The Avengers "are needed" after reports that a motorist has repeatedly run over and supposedly killed the same person. Their investigations lead them to the country and the top secret Neoter... Read allThe Avengers "are needed" after reports that a motorist has repeatedly run over and supposedly killed the same person. Their investigations lead them to the country and the top secret Neoteric Research Unit, which is run by the appropriately-named Dr. Frank N. Stone, who has made... Read allThe Avengers "are needed" after reports that a motorist has repeatedly run over and supposedly killed the same person. Their investigations lead them to the country and the top secret Neoteric Research Unit, which is run by the appropriately-named Dr. Frank N. Stone, who has made a startlingly life-like robot of himself, so much so that Steed finds it hard to tell the... Read all
As with my immediately recent forays into TV land, this particular viewing arose following the death of one of its participants, Christopher Lee – in the first of two appearances he put in the show; the second one, in an episode entitled THE INTERROGATORS (1969), will follow presently. For the record, I had previously only watched an 1976 episode – called THE EAGLE'S NEST – from the series' first reboot, THE NEW AVENGERS (1976-77) featuring, unsurprisingly enough, Lee's frequent celluloid sparring partner Peter Cushing as the guest star de rigueur. While this fanciful espionage series may initially seem to have been conceived in the wake of the James Bond worldwide phenomenon, the truth is that THE AVENGERS (1961-69) actually preceded it by a year and was possibly the first in a long line of similar shows; in fact, like its equally long-running contemporaries THE SAINT (1962-69) and THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. (1964-68; from the other side of the pond), the series originally started out in monochrome before switching to colour for subsequent seasons.
Anyway, the episode under review – the tenth in the fifth season – is an intriguing hybrid of FRANKENSTEIN (one should not forget that the role of The Creature was what brought him fame precisely a decade earlier) and INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS featuring a grey-haired Christopher Lee (who was only 42 at the time) as Dr. Frank N. Stone (get the connection?) who is enigmatically engulfed in a series of experiments, ostensibly for the Ministry of Technology, intent on creating a race of invincible duplicates. One of the prototypes (a dead-ringer for its creator) breaks out of the laboratory but is run over by a car in the very opening sequence. However, to the baffled consternation of one and sundry – including the driver, the village doctor and, eventually, the heroic titular duo (Patrick Macnee and Diana Rigg) – the apparently lifeless corpse keeps coming back to life, attack transistor radios for no apparent reason and get mown down again by motor vehicles! To be sure, the episode has quite a busy narrative that I will not go into her but, ultimately, both Avengers get inside the laboratory and uncover a typically megalomaniacal plot (albeit with a far-fetched twist – more on that later) to populate the world with duplicates of important people.
On the whole, it proved to be an enjoyable introduction to the show for me, with likable leads and a suitably versatile performance from Lee (in view of the fact that he portrays multiple versions of Dr. Stone). While I found the inherent assimilation between Lee's mindless duplicates and TV viewers in the closing sequence to be very prescient (Macnee and Rigg cannot agree on which channel to watch before settling on a political discussion!), unfortunately I had some real issues with the script which I found to be barely credible at times, namely:
Given the sheer ambition of the villains' plan for world domination, it was indeed very careless of them to let the runway duplicate quit the top secret facility so often to wreak havoc in full view of the public Why would a simple village doctor call The Avengers, ostensibly secret agents (with the emphasis on secret) into action from the outset?; one would have thought she would go to the local police first to report the strange events she had been witness to I can fully understand the need for the villains to duplicate government officials and the titular duo but a village doctor?! I found the duplication method – Lee's assistant apparently had a photographic memory! – very far-fetched to say the least, especially since the victims will eventually need to be abducted and disposed of if they are to be successfully replaced Once they are abducted, Lee's victims are all thrown into the same cell inside the laboratory; however, it takes Peel the longest time to be curious about two cellmates whose bodies are always covered with sheets (and whose identity, ultimately, turns the plot virtually on its head)!
Despite my reservations, I look forward to catching up with more episodes from this series in the long run. For the record, Lee had already worked with director Day in the superior Boris Karloff vehicle CORRIDORS OF BLOOD (1958) and Hammer Films' remake of SHE (1965); Lee and Macnee (reportedly childhood friends) would much later both feature respectively in the abysmal HOWLING II YOUR SISTER IS A WEREWOLF (1985) and Joe Dante's surprisingly underwhelming 1980 original – incidentally, footage from this very episode where later incorporated into another AVENGERS entry, HOMICIDE AND OLD LACE (1969) which was directed by John Hough, who later himself helmed the fourth entry in the lychanthrope saga!; besides, both actors – along with Rigg – will all appear in official James Bond extravaganzas.
- Jun 21, 2015