Skip to main content

That's Steed. Who else would smile at a time like this?

The Avengers
6.17: They Keep Killing Steed

Great title. If only Brian Clemens’ teleplay was up to the same standard. Which isn’t to say the episode is terrible, just that it’s anotherdoppelganger Avengers, only this time, instead of one Steed there’s a selection. Ray McAnally (5.23: The Positive Negative Man) returns, overplaying again with a silly accent, and he’s better here, but still far from being one of the series’ most iconic guest stars.


Baron Von Curt: It was a privilege being married to you.

Indeed, young Ian Ogilvy nearly takes such honours, rocking a shock of blonde hair as Baron Von Curt, a rich entitled dilettante – he owns both the hotel Steed and Tara check into and the focal conference house – with swarms of admirers who takes a fancy to Tara, but is also very capable with a rapier. One could easily have imagined him taking over from Steed for a New Avengers. That, or returning as The Saint


Arcos: We intend to infiltrate the peace conference.
Steed: With a forged passport?
Arcos: No, with a forged face.

McAnally’s Arcos plans to use his “instant plastic surgery” technique to get into and disrupt a peace conference (we later discover, by having a Steed put a bomb in the Chairman’s gavel). This entails kidnapping Steed and keeping him imprisoned in a lab under a quarry, although Steed overpowers co-conspirator Zerson (Norman Jones, The Abominable Snowmen, The Silurians, The Masque of Mandragora) and attempts to confuse plans by putting four kits in the case to be delivered, rather than one. One of these, Nadine (Hal Gailili), who was Arcos’ actual choice for the mission, expires during the process, ending up with half Steed’s face, while Perova (Michael Corcoran, 4.10: A Surfeit of HO) knocks out the others, Mintoff (George Ghent) and Georgio (Anthony Sheppard, 4.11: Two’s a Crowd), at the conference.


Arcos: A nice touch of irony. I am now you.

Little is required of Macnee for all this, since his voice is dubbed by the actors concerned; later, when Arcos takes Steed’s face the same method is employed, with Macnee frantically over-gesticulating to approximate McAnally’s over-enthused posturing.


Zerson: He hit me.
Arcos: He shows wisdom.

None of this is massively diverting; Tara pretending to be Von Curt’s wife provides more amusement. Arcos learnt his technique “in the operating theatres of Europe” and prides himself on being a match for Steed, but the latter beats him at chess (“You seem to rely heavily on your pawns”), insults his wine and then makes a successful escape via an air duct. He must then dodge attempts by the good guys to kill him, notably Captain Smythe (Bernard Horsfall, 4.7: The Cybernauts, 5.1: The Fear Merchants), who comes across as a bit of an idiot, but at least he doesn’t turn out to be a bad guy, which would have been an obvious move.


Steed: Straight down stream and turn left at the salmon nets.

I like the conceit of the lab based under a clapped-out car wreck, and even more the patently absurd base for Mother beneath a river; Tara leaps off a bridge at one point to meet with him. The face masks used for the transformations are quite cool/odd, echoing the astronaut outfit in Invasion of the Earthmen.


Steed: Remember that time in Tibet? We rescued that little lama, friend of the Dalai’s. Delivered a little lama safe and sound.

Tara guessing the real Steed (“Strawberry shortcake”) isn’t as much fun as in previous Steed double stories, particularly since her pairing with Ogilvy for most of the episode has given her a stint with an age-appropriate partner. The coda has Steed and Tara on a beach that’s obviously her flat before it’s revealed as such, but I suppose that’s better than the beach that’s obviously a cramped set in 2.9: The Removal Men.













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

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

They'll think I've lost control again and put it all down to evolution.

Time Bandits (1981) (SPOILERS) Terry Gilliam had co-directed previously, and his solo debut had visual flourish on its side, but it was with Time Bandits that Gilliam the auteur was born. The first part of his Trilogy of Imagination, it remains a dazzling work – as well as being one of his most successful – rich in theme and overflowing with ideas while resolutely aimed at a wide (family, if you like) audience. Indeed, most impressive about Time Bandits is that there’s no evidence of self-censoring here, of attempting to make it fit a certain formula, format or palatable template.

I never strangled a chicken in my life!

Rope (1948) (SPOILERS) Rope doesn’t initially appear to have been one of the most venerated of Hitchcocks, but it has gone through something of a rehabilitation over the years, certainly since it came back into circulation during the 80s. I’ve always rated it highly; yes, the seams of it being, essentially, a formal experiment on the director’s part, are evident, but it’s also an expert piece of writing that uses our immediate knowledge of the crime to create tension throughout; what we/the killers know is juxtaposed with the polite dinner party they’ve thrown in order to wallow in their superiority.

Oh, you got me right in the pantaloons, partner.

The Party (1968) (SPOILERS) Blake Edwards’ semi-improvisational reunion with Peter Sellers is now probably best known for – I was going to use an elephant-in-the-room gag, but at least one person already went there – Sellers’ “brown face”. And it isn’t a decision one can really defend, even by citing The Party ’s influence on Bollywood. Satyajit Ray had also reportedly been considering working with Sellers… and then he saw the film. One can only assume he’d missed similar performances in The Millionairess and The Road to Hong Kong ; in the latter case, entirely understandable, if not advisable. Nevertheless, for all the flagrant stereotyping, Sellers’ bungling Hrundi V Bakshi is a very likeable character, and indeed, it’s the piece’s good-natured, soft centre – his fledgling romance with Claudine Longet’s Michele – that sees The Party through in spite of its patchy, hit-and-miss quality.

I'm an old ruin, but she certainly brings my pulse up a beat or two.

The Paradine Case (1947) (SPOILERS) Hitchcock wasn’t very positive about The Paradine Case , his second collaboration with Gregory Peck, but I think he’s a little harsh on a picture that, if it doesn’t quite come together dramatically, nevertheless maintains interest on the basis of its skewed take on the courtroom drama. Peck’s defence counsel falls for his client, Alida Valli’s accused (of murder), while wife Ann Todd wilts dependably and masochistically on the side-lines.

You must have hopes, wishes, dreams.

Brazil (1985) (SPOILERS) Terry Gilliam didn’t consider Brazil the embodiment of a totalitarian nightmare it is often labelled as. His 1984½ (one of the film’s Fellini-riffing working titles) was “ the Nineteen Eighty-Four for 1984 ”, in contrast to Michael Anderson’s Nineteen Eighty-Four from 1948. This despite Gilliam famously boasting never to have read the Orwell’s novel: “ The thing that intrigues me about certain books is that you know them even though you’ve never read them. I guess the images are archetypal ”. Or as Pauline Kael observed, Brazil is to Nineteen Eighty-Four as “ if you’d just heard about it over the years and it had seeped into your visual imagination ”. Gilliam’s suffocating system isn’t unflinchingly cruel and malevolently intolerant of individuality; it is, in his vision of a nightmare “future”, one of evils spawned by the mechanisms of an out-of-control behemoth: a self-perpetuating bureaucracy. And yet, that is not really, despite how indulgently and glee

A herbal enema should fix you up.

Never Say Never Again (1983) (SPOILERS) There are plenty of sub-par Bond s in the official (Eon) franchise, several of them even weaker than this opportunistic remake of Thunderball , but they do still feel like Bond movies. Never Say Never Again , despite – or possibly because he’s part of it – featuring the much-vaunted, title-referencing return of the Sean Connery to the lead role, only ever feels like a cheap imitation. And yet, reputedly, it cost more than the same year’s Rog outing Octopussy .

Miss Livingstone, I presume.

Stage Fright (1950) (SPOILERS) This one has traditionally taken a bit of a bruising, for committing a cardinal crime – lying to the audience. More specifically, lying via a flashback, through which it is implicitly assumed the truth is always relayed. As Richard Schickel commented, though, the egregiousness of the action depends largely on whether you see it as a flaw or a brilliant act of daring: an innovation. I don’t think it’s quite that – not in Stage Fright ’s case anyway; the plot is too ordinary – but I do think it’s a picture that rewards revisiting knowing the twist, since there’s much else to enjoy it for besides.

Do you know the world is a foul sty? Do you know, if you ripped the fronts off houses, you'd find swine? The world's a hell. What does it matter what happens in it?

Shadow of a Doubt (1943) (SPOILERS) I’m not sure you could really classify Shadow of a Doubt as underrated, as some have. Not when it’s widely reported as Hitchcock’s favourite of his films. Underseen might be a more apt sobriquet, since it rarely trips off the lips in the manner of his best-known pictures. Regardless of the best way to categorise it, it’s very easy to see why the director should have been so quick to recognise Shadow of a Doubt 's qualities, even if some of those qualities are somewhat atypical.

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 can’t climb a ladder, no. But you can skip like a goat into a bar.

Juno and the Paycock (1930) (SPOILERS) Hitchcock’s second sound feature. Such was the lustre of this technological advance that a wordy play was picked. By Sean O’Casey, upon whom Hitchcock based the prophet of doom at the end of The Birds . Juno and the Paycock , set in 1922 during the Irish Civil War, begins as a broad comedy of domestic manners, but by the end has descended into full-blown Greek (or Catholic) tragedy. As such, it’s an uneven but still watchable affair, even if Hitch does nothing to disguise its stage origins.