THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E.:
Once upon a time in the 1960s… the James Bond movies had become an international sensation. Of course, even then, the television medium tried to capitalize on popular fads and even the types of movies that resonated with audiences. In 1964, television introduced its answer to James Bond- a spy/espionage series entitled THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E., which was actually created with the input of Bond’s own creator Ian Fleming. The premise of THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. was concerned with the exploits of operatives for an international agency, known as the United Network Command for Law Enforcement aka U.N.C.L.E.. On a weekly basis, our U.N.C.L.E. operatives would engage the forces of an organization known as THRUSH, which was bent on world domination and the subjugation of most of humanity.
Like the James Bond movie franchise, THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. proved enormously popular with audiences thanks to its mixture action, espionage, gadgets, humor and sex appeal. THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. stared Robert Vaughn as Napoleon Solo and David McCallum as Illya Kuryakin, while Leo G. Carroll portrayed Alexander Waverly, the head of the New York office and the two agent’s immediate superior. During the series first season, THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. plays like mini-movie spy thrillers, in which ordinary people are drawn into the world of espionage- lending their assistance or requiring assistance from Solo and Kuryakin. Since season one of THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. is in black and white, there is a certain noir-ish quality to the episodes that actually enhances the flavor of these particular shows, which represent the series at its very best. In season two, THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. makes the transition to color, but looses something of its edge. Around this time, a new phenomenon hit the television airwaves- it was called BATMAN. Much to the detriment of this series, the producers of THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. notice the campy excesses of the Caped Crusader, which are implemented into year three. With a campier direction, THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. saw a ratings slide during season three, however, the show did return for a final go around and a more serious direction during season four.
THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E.: THE COMPLETE SERIES ($200) comes to DVD in a forty one disc set that includes all one hundred and five episodes that were produced during the show’s four year run. The twenty-nine season one episodes are as follows: The Vulcan Affair, The Iowa Scuba Affair, The Quadripartite Affair, The Shark Affair, The Deadly Games Affair, The Green Opal Affair, The Giuoco Piano Affair, The Double Affair, The Project Strigas Affair, The Finny Foot Affair, The Neptune Affair, The Dove Affair, The King Of Knaves Affair, The Terbuf Affair, The Deadly Decoy Affair, The Fiddlesticks Affair, The Yellow Scarf Affair, The Mad, Mad, Tea Party Affair, The Secret Sceptre Affair, The Bow-Wow Affair, The Four-Steps Affair, The See-Paris-And-Die Affair, The Brain-Killer Affair, The Hong Kong Shilling Affair, The Never-Never Affair, The Love Affair, The Gazebo In The Maze Affair, The Girls Of Nazarone Affair and The Odd Man Affair.
The thirty season two episodes are as follows: Alexander The Greater Affair Part 1, Alexander The Greater Affair Part 2, The Ultimate Computer Affair, The Foxes And Hounds Affair, The Discotheque Affair, The Re-Collector's Affair, The Arabian Affair, The Tigers Are Coming Affair, The Deadly Toys Affair, The Cherry Blossom Affair, The Virtue Affair, The Children's Day Affair, The Adriatic Express Affair, The Yukon Affair, The Very Important Zombie Affair, The Dippy Blonde Affair, The Deadly Goddess Affair, The Birds And The Bees Affair, The Waverly Ring Affair, The Bridge Of Lions Affair Part 1, The Bridge Of Lions Affair Part 2, The Foreign Legion Affair, The Moonglow Affair, The Nowhere Affair, The King Of Diamonds Affair, The Project Deephole Affair, The Round Table Affair, The Batcave Affair, The Minus-X Affair and The Indian Affairs Affair.
The thirty season three episodes are as follows: The Her Master's Voice Affair, The Sort Of Do-It-Yourself Dreadful Affair, The Galatea Affair, The Super-Colossal Affair, The Monks Of St. Thomas Affair, The Pop Art Affair, The Thor Affair, The Candidate's Wife Affair, The Come With Me To The Casbah Affair, The Off Broadway Affair, The Concrete Overcoat Affair Part 1, The Concrete Overcoat Affair Part 2, The Abominable Snowman Affair, The My Friend, The Gorilla Affair, The Jingle Bells Affair, The Take Me To Your Leader Affair, The Suburbia Affair, The Deadly Smorgasbord Affair, The Yo-Ho-Ho And A Bottle Of Rum Affair, The Napoleon's Tomb Affair, The It's All Greek To Me Affair, The Hula Doll Affair, The Pieces Of Fate Affair, The Matterhorn Affair, The Hot Number Affair, The When In Roma Affair, The Apple A Day Affair, The Five Daughters Affair Part 1, The Five Daughters Affair Part 2 and The Cap And Gown Affair.
The sixteen season four episodes are as follows: The Summit-Five Affair, The Test Tube Killer Affair, The 'J' For Judas Affair, The Prince Of Darkness Affair Part 1, The Prince Of Darkness Affair Part 2, The Master's Touch Affair, The Thrush Roulette Affair, The Deadly Quest Affair, The Fiery Angel Affair, The Survival School Affair, The Gurnius Affair, The Man From Thrush Affair, The Maze Affair, The Deep Six Affair, The Seven Wonders Of The World Affair Part 1 and The Seven Wonders Of The World Affair Part 2.
Warner Home Video has made all the episodes that comprise THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E.: THE COMPLETE SERIES available on DVD in the proper 4:3 full screen aspect ratios of their original television broadcasts. As I stated earlier, season one of THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E.: THE COMPLETE SERIES was produced in black & white, while the remaining three seasons were in color. My personal preference is for the black & white episodes, which look great for a nearly forty-five-year-old television series. In fact, these episodes look so good, there are moments that its hard to believe that one is watching a television production, because it looks like theatrical quality. Sharpness, detail, black levels and contrast are all usually excellent. The color episodes are also fairly impressive, but not to the extent of the black and white episodes. There are moments that are less crisp than others, and the colors can be a bit inconsistent. However, the color episodes mostly provide very good saturation. Blacks, whites and contrast also remain in the very good range, and sometimes even top off as excellent. The film elements from which the episodes have been mastered do show some signs of age, primarily in the earlier episodes, but are generally very well preserved. Digital compression artifacts are never a problem.
All the episodes that comprise THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E.: THE COMPLETE SERIES are presented with their original soundtracks in Dolby Digital monaural. The soundtracks have been digitally cleaned up, as the sound is very crisp, without any truly appreciable background noise or hiss. As expected, age and recording technology of the mid-1960s does limit the fidelity of the monaural tracks, but they still manage to sound quite good and are worth amplifying for Jerry Goldsmith's main theme. Dialogue is cleanly reproduced and is always easy to understand. No other language tracks or subtitles have been included.
Full motion video, animation and sound serve to enhance the DVD's interactive menus. Through the menus, one has access to the standard episode selection and set up features, as well as an astonishing body of supplemental features. Season one features the following self-explanatory supplements: The Cloak And Swagger Affair: The Untold History Of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. (twenty eight minutes), the original color pilot film for the series entitled Solo (seventy minutes) and U.N.C.L.E. V.I.P.S.: A Celebration Of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. Guest Stars (nearly ten minutes of season one guests). Season two features the following supplements: The Spy-Fi Tour: Archives, Art And Artifacts (twenty three minutes), One Spy Too Many (theatrical film version of Alexander The Greater Affair Parts 1& 2 with additional footage not seen on television) and U.N.C.L.E. V.I.P.S.: A Celebration Of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. Guest Stars (six minutes of season two guests).
Season three features the following supplements: Double Agents: The David McCallum And Robert Vaughn Reunion (seventy-five minute of interview footage reuniting the stars), The Secret Tapes Of Illya Kuryakin: Home Movies From The Set Of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. (seventeen minutes, with David McCallum narrating footage from his private collection) and U.N.C.L.E. V.I.P.S.: A Celebration Of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. Guest Stars (six minutes of season three guests). Season four features the following supplements: MGM’s Secret Operatives (twenty eight minutes) and U.N.C.L.E. V.I.P.S.: A Celebration Of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. Guest Stars (five minutes of season four guests).
But wait… were not done yet. THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E.: THE COMPLETE SERIES comes with two bonus discs of supplements. Bonus Disc One features the following supplements: Cold War, Hot Spies: U.N.C.L.E. And The Cold War (twenty-two minutes), Guns, Gizmos, Gadgets And Garb (nineteen minutes), Behind The Wheel: U.N.C.L.E.’s Piranha (seventeen minutes), Fandemonium (twenty five minutes), The Music From U.N.C.L.E. (twenty-four minutes), The Girls Of U.N.C.L.E. (six minutes), Official Debriefings: Interview With Writer Dean Hargrove (twenty-seven minutes) & Interview With Actor David McCallum (twenty-two minutes), and finally four Theatrical Trailers for feature versions of episodes.
Bonus Disc Two features the following supplements: Official Debriefings: Interview With Director Richard Donner (twenty-nine minutes), Interview With Assistant Producer George Lehr (seventy minutes), Interview With Director Joseph Sargent (twenty-one minutes) & Interview With Actor Robert Vaughn (twenty-six minutes). Also featured on bonus disc two are TV Appearances And Spots, the Tom & Jerry Cartoon: The Mouse From H.U.N.G.E.R., and finally, Photo And Image Galleries that cover the following topics: Behind-The-Scenes: Designs And Blueprints From The Set Of U.N.C.L.E.; Hidden Camera: An U.N.C.L.E. Photo Gallery; Classified Files: Network And Studio Documents; For Collectors Only: U.N.C.L.E. Memorabilia; Top Secret: U.N.C.L.E. Motion Picture Advertising And Publicity.
THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E.: THE COMPLETE SERIES is a tremendous DVD release that not only offers every episode from the series four season run, but an exhaustive collection of supplements that will thoroughly satisfy fans. The presentation of the episodes themselves gets the highest marks. If you were and are a fan of THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E., this collection is an absolute must have. Unquestionably recommended.
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