This episode gets bad press due to the lack of French accents displayed by the actors. However, if judging by the French accents in "K is for Kill" and "The Lion and the Unicorn" which sounded artificial, that is actually quite a good thing. This episode is never going to be a hailed as a masterpiece of The Avengers because it isn't. But it's not a "Killer Whale"/"Thingumajig" clanger either. It's about moderate.
The opening scenes on the plane are well handled in that everything happens in a rush, which could be echoing Meyer's panic at his information. This is unlike most openings, as we are unsure who Meyer is or why he thinks someone is trying to kill him. The main notable feature of this part of the show is the brief appearance by Nicholas Courtney as Captain LeGros, a sadly underused character who plays authority well. Unfortunately the music sting accompanying the title caption is just plain embarrassing.
The speed of these sequences makes this bit the most tense of the episode. Geoffery Palmer gives an English gent air to Paul Manning, but unfortunately he fails to convey any threat as the villain of the piece; perhaps Palmer and Courtney should have been given each others' roles, as Courtney would be better suited to the villain's role in this episode. On the other hand, John Dearth is great as Siebel, giving a much more convincing performance as a villain.
The plot for all it's worth is actually rather fun, with all the changes of direction of the mysterious canister of Propellant 23. Honor Blackman gives a mostly strong performance in this episode, bringing spite to her disgust at Steed's callousness. As this is an early episode, Mrs Gale does seem to have a more "part-time partner" feel, with her disappearing off at the end away from Steed. Her performance drops with the evidently laboured attempt at being a dumb tourist, and the "oh my knee" scam is too pathetic for words.
Directorially speaking, the episode is fast-paced as is reinforced by a lot of Alwyn's work. It just has a nice choppy pace with no fancy visuals that Peter Hammond, Robert Fuest or, on rare occasion, Kim Mills provides. The only notable feature is a close-up of the clock in the airport waiting room. But this could have been done with better effect as a crane shot on a wristwatch.
This is a quick-paced, light soufflé of an episode which never fulfills its full potential, and yet its fast-run-around-add-a-character-or-new-location-every-five-minutes works because it moves before you have time to think.
Three out of five Bowlers.
The trick with Cathy's episodes is to watch them from the perspective of a 1960s viewer, used to Z-Cars and black-and-white Coronation Street. As such, this jaunt around a French airport (plus a bakery!) is almost exotic. There are some nicely human characters who have their own stories, notably the alcoholic down-on-his-luck hotel courier Jacques Tissot and the girl who realises she loves him, just as it seems he's drunk some poisonous rocket fuel. However, the gendarmes at the airport are like Keystone Kops.
The Avenged?: Steed warns his contact, in code, that his life is in danger. This is sufficient to panic the man, who takes refuge in Legros' cockpit, claiming heart trouble. However, this doesn't save him from drinking poisoned coffee. Without Steed's warning, the man may have remained where he was and made the killer's job harder.
Diabolical Masterminds?: Geoffrey Palmer is a plausible baddie. John Dearth, always good value as his henchman, is not on screen enough. In the final confrontation, it's hard to see how they can lose.
The Avengers?: Poor Cathy. Even when she's in France en route to advise some humanitarian friends, Steed hijacks her. Give the woman some peace!
Umbrella, Charm and a Bowler Hat?: The lingerie shop scene has a great Cathy/Steed exchange. But never one to miss a chat-up, Steed tells the assistant "they don't have stuff like you — like this, in England."
Bizarre?: Nicholas Courtney is great as Captain Legros. When Meyer's heart is giving him trouble, he grumbles about the man and tries to turf him off his flight deck! The plot bubbles along nicely, the ladies in particular all have very distinct personalities and take no nonsense. Beside Jaques Tissot, the men are either straight-down-the-middle cops and villains, or played for laughs (Curly the cop, and the baker). The locations are well done, as always setting a story at night makes it look more convincing (at least in monochrome), but there seems to be no shortage of sets. Altogether very enjoyable. And its always nice to see Cathy make Steed look like an amateur.
Three-and-a-half chapeau melons for its "joie de vivre."
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