"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!)

Thursday, January 28, 2010

"The Deadly Toys Affair" (ep. 2/9)

My notes from the CBN days (sure, I took notes. Didn't you?) sum this one up as "a deft script with some surprises."  I might not say "deft" today, but "Toys" does give us possibly the most colorful innocent ever, while losing points for a thin plot and one of the series' least memorable villains.

Startling to see Waverly chastising Warshowsky in full schoolmaster mode in the teaser.  (I shudder to think what he did with those agents who let Dr. W. slip away!)  And Bill Koenig is right; Solo and Illya's raid on Thrush's hypnotic gas plant, is exciting.  But this long sequence should have come at the climax of this story instead of the start!  Perhaps if the boy, Bartlett, has been holding a piece of the puzzle as to the existence of another plant which is really manufacturing the gas.  Once they rescue him, Solo and Illya find they must destroy the real plant. . . .

The rest of the story, unfortunately, is nowhere as strong as the teaser.  Angela Lansbury lights up the screen, and outshines everybody else, with her Zsa Zsa Gabor-like "schnookieputz" Elfie van Donck. The image she evokes, of Elfie floating down by parachute, with a cluster of aardvarks surrounding her like a host of heavenly angels, will haunt your dreams.  I'm warning you.

Is that really a Russian newspaper Solo is holding on the plane?  And I must say, you haven't lived until you've seen U.N.C.L.E.'s Chief Enforcement Agent, the man who defeated Andrew Vulcan, Captain Shark, and the deadly Brother Love, wearing a Groucho Marx eyeglasses-and-nose.

In contrast, I love Solo's measured delivery when he stares directly at Noubar the Generic Continental: "There's the yellow-bellied . . . Thrush."  He's not giving himself away to Noubar by doing this; since Noubar's men attacked him at the airport, he knows his cover is blown.  As regards covers, I don't see why he and Illya don't simply lay things out for Elfie and enlist her aid as they have other Innocents.  Instead they keep her in the dark almost to the end.
It's never clear how Elfie and Joanna Lydecker know each other, or even who this lady who wears breakfast diamonds is.  Is she another film star?  A jet-setter?  How and why does Illya attach himself to her (instead of Elfie)?  She's a diversion that doesn't go anywhere.  Better had she been a Thrush.  And though we are told endless times how brilliant Jay North's Bartlett is, we never see any evidence of it, other than his steely and very adult determination to destroy Thrush for killing his father.

Speaking of which, why does Dr. W. give U.N.C.L.E. the slip after requesting their help?  If he's even half smart, he'd know, once the gas plant was destroyed, that Thrush would know he squealed.  Instead he walks right into the school he wants the Command to rescue his son from.  We needed a scene in which for some reason he loses confidence in Waverly and his men, and decides to run for it, to try and rescue his son himself.

Again Illya is not given a lot to do, aside from look mysteriously foreign as Joanna's hairdresser.  He does demonstrate his gymnastic ability ("You're a professional cat burglar!") in his clever escape from the meat locker.

Verdict: With a raft of clever lines (mostly Elfie's), a template for what should have been the rare lightweight episode as a break from more serious stories.

Memorable lines:
Joanna: "The parts of speech have always bewildered me.  Can you tell me the difference between 'who' and 'whom,' and 'me' and 'I'?"
Solo: "Why don't you sit here . . . and I'll start by pointing out the difference between 'his' and 'hers.'"

Joanna (to Elfie): "You've gone blonde!"
Elfie: "Oh, is tragic accident.  The yak butter shampoo, it backfired."

Elfie: "You still have that traveling hairdresser . . .?  Rachmaninoff?"
Joanna: "Oh, Rocky went into the catering business."
Elfie (nods): "Too many egg shampoo, hein?  It was bound to end up in an omelet."

Joanna: "My own hairdresser, secretary, companion.  A sweet-looking man named Illya."
Bellhop: "He's all those things?  Formidable!"

Solo (to Bartlett): "Thrush is one of the worst conspiracies of modern times."
Elfie: "Thrush?  Thrush, what is this little bird?  Beep, beep?"
Solo: "No, no, no.  It's an omnivorous vulture that's going to gobble up the brain of your nephew here."

Elfie: "But you told me [Illya] was the criminal type!"
Solo: "Yes, and if we don't rescue him immediately he'll probably wind up the defunct type!"

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