Skip to main content

We’re feeding electricity to him, hoping he’ll respond.

The Avengers
6.9: Whoever Shot Poor George Oblique Stroke XR40?

Another like My Wildest Dream, Whoever Shot Poor George Oblique Stroke XR40? is equipped with a decent-enough premise but rather falls down by having nowhere interesting to go with it. We don’t know precisely why the titular computer has been sabotaged until quite late in the proceedings, but we could have guessed (it’s assumed that Pelley was feeding George top secret equations, hence the “PELLEY… TRAITOR” message, but he was actually telling George he was held captive, for the purpose of revealing that old reliable: “full details of the seek and destroy mechanism of the anti-missile system”).


Ardmore: The next few hours are critical. We’re feeding electricity to him, hoping he’ll respond.

Indeed, the best part of Whoever Shot is the title, suggesting something considerably more eccentric and self-aware than it is. On that score at least, we get a redux of 4.8: The Gravediggers’ surgery on a bomb in amusingly operating room style, as Doctor Ardmore (Anthony Nicholls, 2.20: School for Traitors), cyber-surgeon, is called in to work on “the finest electronic brain in the country” (which has been on the receiving end of both barrels of a shotgun, at close range). He duly requests that the area is scrubbed and vacuumed and warns George’s pulse is erratic: “You haven’t got long”. Steed tells Tara to remain in observation as “he might cough up the answer to Baines’ equation”.


Ardmore: Good news. He’s on the mend.

Later, Tobin (Frank Windsor, the Scoutfinder General in The GoodiesScoutrageous, and also appearing in The King’s Demons and Ghostlight), in cahoots with the villains, pours half a pint of acid into him (“He’s been poisoned!”) and it becomes necessary to do a brain transplant into earlier model Fred MK II (“By comparison, a half-witted empty-headed fool. A moron” – a bit harsh). Little is made of George other than this, however, with Tara’s speculation over his sentience left unexplored (“Well, does George have judgement of his own? I man, can he interpret facts for himself?”)


Ardmore: What on earth did you hit him with?
Steed: With a great deal of venom.

Steed lands a well-aimed shot on Tobin as he attempts to kill Fred/George, and Macnee rises to the challenge of what he’s given, which is middling. He doesn’t drink during this episode, disapproving of the blotto blatherings of Sir Wilfred Pelley (Clifford Evans, Number Two in Do Not Forsake Me Oh My Darling, 4.5: Dial a Deadly Number, 5.17: Death’s Door), the inventor of George (“It is a little early”). He also gets a good scene on two against Dennis Price, the latter posing as “general factotum” Jason (a riff on his Jeeves role only a couple of years earlier) – “You’re very loyal”: “Yes, very loyal”. Price doesn’t get much chance to actually be the villain once he’s revealed as the ringleader, occasional line aside (“Fire is so very cleansing, don’t you think?”, of burning down the summerhouse with kidnapped staff and Tara in it).


Loris: You expect to stop us? One man?
Steed: Strategy. I’m expecting a surprise attack from the rear.

Steed kills Jacobs (John Porter-Davison) with a bowler ricochet. He also does a neat trick of standing the unconscious Keller (Tony Wright) to attention in the hall, before revealing himself. The subsequent exchange with Loris (Judy Parfitt, 2.8: Bullseye, 3.17: The White Elephant, 5.2: Escape in Time) is baffling, though. Why does she think Steed wouldn’t be able to stop the two of them? If she’d had ten armed men behind her, it might have made sense. Particularly as Tara then stops the pair, one woman, by sliding down the bannister.


Baines: Not a curve anywhere. Why, to have curves in my place would be sacrilege.
Tara: Um, in that case, perhaps I’d better…
Baines: No, no the furnishings. I don’t like right-angled girls. Although, I don’t mind girls with the right angles. Heh heh.
Tara: Ohhhh.

It’s a pretty good Tara episode, actually, albeit with some peculiarities. She spends the first ten minutes in fancy-dress, face concealed. You’d think she had a blemish or something, as it’s hidden again, in a surgical mask, when we next see her (Steed gets the nurse wrong: “Having fun?” asks Tara, appearing behind him. “Well, she’s been saying yes to something” comes the reply).


Jason: You see, I am an impostor too.

She’s also called upon to impersonate Pelley’s niece Prunella, complete with American accent (the resemblance is in the knees). Which Thorson does nicely, being Canadian, but then Tara is required to be a blithering idiot, handing Jason the gun as she tries to get into the cellar while telling him she’s an impostor – but keeping the accent as she does so. Steed blames himself for telling her she could trust him, but what he actually said was that she should make friends with him, rather different. 


Tara: What now?
Steed: This goes straight onto the top-secret restricted list.

An amusing coda with Steed informing Tara that he asked George for the recipe for the most delicious cocktail in the world, and receiving the answer in five seconds. Unfortunately, when he adds the final ingredient, an olive, the concoction explodes. Just as well he has a bottle of champagne in reserve.









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

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

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 waterboarding me.

The Upside (2017)
(SPOILERS) The list of US remakes of foreign-language films really ought to be considered a hiding to nothing, given the ratio of flops to unqualified successes. There’s always that chance, though, of a proven property (elsewhere) hitting the jackpot, and every exec hopes, in the case of French originals, for another The Birdcage, Three Men and a Baby, True Lies or Down and Out in Beverly Hills. Even a Nine Months, Sommersby or Unfaithful will do. Rather than EdTV. Or Sorcerer. Or Eye of the Beholder. Or Brick Mansions. Or Chloe. Or Intersection (Richard Gere is clearly a Francophile). Or Just Visiting. Or The Man with One Red Shoe. Or Mixed Nuts. Or Original Sin. Or Oscar. Or Point of No Return. Or Quick Change. Or Return to Paradise. Or Under Suspicion. Or Wicker Park. Or Father’s Day.

What about the meaningless line of indifference?

The Lion King (2019)
(SPOILERS) And so the Disney “live-action” remake train thunders on regardless (I wonder how long the live-action claim would last if there was a slim hope of a Best Animated Feature Oscar nod?) I know I keep repeating myself, but the early ‘90s Disney animation renaissance didn’t mean very much to me; I found their pictures during that period fine, but none of them blew me away as they did critics and audiences generally. As such, I have scant nostalgia to bring to bear on the prospect of a remake, which I’m sure can work both ways. Aladdin proved to be a lot of fun. Beauty and the Beast entirely tepid. The Lion King, well, it isn’t a badfilm, but it’s wearying its slavish respectfulness towards the original and so diligent in doing it justice, you’d think it was some kind of religious artefact. As a result, it is, ironically, for the most part, dramatically dead in the water.

You know what I think? I think he just wants to see one cook up close.

The Green Mile (1999)
(SPOILERS) There’s something very satisfying about the unhurried confidence of the storytelling in Frank Darabont’s two prison-set Stephen King adaptations (I’m less beholden to supermarket sweep The Mist); it’s sure, measured and precise, certain that the journey you’re being take on justifies the (indulgent) time spent, without the need for flashy visuals or ornate twists (the twists there are feel entirely germane – with a notable exception – as if they could only be that way). But. The Green Mile has rightly come under scrutiny for its reliance on – or to be more precise, building its foundation on – the “Magical Negro” trope, served with a mild sprinkling of idiot savant (so in respect of the latter, a Best Supporting Actor nomination was virtually guaranteed). One might argue that Stephen King’s magical realist narrative flourishes well-worn narrative ploys and characterisations at every stage – such that John Coffey’s initials are announcement enough of his …

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…

What you do is very baller. You're very anarchist.

Lady Bird (2017)
(SPOILERS) You can see the Noah Baumbach influence on Lady Bird, Greta Gerwig’s directorial debut, with whom she collaborated on Frances Ha; an intimate, lo-fi, post-Woody Allen (as in, post-feted, respected Woody Allen) dramedy canvas that has traditionally been the New Yorker’s milieu. But as an adopted, spiritual New Yorker, I suspect Gerwig honourably qualifies, even as Lady Bird is a love letter/ nostalgia trip to her home city of Sacramento.

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…

Do you read Sutter Cane?

In the Mouth of Madness (1994)
(SPOILERS) The concluding chapter of John Carpenter’s unofficial Apocalypse Trilogy (preceded by The Thing and Prince of Darkness) is also, sadly, his last great movie. Indeed, it stands apart in the qualitative wilderness that beset him during the ‘90s (not for want of output). Michael De Luca’s screenplay had been doing the rounds since the ‘80s, even turned down by Carpenter at one point, and it proves ideal fodder for the director, bringing out the best in him. Even cinematographer Gary K Kibbe seems inspired enough to rise to the occasion. It could do without the chugging rawk soundtrack, perhaps, but then, that was increasingly where Carpenter’s interests resided (as opposed to making decent movies).

Kindly behove me no ill behoves!

The Bonfire of the Vanities (1990)
(SPOILERS) It’s often the case that industry-shaking flops aren’t nearly the travesties they appeared to be before the dust had settled, and so it is with The Bonfire of the Vanities. The adaptation of Tom Wolfe’s ultra-cynical bestseller is still the largely toothless, apologetically broad-brush comedy – I’d hesitate to call it a satire in its reconfigured form – it was when first savaged by critics nearly thirty years ago, but taken for what it is, that is, removed from the long shadow of Wolfe’s novel, it’s actually fairly serviceable star-stuffed affair that doesn’t seem so woefully different to any number of rather blunt-edged comedies of the era.

I don’t think you will see President Pierce again.

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (2018)
(SPOILERS) The Ballad of Buster Scruggs and other tall tales of the American frontier is the title of "the book" from which the Coen brothers' latest derives, and so announces itself as fiction up front as heavily as Fargo purported to be based on a true story. In the world of the portmanteau western – has there even been one before? – theme and content aren't really all that distinct from the more familiar horror collection, and as such, these six tales rely on sudden twists or reveals, most of them revolving around death. And inevitably with the anthology, some tall tales are stronger than other tall tales, the former dutifully taking up the slack.