Proof THE MAN FROM UNCLE Takes Place In The James Bond Universe

Plus: Lazenby's SECOND Bond performance!

When reruns filled up the daytime hours of the six or seven channels we got back in the 70s and 80s, the TV producers behind those syndication staples realized their dusty old properties were still commercially viable, and that there was blood in them thar stones. With big screen reboots not exactly de rigueur at the time (give or take a Star Trek: The Motion Picture), these producers turned their attentions to resurrecting their titles on the cheap. This yielded such gems as Legends Of The Superheroes, a comedic roast built around Adam West’s reprisal of Batman; The Brady Bunch Hour, in which the sitcom family were re-imagined to be the all-singing, all-dancing hosts of their own variety show; and most prolifically, Rescue From Gilligan’s Island, the first in a trilogy of TV movies reuniting the hapless castaways as they're re-stranded on the titular island, eventually succumbing to a kind of Stockholm Syndrome in which they voluntarily return to their nightmarish island prison and rent it out to tourists. (Throw shade if you like; it’s still more interesting than turning the premise into a reality series.)

This reunion boom also resulted in The Return Of The Man From U.N.C.L.E., in which 60s TV spies Napoleon Solo (Robert Vaughn) and Illya Kuryakin (David McCallum) are hauled out of retirement (and Murder, She Wrote guest-starring gigs) to stop a nuclear threat. As Man From U.N.C.L.E. reruns weren’t quite as ubiquitous as those of The Brady Bunch or Gilligan’s Island, this TV-movie didn’t make quite the same splash with a younger generation, despite containing a truly unique event: the return of George Lazenby as James Bond.

That’s right: during a car chase in Las Vegas, Solo is helped out of his fix by a familiar, tuxedo-clad figure in an Aston Martin DB5. Lazenby’s affable grin fills the screen and worlds collide. It’s a pretty low-stakes affair, all told - Lazenby never even gets out of the car - but “JB” (according to his license plate) explosively dispatches some of the goons chasing Solo and his ladyfriend, using his Aston Martin’s “usual refinements.”  

What’s amazing about this clip is that it ever made it onto the airwaves. Keep in mind that back in 1964, the producers of the 007 films legally threatened the producers of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. over the show’s original title, Ian Fleming’s Napoleon Solo, despite the fact that Fleming did indeed name the character. One would think the sight of Lazenby tooling around in a gadget-laden Aston Martin (while wearing a white dinner jacket, no less) was a lawsuit waiting to happen, but the movie apparently aired without a hitch - or an injunction.

The other amazing thing about this clip is that it paints 1983 as something of an all-skate for 007s, as the year saw not only Lazenby’s appearance in this TV-movie, but Sean Connery’s return to the role in Never Say Never Again, as well as Roger Moore’s penultimate turn in the canonical Octopussy. (With an airdate of April 5th, 1983, Lazenby’s appearance came first, beating Moore by two months.) Lazenby's appearance in the tux and car on the TV-movie is a corny couple of minutes of screen time, but you can’t argue that seeing Lazenby once again break the fourth wall as Bond - even unofficially - is pretty damn cute.