"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 8, 2010

"The Indian Affairs Affair" (ep. 2/30)

Here we are at the close of Season Two, which fielded 30 episodes to Season One's 29.  I gather Dean Hargrove's "Indian Affairs" is considered yet another silly story, which it is. And yet, and yet . . .

. . . there's the skeleton of a serious plot here, poking out through the tongue-in-cheekiness.  Thrush's "transistorized" hydrogen bomb poses a real threat, and Mr. Yamaha could have been an effective if mannered villain.  (I suspect Hargrove made the mastermind Japanese as a sly dig about transistor radios from Japan.)  The kidnapping of the chief's daughter to insure his cooperation and that of his tribe is a good, if standard, Thrush ploy.  Solo's spiking of L.C. Carson's guns at the climax by seeing through the courier setup has the authentic U.N.C.L.E. flavor (though it could have been filmed more suspensefully).  Plus the idea of seasoned world travelers Solo and Illya dropping into the middle of yet another culture and finding themselves at sea would have been a hoot -- the kicker being that the culture exists right within the borders of the U.S.

Instead, in 50 minutes we get nearly every Hollywood cliché about American Indians, from "How!" and "scalped" to headbands on the braves, "Indian uprising," "redskins," "war dances," and the bigoted white man who calls Charisma "squaw."  Now, Hargrove is lampooning most of these clichés, of course.  The young Cardiak (!) braves use motorbikes instead of war ponies; they attack the circled vehicles, only these are cars instead of wagons, and the heroes are attacking the villains; and, in possibly the funniest bit, a brave threatens the staked-out Illya with giant red ants, only to be told there aren't any giant red ants to be found.

All this, however, loses ground when confronted with things like a brave using a cigar store Indian as cover to trail Solo like a Warner Brothers cartoon; and Illya, "disguised" as an Indian, looking more like Prince Valiant than like any of the Cardiaks.  We have to wonder why nobody in Thrush noticed Illya's blue eyes, too.  At least "Hombre," in this same period, explains Paul Newman's baby blues:  He plays a white raised by Apaches.

Good stuff: a guest appearance by the U.N.C.L.E. Special carbine; Solo's communicator dart; his thoughtful planting of a homer on Charisma (though deliberately allowing her to be kidnapped by
Thrush is too much); Illya's rattletrap loaner truck from the Tulsa office; and, as mentioned, Solo's outmaneuvering of Carson regarding the couriers and the bomb.

Diving through a closed window to rescue Charisma, while cool-looking, wasn't necessary, Mr. Solo.  There was an iron garden chair right there you could have used.  And Princess Charisma, there's only one proper response to a villain telling you a gun's not loaded:  Pull the trigger!

Yes, that guy playing Ralph, Carson's aide, who smiles beatifically in Act IV at the idea of burning their captives to death:  That's Nick Colasanto, known to us two decades hence as "Coach" on "Cheers."

Imagine, if you will, that Sam Rolfe had been producing, and he sent Hargrove's script back for a major rewrite.  Envision a story featuring the Navajo in New Mexico/Arizona, with our guys having to convince a clan on the Big Rez that they are there to help (picture Solo and Illya in a sweat-lodge ceremony!).  Yamaha as chief villain.  Illya the disguise master, with bronzed skin, contacts, jeans and boots, and a black wig, actually blending in with the Indians.  Solo, minus suit and tie, driving a battered pickup and masquerading as a BIA agent.  And a nail-biter of a climax, in which Solo or Illya, or both, must outguess Yamaha's moves regarding which briefcase has the bomb --!  Would have been neat, huh?

Verdict: My notes from the CBN days say, "The plot is fairly serious -- it's the tone and the jokes that make it funny."  True . . . though it's neither serious enough nor funny enough to make it a classic.

Memorable lines:
Ralph: "Why can't you just talk to [your chief] over this phone?"
Illya (as a Cardiak Indian): "The voice can be recorded.  I have been personally tricked that way by the telephone company many times."

Illya (to Ralph, after a long series in "sign" language): "Would you like for me to repeat that?"

Illya: "Communicator dart.  Fired it through the window, I suppose."
Chief Highcloud: "Yes."
Illya: "My friend is always showing off."

No comments: