Skip to main content

Not pussyfooting? I must have been misinformed.

The Avengers
2.26: Lobster Quadrille

Not so much a damp squib to go out on as a charred lobster. Quadrille is okay, but far from the best of season send-offs. It’s not such a spotlight episode for Cathy either, since she spends a good deal of time tied up, with much of the proceedings lent to Steed’s overt flirtation with Katie (Jennie Linden, Barbara in Dr. Who and the Daleks). It does, however, grant Mrs Gale a proper leaving scene, loaded with Bond references (or should that be innuendos?)


Although, in fairness, the climax revolves around the question of who died in a blaze, Cathy or Quentin Slim (Corin Redgrave), which probably had an added frisson for viewers, who all doubtless knew she was off to star in Goldfinger; maybe they really would kill off Cathy?


It’s interesting how horribly dark the ending actually is, irrespective of her survival. Captain Slim (Leslie Sands, solid on the measured, stoic delivery) has spent the duration expressly unable to quit grieving for his drowned son; when he finally discovers Quentin is alive (he has been smuggling drugs, using the family fishing business as a cover), it’s too late, as Quentin has been burnt to a crisp.


Slim: That’s a friend of mine with an insatiable appetite for lobsters. I have to keep half a dozen for him a week. He will eat them with soy sauce, though. Ruins the flavour.

Steed is posing as the man from the Ministry of Agriculture and Fishery in Brian Clemens’ pseudonymous teleplay (he’s credited as Richard Lucas), with a plot that includes an apparently tangential chess shop (game moves are used as a code in the smuggling operation, but quite why this requires Burt Kwouk’s owner’s involvement is unclear; still, the props department evidently had fun with the over-sized pieces).


Also featuring are Gary Watson (Terrall in The Evil of the Daleks) and Norman Scace (The Prisoner: Hammer into Anvil) as a pathologist who gave up medicine as “the patients think they know better than the doctors”.


Mason: One unexpected move from a partner can mean… checkmate, Mrs Gale.

The intrigue itself is fairly staid, however. Indeed, Steed chatting up Katie (at a - Grimsby? – restaurant bedecked in Alice in Wonderland cutouts) is by far the most engaging part (there’s a particularly notable overhead shot where it looks like he has her all to himself).


The coda finds Cathy off to the Bahamas on holiday, with Steed trying to persuade her to take another job, “Since you’re going to be out there anyway, pussyfooting along the sun-soaked shores…” At least Steed doesn’t also drop in a “There’ll be sand galore there”. Appropriately, as soon as Cathy’s out the door, he’s on the phone to his next associate with nary a pause for reflection or regret. Which is understandable, as that next associate will be-


Season Three Top 10

1. Dressed to Kill
2. The Wringer
3. Brief for Murder
4. Esprit De Corps
5. Build a Better Mousetrap
6. Death a la Carte
7. The Nutshell
8. The Charmers
9. Mandrake
10. The Secrets Broker










Agree? Disagree? Mildly or vehemently? Let me know in the comments below.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

They'll think I've lost control again and put it all down to evolution.

Time Bandits (1981) (SPOILERS) Terry Gilliam had co-directed previously, and his solo debut had visual flourish on its side, but it was with Time Bandits that Gilliam the auteur was born. The first part of his Trilogy of Imagination, it remains a dazzling work – as well as being one of his most successful – rich in theme and overflowing with ideas while resolutely aimed at a wide (family, if you like) audience. Indeed, most impressive about Time Bandits is that there’s no evidence of self-censoring here, of attempting to make it fit a certain formula, format or palatable template.

Oh, you got me right in the pantaloons, partner.

The Party (1968) (SPOILERS) Blake Edwards’ semi-improvisational reunion with Peter Sellers is now probably best known for – I was going to use an elephant-in-the-room gag, but at least one person already went there – Sellers’ “brown face”. And it isn’t a decision one can really defend, even by citing The Party ’s influence on Bollywood. Satyajit Ray had also reportedly been considering working with Sellers… and then he saw the film. One can only assume he’d missed similar performances in The Millionairess and The Road to Hong Kong ; in the latter case, entirely understandable, if not advisable. Nevertheless, for all the flagrant stereotyping, Sellers’ bungling Hrundi V Bakshi is a very likeable character, and indeed, it’s the piece’s good-natured, soft centre – his fledgling romance with Claudine Longet’s Michele – that sees The Party through in spite of its patchy, hit-and-miss quality.

I never strangled a chicken in my life!

Rope (1948) (SPOILERS) Rope doesn’t initially appear to have been one of the most venerated of Hitchcocks, but it has gone through something of a rehabilitation over the years, certainly since it came back into circulation during the 80s. I’ve always rated it highly; yes, the seams of it being, essentially, a formal experiment on the director’s part, are evident, but it’s also an expert piece of writing that uses our immediate knowledge of the crime to create tension throughout; what we/the killers know is juxtaposed with the polite dinner party they’ve thrown in order to wallow in their superiority.

You must have hopes, wishes, dreams.

Brazil (1985) (SPOILERS) Terry Gilliam didn’t consider Brazil the embodiment of a totalitarian nightmare it is often labelled as. His 1984½ (one of the film’s Fellini-riffing working titles) was “ the Nineteen Eighty-Four for 1984 ”, in contrast to Michael Anderson’s Nineteen Eighty-Four from 1948. This despite Gilliam famously boasting never to have read the Orwell’s novel: “ The thing that intrigues me about certain books is that you know them even though you’ve never read them. I guess the images are archetypal ”. Or as Pauline Kael observed, Brazil is to Nineteen Eighty-Four as “ if you’d just heard about it over the years and it had seeped into your visual imagination ”. Gilliam’s suffocating system isn’t unflinchingly cruel and malevolently intolerant of individuality; it is, in his vision of a nightmare “future”, one of evils spawned by the mechanisms of an out-of-control behemoth: a self-perpetuating bureaucracy. And yet, that is not really, despite how indulgently and glee

Miss Livingstone, I presume.

Stage Fright (1950) (SPOILERS) This one has traditionally taken a bit of a bruising, for committing a cardinal crime – lying to the audience. More specifically, lying via a flashback, through which it is implicitly assumed the truth is always relayed. As Richard Schickel commented, though, the egregiousness of the action depends largely on whether you see it as a flaw or a brilliant act of daring: an innovation. I don’t think it’s quite that – not in Stage Fright ’s case anyway; the plot is too ordinary – but I do think it’s a picture that rewards revisiting knowing the twist, since there’s much else to enjoy it for besides.

Never lose any sleep over accusations. Unless they can be proved, of course.

Strangers on a Train (1951) (SPOILERS) Watching a run of lesser Hitchcock films is apt to mislead one into thinking he was merely a highly competent, supremely professional stylist. It takes a picture where, to use a not inappropriate gourmand analogy, his juices were really flowing to remind oneself just how peerless he was when inspired. Strangers on a Train is one of his very, very best works, one he may have a few issues with but really deserves nary a word said against it, even in “compromised” form.

I'm an old ruin, but she certainly brings my pulse up a beat or two.

The Paradine Case (1947) (SPOILERS) Hitchcock wasn’t very positive about The Paradine Case , his second collaboration with Gregory Peck, but I think he’s a little harsh on a picture that, if it doesn’t quite come together dramatically, nevertheless maintains interest on the basis of its skewed take on the courtroom drama. Peck’s defence counsel falls for his client, Alida Valli’s accused (of murder), while wife Ann Todd wilts dependably and masochistically on the side-lines.

I don’t like fighting at all. I try not to do too much of it.

Cuba (1979) (SPOILERS) Cuba -based movies don’t have a great track record at the box office, unless Bad Boys II counts. I guess The Godfather Part II does qualify. Steven Soderbergh , who could later speak to box office bombs revolving around Castro’s revolution, called Richard Lester’s Cuba fascinating but flawed. Which is generous of him.

A herbal enema should fix you up.

Never Say Never Again (1983) (SPOILERS) There are plenty of sub-par Bond s in the official (Eon) franchise, several of them even weaker than this opportunistic remake of Thunderball , but they do still feel like Bond movies. Never Say Never Again , despite – or possibly because he’s part of it – featuring the much-vaunted, title-referencing return of the Sean Connery to the lead role, only ever feels like a cheap imitation. And yet, reputedly, it cost more than the same year’s Rog outing Octopussy .

You’re easily the best policeman in Moscow.

Gorky Park (1983) (SPOILERS) Michael Apted and workmanlike go hand in hand when it comes to thriller fare (his Bond outing barely registered a pulse). This adaptation of Martin Cruz Smith’s 1981 novel – by Dennis Potter, no less – is duly serviceable but resolutely unremarkable. William Hurt’s militsiya officer Renko investigates three faceless bodies found in the titular park. It was that grisly element that gave Gorky Park a certain cachet when I first saw it as an impressionable youngster. Which was actually not unfair, as it’s by far its most memorable aspect.