"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 Pop Art Affair" (ep. 3/6)

To quote incomparable short-story writer Dorothy Parker in a different context:

"Oh.  Oh, dear.  Oh, dear, dear, dear. . . .  I'd love to waltz with you.  I'd love to be in a midnight fire at sea."

Not that I'd wish a fire at sea on anyone, but it might be more exciting than this.  "Pop Art" starts off decently, with Solo and Waverly golfing (why do people wear sweaters to golf in warm weather?).  My inner hamster sprang off his wheel, though, and scurried madly for cover at the sight of Illya, clad in black suit and tie, acting as caddy.  And then a rocket in the golf bag, and a hiccup gas . . . oh, dear . . .

That's not to say you couldn't hiccup yourself to death.  If you can't get your breath, you'll eventually asphyxiate, I guess.  The thought, as you're helplessly hiccuping, that it's such a silly and undignified way to go, would be mortifying.  But the effect on the audience is what counts here, and it is too silly.  One imagines a "Batman" with Dick Grayson going undercover, or attempting to, at a Gotham City coffeehouse, and Bruce Wayne playing "private eye" after he's captured.

Ah, the "with-it" slang . . . a mixture of what was by this time dated beat slang, and what writers Shanus and Ramrus thought were current hippie-isms.  David's Illya at least has the grace to look uncomfortable with the slang he's tossing around, when he's not looking like he knows he's putting us on.  And Robert's Solo looks rather nauseated at several points.  Illya's extempore "happening" poem is funny, though, as is Sylvia's charcoal sketch of the "brooding" Russian agent.

Even the worst MfU script can have some little thing on the ball, and this has several.  First is the potential edge-of-the-chair moment as Solo is within feet of the captured Illya, who can't make his partner hear him through the soundproofed painting.  Second, Solo's psychological attack on Mari, using her weakness, fear of looking old, to get to her.  Third, and best, is the moment at the climax when one of the longhaired thugs is about to pounce on Solo.  Sensibly, Illya doesn't bother yelling, "Napoleon, look out!"  He shoots the thug and is done with him.  Oh, and four, when Illya surges through the door of Sylvia's pad (above), armed and in a ready-for-anything crouch.

I like the dark wet street when Illya crosses from the coffeehouse to the gallery in Act I.  It actually looks much like what I recall of the area around Washington Square when I visited NYC back in '98.

Harmonica Lake?  Was somebody having fun with the name of the `40s starlet, Veronica Lake?

Pointing out logical holes in this story is like mentioning paint flaws on a car that's on fire, but don't you think Sylvia's parents are far too old -- that they should have been written as grandparents?  How, in the course of one day or so, did little Sylvia manage to have the pendant duplicated?  And what happened with world-famous model Mari after Solo disarmed her?

Verdict:  Neither funny nor exciting, it's a testament to the folly of allowing anyone, from the producer's nephew to the best boys, input into a script.  "Hey, we have some neat footage of a balloon we could use --"

Memorable lines:
Sylvia (to Illya): "Hi! Would you care for a portrait?"
Illya: "No thank you. I have one."

Sylvia: "You have really got brooding eyes.  Almost like a Dostoyevsky character."
Illya (deadpan, as usual): "You don't say."

Solo (to the embubbled Illya): "I hope you scrubbed behind your ears.  Isn't it a little early for your Saturday night bath?"
(Funnier, says I, if these lines had been reversed)

1 comment:

ARH said...

What I want to know is why Illya was wearing flip flops with his suit in the final scene and why neither Waverly nor anyone else said *anything* about it?! Was it a production error perhaps, that they weren't supposed to have quite so long a shot?