Wednesday, 19 February 2014

The Man from UNCLE: The Bow-Wow Affair

If this were an Avengers episode, its subtitle would be In which we discover Mr Waverley has an identical cousin (with a moustache) & Illya becomes a diversity champion.
Actually, no, take that back. This episode has more weirdness than you can shake a stick at, right from the start where a man steretypically dressed as a vampire (Andre Delgardo) stabs some pyjamas in the heart. It is also reminiscent of films taking off the detective genre such as Clue & Murder by Death. It certainly has everything you could want: manor house, gypsy fortune teller. This is combined with the sort of fear & big dog you normally only find in a Hammer film. I do love the way the 'gypsies' live in one of those wonderful Sixties houses where the sitting room has everything on lots of different levels. I like this episode enormously, & I think what I like best about it is actually the way it's so overdone, including that there is scarcely a film genre it does not parody.
Of course the plot of this merry romp is more full of holes than Swiss cheese: in reality if the set-up for this show happened, you'd simply ring the local police & tell them you know full well who has it in for your nightwear. Where Illya Kuryakin gets his knowledge of his 'friends' the gypsies, for another thing - perhaps it is seen as something to do with being Russian. The 'gypsies' themselves don't fit in with stereotypes of travellers - they don't look like them, they live in a permanent house, & the aim of this show cannot possibly to give a non-stereotypical view of Roma. They are, however, painted as frauds right from the start, although ironically Kuryakin resorts to a breeder's trick to turn the dogs against their master.
This first series episode sees an interesting development of the characters. I can't believe I hadn't noticed until I just read it that there are some series 1 episodes where Kuryakin doesn't appear at all; in this one, however, Solo's poorly leg allows Kuryakin to carry the show. Napoleon Solo obviously later developed into the ladies' man of the show, but in this episode the characters are still feeling their way to their defined roles:
'Female viewers had definite ideas of just what sort of person Illya Kuryakin must be, and they let the producers know in no uncertain terms what behavior was acceptable and what was not. In "The Bow-Wow Affair," the first episode in which Illya carries the show, he becomes involved with a relative of Waverly's, Alice Baldwin. In one scene, she asks him to kiss her, and he replies, "If you insist," whereupon she kisses him. A few minutes later, he kisses her back. This one scene drew a firestorm of angry fan mail. Illya, it seemed, was not supposed to kiss girls--at least, that's what his fans said. Perhaps it was this particular girl they objected to.' (http://www.manfromuncle.org/kcretro5.htm)
It's rather sad to see the abrupt end of Kuryakin's putative romantic career!
My favourite line:
Kuryakin (when Solo asks him if he's free):No man is free who has to work for a living.'
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2 comments:

Mike Doran said...

Chicago Calling:

Last time I mentioned that Man From UNCLE didn't catch on in the US until midway through its first season.
That was when NBC moved the show from Tuesday to Monday.
As it happened, this was one of the first Monday airings; it was also the first episode to feature David McCallum as Illya in a lead role.
There was also the dual role for Leo G. Carroll; this was his third US TV series and he was making the most of it (he was already in his seventies at the time).
Fun Fact: Carroll's first series was Topper, a half-hour comedy in which he played the title role - with mustache ( in the UNCLE episode, he looked just like he had as Cosmo Topper a decade before). His second series in '62 was Going My Way, with Gene Kelly in the Bing Crosby part, and Leo G. as the older priest (the Barry Fitzgerald part). The real priests in our parish loved this show, and Carroll in particular, but it only ran one season.
One of the Guest Stars was Pat Harrington Jr., who'd made a small career for himself on Jack Paar's talk show as a comic Italian character called "Guido Panzini"; the UNCLE episode was "Panzini's" last appearance, but Harrington had a long career ahead of him, in both serious and dramatic roles.

The move to Monday night saw a spike in UNCLE's ratings, America's teenage girls went wild for "Illya" (causing David McCallum and his family some embarrassment), and another TV legend was born.

John said...

Mike, I hadn't made a connection with Topper but come to think of it, there is a strong resemblamce!