Tuesday, April 26, 2016

The Man From U.N.C.L.E.: “The Double Affair”


Outside U.N.C.L.E. headquarters, Illya is ambushed by a pair of miniature robots*, who shoot explosive darts at him. He deflects their attack with a garbage-can lid, then whips out his gun and blasts them into bits. He seems relatively unfazed by all this, like being ambushed at his workplace by lethal-yet-adorable little robots is just a daily part of life for Illya Kuryakin, amazing super-spy and noted turtleneck aficionado.

Over at THRUSH headquarters, THRUSH unveils its current fiendish scheme: They’ve given one of their agents extensive plastic surgery to turn him into a Napoleon doppelganger. Oh, lordy, THRUSH, why would you do that? One Napoleon in this world is plenty. For the first stage of their plan, they’re going to kidnap the real Napoleon and replace him with the duplicate, hence the attempt on Illya’s life. As the fake Napoleon explains, “Illya Kuryakin knows Mr. Solo too well and therefore represents a danger.” Well, you’d think so, wouldn’t you?

Since the attempt to kill Illya was a bust, Fake Napoleon shrugs and decides not to bother with trying to get him out of the way. “But I must stay particularly alert in his presence,” he muses aloud.

Spoiler alert: Fake Napoleon will not need to stay particularly alert in Illya’s presence.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

The Man From U.N.C.L.E.: “The Re-Collectors Affair”


In Madrid, Gregori Valetti (frequent U.N.C.L.E. guest villain Theo Marcuse) checks into a hotel room and shoots an elderly bellhop with a gun disguised as a walking stick. He then calls the police, introduces himself, and dramatically confesses his crime: “I have just executed Colonel Oscar Manheim.” He adds that he works for a secret organization known as the Re-Collectors (slogan: “We hunt, we find, we kill”), then hangs up. A beautiful young Italian woman named Lisa Donato (Jocelyn Lane) bursts into the room, gun in hand, intending to shoot Valetti. He escapes unscathed, leaving Lisa to discover the bellhop’s corpse.

Back in New York, Mr. Waverly briefs Napoleon and Illya on their new mission: The shadowy members of the Re-Collectors have dedicated themselves to hunting down four Nazi war criminals who vanished after amassing a priceless collection of looted artwork. The Re-Collectors have claimed responsibility for killing two of the Nazis thus far, including the elderly bellhop, and have recovered several valuable pieces of stolen artwork, which they’ve sold back to the rightful owners for great sums of money. Valetti, a well-known assassin associated with the Re-Collectors, approached Lisa Donato in Rome and offered to restore a looted painting belonging to her family; unable to pay his exorbitant fee, Lisa turned to U.N.C.L.E. for help recovering her family’s artwork.

Waverly points out that the Re-Collectors seem able to track down the fugitive Nazis with ease, even though U.N.C.L.E. has been fruitlessly searching for them since the end of WWII. Waverly thinks this seems mighty fishy. Mr. Waverly, sir, I hate to be the one to break this to you, but the reason your well-funded global spy organization has spent the past twenty years trying to find four old Nazis to no avail is that all of your agents are grotesquely incompetent.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

The Man From U.N.C.L.E.: “The Nowhere Affair”


In the middle of a bleak Nevada desert, Napoleon braves a sandstorm to ask an elderly prospector (J. Pat O’Malley) for directions to a nearby ghost town, which is named, promisingly, Nowhere. Upon reaching Nowhere, Napoleon stumbles across the corpse of a murdered man sprawled on the floor in a deserted saloon. Napoleon searches the saloon and finds a pocket watch with a map hidden inside it. While attempting to contact U.N.C.L.E. headquarters about his discovery, he’s ambushed by horseback-riding THRUSH goons dressed as old-timey gunslingers. He hides the pocket watch and map in a cow skull, then sends a frantic emergency message to U.N.C.L.E.—“I’m taking Capsule B!”—before he’s clubbed over the head and captured.

Back at headquarters, Mr. Waverly briefs Illya on the situation: Napoleon went to Nowhere to meet an undercover U.N.C.L.E. agent—the dead man in the saloon, presumably—who was going to pass along intel about a famous cybernetics specialist, Arum Tertunian (Lou Jacobi), who’s being held captive by THRUSH. Mr. Waverly plays Illya a recording of Napoleon’s message about Capsule B, a drug that induces amnesia for up to three days. “That’s the new capsule the research boys were bragging about in the cafeteria!” Illya exclaims cheerfully. “It’s supposed to be top secret,” Waverly mutters, filled with weary resignation at this latest bit of evidence that his powerful global spy organization is staffed entirely by knuckleheads and blabbermouths.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Adventures in making the "Four Emperors" book trailer


I created a book trailer for FOUR EMPERORS, a fun supernatural mystery-slash-gay romance that I wrote and published with my company, Luft Books, under the pen name Evan Allen. This is my first-ever book trailer; I made it on a budget of, ahem, zero dollars, excluding whatever I spent on nifty swag to send to four of my friends to thank them for lending their vocal talents to the soundtrack. In case anybody is interested in making a trailer this way, here’s an overview of my process, mistakes and all:

In creating this, I used four software programs: Adobe Photoshop, PowerPoint, Movie Maker, and Audacity. If you have Microsoft Office, you already have PowerPoint. Audacity is completely free (and awesome); Movie Maker is included with Windows Essentials, so if you have Windows, you either have it already, or can download it for free. Photoshop is most definitely not free, but if you don’t have it, there are a bunch of free alternatives.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

The Man From U.N.C.L.E.: “The Secret Sceptre Affair”


Napoleon and Illya, clad in adorable matching jumpsuits, parachute into an unidentified Middle Eastern country, where they’re met by Zia (Ziva Rodann), a brusque young woman in a military uniform. When a pair of armed men zoom up on motorcycles and spray them with gunfire, Zia orders Illya and Napoleon into her jeep and whisks them away to safety.

Zia brings them to the desert headquarters of Colonel Morgan (Gene Raymond), Napoleon’s former commanding officer during the Korean War. Colonel Morgan has requested U.N.C.L.E.’s help in a local political matter: The country’s elected leader, Premier Karim (Jack Donner), is turning into a corrupt tyrant, so Morgan wants to remove him from power before he installs himself as a dictator and destroys the country’s fledgling democracy.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

The Man From U.N.C.L.E.: “The Pieces of Fate Affair”


Napoleon and Illya attend a taping of a talk show, where best-selling author Jacqueline Midcult (repeat guest star Sharon Farrell) is discussing her racy new spy novel, Pieces of Fate. The sensationalistic host refers to it as a “dirty book”, then goes on to label it a “naked obscenity” and “blatant, outright filth.” Hey, put me down for a copy! That sounds awesome. This is 1966, so Jacqueline Midcult is, of course, a thinly-disguised version of novelist Jacqueline Susann, and Pieces of Fate is Susann’s gleefully trashy bestseller Valley of the Dolls, only with spies. I can dig it. Not that Valley of the Dolls isn’t dishy and fun, but think of how irresistible it’d be if Jennifer, Anne, and Neely were glamorous and incompetent secret agents, instead of glamorous and incompetent career women navigating their way through life and love in the big city. See? It’s better already.

“Everybody knows that real secret agents don’t get involved in this kind of intrigue, in this kind of sex,” the host sneers at Jacqueline. From the audience, Napoleon leans over to Illya and murmurs, “Everybody knows we don’t get mixed up in things like that.”

This kind of sex. Hey, what kind of sex, exactly, are Jacqueline’s fictionalized spies having? Why is this host so hot and bothered about it? Asking for a friend.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

The Man From U.N.C.L.E.: “The Deadly Games Affair”


A group of young boys find the body of an elderly Nazi in an oil barrel dumped beside a river. Well! We’re already off to a bleak start, aren’t we? The remainder of this episode will vacillate between sexy shenanigans and campy B-movie plot twists that come out of nowhere, but this opening sequence is a bit of a tough sell. U.N.C.L.E. is able to identify the man from his old SS tattoo: He’s a former guard named Neubel, who was assigned to protect a Nazi scientist named Wolfgang Volpe. Both Volpe and Neubel disappeared following a laboratory explosion in the final days of the war and were presumed dead. The appearance of Neubel’s fresh corpse leads U.N.C.L.E. to suspect Volpe may still be alive.

Lending more credence to this theory: Items from Volpe’s priceless stamp collection, long assumed destroyed, have been put up for auction, suggesting Volpe might be secretly trying to raise some quick cash. So Napoleon and Illya brush off their tuxes and skulk around the stamp auction in search of clues. Napoleon finds Illya hanging out at the punch bowl, looking characteristically moody and uncharacteristically flustered. Napoleon asks if he’s been recognized by someone. “Not recognized. Greeted like a long-lost brother,” a still-unsettled Illya replies, his tone filled with blistering contempt.