Aug 22, 2011

New Spy DVDs Out This Week: A Girl and More Men From U.N.C.L.E.!

New Spy DVDs Out This Week: A Girl and More Men From U.N.C.L.E.!

Here's a nice surprise! TV Shows On DVD first sounded the alert this weekend that the 1966-67 spoofy spin-off series The Girl From U.N.C.L.E. is at last coming to DVD... tomorrow! The show will be available in two 4-disc, made on-demand sets comprising its entire run from the Warner Archive. At the height of the show's popularity, NBC decided to do a spin-off from its blockbuster spy series The Man From U.N.C.L.E. The result was The Girl From U.N.C.L.E., starring Stefanie Powers and Noel Harrison (son of Rex and sometime Eurospy dabbler) as U.N.C.L.E. agents April Dancer and Mark Slate. (Like "Napoleon Solo," the name "April Dancer" was actually dreamed up by James Bond creator Ian Fleming in a memo that amounted to his sole contribution to the series he was hired to develop.) Unfortunately, The Girl From U.N.C.L.E. ended up debuting in the 1966 TV season, the same year that its parent show succumbed to high camp in an effort to emulate mega-hit Batman. That meant that The Girl From U.N.C.L.E. shared the sillier tone of Man's third season rather than that of its more serious (and better) first season. In my opinion, however, Girl managed to wear it better; camp seemed an appropriate match for April's fabulously mod Carnaby Street fashions.

Like The Man From U.N.C.L.E., The Girl From U.N.C.L.E. attracted some first-rate guest stars, including Thunderball's Luciana Paluzzi (in the series premiere), Boris Karloff (in drag, no less!), Ed Asner, Gena Rowlands, Stan Freberg, Yvonne De Carlo and John Carradine. Robert Vaughn turned up as well, appearing as Napoleon Solo in the crossover episode "The Mother Muffin Affair" (with Karloff). Harrison also appeared on a Man episode, and Leo G. Carroll played U.N.C.L.E. boss Alexander Waverly on both series. (Girl was spun out of an episode of Man's previous season, in which Mary Ann Mobley and Norman Fell played Dancer and a very different Slate.)

Tomorrow, The Warner Archive will release all 29 episodes of Girl's sole season in two sets, The Girl From U.N.C.L.E.: The Complete Series - Part One and The Girl From U.N.C.L.E.: The Complete Series - Part 2. Both are available to pre-order from Warners' website now at $39.95 apiece, or together in a bundle as The Girl From U.N.C.L.E.: The Complete Pack for $59.95. (Right now the individual sets are listed on the Pre-Orders page discounted to $35.95 and the pack discounted to $53.95, but when you then click the linke to order, the prices revert to their full amount. I'm not sure what's going on with that.) For now you can only get them directly through The Warner Archive, but I suspect they'll pop up on (probably at a discount) by the end of the week and Amazon a month or so later. It's a little disappointing that Girl won't get the full, feature-laden Special Edition treatment like Man did a few years ago from Time-Life, but mainly I'm just glad it will finally be available! Between this and It Takes A Thief coming out this fall (something I keep meaning to do a post about), by the end of 2011 we should finally have most of the major Sixties spy shows on DVD! (Still waiting on T.H.E. Cat...) That's very exciting.

But April Dancer isn't the only U.N.C.L.E. agent The Warner Archive is unleashing tomorrow. Additionally, they'll release The Man From U.N.C.L.E 8 Movie Collection, which collects all eight theatrical U.N.C.L.E. films on Region 1 DVD for the first time in a 4-disc set. (Only one was included in the Time-Life box set.) While it's true that the U.N.C.L.E. features were created by combining two episodes of the show into a feature for overseas markets, they're still worth having for U.N.C.L.E. completists who already own the whole series because they add some extra footage (mostly sexy stuff to make them more Bond-like) and boast new (and, in my opinion, often better) score music. The episodes from the show's black-and-white first season are also viewable in color in the films. The Man From U.N.C.L.E. 8 Movie Collection is available to pre-order from The Warner Archive for $39.95. I wonder if The Warner Archive will announce any more spy titles tomorrow to tie in with these major releases? Here's hoping!

1 comment:

TC said...

The 1966-67 season was the peak of the Batman/camp comedy/pop art fad. Several action-adventure shows (Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, Lost In Space, The Man From U.N.C.L.E., The Wild Wild West, and The Avengers) really went over the top that year.

Most of them tried to tone it down in '67-68, when the camp fad passed, but by then it was too late. Maybe the damage was beyond repair. Or maybe fans who liked the campy weirdness were bored by an attempted return to playing it straight, and fans who wanted their action-adventure played straight had already quit watching by then. Or maybe those shows had just run their course, anyway. By 1968-69, the trend was away from larger-than-life adventure (sci-fi, spy-fi, super heroes) and toward relatively realistic, street level drama: Marcus Welby, The Bold Ones, Dragnet, etc.

If anything, The Man From UNCLE over-compensated, and the last season lacked even the subtle comedy relief that was usually a staple of the Bond movie series and its many imitators.

I always liked Stefanie Powers, but 1966 was the peak of the spy-fi boom, and The Girl From U.N.C.L.E. may have gotten lost in the crowd.