A&E Home Video presents
The Avengers '64—Set 1, Volume 1 (1964)
"An endless stream of guinea pigs and inadequate supervision: who could ask for more?"- Bethune (Neil Robinson) in "The Wringer"
Stars: Patrick Macnee, (Dame) Diana Rigg
Director: Laurence Bourne (The White Elephant, The Little Wonders), Don Leaver (The Wringer)
Manufacturer: New Video Group
MPAA Rating: Not RatedRelease Date: 2000-03-28
DVD ReviewAs part of their continuing series of releasing the original British TV programme The Avengers, A&E Home Video has begun releasing the series starring Honor Blackman as Cathy Gale, opposite Patrick Macnee as John Steed. Blackman would leave the series to star in Goldfinger as the improbably-named Pussy Galore. Cathy Gale was the immediate predecessor of Diana Rigg's Emma Peel, and in many ways was the first liberated woman on television. Between her no-nonsense attitude and kinky black leather outfits, Blackman was an enormous influence on the styles and tastes of the 1960's.The three episodes on this disc are from the middle of the second (and last) year of Blackman's run, first airing in late December, 1963 and January of 1964. The character interaction is already well-developed, with Gale expressing significant annoyance at Steed's methods and use of her. The second episode on this disc, "The Little Wonders," is notable as containing the only kiss between Gale and Steed that appeared during the run."The White Elephant" concerns the disappearance of the title animal from a private zoo and mysterious goings-on which seem to involve ivory smuggling and antique guns. Cathy Gale joins the zoo, posing as a big-game hunter, while Steed investigates the gun angle. The budget limitations are made clear when the title creature never appears, nor does a tiger which threatens Mrs. Gale.
This episode rates 2.5 libations out of 5
"The Little Wonders" contains a foreshadowing of the zany criminals which would be encountered later in the series by Steed and Mrs. Peel. Steed infiltrates a band of racketeers who are posing as members of the clergy with such titles as The Bishop of Winnipeg. Mrs. Gale follows leads which take her to a mysterious doll hospital where repairs on a particular doll run £20,000.
This one gets a 3 of 5.
"The Wringer" finds Steed accused of being a double agent by one of his oldest friends; the unnamed agency for which he works finds it necessary to use psychological torture on Steed to find out what he has done. Mrs. Gale in the meantime tries to find out exactly what happened to prompt this accusation and to clear Steed's name.
The programs are assured, stylish and quite well done. They are early 1960's television at its best, combining action and humor in significant dollops. It's a serious shame that they only exist in a substandard medium.
Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: A
|Aspect Ratio||1.33:1 - Full Frame|
|Original Aspect Ratio||yes|
Image Transfer Review: Unfortunately, the Blackman episodes of The Avengers were recorded on videotape rather than film. This means that the source material is quite poor, resulting in a picture which is perhaps a small step above VHS. The picture is fuzzy and smeary throughout. The contrast is excessive, with deep blacks and overly hot whites and a fairly limited range of greys. Motion artifacts are also visible in a number of sequences. In "The Little Wonders," a set of machine-gun bursts have a clear venetian blind effect which is highly annoying. Incredibly, a bug visibly alights on the lens midway through "The Wringer" and nonchalantly crawls off the screen!The picture quality is far inferior to the black & white Rigg episodes made just one year later, because those were shot on film. However, no doubt in part due to the smeary quality, we are spared the significant damage which was visible on the film of the Rigg episodes. Considering the source material, I suppose that this is as good as these episodes are likely to ever look. Those with large screen televisions will not be pleased, however. Viewing should be limited to a rather small television in order to minimize the visual defects. Also, the programs do not appear to be time-compressed, as they sometimes are when shown on American television.
Image Transfer Grade: D-
Audio Transfer Review: The sound quality is not significantly better than the video quality. There is hiss heard throughout, crackling and even coughs and offstage noise from the crew. Dankworth's theme music is extremely tinny and harsh. The audio is presented in a very-limited-range 2.0 mono. A&E really should have cleaned up the soundtrack some, even if the video component was beyond help.
Audio Transfer Grade: D
Disc ExtrasAnimated menu with music
Scene Access with 25 cues and remote access
Layers Switch: 2h:31m:36s
- Production stills
Extras Grade: F
Final CommentsLimitations of the source material make this disc a must only for serious Avengers fans; more casual viewers will be put off by the poor videotape transfer and the tinny audio. No one will want to see this on a large-screen TV.
Mark Zimmer 2000-04-28