The introduction fools you into believing it will be a dull murder mystery, but it's far from dull. The story moves at such a great pace that it never allows time to get bored. When Peter Hammond is directing, you are guaranteed that it will never be less than good, and this story is no exception. Every scene looks great and is highly polished. In particular, he brings some great atmosphere to the final scene in the shooting range.
Eric Paice has written a very enjoyable and intelligent tale of murder and smuggling. All the main characters come across as three-dimensional and are well played. The one obvious standout character is Henry Cade played by Ronald Radd; he has some fantastic lines when being questioned by Cathy... "I'm cunning and devious."
The design of the sets is good with the possible exception of the house boat. Cade's office, in particular, is brilliant with its blinds and Modern Art sculptures.
This story is pretty much carried by Cathy alone, and she asserts herself well. She is very good in the final confrontation, showing great courage by walking straight towards the barrel of the murderer's gun. Steed doesn't feature very prominently but the scenes he shares with Cathy are full of great banter. Cathy is usually serious about the situation and Steed always treats it as fun.
In all, a very strong, enjoyable episode.
"You're really trying to impress me with your lack of morality, aren't you?" Pleasure from start to finish. It's funny how you can tell within 5 - 10 minutes whether an episode will entertain; from the moment of Cathy getting pushy at the shareholder's meeting (whilst Bernard Kay lurks more actively than any villain ever lurked), I knew this would be a joy. Then cheeky Ronald Radd shows up, perhaps the first TV villain to bother explaining why he wears shades indoors (no, his vision is fine). The season 2 trademarks are all there — constant red herrings and reversals as to the real criminals, novel locations (the houseboat), old charmers (the delightful Brigadier, the Foreman, Cale), Peter Hammond shooting through an upturned wine glass(!) and his always-moving camera (just follow it in that closing confrontation!). Moody lighting too.
The Avenged?: Legitimate arms dealers killed by mercenary gunrunners. It's a fuzzy moral distinction.
Diabolical Masterminds?: One or two older fellows in this profess immunity to women; so all the chauvinism is concentrated in the ageing Lothario, Mr Young (who attempts a rather horrid sexual harassment of the young "white slave cargo" intern aboard his house-boat, ending with a biting incident; then has the cheek to describe his wife's affair as "sordid"!). Misdirection works well, not for the first time. The obvious villainess then isn't the villainess, as the men conspire to get away. Then she turns out to be anyway! And the too-obvious killer, Ronald Radd's "Napoleon of commerce," turns the tables on everyone — even Steed can't drag Cathy away before she secures a final dinner-date with him! That last scene is great fun. I love their childish thumbs-up sign to each other.
The Avengers?: Cathy gives Steed a hard time in the stock-exchange, fuming at his interference in her police case. She smokes a lot. Steed's action is all off-screen: from supplying huge wodges of cash, to posing as Cathy's window-cleaner! To a new viewer, it would seem Steed is Cathy's minor informer.
Umbrella, Charm and a Bowler Hat?: Steed takes a back seat. Eric Paice shows the way for other writers; Cathy is the star of this one. She's tremendous, too; "I've been up all night doing it!" (stocktaking). However, Radd/Cade gets all the best lines: "I can afford ideals." And asked to describe his taste in decor: "Vulgar!"
Bizarre?: Miss Ellis fires several blanks at Cathy from an assault rifle, just a few feet away (Cathy is thus not particularly brave here, as she'd previously asked the Foreman to load it with blanks). Real blanks expel compressed cardboard at great velocity from the muzzle, still sufficient to make holes in someone at a range of less than 50 feet. So Cathy's top must be well-reinforced!
This story has a good film print and clear soundtrack. Four bowlers. A season 2 classic.
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