"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 Re-Collectors Affair" (ep. 2/6)

“Re-Collectors” has the feel of a first-season story, except in color.  It’s Alan Caillou’s second-to-last script for MfU.  (I wonder why Caillou never wrote about Thrush?  A Caillou/Rolfe script focusing on a power struggle within the Hierarchy would have been fascinating.)  And while this is very much a Solo story, in that he is clearly the team leader, Illya gets a lot of excellent character moments.

This one has two major delights for me, aside from the plot switches, intelligence of our heroes, and the realistic tone and atmosphere.  It’s one of the comparatively rare stories in which U.N.C.L.E. sets a trap for their quarry (the ad in the Rome paper, designed to flush the Re-Collectors out of the bushes).  And it features Solo as classical detective, a la Ellery Queen (scroll down on that page for a pleasant jolt!).  His hinting at the nature of the puzzle to Illya in Act III, and then his revelation of the true nature of the Re-Collectors, work very well; in fact he actually uses the word “deductions.” 

Evangeline must have been one of many personal assistants Waverly auditioned over the years until he settled on Lisa Rogers.  Possibly because Lisa was the first to resist Solo’s charms, or Illya’s.

As we’ve seen before, Solo speaks fluent and rapid Italian.  It lends weight to the idea that at least one of his parents was from Italy -- though he states later, in “Concrete Overcoat,” that he is not Italian at all.

Theo Marcuse’s Gregori Valetti is smooth and effective, except, naturally, when he comes up against Illya in Act IV.  I almost wrote “well-barbered,” but he doesn’t have anything on his head to barber.  (Personally I suspect he wears those gloves to protect the gloss on his fingernails after his manicures.)  And I wonder just how Miss Donato thought a pearl-handled pistol would influence a snake like Valetti to lower his price to recover her painting.

Solo tells Demos that “his” painting was stolen “during the war.”  Unless he’s pretending to be a lot older than he is, he’d have been about 12 or 13 back then, and Demos should have remarked on it -- and used it as one reason for not believing Solo is on the up-and-up.  Better if Solo had told Demos, “The painting was stolen from my family.”

Illya’s moments here are few, but memorable.  His tinted hornrims as he makes notes on the case file in Waverly’s office; his dark dark Foster Grants in the Rome post office; his Hugh Hefner-ish presence in dressing gown as he hosts Valetti . . . and that very suggestive moment where it looks as though he and Lisa have been snuggling (“Mr. Waverly told me to relax,” says he!) on the couch.  Not to mention his moment of near-insubordination to Waverly (“We were just making sure . . . sir”).

In a nice casting touch, George Macready, who plays Demos, was an art collector in his own right, together with his friend -- Vincent Price.

Verdict:  Not a Thrush or science-fiction story, but a solid tale of intrigue and international detective work.

Memorable lines:
Valetti (hyping the Re-Collectors):  “We hunt, we find, we kill.”

Solo:  “I’m certain that Valetti’s gun will be pointing in the right direction.  I just must remember not to be standing in front of it.”

Solo (to Demos, declining to drink his wine):  “I promised my dear old mother that I wouldn’t drink until I was twenty.”

Sergeant:  “So you see, nobody sent me.  I came.”
Solo (murmuring):  “And saw . . . and conquered.”

Illya (to Waverly):  “I think I’d better go and get Mr. Solo out of there before something unpleasant happens to him.”
Waverly:  “No, no, no, no, no.  When Solo gets into trouble, that’s when he starts getting results!”

Illya (re: their plan):  “Casting bread on the waters to bring home the bacon.”

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