"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!)

Monday, March 1, 2010

"The Prince of Darkness Affair, Part I" (ep. 4/4)

This, Dean Hargrove’s first script since Season Two and his last for the series, is big and bold and energetic.  Bill Koenig tells us that this is the series' most expensive episode, and it shows.  As they used to say in the old Hollywood studio days, “It’s all up there on the screen.”

The teaser is a gem in the MfU “What the heck is going on here?” tradition, as Solo and Illya -- looking realistically rumpled, sweaty, and dirty, and carrying Special carbines -- swoop in by copter to a village “somewhere in East Africa.”  Yes, the pathways left by the thermal prism look oddly like red paint, but you can say that the “corrosive” chemical or physical reactions ignited by the prism leave a scarlet path instead of a charred black one.  Anyway, it’s striking and scary.

Next we bounce to Greece, where Solo has come to engage the services of safecracker Luther Sebastian.  The Third Way cult is important to the plot, as we will see. 

Nice to see Waverly spearheading the operation aboard the plane.  Clearly there isn’t time to drag Sebastian back to New York for briefing.

The subplot with Annie the Annoying is just that, though it does arise from U.N.C.L.E.’s involvement with Sebastian, and will provide Solo a complication later.  Unfortunately the scene with Azalea shooting Hassan isn’t played for the excitement it could have yielded.

Don’t you just love Sebastian standing prettily by, patting his face with his kerchief, while Illya does all the hard work of subduing the guards?  And don’t you just want to kick him, hard?  The night scenes, as they travel the desert and the high rocks toward the estate, are well done.  Good to hear the first-season music again during the minefield scene.

At Kharmusi’s, Solo changes from his banker grey pinstripe suit to a dark suit.  Where was his suitcase?  Perhaps after Azalea picked him up, they went back to the airport and got his things?

Sebastian’s safecracking scene reminds me strongly of an early episode of “It Takes a Thief,” in which Alexander Mundy lowers himself from a skylight to avoid floor alarms.

John Dehner’s Dr. Kharmusi is smart -- he tumbles to Solo and Illya’s coordinated plan -- but rather creepy.  I get the impression that his conjugal relationship with Azalea is no longer, shall we say, complete (which might be part of why she turned to Sebastian) . . . and so Kharmusi finds young girls, such as his former students and Annie, much more fascinating than he should.  Note the intent way he grips Annie’s hand and stares into her eyes (and later, that look of sly triumph as he dies).  Brrrr. 

The moment at 42:15, when Solo and Illya encounter each other around a corner and then cross-shoot the pursuing guards, is a classic of the show’s style.

If the destroyer Waverly’s on has time to fire a torpedo to stop the oncoming vessel, wouldn’t it have time to get out of the path of said vessel?

Verdict:  Fast-moving, colorful, with an Innocent who turns out not to be and all the ingredients of solid U.N.C.L.E., it’s yet topped by a cliffhanger to end all cliffhangers.

Memorable Lines:
Solo (to Sebastian):  “You’re wanted in seventeen countries on charges of felonies.  Everything from grand theft --”
Sebastian:  ‘Oh, no, no, no.  Your bookkeeping is a little off.  It’s twenty-two countries.” 

Waverly (coldly, to Sebastian):  “Besides your ill manners, which I now observe at first hand, our computers have shown you to be a most efficient criminally oriented mind, with advanced degrees in engineering, physics, and chemistry.  Apparently you avoided the humanities.”

Illya:  “If you’re in such a hurry, why don’t you go on ahead?”  (As Sebastian moves to do so) “I’ll meet you on the other side of the minefield.”
Sebastian (pauses, steps back)  “After you.”

Annie (eyeing Azalea):  “And you must be [Dr. Kharmusi’s] kind-hearted nurse.”

Kharmusi (about Azalea’s defection):  “I should have known never to trust a woman who is always on time.  It always indicates a much deeper problem.”

Sebastian (annoyed, to Annie):  “I don’t know who you are, but I have a feeling you probably deserve whatever happens to you.”

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