVD)

 

Picture: C+     Sound: C+     Extras: B+     Episodes: B

 

 

Though Britain seems to own the Spy genre, there is a more active U.S. heritage and history in this kind of storytelling than many may realize.  Long before Jason Bourne, the U.S. Government formed the real-life O.S.S. during WWII, which led to the C.I.A. and the idea of spying reached frenzied heights of government propaganda in the 1950s with The Red Scare, a cycle of films and books to match, plus spies in many a war film, whether fact, fiction or both.  The next leg came in on what we might call The Kennedy Wave.

 

John F. Kennedy listed From Russia, With Love as one of his favorite books, permanently cementing Ian Fleming and James Bond into world pop culture (along with the great film series forever).  While British TV was having hits with The Avengers, Secret Agent/Danger Man, The Saint and similar shows, U.S. TV would come up with their equivalents.  The two shows that most showed the signs of the Kennedy spirit were I Spy and The Man From U.N.C.L.E., both of which have not been as well-remembered as they should be in the least.

 

While I Spy became a feature film atrocity in 1999, it marked one of the worst films Eddie Murphy, Owen Wilson, Famke Janssen, Gary Cole, Malcolm McDowell (yes, worse than Caligula!) and director Betty Thomas will ever make.  The even added a hyphen (I-Spy) as if they were clever.  However, the show has barely been seen and DVD releases have been basic and uneventful.  It has been worse for The Man From U.N.C.L.E., which has only been broadcast on cable stations occasionally (less since Ted Turner was bought out) and has never arrived on DVD at all.

 

Now, Time-Life and Warner have decided, after a strange legal dispute with another major company, have decided to issue The Man From U.N.C.L.E. - The Complete Series in a 41-DVD box made to look like a briefcase.  As pictured above, the case has all four seasons in their own DigiPak books with translucent slide cases and two bonus DVDs in paperboard envelopes.  Loaded with so many extras that it is a classic DVD release up there with the Alien Quadrilogy, The first season is generally available, but the whole set is exclusive to Time-Life direct orders until sometime in 2008.

 

The show ran four seasons of hour-long shows that did very well for the original MGM, including the common practice at the time of editing episodes together and releasing them in movie theaters with surprisingly good box office results capitalizing on the hit Bond films.  Many know that Napoleon Solo was a character originally created by Ian Fleming in the book Goldfinger and after the Bond producers were unhappy with the idea of a direct TV Bond, Fleming sold the charter to the producers for one dollar (or was that pound) and the rest is history.

 

Robert Vaughn played Solo, David McCallum played his partner Illya Kuryakin and Hitchcock veteran Leo G. Carroll (Spellbound, North By Northwest) played their boss Alexander Waverly.  They worked for an organization that may or may not have been involved with the United Nations and at least seemed hooked to U.S. intelligence, but having a good Russian Spy in Kuryakin at the time was a shocking twist to the show, but one the fans and audience loved.  United Network for the Command of Law Enforcement is what the initials stood for.

 

Each season was different in tone and approach, with the first being the most serious and the only one in black and white.  The second went to color (with the show remaining color henceforth) and upped the energy and pace.  The third was the most comic, playing on pop culture, Pop Art and the success of the hit TV series Batman.  The fourth returned to serious form, produced some of the best episodes of the series and was shockingly cancelled despite being such a cash cow for MGM and NBC.  No other network picked it up and in addition to the premature end of the spinoff series The Girl From U.N.C.L.E., the axe fell.

 

However, many other spy series and feature films continued to do well into 1968 and it seems in retrospect to be a big mistake.  The episodes of the four seasons are below, all 105 shows, with key guest cast members and occasional notes on other contributors:

 

 

Season One:

 

1)     The Vulcan Affair (guest stars Pamela Crawley, Fritz Weaver & Ivan Dixon)

2)     The Iowa-Scuba Affair (guest stars Slim Pickens)

3)     The Quadripartite Affair (guest stars Jill Ireland, Anne Francis & Richard Anderson)

4)     The Shark Affair (guest stars Robert Culp, Sue Ane Langdon & James Doohan)

5)     The Deadly Games Affair

6)     The Green Opal Affair (guest stars Carroll O’Connor & Milton Selzer)

7)     The Giuoco Affair (guest stars Jill Ireland & Anne Francis)

8)     The Double Affair (guest stars Senta Berger, Sharon Farrell & Harold Gould)

9)     The Project Strigas Affair (guest stars Leonard Nimoy, William Shatner, Werner Klemperer & Woodrow Parfrey)

10)  The Finny Foot Affair (guest stars Kurt Russell)

11)  The Neptune Affair (guest stars Jeremy Slate, Marta Kristen & Henry Jones)

12)  The Dove Affair (guest stars Ricardo Montalban & June Lockhart; written by Robert Towne)

13)  The King Of Knaves Affair

14)  The Terbuf Affair (guest stars Madlyn Rhue & Albert Paulsen)

15)  The Deadly Decoy Affair

16)  The Fiddlesticks Affair (guest stars Dan O’Herlihy)

17)  The Yellow Scarf Affair (guest stars Linden Chiles, Murray Matheson, Vito Scotti & Madge Blake)

18)  The Mad, Mad Tea Party Affair (guest stars Richard Haydn & Lee Meriwether)

19)  The Secret Scepter Affair (guest stars Gene Raymond)

20)  The Bow-Wow Affair (guest stars Susan Oliver & Pat Harrington)

21)  The Four Steps Affair (guest stars Luciana Paluzzi & Malachi Throne)

22)  The See-Paris-And-Die Affair (guest stars Lloyd Bochner, Alfred Ryder & Gerald Mohr)

23)  The Brain Killer Affair (guest stars Elsa Lanchester, Yvonne Craig, Abraham Sofaer & Henry Beckman)

24)  The Hong Kong Schilling Affair (guest stars Glenn Corbett, Gavin MacLeod & Richard Kiel)

25)  The Never-Never Affair (guest stars Barbara Feldon, Cesar Romero & Kate Murtaugh)

26)  The Love Affair (guest stars Eddie Albert)

27)  The Gazebo In The Maze Affair (guest stars George Sanders, Jeanette Nolan & Bonnie Franklin)

28)  The Girls Of Nazarone Affair (guest stars Sharon Tate)

29)  The Odd Man Affair (guest stars Martin Balsam, Barbara Shelley and Oscar Beregi)

 

 

Season Two:

 

 

1)     The Alexander The Greater Affair (in two parts; guest stars Rip Torn, Dorothy Provine & Yvonne Craig)

2)     The Ultimate Computer Affair (guest stars Roger C. Carmel & Judy Carne)

3)     The Foxes & Hounds Affair (guest stars Vincent Prince & Adam Roarke)

4)     The Discotheque Affair (guest stars Ray Danton, Eric Braeden & Evelyn Ward)

5)     The Recollectors Affair

6)     The Arabian Affair (guest stars Phyllis Newman & Michael Ansara)

7)     The Tigers Are Coming Affair (guest stars Jill Ireland & Lee Bergere)

8)     The Deadly Toys Affair (guest stars Angela Lansbury, Jay North & Diane McBain)

9)     The Cherry Blossom Affair (guest stars Frances Nuyen & Woodrow Parfrey)

10)  The Virtue Affair (guest stars Mala Powers)

11)  The Children’s Day Affair (guest stars Jeanne Cooper & Warren Stevens)

12)  The Adriatic Express Affair (guest stars Jesse Royce Landis & Juliet Mills)

13)  The Yukon Affair (guest stars George Sanders)

14)  The Very Important Zombie Affair (guest stars Claude Akins & Linda Gay Scott)

15)  The Dippy Blonde Affair (guest stars Joyce Jameson & Robert Strauss)

16)  The Birds & Bees Affair (guest stars John McGiver)

17)  The Waverly Ring Affair

18)  The Bridge Of Lions Affair (in two parts; guest stars Maurice Evans, Vera Miles, Bernard Fox, Yvonne Craig & James Doohan)

19)  The Foreign Legion Affair (guest stars Howard De Silva & Michael Pate)

20)  The Moonglow Affair (guest stars Mary Ann Mobley as April Dancer, Norman Fell as Mark Slate & Kevin McCarthy)

21)  The Nowhere Affair (guest stars Diana Hyland and J. Pat O’Malley)

22)  The King Of Diamonds Affair (guest stars Ricardo Montalban & Larry D. Mann)

23)  The ‘Project Deephole’ Affair (guest stars Barbara Bouchet & Jack Weston)

24)  The Round-Table Affair

25)  The Bat Cave Affair (guest stars Martin Landau & Whit Bissell)

26)  The Minus X Affair (guest stars Eve Arden, Sharon Farrell and Paul Winfield)

27)  The Indians Affairs Affair

 

 

Season Three:

 

 

1)     The Her Master’s Voice Affair (guest stars Estelle Winwood)

2)     The Sort Of Do-It-Yourself Dreadful Affair (written by Harlan Ellison; guest stars Jeannine Riley, Woodrow Parfrey, Barry Atwater & Fritz Feld)

3)     The Galatea Affair (guest stars Noel Harrison as Mark Slade & Joan Collins)

4)     The Super-Colossal Affair (guest stars Carol Wayne, Shelley Berman & J. Carroll Naish)

5)     The Monks Of St. Thomas Affair

6)     The Pop Art Affair (guest stars Charles Lane)

7)     The Thor Affair (guest stars Linda Foster & Bernard Fox)

8)     The Candidate’s Wife Affair (guest stars Diana Hyland & Richard Anderson)

9)     The Come With Me To The Casbah Affair (guest stars Abbe Lane, Pat Harrington & Milton Parsons)

10)  The Off-Broadway Affair (guest stars Joan Huntington)

11)  The Concrete Overcoat Affair (in two parts; guest stars Jack Palance, Janet Leigh, Joan Blondell, Penny Santon & Elisha Cook, Jr.)

12)  The Abominable Snowman Affair

13)  The My Friend The Gorilla Affair (guest stars Alan Mowbray, Joyce Jillson & Raymond St. Jacques)

14)  The Jingle Bells Affair (guest stars Akim Tamiroff, Kent Smith & J. Pat O’Malley)

15)  The Take Me To Your Leader Affair (guest stars Nancy Sinatra as Coco Cool & Woodrow Parfrey)

16)  The Suburbia Affair (guest stars Victor Borge & Ray Kellogg)

17)  The Deadly Smorgasboard Affair (guest stars Robert Emhardt & Pamela Curran)

18)  The Yo-Ho-Ho & A Bottle Of Rum Affair (guest stars Dan O’Herlihy & Bob Duqui)

19)  The Napoleon’s Tomb Affair (guest stars Joseph Sirola, Ted Cassidy & Fritz Feld)

20)  The It’s All Greek To Me Affair (guest stars Linda Marsh)

21)  The Hula Doll Affair (guest stars Pat Harrington & Jan Murray)

22)  The Pieces Of Fate Affair (co-written by Harlan Ellison; guest stars Sharon Farrell, Grayson Hill, Richard Collier & Jack Perkins)

23)  The Matterhorn Affair (co-written by David Giler, later of the Alien franchise; guest stars Bill Dana, Vito Scotti & Oscar Beregi)

24)  The Hot Number Affair (guest stars Sonny Bono as Jerry, Cher as Ramona, George Tobias and Ned Glass)

25)  The When In Roma Affair (guest stars Julie Summars, Cesare Danova, Kathleen Freeman & Sid Haig)

26)  The Apple-A-Day Affair (guest stars Jeanine Riley & Robert Emhardt)

27)  The Five Daughters Affair (in two parts; guest stars Herbert Lom, Kim Darby, Joan Crawford, Curt Jurgens, Telly Savalas, Terry-Thomas, Jill Ireland & Lindsay Workman)

28)  The Cap & Gown Affair (guest stars Carole Shelyne, Henry Jones, Larry D. Mann & Zalman King)

 

 

Season Four:

 

 

1)     The Summit-Five Affair (guest stars Albert Dekker & Lloyd Bochner)

2)     The Test-Tube Killer Affair (guest stars Paul Lukas, Christopher Jones & George Savalas)

3)     The ‘J’ For Judas Affair (guest stars Chad Everett, Broderick Crawford & Mickey Gilbert)

4)     The Prince Of Darkness Affair (in two parts/directed by Boris Sagal; guest stars Carol Lynley, Bradford Dillman, John Dehner, John Carradine, Julie London, Arthur Malet, Kathleen Freeman, Sid Haig & Mort Thompson)

5)     The Master’s Touch Affair (guest stars Jack Lord & Nehemiah Persoff)

6)     The THRUSH Roulette Affair (guest stars Michael Rennie)

7)     The Deadly Quest Affair (guest stars Darren McGavin, Marlyn Mason & Timothy Carey)

8)     The Fiery Angel Affair (guest stars Madlyn Rhue, Joseph Sirola & Perry Lopez)

9)     The Survival School Affair (guest stars Chris Robinson & Charles McGraw)

10)  The Gurnius Affair (guest stars Judy Carne)

11)  The Man From THRUSH Affair (guest stars Barbara Luna)

12)  The Maze Affair (guest stars William Marshall, Anna Capri & Barry Cahill)

13)  The Deep Six Affair (guest stars Alfred Ryder & Diana Van Der Vlis)

14)  The Seven Wonders Of The World Affair (in two parts; guest stars Barry Sullivan, Eleanor Parker, Leslie Nielsen, Tony Bill, Dan O’Herlihy, Albert Paulsen, Ruth Warwick & Richard Bull)

 

 

Love those titles!  In the case of the two-part shows, they all became feature film releases worldwide, also taking advantage of the big screen and the fact color TV was very new at the time.  Fans were particularly happy about this development.  However, throughout the series, there were missed opportunities, as one of the supplements confirmed as there were gadgets and devices never used or sued properly to best dramatic effect.  For the Piranha automobile, it had devices the writers rarely used or did not know about at all because someone did not tell them!

 

It makes some moments awkward.

 

 

The 1.33 X 1 image on all four box sets is consistent, with the black and white prints for the first season showing good detail.  The color prints on the second season look rich, but in the later two seasons, color can look a bit faded when it should be more vibrant.  All the follow-up seasons and feature film releases were processed in good looking MetroColor, all the shows were shot on 35mm film and you can see how impressive that is in many cases, but it is particularly unfortunate in the third season trying to be like Batman that the color would not always look top rate here.  Since Ted Turner took care of his vaults better than most in the 1980s, better prints have to be in the vaults, which we will hopefully see by the time these are issued in High Definition video.

 

The Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono is good and because it is going through Time-Life, is not the Dolby Mono 1.0 Warner is used to issuing, is better across all of the seasons.  The loudness of the sound can vary more than usual from episode to episode and the dialogue may be clean and clear enough, but the music cannot match the sound on the CD soundtracks Film Score Monthly’s FSM label issued in three volumes.  The third included The Girl From U.N.C.L.E. and you can read about it at this link:

 

http://www.fulvuedrive-in.com/review/1737/Man+From+U.N.C.L.E.+V.+3+w/Girl

 

 

Note that the theme song changed in each season too, for better or worse.  The new extras are simple stereo and some extras have backgrounds noise that is unavoidable.  However, for a show its age, it sounds very comparably good to other great filmed 1960s TV.

 

Extras include new bonus materials running ten hours including new interviews with Vaughn, McCallum and many other key players in the making and history of the show, exclusive of David McCallum's home movies, behind the scenes footage of Joan Crawford with Vaughn & McCallum, 90 minutes of reunion interviews with Vaughn & McCallum, vintage Vaughn/McCallum 1965 Emmy and Golden Globe Awards clips, McCallum on The Andy Williams Show, the hilarious 1967 The Mouse from H.U.N.G.E.R. cartoon made by Chuck Jones when he handled the Tom & Jerry series, trailers and original promos, several rich stills sections, a rough print of the entire feature film One Spy Too Many, stills of rare U.N.C.L.E. toys and collectibles (missing very few items,) the original pilot for the series titled Solo - seen here for the first time in color, informative collector's booklets for each season written by U.N.C.L.E. experts and nine featurettes:  The Cloak & Swagger Affair: The Untold History of The Man From U.N.C.L.E., The Spy-Fi Tour: Archives, Art & Artifacts, Cold War, Hot Spies: U.N.C.L.E. & The Cold War, MGM’s Secret Operations, Guns, Gizmos, Gadgets and Garb, Behind The Wheel: U.N.C.L.E.’s Piranha, Fandemonium, The Music From U.N.C.L.E. and The Girls Of U.N.C.L.E. across the bonus discs in each season and the two extra DVDs.

 

Sadly, more on the history of their vehicles and the grossly underrated 1983 TV reunion movie The Return Of The Man From U.N.C.L.E.: The Fifteen Years Later Affair are not here, but the extras are so amazing, they outdo the show in sheer entertainment.  That is not a bad thing for the show either, proving U.N.C.L.E. has plenty of life left in it, so much so that both Matthew Vaughn (no relation) and Quentin Tarantino were openly boasting about getting ready to do an U.N.C.L.E. feature film revivals that never happened.  McCallum thinks it would be a mistake, but in the hands of someone who loved the show, who knows.  If this is successful enough, the TV movie and a complete collection of the very entertaining The Girl From U.N.C.L.E. with Stephanie Powers and Noel Harrison, will find their way to DVD.

 

 

After 35 years in the business, Carroll’s career wound down after the show ended and he passed away in 1972.  Vaughn moved on to a key role in Peter Yates action classic Bullitt (1968, reviewed on HD-DVD elsewhere on this site,) a moderate TV hit in the British action series The Protectors (also reviewed on DVD on this site,) a few great turns on the original run of Columbo, the cast of the disaster classic The Towering Inferno, the chilling computer voice in the underrated Science Fiction thriller Demon Seed, a strange run on the ever strange The A-Team and enjoyed the biggest hit of his career since U.N.C.L.E. recently with another British series, Hu$tle (also reviewed on DVD on this site) extending his winning streak.

 

Vaughn and McCallum both repeated their U.N.C.L.E. roles in an episode of the TV version of Please Don’t Eat The Daisies years before the reunion telefilm.  Producer Norman Felton produced the telefilm The Ghostbreakers, which did not launch a hit series like it could have, though we have reviewed the soundtrack elsewhere on the site.  He moved on to the short-lived British show Strange Report and short-lived U.S. TV movie and series Hawkins On Murder, with Jimmy Stewart as a detective, with soundtrack music also reviewed elsewhere on the site.  Producer Sam Rolfe tired to make Mat helm in to a TV series, but it did not work or take off.  He did create the underappreciated Delvecchio, an episode of which just hit DVD, with Judd Hirsch in his most underrated work.  He also wrote on the similar detective show Kaz and before his passing in 1993, was part of some of the hit Star Trek spinoff series.  Later series producer Mort Abrahams was connected with the 1967 musical dud version of Doctor Dolittle (with Noel Harrison’s father Rex, of the big hit Musical My Fair Lady, singing again) before outdoing U.N.C.L.E.’s success by Associate Producing the first two Planet Of The Apes films, which became another groundbreaking franchise.

 

McCallum had already made impressive appearances on the original Outer Limits and John Huston’s feature film of Freud (1962) before landing U.N.C.L.E. and moved on to feature film (Sol Madrid,) joined Vaughn on one of those A-Team shows and made great appearances on great TV shows like Night Gallery, The Six Million Dollar Man, Hart To Hart and the celebrated TV event Frankenstein: The Untold Story.  Besides supporting roles in recent, lesser TV hits that have not taken advantage of his talents, he has not one, but two short lived TV series under his belt that became cult hits.  He was The Invisible Man in the 1975 – 76 version and was outstanding in the innovative, groundbreaking Sapphire & Steel with Joanna Lumley (The New Avengers, Absolutely Fabulous) that ended far too soon and is also reviewed on this site.

 

That should give you an idea of the immense talent behind this show, and that is just at the top of the long, unforgettable cast/crew list.

 

 

Fans continue to discover and rediscover their impressive bodies of work and now, you can see where the breakthrough all started.

 

Don’t miss this exceptional TV on DVD set, which you can order at this link:

 

http://www.timelife.com/webapp/wcs

 

 

-   Nicholas Sheffo


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