8.28.2015

The Avengers: The Murder Market

Season 4, Episode 7.

Let's see how my soon-to-be-retired Avengers episode template holds up.



1) PROLOGUE INTRODUCES THE MYSTERY

It does certainly do that. 


A man ("Stone") marked with a carnation awaits his date's arrival. When she shows up, she shoots him dead.


2) STEED VISITS MRS. PEEL TO DISCUSS SAID MYSTERY

Close. It is Mrs. Peel who visits Steed, where he tells her about eleven recent murders they've been tasked to solve. As per usual, the only clues are receipts and scraps from Stone's pockets.



This is actually the first episode to feature Diana Rigg as Mrs. Peel, though it was not the first episode to air. (That would be "The Town of No Return.") As our friends at The Avengers Forever note:


"Diana appears to be feeling her way along, and Emma is not quite "herself" yet. Instead of her usual bright, razor-sharp wit, she is low-key, almost sultry.



"Other anomalies include her uncharacteristic, rather Cathy Gale-ish * lashing-out at Steed and her awkward fight with the female baddie, which resembles more of a girlie catfight."

* Emma's predecessor, for those who are unfamiliar.

We'll get to the catfight later. Patrick Macnee caught the last train out since the last time I covered The Avengers in these pages. 



He was a familiar and well-loved figure of the small screen and large from his debut in the 1940s until his retirement in 2003. I knew him first as the disembodied celestial voice on the original Battlestar and then as James Bond's sidekick in A View to a Kill. When my parents started getting those Avengers episodes A&E put out on VHS in the 80s, I'd throw them in occasionally out of curiosity, and it was Macnee's taped introductions to the episodes that opened the series up to me. He imbued the character - as he did for any role he played, even when showing up on The Love Boat - with class, charm, and confidence. 


Not to mention a good deal of humor.


3) STEED AND MRS. PEEL CANVAS THE SCENE

Emma meets with Stone's family, while Steed heads to the photographer whose name is printed on the receipt found in his pocket What follows is historically interesting:



As we all know from Austin Powers, the "Yes! Yes, baby!" photographer is an enduring trope of "Swinging London." Previously I'd assumed this was only an account of the movie Blow-Up, which came out in 1966. That's the year this episode premiered in the US, but it premiered in the UK in '65 and was actually filmed in '64. And here's the same character!



Was this trope already well-established even in '64? Or is it just a coincidence? Or even the first appearance of said trope? I'm re-reading Peter Brown's The Love You Make as we speak, and the Swinging London anecdotes are fast and furious therein. I'll keep an eye out for any corroboration of this. Given London's importance to the fashion and fashion photography scene, it would make sense.

Either way it's a fun scene. And Steed learns that a matchmaking business named Togetherness, Inc. routinely sends work the photographer's way, so that's where Steed goes to next.



4) THE AUDIENCE OVERHEARS A PRIVATE CONVERSATION BETWEEN THE ANTAGONISTS WHICH REVEALS DETAILS OUR PROTAGONISTS HAVE YET TO LEARN.

Here my template fails me a bit, as while the audience does eavesdrop on the criminal side of things, so does Steed. 



Which is to say, the audience gains no information before Mrs. Peel or Steed do. With one exception - when Steed learns of the gang's next target as a result of his snooping, he calls Mrs. Peel and she goes to the man's home to investigate. Before discovering his corpse in the bathtub, she sees this lady running off:



Whom we of course recognize as the lady from the prologue.


5) EITHER STEED OR MRS. PEEL GO UNDERCOVER

Steed effortlessly passes himself as off as a ne'er-do-well fop at Togetherness, Inc., with a cover story guaranteed to catch the attention of the higher-ups. Not mention Barbara Roscoe:



The social sniffing that goes on between Steed and Lovejoy (Patrick Cargill aka that guy from Help!) is great fun. Lots of fun dialogue in this scene, whether it's Steed's rattling off a detailed list of wifely attributes that easily establishes himself as a member of the landed and wellborn (later, Mrs. Peel tells him his real ideal woman would be "a cross between Lucretia Borgia and Joan of Arc" - I'll just leave that there) or telling Lovejoy he "tried working once. Didn't work out. Too much like work."


"Public school?"
"Expelled from three." 

Public school in the UK is what we'd think of as private school in the US. Oddly enough.

Lovejoy can barely contain his excitement at landing a potentially very lucrative new client to knock off and wastes no time setting him up with:
That girl again! Upon meeting, though, she doesn't shoot him outright.

There's a lot of suggestive and cheeky stuff going on in this scene, (the horse-riding accoutrements provide plenty of innuendo) all while Steed strings her along with talk of a rich cousin whose death will clear the way for his inheriting a fortune. 


6) KOOKY ALLIES and  
7) KOOKY ALLY GETS HIM-OR-HER-SELF KILLED

None to be found! And ditto for our next category:


8) MRS. PEEL CHANGES TO SOME KINKY GET-UP

She does, however, drink too much champagne and then climb into a coffin. So there's that.




9) THE FINAL ASSAULT

As Steed strings the gang along, Peel works with Stone's soon behind-the-scenes, trying to uncover their murder-for-inheritances scheme.


This leads them to uncover the real head of operations:
Played by Suzanne Lloyd.

We just had a look at Ms. Lloyd's memorable Twilight Zone appearance in these page. It's too bad I don't have any episodes of The Saint in the ol' TV Tomb of Mystery, as she appeared on that show quite a bit and I could go three-for-three with a look at one of those episodes. Ah well.

The fight scene between her and Mrs. Peel is indeed a little stilted, but a) I for one didn't get a "catfight" vibe from it, and b) I don't know if anyone's coming to The Avengers for well-coordinated Jackie-Chan slam-bang action. Emma has the situation well-in hand -


and I like this "lights out" gag with the lamp cutting out when Emma flips her over the couch:

but she only passes out for good once Mrs. Peel throws her into Steed's arms, where she falls unconscious.

Speaking of Steed, he escapes his own peril by utilizing the ol' pose-as-the-mannequin trick.


Foreshadowed in several earlier shots:


10) CRISIS AVERTED, STEED AND MRS. PEEL WRAP THINGS UP WITH CHEEKY DIALOGUE IN SOME MANNER OF MOVING VEHICLE.

Indeed - this one with Emma as a chauffer with Steed in the back, speaking without sound until he realizes the partition is up.



The episode is filled with these sorts of wry remarks on the institution of marriage - nothing too serious or groundbreaking, but I like how they always tie up the story's thematic concerns with this little sequence at the end.


~


was
with


The Avengers will return in: "How To Succeed... at Murder."


11 comments:

  1. It's sad but true that the Swing London, Carnaby photography scene is pretty much long gone. I don't even think "Blow Up" could happen in today's cyber-connected world (more's the pity).

    For those who may have missed any Emma Peel histrionics, well, the best was still to come.

    Also, there is something interesting in your statement about the film's "remarks on the institution of marriage (or if you're Peter Cook, "Mawwiage"). Do you suppose they were trying to be subversive in their statements, like a making a commentary on the state of the relation between men and women at the time?

    The reason I ask is because I have noticed how sometimes (not often, but occasion) these shows will have a "hidden" message in them. This may sound like some conspiracy nut thing, yet it's interesting how sometimes more thought has been put into some material than meets the eye.

    For instance, I've listened to this show where a discussion of various series or films with "Subversive" themes, and some of them surprised me. For instance, the idea the Miami Vice might have been basically doing "The Wire" way before the "The Wire".

    http://www.1201beyond.com/podcasts/episode-242-subversive-cinema/

    The opening consists of snippets of "Videodrome" dialogue.

    Also, one of the actors in this episode was Patrick Cargill. He's famous (if at all) for mostly two things, acting alongside the Beatles in "Help", and playing "The New Number 2" on an episode of the original "Prisoner".

    ChrisC

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    1. I totally forgot Cargill was in The Prisoner!

      I do think there was a certain malaise in the Swinging London air not just for the institution of marriage but for all longstanding traditions. Not just London but in the Western world in general - the 60s and all that. "The Meat Market" might not have been specifically designed as a delivery mechanism for subversion, but that's the context for it all right. Like a lot of the best Trek TOS eps, that kind of stuff bleeds through and adds dimensions.

      A lot of that ambiguity, too, had to do with getting round the censor. So any outright subversion of the status quo, for lack of a better word - the one I'm looking for is somewhere around 60s-deconstruction-of-modern-civilization - had to be cheeky. As did a lot of the sexual stuff in The Avengers (and elsewhere.) So, with "The Meat Market," I certainly do think the script smuggles across some subversive material, if only mildly.

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    2. It's interesting to wonder, then, if subversion in entertainment has suffered over the years.

      I think of all the shows of the past, Trek, more than any other has suffered from the PC Police more than most, because I think TOS can be argued to be the most subversive. In order to regain that kind of level today, to give an example, they would have to reboot a character like, say, Seven of Nine, only they would have to have scenario like the following:

      Instead of getting picked up by a Starfleet crew, the Cube of which she is apart is destroyed, and she is left drifting through space until she is picked up by scavengers who pretty much strip mine her for supplies. The resulting stories would then have to actually deal, at least in part, with the trauma of what is an obvious metaphor for "violation". "That" would be an obvious subversive message on several levels.

      As for a lot of the subversion of the past, I think a film like Videodrome is still subversive for, of all things (if you can believe it), it's suggestion that maybe we are letting media violence get the better of us. Such a suggestion is downright puritanical in this day and age. Another one is "They Live", and the reason that has so much relevance is because of a lot of the economic fallout we've had recently. That film is relevant once more for a lot of people (although that's a real mixed blessing, obviously).

      Just an interesting suggestion (apply large amounts of salt as necessary), but I've found what has to be the only extended, professional documentary on "They Live", and it reveals that it is in fact based on an actual short story by a guy named Ray Nelson:

      https://vimeo.com/123497368

      Not only that, but Nelson's short story, and the author himself were featured once in a podcast of SFAudio.com, where he reveals his connection to another famous Sci-Fi writer who indirectly influenced the Carpenter film:

      http://www.sffaudio.com/the-sffaudio-podcast-146-audiobookreadalong-eight-oclock-in-the-morning-by-ray-nelson/

      Just some interesting food for thought, is all I thought (shrugs).

      ChrisC

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    3. Few films are as unfortunately prescient as "Videodrome" and "They Live".

      Interesting redirection for Seven of Nine, there.

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    4. Regarding "Star Trek," TOS certainly had its share of subversion. But don't discount TNG, which posited the idea that not only could the holodeck conjure a lover so utterly convincing that you wouldn't be able to tell the difference, but that when and if it did so it might actually be the ship's computer that you were having a dalliance with.

      I recently watched the third-season episode "Who Watches the Watchers?" It deals with a relatively unsophisticated alien who is badly hurt and -- in a major breach of protocol -- is beamed aboard the Enterprise. He has no frame of reference for what he is seeing, and assumes that he has died, visited heaven, and been brought back to life and returned to his home. Worse is that he has a name for the God of this heaven: Picard.

      Picard learns of all this, and the set of reactions he has is priceless: he reacts with abject horror to learning that he is a deity to this alien man. He seems to feel that religion is the worst possible thing that can have happened.

      It's a very good episode, and it's also one of the most thorough takedowns of religion I've ever seen. In that sense, the episode would be almost sure to inspire a furor if it were made and released today. I don't think it would even make it to air.

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    5. Certainly so for TNG, and in particular for "Who Watches the Watchers." And as with TOS, they could sometime be a little clunky or heavy-handed with things, but you've got to tip your cap to the intent. I think "Watchers" (despite some perhaps too on-the-nose dialogue from Picard; I prefer his religious-skepticism rants from "Devil's Due" to his from "Watchers") is a successful one; something like "The Outcast", less so. But I still like that one, and its heart is in the right place.

      I'm not sure if anti-religious stuff inspires much fervor these days. From my social media timeline, the folks with the pitchforks are generally on the anti-religious side of things. Which is just to say, I find a rather unnuanced "religious people are nuts and embarrassing" perspective to be pretty well-received and represented in the media, and particularly among pundits. There's an awful lot of signalling back and forth to one another on the topic. But! Not everywhere and not on everything, to be sure. More to your point, I think in many other areas people were more freely exploring and less narrow-mindedly receiving things back in the day, ironically. You could posit things in the 70s and 80s that you just can't today, for sure.

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  2. Growing up as a kid in the '70s, I have to say that I don't think "The Avengers" screened very regularly on tv here in Australia, compared to "The Saint", "The Man From U.N.C.L.E", "Get Smart" or "The Persuaders".
    I was a big fan of the newer series, "The New Avengers" (thank-you, Miss Lumley!) by the time that was screened and it's always made me want to chase up the original '60s series. And, of course, Miss Blackman and Miss Rigg would be two reasons alone for watching it.
    Great blog you have here, too! So much to read, so little time. I was a big Spiderman fan and had a stack of issues from the '80s. Plus a couple from the early '70s. They're around here somewhere. Thanks for joining mine, by the way.

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    1. My pleasure. I've been enjoying your comments at You Only Blog Twice so I clicked over to your blog and had one of those "Whoah... there's an awful lot of my favorite topics over here." (Incidentally how I ended up reading You Only Blog Twice!)

      To this day I've only seen a handful of minutes of "The New Avengers." I've been meaning to do a sweep of the show from start to finish in its various incarnations. One of these days, time and world enough, I'll do it.

      While I have you here - and I apologize if the answer is at your blog and well-covered, I haven't had a moment to run searches over there just yet - what is your opinion of the AT Cross pen? I'm ignorant on the subject, but I grew up quite close to their HQ in Rhode Island and they were a bit of a local legend. I can't say I ever bought one, though they were always given as graduation presents and things like that.

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  3. "The New Avengers" only had a two or three year run and I think it has been released on DVD as a boxed set. There were some clever episodes.

    Regarding the Cross pen, I have one somewhere and I don't mind it as a daily-use ballpoint. Although, I'm more partial to Parker (Sonnet) or Waterman (Expert) ballpoints these days. The ink flows a little more easily, requiring less pressure from your hand. This is useful and appreciated if you're doing a lot of writing. Besides, in all honesty, a pen is really only as good as the refill inside it.
    Best thing to do is try a few of them out in-store. Write out a complete sentence. The first line of "Casino Royale" is a good one. That'll give you a feel for the pen, it's ink flow, and how well, or not, the pen fits in your hand. I suppose my only problem with my Cross pen is that it has a very thin barrel (body) and I've gotten accustomed to holding a slightly thicker pen. The Waterman Expert falls just below the "too thick to hold comfortably" category. For my, anyway.
    Good luck and have fun with it all. In a world where fewer people can actually USE a pen these days, I consider them more important than ever.

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  4. So as to keep current with Dog Star Omnibus, I decided to track this episode down and watch it. It was the first "Avengers" episode I've ever seen.

    The swinging-photographer scene made me cringe a bit. It seemed like sort of a shoddy parody of an already-well-known trend. Given that this seems not to have been the case, it makes me re-evaluate the scene. I did enjoy Steed's reaction to it all; he seemed like he was either (1) so hip that he blended right in or (2) so hip that despite being utterly confused by what he was seeing that he -- as he would in any similar circumstance -- just rolled with it. Either way, Steed came off pretty well.

    I was also amused by Peel getting drunk while pretending to be dead. I mean, why not? It would have been amusing for her charade to be discovered because she was too busy cracking herself up. That's the sort of dum-dum thing I would do. Of course, Emma Peel is an altogether better class of individual than I am, so it makes sense that she didn't blow it.

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    1. Welcome to the Avengers! Glad you enjoyed.

      Usually it's Steed who helps himself to the brandy or champagne along the way - it was nice to see Mrs. Peel indulging. She doesn't, often, after this episode.

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