"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, February 12, 2010

"The Abominable Snowman Affair" (ep. 3/13)

With this story we enter a dark period.  As some fans have pointed out, Disc Five of the DVD set is devoted to episodes that would have hurt any series’ reputation, let alone one as high-flying as U.N.C.L.E.

We open with Illya at the frontier of Himalayan mountain country Ghupat, disguising himself -- not as a Sherpa, or a member of the Ghupat civil service, or anything that would let him pass, y’know, unnoticed -- but as a furry, Morlock-faced creature which, we can only guess, is supposed to be a yeti.  This  immediately gets him wounded by Calamity Rogers, who takes him for just such a creature.  It’s as if I disguised myself as Bullwinkle J. Moose and then tried to sneak into Alaska during hunting season.

Comedy is difficult to carry off at the best of times, but even when your characters do loony things, they must still react in recognizable human ways.  Okay, Calamity shoots what she thinks is an "abominable snowman."  But when she finds Illya within the suit, why does she still suspect him of being the beast which killed her beloved husband?  Unless she thinks that all the yeti in Ghupat are actually men in costumes, wouldn’t she realize that Illya is innocent of that crime?

The heck of it is, this script (by a fellow who, IMDb tells me, went on to write “Hard Rock Zombies” and produce several “Sleepaway Camp” films) has a good basic concept: that U.N.C.L.E., by virtue of its impeccable reputation, might be asked to function as a neutral observer to ensure a peaceful transfer of power, and stop any outside forces (e.g., Thrush) from seizing a country during such an unsettled time.  Waverly could then send Solo and Illya, who find themselves amid palace intrigue a la "Dove" and "Secret Sceptre."  But noooo --

David Sheiner’s Asian makeup, as Bill Koenig points out, may not be authentic, but he is scarcely recognizable as the same actor we’ve seen as a New Delhi cop and as a bald, tightly wrapped minion to Alexander the Greater.  Something about the makeup suggests the Prime Minister survived a fire some years ago and had his face rebuilt (which would be odd enough -- where did the money come from?).  He’s fierce and rather frightening. 

I’m no geography wizard, but if there are high snowy mountains in a country, how close can a jungle be?  Even if Ghupat were small, it would take Miss Palli a long while to get down to the jungle to feed the kid to "the" man-eating tiger.  (Somehow, each time the minister says it, I imagine having a man-eating tiger was a requirement for Ghupat to join the UN, and when one dies another man-eater must be installed, like mascot Mike the Tiger at LSU football games.)

And why, oh, why, when the Prime Minister leaves them in the gong chamber, does Solo seize the great log and set it banging on the gong?  Shouldn’t that have been the job of the Minister’s henchman?  Does Solo want to start the torture as soon as possible?  ("Hit me, beat me, make me write bad checks --")

Even the worst episode usually has something going for it.  Here we learn that Solo is a Capricorn (born between Dec. 21 and Jan. 19) and that Illya is a Scorpio (Oct. 23 to Nov. 21).  Astrology buffs, chime in:  Do Capricorns and Scorpios normally make good partners?

Also, Solo does act professionally.  He’s charming without swagger with Amra, and displays kindness when she needs it.  Plus it’s neat, in the scene where the minister’s artisan walls them up, that they have a detonator, but nothing to detonate.

Verdict:  Despite a kernel, the Ghupat Prime Minister’s intrigues, that could have made a fine story, “Snowman” stands as a poor production.

Memorable line:
Solo (to himself, at the lack of any response from Amra Palli to his charm):  “I must be slipping. . . .”

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