Open Channel D. U.N.C.L.E. is back.
Or at least it was, briefly, back in 1983, in “The Fifteen Years Later Affair,” and lives again on DVD. All in all, I found this a not-too-stinky trip down memory lane.
When ex-Thrush agent Anthony Zerbe busts out of prison and plots to detonate a bomb under a Chicago nuclear plant, U.N.C.L.E. is forced to bring their big guns Napoleon Solo and Illya Kuryakin out of retirement. Illya, we learn, has been wiling away the years designing women’s fashions, while Solo has been selling computers.
There are no big surprises in the plot. Our heroes run around battling bad guys and facing certain death, mostly apart, as was normal for the series, until they eventually give Thrust a sound spanking. But there are some nice surprises in the supporting cast. Mr. Waverly (Leo G. Carroll) has passed on, so old Avenger Patrick McNee is called in to replace him. Anthony Zerbe, of course, makes a fine villain, and one of his henchmen (underused, I thought) is Keenan Wynn. In one scene Wynn asks Solo how he manages to look so young. “A good make-up man,” Solo replies.
And there are other hat-tips to the Bond films. (Yeah, I know the whole series was inspired by 007, but these bits are particularly derivative.) Solo fights a guy with the height, personality, and rock-hard stomach of Jaws, and the climax finds an army of U.N.C.L.E. agents in blue jump suits making as assault on a massive Thrush facility defended by guys in orange jump suits. It was almost a surprise to see Robert Vaughn in the mix rather than Sean Connery or one of the long line of lesser Bonds.
The film was apparently a pilot for a revived series that never got off the ground. Too bad. But it’s not too late. Vaughn and McCallum are still around, and if they could be persuaded to make an episode called “The Forty-Five Years Later Affair,” I would most certainly watch it.
A big-screen U.N.C.L.E. film has been rumored for a couple of years, and the latest news I could find, from last December, says Guy Ritchie (the Sherlock Holmes guy) is supposed to direct. We’ll see.
Unoverlook more Films each week at this time at Sweet Freedom.