"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 14, 2010

"The Iowa Scuba Affair" (ep. 1/2)

I saw this one when it was rerun in spring of '65, and for years remembered nothing of it except the shower scene.   (I was eleven, and it convinced me, weirdly, to start showering instead of taking baths.)

I don't remember the little orientation intro when the shows were new, since my first episode was "Finny Foot."  I've never liked it much. Imagine if we'd had a similar intro to "Star Trek":

(Narrator) "This is the United Starship Enterprise.  Its five-year mission is to find new life in our galaxy.  We've entered via the hangar deck, and are now rising through the turbolift elevator to the bridge."  "Hello, I'm James T. Kirk.  I'm the captain of this vessel, current complement 430 men and women."  "I am Spock, Science Officer. . . ."  (You get the idea.)

For the first (but not the last) time, Solo takes on a cover identity.  We're not shown the special conditioning process (see "Neptune" and "King of Knaves") here, though I doubt he'd have needed it.

Jill is charming, and Slim Pickens is very disarming as the farm boy who's made good.

The scene with the three no-goodniks in scuba gear on the hill has always disturbed me.   It's daylight, right? Shouldn't they have worried about being seen?

The jet takeoffs and landings, and close shots of the pilot's hand, imply that Solo is flying himself.  We see several times later that he can pilot a helicopter, so I suppose this is consistent.

The scenes with Waverly at HQ were cut from the CBN airings, so they came as a terrific surprise to me.  And very welcome, as they explain things important to the plot.

The little infrared Polaroid-style camera Solo uses to photograph Carmen Miranda (or Lola Montez or whatever her name is) in the darkness -- that must have been ultra-science fiction for those days, as much as Solo's plug-in communicator was.

The scenes as the nylon-masked baddies hunt Solo and Jill were filmed in the daytime with a filter to simulate night.  It's a shame they couldn't have actually been shot at night, as the opening scene with Solo and the saboteur appears to be.  However, the scene in the silo, when Solo tells Jill his real name as he field-assembles the Mark I Special, makes up for it.  (I do think they'd have a hard time breathing under that grain, though.  And I suspect that when the MPs pour into the tunnel at the climax, they'd arrest everybody, Solo and Jill included, and sort things out afterward.)

Verdict: An effective little story.  Norman Felton, the show's executive producer, and Sam Rolfe (creator and line producer) probably had several scripts, such as "Brain Killer," "Neptune," and "Shark," ready to go once production started.  What led them to pick this one, I wonder?  And to schedule it second in broadcast order?  Or did the network guys decide that?

Great Line:

Solo (levelly, to Jill, about her late boyfriend): "His name was Edward Friedlander . . . and he was one of the most expert saboteurs in the world."


Unknown said...

Hey, I get to leave comments on reviews that were posted to Channel D before I was part of that group!

Anyhow, I'm commenting on this episode cause I watched it again over the weekend. I have to admit there are creaky bits here, but certain scenes more than make up for those bits.

The scenes that really shine:

1) Napoleon's angry and very huffy performance as the assumed brother of the dead man as he tells the police that the body isn't that of his supposed brother. I still say Napoleon could get into a character better than Illya ever did. Illya depended more on disguises than really pulling off a role by attitude (and words) alone as Solo did so well.

2) That famous scene using the shaving cream as a bomb to blow off the door of the bathroom filling with the deadly gas. It's just a classic.

3) The hunt of Napoleon and the gal by the Thrush guys with the black light scope rifles. That electronic chirping sound contributes to the overall intense quality of the scene as much as the film aspects of it.

4) Napoleon nonchalantly putting together his Special (though its not the iconic version here) as he makes small talk with the innocent.

Napoleon is really ultra suave in this one, definitely the epitome of the fantiases of a "country bumpkin" gal (such as the innocent here). Slim Pickins really does show a terrifying kind of insanity at the climax in the tunnel under the well. His facial expressions gave me the shivers. And the innocent is pretty and sweet, but not dumb, so she works well in the storyline.

Benzadmiral said...

This one stands in the MfU sequence in the same place that the early "Star Trek," "The Corbomite Maneuver," does there. Each was the first episode in regular production after the series had been added to NBC's fall schedule, chosen for whatever reason, as I speculated, and both show differences in the sets from their respective pilots. "Iowa," however, doesn't even mention Illya, let alone show him. Imagine a "Star Trek" without Spock!

Unknown said...

Wanted to just add here that I didn't like the little orientation intro used in the first 6 episodes (I think was first 6) of MFU either.

It did help people orient themselves to what U.N.C.L.E was I suppose. And is what Section II stands for ever mentioned specifically anywhere else other in that opening sequence? We are often told during the course of the series that Napoleon and Illya are Section II agents/operatives, but I'm not sure that anywhere else the actual reference to that section as "Operations and Enforcement" is used.