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This is one re-union movie that had to be made. Fortunately it was made by a rabid fan of the original--a man named Michael Sloan who went on to produce "The Equalizer". Sloan and director Ray Austin (who directed many later episodes of "The Avengers") made sure they kept much of the tongue in cheek humour of the series, and made the movie a high quality venture, but up-dated it to then modern times (1983). A touching item was the stars made a point to notice they were getting to old for this kind of physical action, and that Illya points out "progress" is not necessarily a better thing. The supporting cast was first rate with Anthony Zerbe (what happened to him?), Geoffrey Lewis, Keenan Wynn, and especially Pat MacNee (former Avenger John Steed) as the new head of UNCLE...Its a shame a planned new series was not picked up by CBS.
Return of the Man from U.N.C.L.E. was a superb reunion movie. When you watch
a lot of reunion movies they're never as good and there seems to be no
continuity with the original series. Return of the Man from U.N.C.L.E.
provided plenty of continuity.
David McCallum and Robert Vaughan had no problem in reprising their roles and the continuity was there; they had no problems slipping back into their roles.
The late Leo G. Carroll was not back as UNCLE Chief Alexander Waverly (Mr Carroll had died in the 1970's). He was replaced by Patrick Macnee. However, this movie did acknowledge Mr Waverly and reference to his passing away was made. This was good because usually in TV reunions, major characters are omitted without any explanation.
This movie was just as fun as the original series. Despite having aged, Napoleon Solo and Illya Kuryakin did a great job saving the world again.
Most reunion movies are rubbish. This wasn't one of them.
One other thing of interest. Former James Bond actor George Lazenby had a cameo in this movie. He was clad in a bow tie, driving a car with the initials J.B. on. Now I wonder who he was meant to be? Hmmm! Must think about that one.
Reunion TV-movies based on old series rarely capture the spirit of the original, but Return of the Man from Uncle taps into the campiness of the series as if it never was off the air. The leads have fun acknowledging their age, and the whole thing neatly turns into a parody of spy films without becoming a parody of itself. I rated it a "9" not because it is great art but because compared to all other TV reunion movies it is head and shoulders above the rest!
Agents Napoleon Solo and Illya Kuriyakin are called back to UNCLE after
fifteen years to do battle with THRUSH once more who are holding the
United States to ransom with a stolen nuclear bomb.
Enjoyable revival movie with Robert Vaughn and David McCallam looking a bit older and a bit thicker around the middle, but still wonderful as Solo and Kuriyakin. The chemistry between them hasn't faded after so many years. Good supporting cast includes Anthony Zerbe as an evil THRUSH chief, Carolyn Seymour as a Russian ballerina who is blackmailed by THRUSH to do their bidding and Patrick Macnee (ex-Avengers) makes a satisfactory replacement for Leo G Carroll as the new UNCLE chief, the latter sadly died in 1972. The film is directed by Ray Austin who worked on The Avengers as initially stunt arranger and later as a director. Austin made his directorial debut on an episode from the latter entitled "All Done With Mirrors."
This was intended as the pilot for a new series, but sadly it never materialised. Interestingly, there has been rumours of a big budget movie of the series being made, probably like Mission Impossible, but as The Return Of The Man From UNCLE shows without Vaughn and McCallam it will be a disaster.
Good for a reunion show that deserves special allowances for auld lang
syne that otherwise would not fly for a regular show, a time to
reminisce on the impossibility of twenty years flying by! and even
worse another twenty since that yet again to 2006! Will someone quit
turning the calendar instead of the second hand! Though McNee was truly
good as Sir John, the sorrowful part was the loss fourteen years
before, in '72, of inestimable and quite irreplaceable stellar veteran
Leo G. Carroll/Mr. Waverly they were kind enough to acknowledge. What
wasn't mentioned in other descriptions of the film was how Sir John's
entrance into the fray was due to the death of Mr. Waverly whom he was
replacing (I believe he was supposedly killed in a THRUSH attack, which
while stretching the bonds of credibility that they only just now
managed to kill him after so many years is still a well-deserved
tribute to dear old Leo G.). As sharp as Carroll was, he deserved a
larger role had the oversexed dolts of that age not been such abysmal
failures at appreciating the treasure in their midst, though perhaps
Vaughn & McCallum may have.
A fascinating connection most don't realize, including me, until today, thanks to the IMDb, is that in the '50s show Topper in which Carroll starred as Cosmo Topper, Robert Sterling played George Kerby, the debonair husband of the ghost couple that could be so frustrating for Cosmo, wife Anne Jeffreys playing Mrs. (Marion) Kerby, but Sterling also later played Captain Lee Craine in the Irwin Allen's movie, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, the part later taken by David Hedison in the TV version as Richard Baseheart took Walter Pigeon's place! Interesting connection: Man from UNCLE and Voyage to the Bottowm of the Sea by way of Topper! What Topper!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Talk of a 'Man From U.N.C.L.E.' movie has recently resurfaced, this
time with Stephen Soderburgh's name attached. Not being a fan of his
work, I cannot say I'm too thrilled, but let's wait and see.
In 1983, writer/producer Michael Sloan ( future creator of 'The Equalizer' ) reunited Robert Vaughn and David McCallum for this entertaining television movie. THRUSH has stolen a nuclear device, and threatens to use it unless a hefty ransom is paid. Furthermore, it must be delivered in person by none other than Napoleon Solo, now a computer salesman. Solo agrees to return, provided Illya Kuryakin follow suit. If you can believe this, the ex-Russian agent now works as a fashion designer! The chief villain, Justin Sepheran ( Anthony Zerbe ), is an old enemy of Solo's and wants revenge...
'Return' is generally disliked by U.N.C.L.E. fans for several reasons, one of which was keeping Solo and Kuryakin apart much of the time, greatly reducing the potential for interaction. A lot of episodes were like that too as I recall. The main plot is a retread of the Bond picture 'Thunderball', but money was clearly spent on the movie ( there's location filming in Las Vegas and a 007-style gun battle climax at a dam in Libya ) and the supporting cast is good. Keenan Wynn and Geoffrey Lewis are among the villains. British actors Simon Williams ( from 'Upstairs, Downstairs' ) and Carolyn Seymour are also in evidence. Leo G.Carroll having passed away, who better for the job of U.N.C.L.E.'s new boss than good old Patrick Macnee from 'The Avengers', in the role of 'Sir John Raleigh' ( there's a wonderful fan fiction story online - 'The Avengers Affair' - in which it is revealed that Raleigh is really John Steed! ). Gayle Hunnicutt ( once tipped to play 'Major Anya Amasova' in 'The Spy Who Loved Me' ) is absolutely awful though as defecting Russian ballerina 'Andrea'! Of the leads, McCallum seems to have weathered the passing of time better than his co-star, but they are still able to recapture the old magic. The film's tone is rather less campy than the series, and that was to be expected. As McCallum said in an interview at the time, there's no way you can be treat terrorist groups in a light-hearted fashion in these troubled times. There is humour though. When Solo's pen communicator suddenly bleeps in a casino, he says: "Excuse me, my pacemaker needs a new battery!".
Director Ray Austin is better known for his work on 'The Avengers'. Overall this is good fun, vastly superior to 'I Spy Returns', 'Wild Wild West Revisited', and the 'Six Million Dollar Man'/'Bionic Woman' reunion films. But the cherry on the cake is George Lazenby's cameo as ( wait for it ) 'J.B.'. We first see him at the wheel of his Aston Martin waiting for traffic lights to change, when he witnesses Solo's car chased by K.G.B. thugs. He decides to give his colleague a helping hand, and deploys the car's gadgets to wipe out the opposition! For those of us who loved 'On Her Majesty's Secret Service' ( 1969 ) and wanted to see George back as James Bond, this scene is an absolute joy. Incidentally, Sean Connery and Roger Moore were both filming Bonds - 'Never Say Never Again' and 'Octopussy' - when this was made!
Despite the respectable ratings, there were no more movies of this kind. It remains to be seen whether or not 'M.F.U.' can work in the 21st century. I hope Soderburgh ( or whoever directs it ) does not make the mistake of treating it like a big joke, as sadly happened with 'I Spy' and 'Starsky & Hutch'.
Those super-agents of the spy-era "Man from U.N.C.L.E." Robert Vaughn &
David McCallum reteam in this 1983 sequel, reprising their characters
admirably & accurately, but the overall tone of this (one of the
earliest of the TV "reunion" movies) falls flat. The scripting and
helming fail to match the jaunty tongue-in-cheekness of the original,
despite screenplay credit by series-creator Sam Rolfe, and regrettably
it lacks any hint of the original hep score by Fried & Goldsmith.
The plot is predictable and typical of the '60s series: U.N.C.L.E.-vs-THRUSH, with an innocent bystander conscripted into the fray. But beyond the two leads, nothing remains of the original U.N.C.L.E. mythos. By 1983 the MGM backlot had been bulldozed for a condo development, so this was shot entirely on location -- even the interiors. The result feels a little too raw to recreate the fantastical "U.N.C.L.E." franchise. And sadly, the production design ditched the sleek steel-panel walls of the original headquarters, the cute miniskirted G3s and the gee-whiz technology that made the show such fun. It would seem the old HQ "somewhere in the east '40s" was boarded up some years back (perhaps a downsizing?) and operations moved to new offices that smack of a modest corporation somewhere in Wisconsin, with cheap wood panelling and fluorescent overheads and the full "United Network Command for Law and Enforcement" emblazoned billboard-size on the hallway walls; apparently U.N.C.L.E. has moved heavily into branding these days). In fact, the only recognizable elements reprised from the series are the pen-radio, the briefing-room TV sequence and a few blinking "old-world" computer consoles which must have been languishing in the prop warehouse since the Nixon Administration.
The shtick of this remake is that the current staff of U.N.C.L.E. comprises vanilla-bland PC yuppies fresh out of prep school, to a man possessing none of the silky suaveness of Napoleon Solo, and the entire agency seems to have a bureaucratic malaise hanging over it. Perhaps with good reason: the international terrorist agency, THRUSH, is said to have been disbanded some years ago. My feeling watching this setup was that with Waverly gone, and without a worthy adversary, U.N.C.L.E. had lost its way.
But suddenly, unexpectedly, THRUSH rears up Phoenix-like, precipitating Solo's return to the fold...where he finds himself very much a fish out of water (a riff used, perhaps more effectively, some years later by Pierce Brosnan in "The World Is Not Enough" in which JB's predatory sexual mores clash with the PC feminism of the late 20th century).
Patrick McNee ("John Steed" of the Avengers) has been drafted to replace the late Leo G. Carroll in a clever bit of cross-casting, and there's a cameo by an even earlier "Bond," but otherwise the show is unremarkable. Our aging heroes, drawn out of civilian retirement (explained for Ilya, but not for Solo), start out making a few slips what with being so long out of practice, but they're still in reasonable shape and eventually find their old groove. Both see lots of action, toss off many witty comments & wind up regaining to a comfortable camaraderie. Curiously, it's never explained what kept them out of touch through the years (had there a falling out, maybe over a woman?), nor is it ever made clear why top-agent Solo didn't get promoted to an admin position within U.N.C.L.E. (perhaps even to succeed Waverly?), and what events led to the ultimate demise of THRUSH years back.
Technically, the show is low-budget with a heavy '70s kitsch (film stock quality is marginal, typical of the era, with lots of stock footage -- one clip through an airplane window shows unprocessed blue-screen!). The audio is poorly dubbed in places, with lots of distracting background noise. The stuntwork is pedestrian: a few cars get rolled "A-Team" style, dazed henchman stumbling from the wrecks; a villain dangles precariously from a helicopter skid, but only a few inches from the ground; an U.N.C.L.E. swat team rappels down Boulder Dam, a supered title identifying it as "Somewhere In Syria." This was a made-for-TV movie and everywhere it definitely shows up as made on the cheap.
Come to think of it, though, that was the perverse charm of the '60s series, a four-year romp through cheeseboard sets and cheap pyrotechnics. This sequel may ring more true to the series than I originally gave it credit.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Aside from one of the theatrical cuts of a two-part episode of the
original, this was my first real look at anything U.N.C.L.E. I was a
spy fanatic and had great expectations, based somewhat on the comments
that a favorite Marvel comic, "Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D." owed
its existence to U.N.C.L.E. To say I was disappointed would be an
understatement. It looked like every other TV show of the period and
the leads weren't young anymore. The fantastic gadgets were rather
mundane and the super-guns almost non-existent.
Some years later, I saw this again, with a more forgiving eye. There is a sense of fun to be had and it does follow the formula of the show, of which I had seen portions on video. McCallum and Vaughn are great and Anthony Zerbe makes for a great villain (as he usually played on TV show of the era). Although it doesn't look studio-bound like the TV series, you can't mistake the southern California and Nevada settings. Also, the camp (though a large part of later seasons) doesn't always work and is employed a bit too much in the end. Plus, Keenan Wynn seems wasted. On the whole, though, it's at least fun and entertaining. We do get some action throughout, as well as the intrigue and there is an attempt at character development.
The best summation is that the film is a bit of a disappointment for a real, top-quality U.N.C.L.E. movie, but a nice re-union for the TV series. The budget is comparable to a TV episode and it suffers from standard TV editing. The are strange decisions made, like the creation of a new U.N.C.L.E. Special gun, but it is barely seen in the film. The originals were as much stars of the show as the actors. U.N.C.L.E. and THRUSH are shown to be somewhat laughable, than real professionals. Still, it is nice seeing everyone back and they carry things off with charm and style. Patrick MacNee and George Lazenby make nice tongue-in-cheek references to other iconic spy properties. The Hoover Dam setting works well for the climax and adds a bit of scope.
Before this was made, there had been a script floating around for an U.N.C.L.E. feature film. One wonders what could have been done with a major budget and top levelly resources. Who knows? The premise still has enough originality to spawn a modern feature, though one hopes that enough of the fantasy elements would be maintained to keep it from being "Bourne from U.N.C.L.E."
Back when the old Man From UNCLE series was going I thought it was a
radical concept. Here we had as the top agents an American and a
Russian in an agency run by a British man to the manor born all
cooperating against a conspiracy to rule the world headed by some evil
folks. Detente a generation ahead of its time.
Leo G. Carroll has passed on, but the United Network Command for Law Enforcement has another titled Britisher in Patrick MacNee heading it. A master criminal Anthony Zerbe has escaped and who better than the two guys who borough Zerbe in back in the day to get him.
So Robert Vaughn and David McCallum are recruited from the lives they now lead, Vaughn as Las Vegas gambler and McCallum as fashion kingpin. Zerbe has also stolen a thermonuclear bomb and plans to blow it up unless he gets a hefty sum of cash. UNCLE's nemesis THRUSH is back in action.
It was nice to see Vaughn and McCallum back in their old roles. Hard to believe that the kindly old medical examiner from NCIS was something of a teenage heartthrob back in those days, but The Man From UNCLE gave McCallum some short lived bubblegum popularity.
I can see why this version failed though, it tried for satire and fell on its face. No wonder this was not picked up to revive the series
First,i have some choice words about this "unique" CBS TV movie from 1983-Nice,,But No Dice!! "THE MAN FROM UNCLE" was a landmark NBC-TV series from 1964 to 1968,as well as being Metro Goldwyn Mayer's answer to the 007 craze of the 60s-and successful enough for MGM to theatrically release most of the two parters as motion pictures. but what was never explained was how Viacom Productions got the rights to do this reunion movie,with out MGM's participation! director Ray Austin did a so-so job-but in all fairness,they still could've used any of the original directors who worked on the TV series,and why they didn't do that,is a very big mystery,with money usually being the main reason! the reunion movie was somewhat nice,seeing Robert Vaughn and David McCallum back as UNCLE's finest-but it would've been better,had MGM participated in this reunion! ironically,Michael Sloan,who later went on to create "THE EQUALIZER" TV series at Universal in 1985,also did the first reunion film of "THE SIX MILLION DOLLAR MAN" and "THE BIONIC WOMAN" in 1987,using an almost exact same story,that was used in "RETURN OF THE MAN FROM UNCLE"-and over the years,i've been meaning to point that out,until now! point being,is that remakes and reunions fall seriously short of being the items they once were,when the originals had their run! pity,that Sloan couldn't get Stephanie Powers to return as "April Dancer" for this reunion,,but then, this movie just wasn't up to speed! about the only satisfying justice that was done,was in a 1986 episode of NBC's "THE A TEAM" series,when Vaughn and McCallum reunited,but was on opposite sides of the law-and the episode,"The Never Say Uncle Affair",was actually WAY better then the 1983 TV movie,because it was clever,and stylish! otherwise,the reunion film,just did not have the flare and wit,of the 1964-68 series, and could've been way better! currently,Warner Bros. is planning to make an UNCLE movie,since they own the rights,as well as the MGM library,but i don't think that their efforts will be any better,which is why the originals will always be the Superiors!
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