Skip to main content

I think it’s time I consulted my aggresso-therapist.

The Avengers
6.8: My Wildest Dream

Philip Levene’s teleplay is translated effectively to screen by former production designer Robert Fuest, in his, er first, for the show, but the director can’t rescue the back half of the story, which entirely fizzles. Written for the John Bryce regime, My Wildest Dream’s serious tone and corresponding lack of eccentric insulation shows unflatteringly, but it can boast a formidable guest star in Peter Vaughn, clearly enjoying himself.


The element of living one’s murderous fantasies vicariously – and then not so much – was touched upon in a broader and more satisfying fashion with Quite, Quite Fantastic Incorporated in 4.26: Honey for the Prince. Fuest takes the idea and really ups the horror angle of patients committing murder in a fantasy (on a dummy with the face of a business colleague, complete with Psycho-esque frenzied stabbing) only to discover they have done it for real. As with last season’s The Hidden Tigger, but in more straight-faced fashion, the most obvious suspect is only indirectly responsible, his technique used to adverse ends by an underling (Susan Travers’ Nurse Owen). Although, she’s actually acting at the behest of Tobias (Derek Godfrey), sitting on the Board of Acme Precision Combine and bumping off his co-directors (at one point, he succeeds at the old misdirection routine, killing Philip Madoc’s Slater “in self-defence” after it appears the latter has come to kill him).


Jaeger: If you’re trying to say that I’m an unqualified quack, then technically, legally, I would have to agree with you. But to suggest that I “dabble”. That is quite untrue.

Jaeger (Vaughn, perhaps surprisingly his only appearance in the series, but you name it, he was in it, most recently Game of Thrones) is the biggest boon of the early part of the episode, brandishing an eccentric Germanic accent as an “aggresso-therapist”, all the better to add to his psychiatric credentials. Although, he admits, in an effective sequence where Steed arrives to investigate, to pretty much everything he had been accused of, turning the tables without even realising it; yes, he isn’t a real doctor (except of law), and yes, both murderers were patients with whom he was working to exact a catharsis (“Killing in fantasy. That is my technique”); the patient “lives out his wildest dream”.


Steed: We’re being called as unimpeachable witnesses.
Tara: Are you unimpeachable?
Steed: Well, that’s beside the point.

Unfortunately, much of the rest has little hook. Tobias isn’t very interesting, and the method of making Steed witness to the murders is about as inept as villains get (“When we picked him as an ideal witness, I didn’t think. I never thought he’d get this close”). Edward Fox is the Hon Teddy Chilcott, who at least has a more age-appropriate thing for Tara, but is consequently put out by sugar-daddy Steed, for whom she only has eyes. This leads to several laboured comedy routines in which Steed arrives to take her to the ballet (really away from Teddy’s attentions) or slides down her pole to punt Teddy away from her (after he refuses to believe she overpowered him fairly, so uses unfair means to try to secure a date with her). We’re expected to believe this is sufficient cause for him to fantasise about killing Steed, and from there to be used as his potential assassin. It’s all a bit thin, and given how Teddy has been established as entirely useless, not remotely dramatically sustained. 


Gibbons: It’s a dream! It’s all a dream! It’s a… It’s a dream.

It’s curious seeing Fox here, though, reminding us that even at this point he was just a jobbing actor (younger brother James was doing better in the movies; Edward wouldn’t hit a home run lead until Day of the Jackal five years later). Madoc essays his sixth and final Avengers appearance (2.7: The Decapod, 2.25: Six Hands Across a Table, 2.10: Death of a Batman, 5.9: The Correct Way to Kill), not a large one, but both he and Murray Hayne (Gibbons) effectively convey the horrified realisation that they have committed murder for real (the latter, rather unfortunately, toppling from a balcony when Steed and Tara arrive just too late). John Savident (Egrorian in Orbit, The Squire in The Visitation – what a waste of an actor that one was – the auctioneer in Hudson Hawk and Lord Chiswick in Jeeves and Wooster, to name less than a handful) is another board member and victim.


Steed: I keep thinking I’m a horse. Well, it distresses my friends terribly. I’m given to cantering across the quiet room of my club.

Steed gets to explain he’s a horse in order to get an appointment with Jaeger (“Well, I don’t want to be cured. But do you know anyone who’d like to buy a bale or two of hay?”), much to the latter’s delight (“Highly amusing. Oh yes, highly amusing… And this looks like an interesting case. So, you think you’re a horse, eh?”: “Not often, but around derby day, I do get a slight twinge in my fetlocks”).


The coda finds Steed in confessional mode on Tara’s couch, explaining how he’d sneak a large glass of soda water from his father’s study every night (he felt deprived because he preferred lemonade). Quite in contrast to his craving for champagne, of which “Because. I happen to like it”. Problem solved. Not the funniest of finishes, although one might infer it’s representative of the producers’ (or just Clemens’) suspicion of psychology when taken in combination with Jaeger’s methods.










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

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

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.

You're not only wrong. You're wrong at the top of your voice.

Bad Day at Black Rock (1955)
I’ve seen comments suggesting that John Sturges’ thriller hasn’t aged well, which I find rather mystifying. Sure, some of the characterisations border on the cardboard, but the director imbues the story with a taut, economical backbone. 

It looks like we’ve got another schizoid embolism!

Total Recall (1990)
(SPOILERS) Paul Verhoeven offered his post-mortem on the failures of the remakes of Total Recall (2012) and Robocop (2013) when he suggested “They take these absurd stories and make them too serious”. There may be something in this, but I suspect the kernel of their issues is simply filmmakers without either the smarts or vision, or both, to make something distinctive from the material. No one would have suggested the problem with David Cronenberg’s prospective Total Recall was over-seriousness, yet his version would have been far from a quip-heavy Raiders of the Lost Ark Go to Mars (as he attributes screenwriter Ron Shusset’s take on the material). Indeed, I’d go as far as saying not only the star, but also the director of Total Recall (1990) were miscast, making it something of a miracle it works to the extent it does.

My name is Dr. King Schultz, this is my valet, Django, and these are our horses, Fritz, and Tony.

Django Unchained (2012)
(MINOR SPOILERS) Since the painful misstep of Grindhouse/Death Proof, Quentin Tarantino has regained the higher ground like never before. Pulp Fiction, his previous commercial and critical peak, has been at very least equalled by the back-to-back hits of Inglourious Basterds and Django Unchained. Having been underwhelmed by his post Pulp Fiction efforts (albeit, I admired his technical advances as a director in Kill Bill), I was pleasantly surprised by Inglourious Basterds. It was no work of genius (so not Pulp Fiction) by any means, but there was a gleeful irreverence in its treatment of history and even to the nominal heroic status of its titular protagonists. Tonally, it was a good fit for the director’s “cool” aesthetic. As a purveyor of postmodern pastiche, where the surface level is the subtext, in some ways he was operating at his zenith. Django Unchained is a retreat from that position, the director caught in the tug between his all-important aesthetic pr…

He tasks me. He tasks me, and I shall have him.

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
(1982)
(SPOILERS) I don’t love Star Trek, but I do love Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. That probably isn’t just me, but a common refrain of many a non-devotee of the series. Although, it used to apply to The Voyage Home (the funny one, with the whales, the Star Trek even the target audience for Three Men and a Baby could enjoy). Unfortunately, its high regard has also become the desperate, self-destructive, song-and-verse, be-all-and-end-all of the overlords of the franchise itself, in whichever iteration, it seems. This is understandable to an extent, as Khan is that rare movie sequel made to transcendent effect on almost every level, and one that stands the test of time every bit as well (better, even) as when it was first unveiled.

I’m not the Jedi I should be.

Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (2005)
(SPOILERS) Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith is the only series entry (thus far) I haven’t seen at the cinema. After the first two prequels I felt no great urgency, and it isn’t an omission I’d be hugely disposed to redress for (say) a 12-hour movie marathon, were such a thing held in my vicinity. In the bare bones of Revenge of the Sith, however,George Lucas has probably the strongest, most confident of all Star Wars plots to date.

This is, after all, the reason we have the prequels in the first place; the genesis of Darth Vader, and the confrontation between Anakin and Obi Wan. That it ends up as a no more than middling movie is mostly due to Lucas’ gluttonous appetite for CGI (continuing reference to its corruptive influence is, alas, unavoidable here). But Episode III is also Exhibit A in a fundamental failure of casting and character work; this was the last chance to give Anakin Skywalker substance, to reveal his potential …

Maybe the dingo ate your baby.

Seinfeld 2.9: The Stranded
The Premise
George and Elaine are stranded at a party in Long Island, with a disgruntled hostess.

I take Quaaludes 10-15 times a day for my "back pain", Adderall to stay focused, Xanax to take the edge off, part to mellow me out, cocaine to wake me back up again, and morphine... Well, because it's awesome.

The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)
Along with Pain & Gain and The Great Gatsby, The Wolf of Wall Street might be viewed as the completion of a loose 2013 trilogy on the subject of success and excess; the American Dream gone awry. It’s the superior picture to its fellows, by turns enthralling, absurd, outrageous and hilarious. This is the fieriest, most deliriously vibrant picture from the director since the millennium turned. Nevertheless, stood in the company of Goodfellas, the Martin Scorsese film from which The Wolf of Wall Street consciously takes many of its cues, it is found wanting.

I was vaguely familiar with the title, not because I knew much about Jordan Belfort but because the script had been in development for such a long time (Ridley Scott was attached at one time). So part of the pleasure of the film is discovering how widely the story diverges from the Wall Street template. “The Wolf of Wall Street” suggests one who towers over the city like a behemoth, rather than a guy …

How do you like that – Cuddles knew all the time!

The Pleasure Garden (1925)
(SPOILERS) Hitchcock’s first credit as director, and his account of the production difficulties, as related to Francois Truffaut, is by and large more pleasurable than The Pleasure Garden itself. The Italian location shoot in involved the confiscation of undeclared film stock, having to recast a key role and borrowing money from the star when Hitch ran out of the stuff.

My dear, sweet brother Numsie!

The Golden Child (1986)
Post-Beverly Hills Cop, Eddie Murphy could have filmed himself washing the dishes and it would have been a huge hit. Which might not have been a bad idea, since he chose to make this misconceived stinker.