Friday, 8 May 2015

Mission: Impossible S4E14 - The Falcon (Part 1)

There have been a couple of two parter Mission: Impossible episodes, but this is the only three parter. So here we are with The Falcon, Part1 (4 Jan. 1970). It could equally have been called The Magician, or The Prince, but The Falcon is a cool title and the bird does do some cool work. The Mission: Impossible Dossier has a lot to say about the recalcitrance of the bird. ‘“The bird was awful,” Badiyi [the director] recalls. “It would just stand around posing and wouldn’t do anything.” When it did move, it was prone to disappear into the soundstage rafters forcing its trainers to lure it down with live animals as bait – a scene Lee Meriwether chose not to witness.’* They gave up on the falcon except in the close-up scenes and used a buzzard ‘made up to look like a falcon,’* prompting more problems for Badiyi. ‘“The trainer told me that this bird would go where it was supposed to go … but it wouldn’t take off. When it finally did, it fell! The trainer told me there wasn’t enough wind while we were on location. I asked, ‘Is that a bird or a kite?’ He got so insulted he took his bird and was ready to go home. At last the bird got up, flew away … and never came back! The trainer accused me of insulting the bird.’”*
*(White, Patrick J. The Complete Mission: Impossible Dossier. (London: Boxtree, 1996) p. 250)

According to the Dossier this was Lee Meriwether’s last outing on Mission, and it’s such a shame not only because she’s so good at it, but she seems to have such great rapport with the rest of the team, which is not something that we saw in the same way with Lesley Ann Warren. There are moments between her and Leonard Nimoy that just sparkle, and the same goes for the other regulars. Season 4 of Mission often still has the class of the previous seasons, and I can’t help but think that having Lee Meriwether on for Season 5 might have cemented some of that class.

I have gone overboard with the capping here. There are lots of caps, and a large percentage of them feature Paris’s hands. I won’t apologise.

Jim’s at a drive in movie place. Ah, the memories... I say that, but drive in movies are not exactly suited to the clement British weather so it’s not a phenomenon that caught on, and I probably would have been too young anyway. If we had had them my parents probably would have intended to take us, but never got round to it. But I’m sure there are lots of memories here for some, which is why I’m capping this.
Hi, Jim!
I’m feeling nostalgic despite myself.
So, the mission. Prince Stephan was reported to have been killed, but he’s not dead, he’s been imprisoned, so that his cousin Nicolai, who seems to have a learning disability is the sovereign of the country. The wicked General Sabattini, the evil stepmother in this fairy tale, is trying to force Stephan’s fiancĂ©e Francesca to marry him so that he will be able to inherit the throne. This sounds about as complex as anything the British royal family could have cooked up in the fifteenth century or so. This is important because Sabattini will ally himself with America’s enemies.
Here’s a close-up of one of the speakers, in case you want more nostalgia than you can shake a stick at.
So much for nostalgia. Let’s burn the f***er.
Ooh, we’re going to have a nice leisurely agent-picking session in Jim’s apartment. I like these.
Jim’s been out having a nice evening snifter on his balcony. Now he’s come to sit by the crackling real fire and pick his team. You go, Jim. Enjoy the warmth of the flames on your back.
He’s got his collar open and everything. Oh, Jim... It doesn’t take him long to pick a team. It’s like dealing cards. Barney, Willy, Paris, and -
Yay! We get Lee Meriwether for three whole episodes. Now, imagine if they’d stopped dithering and offered her a permanent job. Imagine then that Leonard Nimoy hadn’t got bored of the lack of character development, and Paris had evolved into a rich and luscious thing. Imagine then that Lee Meriwether and Leonard Nimoy had both stayed on into season five, six, seven – and then there had been an eighth season, maybe more, because who’d drop the show then? Not to be mean to the others. I liked Dana and I liked Casey even more. Casey brought the show back to having a proper team. But just imagine... (Oh, there’s also an anonymous guy that he picks – he turns out to be called Sebastian, and his main function is to have the right bone structure for a disguise – and the falcon. They pale after Lee Meriwether.)
Hi again, Jim! Jim’s just coming into his apartment from the circus-tent-themed lobby.
The team are waiting looking – well – I’d say looking suave, but oh, Lee, your hair! And where’s Barney?
Jim’s forgotten something and pops back, but – look! Two Jims! How does this magic happen?!
Paris says something here, but we can’t hear it. I don’t like being denied his voice. They all look very pleased, anyway.
Where’s the Barney? There’s the Barney! This is in Jim’s doorway, and Barney is hiding behind with a projector. Something cunning is going on.
Barney’s looking rather suave too, and talking about how long Jim’s stride is and how long it will take him to walk across something. They’re being typically cryptic. ‘How much air will she have,’ etc. I will be cryptic too, even though I know what they’re talking about.
It’s Paris’s turn to be grilled (Jim sounds a bit like a teacher here asking for a presentation from the class), so he starts reaching inside Jim’s jacket. I don’t know who’s luckiest here.
Jim looks so pleased that Paris has produced a pack of cards from Jim’s inner pocket that we have to assume Jim didn’t know they were in there. Paris is, after all, a magician. Meanwhile, Jim is making Paris look short. (The Dossier points out, ‘It is the only episode in which Paris uses magic, and Nimoy enjoyed it. The actor did a good job conjuring gold eggs and rare coins from thin air and demonstrating a floating ball trick, all taught to him by magician-actor Tony Giorgio, who appears in the show as the palace’s foyer guard.’ (White, Patrick J. The Complete Mission: Impossible Dossier. (London: Boxtree, 1996) p. 251)
We’re going to get some lovely shots of Paris’s hands here. Bear with me.
Oh lord... That’s so close to Paris doing a Vulcan salute.
‘Magicians are an obsession with Nicolai,’ he says, and we get to gaze at his fingertips.
Another little hand orgasm...
Let’s just have this one too, because there’s thumb in it. ‘Power is an obsession with Sabatini.’
‘Ambition will be the downfall of Vargas and Buccaro,’ he continues, looking gorgeous all the while.
A bit of back of the hand here.
And some thumb. This really is hand porn.
Let’s have a brief moment of face.
Excuse me. I’m having a handgasm.
I think Jim is too.
So is Lee Meriwether. But oh god, that hair!!
‘And that concludes Zastro’s performance. My next is set by royal command.’ He looks so happy!
So happy.
Of course Barney’s impressed, but he’s naturally impassive.
Willy is either impressed or trying to conceal the fact that his love eggs have just started vibrating.
Look how happy everyone is! Do you think Paris comes round of an evening and just entertains them with card tricks? Does he get drunk by the end of the evening and when everyone else has gone home (because I imagine Barney can hold his liquor like a pro and putting alcohol in Willy is probably like pouring it into a brick), Jim says, ‘Don’t bother about a cab, Paris. Why don’t you stay here?’ and he falls asleep on the settee with a glass of brandy next to him, and after a while his arm slips off his chest and dangles to the floor, and Jim smiles at him indulgently and tucks a blanket over him, and then goes off to bed himself? In the morning Jim comes down and Paris is there on the settee, still flaked out, and Jim starts cooking eggs and bacon and making coffee, and Paris slowly comes around and his eyes open, and he grunts a little and remembers where he is, and rubs a hand over his face and head and leaves his hair delightfully tousled. Do you think that ever happens?
Anyway... Back to reality. Jim shows Paris the photo of Sebastian (you remember I mentioned him when Jim picked the team?) and Paris says, ‘Bone structure’s the same. Should be no problem.’ Something in his voice here reminds me of Spock saying ‘I’d advise youse to keep dialling, Oxmyx,’ in A Piece of the Action.
‘How about the voice?’ he asks, affording me the chance for another cap.
He is impressed by the guy’s voice on tape, sounding like Paris. Everyone is so happy in this scene.
Jim gives Tracey (Lee Meriwether) some jewellery. ‘They’re beautiful, Jim.’ ‘And practical,’ Jim adds in that farmboy, take-me-in-the-straw-now voice. She’s wearing gold nail varnish. That makes up a little for that awful wig.
Barney shows us a rather sparkly crown.
That gives me a chance to show Paris looking lovely again. So many caps, and only five and a half minutes in. Have I mentioned the gorgeous grey silk neckscarf thing. I feel like I’ve forgotten the term for these things. ‘What do you think, Lucifer?’ he asks.
And there in the corner of the room is the falcon, Lucifer. By what the Dossier says, I think the name might be apt.
Okaaay. So, there’s a tour bus from the ‘Amsterdam Culture Sociery’ on its way along the road. Do we recognise anyone on here? Not the gentleman lurking on the left at the back with the hat and the red-brown beard, surely?
But wait! Those blue eyes! That nose! Could it be – could it possibly be Jim?
Meanwhile, Barney and Willy are busy hitching up a trailer for Zastro the Magician. I love the relationship between these two, the way Willy casually pats Barney on the back as he moves past him, then lets his other hand linger on his back. Sweet.
Paris has done something to his hair. It’s all curly. He’s fitting a wig onto a man dressed identically. I think this is Sebastian.
Lucky Sebastian gets to wear rubber. We get a moment of hand porn again.
Well done, Paris! No one will ever tell!
Meanwhile, the baddies. This is Sabattini, played by John Vernon, creepily stroking at his beard. According to IMDB he was a ‘prolific stage-trained Canadian character player who made a career out of convincingly playing crafty villains, morally-bankrupt officials and heartless authority figures.’ That’s about right for this nasty piece of work. Sabattini is all the more creepy because he’s plotting to marry – and probably essentially rape – Francesca. He just comes across as horrible in every way. Vernon was in six Mission episodes, although three of them were the three parts of The Falcon. The others were Movie, The Catafalque, and The Exchange.
Then we have Logan Ramsey, as Vargas. He’s another expert villain. Do you remember him in Nicole as the extra-unpleasant Valdas (pretty much the same name) with a strange chin prop on? He was also superb as the morally corrupt Claudius in the Star Trek episode Bread and Circuses. He’s also been in the Man from Uncle and two episodes of Route 66.
As usual I’ve taken too many caps. Vargas and Sabattini are talking darkly about the upcoming marriage between Sabattini and Francesca. There’s something rather Shakespearian in all of this. Vargas and Sabattini don’t entirely agree. Vargas wants Sabattini to go with the Asian proposal. Sabattini is afraid that the Asians will throw him out of power as soon as he’s got it. Vargas is afraid that Francesca will wreck everything, but Sabattini doesn’t intend to keep her around that long. Then there’s Nicolai, whose obsession with clocks has just cost them ‘fifty thousand.’ What a tangled web...
Meanwhile, Paris is still at work making up his counterpart. Hands, eyes, hair. Oh.
The camera pans over to Tracey to see her opinion on the makeover, then pans back in a clever little shot that must have Leonard Nimoy and the other guy – Frank da Vinci as Sebastian (he who I just mentioned in my caps of The Amnesiac, and who stood in many times for Leonard Nimoy on Star Trek) – swap places while the camera is off them.
And here is ‘Sebastian’ made up as Paris. Good work, Paris. And lucky Tracey, who gets to fiddle with his hair.
That’s a nice smile he’s giving. And Lee Meriwether, too. It’s a crime that she wasn’t cast permanently.
The tour bus that Jim is on has reached the palace now on their visit to photograph the crown jewels and other artefacts. I’ll resist a cap. I’ve taken too many. Suffice to say, they’re admitted to the place without a hitch, and we learn that Sabattini has dastardly plans for the crown jewels. So here they are being let into the area, where the floor is pressurised as a anti-theft device. Here’s Jim looking rather interesting with his red-brown hair and beard.
Jim’s watching everything with the avid eye of a man who wants to steal the jewels. He’s also doing something cunning with the end of his walking stick on the floor, depositing some kind of bug.
For once it’s not Barney-in-a-box. I’m not sure at this point if this is Paris or Sebastian-as-Paris.
Ah, here we go. Not to be outdone, Barney is slipping into his own box.
While Sabattini and Vargas are arguing about the Asians and how much money they need, Nicolai is in his room with his clocks. Dozens of clocks, all ticking fast and slightly out of sync with one another.
He really likes his clocks.
Sabattini has come in to talk to him. Nicolai is sad because the two figures on his clock won’t kiss, because the escape wheel is missing. He’s too unhappy even to sign papers, which irritates Sabattini no end.
Nicolai is played by Noel Harrison, and was the son of Rex Harrison. He’s perhaps better known for being in The Girl from U.N.C.L.E. According to IMDB he was a champion skier and represented Great Britain twice at the Olympics. Well.
Sabattini is a cunning bastard. He has the escape wheel in his pocket, and slips it onto the table so that Nicolai agrees to sign the papers in exchange for the wheel.
Sabattini is more pissed off when he discovers that Nicolai has hired a magician to entertain them at the wedding...
Ahh, here’s Francesca (Diane Baker), who was being escorted out by Vargas. Ugh. Of course Nicolai is delighted to see her.
She looks every inch the princess, and also very sad and nervous. She appeals briefly to Nicolai, calling out, ‘Nicki!’ but Nicolai is distracted by one of his clocks, which is fifteen seconds off. ‘He cannot help you,’ Sabattini intones in her ear. Her cry with the diminutive for Nicolai is quite endearing, and only emphasises her helplessness. Sabattini is taking her off to the prison where her fiancĂ©, Stephan, is being held.
Meanwhile, Zastro’s train is turning up outside the palace, which was presumably built to emulate mock-European Californian mansions.
Plenty of use for Willy in this episode. Willy, be careful not to push it down the hill! I think it’s flatter than it looks.
Now Willy needs to wheel out Barney-in-a-box.
Tense moment here as Willy is ordered to open the box for inspection. Willy is speechless. Barney is nervous. We have to have an advert break before Willy starts protesting that no one is allowed to see inside the magician’s boxes. Luckily Nicolai steps in.
Once Barney’s box is in position Barney gets to work, quietly, still inside, with some of the niftiest gadgets I’ve seen him use. The box has a hatch in the bottom, so Barney has direct access to the floor beneath.
Meanwhile, Jim is still in the palace’s jewel room, videoing, it seems.
I’m not sure what to make of this look.
He’s also being shifty...
...and using his stick again, this time to deposit some kind of liquid on the corners of one of the floor tiles.
Now it’s time for Willy to wheel Paris in. He’s probably not so used to this. (Still not sure if this is actually Paris, or Sebastian-as-Paris. I think the latter.)
Lots of rattling around and tilting.
This is Barney’s awesome gadget. It’s a four sided saw that perfectly cuts out around the edges of a single floor tile. Have you ever seen anything so brilliant? As Barney is cutting, Willy is doing noisy construction work outside to mask the noise. What a team!
(Not so good for Greg Morris, though. The Dossier has, ‘“I hated that saw,” Greg yells. “I had to crawl between floors and take out tiles with this damn saw that weighed seventy pounds, at times lying on my back!”’ (White, Patrick J. The Complete Mission: Impossible Dossier. (London: Boxtree, 1996) p. 250)
Seriously, how awesome is this? He’s cut out a perfect square and is now nipping off down the hole in the floor! Marvellous.
Good lord, Barney, how much stuff did you have in there with you? I mean, he already has the saw. So far he’s dropped down a small bag, a large holdall, and this black container! (I’m slightly worried about how much the floor bows when he puts weight on the edge. Perhaps I’d better not mention it.)
While all this is going on, Nicolai is engrossed with his clocks, and some nifty spectacles.
He’s finally got the figures to kiss, and is ecstatic.
And that’s a nice little segue with romantic music to Francesca and Stephan kissing passionately in the prison.
Kissing behind bars, though. The music becomes melancholy. Poor Stephan is chained to the wall.
It’s all very poignant. Francesca tries to talk about a winter ten years ago when Nicolai had his servants make snowballs to throw. Stephan wants to talk about now, and the future. Stephan is played by Joseph Reale, and apparently also had an uncredited part as a guard in Nicole (along with Logan Ramsay, and Dal Jenkins, who is an officer at the prison in this episode. Quite the reunion!) Stephan is anxious that she should marry Sabattini. She knows that Sabattini will kill Stephan if she does. Stephan reminds her that he will kill him anyway, but will also kill her if she doesn’t marry him.
Here’s Dal Jenkins on the left, as Rousek, as Francesca is dragged away from Stephan.
Stephan pleads with Sabattini to be kind to her. Sabattini responds with thinly veiled rape threats towards her.
Stephan is not happy about this.
While Jim is up above in the jewel room still, Barney is down below, crawling under the floorboards with all of his bags. I bet he’d give a lot for a battery-driven LED headtorch, rather than this wired thing on his head.
Now Tracey is arriving, as Zastro’s mind-reading sidekick, in a rather marvellous tweed outfit.
And here’s Paris (or Sebastian-as-Paris?) with the troublesome bird. What was he called? Satan? No. Lucifer. I was almost right.
Nicolai is overcome with glee as Zastro’s arrival is announced, and all his clocks start chiming too. I can see a little of his father in him in this scene.
Oh my, Paris.
And look at Tracey in that outfit, with those boots. Dear god!
Paris introduces Lucifer to Nicolai.
Then he introduces Tracey as ‘the great mind reader, Madame Zinsky.’
Tracey, I want that hat.
Oh god, Paris. (Nicolai is asking for a preview of his talents.)
He gets all showy and produces a gold egg from behind Nicolai’s ear.
He then tips Nicolai’s ring out of Lucifer’s hood.
Good lord, Paris. He’s arrogant, commanding, and hot.
Barney is still under the floor. He’s got some kind of Geiger counter which picks up the fluid that Jim left on the floor earlier. It tells him precisely where the corners of the floor tile are.
Paris provides us with a little more magic in the form of exquisite hand (and wrist) porn.
A little palm.
Some little finger. (Pinkie? if you’re American?)
And then some thumb.
Some knuckles and wrist. (Good god, this should be illegal.)
Some fingers.
And here we get to see knuckles and that lovely face.
And although now we’ve zoomed out from the hand, we can see his face in focus as consolation.
This is pretty.
As is this. 112 caps and thirty-one and a half minutes. Oh well, may as well be hanged for a wolf as – I can’t remember the rest of the saying.
Barney hand porn? Somehow it’s not quite the same, although he does have rather lovely hands. Anyway, he’s getting out his awesome square saw again.
As Paris asks to be shown to his quarters, Barney flicks a switch which activates a signal for Lucifer through the bug that Jim dropped earlier. Off flies Lucifer... (Presumably a buzzard made up to look like Lucifer.)
Barney gets into position, and when Lucifer lands on the floor the alarms go off, so Barney can use the saw.
Barney is getting covered in a fine sawdust. I do have to ask why he never – or rarely – brings goggles for these type of things. I mean, he’s wincing and blinking and turning his head. WEAR GOGGLES, BARNEY!
This is the Best Tool Ever.
Paris is just in time to stop the guard from shooting Lucifer.
Hi, Barney!
Paris is slightly concerned as he waits for Lucifer to come to his hand.
Still concerned.
He’s concerned because Barney is down below doing this...
...while up above a guard is doing this. It must be at moments like this that Barney wonders about his chosen career path.
Paris is so concerned that we get to see an extreme close-up of his eyes.
He asks them to clear the room because the falcon is frightened.
Barney’s really feeling the pressure, but the guard won’t clear the room even under Nicolai’s orders.
I’m thinking this is eye porn. (Barney’s about to crack, and it’s time for an advert break.)
And we’re back with Paris and a little more eye porn.
Paris flicks his control which gets Lucifer to return, flying past the guard to make him step back. I’m not sure why he didn’t just do this in the first place. But then we would have been denied the eye porn, I suppose, and the sight of Barney straining under the floor.
You don’t get the feeling there’s much love lost as Paris sticks Lucifer’s hood back on him.
So now Barney’s free to get to the jewels...
Barney’s at work about to swap the jewels. Dear god, Barney, you take some risks.
So, Francesca et al are back from the prison. Francesca is glum.
Barney’s busy swapping the jewels.
Sabattini is even more horrid preening in front of three mirrors. There was asimilar motif with Logan Ramsey in Nicole. Obviously this is a favourite device to show the duplicity of despots. And then in walks Logan Ramsey himself, as Vargas, to tell him that the bishop will be here shortly.
Ah, but will he? Here’s Willy, putting an early version of the stinger to good use out on the country roads.
Barney is still at his lock-picking and jewellery swapping. He must have a strong heart.
Willy has taken out the bishop’s car. Isn’t there something in the Bible about that? Thou Shalt Not Delay a Bishop, or some such?
Sabattini takes a ring out of his safe in a nice segue from a shot of Barney taking jewels out of cabinets. This might be the only real piece of jewellery left. Then he asks Vargas, ‘How do I look?’ and we see that Vargas is duplicitous too, in this nice mirrored image. Vargas tells him rather emotionally, ‘Like a king.’
Barney’s just finished, which is good, because Vargas is off to fetch the crown for Francesca to wear during her marriage. Just like I question why Barney doesn’t carry goggles, I question why he almost always has such a light coloured bag. Surely it’s easier to spot?
Barney’s stuck holding the floor together again as Vargas comes in to get the crown. There’s no one standing on him this time, at least.
Vargas has no idea that the crown is a fake.
The bishop is not being entirely patient. He slaps the car – lightly, though.
But look! A rescue!
Willy is good at playing the simple peasant.
Luckily Barney has a jack for the hole in the floor.
You know, Barney, that’s not exactly flush.
Never mind about the tile. A Barney’s work is never done. He crawls off through the cobwebs to his next task.
Meanwhile, Willy is fixing the bishop’s tyre. And that sounds like a euphemism.
But that tyre is flat too. Bishop is not happy.
Willy gives the most wonderful little shrug at this.
Paris and Tracey have each striped off a layer. I don’t know who to look at. God.
Wow, these two...
Is this hand porn or ring porn? She has amazing rings. She’s busy giving things to Paris that he needs to take to Francesca.
Off goes Paris onto the balcony. I mean, this is Mission: Impossible. He can’t just walk to her room. It’s not him in the long shots, sadly – but I suppose we should be glad he was kept safe.
This, on the other hand...
This is him.
Definitely him.
Yes, this is him.
And his feet.
And – other bits of him...
See. All him.
Francesca, meanwhile, is being maudlin over Stephan in her room.
She’s sad.
Oh! That was a cat she was lying on. I thought it was a cushion.
She doesn’t seem awfully surprised that someone was knocking at her window.
Paris explains that he’s here to help her but there’s little time... He does it in that lovely soft Spock-voice.
Trust me,’ he says. Would you not trust that face?
Sabattini is still admiring himself in front of the mirror. Whose the fairest of them all? ‘Paris, my lovely despotic ruler.’ (Sorry, Jim too, but we’re focussing on Paris in this bit of the episode. It’s been a bit of a holiday for Jim.)
There’s so much hand porn in this episode.
He’s handed her all the things she needs and told her the whole plan while we were watching Sabattini admiring himself. There’s a gun with a real bullet and a blank, fake blood, a pill that will simulate death...
Hand porn, eye porn...
But, oh no! Sabattini has come in!
She’s still holding the gun and things behind her back. He tells her, ‘I have decided to give you your wedding gift before the wedding.’ I think it would surprise no one if he revealed his wedding gift were sex, but no, it’s Stephan’s life, he says.
Paris is still outside, listening...
I like this image. There’s so much of the fairy-tale about this episode. When Francesca turns around she has to sneakily transfer the things she’s holding to in front of her. When she turns around again she has to put them behind her back. Sabattini notices...
Paris is worried.
Paris is thinking...
He throws a coin at the hapless cat, and it snarls and jumps up. In a sleight of hand worthy of Paris himself Francesca hides the things behind her jewellery box, and picks up a locket.
Vargas has come in with the crown – now the fake crown – that she will wear later at the wedding. She’s not best pleased.
There’s a brief reminder that Barney is still crawling around under the floor.
Meanwhile, Paris is climbing back down the trellis, like a reverse Prince Charming.
But, oh! The trellis breaks, and a man who isn’t Leonard Nimoy is left hanging from the edge of the balcony!!
There’s a guard just underneath him, too!!
Hand poooooorn!
Paris, don’t fall!
Cliffhanger!!! (Almost) literally. See you next time!

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