"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!)

Thursday, February 18, 2010

"The Deadly Smorgasbord Affair" (ep. 3/18)

Hola!  Wow!

Pardon the outburst, but . . . at last a story worthy of U.N.C.L.E.!  (At least for Solo fans.)  Except for Illya's absence, it has most of the elements that made the series cook: a larger-than-life threat and villains, humor that (except for teaser and tag) doesn't get out of hand, a threat to a Command headquarters, and a smart hero who leads said villains a merry chase.

We open with Solo in his cold-weather car coat, which I want, from "Monks of St. Thomas."  He's met by the kittenish and deadly Inga, played by Pamela Curran from "Do-It-Yourself Dreadful," whom I also want (or a reasonable facsimile thereof).  Our man swiftly proves he deserves to be Chief Enforcement Agent; from the start he's not taken in by her beauty and sexual magnetism.

Nice touch, that they use the then-current Volvo, the 120 series or "Amazon," in at least two Stockholm scenes.

I don't know much about Swedish accents, but Lynn Loring's sounds exotic enough, and has the Scandinavian lilt.

The Suspended Animation Device, or SAD, is a neat SF concept, though it would have made more sense to have Dr. Nillson be a physicist, instead of an electronics prof.  At this same time SF writer Larry Niven was writing his early Known Space stories of stasis fields, within which no time passes, and which appear as perfect spherical mirrors.  If only Ingster & Co. had had the budget to have a shimmering field appear around each suspended target!

In the teaser, we see that the device can affect more than one person at a time; yet it's not an all-encompassing field, since Beckman's men walk into and out of it.  Nor does it affect only living tissue, despite what Waverly says in Act I, as it suspends the dance music too.  But what of energy?  Could it suspend a fire, or an atomic blast?

I'm also positive that Rex Stout's orchid-fancying detective, Nero Wolfe, inspired villain Heinrich Beckman.  Why else make him a flower aficionado?  (The actor even looked like Stout!)

Good points: at 26:00, one of the great defining Solo Moments, when Beckman "fires" the SAD and
gets only a stuffed snake, and Solo holds up his hands with a "For my next trick . . ." smile.  Plus we get background in that Solo has encountered, and trounced, Beckman before, a la Batman and the Joker; his proactive switcheroos with the device; one of the best act-ending hooks ever, as our suspended hero is dumped into near-freezing waters; and the plot point that the airline clerk is a fellow Command agent.

It seems odd that Solo is willing to leave the rescue of Dr. Nillson to the Oslo office.  How does Inga know that Waverly will be in the Oslo offices?  Solo wouldn't have told her!  And when the bathrobe-clad Solo edges out to deal with Beckman and the Thrushes, you'd think the first thing he'd do is grab the Special from the frozen agent outside the door.

Good gags et al: Many others have noted the bit about Dr. A.C. Nillson's name.  I'll just mention the scene in which Inga and Solo are nuzzling each other on the bed in his hotel room -- the cagelike golden bedstead echoing the scene in "Thunderball" when Bond seduces Fiona Volpe; and the mental image of Illya "breaking blubber" (well, you knew he couldn't simply be on vacation, right?).

Verdict: While no classic like "Never-Never" or "Minus-X," "Smorgasbord" is a highlight in an otherwise dreary/frothy/lightweight string of third-year episodes -- and a showcase for the talents of Robert Vaughn.

Memorable lines:
Solo: "By the way, where is Mr. Kuryakin?"
Waverly: "Mr. Kuryakin is busy masquerading as a notorious Siberian Eskimo, breaking blubber with a group of Thrush walrus hunters."
Solo (dryly): "He has all the fun missions."

Inga: "You do build a very good martini."
Solo: "It's part of U.N.C.L.E. training; it comes between cryptography and karate."
Inga (shifting about to bring her best assets to the fore): "Tell me, does your training include women?"
Solo: "It's under 'Field Experience.'"


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