Skip to main content

No, I’m afraid it’s the girl who’s expendable.

The Avengers
1.1: Hot Snow

The first 20 minutes of The Avengers do not make for the most auspicious debut. It’s so far from the camper fantasy trappings of the show’s colour era, it may as well be a different programme. That’s not really the problem. Well, the problem is chiefly that there isn’t a whole episode by which to judge Hot Snow. But it’s also that this could be any old detective fiction yarn. There’s very little to mark out what we see here as unique. Certainly nothing as arresting as the high strangeness of the first episode of Doctor Who, or the bleak dystopia of Blake’s 7’s The Way Back.


Even Laurie Johnson’s original theme is on the generic side, only added to by the men-in-macs-with-guns spy titles. This is frequently creaky fluff-ridden “live” TV, of course, so it’s rough and ready and earns some leeway as a result. The first 10 minutes comprise a no-good, rotten so-and-so (Godfrey Quigley as Spicer) hiding behind doors (like a bargain basement Hitchcock) or just out of sight in the surgery of Ian Hendry’s Dr David Keel. Spicer is after a mislaid package. 


Meanwhile, Keel announces his nuptials to fellow Dr Richard Tredding (Philip Stone; dad in A Clockwork Orange and Captain Blumburtt in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom). Keel is getting hitched to Katherine Woodville’s receptionist Peggy, and it’s her fate that ensures his path crosses with John Steed.


Whom we don’t see here. So there’s only one surviving first season episode Steed is in. Hendry’s fine in a rugged, leading man, kind of way. But he’s more interesting as an actor by the time he’s gone to seed as Eric Paice in Get Carter a decade later. Peggy seems like a jolly nice girl, while Stone wins a few laughs as an amiable duffer (when Keel suggests he be the best man or give the bride away, he replies “Only too pleased to do both”).


Quigley’s boss is Ronnie Vance (Robert James, the High Priest in Masque of Mandragora, and Ven Glynd in the first The Way Back). He comes on, which means he doesn’t exactly, like a proto-Blofeld, the camera focusing only on his hands and the dog he is stroking on his lap. Emphasising the “realism” of the show, compared to what would follow, the plot focuses on cocaine; four gran’s worth of “snow” has been mistakenly delivered to the surgery (very dumb criminals, these). 


There’s also reference to one of the gang being “coked up”. Murray Melvin plays Charlie (no, not because he’s a user), and is instantly recognisable in both appearance and manner (he’d go on to play Reverend Runt in Barry Lyndon).


The murder of poor Peggy, who got a good look at Quigley so has to die (a bit of a stretch, really; certainly more fraught with potential repercussions for the gang to off her rather than Quigley) is almost artistically oblique. Either that or a bit clumsy. We don’t hear a shot, although we see her through gun site. And then Keel is holding her lifeless body. Quite effective on that level, as it makes it believable he has no idea what has happened until he sees the blood on his hand.


With barely a third of this surviving, it’s impossible to judge how the wholer piece works. But what there is, is fairly middling stuff. Not bad, but certainly not great. This, and the first complete surviving episode, go to underline how vital Steed – or rather Macnee – is to the series, and what a deceptively suave and laidback presence he is. I’ll give this an average score, as less or more would be guesswork.




Comments

Popular posts from this blog

She writes Twilight fan fiction.

Vampire Academy (2014)
My willingness to give writer Daniel Waters some slack on the grounds of early glories sometimes pays off (Sex and Death 101) and sometimes, as with this messy and indistinct Young Adult adaptation, it doesn’t. If Vampire Academy plods along as a less than innovative smart-mouthed Buffy rip-off that might be because, if you added vampires to Heathers, you would probably get something not so far from the world of Joss Whedon. Unfortunately inspiration is a low ebb throughout, not helped any by tepid direction from Daniel’s sometimes-reliable brother Mark and a couple of hopelessly plankish leads who do their best to dampen down any wit that occasionally attempts to surface.

I can only presume there’s a never-ending pile of Young Adult fiction poised for big screen failure, all of it comprising multi-novel storylines just begging for a moment in the Sun. Every time an adaptation crashes and burns (and the odds are that they will) another one rises, hydra-like, hoping…

Prepare the Heathen’s Stand! By order of purification!

Apostle (2018)
(SPOILERS) Another week, another undercooked Netflix flick from an undeniably talented director. What’s up with their quality control? Do they have any? Are they so set on attracting an embarrassment of creatives, they give them carte blanche, to hell with whether the results are any good or not? Apostle's an ungainly folk-horror mashup of The Wicker Man (most obviously, but without the remotest trace of that screenplay's finesse) and any cult-centric Brit horror movie you’d care to think of (including Ben Wheatley's, himself an exponent of similar influences-on-sleeve filmmaking with Kill List), taking in tropes from Hammer, torture porn, and pagan lore but revealing nothing much that's different or original beyond them.

You can’t just outsource your entire life.

Tully (2018)
(SPOILERS) A major twist is revealed in the last fifteen minutes of Tully, one I'll happily admit not to have seen coming, but it says something about the movie that it failed to affect my misgivings over the picture up to that point either way. About the worst thing you can say about a twist is that it leaves you shrugging.

There's something wrong with the sky.

Hold the Dark (2018)
(SPOILERS) Hold the Dark, an adaptation of William Giraldi's 2014 novel, is big on atmosphere, as you'd expect from director Jeremy Saulnier (Blue Ruin, Green Room) and actor-now-director (I Don’t Want to Live in This World Anymore) pal Macon Blair (furnishing the screenplay and appearing in one scene), but contrastingly low on satisfying resolutions. Being wilfully oblique can be a winner if you’re entirely sure what you're trying to achieve, but the effect here is rather that it’s "for the sake of it" than purposeful.

No one understands the lonely perfection of my dreams.

Ridley Scott Ridders Ranked
During the '80s, I anticipated few filmmakers' movies more than Ridley Scott's; those of his fellow xenomorph wrangler James Cameron, perhaps. In both cases, that eagerness for something equalling their early efforts receded as they studiously managed to avoid the heights they had once reached. Cameron's output dropped off a cliff after he won an Oscar. Contrastingly, Scott's surged like never before when his film took home gold. Which at least meant he occasionally delivered something interesting, but sadly, it was mostly quantity over quality. Here are the movies Scott has directed in his career thus far - and with his rate of  productivity, another 25 by the time he's 100 may well be feasible – ranked from worst to best.

Well, you did take advantage of a drunken sailor.

Tomb Raider (2018)
(SPOILERS) There's evidently an appetite out there for a decent Tomb Raider movie, given that the lousy 2001 incarnation was successful enough to spawn a (lousy) sequel, and that this lousier reboot, scarcely conceivably, may have attracted enough bums on seats to do likewise. If we're going to distinguish between order of demerits, we could characterise the Angelina Jolie movies as both pretty bad; Tomb Raider, in contrast, is unforgivably tedious.

If you want to have a staring contest with me, you will lose.

Phantom Thread (2017)
(SPOILERS) Perhaps surprisingly not the lowest grossing of last year's Best Picture Oscar nominees (that was Call Me by Your Name) but certainly the one with the least buzz as a genuine contender, subjected as Phantom Thread was to a range of views from masterpiece (the critics) to drudge (a fair selection of general viewers). The mixed reaction wasn’t so very far from Paul Thomas Anderson's earlier The Master, and one suspects the nomination was more to do with the golden glow of Daniel Day-Lewis in his first role in half a decade (and last ever, if he's to be believed) than mass Academy rapture with the picture. Which is ironic, as the relatively unknown Vicky Krieps steals the film from under him.

This is it. This is the moment of my death.

Fearless (1993)
Hollywood tends to make a hash of any exploration of existential or spiritual themes. The urge towards the simplistic, the treacly or the mawkishly uplifting, without appropriate filtering or insight, usually overpowers even the best intentions. Rarely, a movie comes along that makes good on its potential and then, more than likely, it gets completely ignored. Such a fate befell Fearless, Peter Weir’s plane crash survivor-angst film, despite roundly positive critical notices. For some reason audiences were willing to see a rubgy team turn cannibal in Alive, but this was a turn-off? Yet invariably anyone who has seen Fearless speaks of it in glowing terms, and rightly so.

Weir’s pictures are often thematically rich, more anchored by narrative than those of, say, Terrence Malick but similarly preoccupied with big ideas and their expression. He has a rare grasp of poetry, symbolism and the mythic. Weir also displays an acute grasp of the subjective mind-set, and possesses …

He mobilised the English language and sent it into battle.

Darkest Hour (2017)
(SPOILERS) Watching Joe Wright’s return to the rarefied plane of prestige – and heritage to boot – filmmaking following the execrable folly of the panned Pan, I was struck by the difference an engaged director, one who cares about his characters, makes to material. Only last week, Ridley Scott’s serviceable All the Money in the World made for a pointed illustration of strong material in the hands of someone with no such investment, unless they’re androids. Wright’s dedication to a relatable Winston Churchill ensures that, for the first hour-plus, Darkest Hour is a first-rate affair, a piece of myth-making that barely puts a foot wrong. It has that much in common with Wright’s earlier Word War II tale, Atonement. But then, like Atonement, it comes unstuck.

Dirty is exactly why you're here.

Sicario 2: Soldado aka Sicario: Day of the Soldado (2018)
(SPOILERS) I wasn't among the multitude greeting the first Sicario with rapturous applause. It felt like a classic case of average material significantly lifted by the diligence of its director (and cinematographer and composer), but ultimately not all that. Any illusions that this gritty, violent, tale of cynicism and corruption – all generally signifiers of "realism" – in waging the War on Drugs had a degree of credibility well and truly went out the window when we learned that Benicio del Toro's character Alejandro Gillick wasn't just an unstoppable kickass ninja hitman; he was a grieving ex-lawyer turned unstoppable kickass ninja hitman. Sicario 2: Soldadograzes on further difficult-to-digest conceits, so in that respect is consistent, and – ironically – in some respects fares better than its predecessor through being more thoroughly genre-soaked and so avoiding the false doctrine of "revealing" …