The Avengers at 50

Fans of The Avengers (and I’m hoping there are a few of you reading this blog) will want to make some space in their diaries, as something very special is taking place in Chichester over weekend of 25 and 26 June 2011.

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the series, the University of Chichester is holding the biggest reunion of cast and crew that has been seen in 40 years, with Leonard White, Brian Clemens, Honor Blackman and Linda Thorson among the guests. Patrick Macnee won’t be leaving his Hollywood home sadly, but has recorded a message for fans.

The list of names from the series attending is a long and impressive one, which you can read in full on the website, but for now here are a couple of videos which might have you reaching for your credit card if that guest list hasn’t already:

Next we have the weekend’s host, Paul O’Grady, explaining why he loves The Avengers. He’s assisted by a familiar face:

Keep an eye on the official event Twitter feed.

DVD Review: The Avengers Series Four

The Avengers Series Four cover


Exit Cathy Gale and enter Mrs Peel, as The Avengers truly hits its stride and the 1960s really start swinging. Series four of the classiest programme ever made saw Honor Blackman leave to fly aeroplanes for Auric Goldfinger as Patrick Macnee’s John Steed welcomed a new sparring partner in the shape of the sumptuous Diana Rigg.

Shifting from videotape to 35mm film, one eye firmly on the burgeoning US market who wouldn’t accept anything less, 1965 was the year The Avengers really made its mark on TV audiences. Previous seasons may have introduced the populace to killer nuns, mad scientists and the odd loopy plot, but all this was taken to another level as Avengersland was created in the country lanes of middle England and behind the closed doors of every London gentleman’s club.

Avengers Series FourBeginning with The Town of No Return, in which Steed and the newly introduced Emma Peel (her name coming from the idea that she had Man Appeal or ‘M Appeal’) visit a seaside town where ghosts from the past seem very much alive, the season moves from science fiction (The Cybernauts) to bizarre fantasy (Too Many Christmas Trees) and onto sado-masochistic camp (A Touch of Brimstone) with ease.

Watching Steed fight with a baddie atop a miniature train with Mrs Peel strapped to the rail track may sound ludicrous, as might the end sequences which see the pair vanish into the distance by bicycle, in a coach and horses or on a magic carpet, but give in to the fun and you’ll have a ball.

To put it bluntly, this is a series which has found the formula for success and manages to riff on it for 26 episodes that could only be improved by a dash of colour…but then that was only a year away as those Yanks demanded even more from Steed and Peel. Of course, whether colour actually made the series any better is debatable, as there’s undoubtedly something to be savoured in these crisp black and white episodes that look as good as new.

This set also comes packed with extras, including commentaries from writers Roger Marshall, Robert Banks Stewart and Brian Clemens and directors Gerry O’Hara, Roy Ward Baker and Don Leaver plus a number of alternate sequences from episodes, stills galleries and PDF material from various sources. Perhaps the most welcome extras are the reconstructed season one episodes, Kill the King and Dead of Winter, screen captured photos tied together with narration.

A more perfect piece of home entertainment you’ll struggle to find this year…at least until series five arrives in a few months time.

DVD Preview: The Corridor People

Spend more than a few minutes on this site and you’ll find much love for UK DVD label Network, one of the only companies actively mining the ITV archives for series that would otherwise remain an obscure entry on Wikipedia. Network’s latest discovery is 1966’s The Corridor People.

While present-day ITV audiences are lucky to have quality drama series such as…well…there are bound to be some somewhere, back in the 1960s and 70s there were a number of production teams striving to put out a variety of action, adventure, fantasy and drama series for a public that expected something more than just soaps and reality TV. Some, such as The Avengers and, to a lesser extent, Callan, may have lived on in popular culture, but others, such as The Corridor People, aren’t so well remembered.

Described by Network on their website as “a surreal crime/fantasy adventure series in the mould of the The Avengers”, they go on to say that the series features “a host of unlikely characters include Kronk, a paternal CID agent, his henchmen Inspector Blood and Sergeant Hound, and American, Bogart-worshipping private eye Phil Scrotty; each episode sees them pitched against the avaricious schemes of Syrie Van Epp, a beautiful, treacherous Persian millionairess.”

The series is out on Monday 19 July and I hope to have a review up on the blog next week, but in the meantime here’s a clip from Network’s YouTube page:

DVD Review: The Avengers, Complete Series 2 and Surviving Series 1


Bowler hats, kinky boots, scheming scientists and preposterous plots are probably the first things that spring to mind when The Avengers is mentioned to anyone of a certain age.

Images of the dapper John Steed and the leather-clad Emma Peel driving around the English countryside thwarting bonkers baddies may be most familiar to audiences today, but rewind a few years to the series early days and you’ll find a much different series.

Designed as a new starring vehicle for actor Ian Hendry, familiar to British audiences as Doctor Brent in TV series Police Surgeon, The Avengers premiered in 1961 with a new theme tune and a new premise.

In the pilot episode, of which only the first 15 minutes still exist, Dr Keel’s (Ian Hendry) girlfriend is killed before he then comes into contact with the mysterious Steed (Patrick Macnee) who is investigating the crime.

Determined to “avenge” the murder, the pair would go on to solve various crimes and misdemeanours for another 23 episodes, before a strike cut the season short and the creators retooled it to promote Macnee to series lead.

The return of the show for a second season, complete with new co-star Cathy Gale (Honor Blackman), would see it become appointment television, if not for the strong scripts then certainly for its treatment of woman as equal – if not superior – to their male counterparts.

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