"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 Super-Colossal Affair" (ep. 3/4)

"Do you solemnly swear on your ergonomic keyboard to refrain from using the words 'stink,' 'stink bomb,' 'stinkeroo,' or any other combination of said word during your review?"

"I do."

"Proceed."

"But Your Honor, it's funny!"

From the opener, with Illya in bushy-bearded disguise, it bounces from one Borscht Belt gag and in-joke (the "little old winemaker" line was a wink to the then-current Italian Swiss Colony commercials) to another.  It's always fun watching Hollywood kid itself, isn't it?  Veteran character actor J. Carrol Naish makes a superb Mafioso, though from the quality of his underlings I'd guess Uncle Giuliano's Syndicate could have used a bailout from Thrush.

I know all the Illya fangirls are busy enjoying him in his tight white T-shirt as the pool repairman.  And as for us guys, well, there was just nobody like Carol Wayne.  No, she wasn't Kate Hepburn or Bette Davis, but her comic Marilyn Monroe shtick was a classic.  (Could her name here, Ginger LaVeer, be a pun on "ginger beer"?)  Only she, and maybe her contemporary Tina Louise as a more famous Ginger, could put a smart little spin on lines like hers to Illya, "I hope the pool gets broken again soon."

Shelley Berman was also one of the best.  At times his director, Sheldon Veblen, seems almost human.

Though I'm not sure why Waverly's casino scenes need to be in Act IV at all, Barry Shear's direction makes them, and everything else, move handily.  Strangely, there are several points in the DVD where the next scene cuts in abruptly, as if something has been snipped out.

Cringeworthy stuff: Solo slapping Illya's cast-off beard on his head and covering both with a scarf to pass as a peasant woman; later, Illya batting his lashes back at Ginger in her dressing room. Then there's the comic fight scene on the bedroom set, though as some have commented, if you turn off the music the fight seems more serious.  (Okay, not with Ginger squeaking "Help!" and Veblen trying to direct in the midst of it.)  And Waverly comes to Vegas, alone, and drives himself down the Strip?

Another element I've noticed, here and back into Season Two, is that Solo, Illya, and Waverly rarely sign off their communications to each other, no "Yes, sir.  Solo out" or the like.  How is the person on the other end supposed to know you haven't been kidnapped by enemy forces?

I'm no chemist, though I was married to one once.  What is "dimethyl chloral fluoride"?  I thought the main ingredient in skunk spray was butyl mercaptan.

The sedan parked in Giuliano's court, and racing past the flower cart, is the Mercedes sedan that came out in 1965.  Yet the one we see heading down the road away from the flower cart is the model that preceded it, the 1960-64 "Fintail," a Benz we've seen numerous times on the series.  Probably an insert shot. 

According to the dates in Jon's book, this was the last Season Three episode to be rerun before the more serious Season Four started.  What a contrast in tone --!

Verdict:  To paraphrase Mr. Spock again (and I'll want to do that a lot this season), It's Not U.N.C.L.E. As We Know It, Captain.  A silly Gold Key-ish comic book, it yet sports well-timed gags, takes, and bits of business, and gives Robert and David a chance to clown a little.  (At 18:10, for instance, Robert has Solo do a creditable Brando voice!)  Just take a deep breath, go to your Happy Place, think of it as an hour-long "Get Smart," and you'll be fine.

Memorable/ Funny Lines:
Solo: "Well, if there's a burial plot afoot, sir, Illya and I will uncover it."
Illya: "Would you mind keeping me out of your morbid puns, please?"

Illya (glancing at a photo of Cariago): "Nasty looking bird."
Solo (deftly snagging the photo as Illya swirls it through the air to him): "Where does it nest?"
Waverly: "It's migratory.  I believe it propagates in Beverly Hills." 
(A solid exchange worthy of a serious story)

Ginger (to Cariago): "Even the pool repairman was nicer to me than you are!"
Solo (in the surveillance van, to Illya): "How much nicer?"
Ginger (on radio): "A lot nicer!"
Illya: "She's exaggerating."
Solo: "Mm-hmm. . . ."

Veblen (to his actor): "Beautiful, Twill, magnificent.  You filled that scene with all the emotion of a fire hydrant."

Veblen (to Harry, as his men impound the film equipment): "You want me to cut out my heart, so you can take that too?"
Harry: "Uh, no, that won't be necessary.  The orders specify only negotiable items."

Ginger (waxing lyrical to Veblen): "I've seen every movie you've ever made. I've seen 'Gone with the Wind' four times."
Veblen: "Glad you liked it.  I was twelve years old when it was made."
Ginger (eyes wide): "Really?  I would have never guessed."

Solo (sotto voce to Illya, over canap├ęs and champagne): "I think I'm beginning to enjoy the [Syndicate] family life."
Illya: "You haven't met all your in-laws yet."

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