Visitor Reviews
Page 44 of 164

The White Elephant
by Psittacine Sandy's Avian Evaluation
Worthington, OH

The production of this episode may be "lavish" in terms of the exotic-animal population, but I'd love to know what the folks who handle such things (Production supervisors? Beats me) were thinking when they decided to keep that scarlet macaw on the soundstage where the episode was taped, rather than moving her elsewhere when she wasn't appearing in a scene. Man, I don't care where the heck the setting was—doll's hospital, bondage-accessories manufacturer, gun shop, Noah's Ark—there appeared to be irate macaws just out of camera range. It's at least as funny as the fly David mentions—at least, it is to those of us who live with parrots. The intermittent "KRAWRK!" is such a characteristic macaw-noise, I recognized it right away, and called my husband to check it out. He thought it was hysterical.

My theory is that, when the cast and crew were working on the other sets, there was nobody hanging out with the bird. Oh, boy, is that a mistake! The bird could hear all the commotion and voices from nearby, and she did what parrots do when they want to be part of things—she yelled. And think of this: she was so loud that her screams were picked up clearly on a microphone placed outside her immediate area. Large macaws (blue and gold, green wing, and military macaws, for example) are unbelievably loud. Imagine what it would have sounded like right beside the bird. Our largest parrot (an umbrella cockatoo) can be heard across the street. Macaws are louder. Why in heaven's name would they keep a bird that loud unattended on a sound stage where they were taping? Poor planning, in my opinion.

You'll notice that the bird was beautifully-behaved in her own scenes. A couple of times it looked and sounded as though she was saying "hello" to someone (her trainer?) behind the camera. Also, she was very interested in the pipe Godfrey Quigley smoked. You'll see that she wasn't a danged bit interested in what was going on in the bowl of the pipe. She knew that, since Quigley put the little end into his mouth, that was the business end, where she was likely to find food. That was the one good scene the bird got. She got to scamper across Quigley's shoulder, act like the independent cuss she was (or possibly is—macaws can live well into their 80s), and interact with some of the humans.

I wish this episode could have been done in color, as "The Bird Who Knew Too Much" was. There's no way to appreciate a scarlet macaw in black and white. A better casting choice might have been an African Grey or an Umbrella Cockatoo. Either one of those guys would have showed up gorgeously in black and white. Of course, they would have been bigger hams (yes, the different species have different personalities), but for the right combination of attention and treats, mostly attention, they would have been great.

This episode gets 1-1/2 shrieks on the 5-shriek Psittacine Scale.

The White Elephant
by Terylene

An attractive yet not too original story written by John Lucarotti, "The White Elephant" is, however, a true window for those loose ends the production—and even the direction in this case—would leave irremediably engraved on videotape. One has to admit that by the end of 1963 very few cared about "polishing" episodes to be aired only once and then consigned to oblivion. Not even in their wildest dreams would someone have imagined that almost 40 years later our critical eyes and ears would analyze bit by bit these glorious shows thanks to video and DVD.

The fact is that, probably in an attempt to give the episode an exceptional realism, the production made sure to show a variety of real animals, either free or caged. Gone are the times Steed lived with his dogs during the first two seasons (1961-1963); in this episode—and for the first time in The Avengers—the public had the chance to see an assortment of monkeys, birds, a parrot, a small snake and even a leopard living together in "Noah's Ark." Ironically, the main "character" of the story, an elephant named Snowy, was never seen, presumably due to the understandable difficulties in putting such a big animal into a TV studio. Now, it's normal for birds to make their voice heard, and that was what it happened throughout the episode in every one of the different places it was set, particularly at the gun shop. Sure, we cannot rebuke the birds for their likable background noise, but maybe the crew could have done something to avoid it, at least during the scenes played at the gun shop, where no birds whatsoever were in sight.

Anyway, don't worry, I won't focus the present review on this fault. Besides, Psittacine Sandy already gave a most complete account of it. Fortunately, the episode has other attributes to entertain everybody, in which the performances appear quite strong. The most recurrent villain of The Avengers, Mr Edwin Richfield, who not only held the absolute record of six episodes, but also had the rare privilege of meeting all of Steed's partners (from Dr Keel and Venus Smith to Tara King), does his job in "The White Elephant" and ends up in the floor knocked down by Mrs Gale. The second recurrent baddie, Judy Parfitt, a forthcoming target for similar beatings on the part of Mrs Peel and Miss King, completes the staff of bad guys along with the novice Scott Forbes. And, of course, a veteran of the Keel era, Godfrey Quigley, plays a Noah definitively devoted to zoophilia, who's frequently seen with snake round the neck or parrot on the shoulder.

There are also interesting Steed-Cathy moments, and two of them come close to the extravagance of the Peel times. Both take place at Steed's flat, when he and Cathy discuss their investigation at Noah's Ark while practicing some concentration exercises (or yoga maybe?), wherein Steed, as always, isn't the hardest-worker of all... an identical result he attains in another scene, when both are playing chess with extremely original pieces. Such scenes have a lot in common with many of those Steed and Emma played together while talking about business affairs, particularly during the monochrome season—Emma playing the tuba in "The Murder Market" or jumping up and down on the trampoline in "The Master Minds," or fencing with Steed in "The Town of No Return," and such.

However, as noted in the main review page, the contrasting thing of this episode—something we nowadays watch with obvious disapproval—is that the customary fight sequence was set just amid the cages, especially those keeping the monkeys and birds. Someone should have warned the producers that animals are not actors and, unlike the villains being chased up, the disorientation and agitation the animals suffer in the midst of a paraphernalia of runs and blank bullets was real. A shame really, considering this is a story where a message in defense of animals was intended to be imparted.

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Page last modified: 5 May 2017.

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