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UNCLE & The Thin Man




Color. 1983. Robert Vaughn, David McCallum; Patrick Macnee, Anthony Zerbe; dir.Ray Austin. 96 min. Beta, VHS. $69.95. Trans World Entertainment

"It's a reflection of what's happening in our times," sighs the grey-haired man (Anthony Zerbe) wistfully. "It is difficult for men of flair to survive in our society."' lf they had nothing else, Napoleon Solo and Illya Kuryakin, the men from U.N.C.LE., had flair. Arid so did the 1964-68 series; a cult show that went through an "U.N.C.L.E.-mania".period in 1965-66 when Solo's amused eyebrows appeared on lunchboxes, Illya's blonde locks graced ''action dolls," and the stars themselves we're mobbed in personal appearances throughout the country.

As part of TV's remembrance (and exhumation) of successes past, producer/writer Michael Sloan, a longtime fan of the original show, created The Return of the Man-from U.N.C.L.E.: The 15 Years Later Affair, an affectionate updating that always stays well above the lows of such

recent revivals as The Wild Wild West Revisited and Escape from Gilligan's Island. With the help of such talented '60s TV series luminaries as director Ray Austin (The Saint), composer Gerald Fried (Star Trek, U.N.C.L.E.), arid guest star Patrick Macnee (The Avengers), Sloan has captured the panache of the original show

"How many times did we save the world?" asks Illya. "Constantly," says Solo. And Sloan gets some sly jokes out of the heroes' ages and the changing times they face: "What happened, to the special U.N.C.L.E. gun?" asks Solo. 'It's in the special U.N.C.L.E. wing of the Smithsonian," quips a, beautiful weapons expert.

But Sloan never humiliates or sentimentalizes his protagonists. He fondly recalls their past antics to produce a good adventure epic which – while not up to the series’s greatest moments offers much. Among the best touches: stylish nut Anthony Zerbe, who has a vendetta against Solo and a guest shot by former James Bond George Lazenby as a spy in an Aston Martin known only as “JB.”

Vaughn and McCallum still make a great team, even if age has added an element of doubt to their characters' handling of the quips, girls" and gadgets (Vaughn looks the older of the two). If nothing else, the, TV movie is worth watching for the best remembered flourishes of the old show: the jazzy Jerry Goldsmith theme, the "swish pails" with title eards announcing “Somewhere in…" and those crazy acronym: U.N.C.L.E. (United Network Command for Law and Enforcement) and T.H.R.U.S.H. (Technological Hierarchy for the Expression of Undesirables for the Subjugation ofHumanity). It's enough to make one teary-eyed with relief. I mean, there should be some constants in the world. 

The bad news about this tape is the reproduction: the, colors are flat, and there are tears in the film, as well as scratches, dirt, and color bursts. 




Color. 1984. Jobeth Williams, Tom Conti, Giancarlo Giannini: dir. Rick Rosenthal. 105 min. Beta, VHS. $79.98. CBS/Fox. Reproduction: A

If' you crossed James Bond with Desperately Seeking Susan, you might come up with this movie – a silly "dreams can come true" story featuring Jobeth Williams as a bored housewife who becomes, through amnesia, her favorite mystery heroine, a swinger named Rebecca Ryan. Tom Conti is her unwilling partner in intrigue; if only the movie were as winning as his performance. He makes more of his part (the author of the Ryan novels) than anyone else probably could but is essentially wasted in a series of spy-spoof cliches as old as Ronald Reagan. The VHS transfer is excellent


[[wysiwyg_imageupload:1150:]]THE LAST STARFIGHTER

Color. 1984. Lance Guest, RobertPreston; dir. Nick Castle. 100 min. Beta, VHS. $79.95. MCA. Reproduction: B

This warmed-over Star Wars has two pluses: an engaging appearance by Robert Preston as an interstellar conman (a la The Music- Man) and wonderful computer-generated special effects. But there are also tepid performances from most everyone (especially the wooden-faced lead ( Lance Guest) and a rambling, too-fast script. After a while you feel like you're watching a video game or an episode of Lost in Space. Reproduction is fine except for bad color contrast at the beginning. The titles are dark blue on a lack background-not the best choice for clarity.    




B& W. 1934. William Powell, Myrna Loy; dir. W.S. Van Dyke. 89 min. Beta, VHS. $29.95. MGM/UA. Reproduction: A

The Thin Man was a surprise hit in its day. Filmed in two weeks, it paired witty William Powell with ravishing Myrna Loy in' what became the first of six "Thin Man" entries. It was also a first for American cinema: a screwball comedy/mystery that introduced Nick and Nora Charles, Dashiell Hammett's boozing, wisecracking husband-and-wife sleuths, who were supposedly based on the author and Lillian Hellman. The script and dialogue are as fast as W.S. Van Dyke's streamlined direction. (She: "Go ahead, see if I care. But I think it's a dirty trick to bring me all the way to New York just to make a widow of me." He: "You wouldn't be a widow long." She: "You bet I wouldn't." He: "Not with all your money.") The movie, excellently transferred, is a pure delight. Hurry up with the other five, MGM/UA




Color. 1985. Yagda Vasaryoua, Emil Horvath, F. Filifosky; dir. Karel Zeman. 76 min. Beta, VHS. $39.95. BestFilm & Video (98 Cutter Mill Rd., Great Neck, N. Y. 11021). 

Billed as a "celestial journey," this foreign version of Iules Verne's On the Comet is an oddball trip to nowhere, mixing animated dinosaurs, sea serpents, and lightning bolts with an incomprehensible plot. inept acting and direction, and dubbing that sounds like a Monty Python parody. There are some howlers in the dialogue ("It's probably just another planet heading towards us at a fantastic speed") and the story itself-about the adventures of a collection of 19th-century sheiks, soldiers, and sailors on a comet that has splintered off the earth-doesn't bear much scrutiny. The Eastern' European production was never released theatrically in. the U.S.

 Video Magazine, 1985/86/87