Skip to main content

I never trust anyone I do business with, and as you can see I am right.

The Avengers
2.17: Immortal Clay

A low-key, quasi-domestic setting for this one, in which Steed and Cathy investigate murder at a pottery. Immortal Clay’s heightened element involves the invention of an unbreakable ceramic, worth a fortune to future manufacturers of space shuttle thermal protection systems (or, as suggested here, high speed rockets and aircraft).


Written and directed by established contributors to the series James Mitchell and Richmond Harding respectively, the episode isn’t so big on intrigue, but quite well represented in supporting characters. Paul “Jim Hacker” Eddington is the most recognisable cast member, as pottery manager Richard Marling, but the role is less dominant than that of his inventor brother Allen (Gary Watson, Arthur Terrall in The Evil of the Daleks).


Much of the plot is preoccupied with Miller (James Bree, veteran of The War Games, Full Circle and The Trial of a Time Lord) as the little man obsessed with “glamour girl” Mara (Didi Sullivan), to the extent that he’s willing to sell the ceramic formula to De Groot (Steve Plytas, also featuring in The Tenth Planet, and as Kurt in Fawlty TowersGourmet Night) to secure her engagement. Miller is a tragic, squirming figure, without a hope of winning Mara (who, pecuniary-minded, has eyes for Allen) but willing to destroy everything for the sake of his obsession. It’s a strong performance from Bree, and a convincingly excruciating character.


Steed: There are a few people who specialise in stealing other people’s ideas and selling them to whoever will pay.

When it comes down to it, though, we discover the murder (well, the first murder) was more a case of manslaughter (“Sympathetic jury, probably” suggests Steed of the likely verdict), Allen protecting Anne (Rowena Gregory), Richard’s estranged wife, from an over-amorous suitor. Nothing about the proceedings really grabs, but the soapy dramatics are at least different from the usual menu. Plytas makes a decent villain, with a voluminous henchman (Blomberg, played by Frank Olegario), whom Steed guesses is 16 stone, then later, like the one that got away, 17.


Steed: It’s bad to feel sorry for people in our business. It slows us up.
Cathy: I’m not in your business. You might as well remember that.

The regulars aren’t too prominently placed, aside from the guns-and-fisticuffs climax. As with the preceding episode, we’re reminded of Cathy’s newness to Steed’s world. One-Ten is back, in his final appearance, meeting Steed in a steam room and bemoaning Cathy’s involvement (“I don’t approve of amateurs”). She “knows all about ceramics. She’s writing a book on it”. It’s difficult to believe the breadth of Mrs Gale’s knowledge and acumen hasn’t become a running joke by this point. Amusingly, Steed, as representative of the Ceramics Research Council, has 24 hours to become an expert in the field (“It usually takes ten years”), and is surprised and delighted when he is complimented (“You really do know your ceramics”).


There’s a nominal, underlying commentary on the changing world and the difficulty of small businesses to survive in it (“People don’t want the things he makes any more” it is said of Richard); drab humdrum characters dream of winning the pools, making it big as an actress or hitting a windfall with a reality-changing invention. This being The Avengers, rather than Coronation Street, the last one can actually happen.








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…

Move away from the jams.

Aladdin (2019)
(SPOILERS) I was never overly enamoured by the early ‘90s renaissance of Disney animation, so the raves over Beauty and the Beast and Aladdin left me fairly unphased. On the plus side, that means I came to this live action version fairly fresh (prince); not quite a whole new world but sufficiently unversed in the legend to appreciate it as its own thing. And for the most part, Aladdin can be considered a moderate success. There may not be a whole lot of competition for that crown (I’d give the prize to Pete’s Dragon, except that it was always part-live action), but this one sits fairly comfortably in the lead.

You're reading a comic book? What are you, retarded?

Watchmen: The Ultimate Cut (2009)
(SPOILERS) It’s a decade since the holy grail of comic books finally fought through decades of development hell to land on the big screen, via Zach Snyder’s faithful but not faithful enough for the devoted adaptation. Many then held the director’s skills with a much more open mind than they do now – following the ravages he has inflicted on the DCEU – coming as he was off the back of the well-received 300. Many subsequently held that his Watchmen, while visually impressive, had entirely missed the point (not least in some of its stylistic and aesthetic choices). I wouldn’t go that far – indeed, for a director whose bombastic approach is often only a few notches down from Michael Bay (who was, alarmingly, also considered to direct at one point), there are sequences in Watchmen that show tremendous sensitivity – but it’s certainly the case that, even or especially in its Ultimate Cut form and for all the furore the change to the end of the story provoked,…

Why would I turn into a filing cabinet?

Captain Marvel (2019)
(SPOILERS) All superhero movies are formulaic to a greater or lesser degree. Mostly greater. The key to an actually great one – or just a pretty good one – is making that a virtue, rather than something you’re conscious of limiting the whole exercise. The irony of the last two stand-alone MCU pictures is that, while attempting to bring somewhat down-the-line progressive cachet to the series, they’ve delivered rather pedestrian results. Of course, that didn’t dim Black Panther’s cultural cachet (and what do I know, swathes of people also profess to loving it), and Captain Marvel has hit half a billion in its first few days – it seems that, unless you’re poor unloved Ant-Man, an easy $1bn is the new $700m for the MCU – but neither’s protagonist really made that all-important iconic impact.

I’d kill you too, Keanu. I’d kill you just for fun, even if I didn’t have to.

Always Be My Maybe (2019)
(SPOILERS) The pun-tastic title of this Netflix romcom is a fair indication of its affably undemanding attributes. An unapologetic riff on When Harry Met Sally, wherein childhood friends rather than college attendees finally agree the best thing to be is together, it’s resolutely determined to cover no new ground, all the way through to its positive compromise finale. That’s never a barrier to a good romcom, though – at their best, their charm is down to ploughing familiar furrows. Always Be My Maybe’s problem is that, decent comedy performers though the two leads may be – and co-writers with Michael Golamco – you don’t really care whether they get together or not. Which isn’t like When Harry Met Sally at all.

Bleach smells like bleach.

Million Dollar Baby (2004)
(SPOILERS) I’d like to be able to say it was beyond me how Clint’s misery-porn fest hoodwinked critics and the Academy alike, leading to his second Best Picture and Director double Oscar win. Such feting would naturally lead you to assume Million Dollar Baby was in the same league as Unforgiven, when it really has more in common with The Mule, only the latter is likeably lightweight and nonchalant in its aspirations. This picture has buckled beneath the burden of self-appointed weighty themes and profound musings, which only serve to highlight how crass and manipulative it is.

What you do is very baller. You're very anarchist.

Lady Bird (2017)
(SPOILERS) You can see the Noah Baumbach influence on Lady Bird, Greta Gerwig’s directorial debut, with whom she collaborated on Frances Ha; an intimate, lo-fi, post-Woody Allen (as in, post-feted, respected Woody Allen) dramedy canvas that has traditionally been the New Yorker’s milieu. But as an adopted, spiritual New Yorker, I suspect Gerwig honourably qualifies, even as Lady Bird is a love letter/ nostalgia trip to her home city of Sacramento.

It could have been an accident. He decided to sip a surreptitious sup and slipped. Splash!

4.10 A Surfeit of H20
A great episode title (definitely one of the series’ top ten) with a storyline boasting all the necessary ingredients (strange deaths in a small village, eccentric supporting characters, Emma even utters the immortal “You diabolical mastermind, you!”), yet A Surfeit of H20 is unable to quite pull itself above the run of the mill.

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…

I should have mailed it to the Marx Brothers.

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989)
When your hero(es) ride off into the sunset at the end of a film, it’s usually a pretty clear indication that a line is being drawn under their adventures. Sure, rumours surfaced during the ‘90s of various prospective screenplays for a fourth outing for the whip-cracking archeologist. But I’m dubious anyone really expected it to happen. There seemed to be a natural finality to Last Crusade that made the announcement of his 2007 return nostalgically welcome but otherwise unwarranted. That it turned out so tepid merely seemed like confirmation of what we already knew; Indy’s time was past.