The Avengers (Series 5) on Blu-ray

Monday, 29 June 2015 23:00 Written by 

The Avengers Series 5 comes to Blu-rayJohn Steed (played by the late, great Patrick Macnee) and Mrs Emma Peel (Diana Rigg) made a huge global impact in The Avengers. With the new release of Series 5 on Blu-ray, containing all but one of Rigg’s colour episodes, we see the duo bending slightly to cater for the American audience. The Stateside viewers had been able to seek out the previous Series 4, filmed in monochrome, which had been bought by American network ABC on the agreement that Series 5 would move into colour. And you had the chance to win one of three sets on Blu-ray that we had on offer in our prize competition.

Despite having to import some Americanisms (‘flats’ are now ‘apartments’, ‘lifts’ are ‘elevators’), this is still shot as a travelogue of the British urban climes and countryside, with empty roads and green and pleasant lands acting as backdrops on so much of the location shooting. No doubt some Americans of that era got their impression of Brits and our country from watching The Avengers – and in some respects we’ve never shaken those sensibilities. How many English villains in Hollywood movies come over as if they’ve just been exported from an episode of The Avengers?

Series 5 also marked Diana Rigg’s curtain call - deflated by long hours and the reluctance to increase her pay above that of some of the technicians working on the series. Tripling her fee came a little too late, and even halfway through the run her mind had been made up to leave.  In the meantime, these 24 episodes crafted in colour have become timeless, due to the other-worldly nature of the design and direction of the stories.

The absolute joy in these episodes is the degree of ‘star-spotting’ that can be indulged in. No episode passes by without some famous face or another showing up, and in some cases whole handfuls of them, which will have you clicking your fingers trying to recall where you’ve seen them before. Fans of Dad’s Army will have plenty to ponder, just from Series 5 alone. As that BBC Comedy went into production in 1968, a year after this series, you get the feeling Jimmy Perry and David Croft may well have been making notes, as we see Arthur Lowe, John Laurie, Clive Dunn and Arnold Ridley – even Philip Madoc - in this run of episodes! And for completism, John Le Mesurier had appeared in the Series 4 episode “What the Butler Saw” and the Season 3 episode “Mandrake”.

But that’s not all – you’ll see plenty more star faces. Primarily known for dramatic roles, we have Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, Donald Sutherland, Nicholas Courtney, Barbara Shelley, Garfield Morgan, Andrew Keir, Judy Parfitt, Imogen Hassall, Moira Lister, Ron Moody, Colin Jeavons, Julian Glover, Jack Watson, Gabrielle Drake, Michael Gough, Peter Barkworth, Christopher Benjamin, John Junkin, David Lodge, Charlotte Rampling, Brian Blessed, Dudley Foster, Sally Nesbitt, Ronald Lacey, Patricia Haines, Freddie Jones, Frederick Jaegar, Clifford Evans, Allan Cuthbertson, Norman Bowler, Ivor Dean, Barrie Ingham, George Murcell, Simon Oates, Ray McAnally, Colin Blakely, John Ronane, Caroline Blakiston, Jane Merrow, Ronald Radd, Kevin Stoney and Sandor Elès.

Comedy performers are also very prevalent. Look out for Ronnie Barker, Brian Wilde, Nicholas Smith, Warren Mitchell, Roy Kinnear, Yootha Joyce, Paul Eddington, Trevor Bannister, Patrick Cargill, Fulton Mackay, Aimi MacDonald and Noel Howlett.

Those guesting here who would become stars of their own shows include Peter Wyngarde, Jon Pertwee, Kenneth Cope, Peter Bowles, Geoffrey Bayldon, Anthony Valentine, William Lucas, Francis Matthews and Anneke Wills.

Patrick Newell, who would go on to play Mother in Series 6, features in the episode “Something Nasty in the Nursery”. This was his second appearance in The Avengers, having appeared in the Series 4 opener, the Emma Peel debut “The Town of No Return”.

Incidentally, while Penelope Keith is credited in the episode “Something Nasty in the Nursery” she doesn’t actually appear in it. Within that there is no doubt a story! At the other end of the spectrum, an uncredited Gareth Thomas (of Blake’s 7 fame) appears in the episode “Murdersville” as the Assassin with Sunglasses.

In terms of recurring villains, following their debut in Series 4, the Cybernauts (the ultimate in programmable killer human-esque silver robots) were back in “The Return of the Cybernauts” – they would make their third and final screen appearance in an episode of The New Avengers entitled “The Last of the Cybernauts…?” a decade later.

The transition to Blu-ray is everything you might expect – the vibrant colours, there to make best use of the new television revolution in the USA at the time, are even more vivid than what was seen on previous DVD releases. There’s hardly a mark on any of the footage, the restoration ensuring that nothing detracts from what you should be watching onscreen. The 4:3 ratio which won’t suit the tastes of everyone with a widescreen plasma television, but then again that’s what your ‘Zoom’ button on your TV remote control is for, if that is going to be such a deal-breaker. The fact is, these stories are as entertaining now as they always have been.

Indeed, these versions of the adventures are the ones which we should be seeing broadcast. Thankfully for the Blu-ray label, what has been going out on True Entertainment and True Drama on the Sky digiplex are the unrestored versions of The Avengers – as an exercise in comparing and contrasting, watching these broadcasts, after indulging in a Blu-ray episode, shows just how much better these disc versions are.

For the final eight episodes of this season, beginning with “Death’s Door”, the secondary titling of episodes - which had the format ‘Steed does this, Emma does that’ - was dropped, as were the post-opening credits sequences that concluded one way or another with “Mrs Peel, We’re Needed”. These episodes were all filmed as a separate production block, so some tweaking took place – whether this was in response to feedback from America is unclear.

In terms of the added extras on this set, there’s nothing that will come as a surprise to owners of the previously released DVDs (or in one or two cases, the VHS versions!). To give you the full rundown, we have:

  • Exclusive audio commentaries with: scriptwriter/producer Brian Clemens on “Murdersville”, guest star Peter Wyngarde on “Epic”, scriptwriter Richard Harris on “The Winged Avenger”, and Diana Rigg’s stunt double, Cyd Child, on “Return of The Cybernauts”
  • The Avengers – A Retrospective documentary (60 mins) – Patrick Macnee in a clips-based show from the days of the series first coming to VHS via Lumiere Video, this 1993 production deals with the Rigg and Thorson eras of the show.
  • Archive German TV interview with Patrick Macnee and Diana Rigg, on film and in colour, with the German host constantly translating.
  • Filmed episode introductions by Brian Clemens on “The Bird Who Knew Too Much”, “The Living Dead”, “The Correct Way To Kill”, “Epic”, “The Superlative Seven”, “A Funny Thing Happened On The Way to the Station”, “The Joker”, and “Murdersville”
  • Episode trims (without sound) from “The Fear Merchants” (1 min), “Escape in Time” (3 mins), “From Venus With Love” (2 mins) and “The See-Through Man” (2 mins 22 secs).
  • ATV newsreel footage (Diana Rigg receives TV Award)
  • The Avengers – “They’re Back” archive trailer
  • Granada + points for each episode – created by the satellite station Granada Plus in 1998, these ‘bumpers’ were played before and after commercial breaks.
  • Episode Reconstructions for lost series 1 episodes “One For The Mortuary”, “Death on The Slipway”, “Tunnel of Fear” and “Dragonsfield”
  • Interview with Dame Diana Rigg (extract from “British Legends Of Stage & Screen”)
  • Minikillers – a quartet of 10-minute shorts from Accentfilm International starring Diana Rigg. No dialogue, filmed abroad, with episodes entitled “Operation Costa Brava”, “Heroin”, “Macabre” and “Flamenco”.
  • “Der Goldene Schlüssel” (6 mins) – Diana Rigg again starring in another foreign non-dialogue production, with her doing Avengers-style things – driving cars, drinking champagne, swimming with dolphins, while getting the run-around trying to hold onto a mysterious locked box.
  • 1960s German Titles
  • German Cinema Trailer
  • Archival Series 5 Trailer
  • Stills galleries

Diana Rigg would make one final appearance in The Avengers – being involved in “The Forget-Me-Knot”, where she handed over the baton to Linda Thorson, playing Tara King. That will be part of Series 6 when it’s released.

All in all, having been shot on 35mm film, the Blu-ray format is perfect for giving the adventures of Steed and Mrs Peel the ultimate makeover. Combined with the ultra-crisp audio, once you’ve seen the episodes like this you’ll never go back.

The Avengers – Series 5 is out now on Blu-ray. The seven disc set has a ‘PG’ certificate, a running time of 960 mins approx, Region B coding and an RRP of £79.99, or get it for less at www.culttvstore.com

Thanks to Studiocanal, you had the opportunity to put one of three sets of this Blu-ray release on to your mantelpiece, in our prize competition. All you had to do was tell us the answer to the following question: What is the name of the programmable killer human-esque silver robots in The Avengers? The answer was CYBERNAUTS, and the three lucky winners were Kate Taylor of Southampton, Glyn Wigley of Barnsley, and Tracey Grevatt of Portslade, East Sussex.

Thanks to everyone who entered, although to some we would advise that the answers to our competitions are always in the article about the item being given as prizes.  We had several people say the answer was Ultron, or The Vision. Well, clearly, they were thinking of the wrong Avengers, and had only quickly looked through the text, if at all!

 

THE AVENGERS (SERIES 5): ©1967 STUDIOCANAL LIMITED.

 

Last modified on Tuesday, 30 June 2015 07:39

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