Tag Archives: The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

Bye Napoleon

So, 2016 has claimed another life (or so it seems). Robert Vaughn died today, on the day we learned that Leonard Cohen had died earlier in the week.

He wasn’t my favourite Man from U.N.C.L.E. but that doesn’t mean I wasn’t fond of him. A little, anyway. I’m trying to refrain from calling him Nappy, but it was a nickname Napoleon Solo used at some point. Maybe it didn’t sound so stupid to them, then… It certainly wasn’t sexy-sounding.

I thought he was very good as the politician in The Towering Inferno. And after that I didn’t see much of Robert in anything. Once, in Prince of Belair, with Mark Harmon, as a not terribly nice man. (Could be why it’s not on Wikipedia..?)

More recently he did well in Hustle, which I never watched, but Daughter loved. It’s quite nice when older actors can come out and be sort of recycled when they are well past retirement age.

And it’s good when the different generations can enjoy the same stars in the same shows.

A road in Switzerland

‘Meanwhile, on a road in Switzerland…’ Or some such statement. I’m not guaranteeing I have the exact quote from The Man From U.N.C.L.E. but it is close enough.

Not to Switzerland, but to the spirit of what went on in the episode. Episodes, even, maybe. When you have watched them all mixed up they tend to blur a little. As does the road in Switzerland.

The road is presumably really somewhere near Hollywood, and it got used heavily in most of the episodes where Solo and Kuryakin needed to be out in the countryside of whatever country they were in. So it’s become a bit of a family joke. We know what we mean when we say ‘road in Switzerland.’ It was so clearly not a road in that country, which is why we noticed. Otherwise the first time could equally well have been almost anywhere else in the world.

Daughter has now moved to Switzerland. Nothing to do with U.N.C.L.E., or not much. She is finally moving into a flat of her own this week. As we were talking about it a while ago, I asked if she’d noticed anything about her new address. She hadn’t.

I suggested she think again, a bit harder. She got it that time. Her address will – very nearly – be Road in Switzerland…

(It looks nothing like Hollywood, btw.)

The Thor Affair

I knew this episode well. Possibly better than some I’ve actually watched.

Usually when we do the holiday watching of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. we end up with the same episodes over and over again. It doesn’t help if you choose deliberately, or make a random stab at some number.

So when we started on The Thor Affair, I braced myself for same old. And yes, I knew almost every line. When the teacher hears things in her tooth (which sounds even more stupid when you write it down). The shooting toys. The sneeze.

I’ve been there. Someone in this house has watched it loads of times. But not me. I thought I had, but found I recognised none of the visuals. Only the plot and the lines.

So it would seem that you can repeatedly not watch an episode, just as you can see too much of one.

Leading cows to slaughter

Vegetarian it is not. The film about Temple Grandin, by the same name, is about one woman’s struggle to do something with her life, and also to make the slaughter of cattle more humane. And I know that doesn’t sound like much of a subject for a film, but believe me, it is.

Temple Grandin is one of the most famous autistic persons in the world. She was diagnosed sixty years ago, which was very early, and back in those days it was always the mother’s fault. Luckily for Temple, her mother fought back and helped her daughter go to school and later to university, and now Temple is a professor. She works and she lectures, both on cattle and on autism.

This is a fantastic film. It might be full of cows, and it has some pretty dreadful chauvinist cowboys, but above all it’s got Claire Danes as the most believable Temple Grandin you could imagine. You can literally feel her love for the cows.

She’s also extremely keen on The Man From U.N.C.L.E. and loves Ilya. She’s not alone in that. And speaking of ‘literally’, the film deals with the literalness of Temple’s interpretations in a most amusing way. Whenever someone says something odd, such as animal husbandry, a scene flashes, showing exactly what goes through Temple’s mind when she hears it.

Claire Danes as Temple Grandin, with David Strathairn

She was laughed at a lot, and she was ignored and bullied. But with the help and support of her aunt and a teacher from school, as well as by people she encountered by chance, Temple grows and learns, and eventually SHE SHOWS THEM.

There is the worst rendition of You’ll Never Walk Alone that I have ever heard in my life, but possibly also the most powerful one. Temple’s famous squeeze box features a lot, but apart from that it’s mainly cows. And unpleasant and unhelpful people.

But Temple learns to open doors for herself.

The complete U.N.C.L.E.

We made life a misery for School Friend for years. Once I’d rediscovered the Man From U.N.C.L.E. after far too many years without, we needed to have as many episodes to watch as we possibly could. And with British television not showing any, it was down to a dependence on Swedish television again. For some reason they broadcast the series throughout the year and not just when we were there and could record on video. Most thoughtless of them.

So SF ended up recording more episodes than she could ever have dreamed was possible. But we were still a long way off complete. Episodes appeared on tapes in any old order. And there were the subtitles, of course. Offspring used to waste their sunny summer days in front of the box, saying to each other ‘just one more?’ and watching one more. Or two.

But I was glad we could share this. When I discovered it was on, late at night, one holiday, I stayed up to renew my close friendship with Ilya Kuryakin. (Napoleon Solo can just amble off into the sunset, or something.) Daughter, ever the insomniac, joined me, and fell in love with Ilya as fast as her witch-mother had done decades ago. We’ve got good taste in men.

It was another week, before Son worked out what we got up to in the middle of the night, but then he was hooked too. So we had years when Sweden and summer meant the Man From U.N.C.L.E. and we couldn’t go to bed on a Wednesday night.

The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

But we felt it would be awfully convenient to have U.N.C.L.E. on DVD, and the complete works would be better still. About four years ago Son discovered a nice box-set of all 100+ episodes and all sorts of extras, presented in a cute little silver suitcase. Price was OK as well. The only fly in the ointment was that someone seemed not to understand about flogging stuff worldwide and maximising their profits. It was limited, and available to addresses in the US only. Or North America, maybe.

When he gets going, Son can be tenacious, so he beavered away at a solution until box-sets were unearthed on eBay or similar, at a very good price. Shipping to anywhere. So we bought, and decided not to worry about from which particular lorry they had fallen off.

Now I see they are more easily available, so someone’s commercial instincts must have woken up. It might be more exclusive to allow only nice Americans to watch the DVDs, but more money from worldwide customers can’t be entirely wrong.

And we are forever grateful to School Friend’s video efforts.

James MacArthur

No sooner had I read about the new version of Hawaii Five-O and thought that they can’t possibly beat the old one, but I find that James MacArthur who was the real Danno has just died.

Hawaii Five-O

Despite him not having dark enough hair, I was in love with him 40 years ago. As with Ilya Kuryakin in The Man From U.N.C.L.E., the supposedly main character of Steve McGarrett was no match for his handsome and much lovelier sidekick.

Finding out that James was the son of my favourite ‘old lady’ Helen Hayes provided the icing on the cake.

Love is fickle, and I can’t say I followed James’s career after Hawaii, but to me he was Hawaii Five-O.

Ducky flies past

I knew he was coming this way, but didn’t really think to start chasing him. David McCallum made a flying visit to Europe recently, to pick up some prize or other, and swooped past his old country while he was at it. And some clever person thought to pin the man down for an interview. Lucky them.

David McCallum, from davidmccallumfansonline.com

We in this house have been in love with David from about age eight or nine. (Our ages, not his.) That goes for both females, handily enough. The witch fell in the mid sixties when The Man From U.N.C.L.E. arrived across the Atlantic, and that’s despite not being over-keen on blond men. A suitable interval later U.N.C.L.E. popped up in the middle of the night as summer entertainment in Sweden, and the young Daughter joined her old mother’s foolish infatuation with Mr McCallum.

So it’s no wonder that we continue to sigh over dear Ducky in NCIS these days. Aahh…

The school prom

Prom 2

‘Send the proms back to where they came from,’ said one father at the school prom on Friday evening. He could think of five things he’d rather do than stand there waiting to take a picture of his daughter as she arrived at school in a limo. We were, luckily, just there to admire the dresses and take pictures.

Many 16-year-olds I no longer recognise, and especially not once the prom-dress and the hair and the make-up have transformed the person I once knew. Luckily you can identify some by their grannies, who look the same as they did six years ago. I stared at one mother until I worked out that we used to sit and wait in the swimming pool changing rooms during lessons, close to ten years ago.

Prom 1

The head teacher was out in white jacket and brandishing a camera, catching his students one last time, as they emerged from pink limos, horse drawn carriages, off the backs of lorries and some from a builders’ white van. The best were the bikers who came roaring along the quiet roads. Half a dozen grizzled motor bike owners, each with a teenager behind them. Cool. But not for girls with expensively done hair.

We went home and celebrated, if that is the word, with take-out pizza and Indian, and a double episode of The Man From U.N.C.L.E.. I chose the very last two episodes, before the whole series collapsed in 1968. Really strange, even for U.N.C.L.E., and I’m not sure I got to watch it back then. Plenty of Illya Kuryakin, and we had Leslie Nielsen in weird mode, too. Thought the woman looked familiar, and she turned out to be the baroness from the Sound of Music.

Apparently this was filmed as a single episode, so some doctoring was necessary to make it twice as long. You could tell they had had to stretch things. You know, repeat the same footage over and over, long intro to part two saying what happened last week, and probably no cuts to even the worst acting. Those were the days.


We’re showing our age. Several bloggers have recently harked back to the good old days when we were young in the 1960s and used to watch The Man From U.N.C.L.E. every week. If they are male they seem to totally miss the point about Illya Kuryakin being the cool one. Men! What do they know?

I was about ten the first time round, and loved Illya passionately. When Daughter was the same age we discovered TMFU was on in the middle of the night in Sweden, so spent all our holidays watching and recording as many episodes as we could. She, too, had the good taste to love Illya. Both Offsprings spent many hours each holiday ‘hanging out’ with TMFU on video, but we kept the U.N.C.L.E. agents for holiday use only.

A year or so ago, Son found that you could buy the whole series on DVD. Well, you could if you lived in North America, and it was none of the R1 business, either. They just wouldn’t sell abroad. You’d think they’d want to make more money and not less. The intrepid Son eventually found someone on eBay who could supply us with what we needed. I do hope the DVDs didn’t happen to fall off the back of a lorry. Then more recently Son did some magic to the DVD-player thing which means it’s no longer troubled by Region issues.

We spend so much time on NCIS these days (Illya again) that TMFU hasn’t received the attention it deserves, but we had a need for a feelgood evening, so Daughter unboxed Illya. Well, she intended to, but then fell for a totally Illya free episode called The Deadly Smorgasbord Affair. You can see why she would.

The witch family have a saying which goes ‘Road in Switzerland’. That’s when a television series uses the same spot yet again to film something, which it never was in the first place, and certainly won’t be now, either. NCIS has ‘roads in Switzerland’, too.

Anyway, the smorgasbord (it really hurts me to drop all the accented letters, but I’m quoting) episode actually had some genuine Stockholm streets filmed, before it degenerated into complete, ridiculous mayhem. Why do they think Swedes sound like Germans? When the action moves to Oslo, why do they not change the fake language signs? Napoleon Solo dashing about saving the world in a blue dressing gown does very little for me.

Illya Kuryakin

It was fun, but we had a real need for Illya, so went on to the episode before, called The Suburbia Affair, which has plenty of David McCallum flicking his beautiful hair and not making soufflé. You can tell how episodes are written by different people, because this one is properly good and great fun. And it features a real Scandinavian, which is almost a waste, as Victor Borge (another witch favourite) sounds considerably more like an English speaker even when pretending to be Danish, than those fake Stockholm types ever did. Exploding milk bottles and rye bread, and hilarious ice cream van scenes, make this a favourite.

You’ll be relieved to know we feel a lot better for our double U.N.C.L.E. outing.