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I Spy: The Spy with My Face April 15, 2008

Posted by Ian W in : Film Reviews, TV Reviews, Action, Thriller, Science Fiction , trackback

Evil organisation THRUSH (the series never explained what the acronym stands for) attempts to infiltrate UNCLE (that one stands for “United Network Command for Law and Enforcement”) by replacing their top agent, Napoleon Solo, with a doppelganger. There aim is to crack an operation codenamed “The August Affair”, and get their hands on Project Earthsave, a top secret energy source.

Unlike Flint and Helm, The Man from UNCLE series played it (relatively) straight, at least it did until its third season. This “movie” is really a couple of first season episodes cobbled together, along with some extra footage that was a bit too risqué for television at the time. The film holds together relatively well considering, although it does plod a little in the middle. The series and these spin-off films would get better as the series found its feet. The villains improved as well, with some big name guest stars making an appearance. Here all we get is Senta Berger, who, while certainly not unpleasant to look at, isn’t particularly threatening.

Still at least Mr Smooth, Robert Vaughn, is on hand. Snappy dresser, seducer of beautiful women and no slouch when it comes to mixing it up with the bad guys, Napoleon Solo is America’s answer to James Bond and Vaughn is the perfect choice to play him. Here he also gets to play his double but doesn’t really get to have much fun being evil as he’s just pretending to be the real Solo.

David McCallum’s Illya Kuryakin also seemed the more professional of the two, less inclined to let his libido lead him into trouble. Kuryakin must have felt a little inferior next to Solo but McCallum makes him the more likable of the two. You might want to be Solo but you’d rather have Kuryakin for a buddy.

Rounding out the regulars is Leo G. Carroll as Mr Waverly, UNCLE’s answer to M. He doesn’t really have much to do here, other than send Solo on his way but then that’s pretty much the nature of the role, just as it is with M in the Bond films.

With no sign of the complete series being released on DVD in the UK, and only available from Time Life in the USA (who won’t ship outside American) the only choice for UNCLE fans wanting a super-spy fix is the Region 2 box set containing five of the eight feature film versions. The film of the pilot, To Trap a Spy, isn’t included in the set, with things kicking off with this, the second movie, instead. It’s not vintage Man from UNCLE but it has some entertaining moments, with Vaughn and McCallum getting to grips with their characters. They’d become a better double act later on though.

Comments»

1. Livius - April 15, 2008

I haven’t seen these in years - I seem to remember them popping up on Friday evenings on BBC2 a long, looong time ago. Anyway, I have fond memories of them and that R2 set looks like good enough value.
A real shame that those outside the US don’t have access to the full series :(.

2. Ian W - April 17, 2008

I think Time Life only have exclusive rights for a limited time Colin, so hopefully it’ll be available to import before too long.

I remeber those same BBC2 screenings, in fact the film versions are clearer in my memory than the series. The R2 set is good value (5 films for a tenner), it’s just a shame it doesn’t include all the feature films.

3. Livius - April 17, 2008

I didn’t know that about a limit on the Time Life distribution. It really bugs me when companies do these exclusive deals that effectively shut out overseas customers.
Anyway, I’ve ordered the R2 set - like you say, that price is hard to beat.


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