"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!)

Friday, January 15, 2010

"The Finny Foot Affair" (ep. 1/10)

This episode, my friends, is very special to me.  It was My First Time.  We all remember our First Time, don't we?  (Watching U.N.C.L.E., that is.)  And I was instantly hooked.  My mother, though a James Bond fan, had not tried the show; she had us watching "Red Skelton" or "McHale's Navy."  But my father caught an episode or two, possibly "Project Strigas," and said, "We have to watch this.  It's exciting."

And it was, and is.  From the creepy, almost silent opening and its flavor of "What the heck is going on here?", through the solid detective work, to the climax of the story (yet another Thrush plot?  No, it was an accident!), it sings.  You're right, I can't be objective about this one, but we'll have some fun anyway.

I admit that the contamination suits look a little dumb, with their clunky over-the-street-shoes feet.  But maybe real ones look like that, and there's no way around it.  I think Bill Koenig has mentioned the strong similarity between the opening scene at the Scottish village, here, and scenes in "The Andromeda Strain" where the scientists examine the corpses at the dead Arizona town.  Michael Crichton could have seen this and been inspired by it; he'd have been in college at the time.

Boy, U.N.C.L.E. really believed in logo'ing out that 'copter.  There's the lettering on the tail, the logo on the doors, and the letters again on the fuselage under the doors.  Did they think the Royal Air Force would mistake it for the BBC traffic 'copter?

How could the Scots pathologist tell that the seal was "unquestionably a young seal," yet died of old age?  Perhaps the pinniped's teeth weren't anywhere near as worn as a real aged seal's -- in the few days during which he "lived a full life," the teeth didn’t have time to get worn down.

The General is a rather original villain for the time: a Japanese war criminal, rather than a German one.  Intriguingly, not all of his minions are East Asian.  Either he was an early equal opportunity employer, or Japanese thugs-for-hire were thin on the ground in Norway.

I checked my atlas, and I don't see any islands listed off Scotland near the Firth of Forth, as Solo indicates to Waverly at the London HQ.  Plenty of islands on the Atlantic side, but nothing on the Norway side.

Of course the big thing for trivia buffs is young Kurt Russell as Christopher, one of the rare non-female, non-adult Innocents.  Snake Plissken fans take note:  Kurt was a good actor even then.  One big difference between MfU's time and today is that young Chris is (a) well-dressed, and (b) well-spoken and polite.  Imagine the horror if this episode were done today.  Chris would wear a T-shirt and jeans, would be listening to his iPod half the time, and would be positive he knew more about everything than Solo! 

This is also the story in which we see Solo's address on his luggage tag as "221 5th, New York, NY."  I presume this would be Fifth Avenue, not East Fifth Street, or the tag would say so.  Now, my Flashmaps book says this address on Fifth lies between E. 26th and E. 28th, or just north of Madison Square Park and a few blocks south of the Empire State Building.  I've never been to the Gramercy area, but I understand it's been quietly elegant for a long time.  I picture Solo coming out of his brownstone (?) on a fine day in fall, nodding to his doorman, and walking briskly the twenty blocks or so north and east to HQ, eyeing the pretty girls on Madison Avenue. . . .

(Doorman?  Of course.  In "Terbuf," Clara says she called his apartment in New York and was told he was on vacation.  Who else but a doorman?  But Thrush could do the same thing.  Solo needs better security!  I hope, once he got back from Terbuf, he gave that doorman what-for:  "No Christmas bonus this year, my friend!")

The little black box with the hand and the lever was not cobbled up by the prop people.  I recall seeing it for sale in "Famous Monsters of Filmland" magazine the year before.  The "Record Your Voice" booth was a familiar attraction at amusement parks in the '60s.

Solo as Mike Hammer:  He couldn't have been faster or more ruthless when it came to shooting the General, huh?

The relationship between Solo and Chris is charming.  I recall being startled in '85, seeing the episode for the first time in two decades, when Solo hugs the boy and ruffles his hair.  Fatherly, I guess.  I'm sure fan fictioneers have done a 20-years-later scenario, with the 52-year-old Solo and 32-year-old Christopher meeting again.

Verdict:  The 15th episode filmed is superb adventure.

Great Lines:
General Yokura (sourly, driving a knife into a doll on his desk):  "I dislike glibness."
Solo:  "Yes, I can see that."

Solo:  "The peculiar thing about me, General, is that under torture I tend to scream a great deal and reveal nothing."

Chris:  "Mr. Solo -- be careful."
Solo:  "I shall be a study in caution."

Solo (to the General's handmaiden, Tomo, after he's dispatched Yokura):  "I thought it was the old Japanese custom for the servants to follow the master by hari-kari."
Tomo:  "You've got the wrong century, Jack."
   (An exchange worthy of Raymond Chandler at his best)


Unknown said...

Just rewatched this episode again today and I had almost forgot how incredibly good it is.

Solo is so extraordinarily competent and dangerous (the whole incident in the cave) in this one, and yet there is that softer side he shows to Chris. Really wonderful characterization and Vaughn pulls it all off so well.

Anonymous said...

Although I am late to this party, I just watched this episode with Kurt Russell. Please settle a debate -- is Candice Bergen playing Mother? With the story set in Bergen, Norway, she seems the perfect choice. As you note, MfU is of the best written and most entertaining shows. Your site is the perfect tribute to it.
Thanks so much,