From Venus With Love
While this is the first color episode to be aired, I saw it among the last of the color Mrs. Peel shows (third from last, I believe). That said, I felt unsatisfied at first viewing, and continue to remain so with several plot elements. However, there is quite a lot to enjoy with this episode.
Let's start with the positive. This is a very funny episode, and I don't mean silly goofy humor (which The Avengers has trouble doing—"The See-Through Man" and "Mission: Highly Improbable" are some of my least favorite episodes, and "Escape in Time" is bogged down by that too). There is a great deal of wit and humor: Steed is hilarious in his guise as the lazy playboy joining the British Venusian Society ("Father spent his time depositing money, and I spend my time withdrawing it."). Jon Pertwee is quite good as the eccentric Brigadier Whitehead, who records his memoirs like a radio program, as is Jeremy Lloyd as a nobleman turned chimney sweep.
I also enjoy the villain—Philip Locke as Dr. Henry Primble. I liked Locke in the film Thunderball, and thought him a good villain in his guise as a silent killer. Here, he's eccentrically evil, and quite good at it. The eye test is rather humorous, too. The ending reminded me a tad of the laser scene in Goldfinger, with Primble utilizing a laser beam as a death trap.
What other good points are there? The music is not quite excellent (the series didn't hit its stride until "Escape in Time" in that field), but there is a lovely composition played before Ernest Cosgrove dies. The only real music problem is when Mrs. Peel chases the "alien"—the music is too jaunty and out of place. The performances are capable, although Venus Brown is annoying, and Crawford obnoxious for no apparent reason.
Moving on to the bad, we are faced with, at times, a rather dull episode. The "alien chase" has rather weak direction, and there's an intrusive interruption with Steed at the B.V.S. There is no action, aside from a hideously dull fight between Mrs. Peel and Martin. I do enjoy the laser shootout at the end, however. The beginning (like many episodes) is merely numerous victims being zapped to death, with the Avengers limply following behind, rather like the (superior) episode "The Hidden Tiger". There's also the rather tatty "graveyard" set, and some strange plot moments (why does Primble show up at Steed's?).
All in all, this is a solid if unspectacular episode. If there was better action and direction to match a rather good script, we could have had a classic show, not merely an average one.
From Venus With Love
Having tried serious sci-fi with the likes of "Man-Eater of Surrey Green," The Avengers go into orbit with this spaced-out and hugely enjoyable fantasy.
Nothing is perfect, but this comes darn near, although those of a more serious disposition might disapprove of this fantasy-based episode. The science about lasers is complete lunacy of course but the sheer verve with which the episode is written, performed and directed covers this over. Once again, Patrick Macnee and Diana Rigg prove as to why they're regarded as the best Avengers team, Rigg in particular when she faces the villains at the end with the deadpan, "It's quicker than a peroxide rinse."
As usual there's a dependable mix of guest stars ranging from Barbara Shelley's dippy Venus Brown and Jeremy Lloyd's upper-class chimney sweep to Jon Pertwee's bumbling Brigadier recording his memoirs with sound effects from various gramophones. Best of the bunch is Philip Locke as Dr Primble, who goes from wide-eyed loony to embittered villain with ease, and the eye-test scene with him and Steed is one of the most bizarrely funny scenes ever.
There is some quite stunning and memorable images from this episode, too. The white-haired victims, the exploding scarecrow, the Hammer horror-like scenes in the cemetery, the dummy Steed melting—these at times mildly horrific images blend in well with the comedy fantasy around them.
One of the best, although if you like your Avengers to be standard spy yarns, then this is probably not for you.
From Venus With Love
So what on earth (or off it) was that all about? I've seen this episode more than any other, more by accident than design. I keep changing my views on it, so it is ripe for "re-view"; sometimes it seems rather plodding, other times a spooky thriller that has some real gems of scenes and dialogue. I won't repeat the previous reviews (which I agree with). I'll just add a few positive and negative observations of my own:
+ Diana Rigg as Emma is
just as sparkling in this as in any monochrome episode. Nice to see her whizzing about the countryside, although the
scene in the barn at the deserted farm features a gloriously bad wig for her double as she watches the "sphere"
- Emma is overcome too easily and doesn't take part in the final fight, but it gives Steed a chance to
shine (literally, using a laser-reflecting mirror).
Finally, does anyone know who played Martin, Trimble's assistant who fights Emma, and why he wasn't credited? [Probably Billy Cornelius. No idea why he wasn't credited, but minimalist credits were SOP in the 60s. — DKS]
Overall Rating: Three out of four bowlers.
(P.S. Just before this, I watched the 3-minute "The Strange Case of the Missing Corpse." Featuring everything that makes The Avengers great, that has to be five out of four bowlers!)
From Venus With Love
Plot: Poor. Laser beams make sound? The plot is loosely ties together at the end. Was anyone really expecting Venusians anyway?
Humour: Good. Steed's eye check-up is great. Brigadier Whitehead's war reenactment is funny. I love Steed and Emma's reactions to the sound of machine gun fire. "I never see anyone without an appointment." "Can I make one?" "Oh, certainly." "How about today at [Steed consults his watch] uh... 2:45." "Well that suits me fine. Take a seat."
Acting: Good. Philip Locke, Jeremy Lloyd, and Jon Pertwee all deliver great performances.
Tag: Poor. Unnecessary. The episode would have been better had it ended with the joke about Steed's bowler being bleached white.
Miscellaneous: After Steed deflects Primble's laser, he says, "All done with mirrors." This is interesting because a future episode would bear that name. Something strange that I noticed is that one of Steed's headlights is out when he arrives at Primble's. Mansford has a strange habit locking himself in a vault. What if he had a heart attack or something? Something very interesting: Bert Smith is played by Jeremy Lloyd, the future writer of Are You Being Served? and Allo' Allo'.
Overall Rating: 5/10
From Venus With Love
I have a soft spot for this episode for a couple of personal reasons. The first two times I saw it, in 1992 and 2005, were both after not having seen an Avengers episode for several years, so I associate it with delight at watching The Avengers again after a long drought. Astronomy was Bert Smith's second love after sweeping chimneys, but astronomy was my first love, so it's a theme that appeals to me.
The first time I saw "From Venus With Love," I expected that the shining white ball of light that the victims and Emma Peel saw would turn out to be ball lightning—a real, though mysterious, physical phenomenon that takes the form of a suspended shining ball of light that eventually explodes in a burst of plasma—somehow synthesised by the villain. It would have been a much more scientifically accurate explanation for what they saw than lasers, although of course ball lightning doesn't whiten objects or make that eerie noise any more than lasers do in real life. It's harder to get away with that now, when we all see lasers every day at checkouts.
The main strength of the episode is the very amusing Philip Levene script featuring several characters who are particularly eccentric even by the standards of The Avengers. It's also nice that there's a genuinely surprising twist—Venus Brown turns out not to be involved in the murders, even though it had seemed she was running a scam. The special effects are also good—a big improvement on the hokey special effects in the black and white series. The plot doesn't make any sense when you think about it, but the lunacy is an important part of its charm.
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