The Correct Way to Kill
"How do you subtle your way past that?"
A five-bowler joy from start to finish. this could be the quintessential Avengers episode. What do we have? An immensely elegant Steed, Emma as gorgeous as ever she was, a cast of stellar talent (the steely Peter Barkworth — later the magical Merlin in "The Morning After" — saturnine Philip Madoc, and unnervingly-affable Terence Alexander in the same episode? Heaven.)
Charles Crichton's direction is a cut above. The wet-weather shop's waders first appearing to be a hanged man, the umbrella-impalings, Steed's swordstick, that glorious unguarded-blade fencing in the final combat (with a synchronised kill from Emma and Olga) matched to perfect music, the nods to Chaplin's The Great Dictator (Nutski bouncing an inflatable globe whilst expounding his plans for domination) and "The Cybernauts" (Emma wheels herself around in a wheelchair in two scenes with Michael Gough — surely an in-joke). We even get a regiment of "gentlemen" doing Hitler-salutes with their swordstick umbrellas chanting "Hail! Hail!" (hailing a taxicab!). Television doesn't get much cleverer, or more fun, than this.
The sets are atmospheric, Steed and Emma's costumes are elegant (for once the Emmapeelers aren't OTT) and Diana Rigg's acting is superb (her bemusement at the chiropractor, her reactions in Nutski's shop, her interplay with Steed in the tag scene — see below).
The dialogue is chock-full of gems: on tying up Olga with "the old school ties" ("the bonds of the old school tie are almost impossible to break"), "we're not prodding a balloon, we're killing the enemy," and Emma sparkles: "I can assure you my cheek will be nowhere near his jowl!", and the double-entendre laden tag scene... Emma: "And what did you give her?" Steed: "A reassessment of the decadent English male. Coffee? ... I've been embraced to the bosom of the glorious Motherland. Figuratively speaking." Emma: "36-24-36, or a more sort of... cultural exchange?" Steed: "The evening was heavily instructive. But lacking..." Emma (knowingly): "A certain bourgeois, capitalist, decadent touch?"
Five bowlers, indubitably. My admiration of Brian Clemens, if ever in doubt, soared on seeing this. A wonderful affirmation of the heights of Avengerdom, and one I'll watch again, many times.
The Correct Way to Kill
Plot: Very Good. An agent recruiting and using other agents to create a third world power during the cold war makes sense enough.
Humour: Excellent. "Steed! Steed, my dear fellow, what a delightful surprise and what a pleasure to see you again." (Turns to Ivan) "I told you to kill him." Olga's fully armed coat, as pictured in David's review, made me laugh. Olga was at times funny, but she did get a little annoying. Who doesn't love SNOB?
Direction: Very Good. Nice direction during the ending swordfight.
Acting: Excellent. A wonderful performance from Terence Alexander. It was nice to have Michael Gough back again. I also liked the Steed look-alike killers, and I would credit them, but after going through the episode and trying to get their names, I couldn't.
Tag: Very Good. Nice Steed and Emma rapport here.
Miscellaneous: In Olga's first fight, shouldn't the guy with the gun have shot her instead of approach her? When Steed takes the place of the man carrying the coffin, the man should have made some noise. SNOB—what a wonderful name for an organization. I loved Ponsonby's reactions to Steed's mannerisms. Although the killers at the beginning of this episode were uber (super in German) British acting, they were obviously not, for they killed a man in cold blood—quite unsporting. Points are deducted from this episode for Emma's effortless replacement of Hilda. Emma gently pulled her into the locker room, and when Emma came out dressed like her, no one noticed the change, even though Hilda was a brunette and Emma is a redhead!
Overall Rating: 8/10
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