The Eagle's Nest
"Avenging is better than ever!" OK, so maybe the Daily Mail got a little carried away, but this is a strong episode to kick off the series. While it suffers a little from some flat direction, the island scenes are very atmospheric, the plot is handled well, it moves on a great pace, there are some nice set pieces, and there's some good introductory stuff here: Gambit's hi-tech flat, pulling technique, and penchant for over-the-top weaponry, Steed's new "paternal role" and the feisty nature of Purdey.
There's a lot of the new series in this episode—the bizarre weaponry, the eccentric hermit, Steed's strange cover (nice radio in the bowler, and good to see that they still have a bit of "clobber" too, Pat!), but moving into the seventies we become a lot more violent. Gambit kicking some fellow half to death before he takes a suicide pill is a far cry from the escapist jaunts of Emma and Tara, and way too cold war grit for even Dr. Keel and Cathy. The slightly more senior and world-weary Steed is hinted at here, although it wasn't to come until later.
The plot involving the revival of Hitler may not be original (indeed, Clemens re-used it himself for The New Professionals), but works generally well, although the scene with the monks throwing off the robes and having a miniature rally was a bit dubious (it's only really saved by Pat's innocent "Rule Britannia?"). Peter Cushing is as reliable as ever in an appropriately Hammer-like role, that of the scientist reviving people from the dead, although I think Trasker tends to go a bit too far OTT.
Laurie Johnson manages to set the scene for scores to come with some outrageously fast, cheesy funk during the car chases, while almost experimenting with drum and bass on those opening scenes. Nice to see a freeze frame with some degree of suspense to it before the opening titles, too!
While a good setting episode, things were to change. Steed would not often get so involved in the action for the rest of the first series, and note Purdey's line to Steed: "But you're no gentleman!" Things were to change!
The Eagle's Nest
As the opening episode of The New Avengers, there's a lot to say about "The Eagle's Nest." In the first place, the new dimension this second version acquired—that it, of course, cannot be compared with its predecessor in the 60s—wouldn't leave several old guidelines behind. Brian Clemens reused many of them in his new stories. The seed planted by "Split!", wherein the villains took advantage of an enemy agent' brain kept alive through sophisticated techniques, would bear fruit in "The Eagle's Nest," presenting an even more disturbing prospect. With a storyline like this, one may surmise that even the title of the episode is symbolic—the Adlerhorst (Eagle's Nest) at the top of the Berghof, was one of the places where Hitler would spend a good part of his time before the WWII. Could we draw a parallel between this place and St. Dorca, the island the neo-Nazis in "The Eagle's Nest" took control of, once a German plane carrying "the greatest treasure of Germany" was shot down there in 1945?
Apart from the plot per se and director Desmond Davis' debut, the expectations around Steed's new partners increased as much as those for the return of Steed. The least one could do was speculate about how would Steed look, seven years after he and Tara were (accidentally) launched into that rocket in "Bizarre," the final episode of 1969. But the paraphernalia of the 60s had passed by now, and the minute Steed appears on screen one realizes he's going to be a different character. Instead of grabbing the wheel of his old Bentley or Rolls, the Steed of 1976 proudly emerges from a late-model yellow Rover, and a short while later falls flat on his face when he eventually comes across a pretty poodle dog. As a funny introduction of the main character of The New Avengers, it couldn't have been thought better. The new male member of the trio, Mike Gambit, makes his entrance answering his modern phone in his ultramodern flat, and when Steed demands "I want Purdey," Gambit simply replies "who doesn't?" Eliminating some prejudices that would have played havoc in the original series, Purdey is introduced sleeping in her bed, while Gambit pops up in her bedroom to say something like "we're needed." That's how, clutching her teddy bear and winding up in the floor too, albeit still wrapped in sheets and blankets, we get to meet the lady who nowadays takes second billing to the ineffable Mrs Peel in the Best Avengers Girl contest.
Surely the unusual introduction of Purdey isn't the only thing proving times had changed. Several scenes that were severely censored in 1966 were recreated ten years later in The New Avengers with no further consequences. Remember the infamous whipping scene with Mrs Peel in "AA Touch of Brimstone"? This time a similar sequence is more or less reproduced in "The Eagle's Nest" when Purdey is flogged with a fishing rod whose hook has been poisoned. Sadism? In any case, and like her predecessor, although she suffers the temporary effects of poisoning, Purdey doesn't seem truly affected by the incident. Neither the audience, apparently.
As if three main characters weren't enough, the production grabbed hold of a big box office draw for this debut. Peter Cushing, with ten more years on and more than twenty pounds off, reappears once again, bringing his talent along to play a hero instead of the wicked character he portrayed in "Return of the Cybernauts." And you know, if Mr Cushing or any other movie star is involved, then the public's interest is aroused. "How could we go wrong with Peter Cushing in the guest star role?" asks Patrick Macnee while introducing this episode on video.
As for the other novelties in the show, many fans objected the disco-funk music of The New Avengers. Whether you like the music or not, it's not up for discussion. But we should accept this as an unmistakable aspect of the 70s, which could be heard not only in The New Avengers, but also in almost every show of the time, from The Streets of San Francisco to Space 1999. I'm sure the detractors of Laurie Johnson's pentagram of the 70s will find solace in "The Eagle's Nest," though—Steed, Purdey and Gambit whistling the tune of "Colonel Bogey," the melody immortalized in the film The Bridge on the River Kwai, is one of the most allegorical tags ever in the history of the show.
A pioneer in The Avengers standard, promissory as a debut and presenting an imaginative conception relating to Herr Hitler's fate—many stories about this theme in particular were brought to movies and television, but perhaps never one like this—"The Eagle's Nest" is a milestone in the course of this uneven follow-up. And it is frankly a delight to enjoy the great episodes The New Avengers produced.
The Eagle's Nest
"The Eagles Nest" was the first—and my favorite—episode of The New Avengers. Steed and his new partners Purdey and Mike Gambit team up to stop the monks (or Germans soldiers) from reviving Adolf Hitler, Germany's "greatest treasure." It was nice to see Peter Cushing (Von Claus) and Frank Gatliff (Karl) again. The castle scenes were filmed at Eilean Donan Castle, Scotland (which I figured out by looking at different photos of the castle). We see a decent car chase with Gambit, a few decent fights, and Steed's new car. The episode also has some good wit. I give "The Eagles Nest" five bowlers.
The Eagle's Nest
"The Eagle's Nest" was chosen as the first episode in the original broadcast run of The New Avengers in 1976. Like "The Town of No Return" (which, ironically or not, this episode seems to recall) in the black and white Emma Peel era, they simply could not have made a better choice. "The Eagle's Nest" is utterly, categorically Avengers in style, with a slightly harder edge to bring into the 1970s. I personally rank it as highly as anything in the original series, myself.
The plot is wonderful, traditional fare—George Stannard (bizarrely, not the only time that name would be used in The New Avengers), a colleague of Steed, Gambit and Purdey, is missing, his identity hijacked by a mysterious German. Stannard eventually turns up dead in his boat, with a minimal scar on his cheek seemingly the only cause for it. Meanwhile, Professor Von Claus, an expert in the field of suspended animation, has been mysteriously kidnapped. Both trails lead to a deserted village with a monastery, the incumbents of which are not what they seem; neither is the reason for their kidnap of Von Claus. A dastardly plot to restore Nazism, and restore the long dead infamous leader of the movement, is uncovered...
I find this episode fairly hard to criticise or fault, really. The character of Steed is re-introduced and is pretty much the same, having aged only relatively slightly. He's still the gentleman agent, despite Purdey's affirmation he isn't in a wonderful exchange. See the wonderfully traditional sequence near the start where Steed's pursuit of an intruder in fellow agent Stannard's apartment is punctuated by a tip of the hat and a conversation with an old lady who has lost her dog (the dog later hinders his cause even more)! Yes, he wields a gun in the climax, but it's not loaded (a far cry from the wanton violence in "The Gladiators" in the second series) and uses his wits to get out of situations—the salute/Karate chop combo to his potential executioner is one of the funniest scenes of the series. We also get several terrific uses of his trusty bowler hat—used consecutively as a radio and to knock out a villainous hotelier.
Purdey is also brilliantly introduced to us—quite unlike Emma Peel's fencing introduction to the audience in "Town Of No Return," Purdey is half asleep and unwilling to budge from her bed, despite Gambit's protestations. Only the mention of Steed persuades her, and their relationship will be one of much interest throughout the series; is it that of a paternal one or more romantically inclined? We get both sides of the coin here, with Purdey telling Steed how Gambit had considered him "old fashioned" and her own fairly similar, if more affectionate, views are expressed. However, they share a similar flirtatious repartee that characterised the relationship between Steed and Emma Peel. Indeed, that is not the only similarity between Purdey and Emma Peel- Purdey is just as able in the self-defence department as well. I would argue one of the great improvements The New Avengers had over its predecessor was in the quality of the action sequences—for my money, the balletic fight between Purdey and Nazi assassins is better choreographed and edited than most of what was featured in the old series (with one exception of the fight between Gambit and the German villain impersonating Stannard, which is poorly, blurrily edited).
My only criticism, and it's a fairly minor one, is that the character of Gambit is less well represented—this would be a bugbear of the series. A shame, because he IS a superb character. This harks forth to some of the second series' episodes because Steed definitely handles most of the action in this episode. We do get the basic traits of Gambit's personality here, though—his banter with Purdey is a definite highlight of the series, and it's very much in evidence here. Gambit doesn't hide his less than honourable intentions towards her, and their sparky dialogue is a joy to watch (peaking with "Faces"). We also realise Gambit is not a man to trifle with—witness his prowess with a Magnum at the end (the gunplay would be a source of controversy for fans of the original series, however) and his firm attempts to try and get the German assassin he has beaten to spit out a cyanide pill. Although he could have been given more screen time, we do get the basic essence of the character.
The other characters featured are equally wonderfully traditional in terms of style and performance. Priests who are secretly Nazis is something only The Avengers could get away with, and the performances are over-the-top enough (especially Derek Farr's ringleader) for one not to take the proceedings at all seriously.
It veers a little too much towards an unpleasant reality once where the monks throw off their robes and a full-on Nazi rally is conducted in the church, but Steed's brilliant "Rule Brittannia?" quip ultimately makes one realise the show still has its tongue in its cheek when dealing with such matters. The crazed, forgetful old man roaming around the woods is a character that would fit in superbly with the eccentrics of the original series, too. The presence of Peter Cushing as the gentle professor dragged into a dastardly plot which he totally abhors, but has no choice, adds enormous gravitas to proceedings—just as he did some years earlier in the original series, albeit in a villainous role.
All in all, despite one minor grumble, this is easily one of my personal favourites of any era of the show. Great dialogue, an atmosphere to die for, tightly choreographed action scenes, wonderfully over-the-top performances from the villains and a terrific guest star makes for terrific entertainment.
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