"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!


Update, August 2015: Henry (Superman) Cavill and Armie Hammer look good in the official trailer and posters! The Guy Ritchie-helmed movie premieres on August 14th!

(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 26, 2010

"The Test Tube Killer Affair" (ep. 4/2)

Big-time MfU fan Marc Douglas of the Channel_D list e-mailed me last year to ask if he could be the one to review this smart, fast-paced episode.  He covers all the bases for sure.  Take it away, Marc!
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Hello All,

Paul was kind enough to let me step in this one time as "Test Tube Killer" is my favorite episode of the series and it also stands as one of the best hours of  60s television.  And I'm sure we are all curious to see how Paul reacts to a  review for a change :)

To start, this episode is an incredible 50 minutes of television and it shows off U.N.C.L.E. so well that I have used this episode on a few ex-girlfriends to give them the best example of the show that I would never shut up about since  1988.

One more thing before I begin...

"THIS SHOULD HAVE BEEN A TWO-PARTER!"

The Teaser...

I forget who mentioned in their e-mail about a lack of budget and extras throughout the 4th season. TTK puts that argument to rest.  Right from the beginning notes of Gerald Fried's score (possibly his best of the series) we see a crowded bazaar and you can just tell that something very serious is going to happen.  Is the "Waverly Collection" line hokey?  Maybe, but who cares.  Once we see Martin pop Miguel and Illya chase off after him we know that we are going to be in for one hell of a ride.

The entire scene in the alleyway is incredible, from the gunplay, to the reaction shot of Solo and Illya and to the Fried score which moves the scene along.  I can overlook them trying to stop the car by jumping on when before that, they were crouching behind the crates, exchanging gunfire and in fear of their lives.  Something that was long gone in season 3 comes back with a vengeance.

So what is going on in that fencing school as the teaser ends?  You know you want to find out.

Before I begin...  Yes, the three guest star theme is a little weak.

ACT I...

Nice for a change that we don't start off in New York with Waverly sending off the boys.  Also nice to see the UNCLE car get a good workout (even though footage is used from "Five Daughters" as Illya's hair and Solo's suit don't match the new footage).  The scene in the fencing school is well done and sets up what is going to be a helluva ride for the rest of the show.  Mr. Jones does a solid job as Martin and the beatdown he puts on number 7 is convincing.  Good scene when he gets it on with Miss Lamb and the misogynistic dialog from Dr. Stoller.  (Mr. Lukas seems to pause frequently when giving dialog.)

The U.N.C.L.E. theme used while Illya and Solo are driving is kick-ass (and yes, the first shot of the U.N.C.L.E. NY interior is from next week's show).

And yes, Barbara Moore still can not act; her saying, "Code Yellow" actually makes me cringe. But you get the idea that this is a new U.N.C.L.E. and we get to see a greater part of the inner workings that was not present since season 1.

Nice to see Solo still eyeing up the ladies when he sees Miss Lamb, but is it me or do two guys walking in for fencing lessons make the slash writers drool.

I like how they both react when the see Martin on the training film.

That's a big plane to only have Illya and Solo in it!

Lynn Loring actually does a good job with her role and another hour would have given us a chance for the love affair to develop more.  I like how Martin avoids Hobson till he needs her.

Nice to see another vet from "Deadly Smorgasbord" show up along with Loring.  The hotel employee who delivers the TV was an U.N.C.L.E. doctor in the former.  And yes, the scene was done for laughs.

The bomb disarm was well done and shows the smarts of both men.  Illya noticing the defect and Solo seeing that it is just glass.  Shame they couldn't afford a new prop and used the communicator as a bomb detector as well.  Must have been an upgrade.  Just turn it upside down (good thing they didn't do that for season 3 as it would have gone off every week!  "Har Har").

Shouldn't Martin have come from Guadalajara and not New York as Illya says on the phone?

ACT II...

Love the entire restaurant scene except for how long it takes Solo to get up off his ass after the waiter knocks him down and go to help Illya.

Again, a great job of showing the crowded restaurant really gives the episode life.

Fried's music, "Hot Plate” (which has a whole new meaning today), enhances the scene.  You really get the feeling that Solo and Illya are a step behind as Waverly points out.

Like Solo's line about meeting over a bowl of soup. Though something seems forced about having Martin put a knife to Hobson's throat and then moments later, it's like nothing has happened

What the hell were those two idiots behind Waverly thinking they would find in the fencing masks.

Hey look, we're using the same set from "Deadly Smorgasbord" as an airport again.

Like how Martin escapes but why does he strip the maintenance worker since we never actually see him change clothes or go into disguise?

Like seeing Illya give Waverly a little lip back.  (Why is he on the phone though, as we know those communicators can work after being doused in water.)

You can tell by Waverly's actions that he is concerned that Solo and Illya might actually fail the mission.

ACT III

Like how Solo lets Hobson escape.  Third season he would have done a dumb thing like that. Now he has a reason.

Wish we would have see more than the radar used in the car, hell, Dancer and Slate used more of the car goodies then Solo or Illya ever did.  Of course why in the hell would you drive a car that stands out like that if you were a secret agent?

Nice touch with the sign in the bookstore.

The entire alley scene, music, pacing, acting, is just one of the U.N.C.L.E. kick-ass moments.  Great scene with the kiss and the reaction by Hobson.  (Love that he tells her to shut up too.  He could say that to Barbara Moore and make us all happier)

Solo and Illya look like they've had their asses kicked by Martin as they walk through the alley.

Again, as Hobson walks in the alleyway (Illya's eyes darting when they confront her as if he knows Martin is close), the music is just great and then the explosion and then Illya not taking the shot because he'd hit Hobson and then Illya's great line about sending Waverly a letter.  You can tell he's pissed off now.

ACT IV...

One big laugh in this act and yeah, it's unintentional.

Hobson will kill now for Greg, again because we only have an hour, Greg falling in love with her seems rushed.

You really get the feel that U.N.C.L.E. is global the way they work with the police and with the other HQs.

Seeing Stavros get smacked around is always fun.  (How did hell did he keep his hair while Telly looked like a stick of Ban Roll On since birth?)

So Solo knows Athens while Illya speaks Greek.  (That's why they need each other)

Yeah, yeah, my ex laughed out loud when the helicopter exploded.  (Christ, how cheap did that look!) I like the flamethrower though.

Loring does a good job showing fear of dying when she is trapped in the car.   (Surprised that the censors let her say Thank God when Martin came back to rescue her)

I had no problem believing that Martin was actually on the dam even though it doesn't come close to matching the stock footage.

What happened to the other Test Tube Killers since not all of them were on the bus but yet at the end we see them all.

The music again enhances the scene when Solo and Illya are about to pounce on Martin. You also know that after Solo yells, "Martin, stop!" that they were going to kill him no matter what he did.

And yes, once again we see Bob do the old, fist pump when he shoots.  There was no way in hell he'd of hit him in real life.  I like how Martin makes sure to grab Hobson's hand before professing his love.

Stoller’s revelation that the female influence is stronger than he expected.  (Well, no duh)

As Solo gets Hobson out of the car and tells her that Martin meant it when he said he loved her shows that compassionate side of Solo lost for a long time.  You know Illya's not making that statement.

The music that plays as the bus goes down the hill as it passes the three, "incredible" knowing that 6 more Test Tube Killers are still on the loose.  You would think that Solo or Illya would have picked up on Stoller's voice coming from the bus and even if they could not chase the bus, unload their guns into it.

Again, Fried did an incredible job with the soundtrack.

To conclude...

This should have been a two parter as I would have loved to have seen Martin toy with Illya and Solo more and see them get more pissed.  Love the Waverly attitude in this one.  I can watch this one over and over again and still be enthralled

Piss on NBC for not giving me 30 episodes like this.

I remember the ex saying that she liked the blonde guy when the show ended.

To me, this episode is U.N.C.L.E. (I know you all don't think that way).

A taut script with few errors and the ones we have are easy to dismiss as this simply is U.N.C.L.E.

Paul, if you don't mind, I'll let you pick the memorable quotes and again thanks for letting me do this one.

Marc

(If we gave ’em rankings this is an 11 out of 10!)

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Kudos to Marc for a detailed, thorough review!

I've enjoyed this one since the CBN days because of the science-fictional idea, Greg's clever and workable subterfuges, and how professionally Solo coordinates the land and air search.  As Marc says, we're shown clearly here that the Command consists of more than our three leads.  We see the agent who is killed in the bazaar (I think he was an U.N.C.L.E. agent), and the exotic Greek (?) lady in the Athens office.

As he pointed out, too, it's neat to see Solo and Illya working with the local law enforcement people.  Even with the locals' aid, Solo and Illya are not in complete control here.  Good as they are, Greg is a jump ahead of them; the entire band of "test-tube killers" would have been a real challenge.  Also, both Solo and Illya remain convincingly rumpled, after being soaked at the airport and covered in brick dust in the alley, all the way to the end.

The shot from this, where the dark-suited Solo crouches in the alley, gun in hand, that the DVD producers used on the episode menu for this disc, is a classic.  If you want one of Solo and Illya together, Lisa has posted this stunner:

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