DVD Review: The Man From U.N.C.L.E. (The Complete Season One)


The Man From U.N.C.L.E. arrives on the big screen this summer making people wonder about the original version that ran on the small screen over half a century ago. Audiences will be dazzled director Guy Ritchie and spy actions of Armie Hammer, Henry Cavill, and Hugh Grant. The original series was part of the espionage entertainment explosion in the early ’60s when James Bond fever had taken hold of the cinemas. The major networks had to get their glib spy series on the air. Even The Beverly Hillbillies had Jethro go all double naught crazy. The Man From U.N.C.L.E. had one advantage over all the other wannabes. U.N.C.L.E. listed Ian Fleming, the author behind 007, as the co-creator of the series. Fleming wasn’t that involved with the show. Norman Felton did the heavy work which was good since he stuck around for all four seasons. The Man From U.N.C.L.E.: The Complete Season One sets up the top secret action.

What is U.N.C.L.E.? The name stands for United Network Command for Law and Enforcement. It was an international organization that wasn’t the original democracy versus the commies scenario which dominated the spy entertainment. This show was beyond the normal politics. Napoleon Solo (Bullit‘s Robert Vaughn) was a dashing agent in the Don Draper cut suit. His sidekick was the Soviet Illya Kuryakin (NCIS‘ David McCallum). Although Illya was from the Ukraine so he’s not quite a Russian for those that know international geography. The duo get their marching orders from the Brit Alexander Waverly (Leo G. Carroll). The power structure is all over the globe for U.N.C.L.E. Who is the enemy if all the countries aren’t considered evil empires? For the most part wicked schemes come from the agents of T.H.R.U.S.H. A group so evil, they don’t even tell you what their acronym stands for in the first season.

The first season was shot in black and white so there’s an obvious contrast to the action. “The Vulcan Affair” has Solo protecting the life of an African leader played by the Noble William Marshall (Blacula). The show starts off with a bang when a hit squad infiltrates U.N.C.L.E. headquarters. Solo fights them off. “The Quadripartite Affair” puts them on the trail of a gassy Anne Francis. She’d soon get her own semi-spy show Honey West. Richard Anderson (The Six Million Dollar Man) and Roger C. Carmel (Star Trek‘s Harry Mudd) get caught in the fumes. “The Shark Affair” involves kidnappings on the high seas courtesy of Captain Shark (Robert Culp). Why is he nabbing folks without asking for ransom? Culp would also get an espionage show with I Spy. James Doohan (Scotty on Star Trek is on the waves. “The Project Strigas Affair” wins for bringing together William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy years before Star Trek. “The Dove Affair” involves a microdot and Ricardo Montalban (Fantasy Island). The script was written by Robert Townes of Chinatown fame. “The Hong Kong Shilling Affair” guest stars Richard Keil a long time before he plays Jaws in Moonraker. “The Never-Never Affair” fakes Barbara Feldon as an agent. She would do so fine, she’d get transferred to CONTROL on Get Smart.”The Girls of Nazarone Affair” gives a glimpse of Sharon Tate (Valley of the Dolls.

The first season of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. gets the tone right for the show. Solo and Illya have a good teamwork attitude even with their cultural differences getting in the way. The show holds up with the interplay of Vaughn and McCallum on their cases. There are plenty of spy shows from this era that quickly became forgotten mysteries. The Man From U.N.C.L.E. was able to capture what made James Bond projects click even if Ian Flemings input was more name than content. The Man From U.N.C.L.E.: The Complete Season One is the perfect set for those who remember the show and fans from the movie craving more of the swinging Sixties spy action.

The video is 1.33:1 full frame. The black and white transfers look crisp on the screen. The shadowy spy movies soak in the monochromatic grays. The audio is Dolby Digital mono. The gun shots and theme music don’t overwhelm the dialogue. The episodes are subtitled.

No bonus features.

The Man From U.N.C.L.E.: The Complete Season One has all 29 of the first season episodes that set up a new espionage world where evil has risen above politics. This DVDs seem taken from the previously released The Man From U.N.C.L.E.: The Complete Series boxset minus the bonus DVD.

Warner Home Video presents The Man From U.N.C.L.E.: The Complete Season One. Starring: Robert Vaughn, David McCallum & Leo G. Carroll. Boxset Contents: 29 movies on 10 DVDs. Released: August 4, 2015.

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