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The Avengers: The Complete Emma Peel Megaset
DVD | Box Set
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The original British TV cult classic is back with an all-new look! Starring Diana Rigg as Emma Peel and Patrick Macnee as her engaging partner John Steed. Fans will rejoice in watching the infamous crime-fighting duo, The Avengers, who have influenced generations of stars in 51 episodes, on16 DVD discs. Enjoy every Emma episode ever in this ultimate collector's edition!
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The Avengers ran from 1961 through 1969. But the value of the stylish British import lies chiefly in the episodes that paired Diana Rigg with Patrick Macnee from 1965 to 1968. Rigg had replaced Bond girl Honor Blackman as English superspy Emma Peel for the show's fourth season, the first to be available in the US, and nothing like her had ever been seen on the television screen. The cat-suitted Peel used a kung fu fighting style to defeat England's enemies. John Steed would occasionally draw a sword from his umbrella or raise a fist if forced by circumstance but the muscle of the team was the female lead. When not tossing bad guys around the screen, Rigg's character was cultured, stylish and wonderfully intelligent. It was virtually impossible for a 13 year old boy not to be entranced by Emma Peel.
In 1965, ABC paid the unheard of price of two million dollars for 26 episodes of The Avengers. The series first aired from March to December 1966 in the 10:00 time slot because of subject matter deemed to be too mature in the States. There were in fact 5 shows that were held from distribution in the US (including Emma's appearance in a dominatrix outfit in "A Touch of Brimstone") because they were thought to be unsuitable. Besides the obvious charms of Ms Rigg and the sparkling on screen chemistry between she and Macnee, The Avengers presented a perfect mix of adventure, humor and style. The show is also a wonderful mirror of the times as Emma Peel represents the swinging London sixties scene contrasted with the Edwardian image of John Steed. The Avengers looked like a Bond movie at times and satirized everything from The Man from UNCLE to Mission Impossible to Batman. The look of the show was often cinematic and it took great care with its eccentric, secondary characters in a way reminiscent of Dickens.
The only reason I am giving one the favorite viewing experiences of my life 4 stars is that I am a bit disappointed by its release in standard format. I'm not an engineer so I'm not sure that Blue Ray treatment would make a difference with a show produced in 1960 as some reviewers have suggested. But I did purchase a Blue Ray version of The Prisoner last year, another BBC produced series from the same era, and found the color and clarity striking and surprising. I've waited a long time for a definitive version of The Avengers (possessing a carton of A&E VHS sets from the 90s) so the non Blue Ray release is a bit of a let down.
Make no mistake, though, I have pre-ordered this standard format DVD if for no other reason that its producers had the taste to break out the Emma Peel episodes, including her final, touching leave-taking of John Steed, into a stand alone set. Younger viewers may be thrown by some of the period satires but should enjoy contrasting the young, sexy Diana Rigg with the matriarchal and no less compelling character she portrayed in the latest Game of Thrones season. In any case, there are worse ways to spend your viewing time then watching the complete Emma Peel Megaset. Put an episode on each Monday night at 10 for period accuracy or, if you fell for Mrs Peel like I did, clear the evening and settle in for an Avengers marathon.
In later years I saw the Tara King stuff and later still, the girls who'd come first. But Mrs. Peel and Steed went together for me like chalk and cheese, as they say. So I had to get this set.
The adventures are very much as I remember--kooky and wild and often psychedelic. Mrs. Peel is still the ultimate lady--who's still able to rip a guy's head off without breaking a nail. Steed is still the perfect gentleman who can get knocked into a cactus and still look good. (And how can you not love a man who'll shoot Santa Claus?) I love this show and can foresee a long time of watching these adventures. Funny, sexy, silly, totally unrealistic and just plain fun escapism into a land where dreams attack you and cats are really tigers. Makes me want to wear a suit and a bowler and drive around in a Bentley or go ride dressage.
Video quality--what I've seen so far, anyway--is good. Not great, but good. I'm surprised the set does not seem to have been remastered. In the color (colour??) episodes the tones are a little off and occasionally they blur into one another. Sound is good; again not great. Loses one star for not being cleaned up a little better. But then for under $40 maybe we shouldn't expect that much.
But where they lose me is on packaging. Oh good heavens. Everything is in one ungodly thick plastic box, eight disks per bi-fold section, four facing each other. They're piled on top of each other; two disks stacked on each side. Which means if you want to watch disk #4 (or #8, #12 or #16) you've got to pry out the 3 disks above and astride it. Now picture this--you open the box and five disks are already disengaged and falling out. It's horrible--more impractical than some of the shows' plots! So far I haven't come across any scratches, but after all that rattling about I thought one of the disks must have shattered, so I wouldn't be surprised if one (or more) of them is messed up. Boo to the packaging. Even Star Trek TNG from a few years back had better packaging than this, and it required fighting with it for five minutes to get the box open. The Avengers packaging you fight to get the box open, fight to get the dvds out, and since you have to slip them UNDER part of the section joint to replace them, it takes an act of Congress to get them back in the box (and you know how successful acts of Congress are).
So, summary: if you're a high-def nut, you'll be disappointed; if you just want the show looking pretty much as you remembered, it's fine. But there's no way ANYONE can approve of the packaging. It's a nightmare and would leave even the unflappable Steed and Peel hysterical and crying for "mother." (Or was he not until Tara? memory fails.)