Sunday, 20 August 2017

Big Gay Longcat reviews Mission: Impossible - The Legend

Good afternoon Mr Cat. The television programme you're looking at is The Legend, a season one episode from 1967 starring Steven Hill as Dan Briggs, Barbara Bain as Cinnamon Carter, and Greg Morris as Barney Collier, with a special appearance by Martin Landau as Rollin Hand.
Your mission, should you decide to accept it, is to review this story.

The episode begins, as usual, with Dan Briggs (since this is a season one story, and Jim Phelps didn't take over until season two) getting his mission from the manny on the tape.

"Good afternoon Mr Briggs. The man you're looking at is Dr Herbert Reiner, a dedicated official in Hitler's National Socialist party. For the last 20 years he has been in Spandau Prison outside of Berlin. On Tuesday next week Dr Reiner finishes his sentence, and with his daughter flies immediately to Puerto Bubera in South America, thanks to the generosity of an anonymous benefactor who has sent him a round trip ticket. Our informants tell us other of Hitler's top Nazis are also at this moment on their way to Puerto Bubera. Whoever is bringing them together seems to be well financed and determined to sow the seeds of Nazism across the world again.
Your mission, Dan, should you decide to accept it, is to put these Nazis out of business.
As always, should any of your IM Force be caught or killed, the Secretary will disavow any knowledge of your actions.
This tape will self-destruct in 10 seconds.
Good luck Dan."

Dan then picks his team, and sadly Willy is not one of them, but Rollin, Cinnamon and Barney are.

This is already an unusual premise for an Impossible Mission. There are only a few episodes where the badddys are Nazis, instead of the more common antagonists of foreign dictators, Communists, or the gangsters of the Syndicate.

During the mission briefing scene Dan explains that the baddys will be tough, as four other countries have previously sent "agents" to investigate the Nazis' mysterious benefactor, but none of them have managed to get into their secret base in Puerto Madeupa.

Dan is disguised as Dr Reiner and Cinnamon as Dr Reiner's daughter Ilsa. They go to the secret base while Rollin and Barney stay outside but nearby to help them. A doggy woofs at them as they go inside. But it is not all good - as well as the doggys, the base is full of Nazis!

They meet Friedrich Rutt, who seems to be in charge of the Nazis except that he claims not to be the mysterious benefactor but merely his "personal secretary." He takes them and some other old Nazis to a locked room where there is a manny in a bed.

Rutt says the manny in the bed is Martin Bormann, who Dan and the Nazis recognise as an important Nazi. Even though he is in bed, Bormann is not having sleeps. He talks to them saying he is injured from a crash and until he is well again he will leave Rutt in charge.

Rutt does a Nazi salute and everyone else has to do one too, even Dan and Cinnamon so that the real Nazis don't see through their disguise.

In the next scene, Cinnamon starts a fire in her bedroom. There is lots of smoke and while the Nazis are investigating it we can see it is a distraction for Dan to go to Bormann's room without being noticed by the Nazis. But things go wrong when Dan gets electriced by a trap, and then Rutt catches him and points a gun at Dan. This moment of peril is a cliffhanger moment and time for an advertisement break!

After the break (discernible on the DVD from the way the episode fades to black and then comes back in to the same scene) Dan talks his way out of trouble, saying he was worried about Bormann when he noticed the smoke, so Rutt is not suspicious. This does mean that their first plan has been foiled so Dan and Cinnamon have to contact Rollin and Barney for help with their next plan.

Rutt shows the Nazis films of Hitler making speeches in black and white, which is the kind of thing Nazis like watching. I expect they also like reading Hitler's speeches as well.

There are explosions outside the base. These are made by Barney - it is another distraction to cover Dan making a second attempt at getting to Bormann. Barney isn't in this episode very much, but he does have an important role to play during this bit. At least he was in it at all, unlike Willy who I miss because Willy is my favourite Mission: Impossible character.

Dan goes into Bormann's room with a gun in his hand, but it is not a manny in the bed, it is a dummy!

A Nazi dummy, if you'll pardon the tautology. This is the second ad break cliffhanger.

Seeing Dan with a gun already out, as though he is about to assassinate Bormann before discovering he is only a dummy, is very rare for Mission: Impossible. In fact this may be the only example from the entire series when a main character sets out to kill somebody directly, instead of the much more common scenario of setting a baddy up to be killed by other mannys on their own side.

I think it shows that Dan Briggs hates Nazis even more than Jake and Elwood do. Maybe it is because Dan is Jewish? Steven Hill, the actor who plays him, is Jewish, and so are the actors who play Rollin and Cinnamon, so while it is not made explicit if their characters are too, this would help to explain this unusual, unprecedented aspect of this mission.

Dan finds a tape player with Bormann's speeches recorded on tapes, including the one he heard Bormann say when he arrived earlier, so now he knows that Rutt has been faking up a Nazi.

Meanwhile Rutt and the Nazis go out of the base and find Barney's sound effects machine (a clever parallel - the IMF have been faking an attack on the Nazi base just as Rutt has been faking a Martin Bormann). Rutt blames Israeli agents and says they have "tried tricks like this before." They run back inside and go into Bormann's room while Dan is still there looking at the tapes, but he hides so he doesn't get caught.

Dan being in the room was more of a moment of peril than when he discovered the dummy, but the latter made for a far more effective cliffhanger - albeit one based on a moment of revelation rather than jeopardy.

Dan decides not to shoot the dummy even after all the effort it took to get to him, because he has a new and better plan. This time he needs Rollin's help.

Cinnamon starts to go outside the base to try get a message to Rollin, but she is caught by an old Nazi general. She gets away by pretending she was going to read Mein Kampf, which is another thing Nazis like. Once outside, Cinnamon gets caught again, only this time it is by Rollin pouncing on her for a fake jump scare moment.

With Rollin now in on the plan, they begin to put it into action. Cinnamon distracts Rutt by pretending to be very Nazi at him while Rollin stealths into the dummy Bormann's room, but he makes a noise so Rutt goes into the room to investigate. Rollin hides like Dan did earlier so Rutt again doesn't catch anyone.

With Rollin still hiding, Rutt puts the dummy in a wheelchair and takes him to the window where the Nazis are outside and they can see him (though not clearly enough to tell it is a dummy). He also plays them one of the tapes so they think Bormann is talking to them. Rollin can also see and hear them so now he knows what fake Bormann sounds like. When the tape is finished Rutt takes the dummy back inside.

Rutt gives the Nazis their orders for their secret Nazi missions, and he is about to send them away when Dan asks if they can see Bormann again before they go. Now we get the payoff moment of their plan, as Rollin enters the room disguised as Bormann!

Even if this is not a complete surprise to us viewers because it has been telegraphed in the preceding scenes, this is one of the best moments in Mission: Impossible because of Rutt's uncomprehending, astonished reaction.

The rest of the Nazis are all happy to see him. Rollin asks Rutt to help him sit down, calling him "Friedrich" and generally acting like he's in charge here. Rutt asks
"Who are you?"
and the Nazis give him puzzled looks. He orders them to arrest Rollin, but they don't obey him. Rollin has all the other Nazis completely believing he is Bormann, so they obey him and not Rutt, even when he sends Rutt to his room and asks him to hand over his keys, which Rutt does, symbolically surrendering his authority as he does so.

Rutt goes and sees the dummy is still in the bed where he left it, but he cannot expose Rollin that way because he was the only one that knew Bormann was a dummy really. Cinnamon comes in and Rutt tells her that Rollin is an impostor and he asks her to help him expose Rollin. In response she asks the perfectly reasonable question that, if Rollin is an impostor,
"Where is the real Martin Bormann?"

Rutt shows her the dummy in the bed and Cinnamon pretends to believe him. She gives him a gun and distracts the guard so that Rutt can knock him out and escape. Rutt goes into the room where the Nazis are but they still all side with Rollin.

Rollin is busy changing all of Rutt's plans and he throws papers in Rutt's face when Rutt refuses to obey him. Dan leads the other Nazis in applauding Rollin's actions, which makes Rutt even more angry and humiliated so that he shoots Rollin with the gun Cinnamon gave him. (Because we saw Cinnamon hand him the gun only a few moments earlier, this cleverly allows us to suspect it is a trick gun.)

The Nazi general disarms Rutt while Dan goes to help Rollin. He says
"Martin Bormann is dead."
The guards help Dan and Cinnamon take Rollin's body away, and Dan says to the other Nazis
"You must finish what must be done here."
The Nazis all know what is meant by this and, after Dan, Cinnamon and Rollin have left, Rutt confesses to them.

"I had to do it. Don't you understand? The truth is, right from the beginning it's been me. I wrote the manifesto. I was the voice you heard. I planned it all, every detail. All my life I've dreamed of this, and that was the reason why it needed him here. Nothing has to change, only from now on I give you the orders directly, and we can still achieve our goals. Give me a chance to prove it."

Every so often the camera cuts from Rutt's pathetic, ranting face to show the Nazis watching him, unimpressed.

"Let me be your fuhrer! Let me be your fuhrer! Let me be your fuhrer! Let me be your fuhrer!"

Over his last, desperately repeated begging words, the Nazis all advance on Rutt and then it cuts away to Dan, Cinnamon and Rollin (alive of course) in a car. We hear Rutt scream and the car drives away. The theme music starts playing signifying that it is the end of the episode.

Is this Nazi Donald Trump making one of his cameo appearances, like when he was in Home Alone 2: Lost in New York?

The scenes with Rollin as fake Martin Bormann lift this episode to another plane of quality, as watching him effortlessly take control of the Nazis, simultaneously usurping and subverting Rutt's own plan while at the same time Rutt is rendered impotent, unable to stop them even though he can see exactly what Rollin is doing... well, it is magnificent.

The fact that the baddys are Nazis just makes their comeuppance at the end all the more satisfying, and so this turns into one of the very best Impossible Missions there is.

Yes, even without Willy.

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