"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 Foxes and Hounds Affair" (ep. 2/4)

Oddly, I have no memory of this one in its first run.  I well remember "Ultimate Computer" and "Discotheque," which bracket it -- and how could I have forgotten Vincent Price's turn as languid, poisonous Gallic Thrush Victor Marton?  "Foxes and Hounds," in addition to bringing us more of Peter Allan Fields's snappy dialogue, shows us once again Waverly the crafty spymaster; and also that Thrush has internal factions, rivalries, and politics like any corporation in our world.  (Of course, not many corporations today are vying for mind-reading machines.  I hope.)

The teaser immediately treats us to a background detail about Illya: that he was a "little boy in Kiev."  If he's about 31 at this point, that puts him smack in the middle of (to him) the Great Patriotic War.  We find that he's thinking, not about the cute girl in tights, but about "Monsieur Solo"!  Yet it seems to be the mention of Kiev that makes him snap at Merlin, "That's enough."  See everything this scene does: it tells us that the machine does indeed read minds, that Solo is not on this mission because he's on vacation, and introduces the Innocent, Mimi Doolittle.

At least Cantrell gets away with the translator.  Walk-on agents, like those hapless red-shirted Security guys in "Star Trek," usually get themselves dead by the end of Act I.  Wisely, Fields doesn't show us that he is probably killed when Belmont's men divert him and capture the translator in Act IV.  It would have ruined the light tone.

Marton's "automobile" is that quintessentially Gallic motorcar, the Citroen DS (nicknamed "Goddess," for its initials in French).

Clearly Illya and Waverly know that Thrush has Del Floria's under observation via that rotating fire hydrant, since Illya and the lady staffer play the scene together and dispatch Solo to JFK for the observers' benefit.

Next we meet the ferociously ambitious Thrush, Lucia Belmont (middle name "Cougar," no doubt), as she clashes with "that continental masterpiece," Marton.  Just watching Price and Patricia Medina trade barbs with such superb timing would make this episode a classic.

Solo seems out-of-character harsh with the cabbie ("Get thee gone, varlet!").  But he's operating in the dark, something I'm sure he hates.  No need to take it out on the cabbie, Mr. Solo, he's a fellow Command agent just following orders!  The Irish cop ("Napoleon, Waterloo is upon you!") calls Solo "Raffles," after E. W. Hornung's gentleman burglar.

How does Illya get out to the airport before Solo?  An U.N.C.L.E. 'copter?  I presume Illya uses the phone rather than his cig-case communicator to contact Waverly because whatever he has arranged to bollix up Solo's device is affecting his communicator too.

"The Loved One" Mortuary --!  Somebody was reading Evelyn Waugh.  That, or the movie of that name with Robert Morse had just come out.

Seeing Price and Leo G. Carroll together when Marton strolls into HQ hints at what it must have been like to see them as adversaries in Broadway's "Angel Street" (1941; later filmed as "Gaslight").  Waverly's crew, including the receptionist, are on the ball.  I suspect David McDaniel was inspired by this to have Ward Baldwin visit HQ in his last published Ace novel.

Waverly should never have told Illya about Cantrell's true destination unless he intended Illya to meet Cantrell.  A neat plot twist would have been if Waverly had planted this with Illya in case he was captured; the Thrushes thus go to New Jersey, while Cantrell lands at a field in upstate New York.  But this would have required some other way for Marton and Belmont to capture the translator so that it can be destroyed at the end.  Perhaps they have broken U.N.C.L.E.'s latest code, and send an emergency override to Cantrell, so he does land at Wadsworth.

Verdict:  Despite a bit more comedy in some scenes than necessary (see the melee at the climax), Price, Medina, and the regulars carry the whole thing off with such verve and style that we love it anyway.

Memorable lines:
Illya (to a frightened Mimi, as Marton's men break down the door):  "Innocence is not a bulletproof commodity, young lady!"

Waverly (to Illya, regarding keeping Solo in the dark about the mission): "Besides, it won't hurt Mr. Solo to be ignorant once in his life.  Good for the humility."

Solo (to Del Floria, as he begins to realize he's fallen into a rabbit hole): "Actually, I was just chasing around after my pet leprechaun."

Marton: "Miss Belmont: I have been patient.  I have withstood your inflammatory rudeness.  I have pointedly ignored your -- whatever it is that frustrated women become. . . ."
Belmont: " . . . Why, you pompous, facelifted boulevardier! . . .  I've worked too hard!"
Marton: "And you soon may be working equally as hard, lovely lady, over a hot stove in the kitchen of some lonely Thrush outpost -- making chicken soup for our sick and wounded."

Illya (to Mimi, disbelievingly): "You're a woman.  Haven't you had your basic training?"

Illya: "We could make one of our daring, resourceful, and nauseatingly punctual escapes . . . if only the door weren't locked."

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