Monday, February 13, 2023

Man from U.N.C.L.E.: See-Paris-and-Die Affair, Featuring Jimmy Bond

Believe it or not, James Bond appeared on The Man from U.N.C.L.E. twice—sort of. In the reunion TV movie, The Return of the Man from U.N.C.L.E., George Lazenby played an English super-spy simply referred to as “James,” so as not to risk violating any copyrights or trademarks. Before that, the real Bond appeared on the series at the height of their popularity. That would be Jimmy Bond, the jazz and blues bassist, who recorded a version of the shows theme with a group of session musicians billed as “The Gallants.” That made them the perfect combo to back-up an American jazz vocalist recruited to infiltrate ring of diamond thieves in the “See-Paris-and-Die Affair” episode of The Man from U.N.C.L.E., which was not cover in the upcoming James Bond namesake documentary, The Other Fellow.

The Van Schreeten cousins didn’t just steal diamonds from the syndicate. They stole so many, the cartel is forking out monthly payments to stop them from dumping them on the open market to crash prices. Understandably, this has attracted the attention of both U.N.C.L.E. and Thrush. The Van Schreetens think Corio is their henchmen, but he is actually an undercover Thrush agent. Solo and Kuryakin need their own insider, so they recruit Mary Pilgrim, an American jazz vocalist.

It turns out Pilgrim is now studying opera, but Max Van Shreeten does not know that. He has carried a torch for her since they dated in college. Now that he is flush with cash, he bought a Parisian club to win her back. That is a lot for Pilgrim to take in, but Solo will charm her into cooperating.

That is indeed the Gallants accompanying at Van Shreeten’s her on “It’s a Most Unusual Day.” It isn’t a great feature spot for Kathryn Hays portraying Pilgrim, but the Gallants (also including the great jazz pianist Gerald Wiggins) also contribute some jazzy instrumental themes. Hays hogged most of their screentime, but at least they are credited by name at the end. After all, they were appearing to promote their official
Man From U.N.C.L.E. theme recording.

To be fair, portrays Pilgrim with a good deal of charm when she is off the bandstand. She is particularly sly when juggling Solo and Van Shreeten. This is a rather low-fi episode (written by Peter A. Fields & Sheldon Stark), in which the
U.N.C.L.E. agents employ some old-fashioned confidence tricks to sow distrust among the Van Shreetens. Alf Kjellin’s direction also has some pep in its step, particularly his overhead shots of a fight scene in a large empty apartment.

Wiggins and Bond were great musicians and drummer Earl Palmer was a legendary session player, so it was nice that got a little bit of prime time attention—it just should have been more. Regardless, this is a highly watchable episode. The presence of a “James Bond” is an extra amusing irony. Weirdly, the series does not currently stream for free an any major platform, but episodes are available via a la carte VOD and on DVD. Fans of swinging 60’s spies and “Bond” and Wiggins will appreciate the grooviness of “The See-Paris-and-Die Affair,” especially when seen in conjunction with
The Other Fellow.