2x25 The King of Diamonds Affair

Rewatching the Man from UNCLE

blog review uncle

I'm rewatching every episode of the Man from UNCLE series from start to finish. This review contains spoilers.

In this episode, we get a break from THRUSH, with the main villain being a British mob keen to monopolize the global supply of diamonds. To ensure their success, they team up with Delgado, the so-called King of Diamonds, an expert diamond thief. But when the episode starts, Delgado is serving time in prison, and curiously diamonds are turning up in plum pudding. That's the setup.

Or at least, it should have been the setup. The actual delivery is a little off.

The whole plot

A diamond turns up in some pudding, and then the UNCLE agents are tasked with protecting a billion dollars worth of diamonds. Then they visit Delgado in prison, who promptly escapes in one of the most juvenile schemes possible (climbs into a laundry basket and gets wheeled right past the warden). Then the UNCLE agents go to steal the diamonds, but Delgado's gotten there first. They chase him to Brasil, and Delgado himself rescues them from the mob because he decides that being a criminal has gotten boring and that there might be more of a challenge in being wanted by the mob.

I get what the story was going for. All the elements are there. There's the heist, the charming thief who can't be contained, the tenuous alliance between the cops and the criminal, a beautiful plum pudding vendor. All the usual story elements. But they seemed out of order so they didn't fit right. They didn't meld together, like a bad plum pudding improperly steamed.

(All the deliberate plum pudding references make sense once you see the episode.)

The days before the Internet

The most interesting thing about this episode is the cultural and historical meta. This episode features some comically bad British accents and several improbable depictions of Brasil. Both can probably be blamed on budget, but I think only in part. It occurs to me that in the days before the Internet, world culture must have been impossible vast for most people. I wonder whether most TV viewers in the 60s knew just how bad the British accents were, how bad the Italian was, or that Brasilians speak Portuguese not Spanish.

It could be that they did, but that the demand for realism was just different then. I understand that, and in fact every time i watch a Marvel movie today I find myself cringing in anticipation of how annoyed we'll all be 20 years (or hours, depending on your tastes) from now when we look back at the predictable and obligatory wisecracks and the silly special effects. For whatever reason, the levels of suspended disbelief shift every decade or so, and maybe in the 60s close enough was good enough.

Whatever the reason, this episode betrays its age in an unexpected way. I admit that when I write several paragraphs about how an episode makes me ponder sociology and history, it's probably a sign that it wasn't the most amazing story. And indeed, this one isn't. It's not a terrible episode, but I wouldn't watch it again.

Lead image by Anthony DELANOIX under the terms of the Unsplash License. Modified by Seth in Inkscape.

Previous Post Next Post