"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 17, 2010

"The Jingle Bells Affair" (ep. 3/15)

This, MfU's Christmas episode, is a pleasant if treacly concoction.  If it hadn't come right after two even sillier stories but instead had aired after "Concrete Overcoat," we might think of it as an aberration, or a change for the playful after a strong adventure.  As it is, it comes off as little more than an extended commercial for Macy's.

We open up with recent footage of the Thanksgiving Day parade in New York.  (How recent?  Well, Underdog's in it, and he was new as of '64 or '65.)  Akim Tamiroff's Chairman Koz is a delight, a gruff, droll takeoff on Khrushchev (he even whips off a shoe and pounds a table with it, as old Nikita did at the UN in the Kennedy days).  Clearly, from his remarks and those of his security chief Radish (? What a name!) about capitalism, his country is Communist, and big enough to be a concern to the West -- but it's never named.  Illya's non-Western background is never mentioned, either.  Think, though, of how much fun it would have been to see Illya speaking up for the capitalistic West to Koz, and grumping about it to Solo?

I want a topcoat like Solo's.  Single-breasted but unbelted, its like was worn by hordes of adult men in the Fifties and Sixties.  Nowadays, you can find wool blend topcoats, or trenchcoats and leather jackets, but nothing like this.  (Gabardine, you think?)  Illya's trench, on the other hand, looks like the one he wore way back in both "Odd Man" and "Adriatic Express."

The "Santa Claus school" scene at Priscilla's rundown mission is actually funny, mostly for Koz's wrangle with J. Pat O'Malley's O'Reilly, and for Solo and Illya as they shrug, settle back and watch Koz get himself into trouble.  Yes, they should be actively breaking up the fight, but it's a comedy and we'll allow them a little leeway.  However, Priscilla seems to have a bad case of forget-itis.  Not until Koz removes the Santa Claus cap and beard does she recognize him.  Yet she saw him earlier outside Macy's and in the store, and again close up at the mission before the gunfire started. 

Speaking of Chief Radish, he and his ineffectual conspirator Pifnic are more silly than scary, as if they'd trained under Boris Badenov and Natasha Fatale.   Radish's long-winded speech to Solo and Illya when he has them prisoner in the poultry pen, I'd think, would be enough to make Illya switch proudly to capitalism.

The other problem with this story, beyond the sentimental Christmas fluff and having our heroes rescued by turkeys, is that Koz's change of heart toward the West after his car is blown up seconds after he left it, seems unmotivated.  After all, he was furious at America after the last attempt on his life.  And Solo and Illya don't actually rescue him; Koz, Priscilla, and the cowardly but sensible Pifnic leave the car before our heroes catch up to them.

The night shot of Solo in Act III, crouched on the rooftop with the yellow skylight behind him, is excellent, worthy of use in a better story.

Verdict:  I suppose it'll put you in the Christmas mood, and it's kind of fun.

Cute (if hardly memorable) lines:
Solo (as they recognize Priscilla the Salvation Army lady at her mission): "That old folk rhyme -- I guess there's something to it."
Koz: "Yes.  But there's another old folk rhyme, and it's got to do with your next step."
Illya (breaking in): "If you'll forgive me, sir, Mr. Napoleon here knows the next step."

Solo (to Priscilla): "How's your [shoe] heel?"
Priscilla (smiling): "Oh, it's you again."
Solo: "Must be kismet."
Illya (leaning in): "And an old folk rhyme."

O'Reilly (coaching Santa Claus student): "Now, this time, like your heart is full of love and mistletoe, and you're looking right into the bright blue eyes of this poor little kid that's just standin' there, pickin' his nose!"

Koz (under fire from Pifnic's men): "I will die with my boots on!"
Solo: "We've got an old folk rhyme too:  'He who fights and runs away/ Lives to fight another day!'  Go on!"

Waverly (reading Solo and Illya the riot act): "I would suggest you call on Chairman Koz directly and apologize for what happened." 
Solo: "Now?"
Waverly: "Yes, now.  In the absence of efficiency, we are compelled to rely on charm."

Priscilla (as they trim the Christmas tree): "Oh, Mr. Solo, you are a gay one, aren't you?"
Solo: "Only on holidays."

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