Saturday, 6 December 2008

The Boy From U.N.C.L.E.

It is a little known fact that for a short period in the mid-1960s, I was secretly a member of U.N.C.L.E - and I have papers to prove it.

In a fit of childish glee, I had applied through a magazine article to join the organisation and was duly rewarded with a small parcel containing a membership document, ID card and a coveted triangular badge. Although this was quite exciting as it went, I admit I was a tad disappointed to have been assigned to Section 5 (Communications) rather than Section 1 (Operations and Enforcement) like Napoleon and Illya but I suppose you can’t be choosy in such a high powered set-up.

I also collected the full set of 55 bubble gum cards Рthe only time I have collected the full set of anything in my life Рand joy of joys, on one particular Christmas morning unwrapped an U.N.C.L.E attach̩ case complete with pistol (plus attachable shoulder stock, telescopic sight and silencer), cigarette packet radio (but disappointingly not the famous radio pen), a(nother) badge, a pen with invisible ink and set of handcuffs (no sniggering at the back).

Could life ever be any better? Actually, no, but that’s another story. Every week I was glued to the TV to see the next episode which was then devoured and regurgitated in the school playground the next day. It was a golden time and no mistake.

But since those far off days of childhood bliss, The Man From U.N.C.L.E. has been a notable absentee on the shelves of well-known DVD sellers. The spin-off films have been available for yonks and whilst every other two-bit production has been released either on video or DVD or both, the original TV show has remained unavailable and forever buried in my memory – until now. I see at last that you can now buy the complete series on 41 discs in a spy-proof attaché case for the princely sum of £145 – on an all-or-nothing basis imported in region 1 coding only. Hmm.

This is so disappointing; anybody would think THRUSH was behind it. Why a region 1 release only? Why the whole lot in one go? All I want is to be able to buy say, a season at a time, on region 2 discs so that I can wallow in a bit of nostalgia for an hour or two. ‘Mission: Impossible’ has managed it, so has ‘Moonlighting’ and ‘Star Trek’ and so have countless others so why not U.N.C.L.E?

I must complain to someone at the highest level...err...'Open channel D...’


Jayne said...

How exciting to be able to read the blog of one of the lesser known U.N.C.L.E agents :)

I loved Man From Uncle, especially Illya. Yup, am cheerfully shallow! I liked the little yellow triangles that showed they were at Uncle headquarters, and the fact the baddies always popped out from under bushes, and the theme music - it was all good stuff.

I heard that it wasn't on DVD at all for a long while as there was some dispute over the rights, so perhaps now it is on Region 1 release means that it will come to Region 2 at some point? I hope so, I would also like to watch them again!

Were these the cards you had by the way? I hope you still have them - they look ace!

musicobsessive said...

Yes! That's them - and I can still smell the bubble gum now even though none ever passed my lips. I remember off-loading my entire swaps stash to get the last card from an unwilling schoolfriend. The best bit was that if you turned the cards over they formed a jigsaw puzzle of one large 5x11 card poster of messrs Solo, Kuryakin and Waverley posed round a globe.

Have I got them now? Not a chance, but I'm always tempted when I see a set on eBay!

Alan said...

Now, that’s what I call Marketing. Keep them waiting for years and when they are desperate, launch the product at a high price. Most products have “early adopters” - some of them buy a dead-end product (such as betamax) others buy when a product is launched and overpriced (iPhone). Selling just Region 1 DVDs at the price you quote isn’t going to generate much revenue. You just need to be patient and wait for the sellers to come to you and your price range.

I too had my Man from U.N.C.L.E. card. I seem to recall I was in Section 7 and being very disappointed about my placement. I can’t remember which section it was, but it was probably something really interesting like “Accounts and Personnel”. Perhaps they had me figured, after all.

musicobsessive said...

Ha Ha! Oh dear, I wasn't really laughing...It makes my executive position in Section 5 seem quite important - even if it was only answering the phone to people whispering, 'open channel D' and saying, 'Speak up!'