Just two years after being a “hot” show, MFU was an endangered species in the fall of 1967. The spinoff Girl From U.N.C.L.E. was canceled after one inglorious season.
Executive Producer Norman Felton hired Anthony Spinner (writer of Eps 19) as the new producer. Spinner and Felton differed, with Spinner arguing that NS and IK probably should be firing bullets, not sleep darts as Felton kept suggesting. Spinner instituted a back-to-basics movement that reduced, but did not eliminate, humor. Spinner was also a veteran of shows produced by Quinn Martin and may have been trying to import some QM gravitas.
But it was too late to save the show. MFU was canceled midway through the season. Still, the quality was much higher in Season Four compared to the previous year. It would have been interesting to see what Spinner could have done with a full season.
Credits for the season:
Executive Producer: Norman Felton
Producer: Anthony Spinner
Associate Producers: George M. Lehr, Irv Pearlberg
Episodes are listed in the order in which they aired. Numbers in parenthesis indicate the order in which they were filmed.
All reviews © 1997-2008, 2015 William J. Koenig
90. The Summit-Five Affair. (95)
Original airdate: September 11, 1967
Writer: Robert E. Thompson Director: Sutton Roley
Fourth-season opener clearly shows MFU has shifted gears substantially from the third season. A new composer (Richard Shores) provides a more dramatic and “darker” sound than heard in Season Three. Director Sutton Roley stages his scenes oddly. A meeting between Waverly and IK in Act I is shot from a weird angle, with Leo G. Carroll keeping his back to the camera until the very end of the scene. Roley also uses fish-eye lenses to provide a distorted point-of-view shot when NS is interrogated in Act II. Plot concerns Thrush attempt to assassinate the top five UNCLE officials who meet annually to exhange vital communications codes. Story is hard to follow in places. For example, an UNCLE technician in Berlin is killed but it happens off camera. We’re only told an exotic UNCLE device (a “zeron actuator”) was used. Episode also introduces several changes: UNCLE secretaries have a new uniform of yellow turtlenecks or blouses with brown skirts; UNCLE HQs has more computers (actually surplus NASA equipment); and titles have been redone, with new Robert Vaughn, David McCallum and Leo G. Carroll shots. Producer, writer and director credits also moved up to start of Act I. Previously, those credits appeared at the end of an episode. Also, there are no Act I titles (though the acts II through IV retain titles). Norman Felton’s executive producer credit is at the end of the episode, instead of the start of end titles. Grade: B-Plus.
91. The Test Tube Killer Affair. (91)
Original airdate: September 18, 1967
Writer: Jack Turley Director: E. Darrell Hallenbeck
Paul Lukas is running a Thrush program where assassins have been trained since childhood (perhaps alumni from the school in eps. 41?). Then up-and-coming Christopher Jones is Lukas’ prize pupil, who is going to blow up a dam in Greece as a training exercise. Jones’ character consistently outwits NS and IK, much to Waverly’s dismay. While the plot is foiled, Lukas (and his other students) are still at large, suggesting a sequel that could have been made if the series lasted longer. Music by Gerald Fried is more in line with the “darker” mood of Season Four. It’s also Fried’s last score for the series. Grade: A-Minus.
92.The “J” for Judas Affair. (92)
Original airdate: September 25, 1967
Writer: Norman Hudis Director: Alf Kjellin
Broderick Crawford bellows his way through the first half of this episode as industrialist Mark Tenza. The plot concerns a Thrush plan to take over Tenza’s empire. One of two sons is in on the plan, but which one? The quest takes on more urgency after Tenza is assassinated midway through the episode. A pre-Medical Center Chad Everett is the “good” son — or is he? Most people associated with the Tenza companies have a bad disposition. A little humor, mostly in the form of John Hoyt as a quirky UNCLE technican who calls the agents “Mr. S” and “Mr. K.” An interesting comment from NS to Tenza: “It’s a free country, especially when you own most of it.” A shot of IK going into Del Floria’s is recycled from a previous season (IK’s hair is shorter on the outside of Del Floria’s, longer on the inside). The cast includes Alizia Gur, who was one of the fighting gypsy women in “From Russia With Love.” We’re back to music by Shores. Grade: B-Minus.
93-94 The Prince of Darkness Affair/The Helicopter Spies. (97-98)
Original airdates: October 2 and 9, 1967
Writer: Dean Hargrove Director: Boris Sagal
This episode was intended to be the only two-part episode of the season, but the mid-season cancellation would change that. This was the show’s most expensive effort, with more than 80 sets (according to The UNCLE Files) and producer Anthony Spinner went all out. It’s a contest between Bradford Dillman as villain Luther Sebastian and John Dehner as a mad scientist concerning which actor chews up the most scenery; both are good, but I vote for Dehner, who’s only around for part I. This was the first MFU writing effort by Dean Hargrove since the end of Season Two. He wrote at least one other script during this season that went unproduced. Hargrove is in fine form here. His story is fast moving and doesn’t seem padded like some other two-part shows. However, there are editing gaffes, especially in part II. We see a cliffhanger at the end of part I: NS, IK and the story’s “innocent” (Carol Lynley) are aboard a boat about to be topedoed by Waverly’s UNCLE boat. Solo, who is tied up, tries to get free, but falls and appears to be knocked unconscious as the torpedo draws closer. Yet, at the start of part II, as the scene is replayed Solo never gets knocked out and simply gets up and unties himself and the others. In the movie version, however, we’re shown that Solo lay dazed for a moment and then revived. He contorted his his body (sticking his legs up into the air and moving his bound hands around his posterior) so he could get up and free the others. Also in part II, Carol Lynley’s UNCLE visitor badge mysteriously disappears as we cut from a two-shot to a close up on Lynley. An I.D. badge belonging to Dillman’s Third Way cult is shown having a Thrush emblem, even though Thrush doesn’t figure in the story. In the movie version, however, the I.D. card is for Luther Sebastian’s Third Way group. In part I, an extra plays one of John Dehner’s henchman and a crew member on Waverly’s boat.Good Richard Shores score and Boris Sagal’s direction help get us through such gaffes. Grade: A (part one), B (part two).
More differences: The Helicopter Spies is more risque than the TV version (got to give the paying customers extra). Julie London, as Sebastian’s estranged wife, hangs around the house all alone in the TV version. In the movie, she shares her bed with two different guys (on separate occasions — the movie versions of UNCLE shows didn’t go THAT far). Also, in the movie, a woman assistant to Sebastian is kissing him while he talks to Mrs. Sebastian (who is being kissed by one of her bedmates). On TV, the couple simply had a conversation on the phone with neither of them being kissed. In a later scene of the movie, Solo busts into Mrs. Sebastian’s bedroom and she’s sitting in bed with a different guy. In the TV version, she was by herself. The movie has Solo roughing Mrs. Sebastian up a bit after tricking her to reveal where she keeps her special direct telephone to Sebastian’s hideout. On TV, he used almost no force. Finally, in the film, we’re clearly shown that the rocket Sebastian steals blows up BECAUSE Mr. Waverly orders UNCLE agents to destroy Sebastian’s rocket controls. We see an ax chop into a control panel and then see the rocket blow up. On TV, Waverly orders the destruction of the equipment. The next shot is the rocket exploding, but the cause and effect of Waverly’s order isn’t nearly as clear. Finally, the TV and movie use different file shots of rockets going off. The TV show uses a shot of a rocket that blew up almost immediately lifting off. (The 1983 film The Right Stuff uses that same stock shot.) The movie has stock footage of a rocket that went quite a ways in the air before exploding.
95. The Master’s Touch Affair. (94)
Original airdate: October 16, 1967
Writer: Boris Sobelman Director: John Brahm
Jack Lord is Mandor, once a high-ranking Thrush official who lost out in an internal squabble. He’s being pursed by Nehemiah Persoff, playing a bellowing, obnoxious blowhard assigned to kill Mandor. A casting irony: Persoff would be a frequent guest villain on Lord’s Hawaii Five-O series. We’re told Persoff’s character is the one man Mandor fears most, but the man seems like such a dimwit that must be an exaggeration. Title refers to Mandor and his ability to manipulate his enemies. In this case he’s feeding UNCLE information on anti-Mandor factions within Thrush; in effect, Mandor is using UNCLE to remove his enemies within Thrush. Some humor creeps in. Waverly’s secretary Lisa Rogers (Barbara Moore) demonstrates some self-defense items to the episode’s innocent (Leslie Parrish). It’s implied Lisa once used one of the items to ward off an advance by NS. Meanwhile, for a change, it’s NS who looks like he needs a haircut, rather than IK. The music is by Shores. Grade: B-Plus.
96. The Thrush Roulette Affair. (93)
Original airdate: October 23, 1967
Writer: Arthur Weingarten Director: Sherman Marks
Michael Rennie as Thrush operative Barnaby Partridge (any relation to G. Emory?), who’s brainwashing visitors to a casino. He likes to call people “old darling” a lot. Pre-season sequence is effective as a foreign general commits suicide by jumping off a tall building — the way of dying he feared most. But the rest of the show is so-so. However, tons of trivia concerning NS and IK. A Thrush dossier says IK is 5-10 1/2 and 160 pounds (blonde hair and blue eyes, natch) while NS is 6 foot and 175. Solo’s dossier also states he is familiar with judo, karate and fencing as well as having an inclination for the opposite sex (big surprise). Solo is listed as having black hair and hazel eyes. Kuryakin’s blood type is B, while Solo’s type is A. Does Solo’s blood type square with Eps. 5? Those dossiers seem to overstate their height. A nice scene in Act I, with Solo and Kuryakin at the target range. Waverly shows he can still shoot as well. The cast includes Karen Carlson, who selected Robert Vaughn as her date in a 1966 installment of The Dating Game. Score by Shores. Grade: B.
UPDATE (March 19, 2015): It turns out the blood type information from Episode 5 and this episode MATCHES. To see a list of real-life people who Blood Type A, CLICK HERE.
97. The Deadly Quest Affair. (90)
Original airdate: October 30, 1967
Writer: Robert E. Thompson Director: Alf Kjellin
Clear sign of the back to basics feel of Season Four is the use of Jerry Goldsmith music in this show. It’s not an original score, just stock music from Season One. This episode has the only scoring credit Goldsmith would get in Season Four, even though the next several episodes would also make use of his first season compositions. The music gives the episode a nice feel. Darren McGavin, playing a villain we’re told was defeated by NS and IK and left for dead, wants revenge. He kidnaps IK from a hospital, then invites NS to find him. One problem: does anyone believe McGavin could find an abandoned 10-block section of Manhattan in which to hide out? Talk about urban renewal. Marilyn Mason, the innocent in Eps. 16, performs the same duties here, as a would-be artist. In the climax, McGavin intends to kill UNCLE agents in a poison gas chamber. Instead, IK strikes McGavin’s character, sending him into the chamber. But it looks like McGavin pulls the door shut on himself in fight scene. Grade: A-Minus.
98. The Fiery Angel Affair. (100)
Original airdate: November 6, 1967
Writer: John W. Block Director: Richard Benedict
Madilyn Rhue as an Evita-like figure of a South American country. Thrush wants to take over and has collaborators in the government. Nice touch of humor: After IK has saved the woman, he’s mobbed by adoring teenagers, a parody of David McCallum’s fame as IK. Director Richard Benedict uses some interesting camera angles to shoot the action. Joseph Sirola, as Rhue’s husband, looks like he dyed his hair black. A shot of an exploding car is re-used from Eps. 90. Stock music is by Shores. Another less-than-happy ending. Grade: A-Minus.
99. The Survival School Affair. (102)
Original airdate: November 20, 1967
Teleplay: Donald A. Brinkley and Jack Turley Story: Brinkley Director: Charles R. Rondeau
Only episode without Robert Vaughn making an appearance. IK investigates a Thrush plan to infilatrate UNCLE’s agent training center. One of the trainees is a really a Thrushman, but which one? Average show, but Charles McGraw as the training school’s intensely driven chief makes things interesting; he and IK don’t get along. We’re told IK graduated the training center in 1956. Stock music by Richard Shores and Jerry Goldsmith, but only Shores is credited. Goldsmith’s Season One music is a big help in the middle of the show. One of the suspects is named Melissa Hargrove; named after ace UNCLE writer Dean perhaps? Grade: B.
100. The Gurnius Affair. (103)
Original airdate: November 27, 1967
Writer: Milton S. Gelman Director: Barry Shear
Neo-Nazis allied with Thrush bust out a scientist (Will Kuluva) imprisoned since the end of World War II. The Nazis, thanks to $4 billion in Thrush funding, have perfected a mind-control ray that will be used against Washington just as the president is to speak before joint session of Congress. Luckily, one of the Nazis is a dead ringer for IK. For a change, NS gets beaten up. Fairly routine, but Act IV moves at brisk pace. The innocent is a photographer (Judy Carne, with her hair dyed blonde). Stock music by Shores with some Goldsmith snippets in Acts III and IV. Shot of Nazi base exploding is re-used from Eps. 8. Grade: B-Plus.
101. The Man From Thrush Affair. (101)
Original airdate: December 4, 1967 Writer: Robert I. Holt Director: James Sheldon
Exciting, quick-paced episode that features one of Robert Vaughn’s best performances. Title refers to how NS adopts the guise of a representative from Thrush Central. In pre-credits sequence, U.N.C.L.E. agents are trying to relay information to Waverly but are attacked by Thrushmen. One looks at a picture of an island that looks an awful lot like UNCLE’s Survival School island (see Eps. 99). UNCLE agent gets a code phrase to Waverly before transmission is cut off. Waverly sends NS and agent Petros (Robert Wolders) to the island of Irbos in the Mediterrian. Thrush has spent $3 billion on a mystery project. NS and Petros find the entire island under Thrush domination. When Thrush efficiency expert Filene arrives, he and Petros fight and Filene is accidently killed. NS takes Filene’s identity. Filene’s Thrush I.D. card shows symbols for Thrush divisions. Eventually, we meet Dr. Killman (John Larch) who has spent the last 30 years trying to invent an earthsquake machine. Vaughn is especially good in the scenes he impersonates Filene, he really seems like a bureaucrat. Killman is quirky, refers to himself in third person, has an impressive butterfly collection and dreams about setting off earthquakes. A second Thrush official arrives, refers to Solo as “UNCLE’s top agent.” Killman shoots him and keeps NS around because he has gotten the project back on schedule. We meet a mysterious Thrush Central official but aren’t told if he’s the top man. No IK. Stock music by Shores with several snippets of Goldsmith. Grade: A-Minus.
102. The Maze Affair. (96)
Original airdate: December 18, 1967
Writer: Leonard Stadd Director: John Brahm
Exciting episode, more complicated than the typical UNCLE adventure. In pre-credits sequence, we watch a Thrush attempt to blow up UNCLE HQs. We open with a shot from a previous season, as IK’s hair is relatively short, but it’s longer when we see the inside of Del Floria’s. Also, it looks like the interior of Del Floria’s is now larger than in previous seasons. The attempt fails, but a Thrush official says the best way to accomplish the task is “to get UNCLE to help us.” We’re then shown UNCLE attempts to safeguard new “molecutronic gun,” invented by Dr. Fabray (William Marshall). However, the weapon falls into Thrush’s hands and NS is to be the gun’s first target. A scene with NS and Thrushmen takes place in a car, but the rear projection film is going a little fast, making it appear the car is going 90 mph. Eventually, we’re shown this is all a Thrush scam, the weapon really is another bomb that IK will deliver to UNCLE. Good script by Leonard Stadd (plotter of Eps. 34). Anna Capri as the innocent, doesn’t enter until Act III. She proves immune to NS’ charms at the end of the episode. Stock music by Shores, with a snippet of Goldsmith in Act III. Grade: A.
103. The Deep-Six Affair. (99)
Original airdate: December 25, 1967
Writer: Leonard Stadd Director: E. Darrell Hallenbeck
We’re told in pre-credits sequence that NS is the top UNCLE agent “in America” while Brian Morton is the best UNCLE operative “in England.” NS beams about this fact after IK has rescued Solo and Morton. But if NS is number ONE of the entire enforcement division, is this much of a surprise? Main plot concerns Morton’s finacee, who is really a Thrush operative, and Thrush attempts to steal secret submarine plans. Episode is Leo G. Carroll’s best performance of the season. Stock music is roughly equal between Shores and first-season Goldsmith, but only Shores is credited. Grade: A.
104 -105. The Seven Wonders of the World Affair/How to Steal the World. (104-105)
Original airdates: January 8 and 15, 1968
Writer: Norman Hudis Director: Sutton Roley
Series finale is padded and weak in spots. Original script was a one-parter. But with cancellation looming, executive producer Norman Felton made it a two-parter so another UNCLE movie could be released overseas. Thrushman Webb played by Peter Mark Richman (here just billed as Mark Richman) is a bit odd. Perhaps this story reminded Richman of his starring role in the Grade-Z spy movie “Agent for H.A.R.M.” Webb’s HQ is a meat packing plant. Plot involves UNCLE defector Robert Kingsley (Barry Sullivan) who gathers the “seven wonders of the world,” a group of scientists and others who believe they need to act to ensure world peace. They’ve developed a “docility” gas that makes people non-aggressive (perhaps its composition is similar to the “will gas” shown in Eps. 30-31?). We see its effects when belligerant general who’s a member of Kingsley’s team (Leslie Nielsen) is exposed to the gas in part II. Kingsley doesn’t realize, though, that Thrush is financing his project’s $100 million cost and his wife Margitta (Eleanor Parker) is having an affair with Webb. Margitta and Webb are an odd couple. Their idea of a good time is lounging around, smoking cigarettes and saying, “It’s cold in here” (well, it is a meat packing plant — gotta keep the stuff fresh, you know) or “It’s warm in here.” Thrush sure has blown big bucks in Season Four. Director Sutton Roley is back, again shooting the action at odd, disconcerting angles. Dan O’Herlihy returns in a “special guest appearance” as a scientist kidnapped by Kingsley. You can see how padded the show is at the start of part II — the recap of part I extends past the pre-credits sequence well into Act I. However, there are good moments. Robert Vaughn is excellent in a part II scene where he confronts the scientists. And Nielsen looks genuinely panicked when his character is trapped and exposed to the docility gas. Climax is unusually somber for an UNCLE episode. Much of the show was filmed at Los Angeles International Airport, including exterior shots of Kingsley’s base where he will release the gas. Richard Shores provides an original score, though there’s a fair amount of his past music included as well. Grade: B (part one), B-Minus (part two)..
Behind the scenes: Robert Vaughn, at a Chicago collectibles show on 5-15-99, says he got word of cancellation only one day before the end of filming. “Everyone was crushed,” he said. “I wasn’t.” The actor was deeply involved in opposing the Vietnam War. “I just went on to the next thing I had to do.”