"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!)

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

"The Deadly Goddess Affair" (ep. 2/17)

The show appears to be edging toward "Batman" territory, but isn't there yet.  This, Robert Hill's third script for the series, is a pleasant little spy-vs.-spy diversion with a delicious scene-chewer of a villain and his knife-wielding second, and some cool byplay between our heroes.

We open in a nightclub "somewhere in North Africa," as Solo, clad in a lightweight summer suit, plants a bug on a Thrush courier so that he (and Waverly and Illya, back home in New York) can listen in on Col. Hubris's plans.  It appears to be dusk in New York -- in January, that's about five p.m. -- so it's probably anywhere between ten p.m. and midnight for Solo, depending where they are (see below).  Check.

Victor Buono's Colonel Hubris truly fills up the screen (and I don't mean just thanks to avoirdupois, either).  Watch his baby blues sparkle madly behind his pince-nez; his roars of laughter as he fires his gun at his captives; and his towering rages.  Joe Sirola's Malik is madder still.  His Mephisto visage and his delight in wielding his knife, whether on an orange or a human captive, are scary.

What exactly are the plans that Hubris is waiting for?  All we're ever told is that it will conquer Africa for Thrush, and, as Solo says, they involve a great evil.  Deuced unfair to the audience when you don't even describe the McGuffin, eh, what?  Also, Hubris says the pouch contains ten million dollars, yet the Count finds lire notes in it.  Would Thrush have sent lire to Hubris?

From the name Circe you'd expect this island to be near Greece; but the natives use Italian forms of address, and we see many hints of Roman presence.  Illya also implies that Taormina, in Sicily, is the nearest large town.  Perhaps a little shard of land in the Strait of Messina?  This suggests that Col. Hubris's "home in the country" is somewhere in northern Libya.

Bill K. has mentioned that Daniel J. Travanty (as he spelled his name, years before "Hill Street Blues") wouldn't be proud of his over-the-top acting on this one, and I agree . . . but it's sort of fun to watch him channel Jimmy Cagney when he bares his strong teeth in a grin.

The charm in this one lies first with Hubris, a larger-than-life (and again I don't mean how he tips the scales) villain who is also smart.  He strings Solo, Mia, Angela, and their father up in the well to get
the Count to talk, but in a departure from cliché, doesn't give them a chance to escape by leaving them alone.  (Besides, he's having too much fun taunting them.)  If only Hubris had returned in another story!

The second element to treasure: Solo and Illya's squirming at the prospect of being forced to marry Angela, followed by (when she chooses Solo) Illya's unconcealed glee at his partner's predicament. It would have been easy to go for the cheap laugh, to draw Angela as a shrew or a pig; but she's sweet and lovely, and only the lack of a dowry has kept her unmarried. This story is the first of several which find Solo involved in a shotgun -- or, in this case, Luger -- wedding.

So the deadly goddess of the title is Fortune/Lady Luck, as Hubris hints?  I almost missed it.  A better title would have been "The Hubris Affair."

Verdict: No classic, but kind of fun, with some real danger from fairly competent villains.

Memorable lines:
Col. Hubris (to the dead Hamid): "Goodbye, traitor.  Enjoy the journey.  They say getting there is half the fun."

Illya (inspecting the Latin graffiti on the rock): "It seems that even the Romans were defeated by their own grammar."

Illya: "'Baudoin loves Berengaria.'  But that must date from the Crusades.  I never thought those boys got this far south."
Solo: "As any girl can testify, boys get everywhere."

Mia: "You do believe in marriage?"
Solo: "In moderation."

Illya (delighted that Angela plumped for Solo as a husband and father): "I must admit that next to Mr. Napoleon Solo, I am a reckless flibbertigibbet."
(Where did Illya pick up that word, I wonder?)

Hubris: "Why didn't you bring me the corpse [of Illya]?"
Malik: "Effendi, what good is a dead man?  You have plenty of those at home.  And if you haven't, I can always make one; it's no trouble."


Wastrel said...

After seeing Marya Stevens (Angela), I thought *she* was the goddess. Napoleon should have given up his UNCLE career... well, that would have turned the show into a soap opera.

Wastrel said...

Ahem. After getting that out of my system, the location of "Circe's Island" is pure silliness. Solo and Kuryakin are addressed as Spanish "Señor", the money is in lira, men wear fezzes and one of the characters says he is Lebanese.