Dark side of 1960s escapist entertainment

Solo tells Chris that “the game is over.”

1960s TV shows are often dismissed as escapist. But even some escapist TV episodes have their dark side.

Case in point: The Finny Foot Affair, the 10th episode of The Man From U.N.C.L.E., which originally aired in 1964.

Here are a few examples from the episode.

–U.N.C.L.E. agents Napoleon Solo (Robert Vaughn) and Illya Kuryakin (David McCallum) investigate an “island off Scotland” where all the inhabitants are dead from old age. That’s not the real reason, but it’s a grim mystery to start off an episode.

–The episode’s innocent, Christopher Larson (played by Kurt Russell, then 13), witnesses an U.N.C.L.E. agent stabbed to death during a fight by a thug working for the villain. The agent apparently dispatches the thug with some kind of gas, although this isn’t fully explained. But Christopher saw everying.

— Christopher watches Solo kill one of the villain’s thugs, using one of Christopher’s toys as decoy.

— Christopher watches Solo kill the villain in a shootout.

One might think Christopher would suffer psychological trauma from all this. He might even have mental health issues later in life. Perhaps, perhaps not.

3 Responses

  1. So that’s why he went on to marry Goldie Hawn?

  2. Haven’t seen the episode for a long time. But easy to forget 1964 was only 4 years into a supposedly progressive decade compared to the 50’s which mixed unrealistic sitcoms with classic drama (like Playhouse 90, etc.). MFU was one of the first shows to explore truly escapist entertainment, with a flair! But was shut down due to a movement against violence on TV. Most of us (speaking of original fans) survived with no mental damage. If anything, perhaps with a heightened sense of imagination instead! No one was expected to take Westerns seriously either. Critics of the day may have confused MFU’s tropes in a sadistic manner. But the message was always good defeats evil. (In fact it was a TV Standard of Good Practices). Could the same be said about today’s violent shows featuring questionable heroes (like the Blacklist)?

  3. And Nan Mack wrote a great follow-up fanfiction in which we meet the grown-up Chris and his life was definitely impacted by this experience.

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