"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!)

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

"The Master's Touch Affair" (ep. 4/6)

A neat little spy vs. spy tale, "Master's Touch" features tricky plotting, Jack Lord of "Hawaii Five-O" as a strong villain, an exotic setting, and a lovely Innocent whose presence is integral to the plot.

We start off in "Lisbon, Portugal," and the sign at the seaplane landing looks like Portuguese.  Southern California doubles nicely for Portugal, too, as they are both close to the same Mediterranean-climate latitude.

While Solo -- and Illya, who seems an early Season One sidekick in this one -- seem at first helpless in the traps within traps Mandor engineers, they are not led as easily as they were by the conspirators in "'J' for Judas."  Here, Solo sees through Mandor's ruse of capturing and then releasing Leslie the model.  Though they're not in time to stop Mandor's killing Valandros, they do manage to get two of the three top Thrush names they need before Mandor dies.

The Thrush Ultimate Computer is truly advanced beyond 1967 (or today, for that matter).  It takes the intel rattled off by Valandros, analyzes it, and provides instant feedback.  On the other hand, their fax/printer technology is pretty primitive dot-matrix stuff.  I imagine the Council ca. '68 wooing, or capturing, an engineer who has invented something he calls a "laser" printer.

I personally think that paisley pool coat, or whatever it's called, that Solo wears in Act II looks kind of silly, like that ascot that so often pops up whenever he wears a bush jacket (though not in this story). 
Maybe it's because it stays buttoned all the time that he looks as if he's wearing pajamas.

It's true that we don't quite see why Valandros is "the one man in the world Mandor fears most," but (despite the cigar prop) he's not quite a buffoon, either.  Seeing his outbursts of fury, you can imagine what a savage right-hand man he was for Mandor -- that Mandor fears death by torture at the man's hands should Valandros capture him, not Valandros's strategic ability or tactical skills; and that Valandros is no longer quite sane. . . .

Highlights: the hard look Solo gives Mandor when the latter tells him Valandros has captured Illya; Solo's "I'm going to repay you for this . . . personally"; David's mild clowning as the doped Illya; and the neat overhead shot as Solo shoots to detonate his explosive.  The smart scene at Lisbon HQ between Solo and Waverly, too, stands in strong contrast to the goofy briefing scenes we had so much of last year.  These guys mean business.

No, Miss Rogers.  Dumping out the contents of your purse to show us the needle, pen gun, and spray gas doesn't impress anybody.  How would she get to those things in a crisis?  Better to show us a regulation Special in her purse, and tell us she's an expert with it.

R.I.P., Mr. Lynch.  U.N.C.L.E. loses more helicopters . . . and pilots.

Verdict:  Not only exciting, with Solo's one-man assault run to save Illya, it's graced by a pleasant final scene that could have come straight from Season One -- think of the charming tags to "Shark" and "Fiddlesticks."

Memorable lines:
Mandor: "Valandros is my creature.  He was cruel; I made him monstrous.  He was cunning; I made him brilliant.  He had five senses; I gave him a sixth.  No, Valandros is the one man who will finally hunt me down, Mr. Solo."

Solo (watching the little Sunbeam Alpine emerge from the big truck): "Is there another little car inside this one?"

Waverly: "This sprays a gas designed to curb one's aggressive instincts.  Miss Rogers has had occasion to use it, how many times?"
Lisa: "Six.”  [With a glance at Solo, who looks suitably abashed]  “Well, only twice in the line of duty."

Waverly: "The names Mandor promised to give us?  The Thrush leaders in London, New York, and Moscow?"
Solo: "I'm of the impression, sir, we'd have to get him up against a wall for those."
Waverly (with a cold gleam in his eye): "We will.  At present, we'll play his game.  You get Kuryakin out of there -- right away, if it's not too late already.  After that, we'll settle accounts with Mandor."

Illya (doped, but trusting Solo to handle their escape): "Is my name Illya?"
Solo (gruffly): "Who cares?  Move up, come on!  Get your foot up!"

Illya (to Leslie): "The book lists all the bona fide millionaires in America and Europe."  [As Leslie moves to kiss Napoleon]  "He's not in it."

1 comment:

WendieZ said...

Interestingly enough, I do remember my father wearing a swimming cover-up very much like the one Solo has on. I think it a lot less silly byack in the days...