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DVD Review: The Man From U.N.C.L.E – The Complete Series

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The Man from U.N.C.L.E. was an American television series that ran on NBC from September 22, 1964, to January 15, 1968, generating 105 episodes. It was created in response to the success of the James Bond movies that began in 1962 with the help of Bond creator, Ian Fleming.

In the fall of 1962, Norman Felton, the successful producer of the hit TV series Dr. Kildare, approached Ian Fleming about developing a series loosely based on the Alfred Hitchcock movie North by Northwest. Eventually Fleming came up with an outline for a show about a spy who had certain similarities to the Bond character. He named the spy Napoleon Solo. Because of legal problems with the producers of the Bond movies, Fleming had to withdraw, and many of the ideas had to be dropped; however the name Solo remained.

Felton brought in writer, producer, and creator Sam Rolfe, who worked out the characters of Solo, and created Illya Kuryakin (David McCallum), and a character, Mr. Anderson, who was later replaced with the character Alexander Waverly (Leo G. Carroll). He created the organization U.N.C.L.E. which existed to maintain order in the world, and was not under the auspices of the government of any one country.

The inspiration that came from the movie North by Northwest was that of the innocent character upon whom each plot centered. In the movie, Cary Grant, the innocent, was swept into the story when he was mistaken for a spy. So each episode would have some character who the audience could identify with that would carry the show. One other theme that remained through the four seasons was the episode titles. They all carried the "Affair" moniker. That is, they would be in the format of "The Vulcan Affair" or the "The Mad, Mad, Tea Party Affair."

Another unique aspect of the show was that the heroes were not larger than life. They were not body builders, tall, or otherwise the typical hero. In fact, they were short, both stars being under six feet tall. They used brain more than brawn, although each could use martial arts and the shows featured a lot of action for the day. Also, having a Russian as one of the lead characters during the cold war was very unique indeed. During its time on television, it earned 16 Emmy nominations, and won a Golden Globe award.

On November 27, 2007, Time-Life will be releasing the The Man From U.N.C.L.E: The Complete Series in a special silver attaché case. This will contain 41 DVDs covering all 105 episodes, and nearly ten hours of bonus material. The list price for this package is $249.00 USD and can only be pre-ordered through Time-Life. There is also a complete breakdown of each season's episodes.

I found the series to be refreshingly bright with a bit of humor and adventure. By the third season, the show began to become a little campier, probably to do with the success of the Batman series, and things started downhill to where the fourth season ended it. All in all, The Man From U.N.C.L.E is a classic show that should not be overlooked.

Bonus Material

Four eight-page booklets with liner notes written by Jon Burlingame (journalist, producer of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. music CDs), Craig Henderson (journalist, U.N.C.L.E. fanzine publisher); Cindy Walker (author of Work/Text: Investigating the Man From U.N.C.L.E.) and David Bianculli (television critic, New York Daily News).

  • Interview: Double Agents “The David McCallum & Robert Vaughn Reunion"
  • Solo, the original color U.N.C.L.E. pilot.
  • One Spy Too Many, the feature film based on The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

Nine featurettes:

  • The Cloak and 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. and 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.
  • The Girls of U.N.C.L.E.

Seventeen on-camera interviews with David McCallum, Robert Vaughn, director Richard Donner, writer Peter Allan Fields, writer Dean Hargrove, director of photography Fred Koenekamp, assistant producer George Lehr, director Joseph Sargent, and others.

U.N.C.L.E V.I.P.s – A Celebration of U.N.C.L.E. Guest Stars: clip collections, featuring Eddie Albert, Joan Collins, Joan Crawford, Janet Leigh, Leonard Nimoy, Carol O'Connor, Jack Palance, Slim Pickens, Vincent Price, Kurt Russell, William Shatner, Sonny and Cher, and many more!

The Secret Tapes of Illya Kuryakin: Home Movies from the Set of U.N.C.L.E.

Clips from Robert Vaughn and David McCallum's appearances at the 1965 Emmy and Golden Globe broadcasts, plus a clip from McCallum's appearance on The Andy Williams Show.

Tom and Jerry cartoon "The Mouse From H.U.N.G.E.R."

U.N.C.L.E.
memorabilia, Ian Fleming's personal notes, NBC Broadcast and Standards memos, research files, set designs, and blueprints.

Promos, trailers and television commercials.

Hidden Camera: An U.N.C.L.E. Photo Gallery

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About T. Michael Testi

Photographer, writer, software engineer, educator, and maker of fine images.
  • http://absent-mind.blogspot.com/ Jet in Columbus

    I loved this show growing up, and it, MISSION IMPOSSIBLE, and IT TAKES A THIEF, are what got me interested in writing spy novels at an early age.

    A side note is that David McCallum alias “Illya Kuryakin” can be currently seen as the coroner in NCIS on CBS tuesday nights.

    Jet

  • http://photographytodaynet.blogspot.com/ T. Michael Testi

    Hey Jet,
    Long time no hear! Thanks for the comment. I loved all those shows as well; MI:The Third season is coming out in November, as well as the full release of TMFU. I am really looking forward to both.

    What is really interesting is that in season one, The Never-Never Affair, the innocent is played by Barbara Feldon who went on to star in one my other favorite spy shows that was another take off of The Man From U.N.C.L.E; Get Smart!

    Thanks again Jet.

    T.

  • Liz

    Definitely the first series that I was hooked on. Of course, like many others, I favored Illya Kuryakin, even to the point of considering taking Russian in high school long after the series had been cancelled. I chickened out, but to this day I wish I hadn’t. And, yes, David McCallum’s appearance in the NCIS series is the main reason that I tuned into it. Another great series for DM’s resume.