Sunday, November 25, 2007

DVD's Your U.N.C.L.E.

Today's LA Times ran two articles about the upcoming release of the entire MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. series on DVD: This interview with Robert Vaughn; and this appreciation by Robert Lloyd. I particularly liked Lloyd's comments on releasing the space-age U.N.C.L.E. series in the information-age early 21st Century:

"Although we are now accustomed to carrying around record collections and multiplexes in our pockets, to my ancient mind there is still something pleasantly improbable about the thought that all 105 episodes of 'The Man From U.N.C.L.E.' have been put onto DVD and packaged in a single cardboard 'attaché case' roughly the size of a complete volume of Shakespeare. . . . That a laser beam is at the heart of the technology that has made this possible is also suitably science-fiction, and poetically appropriate, regarded with a mind that can still thrill at the words 'laser beam.' Laser beam! Oh!"

Lloyd comments that nearly forty years after the series left the air, he no longer watches it with the wide-eyed wonder of a cold-war-era kid; but rather with "amused, ironic detachment." But, he continues,
"is not 'amused, ironic detachment' the very essence of the character of the modern filmic secret agent? Really, the whole world could use a lot more of that."

I've got an odd relationship with the whole U.N.C.L.E. phenomenon. As with many '60's TV shows, I have hazy memories of watching both U.N.C.L.E. series in the sixties (I particularly recalled the animated opening titles); but because the reruns weren't syndicated in my part of the country until the '80's, I didn't actually watch whole episodes growing up. Instead, my knowledge of the show came primarily from merchandising. There was a Whitman juvenile U.N.C.L.E. tie-in novel (written by Walter Gibson, the author of the SHADOW pulps)around the house; and I'd occasionally come across board games and other tchotchkes from the show. In the early '80's, there was an U.N.C.L.E. reunion movie, which my cousin Lee covered extensively for STARLOG magazine; and occasional articles about the show. It wasn't until I moved to San Francisco in the late '80's that I was able to see multiple episodes of not only the Man from U.N.C.L.E., but also the Girl from U.N.C.L.E. Because Silicon Valley wonks had an appetite for science fiction programming, the bay area local stations -- both private and public -- ran extensive science fiction programming.

As with the Connery Bond movies, I'll probably never be able to appreciate U.N.C.L.E. with the same viewpoint as those who grew up watching the show in the sixties. But I can still enjoy a worldview where the greatest threat to our planet is neither geopolitical forces nor ecological IOU's, but rather nasty businessmen who name themselves after birds.

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