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A&E Home Video presents
The Avengers '65—Set 1, Volume 3 (1965)

"With its overtones of aristocratic devilment Emma Peel is an inspired name and the touch of fun in Diana Rigg's engaging performance is going to enslave millions."
- London Daily Mirror, 29 September 1965

Review By: debi lee mandel   
Published: April 20, 2000

Stars: Patrick Macnee, (Dame) Diana Rigg
Director: Various (see below)

Manufacturer: DVCC
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Run Time: Approx:170 min total
Release Date: August 31, 1999
UPC: 733961700282
Genre: television


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A B-AB C

DVD Review

Latter-day boomers can have their Charlie's Angels—give me Emma Peel any day.

The Avengers, that quirky British TV classic that blends style, wit and elegance with murder, espionage and diabolical improbabilities (like the perfect martini) is back in top form.

Spies or super-sleuths? There is a worldwide cult following that cannot agree to this day. John Steed (Patrick Macnee) is quintessentially British, an ex-RAF Pilot (perhaps: all terribly hush-hush, you know) with that certain je ne sais quoi that whiffs of James Bond (fans will argue that The Avengers pre-date the 007 films, but I offer that Steed did not become as Bond-like until Mrs. Peel joined him in the fourth season). But Steed, with his ubiquitous bowler and unique ability to keep cool, 3 steps ahead of his maniacal adversaries, is a bit less inclined to the ladies. With only 3 female partners in 161 episodes, one can hardly deem him a ladies' man. As he says of his old Bentley in a half-hearted, sentimental moment, "I'm loyal to my old loves." A&E says of this particular partnership "....so charged with provocatively restrained amorous energy that censors would eventually ban at least one episode from the American airwaves." Well, in a circa 1965 sort of way, perhaps...seems more like a spot of good fun these days.

His most popular partner, the only one with whom he shares real chemistry, is Mrs. Emma Peel (Dame Diana Rigg), a (somehow) martial arts-trained war widow he seems to recruit anew every episode, from 1965 to 1967. Mrs. Peel is a lithe, sophisticated woman who is as comfortable in sensible shoes as she is in spandex and leather catsuits as she joins Steed's crusades to preserve the "civilized" world. With his uncanny nose for sensing global-endangerment, and her mysteriously diverse scientific background, their pairing was as successful then as Agents Mulder and Scully's is today—and broadly similar as well. Although, when one considers their alcohol consumption (which I have), it is difficult to imagine Steed and Emma keeping sober enough to save the world from anything more menacing than a toothpick-wielding olive.

'65 Set 1, Volume 3

3 episodes:

The Murder Market
Steed seeks a wife—and Emma gets buried

US air date: May 30 1966

Director: Peter Graham Scott

"Tried working once, it didn't work out...too much like work." -Steed

A blind date leads to murder at the aquarium, and our duo smells something fishy. Eleven murders in 6 months—no clues, no apparent motives, no suspects...and the chance of coincidence is a mere 27 million to 1, "It's a generality, you can have an exact figure if you like." (Mrs. Peel)

This little mystery leads Steed and Mrs. Peel to a marriage bureau, where they pose as prospective clients to get on the inside. The pieces come together in the most unusual way—the bad guys actually expose their murderous operation to Steed, as it depends upon a Strangers on a Train sort of agreement. When Steed explains he is only second in line to inherit the family fortune, the bureau offers to arrange for the heir's demise—in exchange for his offing somebody else's "trouble."

There's a delightful, must-see sequence as Steed plays a sort of musical chairs with Mr. Lovejoy at the marriage bureau, which ends with Steed claiming he has photos of himself playing polo in the nude...!

Libations: Steed: 1 unnamed drink, 3 glasses of champagne, 1 glass of wine; Emma: coffee, 1 unnamed drink, 1 glass of wine.
I give this episode 3-1/2 libations out of 5.


A Surfeit of H20
Steed plans a boat-trip—and Emma gets very wet

US air date: Not in original US schedule

Director: Sidney Hayers

"You diabolical mastermind, you." -Mrs. Peel

A modern-day Noah sends letters to his local paper warning of impending floods—the area has been receiving rain in biblical proportions—and he wants to build an ark. When a local man is found drowned in the rain, Steed and Emma shove-off to discover the cause of this deadly, inclement weather...yes, even for Britain, this rain is extraordinary!

When a rain cloud—the same rain cloud—is discovered to loom over a local wine factory day after day, it becomes the source of suspicion. Personally, I would be suspicious of a wine "factory," cloud or not... Emma prowls around in a fabulous vinyl (waterproof) catsuit as Steed poses as a wine merchant to gather his clues.

This episode is populated with the sort of quirky characters The Avengers are famous for, including a mad scientist, complete with German accent, who tortures our heroine in his high-tech winepress.

Note to continuity editor: Dr Sturm opens a tap on a large vat to convince Steed that running water is the source of the "rain" he hears. After Steed leaves, a lab assistant shuts off the tap in the background as the scene continues. There's a cut to the view out the window and when the camera cuts back, the tap is open again, full force...I suspect a surfeit of H20 in this scene...

Libations: For a plot centering on water and wine, there is a surprising lack of consumption (or was this done on purpose, that liquid would seem distasteful to those experiencing a daily deluge...?) Steed: 2 glasses of wine; Emma: a cup of tea.
This one rates another 3-1/2 out of 5 libations.


The Hour that Never Was
Steed has to face the music—and Emma disappears

US air date: April 25 1966

Director: Gerry O'Hara

"First a murder, then a body-snatch." -Mrs. Peel

"It's 11am—do you know where your partner is?" might have been a good alternate title for this one. Emma and Steed are on their way to a farewell party, the closing of a RAF airbase that was an old haunt of Steed's during the war. A dog runs in front of the car and they veer off into a tree. Unscathed, they continue on foot to the base, where they find the party set up, but deserted. The viewer is uncharacteristically treated to clues before our protagonists discover them—all timepieces seem to have stopped at precisely 11am. As they wander the base looking for someone, anyone, they begin gather clues from the variously anomalies Steed recognizes from building to building. The plot thickens when they split up and yet another high-frequency disturbance interrupts the time continuum.

After Steed gets a nasty knock on the head by a guard gate, his morning begins again, this time with everything in order—except Mrs. Peel's gone missing!

One of the few instances where the villain is not revealed until the end, there is a decent amount of suspense that carries through an otherwise potentially boring script: watching Steed, alone, retracing his earlier route through the clues might seem dull repetition. But in the end, our pair are re-united and Emma takes on a serious fight whilst Steed has a "jolly good time," courtesy of nitrous oxide...and the slapstick tag is an unexpected hoot fans are sure to enjoy.

Libations: A lightweight—Steed: 1 glass of punch, a shot of liqueur. But I'd raise my glass 3-1/2 times for this episode,


Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: B-

 

Image Transfer

 OneTwo
Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frameno - no
Original Aspect Ratioyesno
Anamorphicnono


Image Transfer Review: Included in this 1965 set are 13 episodes in black-and-white, all of them crisp and clean as the original film format.I noticed no obvious artifacts or pixelation. There are no hard blacks or bright washouts, just a comfortable range of greys that is easy on the eyes and does not distract in any way from the action. My only real complaint is the original title sequence, "The Age of Elegance," is a bit soft, which might be a result of the original production.

Image Transfer Grade: A

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
PCMEnglish, monoyes


Audio Transfer Review: My only real complaint again is the original title sequence, "The Age of Elegance": it has that annoying raise in volume TV productions seem to have by default. But the theme itself has always been stunning, an icon of the era, and the music chosen for individual episodes is, in most cases, equal to the scenes they underscore. From the comedic scenes to the height of suspense, the tracks are almost always right on.

Audio Transfer Grade: B

 

Disc Extras

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

Extra Extras:
  1. Production Stills Gallery
  2. Web Site Promo
Extras Review: The menus were obviously considered in the overall package design, a sort of 60's mod use of abstraction and color, a nice touch for that retro look. The extras consist of a gallery of stills from individual episodes included on each disc, but they're only about 1/4 of the screen. I would prefer them larger, perhaps as much as full screen to truly enjoy them. Every disc also has a menu link to A&E's http://www.originalavengers.com, a good marketing move but poorly executed—why not give us a real taste of what's in store for us there? And—are there ever enough chapters? These would be easier to navigate with a few more choices within a few less clicks.

Extras Grade: C

 

Final Comments

This is a great disc—not the best episodes, but a happy sampling of the "Emma Peel" years. A must for fans and the odd Anglophile not yet initiated to this period classic.

This disc deserves 3-1/2 libations out of 5.


 


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