"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!)

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

"The Discotheque Affair" (ep. 2/5)

This one, a Dean Hargrove co-script, is the first of the new season to feel as if it needed another rewrite.  Solo’s Houdini trick in Act IV, plus Ray Danton as villain Vincent Carver, make it work fairly well, though not on the same level as “Foxes and Hounds.”

We open up with a delivery of Thrush ordnance to a garage.  Why does Mr. Carver (roaring up in his snazzy Barracuda, and with driving gloves, no less) deliver the bomb to the store at all?  Was it coincidence -- this particular Thrush front was due to be “dismantled” anyway?  Or had someone in the garage radioed him with an SOS?

The idea that the brownstone apartments belong to U.N.C.L.E. as part of their cover, and that they have tenants who pay rent, is genius.  It reinforces the idea that the Command, despite its high-flown technology and purposes, is restricted, like any other huge corporation, by the laws of economics. 

Carver’s discotheque is about as much like real ones as most in movies or TV of the time.  A real disco would be darker (more like the scene at the close of Act III), the go-go girls would wear miniskirts if not less, and the music would feature more Top 40 hits.  And Tiger Ed, as played by Harvey Lembeck (late of William Asher’s “Beach Party” movies), is really kind of embarrassing.

Carver is not.  Danton’s sleek Carver is the highlight of the episode; swaggering, super-confident, he seems amused by it all (“Lord, what fools these mortals be!”).  Watch his head-bob and body language in Act IV when he leaves Farina on guard, and you’ll swear he was channeling Cary Grant.

Hans Gudegast’s cool, controlled, prideful technician, Mr. Oakes, is another highlight; the clash of personalities and philosophies between him and Carver is sharp, and I wish Oakes had survived to be a worthy antagonist in another story.

Leaving the body of Mr. Sherman, the inspector, behind the wall in Sandy’s apartment was foolish if Oakes’s eavesdropping project was intended to be long-term.  Eventually the corpse would betray itself (as it does), Waverly would investigate, and thus endeth the project.  A short-term goal -- say, if they expected a particular piece of information to come across in the next three days -- would have posed no problem, except that Waverly, once he realized what Thrush had been up to, would increase security on the entire block.  Better if Tiger Ed, say, is in charge, shoots Sherman and tucks his body behind the wall, and then we see Carver and Oakes are furious at him for spoiling the project.

Nice Touch Dept.:  Solo must carry his watch in his pocket while his left hand is in the cast; dead Sherman’s shoestring poking out from the wall; Illya plays bass with the band, and questions Sandy in his “interrogation” outfit of tinted hornrims, open shirt, and shoulder holster; the Thrush records being concealed as literal 45 rpm records; the hint of a long-standing relationship between Carver and Farina; Solo does not get free in time to keep the fire from starting; and he must tuck his left hand into his waistband to support it after he’s freed it from the cast.

If Solo’s plan is to get Sandy into the club, did they kill the bug to get Carver to make that move?  A line about this when Solo is with Illya in the car would have been nice.  But then why does Solo stop the workmen?  They could have let Oakes get it back on line, then supplied Thrush with all sorts of disinformation.  As it’s written here, Thrush would know very shortly that the failure of the bug means U.N.C.L.E. is on to them.

Yes, I’m sure that slipping out of a cast is close to impossible -- the doctor has to cut it off, right? -- but Hargrove & Stadd set it up with Solo’s “My cast has taken quite a beating tonight.”  And Vaughn makes it look difficult, if not painful.

Why does Carver, as he says, leave the records to be destroyed?  That’s almost as bad as letting U.N.C.L.E. have them!  Central will not be pleased.  And  he should have had an exit line when Waverly grabs his cane.
Verdict:  Clever in places, sloppy in others, it nonetheless gives us a sparkling villain (who even announces what “a heel” he is) and highlights the determination of our heroes.

Memorable lines:
Solo (opening the register, to the vacuum-cleaner store customer who wants her money back, after he has put a sleep dart into the Thrush behind the counter):  “There’s your refund. . . .”

Carver (jauntily, inspecting the freshly–painted wall behind which his men have stashed Mr. Sherman):  “Well, if nothing else, we’re neat.”

Farina (drunkenly, as she is freed from the buzzsaw by Solo):  “I’ve had a rotten life --!”

Illya (indicating Solo’s arm still in its sling, after Waverly has detailed him to investigate a Prague motion-picture studio):  “You mean, after all this, and what with your arm, don’t you think you’d better stay here for a while?”
Solo:  “What, and give up show business?”

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