"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!)

Saturday, January 23, 2010

"The Gazebo in the Maze Affair" (ep. 1/27)

This one displays the fine Hollywood hand of co-writer Dean Hargrove.  While the tongue-in-cheek humor makes it resemble a second-season episode, it never crosses the line into silliness, thanks to Hargrove's deft lines, and to George Sanders and Jeanette Nolan as a modern Thane of Cawdor and his Lady Macbeth who've survived to enjoy murder and mayhem in their golden years.

Folie a deux incarnate: Both Partridges, despite their upper-crust English manners, are truly nuttier than twin fruitcakes.  Edith is flirtatious and kittenish with Solo and Illya . . . but watch the schizophrenic sparkle in her eye when she levels and fires that shotgun, stretches Solo on the rack, and waves that red-hot poker in Peggy's face.  Emory seems rather squeamish at his wife's torture hobbies, and thus less dangerous -- until his paranoia/sexual obsession with Peggy shows its teeth ("And don't think I don't know what you've been trying to do to me"; "Flaunting yourself about the place, trying to catch my fancy").  One imagines Edith and Emory playing dice of a winter's evening, dice made from the knucklebones of someone who fell victim to the wolf out in the maze, and chuckling over the memories. ("Oh, Emory, didn't he scream when Lupus got him!"  "Poor breeding, my dear Edith.  It always tells.")

Solo's previous encounter with Partridge was in 1958?  Presumably Solo was not yet Chief Enforcement Agent, not at ca. 26.  Perhaps it was one of his first big assignments -- team leader, perhaps, explaining Partridge's vendetta against him specifically.  Since Illya does not recognize Partridge, perhaps he wasn't on that mission.  But how does Partridge know him? 

Also, Partridge scoops up Illya just outside Command HQ in New York, and sends his tiny-tree-and-bird message to Del Floria's.   Obviously he knows it's the agents' entrance.   Though I suppose that once Thrush knew, it would hardly be a secret in the criminal world any more.

Edith's references to "that awful rainforest business" make me think she was relatively sane until then, and whatever they went through in escaping drove her completely `round the bend.

The black-and-white photography adds immeasurably to the tone and atmosphere, doesn't it?  Color would make it seem much more cartoon-like.  (Somehow, though, it still reminds me of a '60s-era "Batman" comic, where the Penguin/Joker/Riddler has captured Robin to lure Batman into his revenge trap. . . .)

No, that's not Robert Shaw playing Jenkins, the wolfkeeper/darts champ -- though he does remind me of Captain Quint from "Jaws."

Solo points out that his overseas call to Waverly "has to bounce off the Telstar satellite."  (According to Wikipedia, due to high-altitude nuclear testing, Telstar I [launched in 1962] went out of service in
February of 1963 -- though more Telstars were in service by 1964.)  The problem with the scene is that you'd think Solo would insert a code phrase to warn Waverly that he is operating under enemy control.

Why do the chair's entrapping arms spring out when Solo knocks Jenkins into it -- yet earlier, Partridge had to press a button on the table to activate it?

Bill Koenig has mentioned that Illya's "Bon appetit" line was used in several James Bond movies after this.  So we have a case of the original property drawing inspiration from a property it inspired!

After being rescued by Solo, why does Illya leave Solo in the lurch to explain to Mr. Waverly?  I could see it if Solo had embarrassed him or stuck him with some unpleasant duty.  Or was Hargrove, in a bit of inside humor, playing off the scene in Fields's "See-Paris-and-Die" where Solo sticks Illya with the thankless legwork?

Verdict: A great romp.

Memorable lines:
Edith (re: Illya): "He was very sort of physical looking, in an unusual way."

Illya (examining the dungeon): "Every home should have a recreation room."

Jenkins (re: the snarling wolf inches from Illya): "Would you like for me to open the gate?"
Illya: "No, that's not necessary, thank you.  I'll consider myself captured."

Illya (to the chained skeleton next to him): "You expecting anyone?"

Illya (dryly, to Solo): "I see you've come to rescue me."
Solo (testing his chains): "Wait'll you hear my plan --"

Illya (re: the madness of the Partridges): "I believe they have March hares in the garden, too."
(Which suggests that Illya, as part of his English lessons, read and possibly even enjoyed Lewis Carroll.  One imagines his English teacher in the U.S.S.R. saying, "A capitalist fantasy, but entertaining. . . .")

Solo (to Waverly, about Partridge): "Now I think it's time to give him the bird."
(If that was the crude slang then that it is now, how did they get that past the censors???)

Solo (realizing he has neglected to tell Waverly to cancel his trip to Eastsnout): "I forgot to turn off the bath water. . . ."


nephew-from-france said...

I love your comments about the nutty Partridges... though Emory's character might actually have been slightly more entertaining if he had been even less sane (no discussion about Edith's nuttiness).
Anyway, thanks in no small way to George Sanders and Jeanette Nolan, the episode is entertaining - more so for the dialogues than the plot itself, actually, As you say, on many occasions it borders on spoof - all necessary Gothic cliches are there, plus an unexpected gazebo which seems to be there mainly to give the episode a bizarre title.
Speaking of bizarre, one can wonder how a trained super-agent like Ilya is not surprised to get on a red London bus in New York. His boy-scout instincts to bring back the dropped book seem to induce in him suspension of disbelief, and of elementary caution.
As to Ilya's unfriendly trick on Napoleon at the end and his comment about spies who cannot be trusted : doesn't one get a clear impression that he has an idea to drive himself Peggy to discover London, instead of Napoleon who thanks to him is bogged down with Waverly?
If so, that would go one step further in their earlier mild rivalry about women.

Wastrel said...

Another remarkable thing that made it past the censors is the outright bondage of Peggy (the innocent and luscious Bonnie Franklin) and Edith, who almost seems to look forward to liking it. Of course Napoleon and Ilya can be shackled to the wall or put on the rack, but this sort of thing was pretty much off-limits to women at the time. It seems that the standards were relaxing.