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A&E Home Video presents
The Avengers '63—Set 2, Volume 4 (1963)

"I don't know how those fellas manage 'il dolce vida' in those tight clothes.
- Mr. Steed (Patrick Macnee) in Don't Look Behind You

Review By: Zark Plummer   
Published: December 03, 2000

Stars: Patrick Macnee, Honor Blackman
Director: various

Manufacturer: New Video Group
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Run Time: approx. 3h:28m:0s
Release Date: October 03, 2000
UPC: 733961700794
Genre: television

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
C+ C+D+D D-

DVD Review

I can remember watching The Avengers some number of years ago on TV, but they were all the later episodes, the ones that featured Diana Rigg as Emma Peel. I didn't even know the show had existed before this and that Mrs. Peel wasn't in them. So when I was asked to review this set, I was intrigued: here was something completely different—Honor Blackman as Mrs. Cathy Gale (why is it always Mrs.? Must be a sixties morals thing....) opposite the intrepid Mr. Steed. I certainly liked the show before, how different could this be? I had no idea...

The three episodes on this disc are all black and white. They were also shot on videotape, not film. The entire thing feels more like watching a live stage play than a television show. There are numerous clues that this was an extremely low budget production, including mistakes that were left in that ordinarily would have been reshot. If you watch this expecting the polish and pizzazz of the later episodes, it's likely to be a bit of a shock.

The Golden Fleece

Recording date: 24 May 1963
Air date (UK): 7 Dec 1963
Director: Peter Hammond

"You make parting so much easier."

- Mrs. Gale

Steed and Mrs. Gale are on the trail of a gold smuggling operation that involves a Chinese man named Mr. Lo and a group of men from the British Army. One of the soldiers steals £10,000 of gold for himself and winds up dead. Our duo tracks down the base where the soldiers are stationed and catch them in the act. They do have a bit of a quandary when they find the soldiers are using their share of the money to benefit down-on-their-luck ex-servicemen. There's an interesting scene where Mrs. Gale gets very angry at Steed for not telling her what's going on.

Three libations for this episode.

Don't Look Behind You

Recording date: 5 July 1963
Air date (UK): 14 Dec 1963
Director: Peter Hammond

"Am I disturbing you?"

- Mr. Steed

Mrs. Gale is invited to the estate of the greatest medieval historian in Europe. Upon arriving, she finds her host is gone and a young woman living there who, well, isn't all there. When the young woman leaves, Mrs. Gale must deal with all sorts of strange goings on in the house alone. As it turns out, an escaped criminal wants revenge on Mrs. Gale and tries to drive her mad. Fortunately, Steed is a very observant person and arrives in time to cut short the plans for Mrs. Gale. This episode was remade later into The Joker with Diana Rigg, but since I haven't seen that version, I can't make any comparisons.

This episode rates two-and-a-half libations.

Death a la Carte

Recording date: 14 June 1963
Air date (UK): 21 Dec 1963
Director: Kim Mills

"It transports one out of this world."

- Mr. Steed

A visiting emir, who is not only ill but under threat of assassination, is being protected by Steed and Mrs. Gale. Our duo manages to head off a poisoning-via-mushroom plot concocted by the emir's right-hand man and one of the chefs. Unfortunately, the emir still dies, but of natural causes. In this episode, we find out that not only is Steed a human fly, but also a master chef—at least with pheasant. Watch for the cameraman to nearly knock over a table!

A two libations rating.

Dressed To Kill

Recording date: 6 Dec 1963
Air date (UK): 28 Dec 1963
Director: Bill Bain

"There's a map there on the mantlepiece underneath the teddy bear."

- Mr. Steed

All but one of England's early-warning radar stations pick up incoming missiles at the same time. Fortunately, the radar signals disappear before a response is made. But it does launch Steed and Mrs. Gale into action to find out what happened. A group who want to bring about a nuclear war is behind the fake signals: they are trying to buy up land around the radar stations. Steed and Mrs. Gale manage to sort through a number of possible suspects in time to stop the real culprits from carrying out their plan.

Three libations for this episode.

This is almost like watching a different show. The character interactions between Steed and Mrs. Gale are there and work, but the whole tone of the show is much more deadpan than the later versions.

Rating for Style: C+
Rating for Substance: C+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review:
This disc contains episodes that are less blurry than on volume 3, but have a lot more contrast problems. There are also several instances of videotape dropouts speckling the screen.

Image Transfer Grade: D+


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access

Audio Transfer Review:
Most of the audio has a muffled quality to it, except for the opening theme music, which was very harsh and tinny. All qualities of having low-budget sound recording equipment as well as low-budget video equipment. Given the quality of the source, I doubt much could have been done to improve the quality of the disc, after all, one can't add what wasn't there to begin with.

Audio Transfer Grade: D


Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Scene Access with 25 cues and remote access
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. Production stills
Extras Review:
The extras consist of eight production stills—two per episode. None of the stills are even half-screen in size, and there are no color ones in this batch.

Extras Grade: D-


Final Comments

This is only for die-hard fans of the show. Casual viewers need not apply except for the extremely curious.


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