Avengers '63: Set 1

Avengers '63: Set 1

Director: Bill Bain, Don Leaver, Kim Mills, Raymond Menmuir

Cast: Bill Bain, Don Leaver, Kim Mills, Raymond Menmuir

The 1964 season was where The Avengers began taking on the shape and form that it would finally assume when it went to shooting on film and to international distribution with Diana Rigg as its co-star the following year. "The White Elephant" is the kind of story that it ceased doing in subsequent years, though it is rewarding as an "old style"


The 1964 season was where The Avengers began taking on the shape and form that it would finally assume when it went to shooting on film and to international distribution with Diana Rigg as its co-star the following year. "The White Elephant" is the kind of story that it ceased doing in subsequent years, though it is rewarding as an "old style" Avengers show. An albino elephant has disappeared from millionaire Noah Marshall's (Godfrey Quigley) private zoo. Steed (Patrick Macnee) suspects a connection with smugglers and gets Cathy Gale (Honor Blackman) a job at the zoo, while he investigates the activities at Bannerman & Kemp (a London gunsmith that supplies Marshall with rifles) and its connection with a metal shop that specializes in custom-built cages and restraints. The most delightfully bizarre moment comes when Steed inquires about restraints -- he finds there's a "special" on one model of metal shackles "for bipeds" (i.e. two-legged restrainees) because of an order canceled "due to a political upheaval overseas." The dialogue is clever and the action fairly brisk, and the interlocking plot complications of a personal nature make this rewarding viewing, with Blackman giving a fiercely defiant performance as Mrs. Gale, who doesn't necessarily approve of the job on which she's been engaged to work. Even the stealing of the elephant is explained in a perfectly logical manner. "The Little Wonders" is so surreally comedic that it would have fit perfectly and exactly as shot into the next two seasons with Rigg -- or into one of Ian Fleming's James Bond plots. It hooks around an international crime syndicate whose members masquerade as clergymen and who are having a major "convocation" at an empty London elementary school, which Steed must infiltrate. Lois Maxwell is worth watching in this episode for the weapons she carries. "The Wringer" is an old-style spy story that could well have come from the pen of John Le Carré or Len Deighton. Steed is sent to the Austro-Hungarian border, where six agents have died and an old friend, Anderson (Peter Sallis), has disappeared. Steed finds Anderson, but suddenly is taken prisoner by his friend, who charges him with the murders of the agents. The main body of the episode concerns Steed's interrogation after his conviction for treason. He is imprisoned by a special unit of the service in a cage of steel wire the size of a small room, with bright lights above him burning constantly and video displays surrounding him, showing everything from ceaseless crashing waves to artillery barrages. Even under torture, however, his mind is working, deducing the real machinations taking place around him while Mrs. Gale works through official channels to prove his innocence. The plot ultimately anticipates that of Three Days of the Condor and the notion of a "CIA within the CIA." "Mandrake" opens with Steed investigating the case of John Benson, an old friend from his army days who died suddenly, and the attraction of a cemetery in Cornwall as a burial site. The best line is delivered off-handedly by a bored widow-to-be, who, in a manner recalling Dame Edith Evans in The Importance of Being Earnest, says of her soon-to-be-deceased husband, "He's an apple-a-day man, a throwback to Adam without any of Adam's more interesting characteristics." "The Secrets Broker" has Steed investigating the shooting death of fellow agent David Marshall in the vicinity of a laboratory doing top-secret electronics work. He runs afoul of an absolutely Dickensian wine enthusiast and a medium who seems to be passing messages from the "other side," but not the void between this world and the next. Finally, "The Trojan Horse" has a curious plot that grows out of an accident. When a race horse owned by a Middle Eastern sultan is brought into England, Steed is sent to keep an eye on the stables and the track, where he accidentally stumbles across a bookmaking and blackmail ring whose participants have gotten their fingers into the track and stables, possibly from the top down. The death of a jockey in a supposed riding accident only leads Steed to the scent. In terms of the writing, direction, and acting, the quality of these episodes is high, but as with others in the series' Honor Blackman era, the fact that they were preserved on an outdated video system and then essentially kinescoped to convert them (you can see a fly or other bug wandering across the screen for several minutes midway through one show) limits the quality of the playback. (Viewers of these discs may find it necessary to significantly boost the brightness on their monitors to overcome the darkness of the image.) Being essentially shot and played "live" also led to several lines of dialogue getting lost from microphones that are out of range, in addition to other technical mistakes. Still, the audio quality is better than one might have expected over the years, and the best of these shows improve with repeated viewing. The only significant supplementary feature included in this two-disc set is a gallery of production stills.

Editorial Reviews

Barnes & Noble - Matthew Johnson
Think of The Avengers as a weekly TV James Bond: a British secret agent, sexy female partners, bizarre supervillains, and rousing action to save the world. Running from 1961-9, The Avengers was one of the most popular British television programs of all time and retains a devoted audience. In this first set of episodes from 1963, the dangerously alluring Mrs. Catherine Gale (Honor Blackman) teams up with the dapper and deadly John Steed (Patrick Macnee) to defeat all manner of conspiracies that threaten Britain, from tax dodgers to deranged bombers. By turns witty, dry, and flirtatious, this duo's adventures remain fresh and exciting more than thirty years later.
  • "The Undertakers" - When a brilliant physician retires to a life of seclusion days before an important revelation of his research, Steed and Mrs. Gale are drawn into a dangerous game played by greedy widows and a group of bloodless pallbearers.
  • "The Man with Two Shadows" - John Steed's holiday proves to be anything but. Steed must stop an Iron Curtain plot to insert agents deep undercover by turning them into exact duplicates of British officials. Can Steed foil the plot before he is replaced himself? Can Mrs. Gale trust the John Steed with whom she's partnered?
  • "The Nutshell" - Someone has infiltrated "The Nutshell," the U.K.'s underground intelligence bunker, and stolen the list of Britain's double agents. When all signs point to Steed as the only culprit, Mrs. Gale must find out what he knows before British security is compromised.
  • "Death of a Batman" - When Steed's war chum, a blue-collar draftsman, passes away, his enormous estate leaves many unanswered questions for his widow and their son. Steed and Mrs. Gale tie together the loose strings of a vast insider-trading scheme.
  • "November Five" - How are the assassination of a newly elected M.P., the theft of two nuclear warheads, and a wheeler-dealer London public relations firm linked? Mrs. Gale enters the election to find the answer, before it's too late.
  • "The Gilded Cage" - Has greed gotten the better of the Avengers? Steed sends Mrs. Gale to lead a group of thieves to a gold reserve worth millions. But will she survive among her ruthless conspirators?
  • Product Details

    Release Date:
    A&E Home Video
    Region Code:

    Special Features

    Interactive menus; Scene selection; Gallery of production stills

    Cast & Crew

    Performance Credits
    Frederic Abbott Manley
    Geoffrey Alexander Gibbs
    Honor Blackman Cathy Gale
    Philip Anthony Cummings
    David Davies Arthur Dove
    Edwin Brown Military Policeman
    Kitty Atwood Edith Wrightson
    Lally Bowers Mrs. Renter
    Aimée Delamain 1st Lady
    Anne Godfrey Miss Quist
    Howard Goorney Green
    Norman Chappell Fleming
    Ray Brown Alex,Cooper
    Edric Connor Abe Benham
    Jan Holden Paula
    John Cater Disco
    Robert Lankesheer Holiday Camp Official
    Ruth Dunning Mrs. Dove
    David Burke John Wrightson
    Douglas Cummings Barker
    Gary Hope Dyter
    George Little Sigi
    Ian Clark Anderson
    Patrick Holt Madden

    Technical Credits
    Bill Bain Director
    Don Leaver Director
    Kim Mills Director
    Raymond Menmuir Director

    Scene Index

    Side #1 -- Volume 1
    0. Scene Selection
    0. The Undertakers
    1. Tune In [1:50]
    2. The Departure [2:18]
    3. The Rose [5:47]
    4. The Walk [9:01]
    5. Act Two [7:55]
    6. The Mix [5:08]
    7. The Cage [3:45]
    8. Act Three [5:08]
    9. The Fight [3:13]
    10. The Gunfight [6:27]
    0. Man With Two Shadows
    1. Tune In [3:18]
    2. The Cell [6:44]
    3. The Brief [10:49]
    4. Act Two [4:36]
    5. The Double [1:00]
    6. The Call [8:19]
    7. Act Three [5:48]
    8. The Killing [4:10]
    9. The Fight [1:50]
    0. The Nutshell
    1. Tune In [2:54]
    2. The Shelter [11:30]
    3. The Microfilm [8:39]
    4. Act Two [4:23]
    5. The Traitor [3:57]
    6. The Arrest [2:22]
    7. Act Three [8:21]
    8. The Interrogation [4:32]
    9. The Escape [3:36]
    Side #2 -- Volume 2
    0. Scene Selection
    0. Death of a Batman
    1. Tune In [1:45]
    2. The Will [10:11]
    3. The Fight [4:41]
    4. Act Two [5:26]
    5. The Shop [12:34]
    6. The Break-In [1:35]
    7. Act Three [7:38]
    8. The Gunpoint [4:50]
    9. The Arrest [1:37]
    0. November Five
    1. Tune In [6:29]
    2. The Brief [7:06]
    3. The Club [3:45]
    4. Act Two [2:01]
    5. The Search [6:46]
    6. The Meeting [2:03]
    7. Act Three [6:10]
    8. The Dark Room [3:20]
    9. The Fireworks [8:17]
    0. The Gilded Cage
    1. Tune In [2:27]
    2. The Plan [7:39]
    3. The Arrest [4:38]
    4. Act Two [4:33]
    5. The Cell Mates [7:25]
    6. The Sculpture [6:44]
    7. Act Three [5:00]
    8. The Burglary [8:30]
    9. The Fight [3:39]

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