Death at Bargain Prices
This is my number one or two—it's a toss up between this and "Escape in Time." A hard choice IMHO.
Everything about this one smacks of the class and style that The Avengers means to many of us. I believe it has one of the strongest casts of all, some of whom reappeared as the series went on. The plot is actually very strong, with some quirky little elements that add a bit of surrealism to the story. For those of us who have dreamt of being locked in a department store overnight to run amuck with the toys and food and hardware and generally play silly-buggers, I bet this one changed your mind. Spooky.
Steed and Mrs Peel have some marvellous moments... "I have a dynamic, you know..." Superb. The script was very witty indeed. This was one of those episodes that really seemed to show the implied (non-sexual) intimacy in their relationship.
Has anybody tried Steed's out recipe? If so, post your verdict on David's site. I am now a big fan of Stilton cheese, but only with a peg on my nose. And what on earth are honeyed bumble-bees? Don't the legs get stuck in your teeth? Those of us who have had to work in a department store will relate to the flying lunch time that Mrs Peel had. "...oo! nine and a half minutes..."
The villains are superb. T.P. McKenna (Wentworth) was just nasty. The rotter! Bashing our hero like that! Without so much as a by your leave. Old Horatio Kane was suitably evil, in a wise old man sort of way. Actually I've just realised my two favourite episodes have my two favourite villains, Wentworth and Waldo, and they both have a speech impediment as well (sorry if that's not PC). Wentworth, "...he's a fwail man these days, susceptibew..." and Waldo, "...there's no time like the p-p-p-present..." Weird. Farthingale the 'Chief Predator' is his toffee-nosed best, a role he reprised as a goodie in "Death's Door."
One thing I'm trying to recall is which other episodes showed as many (if any) 'slice-of-life' scenes of ordinary people going about their business as the mystery unfolded on screen. I don't know of many. It seemed to be a fairly high production value to disassociate the story from the real world context, while managing to create plots that were for the most part believable. All of the soirees and receptions of other episodes at least maintained the class distinction.
This episode is held in general high regard and rightly so. It has the perfect mix of plot, style, tension, wit and action. I can't think of a bad word to say, really.
Death at Bargain Prices
This episode has a lot things in common with "The Cybernauts," at least the way I see it. Both begin with an atmospheric, eye-catching teaser. Both have a chief villain in a wheelchair. Both have a race at the end to stop something (the Cybernaut about to whack Mrs. Peel or the bomb from blowing up). Both have numerous interviews with people that may know something, and Steed pretends to be someone he's not to chat with the chief villain. Both times Steed is exposed to the main villain by his associate. Both feature the villain undone by his henchmen at the end. Finally, both have Steed escape the villain's hands by means of something lying around (the toy gun here or Armstrong's control panel).
That's okay. This episode is almost as good as "The Cybernauts," which was one of my personal favorites! The teaser, deliberately slow-paced, features a nervous chap trying to exit an apparently innocent department store before being shot (seven times) by a man hiding behind Yogi Bear. From there, our heroes are drawn into the mysterious department store, leading towards a favorite plot device of the black and white season: Mrs. Peel taking a disguise (here it's in a lingerie department).
Also like "The Cybernauts" we have a fabulous guest cast. Andre Morell has precious little screen time as the crotchety Horatio "King" Kane (who, to me, is Sir Horace Winslip from "The Gravediggers" but with a much more evil personality), but is very good, especially in his final monologue at the end. His henchmen are well-defined, each having at least one major scene and personality trait. Wentworth is sadistic, Farthingale is suspicious, Massey is bumbling, and Marco is sleazy. The non-criminal employees are also appealing—mousy lecher Jarvis, "Chief Window-dresser" Glinn, and foods head Julie Thompson.
The plot is very good, as we are given clues but never real answers to what Kane and Wentworth are up to until the final scene. There, it's the obligatory "villain explain everything" scene, although the episode acknowledges this with Farthingale's dismay at Kane. I love the whole concept of the entire store being an atomic bomb, which is certainly fanciful... although not totally impossible, either.
The ending chase through the department store is well directed, although some of the fights are too brief. Wentworth is also rather too easily disposed of—surely an experienced African fighter wouldn't wander into Mrs. Peel's line of fire like that! I do love Steed's use of department store items to stop the bad guys! All in all, this is a fabulous episode, and one that is not to be missed. Since A&E sells it on the same cassette as "The Cybernauts", you have a fabulous volume here (one of the few cassettes to not feature one good and one bad episode)! Get it!
Death at Bargain Prices
This is an odd episode in that every time I watch it, I expect it to be slow moving and uninteresting (as uninteresting as an Avengers episode can be). However, it's neither of these things. In fact, it's a surprisingly charming and fun episode.
Mrs. Peel, working in a department store (first in lingerie and then toys), gives Steed much to comment on and he does so in typical Steed style. The thought of making the entire store a nuclear bomb designed to destroy London is both inspired and frightening. Plus kudos to Andre Morell as Horatio Kane, the diabolical mastermind trying to prove that he's still a vital man to be taken seriously. Actually, all of the men working under Mr. Kane are fine as well.
Overall, a fine episode. 3-1/2 out of 5 bowlers.
Death at Bargain Prices
"Death At Bargain Prices" is my favourite episode. It has a great plot, lots of action, suspense and humour. And, of course, Emma Peel in her black catsuit steals the show. The villains were superb, but they could not defeat the Avengers. The final fight scene was one of the best ever. It was a great episode—fun to watch and very sexy. I remember watching this episode when I was only seven years old, and many times on video since then—and I have been an Avengers fan ever since. Great stuff!
Death at Bargain Prices
Plot: Very good. The idea of someone who is anti-technological or considered "behind the times" using technology against society is a very interesting one.
Humour: Very good. The line "I asked the chief predator where to find you and he said, 'Our Mrs. Peel is in ladies' underwear.' I rattled up the stairs three at a time" is a killer. I also love the fight sequence where Steed hits the knife into the dart board.
Direction: Very good. The shots of the empty store impressed me for some reason and also struck me as quite a creepy effect.
Acting: Good. Loved Jarvis, but from the moment I saw him I knew he was going to be killed, sad that some of the lovable character's have to be killed. Horatio Kane's speech was well done and intriguing.
Music: Good. There is a strange version of the theme when Steed is searching for Emma in the store.
Tag: OK. Save London and get a free bicycle? I would prefer to have Steed's Bentley.
Miscellaneous: This episode reminded me of Are You Being Served? with the department store. It also reminded me of The Prisoner for two reasons: the professor in this episode also plays a professor in an episode of The Prisoner entitled "The General" and there were two penny farthing bicycles in the discontinued lines floor. But what was Emma's finger snapping about in the fight scene?
Overall Rating: 8/10
Death at Bargain Prices
After reading numerous Internet reviews of the Emma/monochrome episodes, I somehow got the impression that "Death At Bargain Prices" ranked somewhat low among Avengers aficionados. I was therefore surprised by how utterly delightful it is, owing to the far-above-average number of scenes accenting the personal interplay between Emma and Steed. It is, after all, this interplay which IMHO imbues The Avengers with most of its style, class, and wit, and whose romantic undertones and sexual innuendo linger in the viewer's psyche far longer than all the plots, props, sets, fashions, atmospherics, and kinkiness combined. Well, perhaps that overstates. In any event, this episode is also unusual in that it shows Steed and Mrs. Peel in ordinary, everyday settings and even having an ordinary conversation or two. These scenes indicate to me that he's significantly more interested in her, personally and sexually, than she in him; whereas, my impression of the Peel episodes overall is that the attraction is more or less equally mutual. An uneven attraction would make sense, of course, given that he's single and she's married. However, these scenes could also support the notion that the practically widowed Mrs. Peel, though she occasionally "gives in" to sexual liaisons with Steed, usually tries to resist them in order to remain faithful to her husband.
Having said all that, and being a lifelong fan who's perfectly willing to give The Avengers all that it is due, I remain somewhat cynically convinced that the principal reason the series became such a smash hit and cult classic was the heady, happy, head-on collision of (1) millions of male, American, Baby-Boom, hormone-riddled adolescents and teenagers and (2) Diana Rigg in her prime wearing luscious lipsticks, black boots, leather catsuits, and false eyelashes. Her ultra-sexy, sophisticated British accent didn't hurt, either.
As for the excellent query of reviewer Matthew Moore on this website ("But what was Emma's finger snapping about in the fight scene?"), I believe I know the answer: In a previous encounter with this villain, Emma likely noticed his finding her attractive; ergo, she surmises he doesn't really desire to shoot her in cold blood on the spur of the moment. Further, given his relative handsomeness vis-à-vis the other villains, she may adjudge him "more lover than fighter." She uses his reluctance to kill her by appealing to him to hand over his gun, something she doesn't expect him to do but which she knows will distract him mentally. Then, to distract him visually (toward her hands and away from her legs, one of which she's about to kick him with), she snaps her fingers repeatedly. In short, there's "method to her madness", something which could be said of most of the characters throughout the series!
Finally, quite a few reviewers have commented on Steed's gem of a line ("I rattled up the stairs three at a time"), but I'd love to know what Mrs. Peel responds. I never can quite make it out on my TV's substandard speaker. Does anyone know?
Death at Bargain Prices
This episode is memorable on a personal level for two reasons:
It was the very first Avengers episode I ever saw as a young boy of 12 and also it was the first time I'd ever seen a woman fight a man on television and, at such an impressionable age, I can honestly say that it changed my whole outlook because I'd never seen anything quite so thrilling before. The sight of a gorgeous leather-clad woman throwing a man across the floor, and defeating him with such aplomb, left me almost breathless and positively agog. Somehow, after watching Emma Peel in such scintillating action, the appeal of watching two cowboys slugging it out in a saloon brawl diminished with every subsequent passing second.
However, I'm getting a little bit ahead of myself. A rough sketch of the plot, which is quite a simple one.
Basically Emma takes a job in the lingerie department of a store in an attempt to learn more about the suspicious death of one of Steed's associates. She learns from the store detective that he believes there is more to the store's management team than meets the eye, but before she can discover exactly what he is alluding to, he meets his maker.
Emma subsequently starts to snoop on her own and finds a laboratory where a professor (a missing scientist) is being held captive. She is then discovered and cornered by two henchmen, and tied up inside a carpet. Steed arrives and frees Emma from her carpet bagging and they both set about rescuing the professor, at the same time learning that the entire store is, in fact, a bomb.
Steed and Emma are then confronted by the villains and held at gunpoint. They escape in different directions and we next see Steed disposing of one of the villains—Farthingale—with a nifty piece of improvisation with his bowler hat.
Next we cut to Emma, who turns round to be greeted with the words, "Right, back up!" and one of Kane's henchmen is seen pointing a gun at her. At this point, of course, I was fully expecting Steed to appear to save Emma yet again, very much in keeping with tradition. Not a bit of it! Emma, dressed in a black leather outfit, starts to walk towards the man and begins to provocatively click her fingers. "Give me the gun" she responds.
I remember vividly my heart starting to pound at this point and then it began thumping uncontrollably in anticipation. Was she really going to fight him? I dared hardly hope. Then it happened. She kicked the gun from his hand and threw him across the floor, before flicking her boot into his jaw as he lay on the floor, looking up at her with a stunned expression on his face.
We then cut to Steed who is concurrently embroiled in a fight—using his umbrella—but I really didn't want to see it. I wanted Emma back. It was thrilling. A woman fighting a man. I could hardly contain my joy as I bounced up and down on my chair. Thankfully back she comes and launches him in the air, sending him crashing into some cabinets, but then we see her struggling against his grip as he holds her forcibly round the waist. She eventually extricates herself and sends her hands crashing onto his shoulders—karate style—and as he slides to the floor in front of her, she finishes him off by thrusting her knee into his jaw. She's beaten him and just for good measure she places her foot on his chest to underline her superiority.
"Mrs Peel, you're remarkable," remarks Steed as he re-enters. Remarkable just didn't come anywhere near it as far as I was concerned. She was fabulous, fantastic, magnificent, majestic, sensational, supreme, irrepressible and irresistible and so much more besides.
I was 12 years of age and I had just seen a woman fight a man on television for the first time. She'd beaten him and I had absolutely loved it. I was elated and felt such indescribable joy that I just wanted more. It was definitely Emma Peel for me from now on and I couldn't wait for the next episode. I didn't believe that it could get much better than this, however, but that was until the Queen of Sin appeared in "A Touch of Brimstone."
However, that's another story.
9 out of 10 for "Death At Bargain Prices" but only because nothing can compare to the sight of Emma Peel in superb action in the catacombs.
Death at Bargain Prices
This episode is one of my personal favorites.
I think that the idea of the entire building being a bomb is very clever. This episode is has one of the most suspenseful endings of all the episodes, when Steed is looking through the hardware to find something to stop the elevator before it hits the detonator for the bomb in the elevator shaft.
Another thing that makes the episode very memorable is Horatio Kane's speech about the "good old days." I think it is one of the most well-written lines in the show or possible any show. I actually did this speech for a final in my drama class and it got me a good grade.
One thing that has always bothered me about this episode is when they are looking for the bomb and Emma asks Steed, "what size do bombs come in anyway?" This was right after she has made a comment that would convince you think she was an expert when it comes to this sort of thing.
Altogether it is a very good episode.
materials copyrighted per their respective copyright holders.