Frames of Time...
029_04 - The Fan of U.N.C.L.E.
Back in 1964, I was already a fan of James Bond, 007. I had seen GOLDFINGER and fallen in love with idea of life as a spy. In fact, when asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, my answer would usually be a spy, an astronaut or an expert on U.F.O.s. I even considered getting college degrees chemistry, physics and astronomy to become a "ufo-ologist."
When THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. debuted in the Fall of 1964, I was instantly hooked. I found the stories exciting, and the two stars to be super. Robert Vaughn portrayed super-spy Napoleon Solo with all the cool detachment, one wanted a spy to have. He knew his wines and the facts on just about any topic. David McCullum, as Illya Kuryakin, was suitably "foreign". Illya was also one of the first "edgy, loose cannon" spies. Leo G. Carroll, of classic films and the TOPPER TV series, was their grumpy, by dedicated boss.
I remember being thrilled to see the end credits "thank" The United Network Command for Law and Enforcement. To my young mind that meant it was all real! There really was an U.N.C.L.E. and that meant I might actually be able to grow up and work for such an exciting organization. Heck, the series even made it seem exciting to simply work a computer or the cleaning shop clothes press. (If you have to ask, you'll never understand.)
But time has a way of changing ones viewpoint. As years passed, I still laughed at the Marx Brothers, Abbott & Costello and the Three Stooges. I still thought THE PINK PANTHER, GODZILLA, THE MALTESE FALCON, THE GREAT RACE, Sean Connery's Bond films and Charlie Chan films are great. Sadly, others didn't hold up.
When cable TV finally began to run THE MAN FROM UNCLE in the 1980s, I found that THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. fell into the latter category. The serious episodes from the first and last season were slow. The "campy" second and third season (due to the BATMAN series huge success) were even sillier than remembered. I still found the characters interesting, but was horrified at how cheap the show looked. Chase scenes seemed to feature the same cars running racing by the same streets over and over in the same chase. It was like those famous animated sequences where the background is a loop and they keep running past the same table or tree over and over.
I was greatly disappointed. Then, they aired the revival movie. It brought back Vaughn and McCullum. It even added Patrick Macnee (from THE AVENGERS), as their boss (Carroll had died earlier) and George Lazenby (007 in the great Bond epic ON HER MAJESTY'S SECRET SERVICE) as a character simply referred to as 007. However the movie was plain awful and I lost all interest in the series.
But time does heal most wounds. As the 90s progressed I saw an episode here and there and watched a few on my deteriorating betamax collection. I had gotten over the shock of the cheap production values. I started paying attention to the characters again. Suddenly, during one episode (I don't recall the title), Napoleon Solo enters the home of the (as always) rich villain. Solo is shown to the home's library. He is told to wait, and offered the chance to "read a book." With a smile, Solo responds, "No thanks. I've already read one." BANG! I was hooked again.
I wonder if The United Network Command for Law and Enforcement has any openings in Southern California? I already have my I.D. card.
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