Skip to main content

Don't worry about Steed, ducky. I'll see he doesn't suffer.

The Avengers
4.11: Two’s A Crowd

Oh, look. Another Steed doppelganger episode. Or is it? One might be similarly less than complimentary about Warren Mitchell dusting off his bungling Russian agent/ambassador routine (it obviously went down a storm with the producers; he previously played Keller in The Charmers and Brodny would return in The See-Through Man). Two’s A Crowd coasts on the charm of its leads and supporting performances (including Julian Glover), but it’s middling fare at best.


Steed: Oh, come now, Mrs Peel. If I had a twin, I’m sure mother would have mentioned it. If I had a double you’d know in thirty seconds. People may look alike, but they don’t behave alike.

The opening gag isn’t bad, of a plane dropping a very small bomb – in fact a message – which lands in Brodny’s soup (later there’s death by miniature submarine). But the plot itself fails to become intriguing, not in respect of the identity of Colonel Psev, or of Mrs Peel working in a model shop (on the off chance the Colonel’s proclivity for model planes is satisfied), not in the desire to infiltrate a conference to establish the Polaris submarine supply routes (yawn), and it only provokes very mildly the intrigue as to whether Gordon Webster is in fact Steed (at no point is it very difficult to see through Steed’s denials; this is the kind of plot line where the surprise would have been if Webster wasn’t Steed).


Steed: Do you always squeeze the toothpaste from the middle?
Major Plessy Carson: No, I never did until I got married.

Macnee doesn’t attempt to play Webster as any more than a more ethically-compromised, flashier version of Steed, prone to addressing people as “Ducky” (modelling himself on Leslie Phillips?), although his first appearance on the catwalk is amusing enough (sexist bottom-pinching fun!), and about the only noteworthy aspect is that Emma is required not to recognise that he’s the same person for the purposes of the plot, even, apparently, observing that Steed’s Adam’s apple is a bit bigger than Webster’s (why didn’t she test if the tache was real, I wonder?)


We’re also told that Steed’s vintage car is called Fido, and Brodny establishes that Steed wearing a carnation with a bit of foil wrapped around the bottom is a no-no (“You fool! Why don’t you put a stick of celery in there as well?” – possibly this gave John Nathan-Turner ideas).


Steed’s justification for deceiving Emma is “The fact that you were fooled convinced them”, which I guess is reasonable, but the entire scenario is tenuous at best, and not enough fun/drama is wrung from it to make it worthwhile. Likewise, in a story with better characters, the reveal of Psev might have carried more weight but instead merely elicits a shrug (Alicia Elena, Alec Mango and Wolfe Morris are all fine, but only Glover – Scaroth, etc – makes an impression, in his first of four Avengers appearances, and he’s given little of real wit or substance).


Steed: Hope the Colonel enjoys it.
Brodny: Oh, I’m sure he will.

Mitchell’s mugging is dependable (“You’re not smoking it” he replies when Emma notes his cigar is nice), but he’s a Harry Mudd-type comic relief for the series, never really endearing enough to be welcome. Steed’s fooling him into revealing Psev is at the Embassy is a neat touch, though, when he gives him a bottle of Crème de Violettes. The walk-off has Steed and Emma on gee-gees, and for once it looks like there’s no back projection involved.









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

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Maybe the dingo ate your baby.

Seinfeld 2.9: The Stranded The Premise George and Elaine are stranded at a party in Long Island, with a disgruntled hostess.

Nanobots aren’t just for Christmas.

No Time to Die (2021) (SPOILERS) You know a Bond movie is in trouble when it resorts to wholesale appropriation of lines and even the theme song from another in order to “boost” its emotional heft. That No Time to Die – which previewed its own title song a year and a half before its release to resoundingly underwhelmed response, Grammys aside – goes there is a damning indictment of its ability to eke out such audience investment in Daniel Craig’s final outing as James (less so as 007). As with Spectre , the first half of No Time to Die is, on the whole, more than decent Bond fare, before it once again gets bogged down in the quest for substance and depth from a character who, regardless of how dapper his gear is, resolutely resists such outfitting.

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.

Just a little whiplash is all.

Duel (1971) (SPOILERS) I don’t know if it’s just me, but Spielberg’s ’70s efforts seem, perversely, much more mature, or “adult” at any rate, than his subsequent phase – from the mid-’80s onwards – of straining tremulously for critical acceptance. Perhaps because there’s less thrall to sentiment on display, or indulgence in character exploration that veered into unswerving melodrama. Duel , famously made for TV but more than good enough to garner a European cinema release the following year after the raves came flooding in, is the starkest, most undiluted example of the director as a purveyor of pure technical expertise, honed as it is to essentials in terms of narrative and plotting. Consequently, that’s both Duel ’s strength and weakness.

These are not soda cans you asked me to get for you.

The Devil’s Own (1997) (SPOILERS) Naturally, a Hollywood movie taking the Troubles as a backdrop is sure to encounter difficulties. It’s the push-pull of wanting to make a big meaningful statement about something weighty, sobering and significant in the real world and bottling it when it comes to the messy intricacies of the same. So inevitably, the results invariably tend to the facile and trite. I’m entirely sure The Devil’s Own would have floundered even if Harrison Ford hadn’t come on board and demanded rewrites, but as it is, the finished movie packs a lot of talent to largely redundant end.

Ours is the richest banking house in Europe, and we’re still being kicked.

The House of Rothschild (1934) (SPOILERS) Fox’s Rothschild family propaganda pic does a pretty good job presenting the clan as poor, maligned, oppressed Jews who fought back in the only way available to them: making money, lots of lovely money! Indeed, it occurred to me watching The House of Rothschild , that for all its inclusion of a rotter of a Nazi stand-in (played by Boris Karloff), Hitler must have just loved the movie, as it’s essentially paying the family the compliment of being very very good at doing their very best to make money from everyone left, right and centre. It’s thus unsurprising to learn that a scene was used in the anti-Semitic (you might guess as much from the title) The Eternal Jew .

You are not brought upon this world to get it!

John Carpenter  Ranked For anyone’s formative film viewing experience during the 1980s, certain directors held undeniable, persuasive genre (SF/fantasy/horror genre) cachet. James Cameron. Ridley Scott ( when he was tackling genre). Joe Dante. David Cronenberg. John Carpenter. Thanks to Halloween , Carpenter’s name became synonymous with horror, but he made relatively few undiluted movies in that vein (the aforementioned, The Fog , Christine , Prince of Darkness (although it has an SF/fantasy streak), In the Mouth of Madness , The Ward ). Certainly, the pictures that cemented my appreciation for his work – Dark Star , The Thing – had only a foot or not at all in that mode.

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.

Sleep well, my friend, and forget us. Tomorrow you will wake up a new man.

The Prisoner 13. Do Not Forsake Me Oh My Darling We want information. In an effort to locate Professor Seltzman, a scientist who has perfected a means of transferring one person’s mind to another person’s body, Number Two has Number Six’s mind installed in the body of the Colonel (a loyal servant of the Powers that Be). Six was the last person to have contact with Seltzman and, if he is to stand any chance of being returned to his own body, he must find him (the Village possesses only the means to make the switch, they cannot reverse the process). Awaking in London, Six encounters old acquaintances including his fiancée and her father Sir Charles Portland (Six’s superior and shown in the teaser sequence fretting over how to find Seltzman). Six discovers Seltzman’s hideout by decoding a series of photographs, and sets off to find him in Austria. He achieves this, but both men are captured and returned to the Village. Restoring Six and the Colonel to their respective bodie

Isn’t sugar better than vinegar?

Femme Fatale (2002) (SPOILERS) Some have attempted to rescue Femme Fatale from the dumpster of critical rejection and audience indifference with the claim that it’s De Palma’s last great movie. It isn’t that by a long shot, but it might rank as the last truly unfettered display of his obsessions and sensibilities, complete with a ludicrous twist – so ludicrous, it’s either a stroke of genius or mile-long pile up.