"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 29, 2010

"The Virtue Affair" (ep. 2/11)

Henry Slesar, the scripter here, has been rather forgotten today, though in his time he produced a raft of effective short stories (I still shiver over his "A Cry from the Penthouse"; go find it), and was story editor on the crime-oriented soap "Edge of Night."  (It's his 1963 novel that became the episode "Bridge of Lions"; has anyone read it?)  Here he delivers a fairly clever story with a suspenseful denouement, as Illya waits to have his head handed to him.

The car chase in the teaser is well-done.  I'd like to know just what French car rental agency Solo and Illya use, though.  That big steel-grey cabriolet is a Mercedes-Benz 300S, even then ten to fifteen years old and costing seven to twelve grand US when new.  Or maybe the (unseen) chief of the local Command office loaned them his own car?  Darn good thing they didn't crash it!

During his briefing of our guys in the Paris HQ, Waverly says that since the death of her father at the hands of the white-suited biker thugs, Mme. Prof. Albert has withdrawn into her work.  This implies some time has passed.  Did Solo and Illya have another mission or two during the interim?  Nice detail, to have trees and three- or four-story buildings visible from the windows.

The Paris HQ agents' entrance is also a tailor shop, though there are differences in the details.  (Tellingly, there's no "Honesty is the Best Policy" over the door.)

Robespierre, as played by Ronald Long (we saw him last in "Odd Man"), is bombastic, larger than life, and clearly cracked.  I guess his plan to destroy the vineyards of France is only because of his temperance campaign.  I'd have liked it better if he confessed to Solo at some point that vineyards he secretly owns will remain untouched, and since his will be the only wines available, he will become even richer.

"Did you lose your little comforter?": Was this a tip of the hat to Charles Schulz's "Peanuts" strip and Linus's blanket?  It was on the pop culture map by this time.  We also get a nod to Christopher Fry's "The Lady's Not for Burning."

The "Most Dangerous Game"-style bowhunt of Illya through the forest is excitingly photographed. And Illya's bald-faced attempt to pose as a German electronic engineer to a roomful of real engineers is a delight, as is his and Solo's insouciant use of the guillotine to slice their bread.

I don't know if Solo's trick to electrocute Bernard the guard would work.  Nor do I know if 220 volts (house current in France, right?) would knock Bernard out.  When it comes to electricity, "my poor brain cannot comprehend such complexities."  If so, it's quite clever, as is Solo's tracking of the control room via the speaker wire.

Verdict: With a threat less plausible than, say, the plan from "Neptune" to deliberately start a nuclear war, it nevertheless gives us some exciting action scenes and snappy patter.

Memorable lines:
Illya (about the 18th-century Robespierre): "And if I remember correctly, his method of inspiring virtue was Madame La Guillotine."

Illya (about the modern Robespierre's political campaign to prohibit wine and whiskey in France): "How many votes did he get?"
Waverly: "Eighty-four."
Illya: "I should have demanded a recount."

Robespierre: "Monsieur Solo, did you say your first name was Napoleon? . . . What a cruel prank by your parents."

Robespierre: "White is the color of virtue!"
Solo: "And ambulances."

Illya (to his escort, about the imprisoned Solo): "Yes, he's the stupid sort.  The way the eyes are set so close together."

First Engineer: "To what tolerances are the parts machined?"
Illya (clearly thinking fast): "What would you guess?"
First Engineer: "Well, fifty millionths of an inch."
Illya: "Absolutely correct.  Next?"
Second Engineer: "What is the degree of torque?"
Illya: "Must I tell you everything?"

Mme. Albert: "We'll never find him!"
Solo: "We've got to. I want my children to drink champagne."

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