Skip to main content

"Take a hammer, Emily," he said. "Take a hammer and smash everything shiny."

The Avengers
6.11: All Done with Mirrors

One I rated much more highly prior to this revisit, Leigh Vance’s teleplay for All Done with Mirrors (he’d later pen the screenplay for mid-70s Michael Caine thriller The Black Windmill) nevertheless has some appealing conceits, while Ray Austin (who would also helm half a dozen New Avengers) offers some memorable visuals.


As the title suggest, the plot revolves around reflective surfaces. They’re employed in a “retrometer” as a means for eavesdropping on and communicating with subjects in line of sight, sound being projected along a beam of light, with all the covert possibilities that suggests. What with the villains’ headquarters being a lighthouse, and being surrounding cliffs, the device makes for an effective means of luring nosy types to their doom (including Tara at one point, who survives a plunge to her death with “They pushed me clear of the rocks” – it must have been atremendouspush to have got that far clear). Although, this appears to work in a variety of locations, as per the teaser where ministry man Roger (John Bown) is gunned down in a wood. Dr Seligman (Anthony Dutton, 5.18: Return of the Cybernauts) is also later lured to the woods and dispatched.


Steed: I’m innocent! Entirely innocent!
Mother: Yes, but for how long?

This one’s a Tara single-hander, with Steed under house arrest because secrets are leaking from an institute he is investigating (really because Macnee was taking a holiday). As a consequence, he’s required to hang out with Mother and some bathing-suited belles (including the first appearance of Rhonda, in production terms, which is why she gives Steed an unaccustomed smile). Accordingly, it’s one of Tara’s best showings, since she doesn’t get knocked out or require saving by Steed; he arrives a bit too late to save the day (“Never mind, it’s the thought that counts”). As well as proving handy in the various fights (including the shocking ginger of bowler-hatted pro-wrestler Bruno Elrington), she also looks very becoming in her beret ensemble.


Colonel Withers: Spartan! Amazonian!
Tara: Beg your pardon?
Colonel Withers: Not even out of breath. I like that. Physical fitness. I like that too.

While All Done with Mirrors is big on mystery and set pieces, it’s ultimately a little dry for my tastes, despite a fight during which a villain falls down the lighthouse stairs – all 365 of them. Michael Trubshawe (4.4: Dial a Deadly Number) makes an impression as (the fake) Colonel Withers, impressed that Tara isn’t even out of breath after climbing said stairs and unresponsive to her querying if he’s seen anything, since he has no reason to look at the land ("And what do you see? The sea. That's what you see. The great, grand rolling ocean").


There’s some lovely location filming (done in April), though, and appealingly creative visual touches, such as astronomer Guthrie (Desmond Jordan) losing his glasses on the cliff edge. The supporting cast are solid, but most of the characters fail to come alive. Tara’s given a nominal sidekick in the stuffy Watney (Dinsdale Landen, The Curse of Fenric, suggesting he was never very suave, even in his early 30s).


Barlow (Edwin Richfield in his final appearance in the show, previously showing up in 1.6: Girl on a Trapeze, 2.9: The Removal Men, 3.17: The White Elephant, 4.6: Too Many Christmas Trees, and 5.19: Dead Man’s Treasure) is the ring leader, an impostor stealing secrets from the research institute. Also present are head of security Major Sparshott (Peter Copley, 2.21: The White Dwarf), Pandora (Joanna Vogel, 5.9: The Correct Way to Kill), who notes something is iffy as she’d made arrangements with the real colonel, and is forced to lure Tara to her death, and Carswell (Tennial Evans, 1.11: Please Don’t Feed the Animals, 2.14: The Big Thinker, 3.4: The Golden Fleece).


Steed: I always say the simplest pleasures in life are the most enjoyable.

The coda has Steed serving Tara dinner in a field of buttercups – very idyllic and summery looking – including a fillet steak he’s been cooking in the Rolls’ engine. A solid episode, and I can see why it’s generally acclaimed as one of the best Tara King episodes, but for me it lacks that necessary extra flavour.
















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

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Who’s got the Figgy Port?

Loki (2021) (SPOILERS) Can something be of redeemable value and shot through with woke? The two attributes certainly sound essentially irreconcilable, and Loki ’s tendencies – obviously, with new improved super-progressive Kevin Feige touting Disney’s uber-agenda – undeniably get in the way of what might have been a top-tier MCU entry from realising its full potential. But there are nevertheless solid bursts of highly engaging storytelling in the mix here, for all its less cherishable motivations. It also boasts an effortlessly commanding lead performance from Tom Hiddleston; that alone puts Loki head and shoulders above the other limited series thus far.

Here’s Bloody Justice for you.

Laughter in Paradise (1951) (SPOILERS) The beginning of a comedic run for director-producer Mario Zampa that spanned much of the 1950s, invariably aided by writers Michael Pertwee and Jack Davies (the latter went on to pen a spate of Norman Wisdom pictures including The Early Bird , and also comedy rally classic Monte Carlo or Bust! ) As usual with these Pertwee jaunts, Laughter in Paradise boasts a sparky premise – renowned practical joker bequeaths a fortune to four relatives, on condition they complete selected tasks that tickle him – and more than enough resultant situational humour.

Damn prairie dog burrow!

Tremors (1990) (SPOILERS) I suspect the reason the horror comedy – or the sci-fi comedy, come to that – doesn’t tend to be the slam-dunk goldmine many assume it must be, is because it takes a certain sensibility to do it right. Everyone isn’t a Joe Dante or Sam Raimi, or a John Landis, John Carpenter, Edgar Wright, Christopher Landon or even a Peter Jackson or Tim Burton, and the genre is littered with financial failures, some of them very good failures (and a good number of them from the names mentioned). Tremors was one, only proving a hit on video (hence six sequels at last count). It also failed to make Ron Underwood a directing legend.

Why don't we go on a picnic, up the hill?

Invaders from Mars (1986) (SPOILERS) One can wax thematical over the number of remakes of ’50s movies in the ’80s – and ’50s SF movies in particular – and of how they represent ever-present Cold War and nuclear threats, and steadily increasing social and familial paranoias and disintegrating values. Really, though, it’s mostly down to the nostalgia of filmmakers for whom such pictures were formative influences (and studios hoping to make an easy buck on a library property). Tobe Hooper’s version of nostalgia, however, is not so readily discernible as a John Carpenter or a David Cronenberg (not that Cronenberg could foment such vibes, any more than a trip to the dental hygienist). Because his directorial qualities are not so readily discernible. Tobe Hooper movies tend to be a bit shit. Which makes it unsurprising that Invaders from Mars is a bit shit.

I’m just glad Will Smith isn’t alive to see this.

The Tomorrow War (2021) (SPOILERS). Not so much tomorrow as yesterday. There’s a strong sense of déjà vu watching The Tomorrow War , so doggedly derivative is it of every time-travel/alien war/apocalyptic sci-fi movie of the past forty years. Not helping it stand out from the pack are doughy lead Chris Pratt, damned to look forever on the beefy side no matter how ripped he is and lacking the chops or gravitas for straight roles, and debut live-action director Chris McKay, who manages to deliver the goods in a serviceably anonymous fashion.

You nicknamed my daughter after the Loch Ness Monster?

The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2 (2012) The final finale of the Twilight saga, in which pig-boy Jacob tells Bella that, “No, it's not like that at all!” after she accuses him of being a paedo. But then she comes around to his viewpoint, doubtless displaying the kind of denial many parents did who let their kids spend time with Jimmy Savile or Gary Glitter during the ‘70s. It's lucky little Renesmee will be an adult by the age of seven, right? Right... Jacob even jokes that he should start calling Edward, “Dad”. And all the while they smile and smile.

I'm offering you a half-share in the universe.

Doctor Who Season 8 – Worst to Best I’m not sure I’d watched Season Eight chronologically before. While I have no hesitation in placing it as the second-best Pertwee season, based on its stories, I’m not sure it pays the same dividends watched as a unit. Simply, there’s too much Master, even as Roger Delgado never gets boring to watch and the stories themselves offer sufficient variety. His presence, turning up like clockwork, is inevitably repetitive. There were no particular revelatory reassessments resulting from this visit, then, except that, taken together – and as The Directing Route extra on the Blu-ray set highlights – it’s often much more visually inventive than what would follow. And that Michael Ferguson should probably have been on permanent attachment throughout this era.

I hate natural causes!

Body Bags (1993) (SPOILERS) I’m not surprised Showtime didn’t pick this up for an anthology series. Perhaps, if John Carpenter had made Coming Home in a Body Bag (the popular Nam movie series referenced in the same year’s True Romance ), we’d have something to talk about. Tho’ probably not, if Carpenter had retained his by this point firmly glued to his side DP Gary Kibbe, ensuring the proceedings are as flat, lifeless and unatmospheric as possible. Carpenter directed two of the segments here, Tobe Hooper the other one. It may sound absurd, given the quality of Hooper’s career, but by this point, even he was calling the shots better than Carpenter.

Call me crazy, but I don’t see America coming out in droves to see you puke.

The Hard Way (1991) (SPOILERS) It would probably be fair to suggest that Michael J Fox’s comic talents never quite earned the respect they deserved. Sure, he was the lead in two incredibly popular TV shows, but aside from one phenomenally successful movie franchise, he never quite made himself a home on the big screen. Part of that might have been down to attempts in the late ’80s to carve himself out a niche in more serious roles – Light of Day , Bright Lights, Big City , Casualties of War – roles none of his fanbase had any interest in seeing him essaying. Which makes the part of Nick Lang, in which Fox is at his comic best, rather perfect. After all, as his character, movie star Nick Lang, opines, after smashing in his TV with his People’s Choice Award – the kind of award reserved for those who fail to garner serious critical adoration – “ I’m the only one who wants me to grow up! ”

What's a movie star need a rocket for anyway?

The Rocketeer (1991) (SPOILERS) The Rocketeer has a fantastic poster. One of the best of the last thirty years (and while that may seem like faint praise, what with poster design being a dying art – I’m looking at you Marvel, or Amazon and the recent The Tomorrow War – it isn’t meant to be). The movie itself, however, tends towards stodge. Unremarkable pictures with a wide/cult fanbase, conditioned by childhood nostalgia, are ten-a-penny – Willow for example – and in this case, there was also a reasonably warm critical reception. But such an embrace can’t alter that Joe Johnston makes an inveterately bland, tepid movie director. His “feel” for period here got him The First Avenger: Captain America gig, a bland, tepid movie tending towards stodge. So at least he’s consistent.