The U.N.C.L.E. feature film curse strikes again! George Clooney has quit director Steven Soderbergh's forthcoming big screen version of the classic TV series. Clooney has not specified his reasons for dropping out of the role of Napoleon Solo, which was immortalized by Robert Vaughn in the original show. Efforts to bring an U.N.C.L.E. feature film to the screen extend back to the 1970s and each successive attempt has been aborted for various reasons. The only project to come to fruition was the 1983 TV movie Return of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. that reunited Vaughn and co-star David McCallum. (Click here for DVD review) In the 1960s, MGM produced eight feature films derived from two-part episodes of the TV series. For more click here
More good news for Man From U.N.C.L.E. fans: the eight feature films based on two-part episodes from the TV series have been released in one DVD set through the Warner Archive. Cinema Retro has been urging Warner Home Video VP George Feltenstein to release these for years. He promised to do so and has kept his word, much to the delight of fans. Cinema Retro writer Craig Henderson covered each of the eight films in issues #9- 16. Previously, Warners had released only one feature film- One Spy Too Many - as a bonus item on their boxed set of TV episodes. The films were made on a shoe-string and some featured a few special scenes shot specifically to spice up the sex angle. They proved to be enormously successful at the time, in some cases shattering boxoffice house records in the UK. The films included in the set are To Trap a Spy, The Spy With My Face, One Spy Too Many, One of Our Spies is Missing, The Karate Killers, The Spy in the Green Hat, How to Steal the World and The Helicopter Spies. Robert Vaughn, David McCallum and Leo G. Carroll star along with a plethora of big name guest stars. To order click here
The Warner Archive has released every episode of The Girl From U.N.C.L.E. on two DVDs. The show ran only one season beginning in September 1967. It starred Stefanie Powers as April Dancer, Noel Harrison as Mark Slate and Leo G. Carroll, carrying over his role of Alexander Waverly from The Man From U.N.C.L.E. Robert Vaughn guest-starred in what many consider to be the best episode of the series, the bizarre Mother Muffin Affair starring Boris Karloff in drag. To order click here
Oscar-winning director Steven Soderberg says that he will retire after he makes his next two films. They are Liberace, starring Michael Douglas (who seems to be recovering very well from cancer) and the long-awaited big screen version of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. , which reportedly be a retro-based action film set in the 1960s. Soderbergh confirms that George Clooney will star, presumably in the role of Napoleon Solo that was immortalized by Robert Vaughn. Click here for more
The U.N.C.L.E. film project may no longer be "up in the air" with George Clooney now in talks to star as Napoleon Solo.
As reported previously, director Steven Soderbergh is trying to break the curse that has thwarted every attempt to bring The Man From U.N.C.L.E. to the big screen. The project is heating up with the BBC reporting that George Clooney, Soderbergh's frequent collaborator, is in talks to star as Napoleon Solo, the role made famous by Robert Vaughn. Even better is the news that Soderbergh intends to keep the setting during the Cold War period of the 1960s. For more click here
Acclaimed director Steven Soderbergh is the latest person said to be negotiating for the rights to bring a feature length film of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. to be the big screen. Soderbergh isn't the first person to try to adapt the classic show which starred Robert Vaughn, David McCallum and Leo G. Carroll. There have been starts and stops dating back to the 1970s. There was a 1983 reunion film done for CBS TV, Return of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. but all efforts since then to revive the show have failed. Complicating matters in recent years was a legal battle between an independent producer who claimed to have the vjdeo and merchandising rights to the series and Warner Home Video, which prevailed in the case and released the entire four seasons of the show on DVD. Scriptwriter Scott Z. Burns is said to be negotiating to be the screenwriter on the project, though it's unclear whether he is working in conjunction with Soderbergh. For more click here
A childhood memory: for Christmas, 1965, my parents bought me this Man From U.N.C.L.E. gun. I was ten years old. My brother got mad at me and cracked the gun over my head. I wish he hadn't because today it commands a very high price on Ebay!- William Burge
Retro Responds: Seems like every boy who grew up in the spy rage era had both this rifle and the James Bond attache case. Both were released for the holiday season in '65. The photo you sent indicates this is some creampuff item-- I imagine it sells for enough money to finance a small nation for a year. (Hey, remember those nifty U.N.C.L.E. I.D cards that came with many toys from the show?) Incidentally, David McCallum told me recently that both he and Robert Vaughn never knew until many years after the show left the air that they were entitled to royalties on every toy sold. They never collected a dime on all the merchandise sales. - Lee Pfeiffer
Fans of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. have been promised that a feature film is in the works since Jimmy Carter sat in the Oval Office. After decades of false leads and studio wariness about the project, it appears as though there is some action in the bullpen. Click here to read
Writer Craig Henderson, who contributed the extensive 8 issue Cinema Retro coverage of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. feature films has completed his amazing, in-depth time-line tracing the history of the show. The fact-filled and fascinating achievement is on Craig's site For Your Eyes Only, along with a wealth of other great spy movie lore. Click here to view
The Best of Enemies: U.N.C.L.E. adversaries Joe Sirola and David McCallum (Photo copyright Cinema Retro)
By Lee Pfeiffer
Actor Joe Sirola's annual parties to celebrate the blooming of his roses in his Manhattan penthouse garden have become something of a legend in New York social circles. The tradition continued last week but, for once, the weather didn't co-operate, as a monsoon-like rain poured over Gotham from morning into the evening hours. Thus, throngs of party attendees crammed into Joe's apartment in what seemed to be a recreation of the stateroom scene from A Night at the Opera. As harried servers tried valiantly to carry trays of drinks and appetizers through the masses, a familiar face emerged from the elevator that opens directly into the apartment: David McCallum. Although David's aversion to crowded party scenes is well known, he and Joe Sirola's friendship dates back to the 1960s when they squared off occasionally as adversaries on The Man From U.N.C.L.E.
Since the late 1970s, there have been plans to revive The Man From U.N.C.L.E. as a big screen feature. The closest those plans got to fruition was a reunion movie made for CBS TV in 1983 that starred Robert Vaughn and David McCallum. Now, progress is being made once again with an acclaimed screenwriter formally attached to the project. Click here to read
Vaughn with Steve McQueen in the blockbuster 1968 hit Bullitt, for which he scored a BAFTA nomination. Vaughn concedes he felt the movie was ill-defined and would not work on the big screen.
In a recent interview with the British press, Robert Vaughn discusses how he felt both The Magnificent Seven and Bullitt were destined to be bombs on the big screen. The star of the hit UK TV series Hustle also reflects on many other aspects of his long career. Click here to read. (Click here to read coverage of Cinema Retro's recent dinner tribute to Robert Vaughn at The Players in New York City)
Now in its seventh season, NCIS has run twice as long as The Man From U.N.C.L.E and has developed a new generation of fans for David McCallum.
In a recent interview with the Herald Sun of Australia, David McCallum reflects on the surrealistic achievement of being back in a top ten show- 41 years after The Man From U.N.C.L.E. went off the air. McCallum plays the quirky forensics expert "Ducky" Mallard on the hit CBS series NCIS, which is routinely #1 in the American ratings. McCallum finds that almost a half century after people greeted him with shouts of "Illya!", they are now yelling "Ducky!" in his direction. Click here to read
The evening's surprise guest star David McCallum joins Robert Vaughn in acceding to Cinema Retro editor-in-chief Lee Pfeiffer's humorous demand that they sign his grade school Man From U.N.C.L.E. lunchbox. (Photo copyright: Tom Stroud)
By Lee Pfeiffer
Last evening, The Players club at Gramercy Park in New York City, in conjunction with Cinema Retro magazine, hosted a gala tribute dinner for member Robert Vaughn. The club dates back to 1888, when it was founded by actor Edwin Booth along with such luminaries as Mark Twain and General Sherman. The rich heritage continued with last evening's event. As Editor-in-Chief of Cinema Retro and a member of The Players, I had long wanted to hold an event in honor of Vaughn's career. Club Executive Director John Martello and I began planning the evening months ago, working around Vaughn's schedule for filming his hit TV series Hustle in England. The catalyst was the recent publication of Vaughn's acclaimed autobiography A Fortunate Life. Vaughn chose November 22 because of the date's significance in his life: it was his 77th birthday, the anniversary of the assassination of his political idol John F. Kennedy and also the date production began on The Man From U.N.C.L.E. 46 years ago.
Perhaps the most challenging aspect was the remarkable compilation of video clips assembled by John Martello and his editor. Rare videos from the Cinema Retro archive were contributed, but there were still key clips that seemed be impossible to find: Vaughn playing young Teddy Roosevelt in an obscure Western TV episode called Law of the Plainsman, his performance as Harry S. Truman in the 1974 TV special The Man From Independence and his Emmy-winning role as the political hatchet man in the 1977 mini-series Washington: Behind Closed Doors. With Vaughn's personal assistance, clips were obtained from fans, TV networks and museums. The resulting 25 minute compilation gave ample evidence of Vaughn's diverse talents.
McCallum at recent party with former U.N.C.L.E. guest star Joe Sirola in New York. (Photo: Lee Pfeiffer)
Having just turned 76, David McCallum is arguably at the height of his career. His NCIS series has now run twice as long as The Man From U.N.C.L.E., which made him a teenage idol in the 1960s. McCallum reflects on those years, including the day a simple walk in Central Park initiated a fanatical scene among his fans, resulting in his having to be rescued by police horse! Click here to read
Cinema Retro writer Craig Henderson reminds us that The Man From U.N.C.L.E. premiered 45 years ago tonight- a fact sure to send baby boomers into the depths of depression as they cry in futility, "It couldn't have been that long ago!" Indeed, it was. The show debuted to mediocre reviews and dismal ratings, but as young people caught on to how hip it was, word spread quickly and the show became a major hit, running for four seasons. It would have run longer, but NBC foolishly chose to keep moving its night and time slot, putting it against powerhouse favorites on other networks. Still, the show has had a remarkable legacy considering it has not been widely seen in re-runs in recent years. A tip of the green hat (inside joke for fans of the show) to Craig Henderson for his remarkable issue-by-issue coverage of the feature films derived from two-part episodes of the series that have appeared in Cinema Retro. We also congratulate our friends Robert Vaughn and David McCallum, who have both contributed greatly to our magazine.
McCallum at a recent party held at the New York penthouse of actor Joe Sirola, who guest-starred on The Man From U.N.C.L.E. (Photo: Lee Pfeiffer/Cinema Retro)
Scotland on Sunday caught up with David McCallum on a recent trip to London and got him to reflect candidly on his early days in Scotland, socializing with fellow future super spy Sean Connery , Man From U.N.C.L.E. mania and filming The Great Escape with Steve McQueen. McCallum also dwells on how astonishing it is that, at age 75, he is back on the top of the TV pack through his hit series NCIS.
The best of enemies: Joe Sirola and David McCallum in The Napoleon's Tomb Affair episode of The Man From U.N.C.L.E.
By Lee Pfeiffer
Regular readers of Cinema Retro magazine know about actor Joe Sirola's remarkable career through his periodic columns for our publication. In addition to appearing in hundreds of movies, plays and TV series, Joe is also the toast of the town in New York City, due to his exclusive annual party to celebrate the blooming of his rose garden in his penthouse garden just off Central Park. Joe's been throwing these parties for decades, and in doing some research on an article, I came across a New York Daily News society column from 1967 that touted the party as the social event of the month! The tradition is in good form, as evidenced by Joe's latest soiree, which took place last week.As usual, the weather was superb, as guests socialized under a canopy and drank the seemingly endless supply of fine champagne. One of the delights of Joe's parties is the eclectic crowd, consisting of old friends, notable names from show business and prominent society types. I bumped into 95 year old legendary comedian Prof. Irwin Corey, who was throwing out one-liners at the speed of sound, all the while attired in his familiar hand-decorated baseball cap that denounces the Bush administration for being behind the World Trade Center attack. Proving that conspiracy advocates are bi-partisan, I gleaned from the Professor that he apparently thinks President Obama was also in on the fix. As they say, politics makes strange bedfellows.
Musician Jon Weber (left) is assisting actor/director Stuart Margolin with his first foray into the world of musical theater. (Photo copyright: Lee Pfeiffer)
I also chatted with actor/director Stuart Margolin, who shared some funny memories of working with directors Michael Winner on the original Death Wish and Brian G. Hutton on the Clint Eastwood flick Kelly's Heroes. (I smell a future interview here.) Stuart is working like gangbusters, not only flying to Canada to film a CBS TV movie called The Bridge but also going in a totally new direction by preparing his first musical production.
Joe Sirola reunited with his old TV nemesis, David McCallum. (Photo copyright: Lee Pfeiffer)
At one point, there was a bit of commotion and I saw a crowd gathering around a new arrival. It was David McCallum, making a surprise appearance. Even among New York sophisticates, he can still cause a stir and several middle-aged women swooned like teenagers, which made the shy McCallum seem a bit awkward. David's aversion to the party scene is well-known, but he couldn't resist Joe Sirola's invitation. I hadn't seen David for a couple of years and it appears as though he's found the secret to eternal youth. He introduced me to his lovely wife Katherine and we chatted about his hit CBS show NCIS, which has just been renewed for a seventh season. David pointed out the series has now run twice as long as The Man From U.N.C.L.E. Speaking of which, David and Joe first met when Joe appeared as a guest star in several episodes of the series. I couldn't help but to ask the two U.N.C.L.E. alumni to pose for a reunion photo.
Just another night on the town in New York - and reminder why it still remains my favorite city.
(For Joe Sirola's memories of Hang 'Em High, see Cinema Retro issue #6. For David McCallum's extensive series of interviews, see Cinema Retro issues 8-12)
Paramount Home Video has released a DVD edition of the 1983 TV movie Return of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. starring Robert Vaughn and David McCallum reprising their legendary roles that they had last performed in 1968 when the original show was canceled after a four-season run. The release is most welcome, though it's bare bones treatment virtually cries out for some bonus extras. Paramount apparently didn't want to capitalize on the recent Warner Home Video mega set of the TV series by having Vaughn and McCallum contribute to this edition. However, they could have easily have obtained the services of the one of the many U.N.C.L.E. scholars to discuss the TV movie on a commentary track. Nonetheless, the film is as interesting as it is controversial. Casual fans of the show always enjoyed the reunion broadcast, but hardcore U.N.C.L.E. fans always viewed as second-rate and a missed opportunity (sort of the Never Say Never Again of the U.N.C.L.E. franchise.) I count myself among the few die hard aficionados of the series who genuinely likes Return -though it is not without flaws.
By April of 1983, when the reunion movie was broadcast on CBS, U.N.C.L.E. fans were quite impatient to see the end result. For years, there had been rumors of a reunion movie and at one point MGM had virtually committed to a big screen feature starring Vaughn and McCallum before a new regime at the studio got cold feet. The on-again, off-again nature of the project kept evolving and was complicated by McCallum's ambivalence about recreating a character that had made him a teenage idol in the 1960s - a mantle he neither wanted nor wore very comfortably. Ultimately, TV producer Michael Sloan obtained the rights to the sequel and managed to get McCallum on board. The movie was intended as a pilot for a revival of the series that, sadly, never materialized despite the fact the film got decent ratings. The best aspect, of course, is seeing Vaughn and McCallum together again, both looking remarkably unchanged over the ensuing fifteen years. The agents are called back into action, despite the fact they have long been retired from U.N.C.L.E. McCallum's Illya Kuryakin is now a noted fashion designer and Vaughn's Napoleon Solo is in the computer industry. (An unintended joke because Vaughn still refused to use a personal computer in real life).The evil THRUSH organization is now posing a nuclear threat and only Solo and Illya are deemed qualified to stop it. They reunite by literally bumping into each other during a fight with the bad guys in the Russian Tea Room!
PHOTOS COPYRIGHT MARK MAWSTON/CINEMA RETRO. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
Cinema Retro London photographer Mark Mawston dropped by the Cinema Store in London earlier this week to cover Robert Vaughn's signing session for his autobiography A Fortunate Life. Fans lined up outside the store and patiently waited as they were escorted one-by-one to the signing table. Vaughn is in London to shoot the new season of his smash hit TV series Hustle. The book is a mesmerizing page-turner of his early years in show business through his success on The Man From U.N.C.L.E.and his political activism in the late 1960s.
Writer Mike Feeney of Boston.com takes a look back at The Man From U.N.C.L.E. and celebrates the coolest spy show of the 1960s- as well as provides some top-secret facts. (Did you know David McCallum received more fan mail than any star in MGM history?) To read click here
Click here to order the complete U.N.C.L.E. DVD collection from Amazon
Adam Becvar, a writer for the web site www.dvdinmypants.com (we're not kidding!) has posted the most comprehensive review of the recently-released Man From U.N.C.L.E. complete DVD collection. Becvar provides analysis of every episode, complete with a screen grab to illustrate every entry. He also analyzes the whopping ten hours of DVD extras. If this doesn't convince you to click on the button in our right hand column to order the collection from Time Life, then nothing will. To read the review click here
Here is a link to a collection of original theatrical trailers from four of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. feature films: To Trap a Spy, The Spy with My Face, One Spy Too Many and One of Our Spies is Missing. These are from the U.N.C.L.E. film festival shown in November on Turner Classic Movies. The One of Our Spies is Missing trailer is particularly rare because the film was never released in the USA, although promotional materials had been prepared. Ironically, it broke box-office records in its British engagements.
Cinema Retro is currently celebrating the U.N.C.L.E feature films with extended articles in every issue, each centering on a specific movie. The series began in issue #9 with To Trap a Spy. Issue #10 covers The Spy with My Face and the series continues in the next issue with One Spy Too Many. The artwork above is the back cover from issue #10 which shows rare international movie posters from The Spy With My Face.
Remember to order the complete U.N.C.L.E. TV series on DVD by clicking on the icon on the right side of this page.
Add the Philadelphia Daily News to the list of publications giving The Man From U.N.C.L.E. Complete DVD Collection a rave review. All 105 digitally remastered episodes on 41 DVDs, with ten hours of bonus materials...To read the review click here
The set is not available in stores. To order through Time Life and get free shipping click on the UNCLE ad in the right column.
Solo and Illya utilize the U.N.C.L.E. specials in a key scene from the rarely-seen two part episode The Alexander the Greater Affair, which was re-edited into the feature film One Spy Too Many. Both versions are included in the DVD set.
DVD Talk has one of the most comprehensive and insightful reviews we've seen on the newly released Man From U.N.C.L.E. Complete DVD Collection. To read click here
To order the set click on the ad in the right hand column
If you haven't seen enough evidence that the perfect holiday gift is The Man From U.N.C.L.E. Complete DVD Collection, the new promo trailer unveiled by Time Life should remove any lingering doubts. It captures the excitement of this fantastic DVD release of all 105 episodes, plus 10 hours of extras!
Sam Rolfe on the U.N.C.L.E. set with David McCallum
We recently ran a link to Los Angeles Times columnist Robert Lloyd's rave review for the new Man From U.N.C.L.E. Complete DVD Collection - which is now shipping. The review led to a response from Hilda Rolfe, widow of producer Sam Rolfe who created the show in conjunction with Norman Felton. Rolfe also served as producer during the series' pivotal first season and was subsequently credited as the person who developed the show. Mrs. Rolfe takes odds with Robert Lloyd for not mentioning her husband's contributions to the series, but Lloyd's omission does not seem to be a blooper, merely the consequence of trying to cover the show's merits in a limited space. Still, it's good to see Sam Rolfe get a moment in the sun. Happily, he is well represented on the DVD set through archival interviews. Sam Rolfe was a prolific force in hit TV shows of the 1960s, having also created such hits as Have Gun, Will Travel. To read Mrs. Rolfe's letter click here
TO ORDER THE U.N.C.L.E. DVD COLLECTION, CLICK ON THE AD IN THE RIGHT HAND COLUMN
Newsday provides an interesting interview with David McCallum in which the NCIS star recalls the trials and benefits of being a reluctant teen idol in the 1960s. He also reflects on contributing to the new Man From U.N.C.L.E. complete DVD collection. To read click here
TO ORDER THE U.N.C.L.E. DVD COLLECTION, CLICK ON THE AD IN THE RIGHT HAND COLUMN
DAVID MCCALLUM'S INTERVIEW COLUMN BEGAN IN CINEMA RETRO ISSUE #7 CONTINUES IN SUBSEQUENT ISSUES
Another rarity from the Cinema Retro archives: original TV Guise Close Up for The Bow Bow Affair episode.
Columnist Robert Lloyd of the Los Angeles Times writes a glowing tribute to The Man From U.N.C.L.E. and the soon-to-be-released complete video collection. Lloyd revels in the pleasures of watching the series again and finds even the aspects that are dated to be quaintly amusing. He also knows his stuff: the correctly identifies the My Friend the Gorilla Affair as the artistic low point of the series! To read the article click here
TO ORDER THE COMPLETE DVD COLLECTION CLICK HERE- IT'S DUE TO SHIP DECEMBER 3!
The industry trade magazine Video Business has just given a rave review to the forthcoming complete DVD collection of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. To read click here. To order the 41 disc DVD set, which ships on November 27, click here.
The web site Bullz-eye.com has an excellent, in-depth interview with Robert Vaughn in which he discusses the new Man From U.N.C.L.E. DVD set as well as the reunion movie and his little-seen 1970 gem, The Mind of Mr. Soames. To access the interview click here
To order The Complete Man From U.N.C.L.E. DVD Collection from Time Life and receive free shipping in the USA, click on the ad on the right side of this page.
Cinema Retro's Lee Pfeiffer provides the first review of the U.N.C.L.E. boxed set
Santa arrived a month and a half early with an advance review set of one of the most eagerly-awaited DVD collections ever - The Man From U.N.C.L.E. from Time Life, distributed under license from Warner Home Video. Quite obviously, I haven't had time to make a dent in the 100+ episodes contained on the staggering 41 discs. However, I did choose the episode I was most eager to watch: The Alexander the Greater Affair. This two-part episode was the season 2 opener in September 1965 and has been virtually unseen since. It also formed the basis of the feature film One Spy Too Many. Purists always argue over the merits of each individual episode, but for me, this was representative of the best of the series. Just as the third James Bond movie, Goldfinger, found the perfect balance between adventure and humor, so, too did season two of U.N.C.L.E.- at least in this writer's humble opinion. Many fans prefer the more straight-forward, less-than-humorous episodes in season one, when the show was seen in black and white. Virtually all agree that season three was a disaster, with the content designed to emulate the campiness of Batman. Things got considerably back on track for the aborted season 4, which ran from September 1967 to mid-January 1968, but the bloom was off the rose. The spy craze had peaked and U.N.C.L.E. had also been damaged by being placed in constantly new nights and timeslots, opposite ratings powerhouses like Gunsmoke.
The series has not been widely seen in syndication since the 1970s. Those episodes that have been shown on networks like TNT have been cut to shreds to accomodate more commercials. Thus, the arrival of the show on DVD is especially liberating for enthusiasts who will no longer have to depend upon the largesse of cable stations to show the occasional episode. The first aspect of the collection that commands attention is the packaging. The entire set is packed in a sturdy mini-silver attache case that boasts an U.N.C.L.E. emblem on the top and even has traditional snap locks to open the "case". When you do open it, there is a cool black and white photo on the upper inside cover of Del Floria's tailor shop. Each season is packaged as a separate set and features an illustrated collector's booklet complete with extensive and informative liner notes. Each season's notes is written by an expert on the series: New York TV critic David Bianculli, Jon Burlingame, Cynthia Walker (a professor) and Craig Henderson, who is authoring Cinema Retro's continuing series of articles about the U.N.C.L.E. feature films. Each collector's booklet also contains a statement about the series by Robert Vaughn and David McCallum. The only hitch here is that the same statement appears in each set, rather than presenting their views on each specific season. A small quibble, though, considering how welcome the booklets are in an age in which standard DVD releases have virtually done away with this once omnipresent value-added feature.
A bit of interesting trivia from the Wales-based website Babylon Wales. If you're a Man From U.N.C.L.E. fan, you'll recall (or probably have) the series of 23 paperback novels based on the show during the 1960s. One of the authors, John Oram Thomas, based one of his U.N.C.L.E. novels (The Stone-Cold Dead in the Market Affair) in Wales simply because a friend made a bet with him that Wales was so unsuitable as a setting for a thriller that no one would attempt to write a story set there. Oram wrote the novel just to prove him wrong. He also based another U.N.C.L.E. book (The Copenhagen Affair) on his wartime experiences in Denmark. For more click here
A rare production featurette from MGM has surfaced on You Tube. It will be of interest to all Man From U.N.C.L.E. fans. The promo, which was made in 1966, was ostensibly as travelogue of Italy. However, the film is just a thinly-disguised plug for two forthcoming MGM movies: Three Bites of the Apple starring David McCallum and The Venetian Affair starring Robert Vaughn. The actors shot their individual movies while on hiatus during filming of U.N.C.L.E. Footage is intermingled with the sights and sounds of Italy, but the brief sequences show McCallum rehearsing with Sylva Koscina and there are some interesting glimpses of Vaughn filming the climax of The Venentian Affair. To view the promo (which is taken from an airing on Turner Classic Movies) click here. (Thanks for Bill Koenig for bringing this to our attention.)
Robert Vaughn in The Venetian Affair
By the way, if you want to exchange opinions and learn the latest gossip on all things U.N.C.L.E.-related, there is a thriving Yahoo group called Channel D where fans actively debate all aspects of the show. To participate, you simply register at Yahoo Groups by using this link:
The Men From U.N.C.L.E. back in action in this exclusive photo from their recent DVD interview session. (Photo copyright Time Life)
With the countdown ticking away toward the November 27 DVD release of the complete Man From U.N.C.L.E. DVD collection from Time Life, it seems the stars are aligning in anticipation for fans who have been waiting impatiently for the series to be released. Time Life reports sales are soaring and even the general public is abuzz about it. The other night I was having a few drinks with actor and Cinema Retro contributor Joseph Sirola at The Players club in New York. Sitting near me was a group of people discussing their excitement with the pending U.N.C.L.E. release, as they all seemed to agree it was their favorite show of all time. That's when Joe Sirola's noticed a voicemail on his phone. Turns out it was from David McCallum, who had co-starred with Joe in three episodes of the series. They haven't seen each other since and recently made contact because of their connection with Cinema Retro. They'll be planning a reunion lunch next week.
Earlier today, my phone rang and it was Robert Vaughn, calling in from Los Angeles where he said he had just served as one of the presenters at a wonderful event paying tribute to the great TV theme songs. Vaughn said he was to be introduced at the event by Monica Mancini, the musician daughter of the legendary composer Henry Mancini. A clever gag was staged whereby Monica pretended that "the next presenter" appeared to be missing. Rather than use a cell phone, she took out a pen and said, "Open Channel D!" and the crowd roared as Mr. Solo himself walked into the spotlight. (We'll have coverage of this event in the near future). Vaughn confirmed he is hard at work on his eagerly-awaited autobiography which is now titled A Fortunate Life. It is slated for release in the latter part of 2008. He confessed to being slightly overwhelmed by the sudden explosion of enthusiasm for all things U.N.C.L.E.-related and said he had a wonderful time reliving old times with David McCallum for the DVD set. He joked that he never dreamed back in the 1960s that more than 40 years later the show would still be so prominent in people's minds.
Stay tuned for more bulletins - and enjoy the above photo showing Vaughn and McCallum together for the DVD interview session. Remember, the latest issue of Cinema Retro (#9) begins our 8 part series about the making of the U.N.C.L.E. feature films beginning with To Trap a Spy. -Lee Pfeiffer
Editor-in-Chief Lee Pfeiffer has received a DVD from Time Life with selected highlights from the forthcoming Man From U.N.C.L.E. collection. Here is his report:
I was pleasantly surprised to find a nicely packaged DVD arrive from Time Life today that contained official sample elements of the bonus extras that will appear on the highly-anticipated complete series DVD collection that will be released on DVD on November 27. Being a dyed-in-the-wool U.N.C.L.E. enthusiast, I immediately stopped work on the important project I was working on (an 80 foot statue of Leo G. Carroll made entirely out of sea shells) and sat down to watch what I anticipated would be a few tantalizing teasers from the coolest spy show of the 1960s. I was delighted to find that the sampler contained a substantial amount of material. However, devouring these U.N.C.L.E. rarities is the cinematic equivalent of trying to eat just one potato chip - the more I saw, the more I wanted to see.
Here's a breakdown of the sampler DVD:
The entire pilot for the series in its original format when the show was known as Solo. This is the rare color version of the pilot (it was telecast in b&w) and the quality is stunning. Enthusiasts of the show have seen this episode before, but for the vast majority of the viewers, it will a true revelation to see the series with its original title sequence (some bland images of exotic international locations). The colors are rich and striking and the episode only whetted my appetite for what was to follow.
The sampler also included a full length episode of a season one show titled The Never-Never Affair, a good choice as it presents the amusing spectacle of having Barbara Feldon as a guest star a year before she starred in Get Smart.
The Cloak and Swagger Affair is a superbly edited compilation of interviews with virtually every living principal involved with the show. Among those featured: Robert Vaughn, David McCallum, cinematographer Fred Koenekamp, producer Norman Felton, writers Dean Hargrove and Peter Allan Fields, directors Joseph Sargent and Richard Donner, and others. There are even archival comments from the series' late creator Sam Rolfe. Felton speaks at length about the early involvement of James Bond author Ian Fleming in the development of the series. All tell fascinating anecdotes about their experience on the show and the one constant is that everyone recalls it as being one of the best periods of their lives. Even if you've heard some of these stories before, there's nothing like the pleasure of hearing the principals relate them in their own words. The graphics are imaginative and so is the editing. A sheer delight from start to finish.
Double Agents: The Vaughn/McCallum Reunion- This is the absolute highlight of the DVD. It's the first joint interview by the two stars in almost twenty years. Despite rumors to the contrary, there was never a feud between them. They simply led vastly diffferent social lives and never became close friends until many years after the show had been cancelled. I have had the pleasure of socializing with both Vaughn and McCallum, as both contribute to Cinema Retro magazine. However, it is truly moving and very amusing to see them both together onscreen in front of U.N.C.L.E promotional signage. They are both genuinely witty, self-deprecating and prone to tossing gentle, good-humored barbs at each other. Vaughn says that prior to the series, he had been very familiar with McCallum's work, having been impressed with his performance in Freud. He confesses to trying to land the role of Judas in The Greatest Story Ever Told and asks whether McCallum was aware he was his rival. McCallum states he didn't even know who Vaughn was nor was he familiar with his work, eliciting a big chuckle from both men. It's truly a treat to listen to both stars recall specific episodes and share their memories of when they were both teen idols.
U.N.C.L.E. VIPS- is a fun look at the many prominent actors who appeared on the show. McCallum regrets not having kept an autograph book and remembers being thrilled working with Elsa Lanchester while Vaughn recalls the intimidating presence of Jack Palance in The Concrete Overcoat Affair.
There's no doubt that Time Life has done a terrific job on this set. I almost dread the day that the 41 DVD collection arrives. I'll have to check into a monastary for a few weeks just to get through them in peace.
Remember to subscribe to Cinema Retro's print magazine to enjoy the first installment of our 8 issue series The Films From U.N.C.L.E. beginning with the first movie, To Trap a Spy.
Closing Channel D! (Now back to that statue of Leo G. Carroll!)
PRE-ORDER TODAY BY CLICKING THE LINK BELOW AND GET FREE SHIPPING!
Cinema Retro has obtained from Time Life a film clip to whet your appetites for the forthcoming DVD release of the complete series of The Man From U.N.C.L.E.This introductory segment was seen in episodes 2-7 during the show's premiere season in 1964 and provides an interesting look at how the characters and concept of the organization were presented to viewers.
We've contacted Time Life in response to the many requests we've had from fans in the UK who would like to purchase the forthcoming DVD collection for The Man From U.N.C.L.E. Unfortunately, the news isn't good at this time. The company only has the rights to market the set in the USA at the moment. The only alternative UK fans have is to have someone in the USA order for them, then ship it over. This will incur some heavy duty postage fees, not to mention potential customs charges. We firmly believe that if the sets are successful here, the series will be made available in the UK. Time Life's exclusivity only runs for a period of time after which the series will be made available to retail stores. Presumably at that point in time, Warner Brothers may seek to market the set in the UK directly or through Time Life. We will keep you informed if there is a change of stragegy. (For the record, Time Life told us that initial pre-orders for the set are "great!")
We stumbled upon a fun blog titled Classic Television Show Biz that offers rare clips from old TV series. Among the goodies are original NBC TV promos for the 1966-67 season including The Man From UNCLE and Star Trek. Also in the same batch is The Tonight Show and Dragnet '67. Click here to bring back some fond memories!
There's more news relating to the upcoming release of The Man From UNCLE DVD set that will be marketed by Time Life. First, in response to all the inquiries we've been getting, you will be able to order the set through a direct link from Cinema Retro to Time Life. If you order through us, you'll be helping to keep Cinema Retro thriving and it won't cost you a penny more.
Now on to the latest developments. It appears as though the set will be aggressively marketed by Time Life, which was extremely pleased with the sales of their Get Smart! boxed set that contained the entire series.They will go one better with U.N.C.L.E however. The bulk of the ad campaign will be to convince consumers to buy the entire run of the series, which lasted four seasons between September 1964 and January 1968. The boxed set will contain a staggering 39 DVDs! However, a secondary marketing strategy will be employed to get consumers to make an impulse buy for the first season only. This set will consist of 8 DVDs. As reported previously, the complete collection will have more than 8 hours of bonus materials. Among the extras included:
new interviews both alone and together with Robert Vaughn and David McCallum
original blueprints of Del Floria's tailor shop, the secret entrance for U.N.C.L.E. HQ (given how many people must have walked through this tiny shop to enter the skyscraper every day, this must have been the worst-kept secret in New York City!)
Vaughn and McCallum on the Emmy and Golden Globe awards shows
rare trailers and promotional spots
four brand new 30- minute featurettes about the history and making of the series
an unseen version of the original pilot titled Solo
We understand the series will be available for pre-orders in September and finished goods are due to ship in November. No prices have been announced.
Meanwhile, please note that due to the large number of hits we are receiving from James Bond and U.N.C.L.E. fans, we have established separate categories for both series where you can easily find all the archived Cinema Retro articles pertaining to your favorite spies.
We are close to making a major announcement about U.N.C.L.E. coverage in Cinema Retro. Suffice it to say, subscribers who are fans of the series will be very pleased.
Closing Channel D!
Click on above image to visit The Fans From U.N.C.L.E. web site
Actor Robert Vaughn reflects on the everlasting appeal of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. and how the show was initially almost cancelled. The interview is with writer Christopher Stipp from the web site www.quickstopentertainment.com He also discusses the forthcoming U.N.C.L.E. DVD set and his highly successful TV series Hustle. Here are some highlights:
I’m writing an autobiography and it was just last week…David McCallum,
who was my co-star on U.N.C.L.E., they’re putting a DVD of all four
seasons, and Warner Brothers, who are putting out the DVDs asked us to
be sat down and be interviewed for this. It lasted about three hours
and it was because of this where I went and thought about why
U.N.C.L.E. was as successful as it was, when it was. There were a
number of reasons. Mainly, it was because of the success of the Bond
pictures. Next, David and I were successful in engaging a young
audience. And, the next most important reason was the time slot.
Because, when we went on the air, in 1964 we were on the verge of being
cancelled two months after we started because our Nielsen ratings were
so low. They changed our time slots from Tuesday night to Monday night
but one of the things about that is that the show caught on with
college students who were away at school. In those days, in regular
houses, there was just one black and white set so when they came back,
during the holidays, they were the ones controlling what was being
And so, the ratings suddenly went through the roof and, by the summer,
when they re-ran the entire first season, it wound up being the number
one show in the country almost a year after it almost canceled. It was
mostly all due to college students and it the time slot was moved once
more accordingly and the show remained a huge hit.
Last week we posted a link to a 1965 Time magazine article about young Robert Vaughn finding stardom as The Man From U.N.C.L.E. Now www.movieweb.com has posted an entertaining and candid new interview with Vaughn in which he discusses his long career, his forthcoming autobiography and memories of the swinging 1960s. To read the article click here.