Season Three (1966-67)

Publicity still used in third- and fourth-season end titles

Publicity still used in third- and fourth-season end titles

Unlike season 2, the producer’s chair was fairly stable, with Boris Ingster lasting nearly the entire season. But Ingster, who had penned two pretty good shows (eps. 17 and 48) faltered in selecting scripts.

Established UNCLE writers such as Peter Allan Fields and Dean Hargrove were used little or not at all. Their replacements didn’t have nearly the talent, for the most part. NBC also wanted a lighter direction, but too often the shows tilted far too much toward humor. There were some cases where the humor worked, including two shows written by Harlan Ellison. But there were others, including one with a dancing gorilla (for details scroll down to Eps 73), where things just fell flat.

Credits for the season:
Executive Producer: Norman Felton
Supervising Producer: David Victor
Producers: Boris Ingster (all except 85-86), Irv Pearlberg (85-86)
Associate Producer: Irv Pearlberg (except 85-86)
Story Consultant: Milton S. Gelman (second half of season)

Episodes are listed in the order they were aired. Numbers in parenthesis indicate the order in which they were filmed.

All reviews  ©   1997-2008, 2015   William J. Koenig


 

60. The Her Master’s Voice Affair. (62)
Original airdate: September 16, 1966
Writer: Berne Giler Director: Barry Shear

Fine season opener and one of the best episodes of Season Three. A school for girls on Long Island caters to the wealthy and academically gifted. The students don’t know they’re being programmed to steal secrets from their prominent parents. We learn Kuryakin attended graduate school at the Sorbonne and received a Ph.D at Cambridge in quantum mechanics. Illya plays bodyguard and tutor to one of the students, Miki Matsu (Victoria Young). They watch a clip from “The Girl From U.N.C.L.E” during Act III. Memorable set piece in Act IV has all the students chasing after Solo, trying to kill him. Illya and Waverly arrive to help out; however, the tires to Waverly’s car screech even though he’s driving on a dirt driveway. Script by Berne Giler is fine, better than his other UNCLE efforts. Original score is by Gerald Fried, who also did the arrangement of the Jerry Goldsmith theme music used throughout Season Three. Fried’s music here would be repeated often when stock music was used later in the season. Estelle Winwood, playing the proprietor of the girls school, lived to be more than 100 and remained active until her death. Victoria Young is the widow of actor Brian Keith. Grade: B-Plus.

Victoria Young and David McCallum

Victoria Young and David McCallum in The Her Master’s Voice Affair.

UPDATE (March 22, 2015): A scene in The Man From U.N.C.L.E. movie with Armie Hammer and Alicia Vikander appears to be staged in a similar manner as a scene in this episode with David McCallum and Victoria Young. Both Miki and Vikander’s Gaby Teller character make a play for Illya. The major difference is that Miki is supposed to be a teenager so there’s no way Illya is going to respond. Gaby Teller, however, is an older character and in the trailer Hammer/Illya looks like he may well respond.  We’ll see more when the movie comes out in August 2015.


61. The Sort-of-Do-It-Yourself Dreadful Affair. (64)
Original airdate: September 23, 1966
Writer: Harlan Ellison Director: E. Darrell Hallenbeck

Witty Harlan Ellison script is the writer’s first “official” contribution to MFU, though he reporedly did as many as five uncredited rewrites of previous episodes. Solo is attacked by a cyborg (though the term isn’t used here), a mostly electronic creature with some human organs. Waverly believes Solo needs rest until the cyborg resurfaces. We’re told Thrush has total assets of $1,654,420,749. To finance a project to mass produce the cyborgs, the criminal organization (through a front company) is seeking a $1 billion loan. (This suggests Thrush really went into hock in Season Four; see eps. 100, 101, 104-105.) Woodrow Parfey appears as eccentric scientist in charge of the project. Parfey and other cast members, including Jeannine Riley and Pamela Curran, would return in other roles this season. In Act IV, the lack of a budget shows through as several of the cyborgs attack our heroes. They’re supposed to be identical, yet some vary in height. Also, some clearly are wearing masks that are supposed to make them resemble the original cyborg model. Waverly carries a fully assembled UNCLE Special, a rare sight in Season Three. An original score by Gerald Fried. Grade: B.


62. The Galatea Affair. (61)
Original airdate: September 30, 1966
Writer: Jackson Gillis Director: E. Darrell Hallenbeck

Joan Collins in a double role and the story is a takeoff on “My Fair Lady.” To reinforce the joke, Noel Harrison (son of Rex) appears here as UNCLE agent Mark Slate. This same week, Robert Vaughn was guest starring on “The Girl From U.N.C.L.E.,” where Harrison was the normal co-star. Vaughn is in pre-credits and end sequence. Seems odd that Solo, who likes to dress well, would wear white socks with a suit in pre-credits sequence. With Solo away for most of the story, Illya takes charge as the senior agent, with subtle changes in his personality. Also, this is, by far, the best depiction of Slate. He comes across as a professional, and definitely not the wimpy guy he was during many episodes of  GFU. Writer Jackson Gillis (1916-2010) wrote everything from “The Adventures of Superman” to “Columbo.” It’s too bad he didn’t pen additional UNCLE episodes. The original score is by Robert Drasnin. Grade: B.

Behind the scenes: Jackson Gillis’ script originally was written as a typical Solo-Kuryakin adventure. A brief sequence was written to show Slate taking over for Solo, with the rest of Solo’s dialogue (except for the end sequence) switched to Slate. (Thanks to Cindy Walker for providing this information.)


63. The Super-Colosssal Affair. (65)
Original airdate: October 7, 1966
Writer: Stanford Sherman Director: Barry Shear

Terrible, awful show, the first sign that Season Three was going to be hell for UNCLE fans. Sam Rolfe, watching this episode at home, remarked to wife that she better not count on the residual checks lasting much longer. Plot concerns bungling gansters. Bernard Fein, who plays one of the gangsters, co-created “Hogan’s Heroes.” He also seems to “know nuttik” about acting. Unfortunately, it’s not the worse show of the season. The humor in writer Stanford Sherman’s script is about as subtle as one of his “Batman” efforts. Prime example: Illya rides a stink bomb dropped by a plane, a not-very-subtle homage to Major Kong on top of an atomic bomb in 1964’s Dr. Strangelove: Or I How Learned to Stop Worrying And Love the Bomb. The original score is by Gerald Fried and it’s about as bad as the rest of the show. Grade: F.


64. The Monks of St. Thomas Affair. (60)
Original airdate: October 14, 1966
Writer: Sheldon Stark Director: Alex March

Nice episode, especially for Season Three. While investigating the death of a scientist, UNCLE checks out a Swiss monestary where strange things are happening. It turns out the monestary has been taken over by Thrush. To demonstrate the power of a super laser beam developed by the late scientist, Thrush will fire the weapon at the Louvre as a demonstration. (We’re given an explanation of how the laser light will be bent so it can hit such a distant target.) In the pre-credits sequence, we’re shown the dead scientist lived at “14432 Felton.” A little overly cute here and there, but overall does a better job of keeping humor and action balanced, especially compared with other Season Three shows. The score, by Gerald Fried, would be re-used a lot in other episodes this season utilizing stock music. Grade: B-Minus.


65. The Pop Art Affair. (66)
Original airdate: October 21, 1966
Writers: John Shanus and Al Ramrus Director: george waGGner
Note: odd spelling of the director’s name is how it appears in credits

MFU often had difficulties with stories depicting young people and this episode shows why. Frustrated artist Mark Ole (Robert Harris) is in charge of Thrush project and has a gang of beatniks. Dialogue doesn’t ring true, scenes set in Greenwich Village seem like weak parody. Plot nominally concerns chemical that can induce fatal hiccups. In pre-credits sequence, Solo and Waverly are supposed to be putting at a golf course. But the hole isn’t on a green — you can tell when NS tries to putt. Solo takes a score of 11 on the hole. Later, posing as a representative of a foundation, Solo tells Ole that he is “formerly with the Felton Foundation.” Stanley Ralph Ross, a television writer (see next episode), plays one of the beatniks. Sabrina Scharf is a vain Thrush villainess. Is she any relation to composer Walter Scharf? Music by Robert Drasnin is about average and his last original work for the series (though his work would show up in stock music used later in Season Three). End titles list those who did the paintings and sculptures used in the episode. One of the sculptures was done by Ward Kimball. Is this the long-time Disney animator? Grade: C.


66. The Thor Affair. (67)
Original airdate: October 28, 1966
Writers: Don Richman and Stanley Ralph Ross Director: Sherman Marks

This has the feel of a Season Two show where action and humor are in better balance. Bernard Fox is Brutus Thor, an arms supplier wanting to assassinate a Ghandi-like figure (Harry Davis). The innocent is a school teacher who, through an odd set of circumstances, picks up radio broadcasts in her fillings. Episode is co-written by Stanley Ralph Ross, who wrote many episodes of the “Batman” TV series on ABC. An example of Ross-style humor: Thor’s butler is named Rhett. Ross used the same gag in a “Batman” episode featuring Julie Newmar as the Catwoman. Ironically, the same actor played the butler on both shows. Stock music is by Fried and Drasnin. Grade: B.


67. The Candidate’s Wife Affair. (63)
Original airdate: November 4, 1966

Writer: Robert Hill Director: george waGGner

Another less campy entry for Season Three. Thrush abducts the wife a presidential candidate and substitutes a double. Diana Hyland plays both roles. The switch takes place while Solo is playing bodyguard. But the double resists UNCLE truth drugs. Solo starts to fall for the double, who honestly believes she’s the wife of the candidate (Richard Anderson, here wearing a toupee, unlike in Eps. 3). While NS is spending time with the double, IK, as usual, is getting roughed up. We’re shown the double is a judo expert and Diana Hyland is fairly convincing in a couple of fight scenes. Too bad April Dancer wasn’t allowed to be as convincing in “The Girl From U.N.C.L.E.” Story is set in San Francisco, and we see UNCLE has a HQs there that looks similar to the main office in NYC. We hear the “Meet Mr. Solo” theme twice, once in the middle of the episode and again at the end. Candidate’s political party is never mentioned. But at the nominating convention, “Happy Days Are Here Again” is being played so presumably these are Democrats. An oddity: This appeared in 1966, which wasn’t a presidential election year. Stock music is by Drasnin and Fried. Grade: B-Plus.


68. The Come With Me to the Casbah Affair. (70)
Original airdate: November 21, 1966
Teleplay: Robert Hill Story: Hill, Danielle Brenton and Norman Lenzer Director: E. Darrell Hallenbeck

While not the worst episode Season Three has to offer, this show is a perfect example of what went wrong. The story concerns a Thrush code book in Algiers. Both UNCLE and Thrush want it, stating it is supposedly important. We suffer through bumbling Thrush operatives, bumbling “innocents” and, at times, bumbling UNCLE agents. When, at long last, UNCLE recovers the code book, we’re shown it’s virtually worthless. Humor, when done well, is fine. But an episode has to have a point and we should feel the agents are in some danger. Here, there’s no point and you don’t get the feeling NS or IK is really in trouble. My opinion isn’t shared by all fans, some of whom like Janine (Danielle DeMetz), the episode’s innocent. The original script had Thrush’s Colonel Hubris, played by Victor Buono in Eps. 46, as the lead villain. But Buono was unavailable and instead we have Jacques Aubuchon as another overweight Thrush operative, Colonel Hamid (thanks to C.W. Walker for contributing this tidbit). Score is by Fried. Grade: C-Minus.


69. The Off-Broadway Affair. (71)
Original airdate: November 18, 1966
Writer: Jerry McNeely Director: Sherman Marks

Shari Lewis (sans Lamb Chop) is the innocent here, playing an understudy of a so-so musical. Thrush is using the production as a cover of an operation designed to tap into UNCLE’s main computer. While typical of Season Three shows in relying too much on humor, writer Jerry McNeely carries it off better than most scripters hired this season. Leon Askin is the chief Thrush villain here, aided by among others Charles Dierkop and Dick Crockett (see Eps. 87-88) as thugs. The NS-IK banter is above average. Show seems to be have been written to give Shari Lewis as many chances to sing as possible. Her performance is good. An original Gerald Fried score, with songs by Fried and McNeely. David McCallum performing “A Man is a Drum” (IK has gone undercover as a performer in the show) is a favorite of some women UNCLE fans. Lennie Weinrib (1935-2006), as the play’s director/star, Winky Blitz, was a veteran cartoon voice. Grade: B-Minus.


Poster for The Spy in the Green Hat

Poster for The Spy in the Green Hat

70-71 The Concrete Overcoat Affair/The Spy in the Green Hat. (68-69)
Original airdates: November 25 and December 2, 1966
Teleplay: Peter Allan Fields Story: David Victor Director: Joseph Sargent

By far the best offering of the third season. Typical Peter Allan Fields script full of one-liners (based on a David Victor plot), coupled with the ususual professional Joe Sargent direction. Story concerns Thrush plan to alter the gulf stream, making Greenland into a tropical paradise (which Thrush will take over as its home base), while putting other major cities such as New York and London in the deep freeze. NS and IK end up allies with retired mobsters. Reportedly, Edward G. Robinson was first choice to play Thrush chieftain Louis Strago. Instead, Jack Palance delivers a performance that’s quite different from his typical tough guy character; Strago is nervous and neurotic, obsessed with cleanliness (he’s constantly cleaning things off with his hankerchief). Janet Leigh is over the top as Strago’s deadly secretary, Miss Diketon. Will Kuluva appears in part II as a Thrush Central official (he wears the green hat used in the movie title). Music score by Nelson Riddle sounds an awful lot like the background music he wrote for Batman. Reportedly, Norman Felton was so displeased with Riddle’s work, he specified that the composer wasn’t to be hired again. In part II, Riddle’s music is supplemented by recycled Gerald Fried scores. Also, in part II, a party scene on the Thrush island recycles Lalo Schifrin music from Eps. 16. Neither Fried nor Schifrin is credited. A black-and-white stock shot of a boat exploding is used in part II; this same stock shot was used in the 1965 black-and-white pilot to Get Smart. Finally, part II was the most expensive hour of entertainment programming produced up until that time. Grade: A.

Behind the scenes: The original script called for a long scene at the end of Part I showing Miss Diketon torturing Illya. NBC’s Standards and Practices Department (aka the censors) raised strong objections to Miss Diketon throughout but especially didn’t like that scene. In the finished version, there’s only a quick shot of Miss Diketon using an electric prod on Illya. Instead, we see the beginning of Solo’s shotgun wedding that gets interrupted by Thrush. The original script didn’t call for any wedding scene until the start of Part II. Also, a tense Solo-Waverly scene in part II was originally written to take place entirely in Waverly’s office. As staged by Joseph Sargent, Solo and Waverly enter through Del Floria’s and walk into an UNCLE corridor. (Thanks to Cindy Walker for providing this information.)


72. The Abominable Snowman Affair. (72)
Original airdate: December 9, 1966
Writer: Krishna Shah Director: Otto Lang

Silly episode begins with Illya “disguising” himself as an abominable snowman. Some fans rank this with eps 73 as among the worst of the series. One of two shows that CBN refused to show during mid 1980s, presumably because of its depiction of Far-Eastern religious ceremonies. It was shown later by TNT. I’m not sure which is more bogus — the Asian makeup worn by David Sheiner, playing the villainous prime minister, or the Texan accent spoken by Anne Jeffreys as Calamity Rogers, a former Western star now living in the country of Ghupat. Anne Jeffreys, of course, appeared in the old “Topper” television series with Leo G. Carroll, but they’re hardly together in the episode. The music, by Fried, is forgettable. Upon recent viewing, this bomb gets a new, lower, mark. Grade: F.


"You're really sure this is a script for my show?" Solo asked.

“You’re really sure this is a script for my show?” Solo asked.

73. The My Friend, the Gorilla Affair. (75)
Original airdate: December 16, 1966 (a day of infamy for UNCLE fans)
Teleplay: Don Richman Story: Joseph Sandy Director: Alexander Singer

Not only the worst episode of the entire series, this putrid mess has to rank as one of the worst programs in the history of television. The pre-credits sequence starts out as a typical UNCLE episode, establishing there’s some kind of mysterious menace in an African country that IK has been sent to investigate. But the show takes a bizarre left turn once Solo is assigned to pick up Kuryakin’s trail. Eventually, NS befriends “Girl,” a woman who has been raised by apes and has a pet gorilla named Baby. I’m not making this up. The scenes where NS tries to communicate with Girl have to rank among the low marks of Robert Vaughn’s career. The episode contains virtually every jungle movie cliche and tons of stock shots. A stampede of elephants in Act IV is entirely stock shots. The episode fails on almost all levels. An original music score by Fried sounds similar to the composer’s work on “Gilligan’s Island.” David McCallum and Leo G. Carroll more or less get out of this with their dignity intact. This would have made great blackmail material on Vaughn if it hadn’t already been broadcast to a national audience. The big mystery: How did this episode ever get the green light to go into production? Grade: F-Minus (lowest grade available).

Behind the scenes: Robert Vaughn, in an interview for extras to go with the Time Life DVDs released in 2007, said the infamous dancing scene with the gorilla was among his favorite scenes of the series. He told documentary producer Martin Fisher that it was the chance to do some slapstick, something he rarely got to do. (He must have forgotten “Teenage Caveman” from earlier in his career.) I suppose Vaughn’s remark is not that unusual a reaction for an actor. Sean Connery once proclaimed the campy script for “Diamonds Are Forever” was the best in the Bond series to that time. Perhaps Sir Sean simply forgot “From Russia With Love.”


74. The Jingle Bells Affair. (77)

Original airdate: December 23, 1966
Writer: William Fay Director: John Brahm

A Christmas-oriented story, with NS and IK guarding the Soviet Chairman Georgi Koz (Akim Tamiroff). A very muddled mess. On the one hand, this is supposed to be a tale about Soviet officials who disagree with Koz plotting to kill the chairman. But, to emphasize Christmas themes, story takes left turn where Koz dressed as Santa Claus helps a sick boy to live. An oddity: the Russian leader doesn’t seem to realize Kuryakin is Russian. Also, it would seem Koz would rate more protection than just two UNCLE agents, and he seems to have no bodyguards of his own. Tamiroff’s performance is pretty hammy and the episode beats the audience over the head with Christman good cheer. Lots of stock shots of Macy’s department store in NYC and actor Kent Smith appears as “Mr. Macy.” (And you thought product placement in TV shows was a recent development.) Bah, humbug. Original score by Fried utilizes a lot of instrumental versions of standard Christmas songs. There is also some stock Riddle music in a sequence showing an attempt on Koz’ life. Grade: D.


75. The Take Me to Your Leader Affair. (74)
Original airdate: December 30, 1966
Writer: Berne Giler Director: george waGGner

Dr. Adrian Cool (Woodrow Parfey) has summoned UNCLE because his radio telescope has picked up signs of a spaceship approaching the Earth. Almost simultaneously, his daughter Coco (Nancy Sinantra) is kidnapped. Are the two events related? Of course. It turns out an evil industrialist, Simon Sparrow (Paul Lambert), is behind everything. He built Cool’s observatory and it’s his equipment that’s picking up the signals. He plans to take his “War of the Worlds” scenario a step further and have the “ship” demand that Sparrow be named world leader. By third-season standards, this is a pretty fair episode and the humor is kept in about the proper proportions. However, Nancy Sinatra has almost no personality. At one point, Kuryakin helps Coco climb down a drain pipe. It looks like a male stuntman in drag is doubling for Sinatra. Whitney Blake plays Sparrow’s financee who really hates him. By the way, did UNCLE ever show a good industrialist? IK plays the guitar and sings a duet with Coco. Surprise! The song was written by David McCallum. An extra who’s in almost every episode plays one of Sparrow’s technicians and even gets a line (“It’s 180 and rising.”). Stock music is by Riddle and Fried. Grade: C-Plus.


76. The Suburbia Affair. (76)
Original airdate: January 6, 1967
Teleplay: Sheridan Gibney and Stanford Sherman Story: Gibney Director: Charles Haas

Victor Borge is a scienitist who has been in hiding for 10 years, fearing his “anti-matter formula” would be used for evil. UNCLE and Thrush have both tracked the scientist to a suburban community. Decent episode, especially by Season Three standards, but only some of the jokes work, while other gags are dragged out. Borge does a good job making his character sympathetic. One of the Thrush villains is played by Herbert Anderson, who was the father in the “Dennis the Menace” television series. Script was co-written by Stanford Sherman, who wrote many episodes of the “Batman” TV show, especially stories involving the Penguin. In Act IV, the same shot is used twice, with the negative “flipped” on one occasion (the parts in NS’ and IK’s hair are opposite where they should be). Stock music credited to Fried alone, but there are snippets of Riddle. Grade: B-Minus.


77. The Deadly Smorgasbord Affair. (78)

Original airdate: January 13, 1967
Teleplay: Stanley Ralph Ross Story: Ross and Peter Bourne Director: Barry Shear

In Stockholm, Dr. A.C. Nillson (yuk, yuk) has accidently invented a “suspended animation device” that freezes people in their tracks. We’re not told exactly how this works, except people are frozen “electronically.” NS is sent to investigate but Dr. Nillson is kidnapped when the device is accidently set off. A Thrush chieftain (Robert Emhardt) wants the device to use against UNCLE. Actually, not a bad story (scripted by Stanley Ralph Ross) but Emhardt’s hammy performance (he’s playing his role for laughs and has an outrageously bad accent) is a big minus. We’re shown the entrance to UNCLE’s Oslo, Norway, headquarters, which is hidden in a restaurant. A gaffe: in act IV, when NS fires an UNCLE gun, it is silenced. But when others, including Dr. Nillson’s daughter (Lynn Loring) fire an UNCLE gun, the shots aren’t silenced (similar gaffes appear in other episodes). Another drawback to the show is the stock music by Fried and Riddle, most of which was written for more light-hearted shows. Music used in Act IV (especially the Fried music) detracts, rather than enhances, the action. No IK in this episode. Grade: B-Minus.


78. The Yo Ho Ho And a Bottle of Rum Affair. (79)
Original airdate: January 20, 1967
Writer: Norman Hudis Director: E. Darrell Hallenbeck

Dan O’Herlihy is Capt. Rupert Oliver Morton, in charge of a freighter hired by Thrush. The criminal organization has purchased a device that produces tidal waves and is demanding $10 billion for not using it. Capt. Morton’s ship is to transport the device (which the captain doesn’t know about) to a location where it can be used for maximum effect. IK boards the ship but it leaves port in Hong Kong before he can get off. The bulk of the story really is about IK’s befriending of Morton. O’Herlihy is fine as the boozy captain, and the IK-Morton story overwhelms the tidal-wave plot. NS romances Thrush villainness Jenny Janus (any relation to the villain in The Return of the Man From UNCLE?), but it’s a sideshow to the IK-Morton story. At the end, Waverly gives NS and IK boxes supposedly containing new suits, but the boxes don’t look nearly large enough to contain much more than a pair of pants. The crew includes a man named Scotty who’s in charge of the engines. Could this be a Star Trek reference? This episode coincided with Star Trek’s first season and I don’t know if anyone was doing ST parodies yet. A shot of an airplane taking off in reused from Eps. 31. Stock music credited to Fried alone but there are snippets of Riddle. Grade: B.


79. The Napoleon’s Tomb Affair. (73)
Original airdate: January 27, 1967
Writer: James N. Whiton Director: John Brahm

Pointless farce concerns attempt by Malanez (Joseph Sirola), the No. 2 official of a former French colony, to embarass and force out his country’s leader, Tunick (Kurt Kazanar). Both Sirola and Kazanar shamelessly overact. Kazanar specialized in playing bombastic types during his career but Sirola normally is a good dramatic actor. He’s just awful here. There’s a token innocent, Candyce (Mercedes Molinet), who resembles Tunick’s late wife. However, she has almost no personality. Ted Cassidy, as Malanez’s flunky, fares better though his French accent leaves much to be desired. After trying to be funny, story attempts to shoehorn in a “dramatic” revelation late in Act IV (Malanez killed Tunick’s wife). It doesn’t work. Title refers to how Malanez is manipulating Tunick into stealing Napoleon’s Tomb to avenge incidents that have embarassed the foreign leader. Gerald Fried provides a very uneven original score. Grade: C-Minus.


80. The It’s All Greek to Me Affair. (80)
Original airdate: February 3, 1967
Teleplay: Robert Hill Story: Hill and Erich Faust Director: george waGGner

Farce involving mistaken identities, an aging Greek bandit, his daughter and her no-good husband who has stolen UNCLE codes for Thrush. Harold J. Stone plays his standard blowhard character as the bandit. We’re told UNCLE agents don’t carry much cash that they use credit cards. Waverly joins NS and IK in Act IV. We’re told Waverly operated out of Greece in his younger days and we get a quick glimpse of an old flame of his — one he’s not anxious to see. Gerald Fried’s score isn’t real good. Grade: C.


81. The Hula Doll Affair. (81)
Original airdate: February 17, 1967
Writer: Stanford Sherman Director: Eddie Saeta

Thrush has stolen a new UNCLE explosive that can wipe out 10 square blocks when it is heated to 90 degrees. The explosive is hidden in a hula doll, hence the title. Complicating the situation is the civil war going on in Thrush’s New York headquarters where brothers Simon and Peter Sweet are vying for the top job. Still a bit too campy for my taste, but at least most of the jokes in Stanford Sherman’s script work. “Mr. Solo, I’ve been an enemy of yours for a long time,” Peter Sweet (Pat Harrington) tells NS after kidnapping him. Jan Murray is Simon, Peter’s rival. They’re both fine, though neither’s performance could be called subtle. The Thrush HQs is at 555 Felton Avenue. Edy Williams, as an UNCLE technician in the pre-credits sequence, would later disrobe in bad Russ Meyer movies. Eddie Saeta, who had been an assistant director, is promoted to the director’s chair here. Later, he would be location manager on the James Bond movie “Diamonds Are Forever.” Stock music is by Riddle and Fried, with an uncredited Robert Drasnin snippet in the pre-credits sequence. Grade: B.


82. The Pieces of Fate Affair. (82)
Original airdate: February 24, 1967
Teleplay: Harlan Ellison Story: Ellison and Dale Yudoff Director: John Brahm

Famous “lost” episode, withheld from initial syndication. Scripter Harlan Ellison had used the names of friends as character names. One sued. It wasn’t until 1985 that the show resurfaced on cable network CBN (later the Family Channel, later ABC Family). Very witty and fun script, Ellison was one of the few writers hired in Season Three who could make the super-light-hearted approach work. Ellison parodies small-town life, the literary community and, of course, television. Plot concerns how best selling author Jacqueline Midcult (Sharon Farrell) has used old Thrush records as a basis for her novel “Pieces of Fate.” In Act I, Waverly details incidents in the book and how they compare to “real” life. For example, Midcult has a heroine named May Waltzer who is based on April Dancer. Theo Marcuse is villain Ellipsis Zark, who is head of Thrush’s New York headquarters (presumably he got the job after the Sweet brothers died). His office even looks like Simon Sweet’s. Stock music is by Riddle and Fried. Grade: B-Plus.


83. The Matterhorn Affair. (84)
Original airdate: March 3, 1967
Writer: David Giler Director: Bill Finnegan

Silly, all-too-typical Season Three mishmash. Bill Dana is the rare male innocent, bumbling Marvin Klump. He’s also whining and quite unappealing through most of the episode. Oscar Beregi and Vito Scotti are the poor man’s Sidney Greenstreet and Peter Lorre. Scotti is unbearably bad, neither funny nor menacing. You can’t believe for a minute NS or IK are in any real danger. Nominally, plot is about search for missing half of a roll of microfilm. Use of stunt doubles for Robert Vaughn and David McCallum are painfully obvious in a couple of fight scenes. However, we do see a fully assembled UNCLE gun (used by IK), a rare sight in Season Three. Both director Bill Finnegan and writer David Giler would go on to much better work but you wouldn’t guess it here. Finnegan was producer for the fourth through seventh seasons of “Hawaii Five-O.” Hal Smith, who played the town drunk on “The Andy Griffith Show” appears here as Marvin’s boss, a used car salesman. Stock music by Fried and Riddle. Grade: D.


Solo opens Channel D seeking an explanation of how this episode was writte.

Solo opens Channel D, seeking an explanation of how this episode was written.

84. The Hot Number Affair. (83)
Original airdate: March 10, 1967
Writers: Joseph C. Calvella and Carol Calvella Director: george waGGner

Awful episode, one of the worst offerings of the series. Plot, such as it is, concerns a dress. Its pattern is a Thrush code, so UNCLE and Thrush are after the dress. Wouldn’t a microdot do? Sonny and Cher are two employees of a struggling maker of women’s clothing and the company has the dress. And the audience has a big mess. Cher later become an accomplished actress but she doesn’t show much here. As for Sonny, the less said the better. According to The UNCLE Files, this show was written especially for the singing duo. Norman Felton reportedly wrote producer Boris Ingster a memo about how bad the script was. (So why didn’t Felton pull the plug before this mess got filmed?) We’re told IK attended the University of Georgia in the Ukraine after the agent pulls a gymnastic maneuver during an Act IV fight. Perhaps the worst thing about the show is the terrible Gerald Fried score which relies on kazoos. The soundtrack also uses several Sonny and Cher songs, including “I’ve Got You Babe.” Grade: F.


85. The When in Roma Affair. (85)
Original airdate: March 17, 1967
Writer: Gloria Elmore Director: george waGGner

A fair adventure. NS plants a stolen Thrush formula (hidden in a perfume atomizer) in the purse of unsuspecting innocent Dorene Simms (Julie Sommars). Both UNCLE and Thrush seek the formula (sounds familiar). Thrush utilizes ladies man Count Cesare Guardia (Cesare Danova). But the count expects to really fall for Darlene. Sommars must have had deja vu as her character is awfully similar to the role she had in eps. 33 (though Darlene seems more calm than Mimi). This and eps. 86 would be produced by Irv Pearlberg (who spent the rest of the season as associate producer) instead of Ingster. Stock music includes contributions from Riddle, Fried and Drasnin. Grade: C-Plus.


86. The Apple a Day Affair. (86)
Original airdate: March 24, 1967
Teleplay: Joseph C. Calvella Story: Calvella and Les Roberts Director: E. Darrell Hallenbeck

Dreadful affair featuring a bad story (Thrush is converting apples into explosives), bad acting and bad science (the explanation of how the apples are converted is ridiculous). Every cliche about the South is recycled here (including NS stuck in a shotgun wedding). Robert Emhardt, as Thrush villain Col. Picks, has almost as bad a Southern accent as he did a Scandavian accent back in eps. 77. Jeannine Riley, the episode’s innocent, was in the original cast of “Petticoat Junction.” A gaffe in Act IV: NS and IK chase after a Thrush truck loaded with explosive apples. They begin the chase with NS clad in a light suit and IK wearing a brown jacket and turtleneck sweater. In the middle of the sequence, they’re both wearing dark suits (actually a shot recycled from eps. 85), then end the sequence in the clothes they wore at the start. The original score by Fried is just as awful as the rest of the show. Grade: F.


87-88. The Five Daughters Affair/The Karate Killers. (87-88)
Original airdates: March 31 and April 7, 1967
Teleplay: Norman Hudis Story: Boris Ingster Director: Barry Shear

Second two-parter of the season is less than the sum of its parts. An impressive pre-credits sequence in part I as NS and IK are attacked by a fleet of one-man Thrush helicopters (that somewhat resemble the “Little Nelly” copter in the James Bond movie “You Only Live Twice,” which wouldn’t be released until June 1967. But at the start of Act I, the two UNCLE agents get out of the jam a little too easily. In part I, we have two future 007 villains (Curt Jurgens and Telly Salvalas), though they’re secondary to the story and Savalas’ character is obnoxious. UNCLE and Thrush are after technology that can separate gold from the world’s oceans. Title refers to the five daughters of the inventor. Herbert Lom is fine as the villain but all too often the action turns slapstick. Kim Darby gets to practice her obnoxious-girl-who-knows everything act that she will perfect two years later in the John Wayne movie “True Grit.” Joan Crawford has a cameo in Act I of part I. The movie version title refers to four assassins who accompany Lom. They’re not referred to by this name anywhere in the story but the actors (including stunt arranger Paul Baxley) are listed that way in the end titles. Oh, did I forget to mention Terry-Thomas and Jill Ireland? Some exciting sequences, but an equal number of flat ones. And how do our heroes get from the “polar cap” (site of the current Thrush Central) back to London at the end? Plotted by producer Boris Ingster. Compared to much of Season Three, it’s pretty fair, but this had the potential to be a LOT better. Stock music is by Gerald Fried, Robert Drasnin and Nelson Riddle. For the movie version, Fried composed some new music to supplement the stock score. Grade: C.


89. The Cap and Gown Affair. (89)
Original airdate: April 14, 1967
Writer: Stanford Sherman Director: george waGGner

Season Three limps to a close with so-so story about Thrush trying to assasinate Waverly. UNCLE chief is to receive an honorary degree at his alma mater, Blair University. Once again, MFU shows it’s on shaky ground in depicting young people, shown here as bubble headed and protesting for the sake of protesting. When partying, the Blair students like to play a jazzed up version of “London Bridge is Falling Down,” just like the Scandavian students shown in Eps. 77. Henry Jones is fine as the harried Blair dean and as a Thrush double. A nice set piece when NS, IK and others are in Thrush death trap: they must answer correctly questions given by a “teaching machine” or be exposed to poison gas. But there’s lot of illogic as well, such as IK trying to infiltrate a student group, then hanging around with NS with the two making no effort to meet discreetly. UNCLE swan song for producer Ingster, writer Stanford Sherman and director George Waggner, all of whom share major blame for the way Season Three turned out. Stock music by Fried and Riddle. Grade: C.


 

3 thoughts on “Season Three (1966-67)

  1. K. Hayden

    A fantastic site! Love it for the episode analysis and background information.
    Is there a place where people share comments?
    How do I find it?
    Thank you.
    Lifelong MFU Fan!

    Like

    Reply
  2. K. Hayden

    This is probably a site used to add to the existing trivia and commentary. Wishing I had more concrete experience. Or substantial information. Other than to say that I was a “fanatical” fan, and did visit the MGM sets in person! No matter, will still leave a “comment” anyway!

    In the day, my friends and myself had the biggest crush on the Stars! We were high school age. And can’t remember another Show more exciting to watch on a weekly basis! Except perhaps for Star Tre!. Not many others were more compelling, or subject to personal addictions! Or made us willing to wait from week to week for our next fix of suspended climaxes and action/adventure/fantasy! Maybe it was all in our minds. No doubt it was. And very importantly so!

    The MFU series seemed to create its own special universe, where suspending our reality was a welcomed weekly relief for such Believers! No critical thinking necessary. I wrote once, on another Classic TV forum, that part of the fun was the innate mystery built into the entire premise! Given just enough tidbits we translated them into assumed “facts” to make our questions expand and create the need for even more conclusions! It was like a weekly treasure hunt. In the process, always creating a desire for knowing more and more, about the characters (and by extension) the actors (of course)! Perusing those Movie Gossip Magazines for every clue! Someone else on that same Classic TV forum argued, so where was all the comradery, the well-constructed story storylines, the plausible premises (like Mission Impossible for example) and so in turn, they had concluded, that the MFU was much too hokey! So not true, I defended! And yet, to appreciate the effect in the moment, it wasn’t necessary to be very critical. Just being part of the suspended reality was enough. And for very unexplained reasons, it was perhaps, beyond being objectively rational! It was exactly, that we could simply BE, in the moment!

    Watched recently a Binge offering of Season 3 and the half Season 4. In retrospect, truly such uneven episodes! Some Season IV Villains (for example) were inexplicably cruel, dull, unrewarding caricatures. Too many fist fights ended many a Season III, Act IV. But I was also surprised at how ambitiously involved Leo G. Carroll’s character was written into those scripts. Kudos for him, an aging, yet always consummate actor! And yet a few embarrassing premises existed (such as striding a bomb mid-air and dancing with a Gorilla, truly sketchy plots).

    But (as fanatical fans) we never judged them that objectively. Instead, what IS apparent in retrospect, are the many shortcuts required just to succeed with the series going forward. And thanks to this site, a mention of noteworthy gaffes and stock footage so frequently used to meet that goal! Heitland also wrote, there was always the need of being on time, staying in budget, dodging the censors, and the repurposing of props (like how many times was the spiral staircase used?). And yet it never affected OUR love for the series! It never intruded on that quite make believe atmosphere in which we all happily surrendered week after week!

    By contrast, what I see as an adult, is a novel approach used to build weekly climaxes and to help establish an action/adventure/fantasy genre (for TV)! Quite novel at the time. Something we very much take for granted in this day. And so, we’re tempted to exercise critical hindsight. How “this and that” could’ve been done so much better. It was for the time (however) very novel, innovative, creative and set a precedent for a sequential action/adventure/fantasy premise! And to that point, poured much creative talent into the effort! Of special note, not just the accidental gaffes and shortcuts necessary in meeting immediate deadlines and restricted budgets, but the use of beautiful camera work, blocking, especially lighting, and the ability to remotely film action sequences! Artful set design (headquarters for example), such imaginary escape mechanisms, while always working on a slim budget, yet building on the goal of creating a very specialized atmosphere! Classically costuming incredibly beautiful women (such style even holding up to this day), very handsome men, and using a wealth of talent (how many big names do we recognize now) all being employed to “dress” that very special universe with particular detail and richness! Yes we can be critical in hindsight, using not only a contemporary yardstick to observe and analyze against what 50 years have given us in total creative management. Or we can remember that the series and its efforts help set a precedent from which action/fantasy/adventure learned how to grow and enrich the entire genre. Kudos to those Pioneers, those Producers who took their roles seriously, and to all the creative talent needed behind everything we can enjoy today, for just being in the moment! And all the ones who took the chances and experimented, who were able to forge ahead in spite of so many obstacles which might otherwise be discounted in a modern age. All for the result of giving us, above all else, sheer entertainment and such beloved Escapism! The fact that it holds up today, for those of us who are still willing to suspend absolute belief (and not many of us are left) is a tribute to their innovative skills and sense of experimental art work! Truly they took pride in most everything accomplished!

    I remember visiting the MGM Backlot in the Summer of 1967. Seeing the “Hot Sets”, the landscaped locations, the bridge, the windmill, the moat, and other very familiar physical structures, the back streets and buildings. The open spaces. That famous “row of trees.” Knowing they very seldom needed to leave the LA area to accomplish complete, although very make believe, world-wide locations! And then watching all of that be magically transformed into everything which became the MFU Universe. With the help of a light brush stroke here and there, it was an experience never to be duplicated again in sheer excitement and appreciation!

    Thank you for having this site, and for keeping the experience alive! What a compliment to people so proud of their craft and art, over fifty years ago! For those who brought us so much enjoyment. And irreplaceable memories!! Bravo!

    Like

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s