"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 5, 2010

"The Round Table Affair" (ep. 2/27)

Partial transcript of a phone conversation made by Norman Felton, February 1966:

“Sarah, get me Mr. Ingster, please. . . .  Boris! Boris, what do you mean by this, this script? . . .  What script do I mean?  You mad Russian, this thing called ‘The Round Table Affair,’ that’s what!  You’re telling me you actually accepted this? . . .  What’s wrong with it?   Boris, it’s not only silly, but it isn’t even funny.  And there’s nothing much for Bob and David to do in it! . . .   Don’t try that.  I know Bob Hill, he’s done some good work for us, and as for an old hand like Hank Slesar to turn in such a --  What?  Slesar said he owed us a third script, but nobody told him it had to be a good one?  Now you listen to me, Boris --   Boris?”

Well, maybe it went something like that.  “Round Table” is the poorest story yet out of both seasons.  To give it credit, it begins with a sharply filmed car chase, as Illya, piloting the Sunbeam Tiger we’ve seen before, races after wanted criminal Lucho Nostra in his Jaguar E-Type.  It winds up with our favorite Russian agent headed to the local hoosegow.  The concept is a good one (I suspect this was Slesar’s idea), a country lacking any extradition treaties which then becomes a haven for gangsters and criminals of all stripes.  The basic conflict between the thugs as led by blackmailing pig Artie King, Vicky the young Grand Duchess, and her regent, Prince Fredrick of the expensive tastes, has potential.  One imagines Solo and Illya mounting a clever ruse to sow dissension among the crooks and to get them to flee on their own across the border, where they can be arrested.

Unfortunately, the story degenerates into silliness about the time Solo pops that gray John Steed-ish bowler on his head.  (Of the other lids sported by Solo in this one, the less said, the better.)  Aside from a lack of drama or danger, its own illogic torpedoes it.  For one thing, if Uncle Freddie must act as regent, then Vicky -- as reinforced by her schoolgirl status -- is not yet of legal age.  It would do Solo no good whatever to enlist her aid, since she wouldn’t be able to issue any legal edicts.  Even if she could, why would our crafty heroes march up to the criminals and tell them they’re about to be evicted?  This is like Hannibal of Carthage informing his Roman general opponent of his strategy for tomorrow’s battle!

Artie’s total change of heart toward the duchess and his marriage to her is completely unmotivated, even for a comedy.  Nostra (longtime heavy Bruce Gordon, who I’ve always thought should have played Senator Joseph McCarthy at some point), is mostly bluster.  He threatens people, but we never see him, or any of the criminals, do anything nasty.  And as anyone who’s read any military history knows, suits of plate armor were very heavy.  Artie, being younger, might have lasted for a few sword-swings, but Nostra would have collapsed long before.

Aside from the beautiful black E-Type and the red Tiger, the other gem for car buffs is the white Mercedes in which Solo drives the young duchess to Ingolstein.  Some of the most beautiful cars ever produced by Mercedes-Benz, the “fintail” coupes and convertibles (1962-1971) were expensive then, and are collectors’ items today.  When you find yourself marveling over the cars in a story rather than the humans, something’s wrong.

Verdict: “I’m quite disappointed in you, Messrs. Ingster, Hill, and Slesar.  Go to your rooms and think about what you did.”

Memorable line:
Nostra (as Artie, clad as the White Knight, rides in):   “What is this, a commercial or something?”
(A wink to the Ajax “White Knight”/”Stronger than dirt!” commercials of the time)

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