"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!)

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

"Alexander the Greater Affair, Part II" (ep. 2/2)

As it should be, Part II is more exciting than Part I.  The opening scene, with Farrell of Budget Control complaining to Waverly about the costs Solo and Illya are running up, is a classic example of how U.N.C.L.E. differed from anything else in the spy genre in the Sixties.  Imagine M hearing complaints from the Ministry of Defense that Agent 007 was straining the budget.  No; only MfU could get away with that.  The scene also explains neatly how Solo, Illya, and Tracy got to Minos in the first place, and how they get away again: they flew a Command `copter!

The escape in the throne room is neatly done (though it was a darn good thing Mr. Parviz neglected to take a couple of turns around Solo's ankles while roping him to the altar).  It harkens back to the cliffhangers in the old Saturday afternoon movie serials that writer Dean Hargrove no doubt grew up on.  Nice touch, that the end of the rope is still burning as Solo loops it around the marble statue.

It's nice to see how proactive Tracey "Eye on the Main Chance" Alexander is -- that our heroes don't have to maneuver her into helping them; she's all for it.  Of course, a million bucks is a great motivator.  More important, we see Waverly dismiss the unethical idea of maneuvering her into putting herself in danger.

I like that charcoal brown sportcoat Solo wears at HQ in Act I.   It's probably the same coat, with the same dark brown slacks, we saw in black-and-white several times in Season One.  His office is a lot better equipped, computer- and monitor-wise, than the last time we saw it, in "Never-Never."

The names of Alexander's Asian conspirators and of the Prince -- Bon Phouma, Man-Phang, and Phanong -- echo such famous names of our world's mid-Sixties as Prince Souvanna Phouma of Laos.

"One Spy Too Many" contains a post-coital scene between a wolfish Alexander and Princess Nicole that was cut for the broadcast version.  This works better than merely hearing Nicole off screen as Alexander leaves.  Come to think of it, a definitive version of OSTM could be spliced together, retaining this scene, plus the one in the film where Parviz picks up a roaring Alexander at the quarry, but also including the rescue of Alexander's parents.   (And deleting all the Maude Waverly interludes, please. As much as I love watching Yvonne Craig, those bits, and the "explanation" at the end of the film, aren't needed.)

Watch me blink in disbelief as Mr. Parviz gets his toenails painted (!) at the Grecian Urn, while watching the girls on closed-circuit television.  So that's how he relaxes.  Interesting detail: He uses a cordless remote, just as we have today, to control the TV set.  Did such remotes even exist in our world then?

Cal Bolder's Ingo is very articulate, not the muscle-bound dummy a lesser writer would have given us (and who would have been played by Richard Kiel or Ted Cassidy).  I'm not sure I believe that the 175 or 200 pounds Solo loads on the bench press machine would keep him trapped for long, though.

The entire sequence with Illya being pursued by the farm machines, ducking into the mudhole, being wrapped up in bandages, etc., makes me wince at the thought of getting that filthy.   I picture David reading the script, and shaking his head: "You wanted to be an actor. . . ."

During Solo's struggle with Kavon, he at one point is closer to Kavon's silenced pistol than Kavon is.  Why not grab it?  (Picture for the Illya fangirls!)

Alexander's decoy ploy is clever, designed to give him just enough time to murder the president.  I wonder when Tracey could have written her message in lipstick on the window of the limo without being observed by Alexander or Parviz, though.

I'm surprised at the Washington Command office.  They didn't post anybody outside the embassy to head off Alexander, and didn't take away the keys to his Imperial.  Poor tactics!  Heads are gonna roll, baby!

In the action sequence when Solo leaps from the Jag to the plane, Vaughn and director Sargent keep it from looking easy.  I hate flying in planes, much less the idea of leaving one in flight, so I have no idea, but would it be humanly possible to squirm into a parachute pack while in free fall, as Solo does?  And could the plane have reached a high enough altitude that he'd have time to do that?

Verdict: A slam-bang season opener, with high energy, notably exciting music including the cool new theme arrangement, and a great turn by Torn as Alexander the (would-be) Greater.

Memorable lines:
Alexander (to Mr. Kavon): "I shouldn't have any trouble using [the generals'] country as my personal power base.  From there I can subvert all of Asia. . . .  Where the devil did I put the keys to my sports car?"

Parviz: "How did you get out of your tomb?"
Tracey (beckons him closer. In a confidential voice): "Well, you see, there was this lamp, and we rubbed it three times --"

Ingo (clapping Solo on the shoulders): "I know what your problem is!"
Solo (uneasily): "Is it that easy to tell?"

Illya (mummified): "Well, I suppose I'll just have to find myself a new tailor."

Wedding Guest (re: the bride's scream as she no doubt discovers Mr. Parviz's staring corpse next to her in the car): "I knew it wouldn't last."

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