Skip to main content

Don’t fight it, Mrs Peel. We’re inseparable.


The Avengers
Season 5 Ranked - Worst to Best

Season Five is arguably The Avengers season where the show achieved its greatest visibility – now in full colour, Patrick Macnee and Diana Rigg returning as its most formidable partnership – but also one that experienced a slight slip in quality from what is rightly regarded as the previous year's pinnacle. There’s little in the way of outright turkeys here – it has that much in common with Season Four – but fewer outright gems too.

24. The See-Through Man

Brodny! That wacky Russian, he’s so funny. No, not really, although there's no denying Warren Mitchell's chemistry with Macnee. The invisibility plotline, in a season divided between actual science-fiction premises and fake-out ones, fits comfortably into the latter.


23. The Positive-Negative Man

Whereas this one, with Michael Latimer painted green and electrocuting people, appeals to the former. A bit dull, despite some cartoonishly victim-shaped impact craters.


22. The £50,000 Breakfast

Redundant remake of Season Two's Death of a Great Dane, most notable for a cameo by Anneke "Polly" Wills (Dressed to Kill).


21. The Fear Merchants

Patrick Cargill's cool shades and minimalist office space only go so far in making up for a fairly standard murder-for-hire yarn.

20. Escape in Time

Peter Bowles is a winner, as is the time-tunnel effect, but you know this is a scam almost from the first, which makes much of the proceedings feel like they're treading water.


19. Never, Never Say Die

About as sci-fi as the show gets, with several Christopher Lees running around and a plot that's pretty much a robot version of Invasion of the Body Snatchers. It's all rather dry, unfortunately, and double the Lee would only pay off if he were well used.


18. The Joker

Another remake, of Don't Look Behind You this time, benefiting from strong production design and the commanding presences of Ronald Lacey and Peter Jeffrey, but it’s a story – Avengers girl in peril in an empty house – that has been overdone already prior to this instalment (and it won’t be the last of them).


17. Return of the Cybernauts

The second sequel of the season (if you count Brodny's return as the first) with Peter Cushing's stock villain out for revenge and wooing Mrs Peel. It's more engaging than the original, but that's still not quite enough.


16. The Bird Who Knew Too Much

Reasonably diverting spy fare in which Ron Moody's parrot passes secrets to the enemy. Emma and Steed pose for Kenneth Cope while a couple of vicious killers add an unpleasant streak. Like much of the season, you get the feeling other episodes have done this better.


15. The Correct Way to Kill

A remake of The Charmers, and I'm not being a purist by rating the originals as superior to the Season Four versions in each case (particularly since I first saw this season long before the Cathy Gale episodes); the school for killers is a serviceable idea, but the positives of Philip Madoc and Anna Quayle (Olga from the Volga) have to be balanced against the disappointments of Michael Gough and Terence Alexander.


14. Mission… Highly Improbable

Steed gets shrunk, Emma gets shrunk, and an over-sized desktop set gets a good work out. For all the conscious absurdity of the premise, it probably doesn’t revel in its potential for silliness quite enough. The villain, meanwhile, has a disturbingly offhand manner in disposing of his miniaturised victims.


13. You Have Just Been Murdered

A rarity in that the gag title premise doesn’t wear thin, as Simon Oates repeatedly doesn't kill his bribery victims (until he does). Also present and correct: various attempts at double crosses, Mrs Peel getting some quality riverside action, and a villain who lives in a haystack.


12. The Living Dead

One of the season's fake SF/fantasy episodes, although the Bond villain plot to take over the country via an army beneath a sleepy rural town, complete with Julian Glover in a Fahrenheit 451 hat, goes some way to compensate for the absence of actual ghosts. Particularly notable for an extreme burst of ultra-violence on Emma's part.


11. The Hidden Tiger

Killer cats played out surprisingly effectively, thanks to Sidney Havers' stylish attack sequences. Notable too for Ronnie Barker's comic relief, Rigg's catfight with Gabrielle Drake and some shameless wordplay ("Mrs Peel! Pussies galore!")


10. Death's Door

Effectively trippy dream sequences (those faceless reporters) supporting an intriguing if ultimately implausible how-did-they-do-that, all in aid of an attempt to confound a European peace conference (imagine that). Includes a tense scene where Steed ends up as target practice. That would be Sidney Havers directing again.


9. Something Nasty in the Nursery

More messing with subjective reality for devious ends, as politicians are reduced to infantile states in order to persuade them to offer up secrets. Particularly unnerving amidst the regressed adults is Dudley Foster's Nanny Roberts.


8. From Venus With Love

Space visitors killing members of the British Venusian Society? A bright selection of supporting players (Jon Pertwee, Jeremy Lloyd's chimney sweep Bert Smith - "Actually, it's Bertram Fortescue Winthrop Smyth. To be absolutely accurate") and a mastermind whose identity isn't unveiled until quite late in the game add to the appeal.


7. Epic

Emma under pressure and Brian Clemens working with what's on hand at Elstree result in a mostly inspired riff on the motion picture business as Jason Wyngarde takes full advantage of the opportunity to devour scenery at every turn.


6. Who's Who???

Body swap tales can be a desperate fall-back option for creatively bereft staff, but this one's largely a success thanks to the performances of Freddie Jones and Patricia Haines. Only Macnee as Jones doesn’t quite convince.


5. The Superlative Seven

The familiar Agatha Christie (and Dressed to Kill) structure can't diminish this one, thanks to a colourful supporting cast (Brian Blessed, Donald Sutherland, Charlotte Rampling, John Hollis) and an effective reinvention of the story, rather than the kind of straight retelling that has dampened other remakes this season.


4. A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Station

Always welcome Avengers guest star John Laurie steals the show as a railway enthusiast, but this episode chugs along very pleasingly on all accounts; particularly winning are the exchanges between a captive Steed and James Hayer's Ticket Inspector.


3. Murdersville

A visit to Little Storping In-the Swuff finds Emma at the mercy of a murderous free-for-all, with a particularly unpleasant Colin Blakely. Indeed, if not for his lack of comeuppance – a pie in the face hardly counts – this would have full marks.


2. The Winged Avenger.

Ee-urp!


1. Dead Man's Treasure

An infectiously frivolous, summery jaunt as a Laurie Johnson provides an indelible musical accompaniment to a race round the countryside. Emma and Steed and are mixed and matched with guest co-drivers as dirty tricks abound. Reeks of effortless '60s cool.



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

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

I just hope my death makes more cents than my life.

Joker (2019)
(SPOILERS) So the murder sprees didn’t happen, and a thousand puff pieces desperate to fan the flames of such events and then told-ya-so have fallen flat on their faces. The biggest takeaway from Joker is not that the movie is an event, when once that seemed plausible but not a given, but that any mainstream press perspective on the picture appears unable to divorce its quality from its alleged or actual politics. Joker may be zeitgeisty, but isn’t another Taxi Driver in terms of cultural import, in the sense that Taxi Driver didn’t have a Taxi Driver in mind when Paul Schrader wrote it. It is, if you like, faux-incendiary, and can only ever play out on that level. It might be more accurately described as a grubbier, grimier (but still polished and glossy) The Talented Ripley, the tale of developing psychopathy, only tailored for a cinemagoing audience with few options left outside of comic book fare.

You guys sure like watermelon.

The Irishman aka I Heard You Paint Houses (2019)
(SPOILERS) Perhaps, if Martin Scorsese hadn’t been so opposed to the idea of Marvel movies constituting cinema, The Irishman would have been a better film. It’s a decent film, assuredly. A respectable film, definitely. But it’s very far from being classic. And a significant part of that is down to the usually assured director fumbling the execution. Or rather, the realisation. I don’t know what kind of crazy pills the ranks of revered critics have been taking so as to recite as one the mantra that you quickly get used to the de-aging effects so intrinsic to its telling – as Empire magazine put it, “you soon… fuggadaboutit” – but you don’t. There was no point during The Irishman that I was other than entirely, regrettably conscious that a 75-year-old man was playing the title character. Except when he was playing a 75-year-old man.

So you want me to be half-monk, half-hitman.

Casino Royale (2006)
(SPOILERS) Despite the doubts and trepidation from devotees (too blonde, uncouth etc.) that greeted Daniel Craig’s casting as Bond, and the highly cynical and low-inspiration route taken by Eon in looking to Jason Bourne's example to reboot a series that had reached a nadir with Die Another Day, Casino Royale ends up getting an enormous amount right. If anything, its failure is that it doesn’t push far enough, so successful is it in disarming itself of the overblown set pieces and perfunctory plotting that characterise the series (even at its best), elements that would resurge with unabated gusto in subsequent Craig excursions.

For the majority of its first two hours, Casino Royale is top-flight entertainment, with returning director Martin Campbell managing to exceed his excellent work reformatting Bond for the ‘90s. That the weakest sequence (still good, mind) prior to the finale is a traditional “big” (but not too big) action set piece involving an attempt to…

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.

You're skipping Christmas! Isn't that against the law?

Christmas with the Kranks (2004)
Ex-coke dealer Tim Allen’s underwhelming box office career is, like Vince Vaughn’s, regularly in need of a boost from an indiscriminate public willing to see any old turkey posing as a prize Christmas comedy.  He made three Santa Clauses, and here is joined by Jamie Lee Curtis as a couple planning to forgo the usual neighbourhood festivities for a cruise.

She was addicted to Tums for a while.

Marriage Story (2019)
(SPOILERS) I don’t tend to fall heavily for Noah Baumbach fare. He’s undoubtedly a distinctive voice – even if his collaborations with Wes Anderson are the least of that director’s efforts – but his devotion to an exclusive, rarefied New York bubble becomes ever more off-putting with each new project. And ever more identifiable as being a lesser chronicler of the city’s privileged quirks than his now disinherited forbear Woody Allen, who at his peak mastered a balancing act between the insightful, hilarious and self-effacing. Marriage Story finds Baumbach going yet again where Woody went before, this time brushing up against the director’s Ingmar Bergman fixation.

We’ll bring it out on March 25 and we’ll call it… Christmas II!

Santa Claus: The Movie (1985)
(SPOILERS) Alexander Salkind (alongside son Ilya) inhabited not dissimilar territory to the more prolific Dino De Laurentis, in that his idea of manufacturing a huge blockbuster appeared to be throwing money at it while being stingy with, or failing to appreciate, talent where it counted. Failing to understand the essential ingredients for a quality movie, basically, something various Hollywood moguls of the ‘80s would inherit. Santa Claus: The Movie arrived in the wake of his previously colon-ed big hit, Superman: The Movie, the producer apparently operating under the delusion that flying effects and :The Movie in the title would induce audiences to part with their cash, as if they awarded Saint Nick a must-see superhero mantle. The only surprise was that his final cinematic effort, Christopher Columbus: The Discovery, wasn’t similarly sold, but maybe he’d learned his lesson by then. Or maybe not, given the behind-camera talent he failed to secure.

When primal forces of nature tell you to do something, the prudent thing is not to quibble over details.

Field of Dreams (1989)
(SPOILERS) There’s a near-Frank Darabont quality to Phil Alden Robinson producing such a beloved feature and then subsequently offering not all that much of note. But Darabont, at least, was in the same ballpark as The Shawshank Redemption with The Green MileSneakers is good fun, The Sum of All Our Fears was a decent-sized success, but nothing since has come close to his sophomore directorial effort in terms of quality. You might put that down to the source material, WP Kinsella’s 1982 novel Shoeless Joe, but the captivating magical-realist balance hit by Field of Dreams is a deceptively difficult one to strike, and the biggest compliment you can play Robinson is that he makes it look easy.

On a long enough timeline, the survival of everyone drops to zero.

Fight Club (1999)
(SPOILERS) Still David Fincher’s peak picture, mostly by dint of Fight Club being the only one you can point to and convincingly argue that that the source material is up there with his visual and technical versatility. If Seven is a satisfying little serial-killer-with-a-twist story vastly improved by his involvement (just imagine it directed by Joel Schumacher… or watch 8mm), Fight Club invites him to utilise every trick in the book to tell the story of not-Tyler Durden, whom we encounter at a very peculiar time in his life.

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…