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DVD Review

DVD cover

The Avengers
The Complete Series 2 & Surviving Episodes From Series 1


Starring: Patrick Macnee and Honor Blackman
Optimum Classics
RRP: £79.99
Certificate: 12
Available 05 October 2009

I guess, like most people, my memory of The Avengers is of a show which embraced the surreal qualities which crept into much of sixties television. Oddly enough it didn’t start out that way and for many casual fans the opportunity to view what survives of the first two seasons will be a bit of a revelation. Optimum Classics have released the surviving two and a half episodes from season one and the whole of season two under the umbrella title of The Avengers. The two seasons and their extras are spread across eight DVD’s. The shows have been fully restored, though this process has been more successful on the second season.

The show opens with the premise of Dr David Keel (Ian Hendry) who turns amateur detective after his girlfriend is murdered by a drug gang. Helping him in his quest for justice is a secretive agent from the intelligence community who both helps the doctor and uses the doctor’s activities to hide what he is really doing. John Steed (Patrick Macnee) is almost unrecognisable, as a character, from the suave sophisticate which would appear in the show from season three onwards.

Disc one holds the remains of the first season. Hot Snow is the first show, unfortunately only twenty minutes of this survive with the remainder being filled in with stills, but there is enough of the show for you to get how it would progress. The only two complete shows - Girl on a Trapeze and The Frighteners - exist in their original black and white with a mono audio track.

At this stage this really is Ian Hendry’s show, with Steed appearing often only fleetingly. The format is pretty straight forward with Hendry discovering something going on, investigating and solving the crime. The whole thing feels very much like a run-of-the-mill Saturday evening show which had it stopped when Ian Hendry left would not have been remembered today.

Disc one has some extras in the form of Leonard White’s Original Caption Cards, which consists of four prints used to advertise the show, Threes a Crowd: An Introduction to Police Surgeon (6 min, 38 sec) which gives a little background to Hendry’s original show which sparked the creation of The Avengers, which is followed nicely by a whole episode of the show Easy Money (25 min, 10 sec), interesting if for nothing else it stars a very young Michael Crawford playing a villain. The extras are wrapped up with a stills gallery and a whole bunch of PDF’s which contain content from the Radio Times as well as complete scripts and a comic.

Starting with Mission to Montreal the remaining seven discs contain the complete and restored season two. With the departure of Ian Hendry the show started to lean more towards James Bond, even down to the fake overseas locations and the start of the transformation of Steed. The tone also changed with the introduction of leather clad Honor Blackman (Catherine Gale) as an assistant for Steed. This was no simpering side kick as Blackman played her character as a strong and sensual woman, the template for all that would follow her, when she was not around Steed turned to either Dr Martin King (Jon Rollason) a character which feels like a hangover from the first series and Venus Smith (Julie Stevens). A prototype ‘Mother’ hangs around in the background in the shape of One-Ten (Douglas Muir).

Each of the discs contains extras and disc two kicks off with a stills gallery, which includes a number of colour prints and more DVD-ROM content which consists of four complete scripts, for the four shows on the disc and a music cue sheet.

Disc threes extras also have four complete scripts for the shows on the DVD as well as a stills gallery. There is a video introduction (53 sec) by Julie Stevens for the episode The Decapod as well as a full length commentary, by Martin Wooodhouse for Mr Teddy Bear. Not to break with tradition disc four also has four scripts, plus a TV Times article and cover, an introduction by Julie Stevens for The Removal Men and two full length commentaries, the first for The Mauritius Penny by Leonard White (the producer) and the second for Death of a Great Dane by Roger Marshall. Disc five has the scripts and some more stills, once again there are some which are in colour.

Disc six expands on the four scripts and still gallery motif to include an audio commentary by Julie Stevens for Box of Tricks, a service she repeats on disc seven for A Chorus of Frogs, to add to the now inevitable four scripts and a bunch of stills (there’s a film title in there somewhere). The last disc does particularly well for extras. Over and above our old friend the scripts and stills there is a brand new Honor Blackman interview (13 min, 01 sec) looking back at her time on the show. There is also a short piece about Honor Blackman meeting a fan of the show (4 min, 40 sec).

So there you have it a pretty much ‘must have’ it for genre fans and a nice overall package.


Charles Packer

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