Skip to main content

So Keels rush in where Steeds and angels fear to tread?

The Avengers
1.15: The Frighteners

This is more like The Avengers most people know, with its larger-than-life (albeit with down-to-earth ambitions) criminal types and the bowler-hatted presence of one John Steed. More parlance, this time deriving from the title, as The Deacon’s criminal gang put the frighteners on the beau of rich businessman’s daughter.


There’s a twist of sorts, in that the boyfriend (Philip Gilbert as Jeremy de Willoughby) is an absolute stinker. Director Robert Fuerst would return to the series an other seven times, and direct The Abominable Dr Phibes; he would also, alas for him, be pressed into service on The New Avengers. Writer Berkely Mather was one of the (three) credited writers on Dr No. The frighteners (not the name of their outfit, but give it another few years and it might well be) are a less than delectable gang of ruffians, the sorts who wouldn’t look out of place in Hot Snow.


Willoughby Goddard is a masterfully unruffled and rotund villain, with a very witty tongue. When he visits his now-reluctant financier (a remarkably svelte looking Stratford Johns as daddy Sir Thomas Weller) he declines the instruction to get out immediately (“Old brandies like this should never be drunk in haste”). When he sends his crew to sort Sir Thomas out, he informs them “There’s no money in it, boys, but when you’re doing your income tax return you can put it down to business expenses, advertise it”.


This doesn’t stop The Deacon from turning stupid when Keel threatens him with syringe full of Witch Hazel masquerading as hydrochloric acid. Keel isn’t the kind of doctor who would set you at ease today. In the past two (surviving) episodes, he’s been puffing away liberally (even giving his surrogate platonic girlfriend one to calm her nerves), inflicting violence on sundry bad guys, and now he pretends he’s going to horribly disfigure someone.  He’s brimming with bedside manner.


So The Deacon may not really have much justification in being so dismissive of the stupidity of henchman Moxon (Philip Locke, who would co-star with Johns 20 years later in the tedious Davison Doctor Who, Four to Doomsday). Moxon’s a delightfully unrefined cocker-nee. Just out the nick, he doesn’t want to get on the wrong side of the law again or he’ll be “eating porridge till it’s coming out me flippin’ ear-holes”. Keel manages to convince him his neck is broken (“Don’t be stupid, Moxon” responds The Deacon), but it’s Steed’s interaction with Moxon that’s the real treat.


Macnee is every bit as smooth and unruffled here as we know him later, just showing off a little bit more of the hard man. Steed applies “a little gentle psychology” to get Moxon to talk (“Now, their commandment is, thou shalt not grass to the law”). This is where Moxon decides of Steed “He’s bonkers. Stone bonkers” as the debonair secret agent (“Do you get a pension in your job?”) gets a bit rough with the underworld lackey (“He was going to shiv me perishing ear off with that slasher, I tell you”). 


Steed carries that wonderfully jaunty, disarming manner wherever he goes. Asked “Can’t you read?” when he enters the dry-cleaning shop (a front for the gang) against the instruction of the “proprietor” Beppi (Neil Wilson, Sam Seeley from Spearhead from Space) and the closed sign, Steed replies “I suffer under the disability of a public school education”. He also gets to pose as a feckless chaperone for Dawn Beryl’s Marilyn Weller.


He effortlessly steals any scene he’s in from the chiselled Keel. In the case of the latter, Carol is sidelined but still pines for the dashing doctor (“I’m not Mrs Keel, I’m his nurse”). Keel being the lead, though, he still has to come up with the necessary winning moves.


There are a number of choice scenes here, then, and it’s tighter and pacier than the two previous Season Oners. The exposing of Jeremy’s dodginess via his “dear old mum” (an old dear known to Keel) is a satisfying if not at all baffling ruse (we don’t need the explanation that Keel knew about Jeremy’s birthmark from examining him). 




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 …

My name is Dr. King Schultz, this is my valet, Django, and these are our horses, Fritz, and Tony.

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.