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A&E Home Video presents
The Avengers '63 - Set 1, Volume 2 (1963)

Lady Cynthia: Oooooh, what about Mrs. Gale?
Steed: Oh, she's my old nanny. It's her 69th birthday. I'll pick you up at the dot of eight.

- Katy Greenwood, Patrick MacNee

Review By: Jesse Shanks   
Published: January 03, 2001

Stars: Patrick Macnee, Honor Blackman
Other Stars: various
Director: various

Manufacturer: DVCC
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (early 60s-style television murder and mayhem)
Run Time: 02h:36m:00s
Release Date: October 03, 2000
UPC: 733961700763
Genre: television


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
B+ BBB+ C-

DVD Review

Review: The Avengers - "Cathy Gale Seasons"

The wit and sly humor of The Avengers are well in evidence in these episodes, coupled with a density of plot that is remarkable when compared against fantasy-thriller shows of our era. As I watched, I marvelled at the twists and turns of events, finding that these programs compare favorably to feature film plots as well as television shows. There is very little wasted time, and the innovative camera work enhances the shows' fresh quality.

Honor Blackman as Mrs. Gale is at her peak, with strong roles in each of the episodes on this disc. Patrick MacNee as Steed is very amusing, although he mugs for the camera a little too much. It is interesting to note that MacNee and Blackman are almost always doing something while they deliver their lines, which contributes to an active feeling of movement in the show.



'63 Set 1, Volume 2 3 Episodes:

Death of a Batman
UK air date: 26 October 1963
Director: Kim Mills

Steed to a Venus de Milo statue: "That's what comes from biting your fingernails."

This episode begins with the death of one Clarence Wrightson, who had been Steed's batman (an orderly assigned to serve a British military officer) at the end of the Second World War. After the funeral, Steed meets Lord Teal (Andre Morrell), a merchant banker, whom Wrightson had served in the First World War. Both men are present at the reading of Wrightson's will, and Steed and Lord Teal are as shocked as the family when they learn that this low-level functionary leaves an estate valued at 180,000. Or, at least, Lord Teal seems to be surprised.

Steed enlists Mrs. Gale to help investigate the mystery of the batman's unexpected fortune. In her first foray, she is forced to use her Judo moves on a man in the darkness of the dead man's bedroom, obtaining evidence that triggers a further plan. Mrs. Gale will infiltrate the offices of the bank, while Steed investigates one of the bank's investor's Lady Cynthia, (Katy Greenwood in a delightfully, oh so veddy British role that brings out the randy gentleman in Steed).

There is a great "boot" scene as Steed helps Mrs. Gale off with her boots before leaving for the funeral (she is staying at his apartment because her carpets are being cleaned).

I raise my glass 3 times for the delightful characters that populate this episode, and for the complex, intriguing story.





November Five
US air date: 2 November 1963
Director: Bill Bain

Steed studying a typewriter: "Blunt F, squint I, H above the line... a very good description of my Auntie Queenie"

The stakes are high in this episode, as the first scene features the assassination of a British Minister of Parliament, and in the second we find out that a 5-megaton nuclear bomb is missing!

This story takes place during the week prior to November 5th, with several references to Guy Fawkes Day, which celebrates the conspiracy of English Roman Catholics to blow up Parliament and King James I, his queen, and his oldest son on Nov. 5, 1605. (The leader of the plot, Robert Catesby, together with his four co-conspirators - Thomas Winter, Thomas Percy, John Wright, and Guy Fawkes - were zealous Roman Catholics, angered by James' refusal to grant more religious freedom to Catholics. They apparently hoped that the confusion sure to follow the murder of the king, his ministers, and the members of Parliament would provide an opportunity for the English Catholics to take over the country.)

This story's extortion plot involves manipulation of Parliament, through murder and kidnapping by conspirators unknown, to force payment for return of the missing nuclear weapon. Mrs. Gale is installed as a candidate for office in the place of the murdered MP. Her candidacy engenders a shootout and several occasions for the application of her Judo moves. Quite a run for office!

One of the best sets is the office of "Political Agent" Mark St. John (Ric Hutton), a study in early '60s chic.

This is a fine example of the series' quality writing, easily ranking among the best examples of fantasy/thriller storytelling. The satirical political wit, the wealth of well-drawn characters and the complex story line are great fun and superb entertainment.





The Gilded Cage US air date: 9 November 1963 Director: Bill Bain

Benham: You're a smooth operator, Mrs. Gale.
Gale: Pity it took you so long to find out.

Ian Fleming published Goldfinger in 1959, and while this episode borrows much of Fleming's plotline, it does so in an utterly charming and fascinating manner. (It is interesting to note that Honor Blackman would appear in the big-screen movie version of Goldfinger a year later.)

Patrick Magee appears as J.P. Spagge, target of a plan by Steed and Mrs. Gale, who intend to trick him into planning a heist of 3 million pounds of gold from a secret repository. British character actor Magee is probably best known to American audiences for his appearance in Stanley Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange as the abused writer Frank Alexander. Here, his Spagge is an excellent eccentric villain. Spagge and Steed joust most amusingly as Steed attempts to lure the "criminal broker" into the plan.

Mrs. Gale's boots become an important story element; she loses her purse at the cobbler's shop, and it turns up as key evidence, leading to her arrest for the murder of Spagge.

I will stop describing the plot here, as I don't want to chance spoiling anyone's enjoyment of this episode. Although there is, in my opinion, a significant flaw in the plan, it does not ruin the story. I will also note a performance that is a little over-the-top but still great fun, by Edric Connor as Abe Benhom. Norman Chappell also turns in a nice bit as Spagge's manservant.

Ultimately, this is Mrs. Gale's episode, and she is in fine form, at her cool best matching wits with the criminals. Four toasts for one of the best, with outstanding characters and an exciting plot (despite a glaring flaw).







Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: B

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Rationo
Anamorphicno


Image Transfer Review: The transfer is decidely excellent, considering the source material, but is a little murkier than the companion volume. The original black & white source is in very good shape after nearly forty years; the contrast is excellent and extremely even. There are bits of scratchiness and a few odd jumps, but the shows are eminently watchable.

Image Transfer Grade: B

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
MonoEnglishno


Audio Transfer Review: The original monaural track is in good shape, with almost no hiss or noise evident. The sound has a certain hollowness at times that made it difficult to understand some of the very British accents, but this flaw is not terribly distracting. This soundtrack exemplifies excellent preservation; I love listening to the drum solos in the action sequences.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+

 

Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Scene Access with 27 cues and remote access
Packaging: Alpha
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. Promo for A&E's originalavengers.com
  2. Stills gallery
Extras Review: The extras are minimal, and the Stills Gallery seems very much a tacked-on afterthought. I suppose the link to the disc's own sales-oriented web site could be considered an extra; more valuable are the links to fan sites, sure to please any person hungry for more information about the show. The menus are functional, but they suffer from a distracting cut-and-paste, home-made quality.

Extras Grade: C-

 

Final Comments

These episodes very nicely demonstrate the series' overall charm and entertainment value, rightfully portraying Cathy Gale as a significant contributor to Avengers history. Her cool smile, leather boots and ever-ready Judo remain thoroughly charming and delightful. I was a more devoted fan of Emma Peel in my youth, but these episodes tempt my allegiance.

 


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