To Trap A Spy (1965)

To Trap a SpyCountry: United States
Director: Don Medford
Starring: Robert Vaughn, Luciana Paluzzi, Patricia Crowley, Fritz Weaver, David McCallum, William Marshall, Ivan Dixon, Will Kuluva, Miguel Landa
Music: Jerry Goldsmith

To Trap A Spy was the first of The Man From UNCLE movies. Like all the UNCLE movies, it was put together from two episodes of the television series. The episodes for this film were ‘The Vulcan Affair’ and ‘The Four Steps Affair’. Because they were two separate stories, certain liberties were taken when they were edited together. One of the strangest, is that the villains of the piece are an outfit called WASP. But if you listen carefully and watch the actors lips, you can see that this is an overdub. The villains were originally THRUSH.

The show starts with a car skidding to a halt on Old Post Road in Arlington, Virginia. The driver, who happens to be Agent Lancer (Miguel Landa) from UNCLE has been shot in the stomach. He staggers from the car and enters an overgrown estate. As he makes his way towards the house, another car pulls up and two armed WASP operatives get out and follow. Lancer makes it to the house and enters, locking the door behind him. He calls for Angela, but nobody responds. He climbs the stairs to the second floor and burns the secret information he was carrying in the fireplace. Then he phones UNCLE headquarters direct. He passes on the following information to Mr. Allison (Will Kuluva), the head of UNCLE: ‘When the Premier of Western Natsumba visits the plant, they’re going to assassinate…’ The phone line is cut before he can finish his message.

Then, from out of the bathroom, Angela (Luciana Paluzzi) walks into the room. She is shocked to see Lancer this way, and quickly agrees to help him make it out of the house and to a doctors. Their plan is to leave by the top window and climb out over the roof. As Lancer prepares to leave, Angela flicks on a light switch, which allows Lancer’s silhouette to be clearly seen in the window. One of the WASP goons, armed with a machine gun (earlier they were only carrying pistols!) mows Lancer down. It appears that Angela wasn’t a nice girl after all, and is working for WASP. But WASP realise that they didn’t stop all of Lancer’s message to UNCLE HQ, and plan to do something about it.

In a brazen assault on UNCLE Headquarters, one of the WASP operatives walks into Del Floras tailors, and throws his overcoat over the security screen. Pretending to be removing his jacket for repairs, he gasses the attendant and then opens the door for three other WASP agents. They go the fitting room and pull down one of the coat hooks. The secret entrance to UNCLE HQ slides open. One of the men quickly rushes inside and grabs the girl on the reception desk before she can raise the alarm. She is then gassed, rendering her unconscious. One WASP operative remains in Del Floras. Another takes his position at the reception desk, and the other two, armed with guns and explosive move into HQ towards Mr. Allison’s office.

As the intruders make their way through the complex, they are discovered and an alarm goes off. Three of the WASP agents are captured but one makes it to Allison’s office. But inside he finds Napoleon Solo (Robert Vaughn) protected by walls of bullet proof glass. Solo quickly navigates the maze of glass and shoots the intruder.

After the incident, Mr Allison briefs Solo on his new mission. He is take over from Agent Lancer. It appears that the Premier of Western Natsumba, Ashumen (William Marshall) is in America to visit the chemical plant of Andrew Vulcan (Fritz Weaver). The Premier believes that Vulcan plans to build a similar plant in his small country and welcomes the investment. The truth, though, is rather more sinister. Vulcan’s Global Chemical Corporation is a front for WASP, and when the Premier tours the plant WASP will assassinate him.

Solo enlists the aid of average American housewife, Elaine May Donaldson (Patricia Crowley) in his bid to thwart Vulcan. At college, Elaine used to go out with Vulcan, and all these years later he still carries a torch for her. Solo uses her to get close to Vulcan quickly, which she does successfully.

For fans of David McCallum, and his character Illya Kuryakin, unfortunately he doesn’t appear much. He has two short scenes at the start. But towards the end of the film, if you look quickly, there is an appearance as one of Vulcan’s goons by Richard Kiel, who is best remembered as ‘Jaws’ in the Bond films The Spy Who Loved Me and Moonraker. Richard Kiel, in his autobiography, ‘Making It BIG In The Movies’ (Reynolds & Hearn, London 2002) had this to say:

‘I must say that the quality of TV shows like The Man From UNCLE and I,Spy far exceeded the quality of movies like A Man Called Dagger or Las Vegas Hillbillys, and I learned much more about acting from working on the TV shows.’

So although Kiel’s part is small, any one who has had the misfortune of sitting through the dreadful A Man Called Dagger will understand exactly what he is talking about. The other Bond Alumni is the beautiful Luciana Paluzzi, who has the substantial part as Angela. Paluzzi played bad girl Fiona Volpe in Thunderball, and her role here is very similar.

To Trap A Spy is a pretty sprightly movie, but it’s television origins are obvious. If you’re a fan of The Man From UNCLE series, then of course, this film will be highly entertaining. But if you’re looking for big screen adventure and thrills with amazing stunts, cool gadgets, and an explosive finale then you may be disappointed in this production.

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