Tuesday, September 13, 2011

U.N.C.L.E. Week: How To Steal The World

THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. aired its 105th and final episode on January 15, 1968 after four and a half seasons (NBC replaced it with ROWAN & MARTIN’S LAUGH-IN). It was Part Two of “The Seven Wonders of the World Affair,” both parts of which became the eighth and final U.N.C.L.E. feature film. Only the first three U.N.C.L.E. features received major theatrical releases in the United States, but all eight were hits in other countries where either THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. or just these particular episodes weren’t televised.

Renegade U.N.C.L.E. agent Robert Kingsley (Barry Sullivan) has developed a gas that makes its subjects docile. He kidnaps six other scientists, and plans to use these “Seven Intellectual Wonders of the World” to control the minds of everyone on Earth and eliminate hate and wars. Men from U.N.C.L.E. Napoleon Solo (Robert Vaughn) and Illya Kuryakin (David McCallum) want to prevent Kingsley’s plan, while THRUSH agents Webb (Peter Mark Richman) and Margetta Kingsley (Eleanor Parker) plot to steal the gas for their own nefarious means.

Fatigue seems to have set in the U.N.C.L.E. team in the fifth year. Vaughn and McCallum appear bored, Norman Hudis’ script is patchy and unclear, and footage seems to have been hastily assembled. More than the usual amount of dialogue is patched in off-camera to cover story lapses. Only the visually inventive Sutton Roley is having a good time playing with producer Anthony Spinner’s toys. Los Angeles International Airport and Vasquez Rocks substitute for Kingsley’s Himalayan base (which is surrounded by desert!).

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