Skip to main content

Well, in this case, the cats are going to kill the curious.

The Avengers
5.8: The Hidden Tiger

Another of the season's apparent run-on ideas, as the teaser depicts a character's point-of-view evisceration by aggressor unknown. Could this be the Winged Avenger at work? No, it's, as the title suggests, an attacker of the feline persuasion. If that's deeply unconvincing once revealed, returning director Sidney Havers makes the attacks themselves highly memorable, as the victims attempt to fend off claws or escape them in slow motion.


Sir DavidWhoever did that, Mrs Peel, was wild, inhuman, bestial.

Havers previously made a mark with three Season Four episodes, adding bags of style to the really rather straight (or dry) science fiction trappings of The Cybernauts and Man-Eater of Surrey Green (he also provided a convincing deluge in A Surfeit of H2O). Here, he can't disguise the joins between Steed and Emma's doubles, but that's about the extent of the criticism.


And while Philip Levene's teleplay may not stretch to going the full-quirk, the contribution of Ronnie Barker in that regard, as Mr Cheshire, the CRO of P.U.R.R.R. (The Philanthropic Union for Rescue, Relief and Recuperation – of cats), entering the scene at the halfway mark (after much wandering about a studio wood, or hilltop, by our heroes), gives the story an undeniable boost.


NesbittThis isn't just a nose. This is a built-in cat detector. If there was one on the loose, I'd know it.

That first half is perfectly serviceable, though, in which a butler (John Moore) is murdered, soon followed by his employer, Sir David Harper (Jack Gwillim, Poseidon in the 1981 Clash of the Titans and Van Helsing in The Monster Squad). Steed and Emma set their sights on his experimental farm, and rope in Major Nesbitt (John Phillips), a local big game hunter, to aid their hunt for a savage cat ("Reckon I know about as much about the big cats as any man living. Ruthless natural born killers"). It isn’t long before Erskine (Stanley Meadows), a scientist who works on the farm, is attacked and killed ("Grade one pasteurised"), followed by Nesbitt, who is gotten good, despite ensconcing himself in a cage ("A mysterious mystery!")


NesbittUnusual, old man, woman on a big game hunt.
SteedUnusual woman. Ready, Mrs Peel?

P.U.R.R.R. inhabit Furry Lodge, Sussex, which conjures slightly eyebrow-raising images. The main drive displays a series of warnings to undesirable canines ("NO DOGS", "DOGS STRICTLY PROHIBITED", "DOGS ABSOLUTELY PROHIBITED"), while Edwin Cheshire treats his feline fellows with the full dignity of human friends, including funereal honours ("Prince Courtney of Chippenham, Champion of Champions. Is there a cat lover anywhere who will not mourn this pussy? Farewell. Farewell. Farewell. Faithful, fair and fulsome feline friend"). The only surprise would have been if Ronnie's barking ailurophile had turned out to be the criminal mastermind, and although there's a vague intimation of mad ideas ("It was said that one day, cats would inherit the Earth. And one day, Mr Steed, they shall. One day"), they're just an aside. 


Instead, as is commonly the case, it's one of his juniors, operating under his oblivious nose. Although, it's questionable how he could ignore Angora (Gabrielle Drake, Nick’s sister and Gay Ellis in UFO., as well as featuring in The New AvengersDead Man are Dangerous and the, ahem, classic Au Pair Girls; she also reunited with Barker for a Two Ronnies). Angora sports suitably feline makeup and Drake keeps her claws out throughout, so it's highly appropriate she should get her comeuppance in a catfight with Emma (during which, for a change, it's Steed who's all tied up).


DawsonTo beam these waves into the brain of a cat, you'd find yourself with a tiger in your lap.

Angora is aided and abetted by Dr Manx (Lyndon Brook, who would also resurface in The New Avengers, in House of Cards). They may have fantastic curtains in their office, but their fiendish plan bears up to no scrutiny at all; they will use electronic circuits transmitting brainwaves to control moggies. Dawson (Frederic Treves, Lieutenant Brotadac in Meglos) explains the process to Steed, the object being to kill cat owners throughout the country: "Inside every cat, there's a hidden tiger, and I can release it". More precisely:

ManxOur membership runs into millions. Few will survive, but for those who do, there'll be wealth, unlimited wealth. Banks, safe deposits, diamond vaults. And all by the mere flick of a switch... Easy, isn't it?


Yes… Perhaps that’s the secret plan for the millions of currently chipped pets throughout the country… Manx is so out of it that he overreacts losing control of his van when Emma leaves her placid and de-chipped moggy (provided by P.U.R.R.R. as a replacement for her dearly departed Little John) on board.


Mrs PeelSo that's our Mr P.U.R.R.R.
SteedA feline paradise run by a man named Cheshire. You read on, that'll make you bristle. You beautiful bronze tabby.
Mrs PeelPrrrrrr.

The interaction and general playfulness of Steed and Emma in Hidden Tiger is one of its high points, with all manner of suggestiveness, including this particularly Innuendo-laced exchange:

CheshireNow, Mr Steed, the name of your beloved pussy?
Steed: (smiling broadly) Oh, er, Emma. Oh, a cuddly bronze tabby.
CheshireAnd what a joy it must be when she's curled up in your lap.
SteedOh, well, I've never thought of it that way.


This is later followed up when Emma visits P.U.R.R.R. in search of her missing moggy, the aforementioned Little John. At first, the patented Identicat system is a miss ("Little John's nose is much more…. aristocratic") but Cheshire soon finds a match. Similarly to Steed, domestic details are dropped concerning her special feline:

CheshireBut tell me, does your Little John have any other peculiarities?
Mrs PeelWell, he's very bad tempered first thing in the morning. Until he's had his first glass of champagne.
CheshireYes.


Other incidental pleasures include Steed attempting to track down Sam Jones, last surviving member of the P.U.R.R.R. governing committee, via namesakes in the phonebook ("Eighteen months with remission? I am sorry, madam"). There are also numerous feline plays on words ("Mrs Peel, I’ll call you back. The cat's out of the bag", "Well, in this case, the cats are trying to kill the curious", "Mrs Peel! Pussies galore!") and for once, just once, Steed turns down the offer of a drink ("Let's see. We have homogenised, pasteurised, full cream, dairy special. Or perhaps you'd prefer a short? I’ve got some condensed here somewhere").

 

While it may seem churlish to highlight flaws in a masterplan as creative as this, it's not-a-little delusional of Angora to assert there's no evidence of P.U.R.R.'s involvement when they're bumping off everyone associated with the cat sanctuary, as if they won't get fingered eventually, but probably no more so than considering the killing of a million cat owners will either succeed or achieve any kind of appreciable goal. 


Mrs Peel: "Humour in Milk". "Milk and its Derivatives". Do you mean to say you’ve waded through all these?
SteedI think the word is "skimmed".

The opening call to duty finds Emma discovering "Mrs Peel" beneath her wallpaper while Steed appears to uncover "We're Needed", followed up with their decorating the walls in the coda; he's painting a cat ("Definitely a repressed personality"), while his signature reveals "extrovert overtones", followed by a love heart he paints over when Emma catches sight of it, and a final pun finished by her as he steps in a paint tray ("By acting as we did, we narrowly averted…": "A cat-astrophe!"). A fun episode, but it needed to go that extra distance to reach the top tier of the season.
















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…

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…

Something something trident.

Aquaman (2018)
(SPOILERS) If Aquaman has a problem – although it actually has two – it’s the problem of the bloated blockbuster. There's just too much of it. And the more-more-more element eventual becomes wearing, even when most of that more-more-more is, on a scene-by-scene basis, terrifically executed. If there's one thing this movie proves above all else, it's that you can let director James Wan loose in any given sandpit and he’ll make an above-and-beyond castle out of it. Aquaman isn't a classic, but it isn’t for want of his trying.

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.

You look like an angry lizard!

Bohemian Rhapsody (2018)
(SPOILERS) I can quite see a Queen fan begrudging this latest musical biopic for failing to adhere to the facts of their illustrious career – but then, what biopic does steer a straight and true course? – making it ironic that they're the main fuel for Bohemian Rhapsody's box office success. Most other criticisms – and they're legitimate, on the whole – fall away in the face of a hugely charismatic star turn from Rami Malek as the band's frontman. He's the difference between a standard-issue, episodic, join-the-dots narrative and one that occasionally touches greatness, and most importantly, carries emotional heft.

Mountains are old, but they're still green.

Roma (2018)
(SPOILERS) Roma is a critics' darling and a shoe-in for Best Foreign Film Oscar, with the potential to take the big prize to boot, but it left me profoundly indifferent, its elusive majesty remaining determinedly out of reach. Perhaps that's down to generally spurning autobiographical nostalgia fests – complete with 65mm widescreen black and white, so it's quite clear to viewers that the director’s childhood reverie equates to the classics of old – or maybe the elliptical characterisation just didn't grab me, but Alfonso Cuarón's latest amounts to little more than a sliver of substance beneath all that style.

The wolves are running. Perhaps you would do something to stop their bite?

The Box of Delights (1984)
If you were at a formative age when it was first broadcast, a festive viewing of The Box of Delights may well have become an annual ritual. The BBC adaptation of John Masefield’s 1935 novel is perhaps the ultimate cosy yuletide treat. On a TV screen, at any rate. To an extent, this is exactly the kind of unashamedly middle class-orientated bread-and-butter period production the corporation now thinks twice about; ever so posh kids having jolly adventures in a nostalgic netherworld of Interwar Britannia. Fortunately, there’s more to it than that. There is something genuinely evocative about Box’s mythic landscape, a place where dream and reality and time and place are unfixed and where Christmas is guaranteed a blanket of thick snow. Key to this is the atmosphere instilled by director Renny Rye. Most BBC fantasy fare doe not age well but The Box of Delights is blessed with a sinister-yet-familiar charm, such that even the creakier production decisions may be vi…

I am so sick of Scotland!

Outlaw/King (2018)
(SPOILERS) Proof that it isn't enough just to want to make a historical epic, you have to have some level of vision for it as well. Say what you like about Mel's Braveheart – and it isn't a very good film – it's got sensibility in spades. He knew what he was setting out to achieve, and the audience duly responded. What does David Mackenzie want from Outlaw/King (it's shown with a forward slash on the titles, so I'm going with it)? Ostensibly, and unsurprisingly, to restore the stature of Robert the Bruce after it was rather tarnished by Braveheart, but he has singularly failed to do so. More than that, it isn’t an "idea", something you can recognise or get behind even if you don’t care about the guy. You’ll never forget Mel's Wallace, for better or worse, but the most singular aspect of Chris Pine's Bruce hasn’t been his rousing speeches or heroic valour. No, it's been his kingly winky.

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 …

Charles Dickens would have wanted to see her nipples.

Scrooged (1988)
If attaching one’s name to classic properties can be a sign of star power on the wane (both for directors and actors), a proclivity for appearing in Christmas movies most definitely is. Just look at Vince Vaughn’s career. So was Bill Murray running on empty a mere 25 years ago? He’d gone to ground following the rejection of his straight-playing The Razor’s Edge by audiences and critics alike, meaning this was his first comedy lead since Ghostbusters four years earlier. Perhaps he thought he needed a sure-fire hit (with ghosts) to confirm he was still a marquee name. Perhaps his agent persuaded him. Either way, Scrooged was a success. Murray remained a star. But he looked like sell-out, sacrificing his comedy soul for a box office bonanza. He’d seem even more calculating seven months later when tired sequel Ghostbusters II emerged. Scrooged is guilty of exactly the kind of over-sized, commercially cynical production this modern retelling of A Christmas Carol (only partial…