Skip to main content

This is an imitation. Danger of instant death.

The Avengers
3.16: The Medicine Men

First broadcast on the same date as that more universally known medicine man (courtesy Joseph Lister), Doctor Who, this Mac Hulke script’s serious tone isn’t entirely justified by an unconvincing fiendish plot, as Steed and Cathy investigate imitation products (patent soap, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics) produced by Willis-Sopwith Pharmaceutical Company. It’s one of those episodes where the jigsaw piece elements don’t really fit with each other, and lacks sufficient sparkle to make you want to tie them all together.


The opening takes place in a Turkish bath, but its only connection to anything is that the victims go there to wash the paint off after a hard day modelling for artist Frank Leeson (Harold Innocent, who played Gilbert M in The Happiness Patrol). Leeson’s a particularly nasty piece of work, who for a while looks like he may be the mastermind (as with The Gilded Cage, this one keeps the fineries of the plot, or more precisely the perpetrators, elusive; it’s an incremental process, with us first thinking it’s Frank, then Miss Dowell, and finally Geoffrey Willis).


The criminals’ rather hopeful scheme is to ferment anti-British sentiment in the country of Karim, where fake products sell like hot cakes of soap, by flooding the market with poisoned stomach powders such that “a few thousand Karims bite the dust and those that are left pull down the Union Jack”. When Fay (Monica Stevenson) protests that children could die, Leeson comments “I shouldn’t worry. In a dump like that, they’re only going to be hungry for the rest of their lives”. What a fiend!


Steed: What a very, very pleasing design. Let’s hope you can keep it a secret.

Everyone here is on top form, with Peter Barkworth (The Ice Warriors) leading the way as over-diligent managing director Geoffrey Willis. Initially, there’s a hint of suspicion going his way when he brushes off Steed’s request for a specimen of the duplicated cardboard also used in the fakes. But we’re continually lobbed not-quite red herrings after this, including Miss Dowell (Joy Wood) listening in on conversations and then requesting her first sick days since joining the firm in order to go and give instructions to Leeson. Also appearing are Newton Blick as old duffer Willis senior, having an affair with Fay and generally showing eyes for all the ladies, and John Crocker (Propellant 23) be-tached as Taylor, looking a touch like David Thewlis.


Steed: Have you come to roll in the oils too, Mrs Dowell?

Of the regulars, this is most noticeable for a horrifically unconvincing attempt by Steed to pass himself as Icelandic (still called Steed) courtesy of a big fur coat, hat and cigar, and an interest in buying art from Leeson, promising “to make you the toast of Reykjavik”. Steed also gets Cathy to pose as a model, pretty risky since Miss Dowell doesn’t take long to show up and reveal all (Cathy has already masqueraded as an efficiency expert at the firm).


Regarding all things bodily, Steed cops a rather inelegant eyeful of the Mrs Gale behind early on, and she subsequently has a shower scene (there’s also a suggestive shot of a model fastening her bra at the start of the first Leeson scene).


Geoffrey Willis: I couldn’t find one with a silencer.
Steed: What a pity. I could (he shoots Willis).

The impersonation of a model is a fairly desperate ploy at that point anyway, since Mrs Gale is sporting an eyepatch, although perhaps he’s counting on Leeson’s leering peccadillos. A nice twist after the villain twist, with Steed having changed the Arabic on Lilt (pre-Lilt the drink) to read “This is an imitation. Danger of instant death”, and some amusing interplay regarding Steed’s golfing deficiencies; Cathy’s handicap is 12 to Steed’s 24, so he thinks he might be in with a chance with her being temporarily monocular. A fine cast, but The Medicine Men lacks that spoonful of sugar.








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

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

You know, I think you may have the delusion you’re still a police officer.

Heaven’s Prisoners (1996) (SPOILERS) At the time, it seemed Alec Baldwin was struggling desperately to find suitable star vehicles, and the public were having none of it. Such that, come 1997, he was playing second fiddle to Anthony Hopkins and Bruce Willis, and in no time at all had segued to the beefy supporting player we now know so well from numerous indistinguishable roles. That, and inane SNL appearances. But there was a window, post- being replaced by Harrison Ford as Jack Ryan, when he still had sufficient cachet to secure a series of bids for bona fide leading man status. Heaven’s Prisoners is the final such and probably the most interesting, even if it’s somewhat hobbled by having too much, rather than too little, story.

They wanted me back for a reason. I need to find out why.

Zack Snyder’s Justice League (2021) (SPOILERS) I wasn’t completely down on Joss Whedon’s Justice League (I had to check to remind myself Snyder retained the director credit), which may be partly why I’m not completely high on Zack Snyder’s. This gargantuan four-hour re-envisioning of Snyder’s original vision is aesthetically of a piece, which means its mercifully absent the jarring clash of Whedon’s sensibility with the Snyderverse’s grimdark. But it also means it doubles down on much that makes Snyder such an acquired taste, particularly when he has story input. The positive here is that Zack Snyder’s Justice League has the luxury of telling the undiluted, uncondensed story Snyder wanted to tell. The negative here is also that Zack Snyder’s Justice League has the luxury of telling the undiluted, uncondensed story Snyder wanted to tell (with some extra sprinkles on top). This is not a Watchmen , where the unexpurgated version was for the most part a feast.

Oh, I love funny exiting lines.

Alfred Hitchcock  Ranked: 26-1 The master's top tier ranked from worst to best. You can find 52-27 here .

Don’t be ridiculous. Nobody loves a tax inspector. They’re beyond the pale!

Too Many Crooks (1959) (SPOILERS) The sixth of seven collaborations between producer-director Mario Zampi and writer Michael Pertwee, Too Many Crooks scores with a premise later utilised to big box-office effect in Ruthless People (1986). A gang of inept thieves kidnap the wife of absolute cad and bounder Billy Gordon (Terry-Thomas). Unfortunately for them, Gordon, being an absolute cad and bounder, sees it as a golden opportunity, rather enjoying his extra-marital carry ons and keeping all his cash from her, so he refuses to pay up. At which point Lucy Gordon (Brenda De Banzie) takes charge of the criminal crew and turns the tables.

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.

Well, it must be terribly secret, because I wasn't even aware I was a member.

The Brotherhood of the Bell (1970) (SPOILERS) No, not Joseph P Farrell’s book about the Nazi secret weapons project, but rather a first-rate TV movie in the secret-society ilk of later flicks The Skulls and The Star Chamber . Only less flashy and more cogent. Glenn Ford’s professor discovers the club he joined 22 years earlier is altogether more hardcore than he could have ever imagined – not some student lark – when they call on the services he pledged. David Karp’s adaptation of his novel, The Brotherhood of the Bell is so smart in its twists and turns of plausible deniability, you’d almost believe he had insider knowledge.

What do you want me to do? Call America and tell them I changed my mind?

  Falcon and the Winter Soldier (2021) (SPOILERS) The demolition – at very least as a ratings/box office powerhouse – of the superhero genre now appears to be taking effect. If so, Martin Scorsese will at least be pleased. The studios that count – Disney and Warner Bros – are all aboard the woke train, such that past yardsticks like focus groups are spurned in favour of the forward momentum of agendas from above (so falling in step with the broader media initiative). The most obvious, some might say banal, evidence of this is the repurposing of established characters in race or gender terms.

Now all we’ve got to do is die.

Without Remorse (2021) (SPOILERS) Without Remorse is an apt description of the unapologetic manner in which Amazon/Paramount have perpetrated this crime upon any audiences foolish enough to think there was any juice left in the Tom Clancy engine. There certainly shouldn’t have been, not after every attempt was made to run it dry in The Sum of All Our Fears and then the stupidly titled Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit . A solo movie of sometime Ryan chum John Clark’s exploits has been mooted awhile now, and two more inimitable incarnations were previously encountered in the forms of Willem Dafoe and Liev Schreiber. Like Chris Pine in Shadow Recruit , however, diminishing returns find Michael B Jordan receiving the short straw and lead one to the conclusion that, if Jordan is indeed a “star”, he’s having a hell of a job proving it.

I don't think this is the lightning you're looking for.

Meet Joe Black (1998) (SPOILERS) A much-maligned Brad Pitt fest, commonly accused of being interminable, ponderous, self-important and ridiculous. All of those charges may be valid, to a greater or lesser extent, but Meet Joe Black also manages to attain a certain splendour, in spite of its more wayward impulses. While it’s suggestive of a filmmaker – Martin Brest – believing his own hype after the awards success of (the middling) Scent of a Woman , this is a case where all that sumptuous better-half styling and fantasy lifestyle does succeed in achieving a degree of resonance. An undeniably indulgent movie, it’s one I’ve always had a soft spot for.

I’m sorry to be the one to tell you this, but you got yourself killed.

Bloodshot (2020) (SPOILERS) If the trailer for Bloodshot gave the impression it had some meagre potential, that’s probably because it revealed the entire plot of a movie clearly intended to unveil itself in measured and judicious fashion. It isn’t far from the halfway mark that the truth about the situation Vin Diesel’s Ray Garrison faces is revealed, which is about forty-one minutes later than in the trailer. More frustratingly, while themes of perception of reality, memory and identity are much-ploughed cinematic furrows, they’re evergreens if dealt with smartly. Bloodshot quickly squanders them. But then, this is, after all, a Vin Diesel vehicle.