Cat Amongst the Pigeons
Another strong one. Basically, this is John Hough and Dennis Spooner's tribute to Hitchcock ("They come in through the chimney! Did you see that film? Oh, terrible!") Some extremely good direction, the use of the mirrors, the scene in the control tower with the clock count, the frosted glasses over those pecked out eyes hiding an eerie performance, and the use of some of the birds themselves is fantastic. Laurie Johnson manages to stay away from the dodgy funk and comes up with one of two very clever scores for the first series. Spooner himself is on form here with great dialogue, a nice plot, and for once, as has been noted, you could side with the villain, which puts an interesting spin on Vladkek Sheybal's wonderfully understated Zarcardi. There's a nice suspenseful feel to the whole thing, but the "Pussy Galore" line does ruin the end a bit.
One of the first things that adds to the suspense is the fact that, from the start, you notice how unbearably hot it is. You feel cooler yourself when the shots move to an interior! Even Pat, who by this time was living in Palm Springs, looks hot under the collar! The snappy changes between scenes and sudden cutting of the music all work well, too. Purdey's fear at the closing seems more appropriate, too, yet she has to make the Tara-like mistake of getting ahead of herself in her investigations to get caught in that situation. Steed and Gambit, visibly miffed that they can't get one up on each other as they enter the sanctuary, is a nice touch, as is Steed surfacing from the pool unruffled.
One of the main faults, however, is: are we really supposed to feel sympathy for Turner when he gets bumped off? The smug self-centeredness of his character made me glad when he did get bumped off—served him right. He does line up Pat for one of the best lines of the episode, though: "I suppose you think I'm the real Steed? Don't move Turner! This umbrella is loaded!"
Not much room for character development, but with a strong plot, good pace, great direction, eccentrics and humour, this ranks as one of the finest in the series. 8/10.
Cat Amongst the Pigeons
One of the best episodes of the first New Avengers season, "Cat Amongst The Pigeons" does not leave aside Hitchcockian reminiscences of The Birds, the film of 1963 on which the storyline is liberally based. Also, we could talk about a few allusions to "The Hidden Tiger" and "The Winged Avenger," particularly by the way the victims end up—with their clothes in shreds, though some blood is seen this time. However, the most conflicting point of this plot is the fight for survival taken to the limit by the only animal who was endowed with the power of reason: the human being. And perhaps this story turns into a much cruder approach since men devoted to science having so opposing views on the preservation of birds are involved. Rydercroft resents his being guarded by Purdey and Gambit, claiming he's an ecologist. "Who'd want to kill me?" he wonders. But a few minutes later, a flock of enraged birds trained and sent by Zarcardi, throw his plane down. The scientist didn't specify he defended human life only, but Zarcardi knew better.
It's not easy, though, to find the true Zarcardi's philosophy. We know he's strongly against control and extermination of birds, and he communicates with them seemingly better than with humans. But on the other hand, he sends his flocks to carry out such brave attacks knowing the birds will be irremediably killed that way. Am I missing something? Can anyone explain this apparent paradox? Or was it the writer himself who deliberately created it?
In addition to the solid Vladek Sheybal's performance (whose name and accent substantiate his Polish origin), and sheer desperation reflected on Turner's face since he has his first encounter with the birds, the three Avengers have their special bits, too. Gambit does his routine of opening doors by giving them a good kick in the best cop-show style. Unlike other episodes, happily in this one he doesn't charge through a plate glass window, perhaps because a victim had already fallen through it before. Purdey maintains her own charm even while driving her motorbike, but behaves a bit recklessly when she decides to make a daring incursion by herself into Zarcardi's domains, in spite of the consequences a bird attack might have on her. Let it be said she's a most lucky person when, at the verge of disaster, she's saved by Gambit and Steed's "pussies galore."
It is also interesting to underline a few particular Steed moments. In the first place, the way he describes to Purdey and Gambit his experience with the bird trainer sounds astonishing. "Very frightening," he stresses twice when talking about the feeling ten thousand birds going into a nosedive may cause. Looks rather odd to notice a hint of fear in Steed, doesn't it? Another puzzling thing about Steed's behavior is the bird attack in his Range Rover (by the way, what reasons had Zachardi to send his hawk to Steed?) Being assailed so furiously by that bird, one wonders how Steed manages to keep his car rolling instead of stopping it. Well, eventually Steed pleases us when he decidedly drives his Range Rover up into that moving van. But... oops! What if the vehicle was filled up with furniture? No one knows. In addition, two more details are still inexplicable: Steed not only emerges from that truck without a single claw mark in his body (after such an attack!), but completely ignores the damage he did to the bed those two poor men were about to load into the van. For a Steed, who even left some money in a chicken house for the eggs he took from there ("Emily"), this conduct should deserve a reproachful look!
As it can be seen, "Cat Amongst The Pigeons" has enough to enjoy through the whole hour. Just another New Avengers product wrapped in deluxe package.
Cat Amongst the Pigeons
An interesting title: it doesn't really make sense until the end. This is "The Hidden Tiger" done right.
Some lovely echoes of the past: "Pussy Galore" (Cathy/Hidden Tiger), the revamp of Emma's whispered "Weren't you the man who...?", with Gambit similarly proving his identity to Purdey: "Definitely the real gambit. And no." There's nice symmetry in the story too... the pet shop owner who loses all his birds at the beginning, sells all his cats at the end. Steed and Gambit's dumb-play as they both unpack the cats is outstanding.
Tons of atmosphere... the shattered specs, the noon-doomsday plane trip, the weird charm-flute, the looming shadow of a bird of prey from the fanlight in Zarcardi's eerie hallway, the bird table of carrion in the overgrown conservatory. Glorious summer lanes and Purdey on a motorbike... her garter is over-the-top but never has an off-the-shoulder number looked so breathtaking!
Zarcardi... his first scenes have him hovering over his bleeding prey (Turner), alert twitches of the head, his words soft but incisive and with odd pauses like an owl's call as he describes the terror of an oil-soaked gull... If a hawk or falcon ever took human form then it would surely assume Vladek Sheybal's aquiline features and piercing eyes. Zarcardi speaks of the world's birds as his "army" and is prepared to send them to their deaths rather than see their numbers kept low by future breeding control (a cull is ruled out).
Add in a strong dose of tension in many scenes, and this is great fun. Two bit-parts are notable: Kevin Stoney has his eyes obscured (pecked out?) which is a shame as his features are quite striking, and Hugh Walters as the forensic investigator terrorised by Purdey: he is so like Charles Hawtrey (whom he once played) that his enjoyable scenes seem like a Carry On film!
It doesn't get much better than this. Deduct half a bowler for tired sexist remark "birds... the feathered variety." Three-and-a-half bowlers.
Cat Amongst the Pigeons
Someone else called this episode "The Hidden Tiger done right." I would say its closer to Brian Clemens presents a pastiche of The Birds. There is even a nod to that Hitchcock classic when some feathered creatures fly into the a room using a chimney, and someone says to Steed, "You've seen that movie, haven't you?" Also Hitchcockian: Purdey has a frightening situation near the end of the episode that her puts right into a spot Tippi Hedren knew all too well.
This is an early TNA episode that belongs in the canon with the original series. (Wish I could say the same about "The Midas Touch" or "To Catch a Rat.") It's not great, but all the touches of classic Avenger material are in place: Zacardi (Vladek Sheybal), a first-class mastermind with a plan to control the world so bizarre as to redefine the word "preposterous"; the English eccentric who wants to communicate with birds using sounds; the strange deaths of important people that befuddle ordinary explanation or logic; the passel of Ministry white-coat scientists who fill in some exposition but are otherwise useless, and the heroine going off on her own because she can't get in touch with Steed. (Hint: stay where you are, young lady, and wait for the invention of the cell phone!)
Also a top-notch ending with a suspenseful twist I frankly didn't see coming. And, for the capper, Steed and Gambit team up for one of the best combined comic punch lines in any episode.
I should add that birds—at least the wild variety—creep me out. Director John Hough makes the hawk Zacardi utilizes against his enemies seem almost human. Zacardi has no helpers, only this odd realtionship with birds. This makes him more of a wack job and, in a way, harder to handle for our trio. How do you grab a crow and say, "Take Me To Your Leader"?
The scenes where the winged menaces reek havoc on people's nerves and bodies hit home for this reviewer. When one is unnerved by a wild creature—and birds are, after all, the descendants of dinosaurs—you give greater credence to a premise like this.
I haven't seen this episode in ages, and forgot how much of the charm of the non-action scenes depend on the chemistry between Gambit and Purdey. Joanna Lumley and Gareth Hunt do well in their scenes, particularly the one at the airport where they banter about the possibility of one or the other being an enemy spy with an identical face. It's a brief bit but it captures the Steed and Emma fun of Season Five's "Who's Who???". I give it three out of four bowlers.
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