Americans tuning into The Avengers in 1966 had never seen a woman on television quite like Emma Peel. But British viewers had. Her name was Cathy Gale (Honor Blackman, the future Pussy Galore in Goldfinger), "charming comp... more »anion" and, at this point in this classic British series, unofficial partner to gentleman spy John Steed (Patrick Macnee). This boxed set contains six vintage, rarely seen episodes from the series' third season. Two of them are considered by one Avengers Web site to be among the 10 best of the Cathy Gale era. In "The Nutshell," Steed himself is charged with treason when an intruder manages to break into a seemingly impregnable underground security facility and copy secret documents. "The Gilded Cage" is solid gold, as Steed and Mrs. Gale bait a criminal mastermind by plotting the heist of $3 million in bullion. Also a keeper is "The Man with Two Shadows," in which Mrs. Gale must determine if Steed is Steed and not his replacement double. "The Undertakers," "Death of a Batman," and "November Five" are more uneven, but die-hard fans of this unconventional espionage series will relish the characteristically quirky, convoluted plots and eccentric characters. And Diana Rigg/Mrs. Peel-bias aside, Mrs. Gale cuts quite a formidable figure. At one point in "The Man with Two Shadows," Steed asks her what's for breakfast. She smartly replies, "Cook it and see." --Donald Liebenson« less
"For all the fans of The Avengers familiar with the Emma Peel/Tara King era of the show, these early episodes featuring Cathy Gale and Venus Smith may come as something of a disappointment. In fact, fans of the later shows may find it hard to believe that they are even part of the same TV series! After the initial run of 26 episodes featuring Police Surgeon David Keel and his cohort John Steed had aired in the UK in 1961/62, the producers of the program opted to bring Steed to the forefront of the action and give him a number of different "assistants." Thus, for season two, 26 further episodes were made and broadcast in 1962/63 featuring Steed abetted by Martin King, Venus Smith or Cathy Gale. Mrs. Gale turned out to be the most popular and successful foil for the suave agent, and the other characters did not return after season two. Unlike the later Peel/King stories which were all made on film, these studio based TV shows are much more reliant on dialogue and plot than visual elements, and can be somewhat heavy going as a result.A&E is releasing these stories in a somewhat confusing order, and has started with season three. The first two sets released, Avengers 64 1 & 2, feature the LAST six episodes of season three. Next comes Avengers 63 sets 1 & 2 which comprises of the first half of the season. Next up in the release order is 63 sets 3 & 4 which precede 1 & 2 in running order and in fact feature the last seven stories from season two, plus the first from season three. Confused? Ultimately, it doesn't really matter, since thankfully there's no real reason to watch the stories in chronological order anyway.What is interesting is the development of the production standards. 63 sets 3 & 4, featuring the latter stories from season two, are far more rudimentary in terms of production quality. The sets are extremely small and sparse; The direction very slap-hazard; Camera work shoddy; Sound is extremely poor; and the acting is negligible. With no budget for editing or reshooting, all the actor's fluffs and goofs stayed in. Steed's character is far less suave and sophisticated then he became later during his familiar role alongside Mrs. Peel, and the relationship with Mrs. Gale in particular is at first downright hostile with very little warmth between the two. He seems to get along much better with Miss Venus Smith, a night club singer who he engages at various gigs to act as his eyes and ears. Venus is a very odd character, and played strangely, but enthusiastically by Julie Stevens. She looks about 12, sings like she's forty, and dresses like anything in between. She also seems extremely naïve and it's hard to imagine why Steed engages her to help him at all. The far more intelligent and elegant Mrs. Gale does eventually warm up to Steed, and in the season three stories where she is the exclusive companion to him, their relationship develops nicely and they become much warmer and closer to each other.The production values on season three are also much better than the earlier episodes. The sets became larger and more elaborate. The direction, lighting and sound improved greatly and the acting was much less wooden. Some editing was clearly allowed on these later stories, whereas the earlier ones clearly were broadcast as if they were live. There's a terrific blunder in "Six hands across a table," where Cathy is called "Ros" in one scene, and both actors realize the mistake, but keep going.The quality of the DVD's is somewhat disappointing, even accounting for the age of the material and the production values mentioned above. It may not be the case, but it certainly appears that A&E have made no attempt whatsoever to re-master the original tapes, and the flaws, jumps, scratches and sound blips are too numerous to mention. Virtually every episode on 63 sets 3 & 4 are hampered by picture and sound flaws and defects. Things do improve for 63 1 & 2 and 64 1 & 2, but the quality is still disappointing. Mind you, it appears they have done nothing to clean up the Tara King episodes either!As a big fan of the series, I wouldn't even consider not having these episodes in my collection, but if you're looking for the wacky camp humor and the tele-fantasy of the Peel/King eras, these stories may not be for you."
Better than '64, not as good as '65 and the rest
F. Behrens | Keene, NH USA | 09/25/2000
(4 out of 5 stars)
"When A&E began to make available the almost legendary Cathy Gale episodes instead of the Tara King ones (for which I had voted), I found myself somewhat disappointed with them. The pace at which many of the episodes were performed during that 1964 season was often very slow before Honor Blackman went off to join James Bond and Diana Rigg became the pin-up queen of the world of undercover agents. The six episodes of the "
Great stories, but sub-par technical quality
F. Behrens | 01/25/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This DVD set was my introduction to the Avengers TV series-- which I had heard much about, but had never seen. I didn't really know what to expect from it, but having just finished watching all six episodes from this, I have to say, "Wow!" What really impressed me about these shows was the fact that-- hmm, how to put this-- that they seem to have been written and produced with the assumption that the audience wasn't a bunch of morons. The plots are clever, subtle, filled with surprising turns, and are at times surprisingly complex, with multiple levels of deception and motivation taking place... and with 'the truth' not being resolved fully to the very end. Although the substance of the show isn't exactly intellectual (it's mostly a secret agent thriller but with a bit of a detective story thrown in) it's just done in a very smart manner and that require the viewer to pay attention to subtle details in dialogue, action, and visuals.Really, this may be one of the best TV series I've ever seen. My only substantive complaint is that the fight scenes (both hand-to-hand and fireharms) often look a bit corny... but they're really just a small part of the shows, which tend to focus more on the 'intelligence' side of intelligence work... deception, buying people off, double-crossing, etc., than on physical action.I am, however, mildly disappointed about the technical quality of the shows as they appear on the DVD. While it's perfectly watchable and listenable, I still can't help but be a bit saddenedin the slightly muddy-sound quality and the occasionally blurry visuals. Yeah, I know... this is a 40-year old show and one can't expect that it will look brand new, given the physical condition of the sources that the DVD was made from. (And who knows, maybe these things were never that great to begin with-- even back in 1963). Still, I can't help but wonder whether or not a bit more could have been done to 'clean things up' a bit more for the DVD release. All in all, I give would give this a 5 stars in terms of its quality as a show, but I'm docking one star because of the slightly disappointing sound/image quality."
Six reasons to get this DVD
hille2000 | USA | 03/14/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"`The Nutshell,' `The Gilded Cage,' `The Man with Two Shadows,' `The Undertakers,' `Death of a Batman' and `November Five' are the six reasons! `The Avengers" was a popular 1960's British fantasy-adventure series that focused on the exploits of a male-female duo in the service of the British government. The series underwent several changes of its female lead but its one constant male lead was John Steed always portrayed by the debonair Patrick Macnee (Originally the John Steed had two male partners but that format eventually changed). Kathy Gale portrayed by Honor Blackman became Steed's first female partner. However, when Honor Blackman departed the series and Diana Rigg entered as Mrs. Emma Peel, the show became an international sensation. Rigg brought sophistication, wit, charm and beauty, which hid her lethal and highly visual judo and karate abilities. Macnee and Rigg complemented each other beautifully with their carefree witty and charming exchange of dialogue. The show distinguished itself with bizarre and futuristic villains and fantastic plots. Popular at the height of the James Bond craze, the show was able to distinguish itself with its simply over-the-top visual style. Laurie Johnson's catchy and sophisticated main title theme matched the visuals of the show and still conjures up an image of the series when listened to today. When Diana Rigg left the series, Linda Thorson entered as John Steed's new partner Tara King. The series soon went off the air in the United States. It was a shame because the episodes with Tara King were quite good. The King episodes seemed to be a little more down to earth and contained some very good writing and intricate plotting. In any event series definitely left its mark amongst the finest. These DVD copies are gorgeous and they sound great in Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono."
F. Behrens | 08/18/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I own all 4 VHS sets with Honor Blackman. As a yuppy with only the knowledge of Mrs. Peel replayed over and over, it was hard to accept another partner for Steed. But the more I watch Mrs. Gayle, the more I like her. Mrs. Gayle is more real, and more of an adversary to the foe than Mrs. Peel. Mrs. Gayle fights men and wins. Mrs. Gayle isn't put in "cat-fights" with other women. Sometimes the show seems to have been taped live, but it's fun to catch the mistakes and how they worked around them. You can tell they're not in the correct order in the sets. If you can figure out the order they were aired, you should try to watch them in order. You can't watch just one."