Skip to main content

I think, I ruminate, I plan.

The Avengers
6.5: Get-A-Way

Another very SF story, and another that recalls earlier stories, in this case 5.5: The See-Through Man, in which Steed states baldly “I don’t believe in invisible men”. He was right in that case, but he’d have to eat his bowler here. Or half of it, anyway. The intrigue of Get-A-Way derives from the question of how it is that Eastern Bloc spies have escaped incarceration, since it isn’t immediately announced that a “magic potion” is responsible. And if that reveal isn’t terribly convincing, Peter Bowles makes the most of his latest guest spot as Steed’s self-appointed nemesis Ezdorf.


Tara: You don’t believe in invisible men, do you?
Steed: Only when I can’t see them.

Don Sharp (Invasion of the Earthmen, The Curious Case of the Countless Clues) directs his final entry for the show, and perhaps my only carp in this respect is that the reveal of the disappearing act is a rather ungainly jump cut, when something a little more elegant would have been preferable. Still, the method the escapees have of pulling up their collars and crossing their arms before vanishing is way cool.


Ezdorf: It amuses me to tell you now. It is you, Steed. You are my target.

As with Split! one can’t help but think some of the answers should have been reached a little sooner, most notably Ezdorf revealing that, after Rostov (Vincent Harding) has disposed of Steed’s friend George Neville (Terence Longdon) and Lubin (Robert Russell, the Caber in Terror of the Zygons, Laran in Cygnus Alpha) has done likewise to Paul Ryder (Neil Hallet, 1.23: Dead of Winter, 5.6: The Winged Avenger), Steed is his target. Well, would you believe it? And that had them stumped for years, eh? And Steed’s conclusion regarding teetotaller Lubin starting on the voddy (I should think Lubin turned to drink out of sheer boredom”) is really beneath him.


Steed: There is a difference. I kill when I have to. You, because you like it.

On the other hand, during his regular chats with Ezdorf, who is significantly more inflated by the notion that he is a match for Steed than the other way round (he’s clearly very impressed by our debonair spy), Steed explicitly announces some rarely expressed morality, a sign of carelessness perhaps on the makers’ part; I find it preferable when his scruples are implied.


Ezdorf dipping in a bath full of vodka – or pigment plastoid-infused vodka – is somewhat mundane after his previous mockery of possible escapes, during which he pours vodka next to the door – both a curious waste of precious vanishing fuel and a moment that has the appearance of something to do with the escape bid, but isn’t. 


I haven’t mentioned the location of the prison, which poses as a monastery. At least, the keepers are decked out in habits (Baxter, William Wilde of Frontier in Space; Price, Michael Culver also Captain Needa in The Empire Strikes Back; James Andrew Kier of 5.1: The Fear Merchants).


Steed: Lizards and their… habits?
Tara: I’ve read it. It’s really rather intimate.
Steed: Disgusting habits?
Tara: Awful. And very crafty.
Normal forms of escape eliminated – Professor Percival Dodge (Peter Bayliss, 4.2: The Murder Market) is consulted – the means to the formula is located in a copy of Bryant’s Natural History Magazine, each copy found in the cells having pages 23-26 missing. Tara attempts to contact the publisher Bryant (James Belchamber, 4.20: The Quick-Quick Slow Death) but Lubin gets to him first. However, a saved copy reveals an article on lizards and their habits and an advert announcing “Runaway People Escape – with Lizard Vodka”. It’s quite a neat little set up of clues, in which Code Breaking For Beginners proves less successful than her intuition (the roman numeral note found in the escapee’s shoes instructs which pages to focus on).


Ezdorf: Very impressed. Steed’s taste obviously extends beyond the more bourgeoise trappings of life.

Tara is very much secondary to Steed in priorities here, although gets a nifty fight with Lubin in which the latter is ultimately catapulted through a window. Otherwise, her presence is rather objectified in unfortunate ways throughout, though, reflecting poorly on the imbalance in the show’s leads at this point. An early scene features drinks between John Steed, Paul Ryder and George Neville… Which makes Tara Ringo? This trio of middle-aged men ogling Tara is a bit queasy, particular as it comes across more than ever that she’s Steed’s bit of young totty, for which he is roundly congratulated. Even Ezdorf’s at it.


Steed: It seems I appeared in the nick of time.
Tara: I preferred you in pine.

The coda continues this rather unfortunate line of presentation, with Tara turning up at Steed’s flat with a new costume (“I bought it especially for you”). Steed meanwhile is behind the sofa in another “youthful” shirt and announces the most bizarrely innuendo-laced ending of the show so far. So much so it’s almost beyond innuendo. They both disappear out of shot to examine the problem…

Steed: I’ve got a leak in my tuba.
Tara: Where?
Steed: Here.







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

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

How would Horatio Alger have handled this situation?

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998) (SPOILERS) Gilliam’s last great movie – The Zero Theorem (2013) is definitely underrated, but I don’t think it’s that underrated – Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas could easily have been too much. At times it is, but in such instances, intentionally so. The combination of a visual stylist and Hunter S Thompson’s embellished, propulsive turn of phrase turns out, for the most part, to be a cosmically aligned affair, embracing the anarchic abandon of Raoul Duke and Doctor Gonzo’s Las Vegas debauch while contriving to pull back at crucial junctures in order to engender a perspective on all this hedonism. Would Alex Cox, who exited stage left, making way for the Python, have produced something interesting? I suspect, ironically, he would have diluted Thompson in favour of whatever commentary preoccupied him at the time (indeed, Johnny Depp said as much: “ Cox had this great material to work with and he took it and he added his own stuff to it ”). Plus

No matter how innocent you are, or how hard you try, they’ll find you guilty.

The Wrong Man (1956) (SPOILERS) I hate to say it, but old Truffaut called it right on this one. More often than not showing obeisance to the might of Hitchcock during his career-spanning interview, the French critic turned director was surprisingly blunt when it came to The Wrong Man . He told Hitch “ your style, which has found its perfection in the fiction area, happens to be in total conflict with the aesthetics of the documentary and that contradiction is apparent throughout the picture ”. There’s also another, connected issue with this, one Hitch acknowledged: too much fidelity to the true story upon which the film is based.

To survive a war, you gotta become war.

Rambo: First Blood Part II (1985) (SPOILERS?) I’d like to say it’s mystifying that a film so bereft of merit as Rambo: First Blood Part II could have finished up the second biggest hit of 1985. It wouldn’t be as bad if it was, at minimum, a solid action movie, rather than an interminable bore. But the movie struck a chord somewhere, somehow. As much as the most successful picture of that year, Back to the Future , could be seen to suggest moviegoers do actually have really good taste, Rambo rather sends a message about how extensively regressive themes were embedding themselves in Reaganite, conservative ‘80s cinema (to be fair, this is something one can also read into Back to the Future ), be those ones of ill-conceived nostalgia or simple-minded jingoism, notional superiority and might. The difference between Stallone and Arnie movies starts right here; self-awareness. Audiences may have watched R ambo in the same way they would a Schwarzenegger picture, but I’m

You were a few blocks away? What’d you see it with, a telescope?

The Eyes of Laura Mars (1978) (SPOILERS) John Carpenter’s first serial-killer screenplay to get made, The Eyes of Laura Mars came out nearly three months before Halloween. You know, the movie that made the director’s name. And then some. He wasn’t best pleased with the results of The Eyes of Laura Mars, which ended up co-credited to David Zelag Goodman ( Straw Dogs , Logan’s Run ) as part of an attempt by producer Jon Peters to manufacture a star vehicle for then-belle Barbra Streisand: “ The original script was very good, I thought. But it got shat upon ”. Which isn’t sour grapes on Carpenter’s part. The finished movie bears ready evidence of such tampering, not least in the reveal of the killer (different in Carpenter’s conception). Its best features are the so-uncleanly-you-can-taste-it 70s New York milieu and the guest cast, but even as an early example of the sub-genre, it’s burdened by all the failings inherit with this kind of fare.

He’s so persistent! He always gets his man.

Speed (1994) (SPOILERS) It must have been a couple of decades since I last viewed Speed all the way through, so it’s pleasing to confirm that it holds up. Sure, Jan de Bont’s debut as a director can’t compete with the work of John McTiernan, for whom he acted as cinematographer and who recommended de Bont when he passed on the picture, but he nevertheless does a more than competent work. Which makes his later turkeys all the more tragic. And Keanu and Sandra Bullock display the kind of effortless chemistry you can’t put a price tag on. And then there’s Dennis Hopper, having a great old sober-but-still-looning time.

But everything is wonderful. We are in Paris.

Cold War (2018) (SPOILERS) Pawel Pawlikowski’s elliptical tale – you can’t discuss Cold War without saying “elliptical” at least once – of frustrated love charts a course that almost seems to be a caricature of a certain brand of self-congratulatorily tragic European cinema. It was, it seems “ loosely inspired ” by his parents (I suspect I see where the looseness comes in), but there’s a sense of calculation to the progression of this love story against an inescapable political backdrop that rather diminishes it.

What do they do, sing madrigals?

The Singing Detective (2003) Icon’s remake of the 1986 BBC serial, from a screenplay by Dennis Potter himself. The Singing Detective fares less well than Icon’s later adaptation of Edge of Darkness , even though it’s probably more faithful to Potter’s original. Perhaps the fault lies in the compression of six episodes into a feature running a quarter of that time, but the noir fantasy and childhood flashbacks fail to engage, and if the hospital reality scans better, it too suffers eventually.

The game is rigged, and it does not reward people who play by the rules.

Hustlers (2019) (SPOILERS) Sold as a female Goodfellas – to the extent that the producers had Scorsese in mind – this strippers-and-crime tale is actually a big, glossy puff piece, closer to Todd Phillips as fashioned by Lorene Scarfia. There are some attractive performances in Hustlers, notably from Constance Wu, but for all its “progressive” women work male objectification to their advantage posturing, it’s incredibly traditional and conservative deep down.

One final thing I have to do, and then I’ll be free of the past.

Vertigo (1958) (SPOILERS) I’ll readily admit my Hitchcock tastes broadly tend to reflect the “consensus”, but Vertigo is one where I break ranks. To a degree. Not that I think it’s in any way a bad film, but I respect it rather than truly rate it. Certainly, I can’t get on board with Sight & Sound enthroning it as the best film ever made (in its 2012’s critics poll). That said, from a technical point of view, it is probably Hitch’s peak moment. And in that regard, certainly counts as one of his few colour pictures that can be placed alongside his black and white ones. It’s also clearly a personal undertaking, a medley of his voyeuristic obsessions (based on D’entre les morts by Pierre Boileau and Thomas Narcejac).

You don’t know anything about this man, and he knows everything about you.

The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956) (SPOILERS) Hitchcock’s two-decades-later remake of his British original. It’s undoubtedly the better-known version, but as I noted in my review of the 1934 film, it is very far from the “ far superior ” production Truffaut tried to sell the director on during their interviews. Hitchcock would only be drawn – in typically quotable style – that “ the first version is the work of a talented amateur and the second was made by a professional ”. For which, read a young, creatively fired director versus one clinically going through the motions, occasionally inspired by a shot or sequence but mostly lacking the will or drive that made the first The Man Who Knew Too Much such a pleasure from beginning to end.