The Return of the Man From U.N.C.L.E. (1983)


U.N.C.L.E's top two enforcers have been out of the spy business for fifteen years. Now their old agency desperately needs their help. At stake: millions of innocent lives. When a terrorist organization hijacks a dangerous warhead, the group transmits its ransom demand to U.N.C.L.E. headquarters, insisting that former agent Napoleon Solo deliver the money in person. Called in from the cold, Solo recruits the assistance of his former partner Illya Kuryakin Together, they must race the clock to stop an old enemy from triggering a nuclear catastrophe. This globetrotting thriller reunites television's greatest spy team in a witty, action-packed extravaganza.

"Open Channel D"

Vital Statistics
Studio: CBS
Running Time: 96 minutes
Release Date: 5th April 5th 1983
Budget: $2.2m
Box-Office (Domestic): N/A

Cast & Characters
Robert Vaughn
Napoleon Solo
David McCallum
Illya Kuryakin
Patrick Macnee
Sir John Raleigh

Filming Locations
Los Angeles, CA, USA; Las Vegas, Nevada, USA

The criminal organization THRUSH steals the A-bomb H975 and demands $300,000 to be delivered within 72 hours by their former antagonist Solo. So U.N.C.L.E. has to reactivate the super agents Solo and Kuryakin after they were 15 years out of business. Equipped in the usual 007 fashion they start to seek the villains.

Production Notes
Almost twenty years after "The Man from U.N.C.L.E." series debuted on NBC in America, the show's stars Robert Vaughn and David McCallum were reunited for a TV movie on CBS.

As the original show ran from 1964 to 1968, "The Return of the Man from U.N.C.L.E." was subtitles "The Fifteen Years Later Affair". It was broadcast on April 5th, 1983.

Whilst Vaughn and McCallum reprised their roles (American Napoleon Solo and Russian Illya Kuryakin respectively), former 'Avenger' Patrick Macnee replaced Leo G. Carroll, who had passed away in 1972, as the head of U.N.C.L.E. Rather than recasting the role, Macnee played a new head of U.N.C.L.E., Sir John Raleigh. A framed picture of Carroll appeared on his desk.

Right: McCallum and Vaughn pose for CBS publicity shots on the set.


Although some personnel from the original series were involved (like composer Gerald Fried and director of photography Fred Koenekamp), the movie was not produced by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer but by Michael Sloan Productions in association with Viacom Productions - Sloan, Vaughn and McCallum are pictured in the Michael Sloan Productions logo at the end of the movie.


The movie, written by Michael Sloan and directed by Ray Austin, briefly filled in the missing years. THRUSH has been put out of business, and the remaining leader was in prison - his escape begins the story.

Illya has quit U.N.C.L.E. after a mission went sour and an innocent woman was killed, and now designs women's clothing at Vanya's in New York.

Napoleon has been pushed out of U.N.C.L.E. and now sells computers, though he still carries his U.N.C.L.E. pen radio for sentimental reasons (which is how the organization is able to contact him after so many years).

According to fan lore, the script originally had the backstory roles reversed but McCallum thought it would be interesting to switch them so that the viewers would be surprised.

Solo and Kuryakin are recalled to recapture the escapee and defeat THRUSH once and for all, but the movie misfired on a key point: instead of reuniting the agents on the mission - and showcasing their witty interaction - the agents were separated and paired with younger agents. Like most similar reunion films, this production was considered a trial balloon for a possible new series. while the ratings were satisfactory, CBS was not interested and a series never materialized.

Above: George Lazenby as 'J.B.'

The Bond Connection
The movie's most blatant nod to 007 was a to cameo appearance by an unidentified secret agent with the licence plate "J.B." The part was played by one-time James Bond George Lazenby who was shown driving Bond's trademark vehicle, an Aston Martin DB5. One female character, identifying him, says that it is "just like On Her Majesty's Secret Service". Legal concerns resulted in explicit references to Bond being dropped, though there was little doubt who the character was supposed to be.

The new THRUSH is headed up by future Bond villain Anthony Zerbe, whilst Geoffrey Lewis plays the villainous mastermind Janus - the two-faced Roman god that would be later used as the name of Alec Trevelyan's criminal organisation in "GoldenEye". Patrick Macnee would later play Bond's ally Tibbett in "A View To A Kill".

Perhaps due to the striking similarities to the plot, "Return" was marketed as "Solo für Onkel: Thunderball" in West Germany. Furthermore, some of the opening scenes with Solo are almost a word-for-word lift from Connery's early 007 outings.

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