SPINOFF: The Girl From U.N.C.L.E. (1966-67)

Stefanie Powers and Noel Harrison in a publicity still.

Stefanie Powers and Noel Harrison in a publicity still.

In the fall of 1966, NBC doubled its UNCLE presence. A new UNCLE entry, “The Girl From UNCLE,” was added to the network’s lineup. The pilot for the show had appeared during the second season of “The Man From UNCLE” (Eps. 52, The Moonglow Affair). MFU had been a hit so NBC probably thought it had a sure winner on its hands.

It didn’t. GFU would only run one season. Part of the problem was that Norman Felton and Arena Productions, deep down, didn’t believe in the concept of a woman secret agent and it showed. Arena produced GFU primarily because NBC wanted it.

Stefanie Powers, as agent April Dancer, often stayed off to the side during fight scenes. Powers was certainly athletic enough to take a more active role in action sequences but GFU episodes weren’t written that way. April suffered in comparison to Diana Rigg as Emma Peel. At the same time GFU debuted, ABC started importing “The Avengers,” for American audiences.

Noel Harrison as April’s partner Mark Slate shared something in common with MFU’s Illya Kuryakin. Slate, like IK, could always be counted on to get bopped on the head. But with IK, you knew he was always going to get the villains back in the end. Slate seemed more like a punching bag.

I’m not a big fan of GFU. But, with the entire series available from Warner Archive, this page was expanded in October and November 2014 and now has reviews for all 29 episodes.

Credits for the season:
Executive Producer: Norman Felton
Supervising Producer: David Victor
Producer: Douglas Benton
Associate Producers: Max Hodge, George M. Lehr

All reviews © 1997-98, 2003, 2007-2014 by William J. Koenig.


Cover of a Girl From U.N.C.L.E. comic book.

Cover of a Girl From U.N.C.L.E. comic book.

1. The Dog-Gone Affair.
Writer: Tony Barrett Director: Barry Shear
Original airdate: Sept. 13, 1966

An OK story, though it doesn’t seem the strongest episode to launch a new series. On an island near Greece, a bombastic Thrush chieftain (Kurt Kasznar) is conducting experiments on a gas that causes people to move at half their normal speed. April Dancer is enroute with a dog. The animal’s fleas contain the antidote to the gas but it must be tested and processed. Mark Slate gets beat up a bit by Thrush henchmen. Stefanie Powers shows off her athletic abilities in scene where she is suspended over a pool of men-eating fish. But in concluding fight, she only knocks out a Thrush chemist (off camera, at that). She spends the rest of the scene holding the dog and looking concerned while Slate gets knocked around by Kasznar’s character. Luciana Paluzzi plays the owner of a small hotel who’s sweet on Slate but she’s mostly wasted here. The original score is by Dave Grusin, who also did the arrangement of Jerry Goldsmith’s UNCLE theme that would be used for GFU. Grade: B.


2. The Prisoner of Zalamar Affair.
Writer: Max Hodge Director: Herschel Daugherty
Original airdate: Sept. 20, 1966

Not-so-subtle takeoff of “The Prisoner of Zenda.” An Arabian monarch is murdered and his daughter is kidnapped as part of an attempted coup. Luckily, the daughter is a dead ringer for April Dancer. So April takes the daughter’s place until the missing princess can be rescued. Exterior of Zalamar airport looks suspiciously like a movie studio. Michael Ansara appears as the vizier, who is plotting the takeover. Just a year earlier (MFU Eps. 36), Ansara had an Arabic role. We have non-Arabs playing Arabs including Abraham Sofer as Omar, an adviser to the slain monarch, and Jason Wingreen as Fahd, a thug. In MFU Eps. 60, Illya Kuryakin and a scientist’s daughter are watching this episode on television. This episode introduces the silly idea that UNCLE employs a high school intern (Randy Kirby as Randy Kovacs). At one point, Mark Slate says he’s in Section Three, which will not be the first time GFU has trouble remembering that the top enforcement agents are in Section Two. This episode was penned by associate producer Max Hodge, who wrote two Mr. Freeze stories (featuring George Sanders and Otto Preminger as the villain) on the Adam West “Batman” series. The original score is by Richard Shores, who would be the main composer in MFU Season Four. Grade: B-Minus.


Boris Karloff with Stefanie Powers and Robert Vaughn in a publicity still.

Boris Karloff with Stefanie Powers and Robert Vaughn in a publicity still.

3. The Mother Muffin Affair.
Writer: Joseph Calvelli Director: Sherman Marks
Original airdate: Sept. 27, 1966

Very strange, often silly and lacking in logic. However, Robert Vaughn, appearing here as Napoleon Solo, provides more energy than the typical GFU episode. (Noel Harrison was guest starring over on MFU during this same point in the season.) A major gaffe in the pre-credits sequence as April identifies herself (when communicating with Waverly) as a member of Section One. And Waverly doesn’t correct her. Gaffe is more mysterious because the writer of the episode (Joseph Calvelli) worked as associate producer on the MFU during Season One. Boris Karloff shines as an assassin known as Mother Muffin. Karloff actally makes you believe he’s an old woman. For much of the show, NS and April run around in Shakespearean costumes (don’t ask). A British policeman declares NS looks like “a bloomin’ sissy.” It would have been interesting to see the Napoleon-April team with a better story, an idea that has been a staple of UNCLE fan fiction writers. Veteran makeup artist William Tuttle has a small role. The score by Grusin is quite good. Grade: B.

Behind the scenes:  Producer Douglas Benton (1925-2000) worked with Boris Karloff on the 1960-62 anthology series Thriller. On the Thriller DVD set, there’s a recreation of a late 1990s interview Benton gave, with the producer’s son reading his father’s answers aloud. Most of the interview, naturally, is about Thriller. But there is a bit about The Mother Muffin Affair. According to that interview, writer Joseph Calvelli was asked to describe Mother Muffin. His reply: “Boris Karloff in drag.” That prompted Benton to send the script to the veteran actor, believing it would appeal to Karloff’s sense of humor. The producer’s colleagues at Arena Productions were dubious. Benton said the script came back with a short note. “Where and when?”

4. The Mata Hari Affair.
Writer: Samuel A. Peeples Director: Joseph Sargent
Original airdate: Oct. 4, 1966

A very strange story, without much point. After a dancer is killed, April takes her place trying to catch the killer. Dancer was carrying information about some kind of exotic device. So April is the bait. Mark gets beaten up. They both smoke out the killer and it turns out the device doesn’t work anyway. Writer Samuel A. Peeples wrote one of the “Star Trek” pilot episodes (“Where No Man Has Gone Before”) but this story isn’t up to that level. Director Jospeh Sargent tries his best but he has no story to work with. The score is by Grusin. Grade: D.


5. The Montori Device Affair.
Writer: Boris Sobelman Director: John Brahm
Original airdate: Oct. 11, 1966

Story starts out strong with a pre-credits sequence depicting a Thrush raid on UNCLE headquarters in Rome. But the story goes downhill from there into a dreadful mess. Title refers to an UNCLE communications device that is stolen from the Rome HQ. Edward Andrews is his usual hammy self as a fashion designer in the employ of Thrush. John Carradine greases his hair and parts it down the middle as a ghastly looking Thrush chieftain. Mark Slate spends half the episode knocked out. April uses a nerve pinch (first demonstrated in GFU Eps. 3) to knock out Andrews. Lisa Loring, the onetime Wednesday on “The Addams Family,” plays a VERY annoying kid who develops a crush on Slate. The score by Shores is much better than this episode deserved. Grade: D-Minus.


6. The Horns of the Dilemma Affair
Writer: Tony Barrett Director: John Brahm
Original airdate: Oct. 18, 1966

Fernando Lamas, looking “mahlvalous,” is DeSada, a Mexican millionaire who’s a member of Thrush. His target is Project Gamma, a “rocket transport” capable of traveling 5,000 mph. His plan: abduct scientists who are developing the aircraft and subjecting them to a device that drains their brains of their knowledge, leaving them mental vegtables. Pre-credits sequence cuts back and forth between April, infilitrating DeSada’s estate as the guest of one of his bullfighters, and Mark Slate with Mr. Waverly back at New York headquarters. Footage from this sequence appears to be the source of Noel Harrison’s credit in the main titles of the show. April, meanwhile, looks as if she might be auditioning to perform in a music video of “These Boots Were Made for Walking.” Lamas is OK as DeSada and at least projects some sense of menace, a big improvement over The Montori Device. At the end of Act I, April’s car goes over a cliff. But the stock footage doesn’t match the earlier footage. At the start of Act II, April doesn’t seem to be in that much danger as she supposedly holds on for dear life. Mark later pretends to be an “English bullfight critic,” a cover that Waverly says “should appeal to your sense of the bizarre.” In Act IV, Waverly again can’t resist going out into the field, taking the place of the last scientist DeSada needs. The UNCLE chief even shoots a thug with an umbrella gun. The episode doesn’t have a true “innocent.” The closest thing is a boy pickpocket Slate befriends during a brief stay in jail. Overall, a big improvement from the previous episode. The music by Jack Marshall, best known for the theme of “The Munsters,” is OK, but not up to Grusin or Shores. Grade: B.


Noel Harrison in a publicity still.

Noel Harrison in a publicity still.

7. The Danish Blue Affair
Writer: Arthur Weingarten Director: Mitchell Leisen
Original airdate: Oct. 25, 1966

The plot, such as it is, concerns a Thrush power beam of some sort and a microdot that had been hidden in cheese and consumed by Stanley Umlaut (Dom DeLuise). In reality, the episode shows that clunkers such as episodes 4 and 5 of this series were not a fluke; by now, a trend had been well established. As in the earlier misadventures, April and Mark spend a lot of time flailing about against adversaries who really ought not be much trouble to take out. Harrison’s Slate comes across as particularly incompetent. He’s easily captured by three Danish fishermen who mistakenly believe Slate, and not Thrush, is responsible for killing fish in the area. This supposedly highly trained agent, casually getting dressed after some scuba diving, can’t hear three amateurs sneaking up on him. What’s more, they beat the crap out of him. Indeed, it’s hard to figure out what Mark is doing except padding the running time of the episode. Powers’s April fares only slightly better. Henchpeople Hansel and Gretel look so ridiculous that even “Batman” producer William Dozier wouldn’t hire them. Lloyd Bochner as the Thrush “mastermind” has bad teeth and comes across as a moron and not much of a threat. Director Mitchell Leisen (1898-1972) is one of the reasons Billy Wilder became a director; Wilder thought Leisen incompetent and that Leisen’s directions had ruined scripts that Wilder penned with Charles Brackett. Wilder decided he needed to become a director to protect his scripts. Among the cast, Leo G. Carroll is fine, but doesn’t have much to do. Among the crew, only composer Richard Shores seems to have earned his paycheck, again turning in a score much better than the material he was working with. Alas, Shores is overwhelmed. While the composer could keep episode 5 from getting the lowest mark, even he can’t prevail here. Grade: F.


8. The Garden of Evil Affair
Writers: John O’Dea and Arthur Rowe Director: Jud Taylor
Original airdate: Nov. 1, 1966

A maddenly uneven episode, which veers from being quite good to silly and everywhere inbetween. On the plus side: Noel Harrison’s Mark Slate comes across as an able operative, a big improvement over the previous episode. Also on the plus side is a one-scene appearance by Khigh Dhiegh, the future Wo Fat on Hawaii Five-O, as a Thrush leader (the actor will appear again in the series shortly in another role). On the silly and awful side is a protracted scene in Act III, where Mark is being chased across a West Berlin movie studio that looks suspiciously like MGM’s Culver City, California, studio (including palm trees in one shot). Anyway, the story involves the cult of Cambodyses, which Thrush has used as assassins. The cult, however, is chafing under this arrangement and has its own plans. A scientist has developed a “formula” (I put the word in quotes because the science behind this idea is shaky even by U.N.C.L.E.-universe standards) where a long-dead person’s consciousness can be transferred to a living being, as long as that person is a direct descendant. The cult wants to transfer the consciousness of its founder into the mind of a woman who is the only living descendant of Cambodyses. First, however, the cult — as well as U.N.C.L.E. and Thrush — have to find the woman (Sabrina Scharf). It turns out she’s working as an actress in a Western being filmed at the previously mentioned film studio. (An aside: if a Western filmed in Italy is a “Spaghetti Western,” would that makes this movie a “Sauerkraut Western”?) The cult members, by the way, are trained to be killers from birth. They ingest small amounts of poison, starting when they are babies. They develop an immunity and are like “human snakes” — who can kill by scratching their intended victims. That’s an interesting concept but the execution here is very mixed. For one thing, as depicted, cult members have very dark, long, pointed fingernails (resembling Herman Munster’s fingernails, in fact). While that makes it easy for the view to spot, it also comes across as rather corny. On other fronts: we learn Mark can read and speak German fluently; Randy Kovacs, the U.N.C.L.E. intern must be a dim bulb (actually asking Waverly if the cult might kill April after it discovers it kidnapped her by mistake); and Waverly seems to have a fondness for April, musing it will be “quite lonely around here without Miss Dancer to brighten up the place” if she should perish. The score is a combination of original music by Jeff Alexander (primarily the goofy chase in Act III) and stock music by Dave Grusin and Richard Shores. Grade: C but it could easily have been at least one letter grade better if Douglas Benton & Co. had toned down the silliness.


Writer Richard Matheson

Writer Richard Matheson

9. The Atlantis Affair
Writer: Richard Matheson Director: E. Darrell Hallenbeck
Original airdate: Nov. 15, 1966

April and Mark are on a Carribean island looking for Professor Antrum (Sidney Blackmer), a scientist seeking for the lost continent of Atlantis. It turns out a cavern on the island leads to the last surviving part of Atlantis. What’s more, the cavern contains crystals that, when exposed to light, creates a beam of intense light and destructive power. This plotline is courtesy of veteran science fiction/fantasy writer Richard Matheson, one of the leading writers of the original “Twilight Zone” series, including the classic show (“The Invaders”)  where Anges Moorehead plays a mute woman menaced by miniature aliens who turn out to be U.S. astronauts. Snagging Matheson was a coup for producer Douglas Benton. Benton also seems to have secured a somewhat higher production budget for this episode from Executive Producer Norman Felton and/or the MGM brass. Director E. Darrell Hallenbeck uses the extra funds reasonably well in staging a speedboat chase. Even better: Matheson and Hallenbeck depict April and Mark as competent agents instead of dolts. Noel Harrison does a fair amount of physical activity fairly convincingly and doesn’t just get beaten up. Stefanie Powers looks fairly convincing in a fencing sequence. This doesn’t mean this is a pefect episode. Claude Woolman as Thrush collaborator Honore Le Gallows seems too campy a character for my taste. He’s a landowner on the island (whose property includes the cavern to Atlantis) and likes to dress up like a 17th Century French nobleman. Khigh Dhiegh is Colonel Frank Faber, a supposedly top Thrush agent, isn’t as interesting as he was in his previous appearance (where he was just listed as a “Thrush director” and apparenty a different character than this episode). In the climatic sequence, Dhiegh is supposed to have a look of horror, but it comes across as unintentionally comical. Still, compared to previous crappy episodes (and some bad episodes yet to come), this installment is one of the better in the series. Trivia: one-time Tarzan Denny Miller, at 6-foot-4, is probably one of the tallest U.N.C.L.E. guest stars and here he’s one of the few male innocents in either U.N.C.L.E. series. The stock score is by Grusin and Shores, and includes a lot of Grusin’s music from episode 3. Grade: B-Plus.


10. The Paradise Lost Affair
Writers:
John O’Dea and Arthur Rowe Director: Alf Kjellin
Original airdate: Nov. 22, 1966

My nomination for worst U.N.C.L.E. production for either series. Words fail me about how awful this episode is. April and Mark have a relapse of Dolts Disease. Or perhaps they suffered amnesia and forgot EVERY bit of training they ever received

April acts like a “poor defenseless woman” rather than the trained agent she is supposed to be. Mark, claiming to be a Black Belt, is as unimpressive as can be imagined. I wonder if writers O’Dea and Rowe had a bet with fellow GFU scribe Arthur Weingarten to see who could turn out the worst story. As bad as Weingarten’s scripts were for eps. 7 and 21, the O’Dea and Rowe team “win” (and the viewers lose).

The agents infiltrate a Thrush ship sailing in the South Pacific and steal some charts that show the courses for submarines to travel for smuggling. We’re told this is really important, but four decades later, DVD pirates in China make much money in a week than Thrush would from this caper.  Anyway, the Thrush ship explodes following a ruckus that April and Mark start. They end up on an unchartered island run by Genghis Gomez VIII (Monte Landis), the story’s nominal villain (at least until Act IV when Thrush shows up in force). Alf Kjellin, normally a good director, falls down here. The performances from all concerned are hammy and just terrible. Despite the lack of a dancing gorilla, it’s the worst U.N.C.L.E. production ever. Trivia: Fred Waugh, David McCallum’s main stuntman over at MFU, shows up as Gibbons, a Thrush thug, and even gets a few lines. The stock music is by Grusin and Shores (who, thus, legitimately escape any blame for this mess). Grade: F-Minus (lowest grade available).

UPDATE (Oct. 19, 2014): When Warner Archive began selling The Girl From U.N.C.L.E. in 2011, it used a clip from this episode as a preview of the series. The clip is a mere hint of how awful the episode is.

11. The Lethal Eagle Affair
Writer: Robert Hill  Director: John Brahm

Original airdate: Nov. 29, 1966

The series follows up its worst outing with a fairly enjoyable episode if you don’t think too hard. It helps that April and Mark have recovered from their bout with Dolts Disease and, for the most part, act like trained agents able to think on their feet.  Gita Volander (Margaret Leighton) was forcibly retired from a leadership position in Thrush and desperately wants back in. Her underling Franz Joseph (Michael Wilding) has developed a “molecular reorganizer,” that transports objects from one spot to another — or so it appears. In Austria, Gita conducts a demonstration for Thrush official Count Egon (Cesare Danova), in which an eagle ready to attack April seems to disappear and rematerialize in a cage. In reality, the device only disintegrates objects. You’d think that’d be impressive enough but Franz Joseph has deceived Gita anyway. Count Egon wants a demonstration performed with a human subject. Under U.N.C.L.E.’s plans, that’s supposed to be with Mark but things going awry and Dieter, a local musician, is abducted and is to be the test subject instead. Meanwhile, Egon plans a double cross on Gita.

There are a number of gaffes. In Act IV, Michael Wilding takes off his glasses while talking to Stefanie Powers in a long shot. We cut to a closeup and Wilding is wearing his glasses. We then cut back to the long shot and Wilding is holding his glasses. Meanwhile, Alexander Waverly is leading a team of U.N.C.L.E. agents on a raid at the same time Thrushmen disguised as U.N.C.L.E. agents come to steal the device. All are wearing U.N.C.L.E. badges — which aren’t supposed to be worn out in the field, only at U.N.C.L.E. facilities. The same mistake would be made in 1983’s The Return of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. We see various objects in the climax being disintegrated before the device overloads and disintegrates itself. One is a table that has a picture of actor Joseph Ruskin, who played a Thrush villain in the third-season opener for The Man From U.N.C.L.E. Another object is a piano, which is mostly disintegrated except for the keyboard, which somehow stays upright on only two legs. Earlier in the episode, Mark hid in the piano, but that seems a stretch.

Margaret Leighton often played dignified, restrained women. Here, she gets to chew the scenery as Gita. Danova is his usual smooth operator. The pre-credits sequence may remind some people of the 2012 James Bond film Skyfall, except in reverse. In both, the sidekick is in communication with the head of the respective organizations. Mark wants to shoot the eagle that’s threatening April but is told no by Waverly. In the Bond film, agent Eve is hesitant to shoot for fear of hitting Bond but is told to blast away by M. In both instances, the chief comes across as cold blooded. The stock score is credited, as usual, to Dave Grusin and Richard Shores. But a sequence at a “dance hall” — featuring a band dressed in stereotypical German-Austrian clothing —  has music that sounds as if it were composed by Gerald Fried.  Grade: B

12. The Romany Lie Affair
Writer:
Tony Barrett Director: Richard C. Sarafian

Original airdate: Dec. 6, 1966

This episode comes across as a sort-of remake of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. episode 20 (The Bow-Wow Affair), where the main villains are gypsies trying to become rich. Here, Sadvaricci, considered the king of the gypsies, is seducing rich women, stealing from them and manipulating stock prices of their companies. Meanwhile, Mark seemingly looks into the future (specifically the 1983 James Bond film Octopussy) for his choice of a disguise, a clown, which he uses twice. It’s a decent episode. April and Mark again come across as competent agents. Still, it’s not as good as it could be, either. Lloyd Bochner, a villain in a first-season episode of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. , is Sadvaricci but doesn’t seem as menacing as he should be, even though we’re shown him killing one of his victims in the pre-credits sequence. Also, there’s a not-very-convincing bear (shades of the fake bear in The Secret Scepter Affair in season one of The Man From U.N.C.L.E.) that’s supposed to be threatening but isn’t. Meanwhile, the supporting cast includes Audrey Dalton, who played the daughter of Boris Karloff in a second-season episode of The Wild Wild West, and Fred Waugh, who was David McCallum’s stunt double over at The Man From U.N.C.L.E. Also present is Cal Bolder once again playing a thug like he did in two two-part episodes in Man’s second season. The stock score is by Dave Grusin and Richard Shores. Director Sarafian helmed the pilot for The Wild Wild West and one of the first-season Joker episodes of the Batman television series with Adam West and Burt Ward as well as several episodes of I Spy and feature films such as Vanishing Point. GRADE: C.

 

 


13. The Little John Doe Affair
Writer: Joseph Calvelli Director: Leo Penn
Original airdate: Dec. 13, 1966

In Rome, April has to protect a free-lance gangster (Pernell Roberts) with extensive knowledge of the Mafia. (That term isn’t used in the show, instead it’s referred to as “Murder Inc.” or “The Syndicate.”) Title refers to the hit man with a club foot (Wally Cox) assigned to silence the threat. Roberts character starts out shallow but becomes more three dimensional as the story progresses. The notion of the hit man with an unsuspecting family has been done elsewhere but Cox is very good. He has very little dialogue until the second half of the show. April comes across as very self reliant. However, the producers’ preference that April not fight very much causes some problems. For example, after an attempt on the life of the Roberts character, April lets him fight one of Little John Doe’s operatives. It would seem as if an U.N.C.L.E. agent might want to take care of such a threat herself. The copy I saw doesn’t explain why April wears glasses for most of the episode. She also carries a gadget that can analyze the chemical composition of objects (letting her know there’s a bomb in a meal being served to her). How the device works isn’t explained. The ending also is a little too pat, with April talking Little John Doe out of a last murder attempt. April’s bad luck with her wardrobe continues, with an especially hideous outfit for the pre-credits sequence; this is how someone dresses when they’re operating undercover? Also, April claims to be in Section One again! A scene with some singing alter boys includes some of the same boys who appeared in MFU’s The Children’s Day Affair. To read the perspective of one of them, click here. Writer Calvelli appears as the Rome police chief. A solid episode, thanks, I suspect, to the no-nonsense direction of Leo Penn. The stock score is by Grusin and Shores. Grade: B-Plus.

Behind the scenes: CLICK HERE to read an account by a former child actor who participated in the filming of this episode.


14. The Jewels of Topango Affair

Writer: Berne Giler  Director: John Brahm

Original airdate: Dec. 20, 1966

It was nice while it was lasted but after three episodes that were acceptable or better, we’re back to excessive silliness. April and Mark don’t fully contract Dolts Disease again, but they don’t come across as being among U.N.C.L.E.’s finest, either.

The plot, such as it is, concerns a conspiracy to steal, you guessed it, the jewels of Topango, a fictional African country. Once cut and polished, the jewels are worth around $1 billion. In the pre-credits sequence, April gets taken out and a mysterious woman, Natasha Brimstone (Leslie Uggams), takes her place. When Mark shows up later, he gets taken, having his U.N.C.L.E. communicator lifted and a phony one replacing it. Marks thinks he’s contacting Alexander Waverly but really isn’t. Natasha claims to be April’s replacement and Mark, after talking to a phony Waverly, is taken in by it.

April is assigned to pick up Mark’s trail and to get into Topango, ruled by King M’Bala, who is more than willing to have those who break his laws executed. She hires a guide, who is taking a safari into the country. At one point, a tiger nearly gets into April’s tent and the cartridges of her gun have been removed. Also, in the melee, most of April’s clothes get burned, so she spends much of the rest of the episode only wearing a man’s shirt and walking barefoot in the rugged African terrain. Meanwhile, Mark’s main advantage is that M’Bala’s English-educated son is an old friend because they were classmates. Mark eventually figures out Natasha isn’t what she appears but not until she is engaged to the prince.

As with other sub-par Girl episodes, a lot of the humor doesn’t work. In addition, there’s excessive use of stock footage (probably taken from MGM movies) of Africa. In some scenes, the stock footage almost matches the new footage of the episode. April, before her wardrobe malfunction, also wears some odd outfits, include a white fez, matching a white dress, with transparent boots. There are a couple of things that do help the episode. There is a reasonably good plot twist concerning the identity of the mastermind of the plot. Also, the cast is really, really trying to do the best with the material, particularly Uggams and Brock Peters as the king. A supporting role of a secondary villain is played by Alan Caillou, who wrote some of the best scripts of the early episodes of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. A pity producer Douglas Benton didn’t hire him to rewrite Berne Giler’s script. The stock music is by Dave Grusin and Richard Shores. GRADE: C-Minus, with a D grade avoided because of the efforts of the guest stars.

15. The Faustus Affair
Writer: Jerry McNeely Director: Barry Shear
Original airdate: Dec. 27, 1966

Story starts out mediocre and gets worse as it progresses. Raymond Massey is B. Elsie Bubb, frustrated artist with a thing for satanic images. Bubb, for reasons that aren’t very clear for much of the episode, is trying to enlist the aid of Professor Quantum. Eventually (but long after we cease to care), we find out that Bubb is an unsuccessful painter and that he intends to turn all the other paintings in the world white. Yeah, right. You know you’re in trouble when Randy Kovacs figures in the action scenes. Juvenile episode, not very funny. Writer McNeely’s scripts always depended on humor to be effective and this mess just isn’t amusing, much less funny. The one thing that prevents this episode from getting an F? April actually holds a real UNCLE Special, instead of her normal “girl’s gun.” Of course, actually using the gun is another matter. Massey had a long, distinguished career. This is not one of its highlights. Perhaps Massey and John Caradine (see episode 5, above) had a bet to see who would look the most ridiculous. About the only person to come out of this with their dignity intact is Leo G. Carroll as Mr. Waverly. The stock music is by Grusin and Shores. Grade: D.

16. The U.F.O. Affair

Writer: Warren Duff  Director: Barry Shear

Original airdate: Jan. 3, 1967

April has been investigating a “Mafia-like” international crime syndicate. The syndicate’s leaders decide the U.N.C.L.E. agent is a threat and must be eliminated. The episode actually begins with an interesting pre-credits sequence with a meeting of the syndicate leaders where we get a bit of background on April, including that she grew up as “an Army brat.” April is picked up by Mark at “New York International Airport” (looking suspiciously like MGM studio buildings) who has brought the U.N.C.L.E. car with him. For some unknown reason, Mark drives way out into the country. A car chase ensues and we actually get to see the U.N.C.L.E. car’s gadgets, which didn’t happen much over at The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

Unfortunately, that’s the best part of the episode. It proceeds to go downhill — slowly at first, but by Act IV, we’re in full train wreck mode.

The lead villain is played by Fernando Lamas, making his second appearance in the series. This time the Argentine-born actor is playing an Arab character, Salim Ibn Hydari, one of the crime syndicate leaders. He actually tells a fez-wearing assistant, “I gave you a mahlevous opportunity!” Salim wants to make April part of his harem rather than kill her immediately, which provides an excuse to put Stefanie Powers in a sheer dress for most of the episode. Mark goes after April but he ends up getting captured also.

The title refers to how the syndicate has built a working flying saucer. The aircraft figures into the group’s plans to cause trouble generally. Perhaps the crime syndicate should have compared notes with evil industrialist Simon Sparrow, who had similar plans in The Man From U.N.C.L.E. episode The Take Me to Your Leader Affair this same television season. Better yet: maybe Girl producer Douglas Benton should have compared notes with Man third-season producer Boris Ingster about using the same plot device at roughly the same time.

As mentioned before, things fall completely apart in Act IV. The flying saucer effects, even by 1966 standards, are laughable. Lamas projected a modest amount of menace earlier in the episode but not at all before his character gets killed off. Oh, one more thing. For some reason Mark wears a skirt from a harem dress over his street clothes. And still another thing: at one point in the story, April and another woman in the harem recyle the old Hope-Crosby “patty cake” routine from the Road movies. The stock score is by Grusin and Shores. Grade: F.

17. The Moulin Ruse Affair

Teleplay: Jay Simms and Fred Eggers Story: Jay Simms Director: Barry Shear

Original airdate: Jan. 17, 1967

Once again, an episode starts out with a potentially interesting idea but it degenerates into farce. Dr. Vladimir Toulouse has developed Vitamin Q, which can give an ordinary person the strength of many. He gives a massive dose to an older man, who proceeds to knock down the wall of U.N.C.L.E.’s New York HQs, throwing agents around like dolls and generally smashing up the place before April knocks him out with gas. That’s her best moment in the episode. Later in the story, she and Mark often wear goofy grins on their faces at all sorts of inappropriate moments.

Anyway, Dr. Toulouse wants $5 million from U.N.C.L.E. or threatens to unleash an army of such superman. The attacker dies at U.N.C.L.E.’s medical facilities as the result of side effects from the larger-than-normal dose of Vitamin Q he took. Eventually, our heroes reach the island of Moulin in the Carribean, where the good doctor has a health clinic where high paying elderly people are rejuvenated using a variant of Vitamin Q.  April and Mark are assigned to try to find the source of Vitamin Q and destroy it within 30 hours or pay the $5 million. Eventually, Thrush will surface (it had offered $4 million and was refused). Things get further complicated when the U.N.C.L.E. contact on Moulin is killed and the $5 million check is missing.

The script by Jay Simms and Fred Eggers works in references to the arts. Shelly Berman’s Dr. Toulouse is made up to look like illustrator Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, who was played by Jose Ferrer in the 1952 movie Moulin Rouge. Just in case you don’t get the joke, Dr. Toulouse complains that people always ask if he’s a painter. There are also quotes from Shakespeare and a reference to Edgar Allan Poe. Unfortunately, there’s not the same effort to come up with a story to make the viewer care and not enough jokes that work. It doesn’t help that, in the second half of the episodes, Stefanie Powers and Noel Harrison look at each other with their goofy grins as if to say, “Can you believe we’re getting paid for this?” The Poe reference comes into play at the end of the story when U.N.C.L.E.’s missing $5 million is found in plain sight. April is tempted to cash it, but virtuous Mark tears it up. We see a closeup of the check. It has been signed by associate producer George M. Lehr as an in-joke.

Finally, the episode does feature some character actors of note, including Burt Mustin (1884-1977) as the super-powered guy who wrecks U.N.C.L.E. HQs; Ellen Corby (1911-1999) as one of the elderly clients on the doctor’s Carribean island; and Olan Soule (1909-1994), who also was the voice of Batman in cartoons produced by Filmation and Hanna-Barbera in the 1960s and ’70s. The stock score is by Grusin and Shoes. GRADE: F.

18. The Catacomb & Dogma Affair

Writer: Warren Duff Director: E. Darrell Hallenbeck

Original airdate: Jan. 24, 1967

A decent episode but it had potential to be a lot better. Some criminal types are planning to loot the Vatican of its art treasures. April and Mark, while on assignment in Venice, come across the plot while searching for a missing U.N.C.L.E. agent. They abduct one of the criminals involved in the plot. But he gets away from them while on a train. One of the structural problems with the episode is when you have a big caper, you should have a big villain. But here we have three mediocre ones. One of the three is Prince Boriarsi, played by Eduardo Ciannelli, who is passing himself off as a Catholic cardinal. Ciannelli once played the lead villain in the 1939 movie Gunga Din. So he could have been the larger-than-life villain but doesn’t get the chance to do that here. Meanwhile, some patterns from previous episodes emerge. April gets captured for a time, providing an excuse to get Stefanie Powers into a skimpy outfit. The silliness isn’t as pronounced as the last few episodes, but it’s still there in places. An unusual ending: Mark Slate gets the girl (a stewardess who has stumbled into the affair). The stock music yet again is by Grusin and Shores. GRADE: C.

19. The Drublegratz Affair

Writer: Boris Sobelman  Director: Mitchell Leisen

Original airdate: Jan. 31, 1967

Memo to Billy Wilder: You were right about Mitchell Leisen. At least we can credit him with your decision to become a director. Sometimes good things happen out of bad events.

The story concerns Thrush efforts to take over Drublegratz. I’m sure Thrush had a reason but it’s not evident in the episode. Guest stars Patricia Barry and Vito Scotti apparently had a bet who could overact more than the other. Scotti, never a subtle actor, is the winner. He wears a ridiculous wig and his eyes bulge constantly throughout the episode. As for April and Mark…well, not their best outing but not their worst. April goes undercover as a go-go dancer with a band. We could make more snarky comments but it doesn’t really seem worth the effort. The stock score, yet again, is by Grusin and Shores. “My Bulgarian Baby,” the song the band plays over and over, is by Gerald Fried and Boris Sobelman. GRADE: F.

UPDATE: This clip probably tells you all you need to know about The Drublegratz Affair


20. The Fountain of Youth Affair.
Teleplay: Richard DeRoy Story: Robert Bloch and DeRoy Director: E. Darrell Hallenbeck
Original airdate: Feb. 7, 1967

One of the better episodes. Gena Rowlands is Baroness Ingrid Blangstead who has developed a formula for retarding the aging process. She’s providing it to the wives of diplomats and other officials and then blackmails the husbands. The Baroness also has a formula that causes more rapid aging. April ends up mud wrestling with one of the Baroness’ women flunkies. Slate ends up in a pen with a wild boar. Both wear some really bad clothes in this episode, especially in the pre-credits sequence. Co-plotted by Robert Bloch. The stock music is by Grusin and Shores. Grade: A.


21. The Carpathian Caper Affair
Writer: Arthur Weingarten Director: Barry Shear
Original airdate: Feb. 14, 1967

Perhaps producer Douglas Benton thought he scored a coup when he signed the great satirist Stan Freburg as a guest star. True, Freburg as Herbert Fummer comes across as amusing and sympathetic. But Benton might have been better off hiring Freberg to write an episode instead. Had that occurred, we would have been spared this insipid mess. One suspects writer Arthur Weingarten must have tried writing a script for the Adam West “Batman” series only to see it rejected — as being too slapstick. Not one, but two deathtraps seem like “Batman” ripoffs, including April and Herbert stuck in a giant toaster. They get out of it only through sheer dumb luck. Ridiculous, unfunny situations abound. Not even Leo G. Carroll gets through this unschathed. Finally, I wish somebody at Arena Productions knew something, anything about golf. Jack Cassidy, as a Thrush chieftain, supposedly is on a golf green (judging from the flagstick in the ground). Yet, the grass is far too tall for a putting green and Cassidy is using a pitching wedge to hit golf balls. A similar gaffe occurs in MFU’s Season Three. The plot, such as it is, concerns Mother Magda (Ann Sothern), a Thrush leader who has substituted doubles for LBJ, DeGaulle, Queen Elizabeth, Mao Zedong and others. Maybe the producers of the 1979 “Wild, Wild West Revisited” TV movie got the idea from this. If so, they gleaned the wrong lesson. The stock music is by Grusin and Shores. Grade: D-Minus. Freburg’s presence barely keeps this from descending into the F category.

22. The Furnace Flats Affair

Writer: Archie L. Tegland Director: John Brahm

Original airdate: Feb. 21, 1967

The best thing you can say about this episode is that April uses her wits to avoid getting killed on a number of occasions. Other than that, there aren’t a lot of positives. As with a lot of Girl episodes, a lot of humor falls flat. Peggy Lee does a bad imitation of Mae West. Herb Edelman as Thrush operative Mr. Asterick can’t be taken seriously as a menace. Ruth Roman as Dolly X, another Thrush operative, tries but falls short. Thrush is after a rare mineral that can only be found on property that had belonged to Mesquite Swede in Furnace Flats in Death Valley. Under terms of Mesquite Swede’s will, the land will go to whatever woman wins a race in the desert. Many of the desert scenes obviously take place on a soundstage at MGM in Culver City. You can even see the wrinkles in the landscape illustrations behind the actors. Mark pals around with Peggy Lee’s character while April copes with Dolly X during the race. Generally, it’s hard to care what happens. There is a gimmick with the act titles. We first see half of each act title. Then, after a few seconds, we see the other half. Writer Tegland had written one of the best first-season episodes of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. (The Brain Killer Affair). The music is by Dave Grusin. GRADE: F. April’s occasional ingenuity doesn’t overcome a lame ending, in which neither April nor Mark defeat the villains.

23. The Low Blue C Affair

Writers: Berne Giler & David Giler  Director: Barry Shear

Original airdate: Feb. 28, 1967

At times, this episode is visually interesting. The best example is the pre-credits sequence where we see a duke of a European nation assassinated by a killer posing as a corpse in a funeral. At times, there is humor that works. The best example: Mark Slate plays to Alexander Waverly’s ego, suggesting he’s the best person to convince the woman next in line to the throne (Herminone Gingold) that she should become the small country’s new ruler. All that only partially overcomes the episode’s main flaw. It’s written as if it writers Berne Giler and David Giler wrote some Bullwinkle cartoons and strung them together. It’s not a real, unified story. Still, the humor works a majority of the time so it’s not a total loss. April debuts a new, shorter hairdo. Mark makes a joke referring to Mission: Impossible, which debuted this same television season but had a much longer run than The Girl From U.N.C.L.E. The villain trying to take over the throne is Broderick Crawford as Soyil Irosian (pronounced “soil erosion,” yuk, yuk). A viewer can’t help but wonder if cast members Crawford, Gingold and Leonid Kinskey, during breaks in filming, discussed the “good old days” when they made movies such as All the King’s Men, Gigi and Casablanca respectively. For co-writer David Giler, better days lay ahead. He would eventually be a producer on the Alien movies. The stock score is by Grusin and Shores. GRADE: C-Minus.

24. The Petit Prix Affair

Writer: Robert Hill  Director: Mitchell Leisen

Original airdate: March 7, 1967

Episode attempts to secure the title of the worst of the series and comes close. Guest stars Marcelle Hillaire and Nanette Fabray try to top the other as to which performer overacts the most. The title refers a glorified go-kart race that is taking place in France. The story involves an attempt to rob a shipment in an armored car of $1 million which is occurring in the middle of the go-kart race. Everything is played for jokes but, unfortunately, the attempts at humor just aren’t funny. Nobody on the crew earned their paycheck. Did anybody view the “dailies” as this episode was filmed? The stock score is by Grusin and Shores. GRADE: F-Minus (lowest grade available). Only Eps. 10 is worse.

25. The Phi Beta Killer Affair

Writer: Jackson Gillis Director: Barry Shear

Original airdate: March 14, 1967

This episode illustrates what is so maddening about The Girl From U.N.C.L.E. There’s actually a very intriguing story idea: bodyguards to some of the richest and most powerful people in the world are being programmed to kill their employers. But, given how NBC wanted a frothy, funny show, not unlike the Batman series on ABC, that idea doesn’t reach its maximum potential. Jackson Gillis, the writer of this episode, was one of the best U.S. television writers of the 20th century. He wrote some of the best episodes of The Adventures of Superman and some of the best episodes of Columbo — two very different genres and two shows produced two decades apart. Gillis was a pro, capable of spinning yarns for various types of shows. He does his best here, but he’s handcuffed by having to inject too many jokes. Just a little bit of playing it straight had the potential to turn this into an episode with an A grade.

However, to meet the humor quota, the pre-credits sequence is a thinly veiled takeoff on Julius Ceasar. Little Julie, a gangster, is setting up a poker game involving some of the world’s richest people. He intends to use marked cards to steal the proceeds for himself. He survives an attempt on his life by other gangsters thanks to his trained bodyguard Bruce. But when Julie begins to gloat, Bruce freaks out and kills Julie. “You too, Bruce?” Julie asks with his dying breath.

The mastermind behind the plot is played by Victor Buono. As usual, he’s fun to watch, even if his character doesn’t have quite the same menace as villains he played on other television series of the 1960s. Also appearing is Alan Caillou as a minor villain, marking his last U.N.C.L.E. appearance as either a writer or actor. There are a couple of cute jokes at the end, including how Waverly is an “old friend” of stripper Ida Martz (Julie had been told in the pre-credits sequence to “beware of Ida Martz”). The other joke is when Ida gets a phone call from Mr. Anthony. You can guess what his first name is.

One quibble. April foils the attempted assassination of rich and powerful people in such a way that the bodyguards all kill each other. These guys had all been programmed so it wasn’t exactly their fault. But given all the stinker episodes, it’s best to avoid thinking about such matters. Another thought. The rationale for relying on humor was that NBC didn’t want to air a violent show early in the evening. But this episode’s body count is pretty high by the end. The stock music is by Grusin and Shores. GRADE: C-PLUS, but it had the potential to be much higher.


26. The Double-O-Nothing Affair
Writer:
Dean Hargrove  Director: John Brahm
Original airdate: March 21, 1967

What’s this? April Dancer comes across as an intelligent and capable agent? Mark Slate, rebounding from an injury and a potentially grave mistake, rebounds thanks to courage and brains? Yes. Once and for all, April and Mark demonstrate they could have been lead characters viewers could care about and root for. The major credit goes to Dean Hargrove, arguably the best writer for The Man From U.N.C.L.E., who scripted the pilot for GFU back during Man’s second season. Just to be clear: this ain’t John Le Carre. The episode is breezy and fun. But the jokes (certainly the majority of them) work. The episode has humor but NOT at the expense of the lead characters. The story concerns “mobile attack forces” of Thrush, led by George Kramer (Edward Asner), a one-time officer in the U.S. military who got court-martialed (no mention of which service or the reason). Mark infilitrates one of the mobile attack teams and has made key recordings that could permit U.N.C.L.E. to figure out where the assault teams are based. Mark, on the run from Thrushmen, drops his recorder in a car while he tries to escape. Mark doesn’t realize the car is occupied by an accountant (Sorrell Booke), who’s picked on at work and his personal life. As a gunfight ensures, the accountant drives away and Mark is wounded in the leg. April, who has also been part of the operation, is put in charge by Waverly, who’s unhappy with Slate’s performance. Over the course of the episode, April takes out a Thrush agent (Don Chastain) via a dart and, in a sequence set in Central Park, sets up Thrush agents so they shoot each other. Mark, meanwhile, poses as a Thrush inspector after deducing that Kramer’s operations is based underneath a used-car lot (which looks suspiciously like the exterior of a movie studio). As stated before, this ain’t John Le Carre, but it works. There’s actual wit instead of idiocy (see the review for episode 10, above). This is arguably a contender for best episode of the series. The stock music is by Grusin and Shores. Grade: A.

27. The U.N.C.L.E. Samurai Affair

Writer: Tony Barrett  Director: Alf Kjellin

Original airdate: March 28, 1967

A second good episode in a row. U.N.C.L.E. is after a Japanese war criminal, who had been thought dead. The war criminal’s wife has been a respected citizen of Hawaii for many years, but all of that is a front for various criminal activities. Evidently, the mission is important enough that Waverly is at U.N.C.L.E.’s Honolulu office to supervise the operation. Leo G. Carroll wears a loud Hawaiian shirt as a result, with a Hawaiian looking assistant who wears a flower in her hair. By Girl From U.N.C.L.E. standards, this episode is played relatively straight. The line between quirky and totally goofy stays on the quirky side. For some reason, the production team decided to play up the idea of Mark Slate being irresistible to women. There is also a plot twist. Not to give too much away, but anyone who saw the 1967 movie version of Peter Gunn (titled simply Gunn) will recognize it. April gets into peril throughout and Mark has to bail her out. But, having viewed so many clunker episodes, that’s a relatively minor quibble. The stock score is credit to Dave Grusin and Richard Shores. But the relatively more serious tone indicates that a majority of the music is from Shores. GRADE: B.

28. The High and the Deadly Affair

Writer: Jameson Brewer  Director: Richard Bennett

Original airdate: April 4 1967

Parody of the 1957 John Wayne film The High And the Mighty in which the Duke is the co-pilot (with a shaky pilot played by Robert Stack) of a Honolulu-to-San Francisco flight which faces crisis after crisis. April goes undercover as a flight attendant to monitor a Thrush scientist on a long flight (Murray Matheson) . This is the final appearance of U.N.C.L.E. high school intern Randy Kovacs (Randy Kirby). The intern character was always an absurd idea that should never have been part of the series. June Foray (b. 1917) is the voice of a doll who belongs to a spoiled girl. Foray did the “bumpers” (i.e. “The Man From U.N.C.L.E. will return after station identification”) over on MFU. Foray was one of the greatest cartoon voices of the 20th century, including voicing Rocky the Flying Squirrel on Bullwinkle cartoons. Overall, this episode isn’t horrible but it’s not the best the series had to offer. The stock score is by Grusin and Shores. GRADE: C.

 


April Dancer gets word her show has been canceled.

April Dancer gets word her show has been canceled.

29. The Kooky Spook Affair.
Writers: John O’Dea and Arthur Rowe Director: Richard Bennett
Original airdate: April 14, 1967

In the series finale, Mr. Waverly leads a team of UNCLE agents who capture Mr. Beaumont, the top ranking Thrush official in the U.K. April and Mark’s undercover work helped set up this triumph. In order to convict Beaumont, UNCLE needs April’s testimony in court (evidently Mark didn’t see as much as she did). Beaumont (Edward Ashley) is quite displeased at this turn of events and orders Thrush’s unnamed “Man of a Thousand Faces” (apparently a male version of Dr. Egret, though that character isn’t mentioned here) to make the hit. Simultaneously, Mark inherits a country manor from a distant relative. Other relatives, including Lady Bramwich (Estelle Winwood), have other ideas. On top of everything else, a seeming ghost (played by Noel Harrison in closeups, and David McCallum’s primary stuntman, Fred Waugh, in long shots) keeps showing up. These two plot lines naturally come together when Mark is assigned to protect April and they decide to look over Mark’s new property. Stefanie Powers is sporting a new, shorter hairstyle that suits her and is probably more practical for action scenes (if, of course, the producers had ever let her do more than the few token action scenes she ever did). As usual, April and Mark make their usual fashion statements. April wears a bright yellow overcoat that, if possible, is even a brighter yellow than the one Warren Beatty donned to play the title character in the 1990 “Dick Tracy” movie. Director of Photography Harkness Smith apparently was so taken by the coat, he uses yellow lighting in interior scenes. Mark, meantime, seems to be comfortable with his pink power shirt. (Question: could Mark have been a forerunner of what, in 2003, are called metrosexuals? In addition to his clothing choices, he spends as much time with his hair as April does with hers in this episode.) The cast also includes character actors Arthur Mallet and John Orchard, who appeared in prior GFU episodes. Also, one of the disguises worn by the “Man of a Thousand Faces” is a London policeman, played by Richard Peel, who also played a policeman back in “The Mother Muffin Affair.” (He was the chap who dismissed Napoleon Solo as a “bloomin’ sissy.”) Interestingly, April doesn’t seem to notice the resemblence when she and Mark encounter the bogus policeman out in the English countryside (although she does figure out the policeman is a fake). Another quibble: Mark doesn’t take good care of his automobile. He leaves the roof down on his convertible just in time for drenching rainstorms. Yet, the car seems as good as new at episode’s end. For all of this, the episode isn’t bad. There are the inevitable silly touches but they’re kept to more or less a minimum. The stock score is by Grusin and Shores, with the former’s “Mother Muffin” score being recylced a fair amount here. For Grusin, this is the end of his UNCLE association. Shores was about to get busy as MFU’s primary composer for the upcoming fourth season of that show. Grade: B. Click here to return to the Man From U.N.C.L.E. page.

Advertisements

2 thoughts on “SPINOFF: The Girl From U.N.C.L.E. (1966-67)

  1. Pingback: Stan Freberg, brilliant satirist, dies | The HMSS Weblog

  2. Neville Ross

    Thank for the refresher about this show-the guide only confirms that this show was shit (not ‘the shit’, which is meant to be a positive term.) The The Girl From U.N.C.L.E. novels by Michael Avallone were better than this show, in particular The Birds of a Feather Affair where a innocent dies despite what April does to stop the femme fatale of the novel, Dr. Egret; IMHO, this would have made a great episode.

    I’m only going to (if I can do this) get three of these episodes off of Bit Torrent (U.N.C.L.E. Samurai, Double-O-Nothing, and Fountain of Youth) based on what you said.

    Like

    Reply

Leave a Reply to Neville Ross Cancel 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