"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!)

Monday, January 18, 2010

"The King of Knaves Affair" (ep. 1/13)

This, the sixth episode filmed, has never been one of my favorites, and despite the details of U.N.C.L.E. and its international flavor revealed here, is the first aired episode which is less than stellar.  The direction is always competent, and Vaughn and McCallum turn in good performances.  But when the most significant thing about an episode is that the image of Solo used in the first season title sequence is taken from it, that's not good.

Jan Merlin's Angel Galley reminds me of actor Nick Adams of "The Rebel" fame.  He appears first as a rather charming, slimy character, and cements his "psychopath" label, as Illya calls him, by knifing the industrialist.  And the Corvette convertible is a nice character touch.  Unfortunately, this characterization vanishes later.  When we see him in uniform in the cell with Solo, he's frantically studying for an exam, as if he's worried about flunking algebra and getting grounded.  How does a knife-wielding racketeer suddenly turn into Dobie Gillis?

Illya's being boyish again, with his face propped on his fists in the briefing scene.  His watch looks like it's on one of those rugged NATO nylon straps.
Why does Solo order *separate* jet flights for Illya and himself to Rome?

Many folks have mentioned that the sign inside the Rome Del Floria's reads, in Italian, the same as the one in New York: "Honesty Is the Best Policy."  If anyone knows Italian well, chime in -- is the Rome sign in good idiomatic Italian? Does the outside sign read "Sartoria"?  And is the Italian that Solo rattles off so easily the real thing?

Guest stars: Arlene Martel was fresh from appearing in the Harlan Ellison-scripted "Demon with the Glass Hand" on "Outer Limits," and would turn up three years hence as the infamous T'Pring on "Star Trek."  Tania (or Tanya) Lemani, who plays Venetia, and appears as the belly dancer later, made a small career out of such roles.  She played an exotic dancer in "Wolf in the Fold" on Trek, and also on an "It Takes a Thief" episode.

We see the hypnotic indoctrination process in more detail here, as Solo and Illya are programmed with their detailed cover identities.  Solo, at least, gets to use some of that comprehensive knowledge of arms later,
but Illya's carefully layered cover goes for naught.  In fact he has little to do here in any scene, except for his silent battle with the thug on the balcony outside Solo's room.

I have trouble with Solo's white pajamas.  Not with the fact that they're white, or that he wears pajamas at all.  But buttoned to the neck as if awaiting a tie?

I don't swallow the idea that Miss Ernestine would take a gun along and aim it at Solo as part of tracking Angel down.  If she had been revealed later as a criminal partner of Angel's, sure, but not as she's written.  I also have trouble believing that Passad, in the midst of recovering his kingdom, would lower himself to work as the bouncer, or even maitre d', at a nightclub, even one where his contacts hang out.  One imagines he might get a charge out of *disguising himself* and collecting information useful to his cause -- but he appears at the club under his own name.

Mr. Vaughn just wasn't one of those guys who can wear hats or caps, though we’ll see him do better later.  Whenever we see him with a chapeau, for instance the French Foreign Legion-style one here, it makes him look odd.

Where the script really suffers, I think, is during the exposition scenes when Passad is rattling off his regal plans to the kidnapped Solo. It wasn't often that U.N.C.L.E. was guilty of talkiness in scenes to the point of slowing them down; sometimes we didn't get enough dialog to fully explain what was going on. (In "Dove," for example, one line of dialogue would have made it clear how U.N.C.L.E. expected to retrieve Thrush agents' names from a photo.)  Here, though, we have too much talk.

Verdict: Not one of the greats.

Great Line:
Solo (taking Ernestine's little gun away from her):  "The safety catch is on.  It limits the range of the weapon considerably."


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