Dec 152014
 
The ninth episode of A Man Called Sloane (originally airing on December 1st, 1979) opens with Sloane and Torque in France, covertly observing a test of a laser cannon in an isolated valley that in no way resembles L.A.'s Bronson Canyon. (Sure!) They're not the only ones, as Sloane observes an attractive woman (Andrea Howard) also watching. As these bystanders stand by, a team of six women attack the scientists testing the laser, beat them up, and steal the weapon.

Sloane repels down a cliff to intercept their fleeing truck, only to have his ass handed to him by the "Sweethearts," and then be tossed unceremoniously off the moving vehicle.

It's not a total embarrassment for UNIT's "only Top Priority Agent," though – somehow, in the melee, he managed to steal the ruby needed to make the laser cannon function. Anyway, UNIT decides to try and lure the thieves into the open by having Torque pose as an African king who is auctioning off one of the only two other rubies capable powering the device. KARTEL baddie Bannister (Ted Hamilton) and his all-female terrorist squad - The Sweethearts – as well as the beautiful KGB agent that Sloane saw in France, all converge in Vancouver to fight over the gem. The usual hi jinks ensue.

As a poster on the IMDb points out, this is a smaller-scale, faster-paced remake of the Death Ray 2000 pilot film, which hadn't been seen on TV yet, with the gratuitous addition of the sexy "Sweethearts" – a virtual necessity on Fred Silverman's NBC at the time. The episode is briskly directed by veteran B-movie and TV auteur Jack Starret (Cleopatra Jones, Race With The Devil), who, in keeping with the tradition of nepotism on the Sloane set, cast his daughter as one of the Sweethearts! Not the series' best episode, but far from its worst.

• Andrea Howard, who portrays KBG operative Anna, also co-starred with Don Adams the following year in the first Get Smart feature, The Nude Bomb, where she inexplicably took the place of Barbara Feldon's 99. She was pretty and likable, but a poor substitute for Feldon.

• With so much of today's TV being shot in Canada, I find it interesting and amusing that in this 1979 production, Los Angeles is standing in for Vancouver, rather than the other way around!
Dec 082014
 
Episode eight of A Man Called Sloane (Originally airing on November 24th, 1979) features yet another "old enemy" of T.R. Sloane's – this guy's got a lot of old enemies! Didn't he ever, you know, kill, any bad guys?

In this case, it's a man named Tanaka (the always-welcome Mako), a martial arts master, who's escaped from a Jakarta prison and founded his own religious cult in the U.S. Aside from exploiting the youth of America with his so-called religion, he also takes on odd jobs for KARTEL, like kidnapping the daughter of a South American Premier (right out from under Sloane's nose!).

KARTEL demands that the Premier resign – publicly, on live TV – so one of their puppet politicians can assume leadership of the country. UNIT's only lead is a young woman named Carrie Baldwin (Nancy Conrad), a former member of Tanaka's cult. Eventually, Sloane and Tanaka face off in a decently staged – if too brief swordfight – and, with the help of a faked newscast, the girl is saved.

This episode is more down-to-earth than previous installments, with no big sci-fi MacGuffin or mad scientists. Sloane even has to do some legwork this time. Fortunately, Mako portrays Tanaka as a worthy adversary with some honor and respect for his opponent, and he even gets to knock Robert Conrad around a bit!

• More nepotism! Nancy Conrad is – no surprise – Robert Conrad's daughter. Like Conrad's wife, Lavelda (who guest starred in episode four), Nancy appears to have pretty much only acted in projects Mr. Conrad starred in, including Baa Baa Black Sheep and Murph the Surf!

• This is episode is written by TV veteran Dick Nelson, who scripted an earlier entry, "Tuned For Destruction," as well as several episodes of The Man From U.N.C.L.E.
Dec 012014
 
The seventh episode of A Man Called Sloane (original airdate, November 17, 1979) begins with Sloane in London, where he is to meet another UNIT agent at a planetarium. When he arrives, he discovers his contact – an old friend – murdered, with strange markings on his neck. Noticing a beautiful woman apparently fleeing from the scene, he follows, and is attacked by a couple of thugs.

Investigating the agent's death, Sloane discovers that an old adversary, Jefferson Crane (Eric Braeden, The Rat Patrol), a man that Sloane believed he had killed some years before, is behind a plot of cosmic proportions. Using two stolen nuclear missiles, he plans to divert a comet (the fictional Caesar's Comet, which the script would have us believe was first spotted at the time of Julius Caesar's assassination, and which has returned every 100 years since) and crash it into the Earth.

Soap opera veteran and popular heavy Braeden makes a satisfactory villain, and Nancy DeCarl, as the dead agent's sister, is a lovely girl of the week, but the story is pretty unspectacular. For one thing, while the script goes to great lengths to emphasize how involved and difficult it was to calculate the comet's trajectory, it also posits that the U.S. military transports nukes around on the back of easily hijack-able trucks. (Actually, stealing nukes is made to look very easy throughout the series!)

Not one of the stronger episodes, unfortunately... though the scene where a bunch of polo players on horseback attack a van containing Sloane, Torque and the girl is both kinda cool and damned weird.

• This episode was written by Stephen Kandel, a frequent contributor to various spy-fi shows, including Mission: Impossible, The Wild Wild West, It Takes A Thief and MacGyver.
Nov 252014
 
I don't know if this image is official or fan-made, but it made this long-time Bond fan smile... and with the rumors that Christophe Waltz is playing SPECTRE mastermind Ernst Stavros Blofeld in the as-yet-untitled film, I'm hopeful that we can put that QUANTUM idiocy behind us and welcome the original evil empire back to the series.
Nov 242014
 
Episode six of A Man Called Sloane (original airdate: October 27, 1979) centers around a lethal alien microorganism brought back to Earth by a Venus probe. (Funny how in reality, our interplanetary probes aren't actually ever intended to return to Earth, though they regularly do in fiction!) This "microbe" is so dangerous that the government both fears that it might get loose and salivates at the thought of using it as a weapon. Thus, they have a team working on an "antidote."

Dr. Franklyn (Alex Henteloff) is part of that team of government scientists, but KARTEL has snagged him in a honeytrap using a professional seductress named Charlene (Zacki Murphy), and turned him. He steals both the microbe and antidote with her help, inadvertently trapping a couple of his colleagues in a sealed chamber and exposing them to the microbe.

Sloane and Torque happen to be visiting the lab at the time, and chase after him. Unfortunately, KARTEL has him covered, and our heroes are attacked by an "ambulance" with a rocket launching "siren." We discover here, for the first time, that Sloane's vintage Cord has some defensive capabilities, as he employs a good old fashioned oil slick to thwart his would-be assassins. ("I guess we gave them the slip!") Unfortunately, the ambulance attack has allowed Franklyn and Charlene to escape with their deadly prize.

Franklyn turns the microbe and the as-yet-untested antidote over to casino proprietor and KARTEL honcho Jonathan Cambro (veteran character actor Monte Markham). Obviously, KARTEL needs to know the antidote works, so the sinister Cambro forces Franklyn to test it on himself. It doesn't work. Apparently the good doctor misplaced a page while transcribing the formula, and that page is now in the hands of neophyte private eye Melissa Nelson (Morgan Fairchild). Eventually, Melissa and Sloane combine forces, and with only 48 hours to recover the antidote (remember those trapped scientists?), go after the sinister Cambro.

Not the strongest episode, but Fairchild and Conrad play off each other quite well, and Markham is, as always, excellent in his villainous role. The science is ludicrous, of course, and the plot is all-too predictable, but it moves along briskly.

• Scriptwriter Marc Brandel also contributed scripts to Danger Man and Amos Burke, Secret Agent.
Nov 192014
 
In 1993 DC Comics published a 4-issue revival of their 1950 spy comic, Danger Trail. The '93 miniseries was written by Len Wein, and illustrated by Carmine Infantino and Frank McLaughlin. The story was a fairly shameless rip-off of various James Bond movies, and featured DC superspy King Faraday in an adventure pitting him against the supervillain Kobra.

It was enjoyable stuff, but highly derivative. Fortunately, DC had the good sense to hire comicdom's premiere spy artist, Paul Gulacy, to draw the dynamic, eye-catching covers. Check them out:

Nov 172014
 
Episode five of A Man Called Sloane (original airdate, October 20th, 1979) is probably the best of the run so far... except for one annoying little thing, which I'll gripe about later.

The episode opens at an airport in some Central American country, where UNIT's gadget girl Kelly (series regular Karen Purcill) is waiting to board a plane to the United States after enjoying a long-overdue vacation. Unexpectedly, Sloane and Torque show up, pursued by armed troops, and, pressing her into service as an impromptu courier, give her a top secret microchip, which she hides in her ring while the boys lead their pursuers away.

Unfortunately, Kelly's plane disappears in The Demon's Triangle ("Like the Devil's Triangle, only not as well known," according to The Director). There's only one inhabited island in the area – Corsair Island – so Sloane and Torque are off to the Caribbean to search for Kelly and the microchip, which – not unexpectedly – could compromise national security if it should fall into the wrong hands.

Well, the island is lorded over by Morgan Lancaster (Clive Revill) who claims to be the direct descendant of Sir Henry Morgan. He has a device that allows him to remotely control aircraft, and he's behind the disappearance of Kelly's flight. Surprisingly, he has no knowledge of the microchip nor Kelly's UNIT ties – all he wanted was the pilot, one of the few men on Earth qualified to fly America's most top secret aircraft, the XT-100 (which stock footage reveals to be an apparent code name for the then-new B1 bomber). The experimental plane is scheduled to make a test-flight over the area, and Lancaster needs a qualified pilot to bring it down with his machine.

Needless to say, Sloane and Torque not only rescue Kelly from the modern-day pirate's clutches and retrieve the microchip MacGuffin, but foil his skyjacking plans as well.

"Demon's Triangle" has a clever, pulpy script and makes good use of the characters. It's nice to see Kelly out of the lab, and she uses her wits to keep the microchip out of Lancaster's hands. Revill makes a fine Bondian villain, and delivers his comic book dialogue with relish. Sloane, Kelly & Torque escape from a prison cell through an absurd but cleverly-executed plan, and the producers even manage a fair approximation of a Caribbean island setting. Hell, the villain's lair is even hidden within "Voodoo Mountain!" That's some fun spy-fi, right there!

My only complaint? Why call it "Demon's Triangle?" Did someone at NBC Standard & Practices think that the names "Devil's Triangle" or "Bermuda Triangle" were trademarked by a rival network? Cripes!

• This episode was written by Jimmy Sangster, who also wrote the great 60's spy-fi classic, Deadlier Than The Male, and the 1980 telefilm, Once Upon A Spy.

• Clive Revill also played the villain – a different but similar character – in the pilot film T.R. Sloane (a/k/a Death Ray 2000).
Nov 102014
 
The fourth episode of A Man Called Sloane (original airdate: October 13th, 1979) is a pretty good one. "Masquerade of Terror" begins when Jeremy Mason (veteran heavy Richard Lynch), a master of disguise and old enemy of T.R. Sloane's, escapes from prison. KARTEL hires him to impersonate a U.S. general in order to steal a top secret laser satellite system known as Seeker.

UNIT's only lead to Mason is a nightclub dancer he's obsessed with named Linda Daniels (LaVelda Fann). Sloane and Torque keep her under watch, waiting for Mason to make contact, but they don't have to wait long before Mason, in disguise, kidnaps her right from under their noses.

The episode has two intertwining plots: Mason wants revenge on Sloane for putting him away, and KARTEL wants to use Seeker to assassinate a visiting African dignitary. Actually, the realization of the Seeker satellite weapon is pretty cool. Unlike the laser satellites seen in Diamonds Are Forever or Real Genius, the Seeker homes in on its targets with small targeting discs. These discs have to be physically placed on or within the designated targets, but it makes it impossible for the orbiting weapon to miss.

Richard Lynch is awesomely evil as usual, and makes a very formidable foil for Sloane. His ability to whip up Mission: Impossible-styled disguises using only standard make-up is unbelievable, but it's a classic spy-fi trope. LaVelda (as she is billed in this episode) is a lovely woman and has genuine chemistry with Conrad. She dances great, too!

This one's a lot of fun, and probably the best in the series so far.

• Lavelda is Robert Conrad's wife, and according to her IMDb page, she has pretty much only acted in her husband's productions, including guest roles on The Duke, High Sierra Search & Rescue and the TV movie Sworn to Vengeance.
Nov 032014
 
In re-watching this series, I'm struck by just how bad Thomas Remington Sloane is at maintaining a cover. In each of the first three episodes, his undercover identities are completely blown within minutes of meeting his opponents — or sometimes even their underlings! Well, I guess it's difficult suppress your natural persona and pose as someone else when you're as cool as T.R. Sloane!

Anyway, in the third episode (original airdate: October 6, 1979), "Tuned For Destruction," UNIT agents Sloane and Torque are pitted against a rogue ex-general named "Wild Bill" McAvoy (the always reliable Geoffrey Lewis), and his personal aide-de-camp, Corporal Comfort (pretty soap opera vet Denise Duberry), who are using a newly-invented sonic, amped-up tuning fork "Metal Debilitator" (which can create instant metal fatigue in metal objects like safes, gates, etc.) to penetrate the defenses of a government facility in order to steal a nuclear bomb.

Of course, Sloane attempts to infiltrate McAvoy's private army by posing as a merc, only to be exposed immediately, and moments later, Torque – who had snuck into the villain's compound to back-up Sloane – is also captured... and his cybernetic hand disintegrated by the Metal Debilitator!

The boys ultimately escape and foil the plot, and there's a great helicopter-to-moving-halftrack transfer stunt by Conrad's stunt double to liven up the final act. There's also a pretty decent martial arts fight in the opening scene between Conrad (who appears to be doing most of the fighting himself) and an Asian mercenary.

Interestingly, McAvoy is revealed to be working for the organization KARTEL – a mysterious group of war profiteers and arms merchants first mentioned in the (at the time still unaired) TV movie pilot, T.R. Sloane (a/k/a Death Ray 2000).

• This is one of two Sloane episodes penned by Dick Nelson, whose other spy-fi writing credits include episodes of It Takes A Thief and The Man From U.N.C.L.E.
Oct 272014
 
In the second episode (airing September 29, 1979) of NBC's A Man Called Sloane (although, from the amount of footage in this episode that is incorporated into the series titles, it was probably shot first), "The Seduction Squad," Sloane and Torque are investigating acts of industrial sabotage that threaten the country's defense contractors. Eventually, it turns out that important industrial and military figures have been seduced and hypnotically brainwashed by the supermodel operatives of a slightly fey fashion and cosmetics king played by I Spy's Robert Culp. His goal? War in the Middle East... though I'm still not exactly sure what he expected to get out of it.

Not a lot to discuss here. Sloane and Torque go through the usual motions, and aside from an action-packed opening scene featuring Sybil Danning, explosions and a great zipwire stunt, it's not a particularly involving episode. The women of the titular Squad are all pretty hot, though, big hair and all, and Culp's clearly having a hell of a good time, camping it up as the heavy. He and Conrad - or, more precisely, their stunt doubles - do get a little hand-to-hand combat in near the climax, though.

Anthony Eisley, star of one of my favorite Eurospy flicks, Lightning Bolt, and Robert Conrad's co-star on Hawaiian Eye, shows up here as a Defense Department bigwig who is brainwashed into nearly starting WWIII.