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The Avengers
May 23, 2003 4:53 PM   Subscribe

Emma Peel could eat Buffy Summers for breakfast. An online encyclopedia dedicated to one of the best shows to come out of Britain, The Avengers. It's also the best TV fansite I've ever seen, I think--comprehensive, well-designed, smart without being "inside" or academic, and free of fanboy attitude. Even if you've never watched the show, take some time to look around. [more inside]
posted by Prospero (24 comments total)

 
The site is full of interesting bits of information like this:

The black leather craze that Honor [Blackman, as Peel's predecessor Cathy Gale] is credited for starting came about as a matter of practicality, not fashion sense. Tired of Cathy producing a gun from her purse week after week, the producers began a shift away from firearms and, after a brief attempt at hiding knives and the like on her person, settled on hand-to-hand combat. Honor was enrolled in a crash-course in Judo, and within weeks became adept at throwing extras across the studio--for real. Dresses, however, proved quite impractical when being flung about in a fight, and after she split the seam of a pair of slacks on camera, [lead actor] Patrick Macnee suggested suede, but because of lighting problems, leather became the choice. Fashion designer Michael Whittaker was called in to create a wardrobe of snug-fitting leather fighting gear for Honor, and a new fashion trend was born. Any hints at "kinkiness," according to Macnee, were deliberate.
posted by Prospero at 4:56 PM on May 23, 2003


(sigh) And so could I, Prospero. So could I. Any day of the week.
posted by alumshubby at 5:43 PM on May 23, 2003


Emma Peel could eat Buffy Summers for breakfast.

Buffy: OK, Emma, I'm cookies! Eat me!
Emma: There could be oil of some kind involved.

Sorry, I'm still on kind of a fanboy high from Tuesday's Buffy series finale
posted by gd779 at 5:43 PM on May 23, 2003


And Emma would make a lovely Sunday brunch, herself...
posted by alumshubby at 5:45 PM on May 23, 2003


Yes, but the skeleton in the closet here is .... Uma Thurman. Why, I ask, why???? I had hoped, for many years, for Emma Thompson as Emma Peel.

I never saw the movie, and my memories of Mrs. Peel remain unsullied.

Thanks for the link!
posted by skyscraper at 5:52 PM on May 23, 2003


Lived in England from 76-79 (ages 9-12) and have wonderful memories of watching "The New Avengers" -- which introduced me to whole Avengers concept, including the wonderful, wonderful theme music, as well as Joanna Lumley. I saw the movie a few years ago, too, and...ack. Just ack. Thurman and Fiennes were just a shade off of being perfect, but Connery and the overall plot were just ridiculous.

Still. The theme music remains one of the crowning achievements of special-agent/mystery pieces of music, almost as good as the 007 and Mannix themes.
posted by davidmsc at 7:10 PM on May 23, 2003


During that era, coming out of the fifties cold war, spy shows abounded; but was there anything better than the Avengers? Strange while avoiding wierd, intelligent without getting too dense, sexy without getting pointlessly edgy. As a teenager during their oriiginal run I used to dream of Emma Peel's delightful, self-satisfied, confident smile.

Emma Peel gave me--a (male) feminist-- a role model for knowing that women could be equals . . . and could kick butt then necessary. I'm lucky enough to have paid sufficient attention to those lessons to recognize and marry a woman with much of Mrs. Peel's idealized characteristics..
posted by ahimsakid at 7:31 PM on May 23, 2003


Thurman and Fiennes were just a shade off of being perfect

More than a shade off: Fiennes went through the movie looking his wistful and dewy-eyed self, nothing even remotely like Steed's The-Sun-Never-Sets sparkle and relentless self-assurance. Thurman moved her head around constantly while she talked and hadn't a trace of Diana Rigg's aristocratic mien, and the fact that she flipped out after just a few minutes trapped in that house pretty much finishes her off.

What was beautiful about the Avengers was their effortlessness. They didn't have to try to be themselves, they just were, with an iconic purity and unaffectedness. When you get right down to it, the show was hugely elitist: the bad guys were all bounders and pretenders (or worse, foreigners), at odds with the social order and eager to bring it down, with Steed and Mrs Peel as both agents and personifications of a ruling class, defending the Realm against these childish upstarts with more than a trace of amusement. The one occasion when the enemy was apparently gentlemanly ("The Correct Way to Kill"), it turns out he wasn't a gentleman at all, but a jumped-up butler.

Put like that it sounds appallingly reactionary, yet I think it was entirely deliberate, and not so much a proponent of the attitudes of class distinction but rather a clever and sly parody of them.
posted by George_Spiggott at 7:55 PM on May 23, 2003


jack bauer (kiefer sutherland) from 24 would kick both of their asses...
posted by lotsofno at 8:21 PM on May 23, 2003


Let's just get one thing clear once and for all: there was no Avengers movie.

Also, there was only one Highlander movie, and we're all very glad that Lucas hasn't worked in many years.
posted by majcher at 8:48 PM on May 23, 2003


Do Buffy's superpowers work against ordinary humans, anyway?

[/slips into buffyfilter]
posted by crunchburger at 8:59 PM on May 23, 2003


Slayers (of whom there are now many) don't have specific vampire- or demon-killing powers; they are just superhumanly strong and fast and quick to heal. All that works just fine against humans, and Buffy could, of course, cream the lovely Mrs. Peel.

</way too Buffyfilter>
posted by nicwolff at 9:35 PM on May 23, 2003


George: Point/s taken. And I understand that there is no "Avengers" movie in the "proper" sense...only the music and the names, essentially...but as a "standalone" movie it was adequate.
posted by davidmsc at 9:52 PM on May 23, 2003


Emma Peel could eat Buffy Summers for breakfast.

get real. Buffy's died twice and she's still takin' ass and kickin' names!
posted by mcsweetie at 10:20 PM on May 23, 2003


Joanna Lumley in a car wash. I'm just sayin'.

As for the movie, I too did not think that Fiennes and Thurman were that bad -- just horribly trapped in the wrong movie.

As for the original, it's fascinating that such an enduring cult favorite persevered through such a chaotic production roller-coaster. A bit like the way Casablanca's script-by-committee succeeded in spite of itself.
posted by dhartung at 10:44 PM on May 23, 2003


I desparately wanted to like the movie -- anything that brought back a spark of the original series was welcome -- but it missed the mark so widely that it is best forgotten. The real tragedy is that no one else is likely to do it up properly now (same with "Wild, Wild West" and a half dozen others).

There was an odd trend during that time; filmmakers wanted to cash in on the built-in fanbase and appeal of older TV properties, but (at the same time) they consciously thumbed their noses at fidelity to those same shows. An astoundingly short-sighted position that doomed several similar films to the bargain bin. Had they actually understood the appeal of resurrecting these properties, they could have had several enduring franchises. (I recall some no-name actor in "The Mod Squad" moving actually bragging that he had never seen the original. How arrogant and clueless can one person be? No one in that audience gave a fig about "Giovanni Ribisi's" interpretation -- they just wanted to feel close to Pete, Linc and Julie once again).
posted by RavinDave at 12:12 AM on May 24, 2003


The funny thing is that the film in many ways hewed closely to the series -- note the absence of extras, for example, which was part of the series' signature style: rarely do you ever see any person who isn't part of the story. They actually got a lot of the touches right: they just forgot to make a good film.

It was bound to stink no matter what they did: I have no idea what a major studio motion picture of The Avengers, thirty-five or so years on, should ideally consist of and neither does anyone else. It's almost certainly best not done at all: some things belong to their time and place, and can't really be removed from either, and magic can't be recreated on demand. I mean, you could put four reasonably talented 20-year olds in suits and give them a recording contract and call them The Beatles, but who's going to go for it? You can't recreate The Avengers just by deciding to and then throwing money at the idea.
posted by George_Spiggott at 12:29 AM on May 24, 2003


I'm so happy to see the run of (apparently) all of the Avengers episodes on cable here (Mystery Channel) in the states.

My 10 year-old couldn't understand my fascination with the black and white episodes, but she loves Emma Peel, especially in the color episodes.

In remember tuning in to see the original US run when I was a kid. I was under the impression that it was about the Marvel comic book The Avengers. Although initially disappointed, I got over it...

My wife seems to think that The New Avengers (which she watched) are part of the canon, but I scoff at her...
posted by jpburns at 7:55 AM on May 24, 2003


Put like that it sounds appallingly reactionary, yet I think it was entirely deliberate, and not so much a proponent of the attitudes of class distinction but rather a clever and sly parody of them.

One of the things I like about the show, which in my eyes puts it above some of its later, so-called "subversive" spiritual descendants, is the way in which it continually frustrates the cookie-cutter class and gender interpretations that characterize a lot of current cultural-studies criticism. Examples off the top of my head are this episode ("The Girl From Auntie"), which features Emma trapped in a giant birdcage, wearing a bikini that appears to be made from feathers, but scarfing down an enormous sandwich and talking with her mouth full. And this one ("Small Game for Big Hunters"), in which the villains create a giant greenhouse that contains a replica (and a parody) of an anachronistic, fictional British colony. Any time you think you have a handle on the show's characters or the world in which they live, the show does something to prove that it already anticipated your interpretation, and then throws you a nice curve ball.

There was an odd trend during that time; filmmakers wanted to cash in on the built-in fanbase and appeal of older TV properties, but (at the same time) they consciously thumbed their noses at fidelity to those same shows.

Glad that's over, at least for now. I lived in fear that Simon West (Con Air, Tomb Raider) was going to mount that production of The Prisoner that he kept threatening to film, but fortunately that seems to have fallen into development hell.
posted by Prospero at 10:23 AM on May 24, 2003


Diana Rigg, during her stint on the Avengers, was the object of my (and I am sure countless others') explorations of self-love during that period of time that came during my teenage years. . . .

I can say no more, other than it's unlikely she ever sported the camel toe look, but was off the scale sexy, none-the-less.
posted by Danf at 10:49 AM on May 24, 2003


Prospero, another thing about The Girl From Auntie is that for one episode it deliberately shucked off the RP tone of the series and consciously adopted the style of (and even a prominent actress from) working class comedies of the period.

Glad that's over, at least for now.

Oh, if only it were. I Spy, anyone?
posted by George_Spiggott at 11:04 AM on May 24, 2003


[...] another thing about The Girl From Auntie is that for one episode it deliberately shucked off the RP tone of the series and consciously adopted the style of [...] working class comedies of the period.

Oh, that's it: I saw that there was something weird and over the top about that episode (the extraordinarily high body count; the lack of surprise on the actors' faces when dead bodies fell out of closets four at a time; the destruction of priceless pieces of artwork, etc.), but couldn't place it in another cultural context. Thanks.
posted by Prospero at 5:53 PM on May 24, 2003


It helps to note that the guest stars, Liz Fraser, Bernard Cribbins and Ray Martine, were all well-known comic performers with distinct East-End associations, and that rather than piloting his vintage Bentley, Steed spends the episode being chaufferred around by the latter (complete with silent comic overreactions) in a taxi filled with an absurd amount of holiday baggage.
posted by George_Spiggott at 7:46 PM on May 24, 2003


Not to be a fanboy, but Buffy has superpowers while Emma Peel only has the smug superiority of the British. "Oh, Gandhi, you daft bugger, eat something for God's sake!"
posted by stavrogin at 2:02 AM on May 25, 2003


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