"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, February 24, 2010

"The Apple a Day Affair" (ep. 3/27)

“Super-Colossal,” move over.  From the co-writer of “Hot Number,” this loony story is at least occasionally funny in the same way “Beverly Hillbillies” and “Green Acres” were: so silly you have to laugh.

The tone is set right away, with our Thrush defector sporting the same eyeglasses-and-nose Solo wore in “Deadly Toys,” and with hillbilly hoedown music on the soundtrack.  The setting is effective, though I wonder why Waverly sends his two top men to meet and pay off a mere Thrush defector.

Illya appears to be even more multitalented than we thought:  He’s not only the holder of a doctorate in physics, but an expert organic chemist as well.

Waverly seems to know an awful lot: not only Thrush’s intentions regarding a nuclear stockpile, but also, later, that Picks & Co. intend to ship their doctored apples out that night.  The first time I saw this epic, I suspected we’d be told that Illya’s fellow captive, Gardner Brown, was the Command’s agent in place, feeding Waverly this intelligence . . . but alas, it was not to be.

As soon as Solo and Illya drive into Colonel Picks’s version of Hooterville (apropos, since Jeanine Riley was once a regular on that CBS show), the story trots out every cliché about poor Southerners: hound dogs, mushmouth accents, a sheriff on horseback, every male (no matter his age) called “boy,” and cute Nina’s shotgun-totin’ grandpappy, determined to keep her “pure.”

Three things stand out, however.  First is Robert Emhardt’s performance as Col. Picks.  He shifts without warning from easygoing drawl to startling whipcrack voice, and his mad piggy little eyes are often scary.  Second is the nod to 1958's “The Defiant Ones,” with Tony Curtis and Sidney Poitier as chained-together convicts on the run; I can’t imagine that casting a black actor to be chained up and work with Illya was a coincidence.

And come on; admit it.  The shotgun wedding scene (yeah, I know, the third time in two years Solo’s been on the business end of a scattergun) is funny, especially once the damp and gasping Illya arrives to toss in his objections to the marriage.   Hilarious.

Verdict:  Erskine Caldwell would hang his head in shame.  So do U.N.C.L.E. fans.  But here and there, it’s funny.

Cute Lines:
Solo (to the Thrush defector): “I don’t suppose you’d care to take off your nose and stay awhile.”

Illya (as they drive the rented jeep into Purple Valley): “I have a feeling we’re not going to dispose of too many encyclopedias around here.”
Solo: “Now that’s not the right attitude for our gold-star salesman.”

Solo (after shoving on the mule’s hindquarters in an attempt to move it): “What does the manual say about moving a burro?”
Illya (deadpan): “Don’t push from behind.”

Nina: “Them dogs ruined your nice new suit.”
Solo: “That’s all right. It was almost a month old.”

Illya (improvising at Solo’s shotgun wedding): “I have to apologize for my brother-in-law here -- the father of my sister’s nine children.  He does this all the time. . . .  My sister put him on a spice-free diet, but it didn’t seem to help.”
Daddy Jo (startled): “Nine children?”
Illya (counting on his fingers): “Yes, there’s Robert, and Eunice, and Edward --”
(Nice nod to RV’s friends, the Kennedys)

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