Thursday, February 25, 2016

Duranalysis Film School: John Taylor in “Vegas, City of Dreams”


Hey, remember back in 2001 when John Taylor starred as a wealthy, murderous rapist in a straight-to-DVD quasi-religious erotic thriller with incongruous supernatural undertones?

Neither did I. Until very recently, I had no clue this gem existed. Luckily, the wonderful people of the internet tipped me off to the existence of Vegas, City of Dreams.

Vegas, City of Dreams (also known, using a loose definition of “known”, by the alternate titles Vegas C.O.D. and Marked For Murder) was directed by Las Vegas casino magnate Lorenzo Doumani, who has directed nine films, most of which he also wrote, and most of which star his (now ex-) wife, contemporary Christian singer Brenda Epperson. As one might expect from a straight-to-DVD quasi-religious erotic thriller with incongruous supernatural undertones, Vegas, City of Dreams is terrible. But it’s endearingly terrible, and it stars John Taylor (playing a character named—wait for it—Byron Lord), and thus I’m duty-bound to Duranalyze the hell out of it.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

The Man From U.N.C.L.E.: “The Foreign Legion Affair”


Strap yourselves in, folks. We’re hurtling toward peak Illya-mania at reckless and irresponsible speeds.

I’m at a loss as to how to even start recapping this episode. Part of me thinks I should just give you the first sentence of Amazon’s summary and leave it at that: Illya is thrown from a plane, naked, in the arms of a dazzling stewardess. Really, that says it all. That preposterously high-concept story idea is padded out into a traditional plot, of sorts, but the plot isn’t very good, and anyway, it’s beside the point. Concepts like “good” and “bad” (and “plot”) don’t apply to this episode. Illya is thrown naked from a plane: Either you’re going to want to see that, or you won’t, and nothing I write here is likely to sway your judgment one way or another.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

The Man From U.N.C.L.E.: “The Waverly Ring Affair”


Napoleon saunters into a midtown drugstore, which doubles as a THRUSH courier drop. After observing a THRUSH agent picking up prints at the photo counter, he picks up his own photos, which are filed under the alias “Watson Silvernagel.” Ha! Watson Silvernagel! That’s almost as preposterous of a name as “Napoleon Solo”! Anyway, while the THRUSH agent and the counterman have a secret discussion about the photos, Napoleon picks up a birthday card and reads it aloud in a theatrical manner while adopting a bizarre old-timey mid-Atlantic accent, as befitting a man named Watson Silvernagel: “Holy smoke, yumping yiminy, have a birthday that’s wine-y and women-y. Ha ha, boy, they really turn out the lulus these days!” Okay, so it’s already clear that: a) this episode is going to be totally bonkers, and b) it’s all going to be Robert Vaughn’s fault. Excellent.

After creating a suitable distraction, Napoleon swipes the photos from the THRUSH agent and heads for the exit. A well-dressed lady pulls a gun on him, whereupon Illya pops up from behind a display of postcards and knocks her out. A joyous brawl ensues. Napoleon and Illya throw punches and leap over counters, beating up THRUSH goons and couriers and probably some innocent bystanders who just darted into their friendly neighborhood drugstore to buy Alka-Seltzer or pick up a Valium refill.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

The Man From U.N.C.L.E.: “The Deadly Decoy Affair”


While parked outside some bizarre bare-bones eatery known as the Cub Room (from the sign on the door: “BREAKFAST 8-9 AM. 9:30-ON VENDING MACHINES ONLY”), Napoleon honks his horn, impatient for Illya to stop dawdling over his morning coffee and cruller: Mr. Waverly has just summoned them to U.N.C.L.E. headquarters to help transport a high-ranking captured THRUSH spy to Washington for interrogation by the CIA. Napoleon makes fun of Illya’s pronunciation of “garage”, Illya looks moody and resentful about his interrupted breakfast, and all is well with the world.

Inside U.N.C.L.E.’s parking garage, heavily-armed THRUSH goons lob bombs filled with poison gas at U.N.C.L.E. agents in an attempt to rescue the captured spy, Egon Stryker (Ralph Taeger). Illya and Napoleon arrive on the scene. Illya leaps out of Napoleon’s car, swings nimbly over a railing, drops into a crouch, and whips out his gun. Fantastic! I thought to myself. This is going to be one of those episodes where Illya is competent! We haven’t had one of those in a long while!

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

The Man From U.N.C.L.E.: “The Her Master’s Voice Affair”


I’m going to kick off this recap with a bold statement: This episode, the season-three premiere, features the absolute worst spy work from Illya that we will ever see over all four seasons of this excellent series. But wait, you say, what about the time Illya spent a whole episode failing to notice THRUSH had replaced Napoleon with an evil doppelganger? Or the time THRUSH tricked him into bringing a live bomb into U.N.C.L.E. headquarters? To which I reply: Yes, those were both terrible moments for Illya… but  he’s even less competent here. Read on, ye mighty, and despair.

Napoleon and Illya are acting as bodyguards for renowned quantum physicist Dr. Matsu (Dale Ishimoto), whom THRUSH has targeted due to his recent iconoclastic breakthroughs in the field of gamma radiation. After picking Dr. Matsu up at the airport, Napoleon and Illya shepherd him back to his lavish Long Island home. Even though it’s the middle of the night, there’s a milk truck parked in the driveway, blasting “Brahms’s Lullaby” over its speakers.