"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 10, 2010

"The Monks of St. Thomas Affair" (ep. 3/5)

What a pleasant surprise!  We seem to bounce this season between the decent-to-good (“Her Master’s Voice,” “Galatea”) and the bad (“Dreadful,” “Super-Colossal”).   Here we swing away from the dumb side yet again to a pleasant, fast-moving story (the first filmed this season).

We open with terrific byplay and banter between Solo and Illya, reminiscent of the give-and-take David McDaniel wrote for them in his Ace novels.   I suspect this has or will inspire endless fanfic, thanks in part to the patient “I knew he was going to say that” smile on Illya’s face.  Truly this is one of the best scenes between them since the early days.

A motion detector to turn on the sprinkler system?  Did those exist in our world back then?  The sharply-directed teaser ends with a superb hook, as Dr. Lambert’s study explodes with them in it.  With teasers like this and the one in “Minus-X” where Solo is apparently about to be run over, we never see how our heroes avoid being killed.  Instead Act I opens with a discussion of said escape.  It does make the stories move -- but just once I’d like to see the immediate followup.

Illya reports about the “cathode tube” for the laser -- but whom is he reporting to?  I wish they’d kept the idea of a case officer, like “Channel D,” Heather, or the raven-haired Sarah, to act as liaison for them on a mission.

Despite the fact that Paris and Zurich are only about 650 klicks apart, not the 1342 given here, there’s at least a nod given to the natural difficulties such as the curvature of the earth.   So Thrush is simply establishing their ability to unleash global terror?   Much scarier than demands for gold.  The populace in those European capitals would never know when their beloved museum or church would burst into flame.

At first I thought Solo’s green hat was a Tyrolean, the kind young Manhattan executives wore in the early Sixties until they realized they looked like ninnies.  With his car coat and raincoat, his velour stingy-brim fedora looks good, and fits the Alpine setting.   In fact Solo shines all through this story.  When he steps into his room at the inn and confronts the thug rifling his suitcase, he once again is that dangerous gent framed by bulletproof glass from Season One.

Illya’s star rides high in this one too.  Deftly he slips out of the Thrushes’ Renault Dauphine (why didn’t the back seat Thrush shoot him?  Probably didn’t believe what he was seeing!), and later cat-burglars his way up and into the monastery.  At 10:19, note his exasperation at his tip from Dolby when he’s acting as a porter, and earlier, the “Not likely” look he gives Solo at Waverly’s idea that visiting a monastery might be good for Napoleon’s soul.

Aside from the ascetic-looking Abbot Simon (he’s no Brother Love, but he is effective) and his plug-uglies, the monks are lovable, comic figures.  Brother Peter is played by Henry Calvin, the roly-poly Sergeant Garcia on “Zorro,” who worked with RV some seven years back.

Solo’s disguising himself and Andrea as monks was bound to fail; Simon or one of his acolytes would eventually notice two new “members,” as they do.  Solo probably knew that, and the ploy was only intended to get them across the court and deep into the monastery.

At 11 a.m. in Paris and Zurich, it’s 5 a.m. in New York (despite the sunlight outside Waverly’s office).  If he got a flight at 6 a.m. EDT, could he have made it to Paris by 4:30 or so their time?  And once there, why doesn’t he evacuate the Louvre? Still, the deadline gives us the ticking clock all good thrillers need.

As for Andrea, it’s nice to have an Innocent who isn’t ditzy and who has a life before the adventure begins.  And her little scene with Solo in the dungeon is charming (though I don’t believe she’s never been kissed!).  But . . . “Adolf”?  Has anybody in Europe named their son that since 1945?

Tag scene: far too cute.  Better to have returned to the matter of Solo’s interrupted date, and steak, from the teaser.

Verdict:  While some elements are hard to swallow, Solo and Illya are professional, and they and the villains never clown like “Batman” or “Get Smart” characters -- a breath of fresh air after last week’s epic fail.

Memorable Lines:
Illya (after Solo has listed the gastronomic, and other, delights he’d been about to enjoy when Waverly called):  “There’s a can of root beer in the glove compartment.”
Solo:   “Thank you.  You’ve made my evening.”

Andrea:   “Who are you?  Do you always listen in on personal telephone calls?”
Solo: “Oh, yes.  Telephone conversations, monasteries, keyholes --”

Illya (after hopping off the baggage van and complaining about the lack of heat in the luggage compartment of the plane):  “Is this any way to run an airline?”
(A wink, naturally, to the National Airlines commercials of the time: “You bet it is!”)

Andrea (about fiancé Adolf):  “If you mention the Beatles to him, he thinks of insects.”
Solo (dryly):   “Well?”

1 comment:

bj said...

I actually knew a German guy named Adolf, and was named in honor of Hitler.

Now, some nerdlike analysis - The Monks of St. Thomas aired in 1966. The actress playing Andrea (Celeste Yarnall), was born in 1944, so we could assume that Andrea was 22 years old. If her boyfriend was let's say, 2 or 3 years older than her (24-25), he would have been born around 1941-1942. According to https://www.quora.com/How-many-German-children-have-been-named-Adolf-since-WWII that would have been just before the name Adolf started to really drop in popularity (around 1940-41 it was about the 25th most popular name). So yeah, odd that they would use it, but that not far fetched.