"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!)

Friday, January 22, 2010

"The See-Paris-and-Die Affair" (ep. 1/22)

For some reason, I recall the title of this one (and the reappearance of the U.N.C.L.E. helicopter) from my original viewing in 1965.   Bill Koenig calls it "a fairly frothy romp," and it is, rather like a high-spirited mix of the first "Pink Panther" movies (which date from '63-`64) and "Mission: Impossible."  Here, as in "Vulcan," our heroes use an old girlfriend of their target to manipulate him -- but that's only part of their plan.

Project Gutenberg has a 1919 text called "Marse Henry," by Henry Watterson, who writes in Volume 2, Chapter III: "'See Naples and die,' say the Italians. 'See Paris and live,' say the French."  Of course the title here could also have been a play on a travel slogan of the early `60s.  "See Paris and Live!" sounds like the kind of thing Pan Am or TWA would have done.

The Van Schreeten cousins are supposed to be Dutch, and more than once Josef uses the Dutch term mijnheer ("mister"). Nice touch.

Max says that his emissary will seek out Mary in NY.  Instead we see Solo "recruiting" her by stuffing her in a cab – a high-handed move (see below), and one that would get him arrested today.  We should have seen Max's man making the offer.  Then Solo could enter and explain what is really behind it.  Nor am I ever sure why Mary agrees to work with Solo at all, other than his bribe of the marvelous makeover at HQ.

Puzzler: Early in Act I, it's dark in NY, but light in Paris.  Since Mary was leaving in the dark, I think it must have been about 6 am there, which means it was about 12 noon in Paris.  Rather late for the streets of the City of Light to be so empty, n'est ce pas?  If it had been 6 am in Paris, fine, but why was Mary leaving at midnight?

Illya really is painted as the hapless sidekick in this one, isn't he?  Solo refers to his "repulsive countenance," he fails to imagine that the diamonds could be in the furniture, gets knocked out, and then is stuck with a thankless legwork job at the end by Solo.

In his French cop act Solo gives the name "Inspector Javert," a reference to the policeman who hunts Jean Valjean.  Good thing Josef never read "Les Miserables."  Solo’s "Javert" seems rather like Inspector Clouseau -- he's supposed to be a Frenchman speaking English with a thick French accent, which (as with Peter Sellers' bumbling cop) is part of the joke.  But he uses phrases like vitement ("quickly"?) and "this grassy snake," which does sound like a French speaker's attempt at the English idiom "snake in the grass."  Josef and Corio are not fooled, however.  Was that part of Solo and Illya's plan?

For some reason I've always pictured Philip II of Spain (he of the ill-fated Armada) as looking like Kevin Hagen, who plays Krolik.

Mary recognizes Illya on the street outside the train station, but we never saw them meet.  Also, when Solo is escaping, why wouldn't she tell the French sergeant that he's with U.N.C.L.E.?

How could Corio hide from Max in the dining car?  And if you say he came in after they were seated and sat behind Max, Mary should have recognized him; they'd worked together at Max's club.

Darned high-handed of Solo (again!) to swipe a police car!  And then a private citizen's convertible!  Of course no one was hurt, and he was desperate to follow the train.  On the other hand, setting fire to the farmer's hay wagon --!  I hope the Command reimbursed the poor guy!

Scripters Fields and Stark lead up well to the climax; the passage of time from day to night is well done.

To settle a helicopter atop a moving truck takes tremendous skill, I'd expect.  We saw Solo flying the U.N.C.L.E. 'copter in "Finny Foot," but I think this is Illya's debut as a pilot.  (Come to think of it, the story could be subtitled "Planes, Trains, and Automobiles.")  But why does settling the `copter on the truck make the truck driver stop?

Verdict: Despite some unanswered questions and plot holes, it's still more exciting than a simple plot summary would indicate, with the humor in the right places.  And it's rather neat that Solo and Illya are not always in control of the situation, as they often seem to be.

Memorable lines:
Illya (to Solo): "So now you can indulge yourself in your nefarious flair for the dramatic."

Solo (grimly): "T-H-R . . ."
Illya (just as grimly): ". . . U-S-H."

Illya (glaring at Solo over his gigantic sandwich): "Must you put ketchup and mustard on everything?"

Solo (as "Inspector Javert," to the hapless Illya): "We go to sweat you a little bit, eh, pussycat?"

Solo (to the police sergeant, as he appropriates the police car): "In no way do I represent American foreign policy, monsieur!"

Solo (over the barrel of his gun, to Corio): "For such a despicable fellow you have an amazingly accurate memory."

Mary: "Napoleon?  [Corio's] going to kill us anyway, isn't he?"
Solo (nods ruefully): "Unfortunately, Thrush's handbook bears no similarity whatever to that of the Boy Scouts of America."

1 comment:

carabele said...

"See Paris and die" is a very old saying that supposedly had its start with the Great Exhibition in Paris in 1867 (a World's Fair). The whole idea was that the wonders of that Great Exhibition were so spectacular, if you died after seeing them you would have no cause for regret.

Later of course it was used in the same context, but with the meaning that Paris in and of itself (without the Exhibition) was still a place that -- once seen -- would leave you to die without regret since you would have seen the best sights available in the world.