Skip to main content

Have you ever heard of anyone shooting themselves with a silencer?

The Avengers
2.19: School for Traitors

Just when you thought all Venus Smith stories were faintly rubbish, a good one comes along, albeit our gorgeous chanteuse is just as daffy as ever, oblivious or indifferent to Steed dropping her in it at every turn. It might not be up there with there excellent fourth season A Sense of History, also set at a university, but School for Traitors makes engaging use of its fertile setting for spy yarns.


Steed: If he was murdered he wouldn’t have time to write to you, would he?
Venus: But he didn’t write to me.
Steed: Precisely.

Steed and Venus are investigating the “suicide” of Richard Davis, who was being blackmailed to hand over his research. Steed receives his summons from a one-off One-Seven (Frederic Farley) this time, who like his fellow One-hyphens disapproves of amateurs. In Venus’ case he’s probably onto something. He’s a humorous sort too, responding to Steed’s guise as a researcher into Hester Lynch Piozzi, Samuel Johnson’s friend, with “You know Steed, your cover usually has a large element of wishful thinking”.


Higby: He doesn’t know, does he? Just how much you like hurting people.

It’s peculiar, and perhaps unlikely, that the villains are merely a bunch of blackmailers rather than attempting to appeal to their victims’ political consciences. Claire Summer (Melissa Stribling), in collusion with pub landlord Higby (Reginald Marsh), coerces students and teachers into doing her bidding; they fall for her wiles, at which point she professes to be broke, persuading them to forge a cheque that puts them under threat of Higby calling the Old Bill unless they do as they’re told. Claire is repeatedly made out to be an incredibly black-hearted soul by Higby, and since she plans to burn Venus' face off with some spiked moisturiser, I’d say that’s a fair call.


East: I’ve been instructed to kill you.

This isn’t necessarily the most full-proof of schemes, though, since both Roberts (Richard Thorp) and East (John Standing) fail at their appointed tasks, and indeed go and tell Steed all about it. To that extent, it’s rather a refreshing episode from James Mitchell, in which characters act with common sense rather than out of plot expediency. Although, Steed rather drops poor Roberts in it, persuading him to profess to being of a similar political inclination to his blackmailers, who aren’t buying it for a moment. Of additional merit, while the reveal that Professor Aubyn (Frank Shelley) is the ringleader can be guessed, this is one occasion where it isn’t staring the viewer in the face.


Venus: Green, you’re from Derby aren’t you?
Green: Yes.
Venus: Well go on, buzz off and put that back on the shelf as you go.

Strong performances all round, in particular Standing as an irritatingly cocky shite who turns out to be alright really. He’s got his eye on the “delectable Venus Smith”, but everyone does on this occasion. Which is quite understandable, as she comes on in PJs and a mortarboard. We get three samplings of her crooning, though, so be warned. Venus lets Green (Terence Woodfield, Celation in The Daleks’ Master Plan and Maharis in The Ark) off for his attempted robbery on account of his being from Derby, which is quite amusing. Even Steed’s particularly flirtatious, dancing with her, calling her love and professing “Do you know, you’re looking particularly beautiful”.









Comments

Popular posts from this blog

We live in a twilight world.

Tenet (2020)
(SPOILERS) I’ve endured a fair few confusingly-executed action sequences in movies – more than enough, actually – but I don’t think I’ve previously had the odd experience of being on the edge of my seat during one while simultaneously failing to understand its objectives and how those objectives are being attempted. Which happened a few times during Tenet. If I stroll over to the Wiki page and read the plot synopsis, it is fairly explicable (fairly) but as a first dive into this Christopher Nolan film, I frequently found it, if not impenetrable, then most definitely opaque.

She was addicted to Tums for a while.

Marriage Story (2019)
(SPOILERS) I don’t tend to fall heavily for Noah Baumbach fare. He’s undoubtedly a distinctive voice – even if his collaborations with Wes Anderson are the least of that director’s efforts – but his devotion to an exclusive, rarefied New York bubble becomes ever more off-putting with each new project. And ever more identifiable as being a lesser chronicler of the city’s privileged quirks than his now disinherited forbear Woody Allen, who at his peak mastered a balancing act between the insightful, hilarious and self-effacing. Marriage Story finds Baumbach going yet again where Woody went before, this time brushing up against the director’s Ingmar Bergman fixation.

You can’t climb a ladder, no. But you can skip like a goat into a bar.

Juno and the Paycock (1930)
(SPOILERS) Hitchcock’s second sound feature. Such was the lustre of this technological advance that a wordy play was picked. By Sean O’Casey, upon whom Hitchcock based the prophet of doom at the end of The Birds. Juno and the Paycock, set in 1922 during the Irish Civil War, begins as a broad comedy of domestic manners, but by the end has descended into full-blown Greek (or Catholic) tragedy. As such, it’s an uneven but still watchable affair, even if Hitch does nothing to disguise its stage origins.

Anything can happen in Little Storping. Anything at all.

The Avengers 2.22: Murdersville
Brian Clemens' witty take on village life gone bad is one of the highlights of the fifth season. Inspired by Bad Day at Black Rock, one wonders how much Murdersville's premise of unsettling impulses lurking beneath an idyllic surface were set to influence both Straw Dogs and The Wicker Mana few years later (one could also suggest it premeditates the brand of backwoods horrors soon to be found in American cinema from the likes of Wes Craven and Tobe Hooper).

James Bond. You appear with the tedious inevitability of an unloved season.

Moonraker (1979)
Depending upon your disposition, and quite possibly age, Moonraker is either the Bond film that finally jumped the shark or the one that is most gloriously redolent of Roger Moore’s knowing take on the character. Many Bond aficionados will no doubt utter its name with thinly disguised contempt, just as they will extol with gravity how Timothy Dalton represented a masterful return to the core values of the series. If you regard For Your Eyes Only as a refreshing return to basics after the excesses of the previous two entries, and particularly the space opera grandstanding of this one, it’s probably fair to say you don’t much like Roger Moore’s take on Bond.

Twenty dwarves took turns doing handstands on the carpet.

Bugsy (1991)
(SPOILERS) Bugsy is very much a Warren Beatty vanity project (aren’t they all, even the ones that don’t seem that way on the surface?), to the extent of his playing a title character a decade and a half younger than him. As such, it makes sense that producer Warren’s choice of director wouldn’t be inclined to overshadow star Warren, but the effect is to end up with a movie that, for all its considerable merits (including a script from James Toback chock full of incident), never really feels quite focussed, that it’s destined to lead anywhere, even if we know where it’s going.

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

Django Unchained (2012)
(MINOR SPOILERS) Since the painful misstep of Grindhouse/Death Proof, Quentin Tarantino has regained the higher ground like never before. Pulp Fiction, his previous commercial and critical peak, has been at very least equalled by the back-to-back hits of Inglourious Basterds and Django Unchained. Having been underwhelmed by his post Pulp Fiction efforts (albeit, I admired his technical advances as a director in Kill Bill), I was pleasantly surprised by Inglourious Basterds. It was no work of genius (so not Pulp Fiction) by any means, but there was a gleeful irreverence in its treatment of history and even to the nominal heroic status of its titular protagonists. Tonally, it was a good fit for the director’s “cool” aesthetic. As a purveyor of postmodern pastiche, where the surface level is the subtext, in some ways he was operating at his zenith. Django Unchained is a retreat from that position, the director caught in the tug between his all-important aesthetic pr…

He tasks me. He tasks me, and I shall have him.

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
(1982)
(SPOILERS) I don’t love Star Trek, but I do love Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. That probably isn’t just me, but a common refrain of many a non-devotee of the series. Although, it used to apply to The Voyage Home (the funny one, with the whales, the Star Trek even the target audience for Three Men and a Baby could enjoy). Unfortunately, its high regard has also become the desperate, self-destructive, song-and-verse, be-all-and-end-all of the overlords of the franchise itself, in whichever iteration, it seems. This is understandable to an extent, as Khan is that rare movie sequel made to transcendent effect on almost every level, and one that stands the test of time every bit as well (better, even) as when it was first unveiled.

My dear, sweet brother Numsie!

The Golden Child (1986)
Post-Beverly Hills Cop, Eddie Murphy could have filmed himself washing the dishes and it would have been a huge hit. Which might not have been a bad idea, since he chose to make this misconceived stinker.

I mean, I am just a dumb bunny, but, we are good at multiplying.

Zootropolis (2016)
(SPOILERS) The key to Zootropolis’ creative success isn’t so much the conceit of its much-vaunted allegory regarding prejudice and equality, or – conversely – the fun to be had riffing on animal stereotypes (simultaneously clever and obvious), or even the appealing central duo voiced by Ginnifier Goodwin (as first rabbit cop Judy Hopps) and Jason Bateman (fox hustler Nick Wilde). Rather, it’s coming armed with that rarity for an animation; a well-sustained plot that doesn’t devolve into overblown set pieces or rest on the easy laurels of musical numbers and montages.