"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!


Update, August 2015: Henry (Superman) Cavill and Armie Hammer look good in the official trailer and posters! The Guy Ritchie-helmed movie premieres on August 14th!

(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!)

Thursday, January 14, 2010

"The Deadly Games Affair" (ep. 1/5)

I saw this clever, tricky episode (the 8th filmed) in its spring '65 rerun, and all I could recall for years was something about Solo coming down a ramp by a warehouse, a woman in a Corvette, and Solo strapped to an operating table while somebody tried to revive Adolf H.  I know, the payoff seems rather ancient-chapeau to us now, but in '64 it might have been the first TV use of the Der Fuehrer Is Not Dead/Has Been Preserved plot. (There was a 1963 movie, later titled "They Saved Hitler's Brain," that might have inspired writer Dick Nelson.)

"Ah, Angelique . . ." Janine Gray's performance is mannered; she has the crookedest smile and oddest diction I've ever witnessed; but somehow the whole package works. I love the scene where she plays Chuck, telling him she's an "agent for a worldwide organization" of law and order, then asks innocently, "Have you ever heard of U.N.C.L.E.?" Note that she doesn't say she's with U.N.C.L.E.; she merely allows him to infer it. (I find it unlikely, though, that somebody who handles deadly spiders so coolly would scream so loudly when the semi-corpse begins to move under the sheet in Amadeus's lab.)

Her Sting Ray, if anyone cares, is probably a '64; look at the gas cap and louver vents. (The first year, the '63, had a split rear window, which Angelique's does not.)  My fellow car-guys tell me a '64 'Vette cost about $4100 new, which would equate to about $27K today. Since a new 2008 Corvette would have gobbled about $47K out of your retirement fund, I'd say Angelique ("Actually Thrush paid for it, darling") got a bargain.

Solo is more educated than he often lets on. Here he quotes Shakespeare, and not one of the more familiar lines, either. I looked it up; it's from "The Merchant of Venice" (I suppose, about Shylock):

"An evil soul producing holy witness
Is like a villain with a smiling cheek,
A goodly apple rotten at the heart:
O, what a goodly outside falsehood hath!"

Brooke Bundy went on to play a mildly retarded girl on the only episode of "Judd for the Defense" that I can remember (directed, it turns out, by Boris Sagal). Many years later, for one episode she was the Enterprise-D's Chief Engineer on "Star Trek: The Next Generation."

Alexander Scourby's Prof. Amadeus strikes me as more believable and methodical than your average neighborhood mad scientist. He doesn't babble, he doesn't foam at the mouth, and he has a solid job teaching
chemistry at a local NY college. And he's clearly been careful with his money since 1945: a small cottage, a beat-up pickup, a treasured Luger, and the rest has gone into home renovations -- and preservation fluid for Adolf's cold-sleep tank. (I wonder how much Target or Wal-Mart charges for that stuff. . . .)

Nice detail, that Solo is sweating while on the gurney and even later, after he gets free. Tension, we can suppose, and also that the underground lab was sort of warm with that burning gasoline dripping down. Also nice is the reason Amadeus gives for explaining his plan to Solo -- that the details will induce fear, and adrenaline will flow to help the process.

What was that room where Solo and Illya interviewed Terry and later set up the phone system to answer Chuck's line?  I'd call it a visitors' lounge. Nice touch, that their visitor badges are sequential, 30 and 31.

I don't believe Terry -- or any woman, anywhere in history -- would have turned down the stamp collection. Chuck, maybe, on principle, but Terry would be much more practical.

Verdict:  Exciting stuff.

Great Lines:

Illya (stonily, about Angelique): "She seems happy. Who is dead?"

Solo: "Ah, Angelique . . . if Thrush had another dozen like you, they
could rule the world."
Angelique (amused): "Darling! Another dozen like me, and there'd be no need for Thrush."

2 comments:

carabele said...

Watched this one again this weekend and, though the idea of reviving Hitler and the Nazis in some form isn't a unique plot device, I would say this episode does it very well.

I will say though that I disagree with Napoleon's statement that if Thrush had a dozen like Angelique they could rule the rule. She strikes me as a very ineffective operative. Of course her cat-and-mouse relationship with Napoleon is very intriguing and I understand why this character is so much a staple of fan fiction on the series.

I noticed some odd audio editing in this one, with "Amadeus" being obviously added to dialogue that originally used only "Professor". The additions are poorly done and noticeable, not the last time this would happen in an MFU episode. I realize looping, which was used then to "fix up" audio bites, wasn't a very precise technique and that MFU operated on a very tight schedule, so this kind of thing is understandable. I just wish it had been "cleaned up" on the DVD set.

I did also notice in this one that when Angelique takes that spider-resident flower out of the case in her purse, she handles it in a manner (grabbing onto the flower itself rather than it being stem-up in the case and her reaching in for it that way) that would insure any spider in the bloom would have bitten her. After all, she would have been invading its territory directly. That should have been thought about a bit more in the filming, how she would actually hold a flower with a deadly arachnid in it to insure she wasn't bitten herself.

I didn't find her screaming at the moving corpse unbelieveable at all, Paul. After, it's supposedly a corpse. Having it move implies something out of the ordinary. Whereas a deadly spider is part of nature.

Overall I really liked this one though, and thought Napoleon looked particularly snazzy in the jacket with the insignia on it.

nephew-from-france said...

Angelique is so unexpectedly delightful as a villain that I would hardly blame her for spending less time actively fulfilling her THRUSH duties than purring her lines.
She might have wisely decided that, Hitler or no Hitler (if I'm correct, in a rather Harry Potter "you-know-who" way, he's not even named in the episode...), the all enterprise is pretty silly and doomed. Which it is.

Professor Amadeus might have struck you as a highly methodical and sensible chap for having worked (alone???) all these years on his great endeavor - he certainly has succeeded in being patient and keeping it low-key.
But on the whole, at least to handle real live-action situations, he rather strikes me as highly incompetent.
Would you strap just with a car seat belt, so that he can free himself with just a few contortions, the guy who is intent on destroying your whole life's cherished work - no, actually more than that, your own god about to reappear? Is that the reasoning of a brilliant scientific mind with his two feet on the ground?
And do you, in those circumstances, take the risk of provoking an explosion that is more likely than not to end in, precisely, destroying said work of your life and said god - as indeed happens?

Beyond that inadequacy problem, one would hardly say that the episode develops a tension as terrible as its hypothesis - reviving the F├╝hrer, we should be filled with fear... Instead of that you have a bizarre moment when you-know-who is starting to shake under a white sheet (that is, if you are really believing that he is); and when, more Young Frankenstein- than old Frankenstein-like, a grand-guignolesque you-know-who's arm seizes Napoleon's own arm - hard not to laugh rather than cry in terror. One who does not take that too seriously is Napoleon himself, who has a whole catalogue of wisecracks to address to Amadeus about his doomsday plan. Better not to take it too seriously either.