Skip to main content

The noblest parrot of them all. A master of rhetoric. Such a garrulous tongue. Such verbiage.

The Avengers
5.3: The Bird Who Knew Too Much

A step up from the first two below-par episodes, there nevertheless remains a pervading sense that Season Five isn't yet firing on all cylinders. The plotting isn't quite smart enough, even at its most playful, and the eccentricity is all a bit learnt. But The Bird Who Knew Too Much does at least move along at a pace, and features a couple of – well, one in particular – truly nasty psychopathic hitmen, which makes for a jarring but effective contrast when one of the characters is a bird enthusiast named Twitter.


Mrs PeelWell, you can't interrogate a parrot.

It seems to take an inordinately long time for Steed and Emma to twig that Captain Crusoe, who is passing secrets from military bases, is in fact a parrot (or a macaw, to be precise) and even longer to confirm in unison "The parrot's taking the information out!" (pigeons take pictures, which are described to the parrot, which just seems not very useful at all, but there you go). 


Yet despite the arch trappings, killers Verret (Michael Coles, Ganatus in Dr Who and the Daleks) and Robin (Clive Colin Bowler) imbue the proceedings with a particularly sadistic streak. Much of that is down to Bowler's performance, offering a portrait of the psychopathy of unbridled youth, as if anticipating the hippy dream gone awry. 


At various points, he clobbers Steed and chloroforms Emma, before rigging a gun to go off at her when the next person enters the room (fortunately, Steed isn't using doors this episode"Lucky for you I’m a devious fellow"). Emma eventually makes much-deserved short work of him, throwing him into a swimming pool and giving him the bends, or strangles. Verret is the model of restraint in comparison, nearly doing for Steed with an exploding umbrella.


SteedFrank Elrick. He was engaged on counter-counter counterespionage.
Mrs PeelWell, somebody countered his counter. Where was this, er, found?
SteedIn a contractor's yard, and just in time. In another hour or so… he would have been the cornerstone of a new supermarket. Poor old Frank. He was a pretty solid sort of type.
Mrs PeelHe still is.

There are also some creative deaths in Brian Clemens' teleplay, (Roy Rossotti directed, his only such credit aside from acting as second unit director on Doctor Zhivago), including Danvers (Peter Brace) being shot in the chest and spilling seed like Worzel Gummidge losing his stuffing, and Frank Elrick (Gerry Crampton) discovered preserved in cement.


The mastermind behind all this is the not-so-convincingly-misdirected Cunliffe (Anthony Valentine, of ColditzCallan and the lead in Raffles), while his innocent associate Edgar Twitter (John Wood), the "organiser of this feathered array" is boshed three times by Steed and Emma for his troubles. 


Twitter, despite the name, is decidedly not on the eccentric side, but it's worth noting that Wood, who's probably most recognisable as Falken in WarGames (and played Steed's tailor in the ill-fated 1998 The Avengers movie), bears a marked resemblance to Benedict Cumberbatch in both appearance and poise. Wood's good, making an unremarkable character stand out. 


Professor JordanThe noblest parrot of them all. A master of rhetoric. Such a garrulous tongue. Such verbiage.

Ron Moody is less memorable as Captain Crusoe's owner Jordan than he was as Hopkirk in the previous season's finale. Still, he gets to enthuse to Emma about his bird, a "parrot paragon" who can recite Hamlet's soliloquy and Lincoln's address, while showing her his training methods ("They think I am one of them"). The Crusoe's most memorable line comes courtesy of Cunliffe, though – "I demand political asylum" – until Emma shuts him up.


SteedHe employs models. Long-legged pulchritude with whatever face and posture they are wearing this year.

The episode also boasts a memorable interlude at the studio of Kenneth "Hopkirk" (Packard) Cope's fashion photographer Tom Savage which, like The Murder Market, finds debonair, dashing throwback Steed offering groovy inspiration to the kidz (he's been mistaken for a model, a squat, dark-suited number who arrives just as he is leaving). 


Also around for this sequence is Samantha Slade (Ilona Rodgers, Carol in The Sensorites), who momentarily gives the impression she might be in on the plot before Clemens decided not to bother making her a viable red herring. Most remarkable however, is Emma draped in Union Jack, enough to make anyone affectedly patriotic.


SteedA tried and tested pick me up. I always recommend it to my friends.
Mrs PeelAfter they've been tied to a chair, facing a lethal booby trap?
SteedEspecially after they’ve been tied to a chair, facing a lethal booby trap.


Steed comes in through a window three times, the first after an arrow whizzes into a wall and informs Emma, "Mrs Peel We're Needed!", the second to rescue her from death by hand gun, and the third at the end; a second arrow embeds itself in the wall (Emma wishes he'd get used to using the phone), as he tells her "I want you to meet a bird", basted in red wine ("Haven't shot it yet"). We're firmly back in the mode of vehicular antics (as per Season Four) as Steed's vintage car is stuck in reverse, but that's nothing next to Emma's extraordinary thigh boots and suspenders ensemble. A passable episode, with her attire or lack thereof easily its most noteworthy element.























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

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…

Right! Let’s restore some bloody logic!

It Couldn't Happen Here (1987)
(SPOILERS) "I think our film is arguably better than Spiceworld" said Neil Tennant of his and Chris Lowe's much-maligned It Couldn't Happen Here, a quasi-musical, quasi-surrealist journey through the English landscape via the Pet shop Boys' "own" history as envisaged by co-writer-director Jack Bond. Of course, Spiceworld could boast the presence of the illustrious Richard E Grant, while It Couldn't Happen Here had to settle for Gareth Hunt. Is its reputation deserved? It's arguably not very successful at being a coherent film (even thematically), but I have to admit that I rather like it, ramshackle and studiously aloof though it is.

Never compare me to the mayor in Jaws! Never!

Ghostbusters (2016)
(SPOILERS) Paul Feig is a better director than Ivan Reitman, or at very least he’s savvy enough to gather technicians around him who make his films look good, but that hasn’t helped make his Ghostbusters remake (or reboot) a better movie than the original, and that’s even with the original not even being that great a movie in the first place.

Along which lines, I’d lay no claims to the 1984 movie being some kind of auteurist gem, but it does make some capital from the polarising forces of Aykroyd’s ultra-geekiness on the subject of spooks and Murray’s “I’m just here for the asides” irreverence. In contrast, Feig’s picture is all about treating the subject as he does any other genre, be it cop, or spy, or romcom. There’s no great affection, merely a reliably professional approach, one minded to ensure that a generous quota of gags (on-topic not required) can be pumped out via abundant improv sessions.

So there’s nothing terribly wrong with Ghostbusters, but aside from …

You kind of look like a slutty Ebola virus.

Crazy Rich Asians (2018)
(SPOILERS) The phenomenal success of Crazy Rich Asians – in the US at any rate, thus far – might lead one to think it's some kind of startling original, but the truth is, whatever its core demographic appeal, this adaptation of Kevin Kwan's novel taps into universally accepted romantic comedy DNA and readily recognisable tropes of family and class, regardless of cultural background. It emerges a smoothly professional product, ticking the expected boxes in those areas – the heroine's highs, lows, rejections, proposals, accompanied by whacky scene-stealing best friend – even if the writing is sometimes a little on the clunky side.

They make themselves now.

Screamers (1995)
(SPOILERS) Adapting Philip K Dick isn’t as easy as it may seem, but that doesn't stop eager screenwriters from attempting to hit that elusive jackpot. The recent Electric Dreams managed to exorcise most of the existential gymnastics and doubts that shine through in the best versions of his work, leaving material that felt sadly facile. Dan O'Bannon had adapted Second Variety more than a decade before it appeared as Screamers, a period during which he and Ronald Shusett also turned We Can Remember It For You Wholesale into Total Recall. So the problem with Screamers isn't really the (rewritten) screenplay, which is more faithful than most to its source material (setting aside). The problem with Screamers is largely that it's cheap as chips.

Well, we took a vote. Predator’s cooler, right?

The Predator (2018)
(SPOILERS) Is The Predator everything you’d want from a Shane Black movie featuring a Predator (or Yautja, or Hish-Qu-Ten, apparently)? Emphatically not. We've already had a Shane Black movie featuring a Predator – or the other way around, at least – and that was on another level. The problem – aside from the enforced reshoots, and the not-altogether-there casting, and the possibility that full-on action extravaganzas, while delivered competently, may not be his best foot forward – is that I don't think Black's really a science-fiction guy, game as he clearly was to take on the permanently beleaguered franchise. He makes The Predator very funny, quite goofy, very gory, often entertaining, but ultimately lacking a coherent sense of what it is, something you couldn't say of his three prior directorial efforts.

My pectorals may leave much to be desired, Mrs Peel, but I’m the most powerful man you’ve ever run into.

The Avengers 2.23: The Positive-Negative Man
If there was a lesson to be learned from Season Five, it was not to include "man" in your title, unless it involves his treasure. The See-Through Man may be the season's stinker, but The Positive-Negative Man isn't far behind, a bog-standard "guy with a magical science device uses it to kill" plot. A bit like The Cybernauts, but with Michael Latimer painted green and a conspicuous absence of a cool hat.

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

The possibilities are gigantic. In a very small way, of course.

The Avengers 5.24: Mission… Highly Improbable
With a title riffing on a then-riding-high US spy show, just as the previous season's The Girl from Auntie riffed on a then-riding-high US spy show, it's to their credit that neither have even the remotest connection to their "inspirations" besides the cheap gags (in this case, the episode was based on a teleplay submitted back in 1964). Mission… Highly Improbable follows in the increasing tradition (certainly with the advent of Season Five and colour) of SF plotlines, but is also, in its particular problem with shrinkage, informed by other recent adventurers into that area.

What a truly revolting sight.

Pirates of the Caribbean: Salazar’s Revenge (aka Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales) (2017)
(SPOILERS) The biggest mistake the Pirates of the Caribbean sequels have made is embracing continuity. It ought to have been just Jack Sparrow with an entirely new cast of characters each time (well, maybe keep Kevin McNally). Even On Stranger Tides had Geoffrey Rush obligatorily returning as Barbossa. Although, that picture’s biggest problem was its director; Pirates of the Caribbean: Salazar’s Revenge has a pair of solid helmers in Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg, which is a relief at least. But alas, the continuity is back with a vengeance. And then some. Why, there’s even an origin-of-Jack Sparrow vignette, to supply us with prerequisite, unwanted and distracting uncanny valley (or uncanny Johnny) de-aging. The movie as a whole is an agreeable time passer, by no means the dodo its critical keelhauling would suggest, albeit it isn’t even pretending to try hard to come up with …