ONE SPY TOO MANY
The James Bond films were at the height of their popularity during this period. The Man from U.N.C.L.E. took the Bond spy antics but placed a far more light-hearted spin on them and One Spy Too Many takes this light-hearted approach to a greater extreme than any of the other films. Even a car chase scene is scored with jaunty comedy music rather than dramatic music. One of the sillier elements is the need to write Dorothy Provine in as a character who turns up in every location they go and becomes the brunt of overly slapstick set-pieces such as where she gets dumped into a baggage carousel or is carted away by a forklift while hiding on a pallet. On the plus side, Robert Vaughn does the droll urbane charm to perfection and the film creates an appealingly flirtatious relationship between him and U.N.C.L.E. receptionist Yvonne Craig (a series of scenes that does not appear in the tv version of the episodes).
The Man from U.N.C.L.E. films never created much in the way of super-villains. There were occasional guest villains but none as memorable as ones that turned up in the Bond films of this period such as Blofeld, the title character in Dr No (1962) and especially Gert Frobes Goldfinger (1964). The one exception is Rip Torns Alexander the Greater here. Exactly how Alexander is trying to achieve world domination is only ever vaguely explained. However, what makes One Spy Too Many memorable are the highly entertaining set-pieces it arranges around him. It almost entirely consists of these scenes where Torn and Robert Vaughn play a giant game of chess using human pieces on a board; a Grecian tomb that has been converted into a series of traps; a scene that was almost certainly inspired by the then recent success of Roger Cormans Pit and the Pendulum (1961) where Robert Vaughn is tied up before a descending pendulum (and contrives an ingenious means of escape); the scenes running around a beauty parlour with Vaughn being attacked by a hulking Cal Bolder, who was also the Frankenstein monster in Jesse James Meets Frankensteins Daughter (1966); David McCallum being pursued around a health farm by killer tractors and buried in mud; Robert Vaughn racing along a runway in an open-top car trying to jump onto a small plane and stop Rip Torn getting away. These end up being incredible exciting set-pieces.
Joseph Sargent was a veteran director of films and tv. His most famous film is probably the original version of the thriller The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (1974). He made a surprising number of works that fall within genre guidelines including a further Man from U.N.C.L.E. film The Spy in the Green Hat (1966); the computer takeover film Colossus: The Forbin Project (1969); the pilot for the tv series The Immortal (1969) with Christopher George as a man whose blood contains the secret of immortality; The Man (1972) about the first Black President of the US; the tv movie The Night That Panicked America (1975) about the mass panic that ensued over the true-life Orson Welles War of the Worlds radio broadcast; Goldengirl (1979) about an attempt to genetically engineer an Olympic super-athlete; the tv movie Tomorrows Children (1982) about test-tube babies; the horror anthology Nightmares (1983); and the mini-series Space (1985), a fictionalisation of the Space Program; and the notorious Jaws: The Revenge (1987).
The characters were later revived in the tv movie The Return of the Man from U.N.C.L.E.: The Fifteen Years Later Affair (1983). The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (2015) was a big-screen remake of the tv series starring Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer as Napoleon Solo and Ilya Kuryakin, although this is very different from the tv series and has no genre elements. The Girl from U.N.C.L.E. (1966-7) starring Stefanie Powers was a spinoff tv series, although only lasted for one season of 29 episodes.