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The Avengers '65, Vol. 2
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In "Death at Bargain Prices," Steed and Mrs. Peel once again find extraordinary goings-on in the most ordinary places, in this case a department store that serves as a front for madman tycoon Horatio Kane's biggest takeover bid yet--of London (he has rigged the store with a nuclear device). Mrs. Peel works undercover as a clerk, prompting Steed's priceless line, "I asked where to find you and was told, 'Our Mrs. Peel is in ladies' underwear.' I rattled up the stairs three at a time." This episode was directed by Charles Crichton, who later directed A Fish Called Wanda. "Castle De'ath" is a truly haunting episode, both because of its red-herring ghost story and the scandalous peek at Mrs. Peel's navel, not to mention her nocturnal investigation of a foreboding Scottish castle in her nightgown. What brings her and "McSteed" (outfitted in a kilt) to the castle is the death of an agent in scuba gear, who when found was four inches taller than when he was alive. "It all has to do with the price of fish," whispers McSteed. In "The Master Minds," Steed and Mrs. Peel investigate a series of raids on state security. Each, Steed notes, "has been boldly conceived and superbly executed" by "a diabolical mastermind." This leads the duo to a special school for geniuses whose lesson plan includes brainwashing. Highlights of this episode are a student's come-on to Steed ("I wonder if I might lure you away from brainwork for something more physical") and a climactic fight seen only in shadow behind a screen on which a military training film is being projected backward. Grade: A. All three episodes are in glorious black and white. --Donald Liebenson
- 3 Complete Episodes: Death at Bargain Prices, Castle De'ath, The Master Minds
- BONUS: Gallery of Production Stills Included
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This was the world of John Steed, the prototypical English Aristocrat and Emma Peel, the cool brunette that stirred the hearts of American men and boys.
These are tongue and cheek adventures with little or no violence and sophisticated banter between the two protagonists. They are both a forerunner and an after effect of the James Bond phenomenon of the sixties, that cannot be over exaggerated.
Patrick Macnee was part of the first installments of this series, with a number of partners before Diana Rigg as Mrs. Peel with her jumpsuits and Blue Lotus Elan.. But it was their pairing that made history. These, in black and white as well as color are vintage sixties cool. They have not diminished with age and are still eminently enjoyable.
"Too Many Christmas Trees" is both an Avengers favorite and one of its classics. Steed is plagued by recurring nightmares of a colleague's death, which later happens exactly as he dreamed it. Emma invites him to lighten his grief at a friend's Charles Dickens-themed Christmas party, and Steed begins having more prescient dreams - this time, foretelling his own demise. A very nasty Santa Claus is in the middle of it all, and Steed ultimately squares off against the evil St. Nick in a hall of mirrors. This episode benefits from gorgeous photography and costumes, and even more impressive nightmarish surreal sets.
For some reason I've never been able to fathom, "The Man-Eater of Surrey Green" always gets short shrift from reviewers, when it's really a very well-done episode all round. The answer may simply be in the fact that some people don't like sci-fi in the series - though sci-fi is largely what made it popular. (Go figure.) "Man-Eater" is a dark and atmospheric story about a mind-controlling space plant that germinates on Earth after finding its way here via a crashed returning manned space vehicle. Steed battles the villainous vegetable - and Emma becomes one, as the plant gets its tendrils into her finely-muscled fighter's body, to combat Steed.
Both these episodes are fine examples of The Avengers at its black-and-white atmospheric best.
"The Hour That Never Was" is one of the more typical semi-science-fictional stories the Rigg years were more famous for, and a fairly satisfying one at that. Steed and Emma find themselves missing an hour of time, after he swerves to avoid a dog in the road while on his way to an RAF reunion. The base hosting the reunion is abandoned, though there are signs of recent habitation. When Steed manages to find the other guests, they seem to be suffering mental fugues - especially when an eerie, high-pitched whine occasionally sounds in the vicinity. It all has something to do with the dentist's office... "Hour" is rather like a Twilight Zone episode, with an espionage story payoff.
An uneven pair, but worth the price of admission.
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