The Midas Touch
Professor Turner is a man who has turned "dross into gold"; he has created Midas, a man with the touch of death. Can The New Avengers stop this accursed academic and his lethally infective hit man?
HOT SEVENTIES ACTION... There's a fantastic on-foot/car/on-foot chase, starting on a moving walkway at Heathrow, going on to a fabulous back-street car chase (featuring the FRUITCART! moment from the titles) and culminating in a runaround set in a derelict factory. And Joanna does it all in heels, poor girl.
THE OH SO KINKY "PLEASURES OF THE FLESH"... Professor Turner is a leather and rubber-clad gold fetishist who can only get his jollies from touching that certain yellow metal. And his office features two gigantic (not to mention topless) golden female statues. Hmm, wonder why that could be...? Meanwhile, Midas and henchman bloke practice hand-kissing (with the henchman wearing a dress and rubber gloves) in another room. These family shows, don'tcha just love 'em? Purdey, who obviously doesn't like being outdone, shows off her knickers going over a wire fence and then gets herself captured, tied up and drooled over. At one point she even admits she's "vibrating". Er... okay.
PURDEY'S FROCKY HORROR... Purdey wears a bizarre knitting pattern style white and brown striped bobbly jumper with matching hat and skirty thing. In fact, its so hideous that Steed's drunken former compadre Freddie drives his car over a cliff just to avoid having to go near her. Some may say this has something to do with the fact that he's been infected with every deadly disease known to man. I think the clever money is on the the dress, however.
HERE COMES THE SERIOUS BIT—CONCENTRATE... Though Bob Fuest is back behind the lens, the execution of the episode is very much of its time. Particularly grating is the use of make-up to attempt convince us that Ronald Lacey and that bodyguard guy are Chinese. WHY?! The original series had took this piss out of this once-common visual conceit in 1968! At least Purdey gets to show her stuff against a chauvinistic military type on an army assault course. Unfortunately, the actor playing him is about as butch and macho as the average ladies' hairdresser. Which rather undermines it all. What works better than usual here is the inclusion of Freddie, another one of Steed's old friends. The circumstances each of them finds themselves in makes this more interesting than usual. Although having Freddie thrown out of the service because of his alcoholism doesn't really wash... After all, how much did Steed drink in the '60s?!
OH, AND LOOK OUT FOR... Tania Mallett as Steed's date. Having the girl felled by Oddjob's bowler fall for that other agent in a bowler is a nice touch.
The Midas Touch
"Steed, you're becoming a rue." 'An optimist!" Better! Much better.
Some nice quirky, bizarre elements pay homage to the original series. There are echoes of "The Positive Negative Man" but done much better. David Swift does a nice job of playing the evil villain, but is outshone by Ed Deveraux's over-the-top, mad, staring Foreign Prime Minister. Lots of chases, oranges flying everywhere, and Purdey and Gambit decide to discuss who directed Gold of the Sierra Madre? Like something from a Tara episode.
Sadly, despite chasing down the airport assassin, the great scenes on the assault course and doing the detective work, she sadly falls into the Tara error of making a basic mistake and winding up being bound and gagged; at least Tara never had to suffer the indignity of being drooled over at the same time. Some other common faults with the series were the ethnicity. Why, if they were using Oriental actors, couldn't they have found one to play Hong Kong Harry rather than wasting the decidedly Caucasian Ronald Lacy (see also "Trap")? The other thing is, Steed seems to be suffering from Angela Landsbury Syndrome—being a main character in a series where all your close and old friends seems to wind up dead, as in poor old Freddie here.
We do finally get some insight into Gambit's past career (racing driver, crashed everywhere). The scene with the wild hedonistic party where everyone one is killed after Midas turns up in his Death costume and infects them all ('Yes Mr. Gambit, they died of everything."—great!) is also quite chilling in the light of AIDS today.
All in all, quite a good effort. 6.5/10.
The Midas Touch
"A tiny sliver of her would buy me a hundred omelets." It is true that there are a lot of disparate elements in this episode, and they often look in danger of not coming together. With some top-notch direction from Bob Fuest, a first-rate cast, and fitting music, it mostly works as a taut drama. At least for the first forty minutes; the last reel becomes a bit crazy when the villains' plot is revealed. Business as usual, then!
The Avenged?: This is about preventing a crime rather than solving one, though Mike has to follow up the gruesome "demonstration". The introductory scenes of riflemen closing around Steed's disgraced ex-colleague Freddy (now a vagrant) end with a very neat twist.
Diabolical Masterminds?: Evil scientists again, though with a well-defined eccentricity (gold lust). But what was Midas' reason for willingly submitting to the life of enforced isolation from the human race which the Professor has chosen for him?
The Avengers?: Just enough wry quipping. Mike and Purdey get all the fights. Steed breaks in to rescue Purdey just after Mike has finished doing so; Mike reassures Steed that even though the older man is too late, at least his dashing attempt was good practice! Purdey shows no qualms after despatching a gunman, kicking him to his death. Purdey tells Mike "Difficult choice — it was you or him." Mike is dismayed not so much by losing a valuable lead as by Purdey having to weigh up the choice! Some ace driving, culminating in a joyful near ram-raid by the Avengers on the glass doors of a diplomatic venue, as they desperately race against time to the final showdown.
Umbrella, Charm and a Bowler Hat?: Purdey and Gambit's exchanges seem more natural than in the earlier stories — Mike has stopped trying to chat her up, at least for now. The car chase is often cited as a good scene: as well as nonchalantly debating John Huston's movie, it is amusing when they crash through a fruit crate and in the next shot Purdey peels one of the oranges and feeds a piece to Mike! Mike, in turn, reassures his fellow Avengers during another fast drive, by listing all the famous racetracks upon which he has competed. Then he gleefully adds that he crashed on all of them. The three regulars mesh well in their few scenes together, but I would have liked more Steed.
Bizarre?: Hong Kong Harry — what were they thinking?? Not the best characterisation, even in the un-PC 1970s. And how did Harry get through the airport metal detectors whilst smuggling "half-a-million in gold" strapped to his body? A very gritty first half, then becomes quite an old-fashioned episode, with its over-the-top scheme and crackpot motives all round. The deaths range from slightly silly (the "Red Death" party) to shocking (Steed's old friend Freddy's sudden illness and suicide), but the violence is less graphic than in some stories. And Purdey climbs that gate, making grown men weep.
Score: If one is in the right mood, perhaps after a short palate-freshening rest from The New Avengers, this strikes the right note. Three golden bowlers.
The Midas Touch
Although the series did not have ongoing continuity week-in, week-out, "The Midas Touch" was second in the production order but shown fourth in the broadcast order, in the UK at least. The second episode shown was "House of Cards," a rather gritty spy tale which is one of my very favourites (and I love the more sombre direction the show took) but is poles apart from the traditional feel of "The Eagle's Nest." "The Midas Touch" is basically, like "The Eagle's Nest," an update on the style of the old series and would have been the better follow-up. However, whilst it's a hugely entertaining episode, it's not as good as "The Eagle's Nest" for a few reasons.
Professor Turner, a gold-obsessed eccentric and germ warfare expert, is promised a certain amount of gold antiques in a museum where a princess is planning to visit, in return for leasing out his deadly experiment "Midas" to an anti-royalist movement. "Midas" is actually a man who carries every contagion known to man without being infected himself, yet even the slightest touch from him towards another person can kill them. Steed, Purdey and Gambit are soon on the trail...
The weakness of this episode for me is that the plot is hugely convoluted- in my mind, it's not one of Brian Clemens' finest efforts, and some of it is too confusing. The plot is casually mentioned in conversations, which makes it hard to understand crucial details. I wonder whether Clemens' script was edited down somewhat from its original form, as there are some elements that just don't quite hang together.
It's just as well that the pace is so blistering that you simply don't worry that much about the plot—Robert Fuest's direction is very fast paced indeed, without any lull in momentum. This episode is notable for some of the best action set-pieces of the series; Purdey's high-kicks are well performed and edited, and the car chase is simply astounding and the equal of anything in a film, with an astonishing pace and excellent editing. The total apathy from Purdey and Gambit towards this high speed, deadly chase at the expense of cast details of The Treasure Of The Sierra Madre is one of the most well realised pieces of humour in the series. Purdey does it again upon being kidnapped, and it's just as effective. Gambit gets a few neat martial arts moves here as well, but again his character isn't really defined as being anything other than a tough action man.
This leads me to another criticism of the episode—some of the dialogue here really isn't always terribly good. The "two hmms" debacle is rather lacklustre and well below Clemens' usual standard, plus the "I'm free from infection"/"That's good to know..." exchange between Purdey and Gambit is surprisingly crass.
When critics of the series often speak of how much more dated it is when compared with its 60s predecessor, I can only assume that this is the episode they saw as for me, it's the most obviously "70s" episode of them all. Laurie Johnson throws in every kitsch-funk cliche in the book for his soundtrack and you wouldn't get away with "Hong Kong Harry" being played by a Caucasian man today! Indeed, the most dated section in any Avengers episode ever for me is here—the "party" scene, filled with people in bizarre masks and garish red and blue lighting, with a full-on wah-wah funk soundtrack. This does have a certain kitsch appeal, but it's very of its time. The same could be said of the awful outfit poor Joanna is lumbered with when Purdey and Steed visit Freddy, Steed's friend and former colleague.
Yet, for all its drawbacks, the sheer fun of the piece saves the day—for every dodgy bit of dialogue and plotting, the action scenes are superb, and ultimately the breathless pace carries it through so you are left with a hugely entertaining experience.
RATING: 3.5/5 bowlers
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