They're Back Those Sixties Hero's
TV Times 20th - 27th April 1984
Inside the casinos along the Las Vegas Strip the high-rollers are making and losing fortunes on the flick of a card and the spin of a wheel, unaware that outside in the Nevada desert the future of the world is at stake.
A madman armed with a nuclear device wants ransom and revenge. If his demands are not met, [£s goodbye tomorrow.
The gentleman in the tuxedo seems as unworried as the gamblers sitting in a blue haze at the roulette and blackjack tables. He is more interested in his own future prospects with a beautiful Russian ballerina.
It is also apparently not troubling his blond-haired partner who is holding a steady conversation with the ballpoint pen in his hand.
There is no cause for concern. Channel D is open once again and Napoleon Solo *nd friend Illya Kuryakin are in charge. The Men from UNCLE are back, older, slightly thicker around the waist but still daredevil enough to defeat any madcap monsters Hollywood can dream up.
In Return of the Man from UNCLE on ITV this week, Robert Vaughn and David McCallum, reunited after 15 years, retain the looks which made them one of the most popular teams in the Sixties, starring in 109 TV episodes and eight feature films.
Amazingly, the two actors had not seen each other since the series stopped production in 1968; here in the desert it looks as though they have never been apart.
Producer-writer Michael Sloan went through complex negotiations to bring them together again, and he has also brought back the stylish, outlandish antics which made the original TV show a worldwide favourite with audiences.
'What we tried to do was re-create the magic of the TV series,' says Sloan as he watches filming beside Caesar's Palace. 'Everyone has fond memories of it and we wanted to get all the details right and be faithful to those memories/ he explains.
The Men from THRUSH - Technological Hierarchy for the Removal of Undesirables and the Subjugation of Humanity - are again the villains. And that is very bad news for the world. Solo and Kuryakin have long since retired from the United Network Command for Law and Enforcement. With THRUSH on the loose, Patrick Macnee, the star of The Avengers, as the agency's new leader, is forced to call them on their ballpoint pen communicators. Macnee, substituting for the late Leo G Carroll, who was Mr Waverly in the TV series, doesn't have a simple job. . . 'It's scary,' says McCallum in his soft, Scot's voice. His shock of blond hair and boyish looks make a liar of his birth certificate: it says he is 51 years old. 'When I looked out of my room this morning I saw a big sign: "Robert Vaughn and David McCallum now filming. . ." You shake your head a little bit and realise it is really happening.
'I was the Farrah Fawcett of the Sixties. I didn't go anywhere. There were crazy scenes if I made a public appearance. This will be on my tomb - "Here lies Illya Kuryakin who was sometimes known as David McCallum." It's strange after all the years to be back but I wanted to do it. They were prepared to spend money and it's a good cast.'
Among the stars are George Lazenby, 007 in On Her Majesty's Secret Service, who makes a fleeting appearance once again as James Bond. Gayle Hunnicutt is the Russian ballerina who momentarily distracts Solo from saving the world from mega-crooks Keenan Wynn and Anthony Zerbe.
Bond's appearance is not so bizarre: UNCLE is based on an idea from James Bond author Ian Fleming, about the adventures of an 007-style agent called Napoleon Solo. Kuryakin was a minor character but so popular with viewers that McCallum was made a co-star: Stefanie Hart to Hart Powers starred in a spin-off, The Girl from UNCLE, with Rex Harrison's son Noel as her sidekick.
A decade and a half later, the men from UNCLE retain a loyal fan club, a regular magazine, and paperback novels or Solo and Kuryakin's adventures still sell.
Would they consider becoming full-time Men from UNCLE again? That's always a possibility But I think it would be more fun to do a movie like this now and again says McCallum.
For Vaughn, 52, and McCallum, the years have been kind - and busy. They have worked steadily in films and TV. Vaughn won an Emmy award for his portrayal of a presidential aide in Washington: Behind Closed Doors while McCal him has been on Broadway between stints on TV series liP" Colditz and Sapphire and Steel.
'Certainly, there is a sense of deja vu,' says Vaughn. 'If Solo has changed, it's because of me. Solo is me.'
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