|Star:||Robert Vaughn, David McCallum, Carol Lynley, Bradford Dillman|
|Cert / Year:||PG / 1968|
Napoleon Solo and Illya Kuryakin are spies for the United Network Command for Law Enforcement (UNCLE). While investigating a destroyed village they are attacked with a fearsome new weapon the Thermal Prism. The first person to put one in orbit would be able to rule the world, and this is why UNCLE must retrieve the plans. To do this Solo and Kuryakin must recruit criminal mastermind Luther Sebastian. However does he and the third way cult he belongs to have their own agenda, and what have a girl called Annie and a set of circus brothers have to do with the case?
First there was James Bond, then in 1964 came a television series starring two super spies. They had the gadgets, they had the daftly named bad guys, and they had any number of girls. They would become the James Bonds of the small screen. The Man from Uncle always had a camp sort of charm. It could never match the scale or budget of Bond, but it had a solid cast and a sense of fun that no other Bond spin off could match. Over a hundred episodes later and it was time for a series of television movies. The Helicopter Spies is possibly the best of these movies.
This television movie retains all of the elements that made the television series so popular, with the benefit of a modest increase in budget. It manages to mix spy based action with a healthy dose of humor that ensures that this film is fun to watch. Ok so it is mostly set bound, the acting is hammy, and the fights are pure Batman the television series (minus the Kerpow signs), but these are all part of its charm. This isn't James Bond it's The Man from Uncle at its best.
The two central characters are key to the films charm. Napoleon Solo is super smooth and a wow with the ladies played as always by Robert Vaughn, and David McCallum is the hapless punch bag Illya Kuryakin. Solo always gets the girl, and Kuryakin gets captured tortured and eventually rescued by Solo. It was the same every week so why change a winning formula (although I bet David McCallum wishes they could). After appearing for so many episodes together these two are well used to their characters and have a great chemistry, and in this film it shows. Another cast regular also present is Leo G Carroll as Commander Waverly, which is good as The Man from Uncle wouldn't be the same without him.
Most of the rest of the cast are reprising roles from an earlier series episode to which this is a sort of sequel. Bradford Dillman is excellently slimy and devious as the super criminal mastermind and head of the zany 3rd way cult. Meanwhile Carol Lynley along with the doomed Aksoy brothers provide a good deal of comic relief. With mad religious cults, stolen rockets, and thermal prisms this has all the makings of a classic spy caper.
The Helicopter Spies is watchable in a way that only The Man from Uncle is. It is Bond on the cheap, replacing humor for spectacle. An excellent cast and sense of fun ensures you can look past the wobbly sets and cheesy dialogue. Yes is it full of dated seventies hipness, and it is camper than the average boy scouts holiday, but this just adds to its charm. Go on watch it. The kids will love it, and for the rest of us it should bring back some warm memories. Now, open channel D.