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.

So you made contact with the French operative?

Atomic Blonde (2017)
(SPOILERS) Well, I can certainly see why Focus Features opted to change the title from The Coldest City (the name of the graphic novel from which this is adapted). The Coldest City evokes a nourish, dour, subdued tone, a movie of slow-burn intrigue in the vein of John Le Carré. Atomic Blonde, to paraphrase its introductory text, is not that movie. As such, there’s something of a mismatch here, of the kind of Cold War tale it has its roots in and the furious, pop-soaked action spectacle director David Leitch is intent on turning it into. In the main, his choices succeed, but the result isn’t quite the clean getaway of his earlier (co-directed) John Wick.

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.

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 …

In a few moments, you will have an experience that will seem completely real. It will be the result of your subconscious fears transformed into your conscious awareness.

Brainstorm (1983)
(SPOILERS) Might Brainstorm have been the next big thing – a ground-breaking, game-changing cinematic spectacle that had as far reaching consequences as Star Wars (special effects) or Avatar (3D) – if only Douglas Trumbull had been allowed to persevere with his patented “Showscan” process (70mm film photographed and projected at 60 frames per second)? I suspect not; one only has to look at the not-so-far-removed experiment of Ang Lee with Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk, and how that went down like a bag of cold sick, to doubt that any innovation will necessarily catch on (although Trumbull at least had a narrative hinge on which to turn his “more real than real” imagery, whereas Lee’s pretty much boiled down to “because it was there”). Brainstorm’s story is, though, like its title, possibly too cerebral, too much concerned with the consciousness and touting too little of the cloyingly affirmative that Bruce Rubin inevitably brings to his screenplays. That doesn’t mea…

You keep a horse in the basement?

The ‘Burbs (1989)
(SPOILERS) The ‘Burbs is Joe Dante’s masterpiece. Or at least, his masterpiece that isn’t his bite-the-hand-that-feeds-you masterpiece Gremlins 2: The New Batch, or his high profile masterpiece Gremlins. Unlike those two, the latter of which bolted out of the gate and took audiences by surprise with it’s black wit subverting the expected Spielberg melange, and the first which was roundly shunned by viewers and critics for being absolutely nothing like the first and waving that fact gleefully under their noses, The ‘Burbs took a while to gain its foothold in the Dante pantheon. 

It came out at a time when there had been a good few movies (not least Dante’s) taking a poke at small town Americana, and it was a Tom Hanks movie when Hanks was still a broad strokes comedy guy (Big had just made him big, Turner and Hooch was a few months away; you know you’ve really made it when you co-star with a pooch). It’s true to say that some, as with say The Big Lebowski, “got it” on fi…

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.

You can’t keep the whole world in the dark about what’s going on. Once they know that a five-mile hunk of rock is going to hit the world at 30,000 miles per hour, the people will want to know what the hell we intend to do about it.

Meteor (1979)
(SPOILERS) In which we find Sean Connery – or his agent, whom he got rid of subsequent to this and Cuba – showing how completely out of touch he was by the late 1970s. Hence hitching his cart to the moribund disaster movie genre just as movie entertainment was being rewritten and stolen from under him. He wasn’t alone, of course – pal Michael Caine would appear in both The Swarm and Beyond the Poseidon Adventure during this period – but Meteor’s lack of commercial appeal was only accentuated by how functional and charmless its star is in it. Some have cited Meteor as the worst movie of his career (Christopher Bray in his book on the actor), but its sin is not one of being outright terrible, rather of being terminally dull.

You’re a regular little CIA all on your own, aren’t you?

The Internecine Project (1974)
(SPOILERS) I underrated Ken Hughes’ sharp little spy thriller last time I saw it; probably, the quality of the battered, pan-and-scanned print didn’t help any. In pristine form, The Internecine Project – I think it’s a great title, in contrast to Glenn Erickson’s appraisal – reveals itself as commendably oddball and unlikely, but also politically shrewd picture, if in a manner that is anything but heavy-handed. Plus, it has James Coburn, being magnificently James Coburn about everything.

Well, it seems our Mr Steed is not such an efficient watchdog after all.

The Avengers 2.7: The Decapod
A title suggesting some variety of monstrous aquatic threat for Steed and Julie Stevens’ Venus Smith. Alas, the reality is much more mundane. The Decapod refers to a Mongo-esque masked wrestler, one who doesn’t even announce “I will destroy you!” at the top of his lungs. Still, there’s always Philip “Solon” Madoc looking very shifty to pass the time.

Madoc is Stepan, a Republic of the Balkans embassy official and the brother-in-law of President Yakob Borb (Paul Stassino). There’s no love lost between him and his ladies’ man bro, and dark deeds are taking place with the embassy confines, but who is responsible proves elusive. Steed is called in, or rather calls Venus in as a replacement, when Borb’s private secretary is murdered by Mongo. Steed isn’t buying that she slipped and broke her neck in the shower; “I shouldn’t like a similar accident to happen to you” he informs the President.

The trail leads to wrestling bouts at the public baths, where the Butcher…