"No man is free who works for a living . . . but I am available." (-- Illya Kuryakin, "The Bow-Wow Affair")

These reviews/commentaries on the show's 105 episodes originally appeared in slightly different form on the Yahoo! Groups website Channel_D, from 2008 to 2010. If you're new to MfU fandom, these may give you some idea of the flavor of the series, which is still famous and beloved more than 50 (!) years after its premiere in 1964. Enjoy!

News: Decades Channel is running a "Weekend Binge" of MfU episodes on July 2, 2017. Check the schedule here.

(Except where otherwise noted, images are used with permission of the exhaustive site Lisa's Video Frame Capture Library. Thanks to Lisa for all her work!)

Saturday, January 30, 2010

"The Adriatic Express Affair" (ep. 2/13)

For years I swore that this one was not only set on New Year's Eve, but also aired on December 31.  It took Jon Heitland's list of airdates to set me straight (Dec. 17, '65).  "Adriatic," Robert Hill's second script for the series, is nicely paced and sets our heroes a challenge aboard a racing train -- as if Agatha Christie had collaborated with Ian Fleming. (Imagine James Bond teamed with Miss Marple!)

We open in a Vienna rail station, with Solo and Illya looking very spylike in trench coats.  I'm inclined to think Solo's is not the same one he wore in Season One's "Dove" and others; this one looks to be suede (!?).  The station set has a smart, authentic feel to it, with people scurrying around, and multilingual signs everywhere.

Jessie Royce Landis's Madame Nemirovitch must stand high on The List of Colorful Antagonists: a crafty, manipulative "old girl" who has lived life to the fullest, and regrets terribly that her youth, and therefore a lot of life's pleasures, are now gone.  (Her chemist, Dr. Ingster, says he discovered the reproduction inhibitor culture while trying to find her a rejuvenation formula.)  Here, too, she tells us that Thrush was formed "43 years and 11 months" before New Year's Eve '65, which takes us back to late January 1922.  Since she also claims that the whole organization was her idea, perhaps we should take the date info with a grain of NaCl, nicht wahr?

The Express leaves Vienna in daylight, but darkness would come early in late December, say 4:30 local time.  Solo reports to Waverly around that same time, which would be about 10:30 a.m. in New York. Check.

The night scenes atop the rolling train are well done, with smoke from the engine blowing past them on what we assume is an icy wind.  Even the train models used in other shots are convincing.  I can't say the same for the party in the club car; it looks a bit too much like a set, and doesn't sway as a train car would.  (Nor can I believe a model saying, "Besides, I'm too thin"!)

Juliet Mills's Eva is charming (though I have trouble with the notion that a 19-year-old girl that pretty is that innocent, even for 1965).  Her attempted "seduction" scene with Solo is a particular favorite of mine, both funny and touching.  It also motivates Eva to ally herself with the "horrid" Solo, thanks to Mme. N.'s casual willingness to kill not only Solo but also her.  There goes that hero worship thing for sure.

The dialogue is neat and snappy, from Solo fencing over dinner with Mme. N., to his encounter with Eva and the escape from the baggage car.  For example, Eva says that Mme. N. carries her jewels everywhere.  A few lines later she suggests appealing to the old girl's better nature, and Solo comments, "She hasn't carried that around with her for years."  Plus there is the neat repartee about plastic surgery in Act IV (see below).

How and why does Illya have a pre-knotted rope tucked into the back of his slacks late in the story?  Such a rope is a necessary tool, but wouldn't he keep it in his suitcase?  -- Oh, wait; he has the rope in hand in the Act I scene in their compartment.  Never mind.

Neat Touch Dept.:  When Solo removes his jacket in the cell, his gun and holster are gone; the security people on the train would have searched them and impounded their guns before locking them up.  A last question: Would Mme. N.'s stomach acid destroy the culture?  Could it get loose during her autopsy?

Verdict: With a McGuffin that poses a real threat, this one rockets along from incident to incident, murder to murder, and never lets us down.

Memorable lines:
Mme. Nemirovitch: "At my time of life, Schulz, every New Year is not only happy, it is ecstatic."

Mme. N. (to the waiter, after she sniffs the slivovitz): "You have been stamping the prunes out with your own feet again, haven't you?"

Solo (exasperated): "Well, we can't tear the whole train apart."
Illya (seriously): "Why not?"

Eva (breathlessly): "I'm mad about you!"
Solo (tongue planted firmly in cheek): "Ah, you poor, foolish child.  So many girls are.  I guess it's because of my long black hair and the way I play the guitar."

Eva: "You're supposed to act like a ravening beast!"
Solo: "I'm sorry, I gave up ravening quite a while ago. I send all those sort of cases out these days."

Solo (about Mme. N.): "Well, she has an honest face . . . even if it is the result of a triumph of plastic surgery."

Solo: "I once had my eyebrows burned off having Cherries Jubilee."
Illya: "The result was a triumph of plastic surgery."


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Wastrel said...

Jennifer Billingsley as the unnamed "first model" who is mad for Illya steals every scene she is in.