"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!


Update, August 2015: Henry (Superman) Cavill and Armie Hammer look good in the official trailer and posters! The Guy Ritchie-helmed movie premieres on August 14th!

(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 Love Affair" (ep. 1/26)

This script (by Albert Aley of "Deadly Decoy") is, along with "Dove" and "Green Opal," one of the more Bondian episodes.  Like Bond, Solo here goes up against a colorful villain whose name furnishes the title, and against whom Solo must play his endgame without aid -- in his case, from Illya or U.N.C.L.E.

I wonder if Aley was inspired by Burt Lancaster's turn as con artist/fire-and-brimstone preacher Elmer Gantry about four years earlier.

Eddie Albert's performance here shows us why he was a top Hollywood player for more than four decades. His Brother Love is one of the series' most believable and effective villains: unctuous, folksy, calculating and manipulative -- and hard-edged, especially in Act III when he roars at Dr. Hradny, "Will you stop this sickening family sentiment --!"  It shocks us; and then, in the very next instant, Love realizes that he has let his mask slip, and swiftly adjusts it . . . but Hradny, and we, have glimpsed the real monster inside the pious shell.

This, I believe, is the first mention of "satraps" -- though, as Waverly uses it, it could apply to either a division of Thrush, or to an individual.

The ticket that Illya brandishes in Act I is to a show called "Eat, Little Fishie, Eat" -- an early episode of Norman Felton's previous series, "The Eleventh Hour"!

It's nice to see Sarah get out of HQ for a change.  She has a wry woman-of-the-world edge about her.  Perhaps after April Dancer's success as a Section II agent, Waverly tapped Sarah for Survival School?  (Read a neat interview with actress/writer Leigh Chapman, who played Sarah, here.)

Neil Diamond nailed it: "Room gets suddenly still and when you'd almost bet/ You could hear yourself sweat/ He walks in --" Here, though, the audience for this "Brother Love's Travelling Salvation Show" is too restrained, too well-behaved, but then it's New York, not backwoods Louisiana.  True, the script makes no commentary on religion per se, but Love's loyalty to Thrush, and our peek at his real personality, are commentaries in themselves.

If this is supposed to be September, as the ticket indicates, then Sarah's heavier coat and gloves are out of place.  So are Magda's coat and furry beret, if that's what it's called, at the garden party.  Of course, men and women dressed up, and women wore gloves for shopping and other activities, more in those days. (Or maybe it was an unusually cool week in the tri-state area.)   If we accept the evidence of the ticket, Love's show was on Saturday, Sept. 19, 1964, the garden party on Sunday the 20th, and the climax in LA on Monday the 21st.

I love nighttime scenes in Waverly's office, here and in "Shark" and "Quadripartite": that view of Manhattan lit up at night, while Solo and Illya confer with Waverly after a long day.  Very homelike.

In the car with Solo and his men, Bro. Love is wearing what looks like a no-date Rolex Submariner, the model Sean Connery made famous in "Doctor No."  Even in 1965 it was not a cheap watch.  Clearly Bro. Love believes in treating himself to some of the finer things in life, along with his massage from Magda. (In the scene the Sub indicates 4:00, which is about right for a garden/tea party.)

Solo's cover story, that he is the late Dr. Armindel's lab assistant, is plausible, as is his insistence on cash. I'd think Bro. Love, knowing human nature, would be much more likely to believe that than any twaddle about "wanting to carry on her work."  And it gets Solo into Love's sanctum, much like Bond in "Goldfinger."

When Love has them captive in the cell, his hooded robe makes him resemble Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius making a sacrifice to the Roman gods, rather than a pious Christian.

"Love" also sports one of the most exciting climaxes in the entire series.  The clock ticks as Solo sears his own wrists to free himself from the wire, then tucks Love's own bomb into the rocket model and delivers it to Love's helicopter.  "Love Is a Big Boom," indeed.

The scene at the airport between Solo and Illya, despite the clumsy line about "love affair," is charming.  Illya, on medical leave (at least I hope Waverly gave him some time off!), went all the way out to Kennedy to meet Solo.   I picture them hoisting a few at the airport lounge, and having to pour themselves into a cab to get back to Manhattan.

Verdict: A thriller Ian Fleming might well have approved of.

Memorable lines:
Sarah (pretending to use the pay phone, to Solo): "Can you keep [Pearl Rolfe] interested that long?"
Solo: (snorts and says nothing more)

Illya: "[Brother Love's] cult must be a cover for Thrush. There's that scent of bloodstained events trailing in its wake."

Illya (scowling over the conspicuous consumption at the capitalists' garden party): "Suddenly I feel very Russian."
Solo: "That's just your proletarian blood."

Solo: "All right, if I'm not out in a half an hour, start a revolution."
Illya: "That would be a pleasure."

Solo (examining his monastic cell): "Do you have something a little less pretentious?"

Love: "It's the world I see around me that's mad. A world filled with spineless, aimless, submissive creatures passing themselves off as human beings."
Love: " 'He who establishes a dictatorship and does not destroy Brutus, or he who forms a republic and does not destroy the sons of Brutus, will reign only a short time.' "
Solo: "Thank you, Brother Machiavelli."
(This is from "Discourses on Livy," not the more famous "The Prince."  Solo's recognition of the line, like his quoting Shakespeare in "Deadly Games," suggests his education is much more far-ranging than he lets on)

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