Throughout four seasons of The Man From U.N.C.L.E., Robert Vaughn and David McCallum played international crime-fighters facing off against the world-domination-craving agents of THRUSH. And when they weren't jetting off to exotic locales—represented by the best stock footage the show could scrounge—the good guys gathered in sterile gray rooms to hatch their plans alongside wall-sized computers. To get to HQ, U.N.C.L.E. agents slipped through a secret entrance in the back of a tailor shop, and to the TV audiences of the mid-'60s, there was something comforting about the notion that a dusty basement in New York City housed the squeaky-clean offices of our covert protectors. It gave the impression that people were working on our behalf, no matter how shabby everything appeared on the surface.
Time-Life's deluxe edition of The Man From U.N.C.L.E.: The Complete Series comes packed in a handsome attaché case, and is a must for fans, who'll enjoy every poison-tipped dart and double-dealing foreign dignitary. But casual TV buffs may want to wait a year, when the set is reportedly going to be broken up into individual seasons. The Man From U.N.C.L.E.'s first season is a TV landmark, offering spry, sophisticated spy stories shot in crisp black-and-white. When the show switched to color in season two, the producers began to make the villains more cartoony, and that move toward the ridiculous continued up to the abbreviated season four, when U.N.C.L.E. made a belated stab at restoring some sobriety.
Still, even at its silliest, The Man From U.N.C.L.E. contrasted well with The Wild, Wild West and Mission: Impossible, the other major James Bond-inspired adventure series on the air around the same time. Although those other shows fetishized nonexistent technology in their own way, The Man From U.N.C.L.E. integrated its fountain-pen communicators, pencil-thin air rifles, and triangular badges so fully into the show that they became as important as the plots. And U.N.C.L.E.'s biggest gimmick was McCallum's character: a Russian fighting alongside the good guys. McCallum's presence sent a message to Americans that bitter Cold War enemies could come together to fight the death-ray-wielding super-crooks that were the world's real threat.
Key features: Copious featurettes about the history and production of the show—including a cool piece on the physics of the gadgetry—as well as a slew of promotional materials.