Illuminations
Page 11 of 14

"She has not just a chilly edge but the capacity to make us suspect a cold heart." — Novelist David Thomson describing Charlotte Rampling

Hana Wilde is a gifted marksman. Little is made of this apparent fact since Miss Wilde is really hot. Not hot as in temperature, but hot—as in any guy that likes girls would like her... a lot. Her lean and attractive body places her more squarely in the [now]—as uniquely stunning as the best of our contemporary beauties. But there she is, in the heart of the 1960s, enjoying her lovely self amidst a herd of men while isolated up, up, up in the sky without a parachute. In this freewheeling atmosphere she is dressed and armed as a cowboy—one that is unmistakably a woman.

Of course, the reason why Miss Wilde is so good-looking is that Charlotte Rampling plays her. This talented and intelligent actress rarely picks a character that allows her natural beauty to breathe, instead opting for troubling dramatic roles that obfuscate her charms. Her body of work largely has the close observer wondering if she enjoys life at all.

Hana Wilde, though, is a light breeze of warm joy, easily satisfied with a glass of champagne and pleasant conversation. This character raises a bittersweet issue in The Avengers: what if Miss Wilde was the one to follow Mrs. Peel as Steed's crime-fighting companion? Perhaps next to the bowler would rest a Stetson.

This speculation adds just as much to the deciphering of one of cinema's most haunting and underrated beauties as it does to the expansion of Avengers lore. To see Charlotte Rampling go at it for a while as a carefree secret agent would have been a great treat for us and maybe cathartic for her. At least we have this one cocktail shaker of an episode—staged largely in a Hammer horror setting with its Agatha Christie-inspired plot (including Dame Christie's tendency to withhold clues until the very end). The tale opens in an intensely red hallway and takes us on a journey filled with a smorgasbord of cultural references—ranging from an unusually hairy Asian wrestler to a matador named Joe Smith to an effeminate Charles Atlas/circus strongman. The story is rounded up with a standoff between the hippie communist mastermind and the gunslinger. How appropriate this is in foreshadowing the last days of East vs. West, the pop-influenced U.S.S.R. and Ronald Reagan. Our British agents observe silently until savoring the final stroke upon an already defeated foe—a respectful nod towards England's once great global power.

Mixing several disparate genres with new concepts, the show's creators act as inspired cinematic hip hop artists manipulating the familiar to create something fresh.

Where is that deadly stewardess now? Unlike the vast wasteland of mediocre television, The Avengers is willing to take chances by trying to create culture—instead of merely reflecting it.

Illustrations Copyright 2001 Jonathan Woods. All Rights Reserved.
Reproduction in any form is strictly prohibited.

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This website Copyright 1996-2017 David K. Smith. All Rights Reserved.
Page last modified: 5 May 2017.

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