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Avengers 1966 Vol.#5

Patrick Macnee , Diana Rigg    Unrated   VHS Tape
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)

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In "What the Butler Saw," one of two black-and-white episodes from the fourth season of The Avengers, someone is leaking defense secrets to "the other side." While gentleman spy John Steed (Patrick Macnee) goes undercover as a butler to locate the culprit, Mrs. Emma Peel (Diana Rigg) launches "Operation Fascination" to attract the attention of the womanizing prime suspect, Captain Miles. About to meet him for drinks, she is memorably advised by Steed, "Don't do anything I would do." Two notable bits: for security purposes, three defense officials zip themselves up in a ridiculous giant plastic body bag that anticipates Get Smart's Cone of Silence; and Emma flees from a pursuer through a succession of doors used to train butlers, a scene echoed in Sam Raimi's Crimewave. "The House That Jack Built" is one of Rigg's finest hours, and a rare chance to see the usually nonplussed Mrs. Peel totally plussed. She is in for "the fright of [her] life" when she is held prisoner in a house rigged by a vengeful techno-obsessed madman bent on driving her insane. Rooms that move and labyrinthian mazes are mere prologue to "the exhibition dedicated to the late Emma Peel." This volume is also available in The Avengers '66, Set 2. --Donald Liebenson

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4.6 out of 5 stars
4.6 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Final series makes it to DVD April 23 2003
By A Customer
The final season of the original Avengers finally comes to DVD & VHS in region one. "The Forget me knot," the debut episode of Ms. Tara King played by Linda Thorson, was released back in 1998, but only now is the entire series seeing the light of day - and it's been well worth the wait.
There are many of course who do not rate these last adventures featuring the debonair John Steed as Britain's top government agent as highly as what had gone before, and it's easy to see why. Steed's pairing originally with Mrs Gale (Honor Blackman) and later Mrs Peel (Diana Rigg) had been an excellent match for his skills. With Mrs Peel leaving the show, the producers, Brian Clemens and Albert Fennell followed suit and John Bryce was brought back to the programme, following his stint producing the early Mrs Gale episodes.
The first thing Bryce did was to cast his girlfriend, twenty one year old Canadian Linda Thorson as Steed's new assistant, Miss Tara King. In order to complete the delivery of episodes to the US market, production was fairly rushed, and what came out of it was deemed substandard. Bryce was sacked and Fennell and Clemens brought back to rescue the production. Clemens was particularly unhappy about Linda Thorson's role, but it was too late in the day to do anything about it. They set about filming the initial block of 8 episodes (extended to 9), rehashing two of the abandoned Bryce episodes, and bringing back Mrs Peel for the one-off story "The forget me knot" to introduce the new character of Tara (although this "debut" was actually filmed third). Once these episodes were ready, they set about producing the final batch of 24.
There is a very significant shift in the character of Tara King between these two production blocks as Thorson began to gain confidence in the part.
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Format:VHS Tape
This is a very odd pair of episodes, "What the Butler Saw" being essentially a very British comedy and "The House That Jack Built" an intense sci-fi melodrama.
"Butler" is a deliberately more comedic re-telling of an earlier Honor Blackman story, in which very faithful military men appear to be leaking important state secrets. To get to the bottom of it, Emma becomes the seducer of a ladies' man, and Steed first impersonates top-ranking members of each armed service and then turns to butlering to keep a close eye on the suspects. The humor is English farce, not so amusing to American audiences. Probably the funniest thing in the episode is Steed's variety of facial hair disguises while cozying up to the Army, Navy, and Air Force officers. There's also a fairly amusing chase in the finale, with Emma pursued through a series of opening and shutting doors, one after another, all in a straight line and only a few feet apart from each other.
"House" is the better piece of the two, an often genuinely creepy and very atmospheric haunted house story of another color. A nonexistent dead uncle bequeathes Emma his house in the country - which turns out to be an eerie automated prison, designed to become her tomb by a madman with a grudge. Two things especially stand out in this one: the surrealistic sets of the mechanized haunted house, which are really unsettling, and Diana Rigg's virtual one-woman performance as the mouse caught in the trap.
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The six episodes in this set happen to be the most average of the black-and-white Diana Rigg series. Not bad - in fact, not bad at all - but not extraordinary, either. There's a bit of camp (and Rigg in a nice suit of undress) in "The Girl From A.U.N.T.I.E.," and splendid wit and humor (with some of the best Steed-Emma interplay in the series) in the somewhat satirical "Quick-Quick Slow Death."
The rest are straightforward and rather prosaic entries. "Silent Dust" is the best of these, with Steed and Emma preventing economic blackmail by use of a top-secret stolen chemical agent. "Room Without A View" and "Small Game For Big Hunters" are fairly dull, really, except for the usual wonderful interplay between Steed and Emma (and there's less of that than usual), and "The 13th Hole" is a reasonably clever spy story revolving around a private golf club.
Just because these aren't the best the series had to offer doesn't mean they're not worth watching. The Avengers, at its most mundane, was much better than virtually every other show at its best.
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The Avengers was one of the hippest shows of its day, and manages to stand the test of time pretty well. It achieved its maximum popularity in 1965-66, when streamlined for exportation to America, which was when Diana Rigg was hired to replace the departing Honor Blackman. Prior, The Avengers was essentially a weekly live crime melodrama a la Agatha Christie, interspersed with some occasional spy hijinks. Once Rigg was brought aboard, the show's budget increased, it was transferred to film with more location shooting, the music got jazzier and the approach sexier (Emma Peel's name was contracted from "M"an-Appeal), and the stories grew to be more laced with science-fiction. It proved at least as popular in the States as it was in its parent Britain, and a legend was born.
The show was never better than in Rigg's first year, the '65-'66 season, the first six episodes of which comprise this set. "The Cybernauts" - first episode aired in the States (third, in England) - set the tone extremely well for what was to follow in episodes to come. Our hero and heroine, Steed and Mrs. Peel, foil a mad industrialist's plan to create a cybernetic police state, by deactivating his earliest experiment: a killer robot. The English debut episode - first on this set of tapes - is "The Town Of No Return," a fifth-column invasion story of typically (for this series) bizarre means. "Death At Bargain Prices" finds the British supersleuths investigating the disappearance of an atomic scientist in a lavish department store. "The Gravediggers" is about a radar-jamming outfit connected to a local cemetery (and an eccentric's life-size model train collection). "Castle De'ath" is where a foreign power utilizes a secret submarine base to disturb the local ecology, and thus its economy.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars THE BEST DVD YET!!!
Published on Nov. 5 2002 by P. M. Connolly
5.0 out of 5 stars Steed Takes A Train - Emma Rides the Rail
The first of the Diana Rigg episodes are among the best of the entire series.
"The Gravediggers" is a straightforward espionage story, marked by The Avengers' usual... Read more
Published on May 19 2002 by Bruce Rux
5.0 out of 5 stars Can you take me now for a quick scrape and a hot towel ..?
Somebody is selling top British defense secrets to the enemy. The talented British agent Steed contacts the double-agent barber. They whisper, but not quiet enough. Read more
Published on May 14 2002 by Edward Nikicicz
5.0 out of 5 stars Steed Boosts His I.Q. - Emma Boosts State Secrets
"Castle De'ath" is an unusual Avengers entry, in that Steed and Emma are both undercover at the same place at the same time, from the very start of the episode. Read more
Published on April 30 2002 by Bruce Rux
5.0 out of 5 stars Steed Plays With Toys - Emma Tests Her Metal
"The Cybernauts" is the quintessential Avengers episode, the most famous of the series and deservedly so. If you're new to the series, this is the best story to start out on. Read more
Published on April 29 2002 by Bruce Rux
4.0 out of 5 stars Long on charm, short on continuity
This is an erratic group of episodes, charming but sloppy.
As other reviewers note, ``Small Game for Big Hunters'' is one of the best, satirizing colonialism as much as could... Read more
Published on March 29 2002
5.0 out of 5 stars A great series
This is my favorite Avengers team, Mrs. Peel and Mr. Steed. Together, Diana Rigg and Patrick Macnee make the series. This series is very superb. Read more
Published on March 14 2002
5.0 out of 5 stars Best episode of the avengers
this is one of my favorite avengers episodes ever. I have seen almost all of them and out of them all this one is one of the most suspensful ones. Read more
Published on Feb. 25 2002 by avengers fan
5.0 out of 5 stars Emma Peel Volume One
Although somewhat campy at times, The Avengers was an intellectual show, featuring puzzling mysteries, witty dialogue, bits of comedy, and an incredibly suave, cool agent in John... Read more
Published on Jan. 27 2002 by Daniel Jolley
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