Wednesday, July 19, 2017


This entry for “The Landau Gentry” could just as easily have played out yesterday for the “Two For Tuesday” as it fits in “Wayback Wednesday”.  In fact, the time it took to write yesterday’s post could have been spared for a later entry since most of this is a repeat.

'The Twilight Zone'
("The Jeopardy Room")

Trying to defect, former KGB Major Ivan Kuchenko is trapped inside a hotel room. Commissar Vassiloff, a hitman, and Boris, his assistant, are watching him from a room across the street. Vassiloff is a sadistic killer who has tricked Kuchenko into drinking a sleeping potion in the hotel room after pretending to surrender to Kuchenko. 

Kuchenko wakens to learn that Vassiloff has planted a bomb in the room: Ivan must find it within three hours, or he will be shot by Vassiloff and Boris, who have a gun trained on him at all times. Vassiloff has hidden the bomb in the room's telephone, where it will be triggered by picking up an incoming call. Ivan manages to escape and avoid being shot. Later, Vassiloff and Boris enter the room and try to figure out what went wrong. The phone rings, and Boris—without thinking—picks it up; Vassiloff, realizing what is happening, yells at Boris, but the telephone bomb quickly goes off, killing both Vassiloff and Boris. On the other end of the phone line is Ivan Kuchenko, escaping to freedom. When the operator notifies him of the bad connection, he reassures her that the message was indeed delivered. The scene cuts to Vassiloff and Boris's charred corpses.

'Mission Impossible'

Rollin Hand’s role as an IMF agent was that of an actor and disguise expert. In a theatrical brochure that headed his dossier, he was described as a quick-change artist and billed as "The Man Of A Million Faces." As such, he had formidable skills in mimicry and voice imitation (introduced in the second season) as well as a mastery of make-up that rivaled that of Lon Chaney, Sr. He was also an expert at sleight of hand and pickpocketing, which came into play in several missions where he would pick pockets or hide things on someone else's person without their knowledge. His language and cultural skills were formidable. He regularly passed himself off as a citizen of various Latin American and Eastern European countries and no one ever questioned his authenticity. 

He also successfully impersonated well-known public figures, such as the dictator of a fictitious Latin American country, rumored Nazi fugitive Martin Bormann, and indeed even Adolf Hitler himself. On at least two missions he even successfully impersonated a left-handed person, doing all gestures and reflexive actions left-handed when Rollin himself was right-handed. He successfully falsified a wide variety of maladies in the course of missions to dupe targets, including seizures and drug addiction.

What if I told you that Kuchenko and Hand were the same person.... Is that something you might be interested in? (Channeling another Landau TV character, producer Bob Evans of 'Entourage'.)

After he defected from Russia, Kuchenko changed his name and joined the IMF agency, bringing all the skills he had at his disposal to be used in the cause for Truth, Justice, and the American Way. Everything mentioned in that Wikipedia entry for Rollin Hand is what Major Kuchenko used to do for the KGB.

Born to rerun!

Most of this article appeared in the Inner Toob celebration of Martin Landau’s 84th birthday.

Tomorrow there will be another “Landau Gentry” entry.  Echoing my question earlier, would that be something you would be interested in?

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