Fan Tales
Page 2 of 9

Andrew Baker Living in Avengers Land

My role models in the 60s and 70s were TV writers (and classical composers, too) and I could never be interested in "youth" role models like the rather seedy pop world. All these great TV things were made by men in suits in those days! And it's important to realise that The Avengers is the typical swinging sixties series but has no references to pop music or teenage culture of any kind. That crazy surreal style didn't come from pop people—the Beatles got it from Dick Lester who got it from Spike Milligan. The Avengers owed most to thirties Hitchcock and the whole 1930s thriller style. Margery Allingham's "Sweet Danger" and "Look to the Lady" are very Avengers; her later ones are very different, though the heroine in her last novel (1966) has a Lotus!

Someone said the key to the style of the B&W Rigg episodes is that they are the end of the 30s British thriller tradition (tea, sherry with the bank manager, etc.) and not new at all—but spiced with new things like Emma's clothes and cars. That's all Clemen's influence. I happen to know... I interviewed Brian Clemens in 1972 when I was at school and he gave me five or six scripts—Joker, They Keep Killing Steed, Requiem, Bizarre and a couple more. Clemens lived just a few miles from my home.

It was 1972... last term at school, or summer hols. I intended to a do a project on The Avengers, but I didn't finish anything. I lived in Bedford, seven or eight miles from Clemens' home at Ampthill (he's still there) and I got the bus. He picked me up from town in a silver sports car. We sat in the yard which appears in Noon Doomsday and chatted for hours. At the time there was nothing in print about the background, so I learnt a lot. He was particularly keen on explaining the speed of writing—you had to come up with a script from nothing in a couple of days—and professionals were expected to do that! I remember he said, "You see a phone box and some old Father Christmas costumes lying around and write a story to fit." This encourages wacky ideas. It's impressive that the last series was taken over with hardly a pause and no scripts—hence using "Split" as a leftover.

Just after this I went to Elstree studios with a friend and we were shown 'round by Clemens' secretary. He was off location filming Captain Kronos. We saw editing on that, dubbing studios—sets being built for Jason King, Laurie Johnson and his Bentley—and stood next to the camera doing close-ups of Elizabeth Taylor on the set of "Night Watch". Just two feet from the star!

Around 1982 my father, head librarian in Bedford, orgainsed a Clemens exhibition, with scripts, props (clapper board from Epic, etc.) and showings of Pandora, Epic, Touch of Brimstone, etc. in the local theatre—gleaming 35mm prints! They had a reputation there for good exhibitions—a year or so after he did Ray Harryhausen, which meant trips to have coffee with the great man, and the first public display of his models anywhere. He was a very nice man, and had a very nice daughter!

Ray Austin lived about half a mile from Clemens. I remember his cottage had a rose and gun logo on the gate (as featured on the covers of the scripts). Macnee lived in the same village while filming. You see it was very close to home, though the Hertfiordshire locations are more like thirty miles away. I used to make amateur films and once I had tea with my star and Macnee's son, who was trying to set up a local theatre (circa 1973). He had been at Bedford School, the local public school. I was at less posh Bedford Modern School—a rather second rate public school. So Avengers land was the real world to me!

All materials copyrighted per their respective copyright holders.
This website Copyright 1996-2017 David K. Smith. All Rights Reserved.
Page last modified: 5 May 2017.

Top of page
Table of Contents