Tuesday, April 24, 2007

THE AVENGERS TOP TEN. OK, put away your Mjolnir, I'm talking about Mrs. Emma Peel and John Steed. The Finkmeister complained that I haven't written anything for my blog and needed to. So, I figured I'd write about something he has ABSOLUTELY NO INTEREST IN WHATSOEVER. Congrats, Finky. This one's NOT for you.
I recently finished watching the Complete Emma Peel Avengers DVD Box Set -- yeah, all 16 discs of 'em. And I thought I'd list my ten favourite episodes. And here they are (in chronological order):
THE TOWN OF NO RETURN -- This is the first teaming of superspy John Steed with Mrs. Emma Peel (at least the first one broadcast round these here parts and the first one on the DVD box set.) This one's nice and creepy and the B&W photography adds to the menace as the seaside town of Little Bazeley by the Sea finds many agents disappearing into thin air.
THE HOUR THAT NEVER WAS -- This is another B&W episode that has a high creepy quotient as Steed and Emma have an car accident on the way to an air base reunion party only to find the base completely deserted. They wander around trying to find another human being and experience some eerie strangeness. . .some of which is provided by a milk delivery wagon. Oh yeah, and there's machine gun fire and some karate chops from Mrs. Peel.
THE HOUSE THAT JACK BUILT -- This is one of my faves of them all. It's an Emma episode mainly as Mrs. Peel inherits a country house from an unknown relative. When she goes to look it over, she is trapped inside a psychedelic maze of a house created by a diabolical mastermind. The dizzying scenes of Emma running through the constantly changing halls and the ominous insane decor make this one a winner.
FROM VENUS WITH LOVE -- The first colour episode starts with an astronomer looking through a telescope at the planet Venus. Suddenly, the room becomes incredibly hot and his cold drink boils over in its glass as a mysterious fireball fries the poor fellow. The British Venusian Society suspects an invasion by aliens. This one features guest stars Barbara "Dracula, Prince of Darkness" Shelley and Jon "Doctor Who" Pertwee.
EPIC -- This one is totally over-the-top and frequently hilarious as an old time silent film actor and actress team-up with their cracked in the head old director to stage the Destruction of Mrs. Emma Peel. They're shooting it as a film with the captured Emma -- but the end of the film will feature her REAL death. Peter "Burn Witch Burn" Wyngarde chews the scenery marvelously as the silent film actor. The episode has many set pieces including scenes apeing Westerns, gangster films and vampire movies. It also includes a deliriously terrific surreal sequence where Emma goes to her own funeral.
THE SUPERLATIVE SEVEN -- This one is totally derivative of Agatha Christie's "And Then There Were None" but it doesn't matter; it's done with such a sense of fun and panache that no one will CARE that it's derivative. 7 People (including Steed) are taken aboard an airplane (with no pilot) and dropped off on a deserted island where they disappear one by one in a game controlled by diabolical masterminds. The cast is SUPERB in this one: An incredibly young Donald Sutherland, an even MORE shockingly young Brian Blessed, and a pistol-packing Charlotte Rampling are among the costumed guests. This is mainly a Steed episode with Emma arriving at the end.
THE JOKER -- Another delirious episode which finds Mrs. Peel trapped in a homicidal old dark house; a house decorated with playing cards. This time she is accompanied by a bizarre woman named Ola (Sally Nesbitt) and a strange passer-by (Ronald Lacey). Then there's that spooky German song insessantly playing on the old grammophone: "Meine Liebe, Meine Rose". The diabolical mastermind doesn't intend for Emma to leave the house alive. Some truly bizarre performances by Nesbitt and Lacey and another marvelously macabre set.
RETURN OF THE CYBERNAUTS -- Those mechanical maniacs are back once again; this time controlled by the inimitable Peter Cushing. The original Cyberauts episode (co-starring Michael Gough) just missed the top ten and I'm sure Cushing's presence here pushed this one over the top. Cushing pretends to be a dear friend of Steed and Emma while plotting their deaths utilizing his late brother (Gough's) murderous robotic cybernauts.
DEATH'S DOOR -- A diplomat approaches the door to an important peace conference. . .then turns tail and runs terrified from the door. He has had prophetic dreams ending in his death once he enters that door. Each dream event leading up to his death has come true in his waking life and the diplomat DOES actually die. His replacement at the conference turns and runs from the door as well. What's going on here? Are they REALLY seeing the future??? It's up to Steed and Emma to find out.
MURDERSVILLE -- Little Storping in the Swuff is a quiet, idyllic country village with a difference. It seems you can make a deal with the town and they will allow you to lure anyone to Little Storping to murder them and the townsfolk will see to it that that person is murdered and there will be no trace left of them. This is actually quite frightening in spots as Emma is trapped in a hostile town where her childhood friend has been murdered and disappeared. It's Emma versus the ENTIRE HOMICIDAL TOWN. Things get lethal when the townsfolk actually manage to CAPTURE Mrs. Peel. Strangely, the episode only lets one down at the very end (when Steed arrives to save the day); it seems a little pat and rushed but otherwise a remarkable episode.
So that's it. For the record, the episodes that just missed my top ten include:
The Cybernauts
The Living Dead
A Surfeit of H2O
Man-Eater of Surrey Green
The Hellfire Club a.k.a. A Touch of Brimstone
Never, Never Say Die

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