"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!)

Thursday, February 11, 2010

"The Thor Affair" (ep. 3/7)

See, Season Three wasn’t a total wasteland!  This has a Season Two feel, while giving us some deft lines, a plausible (if a little kooky) reason to involve the Innocent, and a non-Thrush threat. (Nothing wrong with Thrush.   It’s merely a treat to have another kind of antagonist now and then.)

The opening shot of Solo and Illya in the train compartment is from “Adriatic Express.”  Solo’s communicator, round watch, and suit (which is slightly darker than in the remaining scenes), and Illya’s rope, all give it away.

Illya, somebody should have taught you not to pick up the assassin’s rifle!  Something tells me that he and Solo would have had a heckuva time explaining who they are and what they’re doing there.  Telling us about that would have made for a much better scene with Waverly than the business about the expense accounts.

Bernard Fox must have loved the call to work MfU.  Twice, as thorough Thrush Jordin in Season Two, and here as Brutus Thor (what a Fleming-esque villain name!), he got a chance to stretch his acting muscles beyond his usual comic-opera Englishman like Dr. Bombay on “Bewitched.”  While the script tells us little about Thor beyond implying that his family has been in munitions for some time, Fox rounds him out as a man too much impressed with his own cleverness, with a self-satisfied smirk and a self-assured manner.

Arthur Batanides turned up everywhere in the ‘60s, even on “Star Trek.”  Here his swarthy, Satanic Kiru is an effective assassin, undercut a little by his “none too bright thug” scenes with Thor.  (How neat it would have been if he’d been a more sinister presence, and a real threat to Illya at the climax!)  But Harry Davis is a dignified delight as the Gandhi-like president of, presumably, India.  Dr. Diljohn is rather heroic; when Kiru has fired at Nahdi, Diljohn steps in front of him as a shield.

I admit it: Nellie is a bit annoying, a cross between Doris Day and Lavinia, the schoolteacher in “Girls of Nazarone.”  Even Solo and Illya look upset with her at times.  But her tooth business acts as an important element, giving us the surprising “Quick! Back to the hotel!” scene in her cab, after which she hurls Solo’s overnight bag off the balcony.  Her kookiness gives Illya a springboard for some smart comments, and she’s no helpless bystander during the fights, either.

I’m sure you all caught the tips of the hat to “It Happened One Night” . . . and the butler named “Rhett” . . . and the “LBJ = HHH = H2 = RFK” on the chalkboard during the tag.

If Nahdi is sensitive to cat dander in the open air, as we see in the teaser, he’d have had a similar violent reaction to Thor’s Siamese the moment he stepped into the house.  And what if Nahdi flipped through the pages of his speech even once before the actual conference?

At the conference, I think, Solo, as the security agent from the Command, should have been roving around (with Nellie in tow), keeping an eye out for Thor’s moves.

Verdict:  The story hustles, our heroes are professional, Thor’s goal is believable, and the humor is kept generally to the right places.  Even the bullet-firing toys, which could have come off as silly, fit with the earlier toy motif set up with Thor in Act II; and Nellie’s tooth, Thor’s cat, and his wrist radio all play a role at the climax. Good stuff.

Memorable lines:
Illya: “Thrush would never have missed.  The whole thing smacks of amateurs.”
Waverly: “Amateurs, Mr. Kuryakin, are sometimes harder to deal with than professionals.”

Illya (regarding the customs officers): “They always have to mess up your shirts.”
Solo: “How else would you know you’ve crossed a new frontier?”

Desk Clerk (explaining the shortage of rooms): “This happens every time we have one of these dreadful peace conferences.”
Illya: “Yes, the prospect of world peace is a pretty terrifying thought.”

Illya (amused at the news that munitions king Thor is putting Nahdi up): “Disarmament conferences make strange bedfellows.”

Solo (to Nellie): “Believe me, we’re only interested in your tooth.”
Illya (presumably deadpan -- we don’t see his face): “And nothing but the tooth.”

Illya (after a Houdini-like escape and a battle with Thor’s men): “I suggest we repair to the hotel for repairs.”

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