The Return of the Man from U.N.C.L.E.: The Fifteen Years Later Affair (1983)

Article 3086 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 10-28-2009
Posting Date: 1-25-2010
Directed by Ray Austin
Featuring Robert Vaughn, David McCallum, Patrick Macnee
Country: USA
What it is: TV-Movie update of television spy series with science fiction touches

Napoleon Solo and Ilya Kuryakin are called out of retirement when a reunited THRUSH gets hold of an atomic bomb and holds the U.S. for ransom.

The advantage of a reunion-style version of an old TV show is that you have a ready-made audience of the show’s fans. The disadvantage is that those fans often have strong feelings and memories of what they liked about the show, and a reunion show of this variety runs the risk of not capturing the elements that were liked about the show. The biggest problem with this attempt was the absence of a key regular of the show; the passing of Leo G. Carroll meant that the character of Mr. Waverly, the head of U.N.C.L.E. had to be either recast or replaced. This movie chose the replacement route, and I like that they chose Patrick Macnee as the new boss, who had at least a certain familiarity to spy fans for playing Steed in “The Avengers”. I also liked the appearance of George Lazenby as “J.B.”, though I think the movie belabors this reference just a tad too much (and it would have been even cleverer had they gotten Roger Moore). Still, even outside of dealing with casting issues, there’s going to be the sense of whether the movie is true to the spirit of the original series, which may be a bit of an intangible. Given that this movie has a rating of 5.9 on IMDB, I get the sense that fans of the series were a bit lukewarm to this revival. Since I was not a big fan of the series and haven’t seen enough episodes to get a strong sense of what would be true to the series, I can’t really judge the movie in that regard. I thought the movie likable enough, but nothing special, and the story didn’t seem quite as clever as it should be. They also kept going on about the Anthony Zerbe character having been an old foe of some sort, but as far as I can tell, he did not appear in the original series; this left me with the sense that this was either intended as a pilot for a revived series, or the first of series of reunion movies for the Solo/Kuryakin team. At any rate, neither of these events happened. The aforementioned Zerbe does quite well, though Keenan Wynn is wasted in an undeveloped role. All in all, I found this one entertaining if unsensational.


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