“An ordinary tailor shop – or is it ordinary?”
“So, now you will die in writhing agony, but not before I have divulged my entire plan for World Domination down to the smallest detail and allowed you to craft a small exploding kipper with which to distract my guards, thus enabling you to escape via the cunning device of the miniature motor scooter you built using only the pen in your pocket and those devilishly versatile shoe-laces of yours.”
I used to love watching The Man from U.N.C.L.E re-runs when I was a kid. My friends and I would write little episodes featuring ourselves subversively during class and pass them back and forth, giggling.
A ridiculously retro looking spy series, it featured Cary Grant-alike Robert Vaughn as womanising Napoleon Solo and David McCallum as the more introspective Ilya Kouriakin. The two dashing young spy’s, in their capacity as chief agents to their superior, Mr Waverly,* fought evil, often in the form of their dastardly enemy THRUSH.
In doing so the gents were forever caught up in all manner of outlandish predicaments and sticky situations -often involving half-naked young girls, and a hastily conceived weapons fashioned from old washing up bottles and sticky-backed plastic. They favoured convoluted means of escape using bizarre gadgets – why shoot someone, when you can temporarily blind them by throwing grains of rice?
The influence of Ian Fleming is clear, and the A-Team certainly have a lot to for which to thank U.N.C.L.E.
It was certainly funnier by the time I was a kid than when it started filming a couple of days before JFK’s assassination - when it first aired in Autumn 1964 Americans couldn’t decide how to take this tongue-in cheek show but soon it built up a huge world-wide following.
It won a Golden Globe in 1966 – for being the World’s Favourite TV Show (Though in Russia it was denounced by Pravda!).
Conceived by Norman Felton, director of Dr. Kildare along with Fleming, it was partially based on North by Northwest and other Hitchcock films.
Each episode showed the fictional International Crime-fighting HQ of U.N.C.L.E. at the start, and was split into four acts, all the better for fitting in the adverts. (It was designed to be sponsored by Ford).
Between 1964 and 1967 it attracted some very famous guest stars including Sharon Tate, Joan Crawford, Sonny And Cher, Nancy Sinatra, Jill Ireland and Boris Karloff, all of whom were clamouring to appear in absurdly titled episodes such as
”The Dippy Blonde Affair”
”The Birds and the Bees Affair
”The Deadly Smorgasbord Affair”
People did not get quite so excited by The Girl From UNCLE played by Stephanie Powers, maybe she didn’t have access to as many huge clunky prototype computers with vast banks of flashing lights being monitored by scientists in white coats with clipboards.
* Played by Leo G. Caroll who also featured in North by Northwest.