Friday, January 2, 2009

The Avengers

[Our 300th review]
a.k.a. "The Original Avengers", "Emma Peel Megaset"
British TV, 1964-67, 51 episodes, bw & color (8.5*)

This famous tongue-in-cheek British series poked fun at the 007 genre and others, such as cheap SciFi and kung-fu, and did so with a style and panache that's still enjoyable today as long as you don't take it seriously. British super-agent John Steed, played as a charming bowler-wearing sophisticate by Patrick MacNee, starred and was teamed with a series of athletic actresses. The gorgeous Diana Rigg came into the series from the Royal Shakespeare Company about 1964 as Mrs. Emma Peel ('M' appeal, get it?) when it was still black and white, replacing Honor Blackman who ironically left to do the 007 film Goldfinger. In one episode, Steed receives a Christmas card from her character, Cathy Gale, and when Emma asks where it's from Steed comments "Fort Knox.. can't ever figure why she'd be there".

Emma's married, but her pilot-explorer husband has been missing for years after a jungle flight, so she and Steed maintain a platonic but chemistry-charged relationship that often includes ennuendo and roundabout flirtations in typical British style, as the most they ever shared was a bottle of champagne; she is supposedly an amateur sleuth helping Steed for the commonwealth. Rigg's first 2 years in b&w are probably better written, and we see her in black a lot, leather bodysuits and the like, but the color ones from her last year are a little better made and Rigg is even more gorgeous. She eventually left after three seasons and 51 episodes (shown in the U.S. as four, from 64-67; now on 17 dvd's), and her last episode is appropriately called The Forget-Me-Knot, which also introduced her successor, Linda Thorson, as well as a hilarious visual with a Steed double. The Avengers before and after Diana Rigg pale by comparison; she and MacNee brought a cool chemisty never matched by a crime-fighting duo before or since; well, tv anyway - after all, there was the Thin Man film series.

Note: in The Superlative Seven (title spoof of The Magnificent Seven), both Donald Sutherland and Charlotte Rampling were guest stars in a plot borrowed from Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None.
Self-Reference: in the color episode Return of the Cybernauts, Emma is watching tv, which is showing the bw episode The Cybernauts from two seasons earlier.


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These are the individual film reviews of what I'm considering the best 1000 dvds available, whether they are films, miniseries, or live concerts. Rather than rush out all 1000 at once, I'm doing them over time to allow inclusion of new releases - in fact, 2008 has the most of any year so far, 30 titles in all; that was a very good year for films, one of the best ever.

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