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The Helicopter Spies Review

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Napoleon Solo and Illya Kuriakin, the Men From U.N.C.L.E., enlist safecracker Luther Sebastian to help steal the thermal prism unit used by a mad genius in his death ray device. However, Sebastian keeps the prism to use in his own death ray.

★★★★★

During the Bond-inspired superspy boom of the 1960s, The Man From U.N.C.L.E. TV franchise – which was also semi-created by Ian Fleming, insofar as he made up a few of the character names – was huge. There was a spin-off TV series The Girl From U.N.C.L.E., best-selling paperback books and as much merchandise (triangular badges) as the 007 films managed.

‘The Vulcan Affair’, the pilot episode, was released to cinemas, with added ‘steamy scenes’, as To Trap a Spy, and a clutch of subsequent two-part TV stories were spliced together into a run of popular, likeable, far-fetched adventures in which a few grainy stock shots, Hollywood standing sets and California highways are passed off as globe-trotting locations.

We especially recommend this entry, which was shown on TV as ‘The Prince of Darkness Affair’: besides the usual U.N.C.L.E. virtues of supercool hero performances from Vaughn and McCallum (and M-like Leo G. Carroll), trademark gadgets like the pen-radio (‘Open Channel D’) and an unbeatable flute-based jazz theme from Jerry Goldsmith, The Helicopter Spies has a wild plotline about two competing bad-guy super-organisations, guest villainy from twitchy Bradford Dillman and smug John Dehner, and a wonderful, immobile John Carradine performance as a guru who hasn’t said anything to his evil cult in years but is supposed to bring about the apocalypse when he does speak (at the end, he shrugs and dies).

Other U.N.C.L.E. adventures worth seeking out: One Spy Too Many, The Spy in the Green Hat, The Karate Killers, The Spy With My Face.