Skip to main content

Well, I've always had a hankering for the eighteenth century. Gadzooks and stap me vitals.

The Avengers
5.2: Escape in Time

I suppose one couldn’t expect The Avengers to deliver a genuine "Could-it-be-possible?" element to a time-travel plot, but Escape in Time doesn't offer even a modicum of suspense or intrigue regarding how the scheme is being achieved; as soon as one of the intended victims escapes "1680" and shows up at Steed's flat (not even ten minutes in), it's clear we'll have to look elsewhere for satisfying plot twists.


ThyssenI can send a man back, through the centuries, back to an era where before he never even existed.

Unfortunately, there aren't really any. The side streets contact routine is reasonably diverting, as Steed and then Emma must run the relay of go-betweens – inflatable animal sellers, barbers who slap a cross in duct tape on their cheeks, a servant of Ganesh – in order to meet up with Thyssen (Peter Bowles), who offers an escape from clients' current problems into the past; they may choose an earlier period to settle in, traveling back to a previous period in Thyssen's house's existence. Where, of course, an ancestor who looks remarkably like its current owner lives.


ThyssenThese strange clothes you wear. The devil’s work! Designed to daze and bewitch a man's senses. To inflame him to lust.
Mrs PeelYou should see me 400 years from now.

Bowles gives a strong performance, so there's that, as a stammering, insecure Thyssen and Thyssen posing as his full-blooded ancestors (most notably Matthew, the black sheep of the family, having a go at Mrs Peel, who is having none of it, for her provocative attire). As Shallow Like Us notes, the doppelgänger in different time periods is resonant of City of Death. And as per The Fear Merchants, both Avengers face the villain in turn, with Steed offering a particularly winning "I haven't been found out yet" in response to Thyssen's inquiry over why he's unaware of his criminal exploits. And musing "Well, I've always have had a hankering for the eighteenth century. Gadzooks and stap me vitals" when asked which period he would like to escape to. 


There are some nice ideas here, admittedly, and the corridor tunnel effect is suitably disorientating and psychedelic, complete with an amusingly showy slot machine handle for the "device". There are "period" photos and footage of previous travellers, suggesting 12 Monkeys or Nic Cage through the ages, and copious employment of Dutch angles to add to the overall effect. 


SteedWell.
VestaWell?
SteedMrs Peel in the hands of the enemy. My confederate lying unconscious. A loaded gun pointed at my neck... I'm trapped. (Steed turns swiftly, grabbing Vesta and her weapon). Shall we dance?


Individual moments stand out as distinctive: Steed's gun ending up stuck in a chandelier during a fight, Geoffrey Bayldon's Clapham – something of a waste of Bayldon, the role failing to take full advantage of his eccentricity – being able to get a fix on the country house thanks to Steed's blindfolded recall of fowl play ("Turkeys. There were turkeys about"– residents of the Yule Tide Turkey Farm), Mrs Peel's response to Thyssen's admiration for her beauty ("I appreciate your appreciation"). And Steed generally, entirely unruffled by his predicament.


SteedRemarkable, quite remarkable.
Mrs PeelOh, it's not that good.
SteedThat you can sew. Known you all this time, never knew that you could sew.
Mrs PeelWell, our relationship hasn't exactly been domestic, has it?


Of note with regard to our central duo, Steed and Emma indulge in some fake canoodling and later make a pointed innuendo about their relationship (which could be read either way). There are some nice exchanges as they run through a selection of photos of disappearing acts; Emma remarks on an evil face if ever she saw one and Steed responds "That’s Tubby Vincent – he's on our side!" He comments of another, "Now there's a face full of avarice. Reminds me of an auntie of mine". The "Mrs Peel – we’re needed" is an invitation to a grand hunt ball while the conclusion finds us back in the realm of Season 4's transport motif, Steed covered in soot when he tries to start an Edwardian taxi. There's also another fight in a quarry, this time for Emma's stunt double to fend off a fellow on a motorbike. An episode that's memorable for premise, but not so much for follow-through.






















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

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Poor Easy Breezy.

Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood (2019)
(SPOILERS) My initial reaction to Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood was mild disbelief that Tarantino managed to hoodwink studios into coming begging to make it, so wilfully perverse is it in disregarding any standard expectations of narrative or plotting. Then I remembered that studios, or studios that aren’t Disney, are desperate for product, and more especially, product that might guarantee them a hit. Quentin’s latest appears to be that, but whether it’s a sufficient one to justify the expense of his absurd vanity project remains to be seen.

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…

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…

You're waterboarding me.

The Upside (2017)
(SPOILERS) The list of US remakes of foreign-language films really ought to be considered a hiding to nothing, given the ratio of flops to unqualified successes. There’s always that chance, though, of a proven property (elsewhere) hitting the jackpot, and every exec hopes, in the case of French originals, for another The Birdcage, Three Men and a Baby, True Lies or Down and Out in Beverly Hills. Even a Nine Months, Sommersby or Unfaithful will do. Rather than EdTV. Or Sorcerer. Or Eye of the Beholder. Or Brick Mansions. Or Chloe. Or Intersection (Richard Gere is clearly a Francophile). Or Just Visiting. Or The Man with One Red Shoe. Or Mixed Nuts. Or Original Sin. Or Oscar. Or Point of No Return. Or Quick Change. Or Return to Paradise. Or Under Suspicion. Or Wicker Park. Or Father’s Day.

What about the meaningless line of indifference?

The Lion King (2019)
(SPOILERS) And so the Disney “live-action” remake train thunders on regardless (I wonder how long the live-action claim would last if there was a slim hope of a Best Animated Feature Oscar nod?) I know I keep repeating myself, but the early ‘90s Disney animation renaissance didn’t mean very much to me; I found their pictures during that period fine, but none of them blew me away as they did critics and audiences generally. As such, I have scant nostalgia to bring to bear on the prospect of a remake, which I’m sure can work both ways. Aladdin proved to be a lot of fun. Beauty and the Beast entirely tepid. The Lion King, well, it isn’t a badfilm, but it’s wearying its slavish respectfulness towards the original and so diligent in doing it justice, you’d think it was some kind of religious artefact. As a result, it is, ironically, for the most part, dramatically dead in the water.

Would you like Smiley Sauce with that?

American Beauty (1999)
(SPOILERS) As is often the case with the Best Picture Oscar, a backlash against a deemed undeserved reward has grown steadily in the years since American Beauty’s win. The film is now often identified as symptomatic of a strain of cinematic indulgence focussing on the affluent middle classes’ first world problems. Worse, it showcases a problematic protagonist with a Lolita-fixation towards his daughter’s best friend (imagine its chances of getting made, let alone getting near the podium in the #MeToo era). Some have even suggested it “mercifully” represents a world that no longer exists (as a pre-9/11 movie), as if such hyperbole has any bearing other than as gormless clickbait; you’d have to believe its world of carefully manicured caricatures existed in the first place to swallow such a notion. American Beauty must own up to some of these charges, but they don’t prevent it from retaining a flawed allure. It’s a satirical take on Americana that, if it pulls its p…

You know what I think? I think he just wants to see one cook up close.

The Green Mile (1999)
(SPOILERS) There’s something very satisfying about the unhurried confidence of the storytelling in Frank Darabont’s two prison-set Stephen King adaptations (I’m less beholden to supermarket sweep The Mist); it’s sure, measured and precise, certain that the journey you’re being take on justifies the (indulgent) time spent, without the need for flashy visuals or ornate twists (the twists there are feel entirely germane – with a notable exception – as if they could only be that way). But. The Green Mile has rightly come under scrutiny for its reliance on – or to be more precise, building its foundation on – the “Magical Negro” trope, served with a mild sprinkling of idiot savant (so in respect of the latter, a Best Supporting Actor nomination was virtually guaranteed). One might argue that Stephen King’s magical realist narrative flourishes well-worn narrative ploys and characterisations at every stage – such that John Coffey’s initials are announcement enough of his …

Kindly behove me no ill behoves!

The Bonfire of the Vanities (1990)
(SPOILERS) It’s often the case that industry-shaking flops aren’t nearly the travesties they appeared to be before the dust had settled, and so it is with The Bonfire of the Vanities. The adaptation of Tom Wolfe’s ultra-cynical bestseller is still the largely toothless, apologetically broad-brush comedy – I’d hesitate to call it a satire in its reconfigured form – it was when first savaged by critics nearly thirty years ago, but taken for what it is, that is, removed from the long shadow of Wolfe’s novel, it’s actually fairly serviceable star-stuffed affair that doesn’t seem so woefully different to any number of rather blunt-edged comedies of the era.

I don’t think you will see President Pierce again.

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (2018)
(SPOILERS) The Ballad of Buster Scruggs and other tall tales of the American frontier is the title of "the book" from which the Coen brothers' latest derives, and so announces itself as fiction up front as heavily as Fargo purported to be based on a true story. In the world of the portmanteau western – has there even been one before? – theme and content aren't really all that distinct from the more familiar horror collection, and as such, these six tales rely on sudden twists or reveals, most of them revolving around death. And inevitably with the anthology, some tall tales are stronger than other tall tales, the former dutifully taking up the slack.

Is CBS Corporate telling CBS News "Do not air this story"?

The Insider (1999)
(SPOILERS) The Insider was the 1999 Best Picture Oscar nominee that didn’t. Do any business, that is. Which is, more often than not, a major mark against it getting the big prize. It can happen (2009, and there was a string of them from 2014-2016), but aside from brief, self-congratulatory “we care about art first” vibes, it generally does nothing for the ceremony’s profile, or the confidence of the industry that is its bread and butter. The Insider lacked the easy accessibility of the other nominees – supernatural affairs, wafer-thin melodramas or middle-class suburbanite satires. It didn’t even brandish a truly headlines-shattering nail-biter in its conspiracy-related true story, as earlier contenders All the President’s Men and JFK could boast. But none of those black marks prevented The Insider from being the cream of the year’s crop.