A best of `The Avengers'
(5 out of 5 stars)
"For anyone unfamiliar with the stylish, tongue-in-cheek 1960s spy series, `The Avengers,' these episodes make the best introduction to the show's Diana Rigg years. As Emma Peel, the tall, lithe Rigg made a strong female partner for Patrick Macnee's suave, polite agent John Steed, the lifeblood of the series. Macnee provided brilliant support for all his leading ladies, and crisp, buxom Honor Blackman originated the role of leather-clad, judo-chopping woman warrior. But those show were not originally broadcast in the US, where viewers first tuned in and were turned on by Macnee's sparkling chemistry with the modelish Rigg. A few caveats: this never more than a cult show in the U.S., and the shortcomings of its shoestring budgets are sometimes obvious. The writing varies in tone from intense action to silly comedy. The quality of the disks is generally quite good, but not always great. The A&E disks have few extras compared to the Contender series available in the UK. American fans: the checkerboard intro is missing, because these disks were made from UK masters, where the lead-in wasn't used. That said, these episodes present several high points for the series in writing and direction, and also several of Rigg's more notorious costumes. All that applies to the atmospheric historical thriller, `A Touch of Brimstone.' Diana Rigg is poured, padded and pushed up into black dominatrix gear, with boots, corset and snake. But the plot is ingenious, and Pat Macnee holds his end up, outwitting as well as outfighting particularly nasty villians.
Perhaps the best episode, though, has Peel trapped in a computerized house, trying to `reason her way out' of the predicament. Compared to the typical damsel-in-distress plots of other TV shows of the time, `The Avengers' women were decades ahead of their time. `The Dangermakers' is another thriller, as the heroes infiltrate a group of thrill-seekers, military men who don't get enough buzz from civilian life. `Honey for the Prince' presents nefarious goings-on with a lighter touch, and includes sterling performances by the best gallery of eccentric supporting characters ever assembled. Still, some fans fast-forward to Emma's dance of six veils. Her unpadded bustier does nothing for Diana Rigg's waifish bust _ think Kate Moss, not Pam Anderson. But her Emma Peel character does does think, and Rigg also shows endearing spunk in something as simple as tugging on her Turkish trousers. Scantily clad, she still takes out the bad guy.
In a fashion sense, the boyish Rigg does better dressed as Robin Hood in `A Sense of History.' Diana still saves the day in a costume that flatters her thin figure and shows off her legs. The plot is not quite as sharp as `Brimstone,' but there's another off-beat villain to provide a surprise. `What the Butler Saw' is a bit fluffy, but gives Patrick Macnee a chance to have some fun in various undercover guises, including, of course, a true gentleman's gentleman.
The only real clunker in the lot is `How to Succeed.. at Murder,' a tiresome and condescending take on feminism that is even more dated now. Six out of seven isn't bad, especially as part of a charming series that greatly influenced the `X-Files,' `Dark Angel,' `Alias,' `Charlie's Angels,' maybe even `Ed.' If you're curious about `The Avengers,' this is the place to start."
Quite, Quite Fantastic!
M. J KILLEEN | Collingdale, PA USA | 01/16/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"If you've been thinking of getting one of the A&E DVD re-issues of the original 'Avengers', start with this one. The stand-out episode here is 'Honey For The Prince', which is imaginative, funny, and extremely eccentric (a cricket match breaks out during one scene). There is also the infamous 'Touch of Brimstone' -- notable for its bawdy content and Diana Rigg's 'Queen of Sin' costume. Patrick Macnee and Diana Rigg's chemistry as a team was never stronger than in the episodes on this disc (and you get a bonus seventh episode with this set, instead of the standard six)."
The Show At Its Peak
Michael St John | St. Paul, MN | 12/21/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"For my money, this set represents The Avengers at its peak. They did terrific shows before and after these last seven episodes of '66, but they never had another such sustained streak of brilliance as this here. The set includes "The House That Jack Built," my favorite episode of the Diana Rigg series. I love it because it's such a great showcase for Diana as an actress, but also that we can see a strong, intelligent female character saving her own skin (rather than being rescued by a dashing hero) by *reasoning* her way out of the problem. I also think the house itself is just an ingenious idea: what would you do if you were stuck in a house designed as a machine to trap you inside? Apparently the producers were so intrigued by the idea, they gave Mrs. Peel a similar problem in the '67 episode, "The Joker." I also see the influence of the episode pop up in other series from time to time. Some writers have noted the debt that the X-Files owes to the Avengers. Look for the X-Files episode called "How the Ghosts Stole Christmas" (w/ Ed Asner & Lily Tomlin) playing on FX during the holidays, and see if you don't think it's Chris Carter's homage to "The House That Jack Built."Anyway, every episode in this set is just as inspired and witty in its own way, most of them variations on secret societies and assassination conspiracies. We also get some of Diana Rigg's most notorious costumes here: the Queen of Sin in "A Touch of Brimstone," a harem girl in "Honey for the Prince," and Robin Hood in "A Sense of History."My only complaint: where is the chessboard introduction to the episodes? I realize that the intro was created only for the American audience, but for Americans who saw the program on TV it's become part of the show! Every US fan who knows the show from TV can recite the narration from memory: "Extraordinary crimes against the people and the state have to be avenged by agents extraordinary... two such people are John Steed, top professional, and his partner Emma Peel, talented amateur... otherwise known as... THE AVENGERS!"Come on, you hear the burst of bongos, you see the guy fall onto the chessboard with a knife in his back, there's the narration, Emma steps forward in her catsuit, Steed breaks out the champagne... and you're primed to go. How could they take that out? It's classic! So classic, the definitive book on The Avengers, THE COMPLETE AVENGERS by Dave Rogers, has a cover photo of Steed & Mrs. Peel standing on the set. I just don't understand what A&E was thinking.If you're new to the show, you won't miss what you never knew, and nobody should let that omission deter them from getting the set, anyway. It's just a small frustration for me because I like the intro so much. Apart from that, five stars for the set. The stories are as clever as the series ever got, Rigg has really found herself in the role by now and the chemistry between her and Patrick MacNee is electric, and the b&w film looks incredible after the restoration. If you're buying your first Avengers set, start here."
Second set of '66 series
Deborah MacGillivray | US & UK | 10/11/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Seconds series 1966, still B & W has some really great episodes with Steed and Mrs. Peel. The gelling of Rigg's and Macnee's characters were well onto making
screen history, and with cause. Both of these fine actors brought these characters alive. Seven episodes this time.
1) "The Danger Makers" sees a high-ranking ex-serviceman seeking to feed their high threshold for adventure. The banter between Steel and Mrs. Peel sharpens to double entendres that trademarks their pairing.
2) "A Touch of Brimstone" lets Mrs. Peel take down her hair, or rather put it up, as Emma and John investigate a group resurrecting the infamous Hellfire Club. Mrs. Peel shows she looks just as stunning in corset, high-lace boots and spiked dog-collar, which she wears as the "Queen of Sin". The look was designed by Rigg, and ridiculously, because of her costume, the episode was banned from airing in the US!
3) "What the Butler Saw" has our pair of Britain's best out in search for missing defense plans.
4) "The House that Jack Built" has Emma receiving news her uncle has died and left her his country estate. When she gets to the manor, she soon finds herself drugged and trapped inside a house that is far from your normal house, as designed to end Emma's life.
5) "A Sense of History" Have Emma donning a merry man's costume in this Robin Hood adventure. A modern day Robin is found with an arrow in the back, pushing Steed and Emma to stop the neo-fascist Merry Men from achieving their devilish plans.
6) "How to Succeed at Murder" puts Emma and John on the trail of executives being executed, in a posh perfumerie where a woman "nose" best.
7) "Honey for the Prince" when a resort where you live out your fantasies turns deadly, our pair are sent to stop the evil doings. Emma goes harem girl! to save the day and up the ratings!
Many were written by Brian Clements with a variety of directors such as James Hill, Don Leaver, Peter Graham Scott and Charles Crichton.