Saturday, November 17, 2012


"Look out! It's a pineapple!"

I watched another MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. "movie" yesterday, THE SPY IN THE GREEN HAT. This was a theatrical release of the two-part, third season episode THE CONCRETE OVERCOAT AFFAIR.
First things first. Is there a spy in a green hat? Yes, although he doesn't appear until late in the film, so at least the title is accurate.
The plot concerns a plan by THRUSH agent Jack Palance to divert the Gulf Stream in the Atlantic Ocean and turn Greenland from an icy wasteland into a lush, tropical "Thrush" land while causing the major cities of the U.S. eastern seaboard to experience flooding and intense snowstorms. Global warming, anyone? He plans to do this by launching missiles from an island in the Caribbean. Don't ask. Palance is aided by Janet Leigh who plays a THRUSH assassin who really enjoys her work. Leigh derives almost orgasmic pleasure from killing. Pretty kinky stuff for a network television series.
Or at least, it would be, if any of this material was played remotely straight. By the time the third season of U.N.C.L.E. hit the airwaves in September 1966, BATMAN had already become a ratings sensation on rival network ABC. The producers of U.N.C.L.E. decided that "camp" was in and the direction of the MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. took a disastrous turn in that direction, a change that ultimately doomed the series to cancellation.
Along with Palance's plot, Solo and Kuryakin get involved with a family of ancient Sicilian gangsters, the Stiletto brothers. The mobsters are after Solo to make sure he marries their niece (even at gunpoint). The gangsters are broadly played and provide no real threat. They eventually aid Solo and Kuryakin during the climactic raid on the THRUSH island fortress.
Adding immensely to the BATMAN-esque material is the musical score by Nelson Riddle, who scored the BATMAN series. I swear I heard several musical cues that were lifted directly and entirely from BATMAN. It's jinky, strained, faux-heroic fanfares, not the usual "cool" motifs provided by composers Jerry Goldsmith and Gerald Fried.
Palance (never a subtle actor), devours every piece of scenery in sight with an over-the-top, weirdly mannered performance that has to be seen to be believed. Janet Leigh, while still attractive, is a bit old for her role and is definitely slumming. By the way, I met Janet Leigh at a monster movie convention held outside of Washington, D.C. back in 2000. Leigh had just written and published a book about her experiences making PSYCHO. I purchased a copy, got her to sign it for me and she graciously posed for a picture. She was a tiny, lovely lady and I was thrilled to meet her.
THE SPY IN THE GREEN HAT is far from U.N.C.L.E.s finest hour. It's corny, silly and slightly embarrassing and as such, is recommended for die-hard fans only.

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