"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!)

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

"The Matterhorn Affair" (ep. 3/24)

My notes from the CBN days on this one say, "The kind of story that gave U.N.C.L.E. a bad name."  Seeing it again now: check.  Cute in places, and with a McGuffin that could have provided the driver for a decent story, it fails on both the cleverness and parody levels.

The opener is well-done, however, with our guys in Singapore to meet and pay off independent agent Fred Score, who gives us probably the clearest dying message in mystery history.  If the Quasimodo project (there's your real title right there!) was so ultra-high priority, Solo and Illya should have reported in while in Singapore or on the plane instead of wasting time flying back to New York, and Waverly could have sent them straight through to California.

The U.N.C.L.E./UCLA gag is cute, but I think it would have been better if Solo or Illya had smiled at Heather's assumption.  Illya's stone face in particular suggests he's heard this one too many times.

Bill Dana, you'll recall, was best known for his Jose Jimenez character in variety-show sketches and his self-titled series, which showcased Don Adams as dull-witted hotel detective Glick.  Here he almost appears to be doing his gay character Bronco Brucie; Marvin makes some of the female Innocents look like Xena the Warrior Princess.  At the end, I'll admit, his rebirth is motivated.  Having your beloved sister threatened by criminals, it appears, is enough to put starch into the limpest spine.

Illya gives the name of his organization as ". . . Law Enforcement."  On the other hand, the U.N.C.L.E. Special carbine makes a guest appearance.  On the third hand, why don't the delirium-producing flowers get to Illya when he swoops in to rescue Marvin?  Now that would have been funny!

Solo is too easily captured at Marvin's in Act III.  Better if Heather had leaped toward the door, expecting Marvin; gun in hand, Solo lunges after her, but Howard the thug crashes in and seizes her, and Solo must surrender.

Twice we get a glimpse of the Solo warmth and charm as he draws Heather out on her lonely and self-sacrificing life, scenes which do work.  However, compare Elaine and Solo in "Vulcan," or his scene with housewife Chris in "Green Opal."

How could this have been saved?  Try a little cleverness.  Fred Score's dossier, let's say, paints him as a lover of puzzles and mystery novels.  His dying message is more cryptic, giving our men a puzzle:  Find the right Marvin Klump.  Fred would have to know about Sam Quartz -- we would be told they'd all gone to school together -- and we'd also be told he'd passed through Southern California on the way to Singapore, giving him a chance to stash the film.  Most important, Solo and Illya would not have hared crazily off to Switzerland!  Imagine that they get Marvin away from Backstreet and Beirut (who have captured Heather to make Marvin talk), then reason out where the "Matterhorn" in the puzzle-loving Score's message is really hidden.  This would not only have been cleverer (though less colorful), it would have been cheaper to film!

I'd like to have several of those cars Quartz has on his lot.  A Mercedes SL, a Thunderbird, a Caddy convertible --!

I didn't recognize Vito Scotti until he spoke.  Usually in his multitudes of character appearances in the Sixties, he wore a mustache.  His Beirut is a sort of Joel Cairo-ish cockroach, while Oscar Beregi's Rodney Backstreet is clearly named after Sydney Greenstreet.  If, based on these names, scripter David Giler was trying for a parody of "Maltese Falcon," no cigar; "Get Smart" did it better.

Verdict: A script to hand a good writer and say, "This isn't working; fix it."

Cute Lines:
Illya: "[Quasimodo]'s a plan to develop a miniature atomic reactor."
Waverly: "And how did you come by that information, Mr. Kuryakin?  Quasimodo is one of the most closely guarded secrets in the world."
Illya: "Somebody from Intelligence mentioned it in the elevator on the way up this morning."

Solo: "Apparently Fred Score is working the back alleys for Backstreet."
(Illya's eye roll and turn away is funny, but it's not that bad a pun, is it?)

Beirut (asked by Marvin why they're threatening him): "Quasimodo."
Marvin: "Quasimodo?  Oh, that must be one of those new Japanese jobs.  Is that a six or an eight?"

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