Wednesday, September 07, 2011

U.N.C.L.E. Week: The Spy With My Face

It took THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. only eight episodes to do an “evil twin” episode, which director John Newland (ONE STEP BEYOND) later expanded to feature length. “The Double Affair,” along with sexy new footage of Robert Vaughn cavorting with beautiful guest stars Senta Berger and Sharon Farrell, first played theatrically overseas in 1965 before hitting U.S. theaters on a double bill with the first U.N.C.L.E. movie, TO TRAP A SPY, in 1966. Aside from the racy new scenes, the main draw was the chance to see U.N.C.L.E. in Metrocolor, since the first season of the series was broadcast by NBC in black-and-white.

Slinky THRUSH agent Serena’s (Berger) mission: to distract U.N.C.L.E. agent Napoleon Solo (Vaughn) long enough for her boss Darius (Maurice Evans) to replace him with a surgically altered Solo double. Knowing Solo’s close friendship with Illya Kuryakin (David McCallum) may blow the double’s cover, Darius tries unsuccessfully to bump off the Russian using missile-firing toy robots! Newland and producer Sam Rolfe hilariously try to pass off the Griffith Park Observatory for the Swiss Alps, where Darius and Serena take Solo, while the duplicate infiltrates U.N.C.L.E. headquarters to steal a super-weapon.

I wonder why this episode was chosen to release as a feature. Perhaps because Berger was an international box office draw? Vaughn leads THRUSH on an entertaining chase through Griffith Park, though the observatory is too familiar a landmark to play anything else. Fred Koenekamp’s color photography is quite nice, and Vaughn pulls off his double role with aplomb, particularly in the finale when he has to fight “himself” (give editor Joseph Dervin a big hand too). Morton Stevens, who scored “The Double Affair,” also composed some new cues for the feature version.

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