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…

Prepare the Heathen’s Stand! By order of purification!

Apostle (2018)
(SPOILERS) Another week, another undercooked Netflix flick from an undeniably talented director. What’s up with their quality control? Do they have any? Are they so set on attracting an embarrassment of creatives, they give them carte blanche, to hell with whether the results are any good or not? Apostle's an ungainly folk-horror mashup of The Wicker Man (most obviously, but without the remotest trace of that screenplay's finesse) and any cult-centric Brit horror movie you’d care to think of (including Ben Wheatley's, himself an exponent of similar influences-on-sleeve filmmaking with Kill List), taking in tropes from Hammer, torture porn, and pagan lore but revealing nothing much that's different or original beyond them.

You can’t just outsource your entire life.

Tully (2018)
(SPOILERS) A major twist is revealed in the last fifteen minutes of Tully, one I'll happily admit not to have seen coming, but it says something about the movie that it failed to affect my misgivings over the picture up to that point either way. About the worst thing you can say about a twist is that it leaves you shrugging.

There's something wrong with the sky.

Hold the Dark (2018)
(SPOILERS) Hold the Dark, an adaptation of William Giraldi's 2014 novel, is big on atmosphere, as you'd expect from director Jeremy Saulnier (Blue Ruin, Green Room) and actor-now-director (I Don’t Want to Live in This World Anymore) pal Macon Blair (furnishing the screenplay and appearing in one scene), but contrastingly low on satisfying resolutions. Being wilfully oblique can be a winner if you’re entirely sure what you're trying to achieve, but the effect here is rather that it’s "for the sake of it" than purposeful.

Well, you did take advantage of a drunken sailor.

Tomb Raider (2018)
(SPOILERS) There's evidently an appetite out there for a decent Tomb Raider movie, given that the lousy 2001 incarnation was successful enough to spawn a (lousy) sequel, and that this lousier reboot, scarcely conceivably, may have attracted enough bums on seats to do likewise. If we're going to distinguish between order of demerits, we could characterise the Angelina Jolie movies as both pretty bad; Tomb Raider, in contrast, is unforgivably tedious.

If you want to have a staring contest with me, you will lose.

Phantom Thread (2017)
(SPOILERS) Perhaps surprisingly not the lowest grossing of last year's Best Picture Oscar nominees (that was Call Me by Your Name) but certainly the one with the least buzz as a genuine contender, subjected as Phantom Thread was to a range of views from masterpiece (the critics) to drudge (a fair selection of general viewers). The mixed reaction wasn’t so very far from Paul Thomas Anderson's earlier The Master, and one suspects the nomination was more to do with the golden glow of Daniel Day-Lewis in his first role in half a decade (and last ever, if he's to be believed) than mass Academy rapture with the picture. Which is ironic, as the relatively unknown Vicky Krieps steals the film from under him.

No one understands the lonely perfection of my dreams.

Ridley Scott Ridders Ranked
During the '80s, I anticipated few filmmakers' movies more than Ridley Scott's; those of his fellow xenomorph wrangler James Cameron, perhaps. In both cases, that eagerness for something equalling their early efforts receded as they studiously managed to avoid the heights they had once reached. Cameron's output dropped off a cliff after he won an Oscar. Contrastingly, Scott's surged like never before when his film took home gold. Which at least meant he occasionally delivered something interesting, but sadly, it was mostly quantity over quality. Here are the movies Scott has directed in his career thus far - and with his rate of  productivity, another 25 by the time he's 100 may well be feasible – ranked from worst to best.

This is it. This is the moment of my death.

Fearless (1993)
Hollywood tends to make a hash of any exploration of existential or spiritual themes. The urge towards the simplistic, the treacly or the mawkishly uplifting, without appropriate filtering or insight, usually overpowers even the best intentions. Rarely, a movie comes along that makes good on its potential and then, more than likely, it gets completely ignored. Such a fate befell Fearless, Peter Weir’s plane crash survivor-angst film, despite roundly positive critical notices. For some reason audiences were willing to see a rubgy team turn cannibal in Alive, but this was a turn-off? Yet invariably anyone who has seen Fearless speaks of it in glowing terms, and rightly so.

Weir’s pictures are often thematically rich, more anchored by narrative than those of, say, Terrence Malick but similarly preoccupied with big ideas and their expression. He has a rare grasp of poetry, symbolism and the mythic. Weir also displays an acute grasp of the subjective mind-set, and possesses …

Outstanding. Now, let’s bite off all the heads and pile them up in the corner.

Venom (2018)
(SPOILERS) A 29% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes can't be wrong, can it? To go by the number of one-star reviews Sony’s attempt to kick-start their own shred of the Marvel-verse has received, you’d think it was the new Battlefield Earth, or Highlander II: The Quickening. Fortunately, it's far from that level of ignominy. And while it’s also a considerable distance from showing the polish and assuredness of the official Disney movies, it nevertheless manages to establish its own crudely winning sense of identity.

The whole thing should just be your fucking nose!

A Star is Born (2018)
(SPOILERS) A shoe-in for Best Picture Oscar? Perhaps not, since it will have to beat at very least Roma and First Man to claim the prize, but this latest version of A Star is Born still comes laden with more acclaim than the previous three versions put together (and that's with a Best Picture nod for the 1937 original). While the film doesn't quite reach the consistent heights suggested by the majority of critics, who have evacuated their adjectival bowels lavishing it with superlatives, it's undoubtedly a remarkably well-made, stunningly acted piece, and perhaps even more notably, only rarely feels like its succumbing to just how familiar this tale of rise to, and parallel fall from, stardom has become.