Sunday, 29 January 2012

Episode Analysis: Mission: Impossible - Blind

(As you’d expect, this contains SPOILERS)

I can’t give this episode a full on analysis as I did with The Town. I love this episode not because of amazing cinematography or a great plotline. I love it because of the huge weakness I have for blindness. I don’t know why it draws me so. I’ve always been fascinated by it, and I’ve always found blind characters highly attractive too. So discovering there’s a Mission: Impossible episode where Jim Phelps spends almost all the episode blind was rather a thrill for me, kinky devil that I am.

At the dead drop, in a lovely glass lift.

Jim in Dr Warren's office, before he is surgically blinded.
Casey (Lynda Day George) looking out for Jim as he arrives home.
This being the first episode of Season 6, it’s also the first time we get to meet Casey. She’s never given another name (Lisa Casey was applied to her for her brief appearance in the 1988/89 MI revamp, presumably to distinguish her from the rather unpleasant Casey who is in the 1988 season) so we don’t know if this is her surname or first name. But it doesn’t matter. She’s played gorgeously by Lynda Day George, who expresses the hope in a newspaper article that of course I cannot find right now, that she has been picked for her acting ability rather than her looks, since she isn’t that good looking. Of course, she is that good looking, but she also acts the part very well and is right in character from the beginning, and is a great replacement for Dana (who we also love for being lovely and very sexy).

Jason Evers as Deetrich, Tom Bosley as Matula
The story of the episode is that police officer Warren Hays is blinded in the line of duty, while working undercover in the Syndicate that is so ubiquitous in the later seasons of Mission: Impossible. Jim’s mission (should he choose to accept) is to impersonate the newly blinded Hays in order to protect the cover of another undercover agent, Matula (played by Happy Days’ Tom Bosley), who is close to being exposed by his rival Deetrich. Jim will pull Hays’ reputation ‘through the mud’, posing as an alcoholic who was thrown out of the police with no pension after his accident, to convince the Syndicate that he is worthwhile taking on for inside information.
Jim as Hays, drunk and on his way to another bar.

Casey is his landlady, and Johnny overhears their staged conversation where she asks him for his overdue rent money.

In order to pass convincingly as the blind Hays, Phelps is himself surgically blinded with the application of opaque contact lenses, thus preventing himself from being caught out and exposed as a spy himself. After the operation Jim has a week of sixteen-hour-a-day mobility training before he moves in to the fake rooming house set up by Barney and ostensibly run by Casey, and takes on the persona of blind, alcoholic, disgraced and poverty-stricken Hays.

Johnny spies on Jim as he feels about for money on the floor.
Soon after this he stumbles, dead drunk, into a bar where Lawton, the Syndicate leader, is having a meeting with Matula and Deetrich and Deetrich’s hood, Johnny. When Jim can’t pay for his drink he makes a big scene about being an ex-Federal cop. Interesting he calls himself ‘Bob Hays’, not ‘Warren Hays’ – hard to tell if this is a mistake or whether he’s perhaps Warren Robert Hayes, known to his friends as Bob. After this scene (with Willy there in the bar to keep an eye on him) Jim is escorted out and Lawton sends Johnny to find out more about him. Soon after, Johnny moves into the rooming house to get closer to Hays/Phelps in the hope of finding out through him who the undercover agent in the Syndicate is.

Willie, always watching over Jim and waiting to record relevant conversations.
The team come across as very close-knit in this episode. Willy watches Jim almost round the clock through a two-way mirror in his lodgings and in the persona of a moustachioed cabbie outside. He’s also waiting with a tape recorder to catch the necessary incriminating evidence when Deetrich eventually gets round to busting into Jim’s rooms and threatening him.

Barney, posing as Anderson, and getting in on the Syndicate.
Casey is also watching out for Jim when she isn’t seducing Johnny, while Barney is out on the other side, infiltrating himself with the Syndicate so that he can manipulate them and protect Jim in his dealings with them.

Most of my scrutiny on this episode is spent on Peter Graves. He does a great job of acting blind. Perhaps it helps that he did an entire film of it in Fort Defiance, but that was twenty years before this. He does small, technically correct, things, like feeling with the back of his hand first when reaching toward something unknown. He holds arms for guidance correctly instead of walking with his hand on someone’s shoulder, which you see so often. He just generally puts in a fine, unstilted performance and apparently, to my amateur judgement, follows the kind of guidelines taught by institutions like the RNIB. He really does look like he’s just undergone extensive professional training.

Jim in the depths of the DTs
He also puts in a fine turn when he’s called upon to act as if he is suffering delirium tremens, when his money, and so his alcohol, runs out. From screaming through hallucinations in his room to the subtle trembling of his hands later in the street, he looks like he’s really suffering. Through this episode his shirt gets progressively more dirty, he stops wearing his tie, his suit becomes more rumpled. His room is strewn with discarded clothes and empty bottles. I can’t help but feel it would have been unpleasant for Phelps to go about like this, but he does it anyway.

All this is to convince Johnny that ex-officer Hays really is down on his luck and would do anything for money. As a test Johnny pays Jim $500 to break in and steal data telling him the name of the man who replaced him as an undercover agent. He and Johnny do this together, and we find out that Jim can touch-type as he enters commands into a computer keyboard he cannot see. They escape by the skin of their teeth, data in hand.

The episode ends with a meeting in a factory. Deetrich appears to have convinced Jim to falsely accuse Matula of being a spy, in return for a large cash bung. Matula has already played the tape that Willy recorded of the deal being made, to Lawton. Lawton then shoots Deetrich and Jim is forced to run for his life, with Johnny taking potshots at him from a girder up above. Of course, Barney steps in and saves the day, kills Johnny and promises Lawton that he will ‘dispose’ of Hays. Matula’s cover is secure, everyone is happy, and Jim can go to the doctor’s to have his contact lenses removed.

Pic spam ensues…I'll fill up tumblr with the rest.

escaping with the stolen data...

Lawton uses a cigarette lighter to test Jim's blindness.

Jim on his way to see his landlady.

Deetrich and Johnny threaten Jim in the middle of the night.

In the factory elevator.

Lawton plays back the tape of Deetrich propositioning 'Hays'.

Jim hunkers down to avoid the bullets.

Running for his life...

...from Johnny's gun.

Jim falls over a barrier.

'Anderson' promises to dispose of 'Hays'.

'Nice to see you.' Jim ends the episode on a lovely lopsided smile.

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Fashion spasm! Mission: Impossible - Time Bomb

In order to trick an eastern European officer into showing them how to defuse his bomb, the IMF - well - they kinda lost me early on, to be honest. I was too distracted by Jim's disguise...

He starts off casual, even choosing to carry his jacket over his shoulder for the dead drop...

Every one looks pretty sharp at the briefing, too -
Barney looks extra-sharp, Jim looks refined...

...Wai Lee (Barbara Luna) looks great, Willy's looking hot...
...and Paris looks ... Ahem. No, I'm sorry, Paris. This is not a good look.

And then we arrive in the Eastern European country (cue a very high count, even for Mission: Impossible, of amusing 'Eastern European' words such as 'detür', 'Stat Matenz', and 'maihn powar'). Jim stays slick for a short time, like this - 
Always looking good in uniform...
But then Paris does this to him - 
I can't help but think that when he tells Paris how well he's done, he must be dying a little inside...
And then we get - 
...a lot of this...

...and this, and the hideous stained glass window...

...all distracting them from Barney-in-a-box.

There's a brief flicker of joy with Paris in some uniforms. Nimoy can pull off uniforms far too well.

And finally Jim gets to peel of that beard and look more like a cool lecturer than like Matthew Kelly
(this is Matthew Kelly - if you're not British you probably won't truly understand.)

[EDIT: I have to interject here with a snippet from the Mission: Impossible dossier - 'Peter begged us not to use him as the artist,' says Stan Kallis. According to Graves, 'that was one of those mistakes that you want to forget about. He could have been a wild character without that red beard and wig.' White, Patrick J. The Complete Mission: Impossible Dossier. (London: Boxtree, 1996), p. 253.]

And then all we are left with is, mmm, Jim in corduroy :-)


Dark Room Jim

There is no reason for this post other than that I find Jim Phelps in the dark room to be highly aesthetically pleasing :-)

Also, bonus, Jim-selecting-his-team-in-school-jumper-chic. I like how when he's thinking or stressed or alone he doesn't wear a tie and has his collar unbuttoned :-)

Friday, 13 January 2012

Fury - Packy's Dream

Best Episode of Fury Ever!

Well, I can’t claim to have watched every episode of Fury. It’s not the best quality sound in the world, and no subtitles, so it’s really hard to watch with raucous children around. It’s not the best show in the world – but there’s a lot of Peter Graves in it, and a lot of him riding around on horses and generally being adorable.

Not long ago I stumbled on what is, I think, the last ever episode, although it’s not the last on the DVD boxset I own. It’s called Packy’s Dream, and it’s awesome.

Peter Graves as 'Silas', the bumbling deputy

Look, he even has sideburns!
Fury centres around the surprisingly serious premise that Jim Newton, a horse rancher, adopts a young boy that he finds on the streets not long after his own wife and young son are killed by a drunk driver. This could be the basis for a heartfelt and serious tearjerker about their trials in life. Instead it becomes a premise for Jim, Joey (the boy he adopts), and Pete the ranch manager to have plenty of fun-filled 1950s type adventures, all with the help of Fury, a wild stallion that Joey manages to tame. Sometimes this series is sickeningly 50s, sometimes it’s surprisingly good. There’s a deep moral and Christian streak, and it’s often at pains to remind us that girls may like to aspire to those things that boys do, but really they’re best in dresses, preparing for motherhood. It makes for uncomfortable viewing. Almost every episode ends with a heartfelt laugh, and I believe Peter Graves said (in an interview I can’t find at the moment) that it taught him how to laugh when he really didn’t feel like laughing.
And Pete's his boss!

All that aside, recently I discovered the episode Packy’s Dream. Homer ‘Packy’ Lambert is a young boy of the obligatory type that they pull in when the boy star starts to get older. Packy spends an inordinately large amount of time at Joey’s house, eating meals and sleeping there, considering he has a perfectly good home of his own to go to. But there we are. This is how semi-soap operas work.

In this episode Joey makes an arrangement to have a fight with another boy over a girl they both like. Jim talks him out of it, telling him that it’s much more modern to settle these things over an ice cream soda than by duking it out in the street. Packy, who is greatly disappointed that he will be deprived of the chance to watch a good fight, goes to sleep that night and dreams about an older time, a more exciting time when men were men and fighting ruled the world.
Bugsy-Malone-style bar kids

Packy dreams that Jim is ‘Cyrus’, the deputy sheriff and Packy’s father. Peter Graves plays Cyrus as a wonderful, rather dumb hick character. Packy thinks that the entire town depends on his father’s rifle, which, as Cyrus says, is ‘kinda scary when you think about it.’ The reason why it’s scary is because Cyrus is about as adept with his gun as a dog would be with a fountain pen. He can’t even climb onto the wagon with it without getting tangled up.

Why do I love this episode so much? Well, apart from Peter Graves’s kick-ass sideburns, it’s so very out of the mould for Fury. It feels like the last day of term when the kids play around. Joey (Bobby Diamond) plays ‘the Kid’, an all-in-black mean cowboy just out of prison, in town to press his unwelcome attentions on the local school teacher. He chews on candy cigarettes and drinks sarsaparilla. Fury is a horse called Satan, with a mean streak a mile wide. There’s a glorious Bugsy Malone moment, well before Bugsy Malone was made, when ‘the Kid’ walks into a bar full of children in adults’ clothing, playing cards, drinking and generally acting like adults. As the bartender serves ‘the Kid’ his moustache begins to fall off.
And Silas gets his gun caught on anything he can.

Peter Graves gets to show off his straight-faced comedic skills in this one, and that’s the main reason why it’s so adorable. You get to hear him uttering phrases like, ‘Bless my bones, son,’ ‘doggone,’ ‘blame well,’ and ‘Feel plumb naked without this little feller to keep me company.’ (he’s talking about his trusty rifle there). He strolls around being dumb and a little clumsy, and at the end he’s shot down in the street by ‘the Kid’. He ends his part in the dream with the immortal line, ‘Caught my thumb in the doggone pump handle, son.’ You also get to see him as Packy wakes from his nightmare clad in a lovely cosy dressing gown. What more can I say?
He prepares for a stand-off

...and fumbles.
‘Caught my thumb in the doggone pump handle, son.’
All's well, only a dream, and Jim's dressing gown is snuggly and warm...