Wednesday, September 21, 2016

"Femnista" Article about "The Man from UNCLE"


The September/October issue of Femnista is focused on "Derringers and Fedoras."  It's all things spies and detectives, and my article, "A Tale of Two Illyas:  Character Changes in The Man from UNCLE" is up here today.  In it, I theorize on why they changed Illya Kuryakin so much for the film, while Napoleon Solo remained essentially the same.  I'd love to know what you think of my theory, either in comments here or on the actual post itself!



12 comments:

  1. An interesting theory. I haven't seen the movie, but I think you're on the right track about the difference in the pop culture being the reason for the difference between the two Illyas.

    I wouldn't say that quiet, slight and shy heroes are common in modern fiction (the tendency is still toward the rough and tumble action hero), but they were definitely even less common in the '60s. The mysterious, aloof, and intellectual hero was a new sort of character for the time period, which also explains the popularity of Spock in "Star Trek". (Actually, I'd love to see you explore the similarities between the Spock-Kirk and Solo-Kuryakin relationships).

    I also think a large part of the difference can be explained in the difference between the two actors. McCallum is a smaller, more bookish-looking type, and a lot of the character came from his acting choices, because they didn't have a plan for Illya. He wasn't even going to be a recurring character (the show's not called "The Men from UNCLE")until the audience had such a positive response to his performance. They'd never invented a backstory for Illya, then they likely kept it mysterious because people were drawn to the "dark horse" aspects of his personality. Whereas the movie knew both men would be main characters and could invent a backstory for Illya ahead of time.

    I think you've painted TV Illya as a bit more...boring and clinical than he actually was. It sounds like he's much more restrained than movie Illya, but he's certainly got emotions (and the best, bone-dry sense of humor). Though he's not a womanizer, he would probably be open to romance (I think his response when asked was, "Had I but world enough and time". You don't quote romantic poetry if you've never considered romance). And, as a girl who had a huge crush on McCallum after I discovered the show, I'm going to disagree with anyone who positions him as the inferior Illya, but again, I've never seen the movie, and can't make a fair assessment. But your analysis was very interesting and is increasing my desire to see the movie.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ashley, oooooooooooooooooooooh. Spock-Kirk and Solo-Kuryakin, and also Saunders-Hanley from my fave TV show, Combat!, which was also from the '60s -- such fascinating friendships between wildly disparate people.

      The actors definitely make a difference, but they deliberately cast someone who was about as unlike David McCallum as possible without actually being Dwayne Johnson. But you're right, Illya wasn't supposed to be a regular, so they just made everything up as they went along for him.

      I have only watched probably 6 or 8 of the original eps, mostly in season 1, so my view of him might be slightly off, as it's based mostly on those eps and the hilarious episode reviews at Preppies of the Apocalypse (only read if you're willing to laugh at the show, but I promise she does love it).

      But anyway, I don't think TV-Illya is inferior to Movie-Illya. In fact, strictly from a writerly standpoint, he's much more interesting. But from the standpoint of personal taste, I like Movie-Illya better. Just like I like TV-Kirk better than Movie-Kirk because he appeals to me more.

      I hope you do see the movie, and please let me know what you think of it if you do! Whether here or on FB or whatever.

      Delete
    2. Oh, I didn't realize the difference in casting was so deliberate. That's very interesting, and means that you're probably entirely right.

      I actually have a skewed view of Illya, too, since everything I read about the show said everything after Season 1 was much lower quality, so I just didn't bother. I've only seen about half of Season 1 and a couple of later episodes(and only remember a handful of really spectacular episodes). My love of Illya, if I'm honest, is mostly a love of David McCallum's voice, that dry humor, and that one ep where Illya plays "bad cop" for a suspect by wearing his reading glasses.

      I'll have to check out those reviews, too. I love laughing at pop culture, and UNCLE definitely deserves it (there's a station running a marathon this weekend, and one episode description reads "Solo tries to stop THRUSH's plan to take over the world with a gas that causes fatal hiccups." What were the writers thinking?)

      Delete
    3. Ashley, I don't "know" that they cast Armie because he was different, but surely if they'd wanted someone much more similar to David McC, they could have found someone slight, blond, and dry. Armie Hammer is one of the actors whose careers I follow closely, and he was cast in this pretty much from the get-go -- Tom Cruise was actually originally cast opposite him as Napoleon Solo, and what a different film that would have been! But then he pulled out because they wanted to make another Mission: Impossible film, and they eventually cast Cavill. But Armie seems to have been their first choice for Illya, so they clearly had the intention of making him quite different.

      I haven't seen that ep yet! I own season 1 also, and have seen a few eps from the other seasons (my mom owns the whole series cuz she was in on the original Illya Mania as a teen, hee), but I haven't finished season 1 yet. I do quite enjoy the show, and the chemistry between DMC and RV is spectacular -- they riff off each other almost effortlessly, and I love that.

      If your sense of humor is anything like mine, you will laugh out loud until your stomach hurts over Morgan's reviews. She loves the show, not despite it's absurdity, but because of it. (And yes! That's precisely the sort of thing that makes that show so much more wacky fun than the original "Mission: Impossible.")

      Delete
    4. I assumed they'd cast Armie because of a decent facial resemblance to the original, because the trailers don't make their extreme physical difference very obvious. I suppose a modern action movie can't really have a slight, enigmatic main character--we only have 90 minutes for the characters to make an impression, and a tortured soul who's volatile and athletic is going to be more memorable to modern audiences that someone who mostly lingers in the background looking mysterious and adorable.

      Those reviews are hilarious! Spot-on, sharp and witty! I love it!

      I'm starting to think I was missing out by skipping the campy later seasons. I caught a few minutes of a Season 3 episode this morning, with Illya trying to sneak into a woman's room to retrieve a sensitive piece of equipment, when a little kid catches him and forces him to read him a bedtime story. And Illya does it! He gets into it, too--giving a very dramatic rendition of a pulp story while THRUSH is probably stealing the item from under his nose. So delightfully ridiculous! (Unfortunately, I had to leave and couldn't see the rest.)

      Delete
    5. Ashley, they might have. Maybe they cast him, then tweaked the script to be all about how he's gigantic and rips the backs of cars and stuff?

      Glad you like those reviews. They are always good for chuckles and laughs.

      That scene with Illya reading a bedtime story sounds great! I will have to watch more of the later seasons next time I visit my mom.

      Delete
  2. I loved it! I put a comment, too . . . :-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Jessica :-) I saw your comment and replied!

      Delete
  3. Really enjoyed your article, Hamlette! I THINK I left a comment on it. . . not too sure, cause for some reason Wordpress hasn't been publishing all my comments :P

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Blessing Counter! I will see if your comment came through -- right now, Wordpress isn't alerting me to new comments.

      Delete
  4. LOVE this film. (Great article, too, Rachel!) Again, you've reminded me that I simply must rewatch this one. In fact I do believe I've only seen it in the theater which will not do at all.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Rissi! I've seen this film 10 or 11 times now -- I've kind of lost count. It's delicious! Hope you can rewatch it soon :-)

      Delete

Agree or disagree? That is the question...

(Rudeness and vulgar language will not be tolerated.)