The Young Avenger
Homicide and Old Lace
Direction: Two out of five. John Hough, in an effort to prevent discontinuity with Vernon Sewell, directs all his scenes in this episode, which are without Mother's two aunts, just like Sewell: boringly. However, there are some very nice comic touches in the episode, particularly when Mother is explaining the plot to his aunts. But, unfortunately, this sits at odds with Sewell's direction, which is trying ever so hard to be old-fashioned in the new style that Bryce wanted so much the Avengers to be like.
Plot: Two out of five. This is where it gets all confusing: this is in fact a huge cut and paste job, dating back eighteen months before the last scenes were finally filmed. "The Great Great Britain Crime" was filmed under the direction of Vernon Sewell in November/December 1967 and with John Bruce as producer. But, when Fennell and Clemens returned to the show in December, they decided to put this one on hold whilst they filmed "The Forget-Me-Knot" and "The Curious Case of the Countless Clues." Finally, Clemens decided that it should be aired after all. However, he changed some of the scenes, inserted Rigg colour episode footage randomly, and added an entirely new aspect to it: Mother's cosy birthday party. The plot is serious, so is Sewell's direction, but Mother's narration and jokes make it seem like a fun episode, so we have a very uneasy compromise between this abandoned early episode, and the Clemens remix. I actually like the idea, which is why it manages to achieve such a high score, but really, it is too confused.
Original Music: Two out of five. The silent film music, which worked so well in the train fight scene of "The Gravediggers" is used again here, but it does not seem as effective, given the serious nature of the plot. Also, all the characteristic Laurie Johnson fight music seems to have been surgically removed from the scenes that we have from the Emma Peel episodes. Not a good idea.
Wittiness: Half a point out of five. The original episode was obviously not very witty, but the additional scenes with Mother, Rhonda, the aunts and Steed are just plainly unfunny. There is one good line in the original. "Who were you about to call, Mr Steed?" Dunbar to him after he has been found by the Intercrime boss trying to reach Headquarters by telephone. "My bookmaker," he replies.
Action: Two out of five. We have the excellent Christopher Lee fight sequence from "Never, Never Say Die," but not the real end, two scenes of pursuit from assassins in "The Bird Who Knew Too Much," which are cut to ludicrous proportions and a small taste of the fight that Steed and Gilbert had in the quarry during "The Fear Merchants." But nothing really noteworthy, for we have seen it all before. Then, we have rather a good fight at the end between all sorts of people in the underground vault, which does end rather lamely, when Dunbar is trapped by an exploding cigarette lighter. But Tara is again in the silly blonde wig, and she looks awful. Ah well, you can see why Bryce was removed from production.
Cars/Sets/Locations: Four out of five. We have an underground vault full of art treasures which must have taken some making, but looks feasible. Then, we have some very impressive London footage, obviously done at some other time, but nonetheless there, and a location shooting of Cartwright in his car after he is ambushed. Tara acquires a Lotus Elan +2 somehow, and there is a good car chase sequence where she is menaced by a brace of Mini Coopers. However, the Intercrime set looks rather tacky, there are multiple sets doubling for street location filming, and Tara's AC also turns up, meaning that Tara has two cars in one episode! Actually a good score.
Introduction/Tag: One out of five. What starts off as a rather good introduction, with two strange old women about to shoot Mother, turns into a genuinely unexpected birthday scene, although this is not The Avengers. The tag is awful, although it seems to explain many things, such as Tara's blonde hair, Rhonda's silence and Mother's sense of humour. This is the only scene ever that I have actually wanted Tara in, for they seemed to have given us enough of her in all the others. Please, save me from this torment.
Overall Impression: This is an awful episode in everybody's book, for the simple reason that the comedy birthday scenes do not fit at all with the actual, old-fashioned, gritty story, written by Hulke and Dicks as an update to their classic Blackman season story, "Intercrime." But there are so many errors in this that it is not enjoyable, the plot is not easily accessible for all the wrong reasons, and we have an awful tag. However, there are brilliant performances from Macnee and the actor who plays Corf. These are the only lights in an other wise grim tunnel to failure.
Rating: Two out of ten.
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