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…

Just make love to that wall, pervert!

Seinfeld 2.10: The Statue
The Premise
Jerry employs a cleaner, the boyfriend of an author whose book Elaine is editing. He leaves the apartment spotless, but Jerry is convinced he has made off with a statue.

Never mind. You may be losing a carriage, but he’ll be gaining a bomb.

The Avengers 5.13: A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Station
Continuing a strong mid-season run, Brian Clemens rejigs one of the dissenting (and departing) Roger Marshall's scripts (hence "Brian Sheriff") and follows in the steps of the previous season's The Girl from Auntie by adding a topical-twist title (A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum came out a year earlier). If this is one of those stories where you know from the first who's doing what to whom, the actual mechanism for the doing is a strong and engaging one, and it's pepped considerably by a supporting cast including one John Laurie (2.11: Death of a Great Dane, 3.2: Brief for Murder).

He mobilised the English language and sent it into battle.

Darkest Hour (2017)
(SPOILERS) Watching Joe Wright’s return to the rarefied plane of prestige – and heritage to boot – filmmaking following the execrable folly of the panned Pan, I was struck by the difference an engaged director, one who cares about his characters, makes to material. Only last week, Ridley Scott’s serviceable All the Money in the World made for a pointed illustration of strong material in the hands of someone with no such investment, unless they’re androids. Wright’s dedication to a relatable Winston Churchill ensures that, for the first hour-plus, Darkest Hour is a first-rate affair, a piece of myth-making that barely puts a foot wrong. It has that much in common with Wright’s earlier Word War II tale, Atonement. But then, like Atonement, it comes unstuck.

I freely chose my response to this absurd world. If given the opportunity, I would have been more vigorous.

The Falcon and the Snowman (1985)
(SPOILERS) I suspect, if I hadn’t been ignorant of the story of Christopher Boyce and Andrew Daulton Lee selling secrets to the Soviets during the ‘70s, I’d have found The Falcon and the Snowman less engaging than I did. Which is to say that John Schlesinger’s film has all the right ingredients to be riveting, including a particularly camera-hogging performance from Sean Penn (as Lee), but it’s curiously lacking in narrative drive. Only fitfully does it channel the motives of its protagonists and their ensuing paranoia. As such, the movie makes a decent primer on the case, but I ended up wondering if it might not be ideal fodder for retelling as a miniseries.

That living fossil ate my best friend!

The Meg (2018)
(SPOILERS) There’s a good chance that, unless you go in armed with ludicrously high expectations for the degree to which it's going to take the piss out of its premise, you'll have a good time with The Meg. This is unabashedly B-moviemaking, and if a finger of fault can be pointed, it's that director Jon Turteltaub, besides being a strictly functional filmmaker, does nothing to give it any personality beyond employing the services of the Stat. Obviously, though, the mere presence of the gravelly-larynxed one goes a long way to plugging the holes in any leaky vessel.

You keep a horse in the basement?

The ‘Burbs (1989)
(SPOILERS) The ‘Burbs is Joe Dante’s masterpiece. Or at least, his masterpiece that isn’t his bite-the-hand-that-feeds-you masterpiece Gremlins 2: The New Batch, or his high profile masterpiece Gremlins. Unlike those two, the latter of which bolted out of the gate and took audiences by surprise with it’s black wit subverting the expected Spielberg melange, and the first which was roundly shunned by viewers and critics for being absolutely nothing like the first and waving that fact gleefully under their noses, The ‘Burbs took a while to gain its foothold in the Dante pantheon. 

It came out at a time when there had been a good few movies (not least Dante’s) taking a poke at small town Americana, and it was a Tom Hanks movie when Hanks was still a broad strokes comedy guy (Big had just made him big, Turner and Hooch was a few months away; you know you’ve really made it when you co-star with a pooch). It’s true to say that some, as with say The Big Lebowski, “got it” on fi…

You just threw a donut in the hot zone!

Den of Thieves (2018)
(SPOILERS) I'd heard this was a shameless Heat rip-off, and the presence of Gerard Butler seemed to confirm it would be passable-at-best B-heist hokum, so maybe it was just middling expectations, even having heard how enthused certain pockets of the Internet were, but Den of Thieves is a surprisingly very satisfying entry in the genre. I can't even fault it for attempting to Keyser Soze the whole shebang at the last moment – add a head in a box and you have three 1995 classics in one movie – even if that particular conceit doesn’t quite come together.

Dude, you're embarrassing me in front of the wizards.

Avengers: Infinity War (2018)
(SPOILERS) The cliffhanger sequel, as a phenomenon, is a relatively recent thing. Sure, we kind of saw it with The Empire Strikes Back – one of those "old" movies Peter Parker is so fond of – a consequence of George Lucas deliberately borrowing from the Republic serials of old, but he had no guarantee of being able to complete his trilogy; it was really Back to the Future that began the trend, and promptly drew a line under it for another decade. In more recent years, really starting with The MatrixThe Lord of the Rings stands apart as, post-Weinstein's involvement, fashioned that way from the ground up – shooting the second and third instalments back-to-back has become a thing, both more cost effective and ensuring audiences don’t have to endure an interminable wait for their anticipation to be sated. The flipside of not taking this path is an Allegiant, where greed gets the better of a studio (split a novel into two movie parts assuming a…

Everyone creates the thing they dread.

Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)
(SPOILERS) Avengers: Age of Ultron’s problem isn’t one of lack. It benefits from a solid central plot. It features a host of standout scenes and set pieces. It hands (most of) its characters strong defining moments. It doesn’t even suffer now the “wow” factor of seeing the team together for the first time has subsided. Its problem is that it’s too encumbered. Maybe its asking to much of a director to effectively martial the many different elements required by an ensemble superhero movie such as this, yet Joss Whedon’s predecessor feels positively lean in comparison.

Part of this is simply down to the demands of the vaster Marvel franchise machine. Seeds are laid for Captain America: Civil War, Infinity Wars I & II, Black Panther and Thor: Ragnarok. It feels like several spinning plates too many. Such activity occasionally became over-intrusive on previous occasions (Iron Man II), but there are points in Age of Ultron where it becomes distractingly so. …