Skip to main content

Body snatchers in this day and age?

The Avengers
6.33: Bizarre

Perhaps I was just being kind as it’s the last episode, or that I liked the final scene (which I still do like) but I had it in my head that Bizarre was a slight but agreeable way to go out. I was right about the slight part.


Mother: Are you sure he was dead?
Steed: No respiration, no heartbeat, ice cold. Yes, he was dead.

Mainly, its problem is that, rather like Requiem, it’s deathly dull and seems to be repeating the same unfunny skit ad infinitum. There’s no tension or surprise involved (the nature of the scam is pretty obvious; it’s even been used, effectively and more inventively, in the show before in 3.9: The Undertakers) and the whole thing looks very cheap, which hasn’t often been the case with the show in the colour era. I guess they had their pink slips by then, though, and funds were drying up. 


I mentioned Ola from 3.7: Don’t Look Behind You in reference to the previous episode’s loony Circe, and now we have Sally Nesbitt back, who played Ola Mk II in 5.15: The Joker, only in a rather thankless role as Helen, thrown from a train in her nightie and reporting a dead man, Jupp (John Sharp, 2.13: Traitor in Zebra, 5.22: Murdersville). 


There’s also Roy Kinnear (3.25: Esprit De Corps, 4.15: The Hour That Never Was, 5.5: The See-Through Man) in a very Clemens tradesman-with-a-stupid-name role, as the proprietor of Happy Meadows Funeral Home, Mr Bagpipes Happychap. In the first instance, this isn’t the usual breathless, nervous Kinnear part, but don’t worry; by the end, he’s doing pratfall pass-outs at the sight of a trail of bodies rising from his graves. 


The cemetery is a very obvious studio set, and the underground pad housing the “deceased” looks even less ostentatious. Some of the narrative decisions make little sense. If the villains are so concerned about witness Helen identifying a dead man as alive, why send a dead man (Bradney Morton – Frank Maher) to kill her, since this will only confirm there’s mischief afoot (he officially died of a heart attack six months ago)?


Steed: They say you can’t buy your way into heaven, but I aim to try.

I wondered slightly at the large role for Captain Cordell (James Kerry, Blake’s 7 Countdown), since it seems almost like a prototype for Gambit in The New Avengers… until he makes a fatal mistake during his stay under Happy Meadows – being recognised by Charley (Ron Pember, 1.18: Double Danger). Thus, Steed’s required to be the next applicant. In charge of the scheme is the Master (Fulton Mackay, 5.18: Return of the Cybernauts, 6.10: You’ll Catch Your Death), supported by Shaw (George Innes). 


The Master: I am the Master. I am also a charlatan, A fraud. A taker-in of the gullible.
Steed: Well, that makes two of us.

There’s a touch of post-modern brownface, as it were, with the Master’s get up; as with Legacy of Death, this isn’t a Caucasian actor pretending at ethnicity, but a Caucasian actor playing a Caucasian character pretending at ethnicity. Whether that makes it more justifiable, I don’t know, but it is at least self-aware. 


The Master: Really, Mr Steed, this morbid curiosity is verging on an obsession. If it’s digging you’re interested in, why don’t you take up gardening?

Happychap is given much aggrieved cause to continually dig up graves. The underworld consists of girls feeding guys grapes (“The mind boggles. What would it be like, I wonder, if I’d lived a completely blameless life?”) and Mother becomes frustrated with developments (“I wonder if it’s too late to hand this case over to another department?”), until Tara busts in through the bottom of a grave/roof and helps clear things up (“Steed is alive and well, but he’s staying in paradise”). 


The Master: Death is only the beginning, Mr Steed.

The coda is perhaps the series’ silliest, and therefore an entirely appropriate send-off (Notably, The Prisoner also finished with a rocket lifting off). Steed has constructed a rocket in his backyard but hasn’t got all of the instructions (asked how he stops it, he replies “That part arrives next week”). Although, he’s confident he can get them down eventually: “There’s no hurry, is there?” So yes, it’s a final encore for Tara going gooey eyed at Steed. Fortunately, the last word goes to Mother, also disapproving of such behaviour:

They’ll be back. You can depend on it... They’re unchaperoned up there!













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

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

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…

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…

Everyone wants a happy ending and everyone wants closure but that's not the way life works out.

It Chapter Two (2019)
(SPOILERS) An exercise in stultifying repetitiveness, It Chapter Two does its very best to undo all the goodwill engendered by the previous instalment. It may simply be that adopting a linear approach to the novel’s interweaving timelines has scuppered the sequel’s chances of doing anything the first film hasn’t. Oh, except getting rid of Pennywise for good, which you’d be hard-pressed to discern as substantially different to the CGI-infused confrontation in the first part, Native American ritual aside.

That woman, deserves her revenge and… we deserve to die. But then again, so does she.

Kill Bill: Vol. 2  (2004)
(SPOILERS) I’m not sure I can really conclude whether one Kill Bill is better than the other, since I’m essentially with Quentin in his assertion that they’re one film, just cut into two for the purposes of a selling point. I do think Kill Bill: Vol. 2 has the movie’s one actually interesting character, though, and I’m not talking David Carradine’s title role.

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).

When you grow up, if you still feel raw about it, I’ll be waiting.

Kill Bill: Vol. 1 (2003)
(SPOILERS) It sometimes seems as if Quentin Tarantino – in terms of his actual movies, rather than nearly getting Uma killed in an auto stunt – is the last bastion of can-do-no-wrong on the Internet. Or at very least has the preponderance of its vocal weight behind him. Back when his first two movies proper were coming out, so before online was really a thing, I’d likely have agreed, but by about the time the Kill Bills arrived, I’d have admitted I was having serious pause about him being all he was cracked up to be. Because the Kill Bills aren’t very good, and they’ve rather characterised his hermetically sealed wallowing in obscure media trash and genre cul-de-sacs approach to his art ever since. Sometimes to entertaining effect, sometimes less so, but always ever more entrenching his furrow; as Neil Norman note in his Evening Standard review, “Tarantino has attempted (and largely succeeded) in making a movie whose only reality is that of celluloid”. Extend t…

Check it out. I wonder if BJ brought the Bear with him.

Death Proof (2007)
(SPOILERS) In a way, I’m slightly surprised Tarantino didn’t take the opportunity to disown Death Proof, to claim that, as part of Grindhouse, it was no more one of his ten-official-films-and-out than his Four Rooms segment. But that would be to spurn the exploitation genre affectation that has informed everything he’s put his name to since Kill Bill, to a greater or less extent, and also require him to admit that he was wrong, and you won’t find him doing that for anything bar My Best Friend’s Birthday.

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 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.

Where’s the commode in this dungeon? I gotta have a squirt.

Reservoir Dogs (1992)
(SPOILERS) I’m not shy to admit that I fully bought into the Tarantino hype when he first arrived on the scene. Which, effectively took place with the UK’s reception of Reservoir Dogs (and its subsequent banning from home video), rather than the slightly tepid post-Sundance US response. That said, I think I always appreciated the “package” more than the piece itself. Don’t get me wrong, I admired the film for what it achieved, shrewdly maximising its effectiveness on a limited budget by, for example, making a virtue out of notshowing the all-important heist. But its influence was everything, more than the sum total of the film itself – that slow-motion parade in cheap matching suits (not so much Chris Penn’s track one), the soundtrack CD that was a fixture until, basically Pulp Fiction came out, the snatches of dialogue, most famously the “Like a Virgin” monologue, even the poster, adorning every student’s wall for the next half decade – so I wouldn’t quite say I …