(The other one will be "China Beach" if it ever gets released, to put things in context.) Having catastrophically eschewed acquiring this set, one year ago, for thirty-nine Swiss Francs (equivalent to about twenty-seven quid), i have been tracking it ever since. I reasonably figured there might be a region two version available. Instead, i was utterly, doh, aghast to see there wasn't, what this one cost and that amazon.com could not ship it outside North America. (A real triple whammy.) A copy finally became available at an affordable price and i didn't hesitate again.
Where to begin? This is simply a tremendous series, right down to Jerry Goldsmith's utterly iconic title theme, the screen dissolves at the end of each act and the gimmicky device which signals the switches between scenes. It dates back to the sixties obsession with the world of espionage and has a little of the seriousness of a "Danger Man", but very much more of the tongue-in-cheek Emma Peel/John Steed spoofiness in "The Avengers". The United Network Command for Law and Enforcement station is located in back of Del Floria's tailor services, for example, as they battle against a shadowy criminal organisation called Thrush. The staff unsurprisingly features numerous luscious ladies, to add to the relatively light mood.
The three lead actors are all quite marvellous and combine to make one of television's classic partnerships. Robert Vaughn is brilliant as the suave, "Bondesque" Napoleon Solo. (One of the great television characters, for me.) David McCallum, of course, plays the Russian Illya Kuryakin. (One of the best-named characters in the history of television.) Leo G. Carroll is the unforgettably laconic Mr Waverly, the station head. For those of us who are old enough to remember, this was one of the indisputably GREAT sixties series. Choc-full of gadgets, the famous gun with its shoulder-rest attachment and Channel D for communications, amongst others. (I can recall some excellent merchandising from the time.)
The 105 episodes, spread over four seasons, provide many hours of nostalgic enjoyment. (And that doesn't include all the additional bonus features.) The guest star and not-yet-known watch is quite utterly extraordinary. (Too many to mention.) Those aspects are simply priceless for any serious sixties television afficionado. Season one is a glorious black and white production with, for me, the best version of the theme tune. Season two is similarly wondrous, switching to colour and a groovier arrangement of the title theme. Season three somehow seemed a little patchier, veering too far down the comedy path. (Still some total classics.) The shorter season four sees a move to a straighter espionage style.
The "downside", as it were, comes with the packaging. Whilst the UNCLE suitcase is a super feature, beware of how it arrives at its destination. Mine suffered a little, because the packing was too tight. (The card box was squashed and a little frayed in one corner.) The disc trays were, and still are, all unglued from the cases. The disc retainers also a bit damaged. The card housing for two bonus discs similarly a bit crushed. I shan't deduct a star, because that was more of a marketplace vendor issue. However, suitable packing is VITAL if it is to arrive in good condition. (All the more so, given what some of the copies are priced at!) This is something to buy and to treasure. To pass down to future generations or something with which to be buried. Unimpeachably wonderful.