"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 4, 2010

"The King of Diamonds Affair" (ep. 2/25)

Actor's actor Ricardo Montalban passed away in January of 2009.  We remember him now chiefly as "Khan" in the second "Star Trek" film; but he was also that rarity in his time, the successful ethnic actor who never Anglicized his name.  "King" delivers one of his flamboyant (but never over the top) performances, plus neat direction (Joseph Sargent) that makes this feel a bit like "See Paris and Die" from Season One.

We open in a teashop in Soho, where an aspiring actress bites into a diamond in her Pogue's Pudding.  (Three or four hundred pounds is a small fortune? Well, maybe to the patrons of the teashop. Thirty or forty thousand would be more up my alley.)  Next Solo and Illya pop out of a presumably rented Jaguar (?) (and a left-drive model at that).  Illya's interrogation technique seems to involve moving, unsmiling, right into his victim's personal space, doesn't it?  But why are the Family after Solo and Illya?  The news about the diamonds is already out; killing them won't put the genie back in the bottle.  It would make more sense to silence the actress!

We've seen Waverly in video conference with his agents before, but this scene, while working in the exposition about the diamonds, gives us an important point about the Command.  As Waverly says, chasing diamond smugglers is not their business -- but the stability of the world economy is.  Note the silent byplay between Solo and Illya, as the local staff lady shifts her attentions between them.

Montalban's Rafael Delgado, thief extraordinaire, dominates this episode.  His casual assumption that he'll go right back to caper-pulling as soon as he gets out of prison, his amusement at stringing Solo and Illya along, his vanity and tendency to refer to himself in the third person, all make him a colorful antagonist/antihero, like Dan O'Herlihy's Rudolph back in "Fiddlesticks."   In contrast, Larry D. Mann's Blodgett, the true villain, is rather dull, as is Victoria the Innocent.

Then we get real business, with our guys in coveralls and caps pulling a daring daylight reconnaissance at the Peacock establishment.  I find it a little hard to swallow (okay, a lot) that Peacock's wouldn't own the foundation beneath their vault and have security men or systems there . . . but we'll go with it, just as we do with the villain's plan in Doyle's "Red-Headed League."

The Family -- or at least Blodgett and Knox -- speak in lower-class English accents, but they seem to be Italian.   Certainly Blodgett rattles off some Italian insults (porco: "pig"?).   (Speaking of languages, the language in Rio is not Spanish, as used in Acts III and IV. It's Portuguese.)

At first I wondered why Blodgett and Delgado take Solo and Victoria along to Brazil.  On their arrival, it becomes clear:  They don't know!  Blodgett shoots Freddie, his mole within Pogue's, before Freddie could tell them he'd loaded the two into one of the crates.   But why wouldn't Delgado & Co. hear Solo chatting with Victoria and reporting to Waverly? Better if the crate had been in a separate compartment.

Hard to believe that one of The Family didn't notice Illya clinging to the side of the building sooner, or that they failed to dispatch him permanently.  Better if he could have scurried up and gotten away by springing from roof to roof.   (It is funny, though, to see his hands alone emerge from the drift of newspapers to answer his communicator.)  And while the Rio office scene is both well-done (for its glimpse of the multi-ethnic staff) and puzzling (fans? Doesn't the Rio office have A/C?), what purpose does Illya's cold serve?   I kept expecting him to be hiding, only to have a violent sneeze give him away.

It's true, we're never told how Delgado spirited the uncut diamonds away from Blodgett.  But the hint that he will tell them later, and then his death before he can finish the tale, work well enough.

At the end, the script both giveth and taketh away.  The presence of Waverly, sporting a crisp Panama, comes as a charming surprise.  But we needed a better fadeout line than Solo's "Huh!"

Verdict: Despite some flaws (a little hard to kill all the Family members with three cannon shots, don't you think? And Blodgett's demise is too cartoon-like), this non-Thrush story is well-paced, with plot complications released bit by bit.  But then, I'm fond of stories which involve U.N.C.L.E. because of a criminal's mistake, as here, or an accident, as in "Finny Foot."

Memorable lines:
Illya (to Solo, as they creep through the tunnels beneath Peacock's):  "If you must get us lost, could you do it a bit faster?"

Delgado (furiously, to Blodgett): "You miserable bungler.  You think you can get along without Delgado!  You can't even lick a postage stamp without falling on your face!"

Senhor Rafini:  "I wish I were twenty years younger.   I'd be tempted to go along with you [on the raid up the Amazon]."
Illya (sniffling):  "If I were twenty years older, I'd be more than tempted to stay."

Victoria:  "I'm only sorry [the late] Mr. Delgado can't be here with us."
Solo:  "Well, if I were in charge, I'd double the guard at the Pearly Gates."
Illya (darkly):  "Where he's taken up residence, I don't think they have that kind of architecture."


ARH said...

This episode contains yet another example of the all-too-often-seen "thug" nature of U.N.C.L.E. When Agent 14 enters Pogue's he brandishes his gun *and does not even identify himself*. It's almost as though U.N.C.L.E. agents think they are above the law and, in their pursuit of THRUSH et. al. are justified in using, abusing, and generally threatening civilians. An odd stance for what is generally presented as an agency sworn to uphold laws. That, combined with the often cavalier way they put "the innocent" in harms way for their own purposes, sometimes makes me wonder about U.N.C.L.E.'s true nature.

Anonymous said...

The villains didn't hear Solo & Victoria chatting in the delivery box because Delgado was doing that loud drumming thing on the table with his fingers.

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