"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!)

Monday, February 22, 2010

"The Hula Doll Affair" (ep. 3/22)

Here's another one that starts with a neat concept and veers off into the left field of comedy.  "Hula Doll" features a dangerous McGuffin this time, with the ticking clock a good thriller needs, and has some funny if silly performances and ideas.

The 1954 movie "Executive Suite" must have been a partial inspiration for this.  Not only are the brothers named "Sweet," but it also involves a power struggle for a top job in a huge corporation (in this case Thrush) and the question of how a board of directors will vote.  (You'd think Thrush would maneuver more like the Corleones than like General Motors or IBM, though.)

Jan Murray I know mostly as a comedian, but his obsequious Simon Sweet would fit right into the group of slimy execs using Jack Lemmon's place for amours in "The Apartment."  Pat Harrington Jr. is effective; his Peter is a cool schemer, vastly unlike the Italian dog expert and the “child of the casbah" he's played in earlier stories.  (Uh, Costume Department, wouldn't that gray flannel suit he wears in Act I be awfully hot for a heat wave?)   It's Patsy Kelly, though, as Mama Sweet/Thrush No. 26, who really hits it out of the park.

Yet another mention of a "Felton," in this case 555 Felton Ave.  Plus we have a whole series of "spice" names, Oregano, Sweet, Thyme, and Cardamom (or Cardamon?).  Most of these work, but "Oregano" is over the top.  "Reggie," the nickname Peter Sweet calls the henchman, would have been fine, especially if his real name had been revealed later. ("He's called Oregano??!!")

There are several internal logic flaws here.  The biggest is related to the ticking clock as the temp approaches 90, when the M-4 would explode.  Even in the Sixties, I'm sure, most NYC public buildings were air-conditioned, and U.N.C.L.E. would know Thrush wouldn't be standing out on a
hot street corner with the explosive; so why are they worried about the heat wave?  Now if Waverly had told us that Thrush does not know this property of the M-4 -- that, unaware, Thrush may cause an explosion -- then it would work.  Certainly the Sweet brothers are not so thick as to leave a substance they know will explode in the vault when the A/C is turned off in the evening!  (See the early "Mission: Impossible" episode "Snowball in Hell" for a serious way to deal with this.)

Two, Solo is decoyed too easily.  No, he doesn't know it's Thrush's local satrap, but the Command is in the middle of a crisis.  When the pencil vendor gives him the address, he should report to Waverly or Illya and tell them where he's going -- and ask for backup!

And three, I find it a little hard to believe that the brothers don't know their own mother is with Thrush.  It's a comic notion, but a line from one of them about "So that's why you were always too busy to make it to any of our school plays!" would have cemented it.

Aside from that, I love the urgency of the "scramble" scene, in which Illya is working to determine the location of Thrush's HQ, and staffers continually move with purpose in and out of the scene.  Illya spying on Mama Sweet from within Marge the redhead's closet, and the shivering Solo (a neat performance by RV), trapped in the lion's very mouth, moving swiftly to twist events in his favor, are other charms here.  Del Floria has actual lines, too, and we find that his first name is not "Del" -- Solo calls him "Mr. Del Floria."

Verdict: Silly (check out the silent film-style music during the final chase through Thrush HQ!), but often funny.

Memorable Lines:
Illya (obviously impressed with Dark-haired Test Range Girl): "Are there many girls like you on our testing site?"
Girl (with a complacent smile): "No. I'm one of a kind."

Wendy Thyme: "I guess we're really in the soup, huh?"
Solo: "Well, if you like culinary metaphors, yes."

Peter Sweet: "As usual, dear brother, you have mouth enough for a glee club."

Mama Sweet/26: "A foul kettle of fish, this.  Fortunately, the cat has arrived."

Illya (re: the hatred and rivalry between the Sweet brothers as they try to strangle each other): "Freud could have a picnic with those two."

Mama Sweet/26 (proudly): "I am a Thrushwoman first and a mother second.  If at all."

Illya (surprised by the repainting of Del Floria's): "Will wonders never cease."
Solo: "I wonder if this means I'll get a new typewriter ribbon."
Illya: "Oh, you know Mr. Waverly.  One thing at a time --"

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