|Sure beats the movie!
by Gord Lacey (All reviews)
If your only exposure to "The Avengers" came from the horrible 1998 movie starring Ralph Fiennes and Uma Thurman, then you haven't really been exposed to it at all. A&E has released "The Best of the Original Episodes" as chosen by John Steed (Patrick Macnee). Over the initial run of "The Avengers", John Steed was partnered with 3 lovely ladies; Cathy Gale (Honor Blackman), Emma Peel (Diana Rigg) and Tara King (Linda Thorson). This 2 disc set contains 2 episodes featuring each lady. I wouldn't necessarily agree with the episodes picked as "the best", but really, who's to argue with Mr. Steed?
"Mr. Teddy Bear" and "Don't Look Behind You" feature Honor Blackman as Cathy Gale and can be found on disc 1. I found these episodes the least interesting of the bunch. "Mr. Teddy Bear" features an assassin who kills a colonel while he's giving an interview on TV prompting Steed and Gale to investigate. "Don't look Behind You" was a rather odd episode where Gale goes to spend a weekend at a mysterious house. Strange things go on and Steed must come and save the day.
The two Emma Peel episodes ("Death at Bargain Prices" and "Too Many Christmas Trees") are much, much better episodes. Mrs. Peel gets a job at a department store in order to investigate the murder of a co-worker in "Death at Bargain Prices". Steed is being driven crazy by telepathic forces and it's Peel who must save the day in "Too Many Christmas Trees".
The final two episodes of this set star Linda Thorson as Ms. Tara King and I found them to be two of the better episodes. "Look (Stop me if you've heard this one) But There Were These Two Fellers..." has Steed and King investigating the deaths of board members at a company that's constructing a secret building for the government. Steed has been placed under arrest in "All Done With Mirrors" and it's up to Tara King to solve the crime. I found this episode to be the most interesting because of the subject matter. A telescope is used as an audio device to listen in and steal secrets as well as to transmit audio anywhere that's visible. I recently read an article about "The Audio Spotlight" which allows you to aim audio at a listener. Anyone outside of the "beam" can't hear anything while anyone in the beam can hear the audio perfectly. I found it interesting that in 1969 they were creating an episode about a device that was invented roughly 30 years later. More information about "The Audio Spotlight" can be found at the MIT Media Laboratory website.
The video quality of these 6 episodes vary quite a bit. These episodes are over 30 years old, and it shows. Dust specs and scratches appear in all the episodes. The first two episodes (black & white) suffer from a dark, muddy picture with too much contrast and jumps in the picture occurred a few times. The second two episodes featuring Emma Peel are beautiful compared to the Cathy Gale episodes. "Death at Bargain Prices" has to be the best looking episode in the set. Nice contrast and fewer dust specs then any other episode. The final two episodes are in color but contain quite a bit of dust ("All Done With Mirrors" is particularly bad). With material that's over 30 years old you expect some flaws and dust, but in a few places there's too much and it becomes distracting. I would have been quite happy having the first two episodes left off the set in favor of two latter episodes in the series.
All episodes feature a mono mix. The first two contained muddy audio that sometimes muffled the dialog. It's a shame because the audio on the other episodes were fine. I just love the cheesy music throughout the series.
Extras - How we rate extras
Both discs contain an "Overall Introduction" by Patrick Macnee that lasts 4:01. Patrick explains the origins of the show, and the eventual cancellation along with the cast changes that occurred over the years. Disc 1 also contains a very short (0:29) "Alternate USA Checkerboard Opening Sequence". Disc 2 contains the "Ms. Tara King Town Girl" promotional piece (8:26). I'm assuming this was shown shortly before she was introduced to the series. There are also introductions to the episodes by Patrick Macnee and DVD credits.
Although I disagree with these being "the best" episodes in the series' run of 161, 4 of them are very entertaining with the other 2 being something to watch if you're bored. I found it rather interesting that Robert James guest starred in two of the 6 episodes. You can catch him playing Jenkins in "Too Many Christmas Trees" and as Merlin in "Look (Stop me if you've heard this one) But There Were These Two Fellers...". He only appeared in 5 episodes of the series yet managed to be in 2 included in this set. Lucky guy.