Avengers Series 1-2 DVD

Friday, 02 October 2009 14:27

Fully restored for the first time, Optimum have released all of the surviving episodes of seasons one and two of Cult TV classic The Avengers. This is just the beginning, as over the course of the next year ALL the episodes will be fully restored and released on DVD. But let’s start at the beginning with the 2½ remaining S1 episodes and all of S2, along with unique new extras and special inserts. 

This paragraph from the original promotional booklet for the first series captures the appeal of The Avengers: “The special flavour of this highly-polished, fast-moving crime series lies in its off-beat twists and strong vein of wacky humour, laced with an undercurrent of social conscience. Hero of The Avengers is John Steed, played by David Niven’s cousin Patrick Macnee, who is related to the Earl of Huntingdon and descended from Robin Hood. Steed is a highly-trained, top-level secret agent, a ruthless operator who works under cover of his life as a wealthy man-about-town with an aristocratic background. His tastes are demanding – nothing but the best in everything from pretty girls to food, wine, cars and tailoring.

Avengers Series 1 and 2

“Naturally, therefore, his Girl Friday is a thoroughbred too – a cool blonde named Catherine Gale (Honor Blackman), who is a 1960s version of the leggy Dietrich-type beauties of the Thirties – resourceful, wise-cracking, elegantly man-tailored but essentially feminine. Cathy’s skill with Judo, guns and fast cars makes her an ideal partner for Steed, although with her scientific background and social conscience she often clashes with his ruthless methods.

“When Cathy is not around, Steed uses two amateur assistants, the handsome Dr Martin King (Jon Rollason) and Venus Smith (Julie Stevens), a pert, cute nightclub singer who helps Steed for the thrill of breaking out of her normal environment.

“In the background is One-Ten (Douglas Muir), a mysterious and very English Foreign Office figure who controls Steed’s undercover activities.”

Following these adventures, Cathy Gale would return for one further season in 1963-1964, before handing the baton on to Diana Rigg’s Emma Peel character.  One season of monochrome on 16mm film with Mrs Peel, and then the series completed its metamorphosis by switching to colour, a move that only further highlighted the increasingly outlandish plots and provided the platform for the show’s eventual jump to iconic status.

The Avengers began with Keel investigating the murder of his wife-to-be, Peggy, by a drug cartel. Steed appears on the scene, and together they set out to avenge Peggy’s death in the show's first (and now lost) pair of episodes. From that point on, the pair gave meaning to the show’s title.

Initially, it was Ian Hendry who was billed as the star of the series – in fact, Steed did not even appear in two of the first season episodes (one of which, “Girl on a Trapeze” survived various library sales and ‘junking’ to appear on this set). But Steed soon began to become established and shine, even carrying the final first season episode on his own. The other fully surviving episode “The Frighteners” shows that Steed also has a group of associates who provide him with clues and information. Also in the first series was Carol Wilson (played by Ingrid Hafner), a nurse and receptionist who effectively replaced the murdered Peggy.

When the second season began production, Ian Hendry had left to follow his quest for a film career, so an initial rotation of foils for Steed were employed. Doctor Martin King (Jon Rollason), Keel in all but name, took the mantle in the first three episodes produced – which in fact were scripts left over from season one.

Nightclub singer Venus Smith (Julie Stevens) appeared in six episodes. She had no criminology experience, as had been the case with the two doctors. In fact, she’s almost a prototype Tara King in the nature of her relationship with Steed. Her episodes featured her singing performances, and the character even underwent some revisions during the run, becoming younger in demeanour and dress.

It was, however, Honor Blackman’s Doctor Catherine Gale who would truly capture the imagination of both the production team and the general public.  Cathy was a self-assured, quick-witted anthropologist widow, expert at judo and with a passion for leather – at the time, something unseen and unheard of on television anywhere in the world. Her unusual demeanour was helped quite by accident, simply by having inherited more unused Keel scripts, and therefore lines intended for a man.

Writers were not allowed to let Steed and Gale go beyond flirting and innuendo in their relationship, although their closeness was still seen as progressive for its era. Steed, meanwhile, dropped the trench coat he had started off in, and replaced it with Savile Row suits, plus bowler hats and umbrellas (with added extras!).

The special features on this huge set cover all the bases you need to know about the series, from its evolution out of the 13 episode chequered run of a series called Police Surgeon; herein we get to the bottom of why that show was cancelled so prematurely. With The Avengers waiting to take on Ian Hendry as one of its co leads, the show had to go. Dr Geoffrey Brent became Dr David Keel, who gained John Steed as a partner, and contractual complications with the original format were instantly dispensed with.

Here is a guide to the treasures you can find on each of the eight discs:

DISC ONE:

  • Police Surgeon – “Easy Money” (the only surviving episode)
  • Julian Bond (First Producer) and Leonard White (Second Producer) introduce Police Surgeon
  • Leonard White commentary on “Hot Snow”
  • Stills gallery
  • PDF material (3 scripts, 3 x TV Times covers and articles, TV Crimebusters comic script and ‘Knit With The Avengers’!)
  • Add to all this a 132 page book containing a Season One Episode Guide and Leonard White’s Season One Scrapbook

DISC TWO:

  • Stills gallery for featured episodes (including colour stills where available)
  • PDF material (4 scripts).
  • In the box, an insert reprint of the Season 2 promotional brochure

DISC THREE:

  • Video introduction by Julie Stevens for “The Decapod”
  • Audio Commentary by writer Martin Woodhouse for “Mr Teddy Bear”
  • Stills gallery for featured episodes (including colour stills where available)
  • PDF material (4 scripts)

DISC FOUR:

  • Video introduction by Julie Stevens for “The Removal Men”
  • Audio commentary by Leonard White for “The Mauritius Penny”
  • Audio commentary by writer Roger Marshall for “Death of A Great Dane”
  • Stills gallery for featured episodes (including colour stills where available)
  • PDF material (4 scripts and one ‘TV Times’ cover and article)

DISC FIVE:

  • Stills gallery for featured episodes (including colour stills where available)
  • PDF material (4 scripts)

DISC SIX:

  • Audio Commentary by Julie Stevens on “Box of Tricks”
  • Stills gallery for featured episodes (including colour stills where available)
  • PDF material (4 scripts)

DISC SEVEN:

  • Audio Commentary by Julie Stevens on “A Chorus of Frogs”
  • Stills gallery for featured episodes (including colour stills where available)
  • PDF material (4 scripts)

DISC EIGHT:

  • New Honor Blackman interview
  • Collector’s Lot – Honor Blackman interviews an Avengers memorabilia collector
  • Stills gallery for featured episodes (including colour stills where available)
  • PDF material (2 scripts)
  • Easter Egg (featuring Leonard White reading a very revealing contemporary letter from Patrick Macnee to him).

Extras aside, there’s 1,520 minutes of actual episodes to get your goggles round – interestingly the censor has declared the set a ‘12’ certificate. The RRP for this lot is a bargain at £79.99.

Thanks to Optimum, you had the opportunity to put one of three copies of “The Avengers – The Complete Series 2 and Surviving Episodes from Series 1” into your collection.

All you had to do was answer the following question:  Julie Stevens is a former guest of the Cult TV Festival, but who did she play in The Avengers?  The answer was Venus Smith, and the lucky winners were Sheila Reavy of Doncaster, Mark Tucker of East Ham, and Liz Gregory of Blackpool - well done all!

 

THE AVENGERS - EPISODE GUIDE

 

SEASON ONE (Surviving Episodes)

 

1.01 HOT SNOW (incomplete – first 20 minutes exist in archive only)

When Dr David Keel’s fiancée is murdered by drug smugglers, the distraught physician swears to avenge her death by bringing the criminals to justice. He’s aided by a mysterious character who calls himself John Steed.

Cast: Ian Hendry, Patrick Macnee, Honor Blackman

Writer: Patrick Brawn, Brian Clemens & Ray Rigby

Producer: Leonard White

Director: Don Leaver

 

1.06 GIRL ON A TRAPEZE

Dr Keel rescues a girl who tries to commit suicide by jumping into the River Thames. He discovers that she is a trapeze artist with a visiting circus and foreign agents seek to capture her in order to force her father, a defecting scientist, to return to his country behind the Iron Curtain.

Cast: Ian Hendry, Ingrid Hafner

Writer: Dennis Spooner

Producer: Leonard White

Director: Don Leaver

 

1.15 THE FRIGHTENERS

Sir Thomas Waller disapproves of his daughter's choice in boyfriends and hires a criminal to scare off an unwanted suitor. Keel and Steed rescue the swain from the criminal's henchman and discover a clue to an extortion plot.

Cast: Ian Hendry, Patrick Macnee, Ingrid Hafner

Writer: Berkely Mather

Producer: Leonard White

Director: Peter Hammond

 

A full list of Season One episodes can be found at www.dissolute.com.au

 

SEASON TWO

 

2.01 MISSION TO MONTREAL

Dr King takes a luxury cruise to look after a famous film actress whom Steed suspects of espionage!

Also Starring: Jon Rollason

Writer: Lester Powell

Producer: Leonard White

Director: Don Leaver

 

2.02 DEAD ON COURSE

A mysterious plane crash takes Steed to a remote convent where he has one of the strangest adventures of his career.

Also Starring: Jon Rollason

Writer: Eric Paice

Producer: Leonard White

Director: Richmond Harding

 

2.03 THE SELL OUT

Steed hunts an informer only to find that he himself is suspect no 1!

Also Starring: Jon Rollason

Writer: Anthony Terpiloff & Brandon Brady

Producer: Leonard White

Director: Don Leaver

 

2.04 DEATH DISPATCH

A murder without reason? A diplomatic mission in jeopardy. Steed and Cathy go 8,000 miles to find a clue.

Also Starring: Honor Blackman

Writer: Leonard Fincham

Producer: Leonard White

Director: Jonathan Alwyn

 

2.05 PROPELLANT 23

The police hunt Steed while Cathy, on the trail of a mysterious package, confronts the people who will kill to keep its secret…

Also Starring: Honor Blackman, Geoffrey Palmer

Writer: Jon Manchip White

Producer: Leonard White

Director: Jonathan Alwyn

 

2.06 MR TEDDY BEAR

The greatest assassin in the world is a worthy opponent for Steed, but he and Cathy find that “Mr Teddy Bear” knows many tricks, all of them deadly…

Also Starring: Honor Blackman

Writer: Martin Woodhouse

Producer: Leonard White

Director: Richmond Harding

 

2.07 THE DECAPOD

Steed and Venus find “The Decapod” just as murderous as his namesake – the ten-armed sea monster.

Also Starring: Julie Stevens

Writer: Eric Paice

Producer: Leonard White

Director: Don Leaver

 

2.08 BULLSEYE

When Steed buys Cathy the directorship of a company involved in arms smuggling, he knows he may not see Cathy, or the money, again….

Also Starring: Honor Blackman, Bernard Kay

Writer: Eric Paice

Producer: Leonard White

Director: Peter Hammond

 

2.09 THE REMOVAL MEN

Steed arranges for Venus to sing at a Riviera nightclub – which happens to be a meeting place for professional murderers.

Also Starring: Julie Stevens

Writer: Roger Marshall & Jeremy Scott

Producer: Leonard White

Director: Don Leaver

 

2.10 THE MAURITIUS PENNY

Steed and Cathy Gale find the world’s rarest stamp is the key to an evil and fantastic plot.

Also Starring: Honor Blackman

Writer: Malcolm Hulke & Terrance Dicks

Producer: Leonard White

Director: Richmond Harding

 

2.11 DEATH OF A GREAT DANE

Steed and Cathy turn to practical jokes to discover who is conjuring with the Stock Market – and why a man ate diamonds…

Also Starring: Honor Blackman

Writer: Roger Marshall & Jeremy Scott

Producer: Leonard White

Director: Peter Hammond

 

2.12 DEATH ON THE ROCKS

Murder in Hatton Garden – and Steed and Cathy learn that diamonds are no longer a girl’s best friend…

Also Starring: Honor Blackman

Writer: Eric Paice

Producer: Leonard White

Director: Jonathan Alwyn

 

2.13 TRAITOR IN ZEBRA

Steed joins the navy and Cathy makes artificial rubies to help track down a saboteur.

Also Starring: Honor Blackman

Writer: John Gilbert

Producer: Leonard White

Director: Richmond Harding

 

2.14 BIG THINKER

Steed sends Cathy to visit Plato – the world’s most advanced computer - and they discover that the machine can remember a murderer.

Also Starring: Honor Blackman, Anthony Booth

Writer: Martin Woodhouse

Producer: Leonard White

Director: Kim Mills

 

2.15 INTERCRIME

Intercrime – crime’s answer to Interpol – leads Steed to a shooting gallery and Cathy to prison.

Also Starring: Honor Blackman

Writer: Terrance Dicks & Malcolm Hulke

Producer: John Bryce

Director: Jonathan Alwyn

 

2.16 WARLOCK

Are there witches? Do magic spells have any effect? Steed is out to explode the myth. He enlists the help of Cathy Gale and they have to fight for their lives.

Also Starring: Honor Blackman

Writer: Doreen Montgomery

Producer: John Bryce

Director: Peter Hammond

 

2.17 IMMORTAL CLAY

Steed and Cathy go to the Potteries in search of an unbreakable cup.

Also Starring: Honor Blackman

Writer: James Mitchell

Producer: John Bryce

Director: Richmond Harding

 

2.18 BOX OF TRICKS

Steed persuades Venus to join a vanishing act, with remarkable results.

Also Starring: Julie Stevens

Writer: Peter Ling & Edward Rhodes

Producer: John Bryce

Director: Kim Mills

 

2.19 THE GOLDEN EGGS

Steed and Cathy hunt for two eggs that must never be allowed to hatch…

Also Starring: Honor Blackman

Writer: Martin Woodhouse

Producer: John Bryce

Director: Peter Hammond

 

2.20 SCHOOL FOR TRAITORS

Steed and Venus go to a university and find there are degrees of treachery.

Also Starring: Julie Stevens

Writer: James Mitchell

Producer: John Bryce

Director: Jonathan Alwyn

 

2.21 THE WHITE DWARF

The White Dwarf threatens Earth. Cathy studies the stars and Steed turns financier to save mankind.

Also Starring: Honor Blackman

Writer: Malcolm Hulke

Producer: John Bryce

Director: Richmond Harding

 

2.22 THE MAN IN THE MIRROR

Steed takes Venus to a fairground in search of a corpse.

Also Starring: Julie Stevens

Writer: Geoffrey Orme & Anthony Terpiloff

Producer: John Bryce

Director: Kim Mills

 

2.23 CONSPIRACY OF SILENCE

Why does a clown want to murder Steed? Cathy joins a circus to find the answer.

Also Starring: Honor Blackman

Writer: Roger Marshall

Producer: John Bryce

Director: Peter Hammond

 

2.24 A CHORUS OF FROGS

Steed stows aboard a multi-millionaire’s yacht to learn about deep-sea diving!

Also Starring: Julie Stevens

Writer: Martin Woodhouse

Producer: John Bryce

Director: Raymond Menmuir

 

2.25 SIX HANDS ACROSS A TABLE

High society claims Cathy and Steed goes shipbuilding when three murderers come into power.

Also Starring: Honor Blackman

Writer: Reed de Rouen

Producer: John Bryce

Director: Richmond Harding

 

2.26 KILLER WHALE

Cathy promotes a boxer, and Steed follows a scented trail to find a gang of smugglers.

Also Starring: Honor Blackman

Writer: John Lucarotti

Producer: John Bryce

Director: Kim Mills

 

 

Last modified on Thursday, 10 May 2012 16:37

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