The Complete Man from U.N.C.L.E. DVD Review Special Features and General Review
Previously published on my Live Journal (now hosted on Dreamwidth) on: 05/20/2008
The U.N.C.L.E. DVD set is very nice. If you order the complete set from Time/Life, it comes packed in an (albeit cardboard) silver-colored attaché case, with the U.N.C.L.E. logo on the front. The handle moves and the metal locks work. However, the inner liner is cardboard and can’t be taken out, so you’re stuck with it being set to hold the four season sets and the two bonus discs. The bonus discs are in simple cardboard sleeves (CD size). I took mine out of the sleeves and put them in a plastic DVD case, then slid the empty sleeve into the plastic case front.
NOTE: You only get the two bonus special features disks and the attaché case if you purchase The Complete Man from U.N.C.L.E. as a set from Time-Life. Yes, it’s worth it, to get the extra discs.
Each season set is boxed separately, and the cases are glued on the left and each page (which holds two DVDs) opens like a book. There’s also an annoying clear plastic sleeve that you have to pull up towards the top (or towards the bottom) and remove completely before you can open the DVD set. Unfortunately, the discs overlap, which is bad for long-term storage. I’m going to have to re-package my sets into the same thin-line plastic DVD cases I put the bonus discs in. (Update: I did leave the discs in the Season Set boxes on my DVD shelves, because they do look nice, but I worry about scratches on the discs due to the overlapping nature of the discs in the cases.
Restoration: The Time-Life website claims the entire set is digitally restored. The problem is the restoration seems really hit and miss. Season 1 (which was filmed in black and white) actually looks really, really good, with the only problems being with the ubiquitous stock footage. And even then, the stock footage shots look cleaner in black-and-white. However, in the color seasons, for the most part, the actual U.N.C.L.E. shots look either really good or OK, but again the stock footage looks awful (at the very least having a lot of white “dust”, or vertical scratches). By the third season, some episodes even suffer from scratches, dust, etc. For example, “The Hot Number Affair”, with Sonny and Cher (one of my personal favorites from season 3) has long vertical black scratches on several scenes – and these are on scenes shot for the episode, not re-used footage or stock footage lifted from the MGM library. Season 4 though looks a tad better. Overall, I’d give the restoration effort 3 out of 4 maybe 5 stars.
For a comparison, try watching some classic Doctor Who episodes on DVD. The first season of Doctor Who originally aired in 1963, and although it was filmed (or done on video) in black and white until 1970, the restoration team’s work is better than the work done on Man from U.N.C.L.E., hands down. We are talking about material that’s the same age or older. Not to mention that videotape is even more fragile than film.
Oh, and while on the topic of restoration, I do realize that U.N.C.L.E. was probably done using Technicolor, and the cameras are huge and the restoration process is difficult because of the four separate rolls of film that must be synced. Also, I will say that the color sparkles in the three color seasons and in the color pilot included as a special feature. The color restoration is perfect, it is flaws in the film itself that I found annoying.
Briefly, here’s what the Complete U.N.C.L.E. set includes:
- Season 1 (black and white), 29 episodes, 11 discs, 3 episodes per disc plus special features disc.
- Season 2 (color), 30 episodes, 11 discs, 3 episodes per disc plus special features disc.
- Season 3 (color), 30 episodes, 11 discs, 3 episodes per disc plus special features disc.
- Season 4 (color), 16 episodes, 6 discs, 3 episodes per disc plus special features disc. NOTE: Disc 6 includes the last 2-part episode of the abbreviated season, and the special features.
- Two bonus discs.
Season 1 Special Features
- “The Clock and Swagger Affair: The Untold History of the Man From U.N.C.L.E.”
- “Solo” – Original Color (70 minute) Pilot
- U.N.C.L.E. VIPs – A Celebration of The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (First Season) Guest Stars
Season 2 Special Features
- “The Spy-Fi Tour: Archives, Art and Artifacts”
- Feature Film: One Spy Too Many, 1966
- U.N.C.L.E. VIPs — A Celebration of The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (Second Season) Guest Stars
Season 3 Special Features
- Interview – Double Agents: The David McCallum and Robert Vaughn Reunion
- The Secret Tapes of Illya Kuryakin: (David McCallum’s) Home Movies from the Set of The Man From U.N.C.L.E.
- U.N.C.L.E. VIPs – A Celebration of The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (Third Season) Guest Stars
Season 4 Special Features
- MGM’s Secret Operations (overview of what it was like making the show at MGM, such as the studio lots, the access to classic film sets, and the last breath of the Studio System)
- U.N.C.L.E. VIPs – A Celebration of The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (Fourth Season) Guest Stars
The Man from U.N.C.L.E. Debriefing Bonus Disc 1
Cold War, Hot Spies: U.N.C.L.E. and the Cold War
Guns, Gizmos, Gadgets, and Garb
Behind the wheel: U.N.C.L.E.’s Piranha (the gull-winged sports car used in Season 3)
Fandemonium (U.N.C.L.E.’s male and female fan base. Including the similarities and differences)
The Music from U.N.C.L.E.
The Girls of U.N.C.L.E.
Promos and Trailers:
The Man from U.N.C.L.E. Show Promo – Summer, 1964
The Man from U.N.C.L.E. Show Promo – 1966-67
The Man from U.N.C.L.E. Show Promo – “The Test Tube Killer Affair” (9/18/67)
The Man from U.N.C.L.E. Show Promo – Fall, 1967
The Man from U.N.C.L.E. Feature Film Trailer – To Trap a Spy, 1964, 1966
The Man from U.N.C.L.E. Feature Film Trailer – The Spy with My Face, 1965, 1966
The Man from U.N.C.L.E. Feature Film Trailer – One Spy Too Many, 1966
The Man from U.N.C.L.E. Feature Film Trailer – One of Our Spies is Missing, 1966
Official Debriefings: Interviews with U.N.C.L.E. Actors and Production Staff
Dean Hargrove, Writer
David McCallum, actor, Illya Kuryakin
The Man from U.N.C.L.E. Debriefing Bonus Disc 2
Official Debriefings: Interviews with U.N.C.L.E. Actors and Production Staff (continued)
Richard Donner, Director (yes, THAT, Richard Donner of Lethal Weapon and Superman fame)
George Lehr, Producer
Joseph Sargent, Director
Robert Vaughn, Actor, Napoleon Solo
TV Appearances and Spots
The Golden Globe Awards for 1965, aired live on The Andy Williams Show, 1/31/1966 (Vaughn and McCallum)
1965 Emmy Broadcast 9/12/65 – Robert Vaughn and David McCallum, presenters
David McCallum on The Andy Williams Show 9/20/1965
Tom & Jerry Cartoon – “The Mouse from H.U.N.G.E.R.” MGM, 1967
Photo and Image Galleries
Behind the scenes designs and Blueprints from the Set of U.N.C.L.E.
Hidden Camera: An U.N.C.L.E. Photo Gallery
Classified Files: Network and Studio Docs
For Collectors Only: U.N.C.L.E. Memorabilia
Top Secret: U.N.C.L.E. Motion Picture Advertising and Publicity
Needless to say, the extras are extensive and beautifully produced. All of the featurettes are introduced (on audio) by either Robert Vaughn or David McCallum. The featurettes also have tongue-in-cheek credits such as “With special thanks to the United Network Command for Law and Enforcement, music division.”
The best, and not to be missed, extras include: the interview of Vaughn and McCallum together – it’s truly marvelous as I remarked in my S. 3 review, as are the separate additional interviews of Vaughn and McCallum. Vaughn’s especially was very touching, and almost made me cry. I knew he was a personal friend of Bobby Kennedy and has worked on Kennedy’s campaign for the Democratic Nomination in 1968, prior to Kennedy’s assignation. But I didn’t know that Vaughn also knew Dr. Martin Luther King. Hearing him remark that he was on a plane when the pilot announced that King had also been assassinated – frankly, it must have been hell. Considering that both assassinations happened in 1968, the year U.N.C.L.E. was canceled. It must have been a very hard year for Vaughn, to say the least, and you could see he was, thinking back and remembering how upsetting it was. That moment in the interview just felt very personal. McCallum, of course, is also fun to watch, especially in interviews, but he’s more career-focused than personal or politically-focused. Other excellent extras include, the Fandemonium featurette, which includes an interview about the female fan base, as well as the more well-known male fans (such as the two hosting various featurettes on collecting U.N.C.L.E. memorabilia and U.N.C.L.E. gadgets and such), and of course all the TV spots, especially the one for the Golden Globes.
Overall, I’m pleased with the Complete set. I got my money’s worth. I’m really happy to finally have gotten to see ALL of U.N.C.L.E., something I missed since I initially saw it in syndication on TNT in the 1980s. Also, no doubt, that in the future, U.N.C.L.E. episodes will be something I pull out of the DVD shelving unit when I want to watch something fun, adventurous, and full of danger, escapes, and really good-looking men!