"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!)

Friday, February 19, 2010

"The Napoleon's Tomb Affair" (ep. 3/20)

A fun little comedy, this is the first non-Thrush story in a while.

We open up with a scene that could have come from a Season One show, as Malanez and President Tunick arrive at a Paris hotel, and we see Illya undercover as a bellhop.  The story swings left into comedy right away, though, as the President is humiliated instead of being the victim of an assassination attempt, and as Solo and Illya get knocked out during the scuffle on the stairs.

Why is Waverly always the one to brief our heroes, no matter what Command HQ they are in?  Here he's in Paris; last week he briefed Solo in Hong Kong.  You'd think the local chief would be the one to handle that.  Waverly's going to expire of jet lag at this rate.

Apparently Tunick's country, Emertia, is a former African colony of France, no doubt having achieved its independence when so many others did in the Fifties and Sixties.  We are never told why Waverly thinks that Malanez seizing power would cause "the whole of Africa [to] go up in flames."

The closes to the teaser (Tunick crying, "Frog!") and Act I (Illya getting pelted with salad fixings) are quite weak -- there is no sense of danger, nothing much to get a viewer to hang on.  That at the end of II is suitable, but it's foolish of Solo to walk outside and let himself be knocked out by Edgar so easily. After all, there's been one attempt on his life already.

Joe Sirola's Malanez is quite the Mephistopheles; check out 14:43, when a little curl of hair suggests a devilish horn, and in Act II, his glee at Tunick's disappointment.  Kurt Kasznar's Tunick is a big warm-hearted sort, a Francophone Ralph Kramden.  Edgar (Ted Cassidy) is impressive, not only because of his height and basso voice, but because he's so methodical.  See how he carefully sets up the boobytrap (shades of "Iowa Scuba," though this one is explosive/corrosive) in Solo's shower.

We see the U.N.C.L.E. car again, looking like a silver arrowhead.  I suggest this means there were more than one!  The vehicle we saw in "Take Me to Your Leader" was based apparently in Mississippi or Louisiana.  Unless something required the Paris HQ to ship that one across the Atlantic, I'd think this one's assigned to the European Continental Chief, and the Paris office requested it for this, or an earlier, mission.  (I wonder what the agents called it.  "The special U.N.C.L.E. car" doesn't sound right.  Maybe "The Sports Coffin"?)

The evening shots as Illya tails Edgar and Candyce through Paris are suitably atmospheric.  And Solo's method for getting Edgar to talk is classic.  (We'd call that "waterboarding" today.)

The sub-basement in the Hotel des Invalides would have been part of the building from the start.  Malanez's line should have been, "We found this sub-basement in the plans, and built this device ourselves."

Charming points: Solo carefully does not seat himself before Waverly does; when Illya admits "This is my day to be dense," Solo smiles affectionately; shot by Edgar's dart, Illya has time to sniff it, realize he'll be out in ten seconds, and counts as he falls.  This comes around full circle when he uses the same (?) dart on Edgar, and counts aloud until it takes effect on the big guy.  The change in his voice as he squeaks, "Nine?" is hilarious, as is his shaking the communicators later to see, somehow, if they still work.

Verdict: Not too silly; pleasant, but a bit dull.

Memorable Lines:
Solo (to Illya, as they visit Napoleon's Tomb): "I trust you won't make any jokes about my name."
Illya: "Perish the thought . . . Napoleon."
(The look Solo gives Illya: priceless)

Tunick (on meeting Candyce): "My little zephyr of Elysium --"

Tunick (to the fake diplomat, Malanez's agent): "The only constant thing I have found in Paris is rudeness."
Diplomat: "That, sir, is a trait we reserve for visiting boors."

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