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Movies That Were Never Really Movies at All

A newly added film poster to the vault here at home, the headquarters of Mike’s Take On The Movies has prompted me to do a feature on the release of “cheater” movies. What I’m referring to are so called movies actually released to theaters years ago that were episodes of TV shows strung together and padded out to a feature length running time.

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How about The Bull of the West which is the key piece to this posting as I now have the proof that it really did exist. An original 1972 one sheet. The poster alone tells us the reason for wanting to string two episodes of the western series, The Virginian together to turn a few bucks at the box-office. It’s the emergence of Charles Bronson’s rising star abroad which would eventually translate to paying customers in North American theaters as well. It’s a hell of a cast and too bad Charlie never worked with them in an official theatrically released western. In the bottom corner of the one sheet is the copyright date of 1972. A Universal Picture. Distributed by Cinema International Corporation. The episodes of The Virginian used here actually date to 1963 and 1965 titled Duel At Shiloh and Nobility of Kings.

Joining Bronson in this crooked promotional venture is George Kennedy and series regulars like Lee J. Cobb, Doug McClure and James Drury. The Brian Keith part of the story is taken from an entirely different episode so I’ll have to assume if he and Bronson appear at all together it’s thru some choppy editing.

meanest-men-poster

The same kind of shenanigans would be pulled again for a western release titled The Meanest Men In The West which attempted to give us another teaming of Bronson opposite Dirty Dozen pal Lee Marvin. I actually saw this one years ago when it was released on VHS tape when I was in my early years of discovering films and quickly realized I’d been had.

I’m no expert on these so called movies but I am aware of the fact that the Tony Curtis/Roger Moore TV show which I thoroughly enjoy, The Persuaders pulled the same trick. Or at least some shady producer did by stringing some episodes together and releasing the new found films to theaters as Mission : Monte Carlo, London Conspiracy and Sporting Chance.

mission-to-monte-carlo

The two part episodes of Robert Vaughn and David McCallum’s iconic turns in The Man From U.N.C.L.E. would also work their way into movie theaters under newly minted titles and ultra cool posters to accompany them with some casting to die for.

the-karate-killers-poster

From what I can tell, there were a total of 8 movies derived from the episodes of U.N.C.L.E. where Vaughn as Napoleon Solo and McCallum as Illya Kuryakin battled the evil forces of T.H.R.U.S.H. Titles include, To Trap a Spy, The Spy With My Face, One Spy Too Many, One of Our Spies Is Missing, The Spy In the Green Hat, The Karate Killers, The Helicopter Spies and How To Steal The World.

how-to-steal-the-world-poster

Assuming the actors of these quickly thrown together ideas had been paid for work done on the TV episodes, I wonder if they were all financially rewarded for these “movies” that could now turn up on their filmography lists. Not just the leading players either, but what about the crew from the director on down. Pretty much anyone who received an on screen credit.

I’m sure this idea wasn’t only kept to these three series examples. As I’m putting this together off the cuff, I can’t think of any others so if you know of some, please share. On that note I should add that I am aware that the Planet of the Apes TV series of the 70’s would be treated to the same fate but as far as I know, only as TV movies and not theatrical releases.

planet-of-the-apes-tv-series

As for the TV shows these “movies” were derived from, I’ve never seen The Virginian which I’ll admit is odd considering my love of the western. However, The Persuaders is a gem if you like Tony and Roger playing to their playboy strengths and I’m also a fan of Vaughn and McCallum’s work for U.N.C.L.E.

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18 Comments »

  1. Excellent post. I recall a conversation with a guy who saw those Man From U.N.C.L.E. ‘movies’ and he said where he lived, the theater was packed even after the crowd realized they paid for a rerun, lol. I think some didn’t care because the show was so popular and he noted in a few cases it was because he’d missed an episode or two on TV and this was the best way to catch up. As you noted, I hope everyone got paid, though! I think new footage was shot to tie stuff together, but I’ll need to look up that info…

    • I wouldn’t be surprised if a few scenes were thrown together on the cheap. There were some movies for TV in North America released in theaters abroad. Palance in Dan Curtis version of Dracula comes to mind.

  2. Oh man, the one that comes immediately to mind, and that I was suckered into as well, was the ‘Battlestar Galactica’ movie that came out in 1979. This may not match your criteria for this post (two TV shows merged into one movie), but the theatrical release was the TV show’s pilot that had already aired months earlier! Same with the release of ‘Buck Rogers in the 25th Century’ that same year; I went to see the theatrical release, then that same movie premiered on TV as the series pilot several months later!

    • Funny but I’ve never seen those Galatica shows though I do recall that both the TV and theater had something on the go in short order. No rules here. Either way the companies were double dipping/dealing on the unsuspecting public.

    • Ah, I forgot about Galactica! I think there was one scene cut for the TV edit (Baltar getting his head lopped off by Cylons) and the movie version added Sensurround if I’m not mistaken. A friend went to see it in a theater and he said the sound mix was so loud, he saw a bucket of popcorn fly from a guy’s hands after he got surprised by an explosion on screen. I thiiiink Buck Rogers was a bit longer or the pilot was in two parts or something. That one did not look too good blown up on a movie screen.

      • Yes, ‘Galactica’ had Sensurround, one of the last movies to use the process. The theater I saw it at in ’79 was a multiplex, so I doubt it was a Sensurround print, but I did see ‘Earthquake’ in Sensurround, and it was indeed loud. I don’t remember any flying buckets of popcorn during that screening, though…just my younger brother covering his ears whenever he’d hear the ‘click’ of the giant speakers about to turn on.

        • Aha, that’s what that sound was! He’d mentioned something about a clicking/snapping sound happening during certain points. I wonder if there’s a home version of any Sensurround flick that simulates the audio effect? I’ll look that up, as I’m always interested in seeing films in oddball formats as originally intended.

          • Todd, you seriously made my day. Earthquake is on the buy list for my next disc binge and yeah, I wish we had retrospectives like that here in North America. I love how they ZAP Zoot Suit on the site, too.

  3. I’m aware of those Bronson vehicles, though I’ve never seen either. The UNCLE “films” seemed to turn up on TV quite regularly when I was a kid/teen and I thought they worked fine as features and were good enough.
    However, that’s news to me about The Persuaders.

  4. Great love for the Man From Uncle The Karate Killers before and absolutely loved the Planet of the apes series. Always love Roddy McDowall’s voice from watching all the Apes franchise.
    Love your new poster, Bronson looks tough as always. Super article. Thanks

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