Skip to main content

My image has been hypnotised from his mind. I can put a gun to his head and he won’t even see it.

The Avengers
6.25: Stay Tuned

Steed being hypnotised, such that he repeatedly awakes and prepares for holiday, as if for the first time, sounds like a premise ripe with Groundhog Day potential. And it is, in an episode that generally seems to be a very popular, but for me Tony Williamson can’t quite bring it together.


Tara: You’ve already been on holiday for three weeks.

I think part of the problem is that there’s perhaps insufficient intrigue over Steed’s situation, and the déjà vu repetitions fail to effect an engaging rhythm. Much of the early proceedings are taken up with Steed and Tara attempting to track down snatches of memory – there’s a nicely intercut sequence in which they both record separate reports, reaching the same conclusion of entering the house under suspicion – but in Tara’s case, this leads to a situation that doesn’t sit quite right, in which she’s forced to lie to Steed and thus further addle him.


Steed: Tara lied to me. She told me I killed Kreer.

The background to this is her killing Kreer (Roger Delgado), the man responsible for hypnotising Steed, in a fight. Yes, this episode features the Master, and also the Rani (Kate O’Mara), in league together. 


Unfortunately, Kreer is killed within five minutes of our meeting him and Lisa (Kate) isn’t much of a part, certainly offering none of the camp splendour O’Mara was exuding during the ‘80s. Would Tara lie at gunpoint to Steed without trying to intimate somehow that she was lying? 


Proctor: My image has been hypnotised from his mind. I can put a gun to his head and he won’t even see it.

The star turn of the episode comes from Gary Bond (Wake in Fright) as Proctor, Steed’s psychotic shadow, with Steed hypnotised such that he can’t see the man following him around. It’s a neat conceit, and contempt for Proctor is built up as he repeatedly clobbers the oblivious Steed in order to send him right back to the start (waking not so much in fright as completely unaware). 


In one effective sequence, Collins (Howard Marion-Crawford, 4.24: What the Butler Saw, 5.7: The Living Dead) is assigned to follow Steed, and is mystified that Steed can’t seem to see Proctor, especially as there were times when they were walking side by side.


Kreer: When you next hear the word Bacchus, you will kill Mother.

The climax is also satisfying; the purpose of this fiendishness is to compel Steed to assassinate Mother when he hears the word “Bacchus” (earlier, he attempted to cause Tara to crash the car when she mentioned a postcard Steed had allegedly sent to Mother while on holiday, of a statue of Bacchus that looked exactly like him). Steed’s conditioning has been breaking down – he has been glimpsing Proctor in the rear-view mirror of his car, sitting in the back seat – and, rather than shoot Mother, he fires four shots into the wall around his head (“Steed always was a superb marksman”) before going outside and punching out Proctor. Macnee is dependable throughout, but Steed doesn’t seem to have let the on-edge circumstances stretch him beyond bafflement; unfortunately, this isn’t another 3.19: The Wringer.


Tara: What I need is a really good holiday.

Also notable is the one-off appearance of Father (Iris Russell, 2.1: Mission to Montreal, 3.12: November Five), who is much more no-nonsense than Mother; like Mother she has a disability, in this case blindness. The coda finds Tara about to go on holiday this time, but changing her mind when Steed reveals his next assignment is in Bermuda (“Oh, wait for me!”) Stay Tuned is a solid rather than spectacular episode, and you get the sense there’s a better one somewhere in there.













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

Popular posts from this blog

Abandon selective targeting. Shoot everything.

28 Weeks Later (2007) (SPOILERS) The first five minutes of 28 Weeks Later are far and away the best part of this sequel, offering in quick succession a devastating moral quandary and a waking nightmare, immortalised on the screen. After that, while significantly more polished, Juan Carlos Fresnadillo reveals his concept to be altogether inferior to Danny Boyle and Alex Garland’s, falling back on the crutches of gore, nihilism, and disengaging and limiting shifts of focus between characters in whom one has little investment in the first place.

The Bible never said anything about amphetamines.

The Color of Money (1986) (SPOILERS) I tend to think it’s evident when Scorsese isn’t truly exercised by material. He can still invest every ounce of the technical acumen at his fingertips, and the results can dazzle on that level, but you don’t really feel the filmmaker in the film. Which, for one of his pictures to truly carry a wallop, you need to do. We’ve seen quite a few in such deficit in recent years, most often teaming with Leo. The Color of Money , however, is the first where it was out-and-out evident the subject matter wasn’t Marty’s bag. He needed it, desperately, to come off, but in the manner a tradesman who wants to keep getting jobs. This sequel to The Hustler doesn’t linger in the mind, however good it may be, moment by moment.

Doctors make the worst patients.

Coma (1978) (SPOILERS) Michael Crichton’s sophomore big-screen feature, and by some distance his best. Perhaps it’s simply that this a milieu known to him, or perhaps it’s that it’s very much aligned to the there-and-now and present, but Coma , despite the occasional lapse in this adaptation of colleague Robin Cook’s novel, is an effective, creepy, resonant thriller and then some. Crichton knows his subject, and it shows – the picture is confident and verisimilitudinous in a way none of his other directorial efforts are – and his low-key – some might say clinical – approach pays dividends. You might also call it prescient, but that would be to suggest its subject matter wasn’t immediately relevant then too.

I said I had no family. I didn’t say I had an empty apartment.

The Apartment (1960) (SPOILERS) Billy Wilder’s romcom delivered the genre that rare Best Picture Oscar winner. Albeit, The Apartment amounts to a rather grim (now) PG-rated scenario, one rife with adultery, attempted suicide, prostitution of the soul and subjective thereof of the body. And yet, it’s also, finally, rather sweet, so salving the darker passages and evidencing the director’s expertly judged balancing act. Time Out ’s Tom Milne suggested the ending was a cop out (“ boy forgives girl and all’s well ”). But really, what other ending did the audience or central characters deserve?

Your desecration of reality will not go unpunished.

2021-22 Best-of, Worst-of and Everything Else Besides The movies might be the most visible example of attempts to cling onto cultural remnants as the previous societal template clatters down the drain. It takes something people really want – unlike a Bond movie where he kicks the can – to suggest the model of yesteryear, one where a billion-dollar grosser was like sneezing. You can argue Spider-Man: No Way Home is replete with agendas of one sort or another, and that’s undoubtedly the case (that’s Hollywood), but crowding out any such extraneous elements (and they often are) is simply a consummate crowd-pleaser that taps into tangible nostalgia through its multiverse take. Of course, nostalgia for a mere seven years ago, for something you didn’t like anyway, is a symptom of how fraught these times have become.

Captain, he who walks in fire will burn his feet.

The Golden Voyage of Sinbad (1973) (SPOILERS) Ray Harryhausen returns to the kind of unadulterated fantasy material that made Jason and the Argonauts such a success – swords & stop motion, if you like. In between, there were a couple of less successful efforts, HG Wells adaptation First Men in the Moon and The Valley of the Gwangi (which I considered the best thing ever as a kid: dinosaur walks into a cowboy movie). Harryhausen’s special-effects supremacy – in a for-hire capacity – had also been consummately eclipsed by Raquel Welch’s fur bikini in One Million Years B.C . The Golden Voyage of Sinbad follows the expected Dynamation template – blank-slate hero, memorable creatures, McGuffin quest – but in its considerable favour, it also boasts a villainous performance by nobody-at-the-time, on-the-cusp-of-greatness Tom Baker.

Listen to the goddamn qualified scientists!

Don’t Look Up (2021) (SPOILERS) It’s testament to Don’t Look Up ’s “quality” that critics who would normally lap up this kind of liberal-causes messaging couldn’t find it within themselves to grant it a free pass. Adam McKay has attempted to refashion himself as a satirist since jettisoning former collaborator Will Ferrell, but as a Hollywood player and an inevitably socio-politically partisan one, he simply falls in line with the most obvious, fatuous propagandising.

Archimedes would split himself with envy.

Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger (1977) (SPOILERS) Generally, this seems to be the Ray Harryhausen Sinbad outing that gets the short straw in the appreciation stakes. Which is rather unfair. True, Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger lacks Tom Baker and his rich brown voice personifying evil incarnate – although Margaret Whiting more than holds her own in the wickedness stakes – and the structure follows the Harryhausen template perhaps over scrupulously (Beverly Cross previously collaborated with the stop-motion auteur on Jason and the Argonauts , and would again subsequently with Clash of the Titans ). But the storytelling is swift and sprightly, and the animation itself scores, achieving a degree of interaction frequently more proficient than its more lavishly praised peer group.

You just threw a donut in the hot zone!

Den of Thieves (2018) (SPOILERS) I'd heard this was a shameless  Heat  rip-off, and the presence of Gerard Butler seemed to confirm it would be passable-at-best B-heist hokum, so maybe it was just middling expectations, even having heard how enthused certain pockets of the Internet were, but  Den of Thieves  is a surprisingly very satisfying entry in the genre. I can't even fault it for attempting to Keyser Soze the whole shebang at the last moment – add a head in a box and you have three 1995 classics in one movie – even if that particular conceit doesn’t quite come together.

You have a very angry family, sir.

Eternals (2021) (SPOILERS) It would be overstating the case to suggest Eternals is a pleasant surprise, but given the adverse harbingers surrounding it, it’s a much more serviceable – if bloated – and thematically intriguing picture than I’d expected. The signature motifs of director and honestly-not-billionaire’s-progeny Chloé Zhao are present, mostly amounting to attempts at Malick-lite gauzy natural light and naturalism at odds with the rigidly unnatural material. There’s woke to spare too, since this is something of a Kevin Feige Phase Four flagship, one that rather floundered, showcasing his designs for a nu-MCU. Nevertheless, Eternals manages to maintain interest despite some very variable performances, effects, and the usual retreat into standard tropes, come the final big showdown.