Skip to main content

Anything can happen in Little Storping. Anything at all.

The Avengers
2.22: Murdersville

Brian Clemens' witty take on village life gone bad is one of the highlights of the fifth season. Inspired by Bad Day at Black Rock, one wonders how much Murdersville's premise of unsettling impulses lurking beneath an idyllic surface were set to influence both Straw Dogs and The Wicker Mana few years later (one could also suggest it premeditates the brand of backwoods horrors soon to be found in American cinema from the likes of Wes Craven and Tobe Hooper).


SIGNWelcome to Little Storping In-the-Swuff. Voted the best kept village in the country. Please help us keep it that way.

Certainly, substitute The Wicker Man's religious zeal for Little Storping In-the-Swuff's murder racket, and you have a not dissimilar banding together of locals to fund their way of life. And in Mickle (Colin Blakely), a truly loathsome, cackling gumby who wouldn't be out of place menacing Dustin Hoffman. If Murdersville goes wrong anywhere, it’s in fluffing his comeuppance. 


He and Hubert (John Ronane) ought to have something much nastier in store than a pie in the face and a clout round the head with a library book after leaving Croft (Eric Flynn, The Wheel in Space, coming off as a bit of a Ben Daniels of his era) and Forbes (Norman Chappell, 1.2: Dance with Death, 1.23: Dead of Winter, 3.15: The Gilded Cage, 4.4: Dial a Deadly Number) very dead (for ex-army types, they aren't very handy at all). Catharsis is lacking with regard to the most despicable villains since A Sense of History.


Jeremy PurserLittle Storping has become a boomtown.

There's something disturbingly plausible about the human nature aspect of Clemens' premise, in contrast to many crazy Avengers plots. We’re told two men showed up one day, one murdering the other in front of whole village and offering them £1m to keep their mouths shut. There were only four dissenters (one amusingly seems to be permanently gagged, and it's unclear how they go to the toilet, but I guess people don't need to in The Avengers. There also don't seem to be any pesky kids about to mess things up). It's a chilling idea – even more that, having done it, they agreed to offer the same service to others for a fat fee; the town's wide open.


The early scenes, as Forbes is plied with pints at the pub before being accosted at his major's house (Mickle and Hubert being particularly unpleasant towards the crockery) is deeply unsettling, emphasising that kind of irrational, random violence one doesn’t like to suspect of the inbred yokel.


Steed is out of the picture for much of the proceedings, but this is a vastly better use of Emma than having her menaced in a haunted house. Admittedly, she's rather slow on the uptake for someone who's normally very quick, managing to repeatedly convince herself that Dr Haymes (Ronald Hines) is a good guy. Although, in balancing fairness, the likelihood that the whole village is in on the scheme is probably the last thing she'd expect… outside of The Town of No Return. She's also rather easily done in by a helicopter buzzing her. No wonder Steed's required to show up to rescue her again.


The location itself is especially perfect (it's Aldbury, which also featured as Swingingdale in Dead Man's Treasure), and the high noon sequence on the main road of the hamlet as Emma is surrounded by pitchfork wielding locals and must take flight, taking down a few with her, is very cool. More disturbing is the waterboarding/ witch ducking scene, in which Rigg's stunt double is held under for a worryingly long time.


Mrs PeelKiss little Albert for me, and Julie, and Gordon, and baby Brian.

Mrs Peel is amusingly made to join the dissenters in medieval shackles, hers being a chained chastity belt. Even more amusingly, when she agrees to talk, she confesses who knew she was coming: "Only one person. John. My husband". Also known as Johnsey Wonsey.


Steed's almost as slow on the uptake as she is during their phone conversation (a good thing no one was listening in), but there's a definite buzz from his entering the fray to tidy up; "I was admiring your er… old customs" he says to barmaid Jenny (Sheila Fearn) of her legs, before smashing shotgun wielding landlord Prewitt's (John Sharp, who'd go on to appear in The Wicker Man, and was previously in 2.13 Traitor in Zebra) head into the bar. "I hadn’t even criticised the beer" he notes of the hospitality.


SteedIt may surprise you to know that I've had very little experience with this type of garment.

Steed also gets the best line of the episode in response to Mrs Peel's chastity belt. Other notables in the cast include Banks (Robert Cawdron 4.22: A Touch of Brimstone) Maggie (Irene Bradshaw, 1.13: One for the Mortuary, 2.19: The Golden Eggs) Higgins (Joseph Grieg, The Sensorites) Jeremy Purser (Geoffrey Colville, The Evil of the Daleks) and Miller (Tony Cauntner, Colony in SpaceEnlightenment, Ensor Jr in Blake's 7 Deliverance). An uncredited Gareth Thomas also appears as an assassin.


SteedI don't know why you had to put it on in the first place.
Mrs PeelYou were there. You saw for yourself. For protection. And on that occasion, it served its purpose.
SteedTrue. Not only are we going to be late for this party, but the ambassador is going to take it as a personal affront.
Mrs PeelOh?
SteedWell, we all know his reputation as a womaniser, but to turn up in armour. It really is very inconvenient.
Mrs PeelYou're telling me. I couldn't find a dress to match it.


The teaser (Mickle and Hubert nonchalantly play dominoes outside the village pub as a murder takes place) is one of the best. And the coda, in which Emma is still wearing (stuck in) the knight's helmet she donned for the showdown, finds Steed able to extract her before getting his head stuck himself: "My knight in shining armour. Have a sip" consoles Emma, offering him a drink.  An episode high on atmosphere and serviced with one of the best premises the show has seen.

























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

Popular posts from this blog

You were this amazing occidental samurai.

Ricochet (1991) (SPOILERS) You have to wonder at Denzel Washington’s agent at this point in the actor’s career. He’d recently won his first Oscar for Glory , yet followed it with less-than-glorious heart-transplant ghost comedy Heart Condition (Bob Hoskins’ racist cop receives Washington’s dead lawyer’s ticker; a recipe for hijinks!) Not long after, he dipped his tentative toe in the action arena with this Joel Silver production; Denzel has made his share of action fare since, of course, most of it serviceable if unremarkable, but none of it comes near to delivering the schlocky excesses of Ricochet , a movie at once ingenious and risible in its plot permutations, performances and production profligacy.

No one can be told what the Matrix is. You have to see it for yourself.

The Matrix  (1999) (SPOILERS) Twenty years on, and the articles are on the defining nature of The Matrix are piling up, most of them touching on how its world has become a reality, or maybe always was one. At the time, its premise was engaging enough, but it was the sum total of the package that cast a spell – the bullet time, the fashions, the soundtrack, the comic book-as-live-action framing and styling – not to mention it being probably the first movie to embrace and reflect the burgeoning Internet ( Hackers doesn’t really count), and subsequently to really ride the crest of the DVD boom wave. And now? Now it’s still really, really good.

Well, something’s broke on your daddy’s spaceship.

Apollo 13 (1995) (SPOILERS) The NASA propaganda movie to end all NASA propaganda movies. Their original conception of the perilous Apollo 13 mission deserves due credit in itself; what better way to bolster waning interest in slightly naff perambulations around a TV studio than to manufacture a crisis event, one emphasising the absurd fragility of the alleged non-terrestrial excursions and the indomitable force that is “science” in achieving them? Apollo 13 the lunar mission was tailor made for Apollo 13 the movie version – make believe the make-believe – and who could have been better to lead this fantasy ride than Guantanamo Hanks at his all-American popularity peak?

I can’t be the worst. What about that hotdog one?

Everything Everywhere All at Once (2022) (SPOILERS) It would have been a merciful release, had the title card “ The End ”, flashing on screen a little before the ninety-minute mark, not been a false dawn. True, I would still have been unable to swab the bloody dildoes fight from my mind, but at least Everything Everywhere All at Once would have been short. Indeed, by the actual end I was put in mind of a line spoken by co-star James Wong in one of his most indelible roles: “ Now this really pisses me off to no end ”. Or to put it another way, Everything Everywhere All at Once rubbed me up the wrong which way quite a lot of most of the time.

We’ve got the best ball and chain in the world. Your ass.

Wedlock (1991) (SPOILERS) The futuristic prison movie seemed possessed of a particular cachet around this time, quite possibly sparked by the grisly possibilities of hi-tech disincentives to escape. On that front, HBO TV movie Wedlock more than delivers its FX money shot. Elsewhere, it’s less sure of itself, rather fumbling when it exchanges prison tropes for fugitives-on-the-run ones.

Drank the red. Good for you.

Morbius (2022) (SPOILERS) Generic isn’t necessarily a slur. Not if, by implication, it’s suggestive of the kind of movie made twenty years ago, when the alternative is the kind of super-woke content Disney currently prioritises. Unfortunately, after a reasonable first hour, Morbius descends so resignedly into such unmoderated formula that you’re left with a too-clear image of Sony’s Spider-Verse when it lacks a larger-than-life performer (Tom Hardy, for example) at the centre of any given vehicle.

He’ll regret it to his dying day, if ever he lives that long.

The Quiet Man (1952) (SPOILERS) The John Wayne & John Ford film for those who don’t like John Wayne & John Ford films? The Quiet Man takes its cues from Ford’s earlier How Green Was My Valley in terms of, well less Anglophile and Hibernophile and Cambrophile nostalgia respectively for past times, climes and heritage, as Wayne’s pugilist returns to his family seat and stirs up a hot bed of emotions, not least with Maureen O’Hara’s red-headed hothead. The result is a very likeable movie, for all its inculcated Oirishness and studied eccentricity.

So, you’re telling me that NASA is going to kill the President of the United States with an earthquake?

Conspiracy Theory (1997) (SPOILERS) Mel Gibson’s official rehabilitation occurred with the announcement of 2016’s Oscar nominations, when Hacksaw Ridge garnered six nods, including Mel as director. Obviously, many refuse to be persuaded that there’s any legitimate atonement for the things someone says. They probably weren’t even convinced by Mel’s appearance in Daddy’s Home 2 , an act of abject obeisance if ever there was one. In other circles, though, Gibbo, or Mad Mel, is venerated as a saviour unsullied by the depraved Hollywood machine, one of the brave few who would not allow them to take his freedom. Or at least, his values. Of course, that’s frequently based on alleged comments he made, ones it’s highly likely he didn’t. But doesn’t that rather appeal to the premise of his 23-year-old star vehicle Conspiracy Theory , in which “ A good conspiracy theory is an unproveable one ”?

He doesn’t want to lead you. He just wants you to follow.

Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore (2022) (SPOILERS) The general failing of the prequel concept is a fairly self-evident one; it’s spurred by the desire to cash in, rather than to tell a story. This is why so few prequels, in any form, are worth the viewer/reader/listener’s time, in and of themselves. At best, they tend to be something of a well-rehearsed fait accompli. In the movie medium, even when there is material that withstands closer inspection (the Star Wars prequels; The Hobbit , if you like), the execution ends up botched. With Fantastic Beasts , there was never a whiff of such lofty purpose, and each subsequent sequel to the first prequel has succeeded only in drawing attention to its prosaic function: keeping franchise flag flying, even at half-mast. Hence Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore , belatedly arriving after twice the envisaged gap between instalments and course-correcting none of the problems present in The Crimes of Grindelwald .

Twenty dwarves took turns doing handstands on the carpet.

Bugsy (1991) (SPOILERS) Bugsy is very much a Warren Beatty vanity project (aren’t they all, even the ones that don’t seem that way on the surface?), to the extent of his playing a title character a decade and a half younger than him. As such, it makes sense that producer Warren’s choice of director wouldn’t be inclined to overshadow star Warren, but the effect is to end up with a movie that, for all its considerable merits (including a script from James Toback chock full of incident), never really feels quite focussed, that it’s destined to lead anywhere, even if we know where it’s going.