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Category:    Home > Reviews > Spy > Action > Adventure > Avengers 1968, Volume 5 Set (A&E DVDs)

The Avengers ‘68 - Set 5 (A&E DVD/U.S. NTSC Set)

 

Picture: B-     Sound: C+     Extras: D     Episodes: B

 

 

PLEASE NOTE: This set has been discontinued, but the episodes are reissued in the U.K. in new transfers of the film and are expected to eventually find U.S. DVD release.  Blu-rays should eventually follow in all markets.

 

 

The Avengers finally winds down in the 1968 Set Five double DVD box.  Many fans thought they would never see the day, especially since nothing was done during the tenure of LaserDisc to issue the show at all.  Add the awful prints that the A&E was once stuck with, and you can imagine what a revelation the initial DVDs were.

 

The final seasons with Linda Thorson as Tara King always seem to be unfairly in the shadow of the Diana Rigg/Mrs. Peel seasons, but looking at them again for reviews I have covered over them on various sites makes me realize how much better these shows were than I first though.  They may not always be as successful, but are far better than they get credit for anywhere (save France) they surface.  The superior transfers [of the time of release] even bring out qualities and intents that this long-time fan never caught before, so these final seasons still rank as some of the best television ever made.

 

The 1.33 X 1 full screen, full color prints are remarkably good, as are the transfers.    The colors are not always as vibrant or complex as those of the color Rigg shows, but some of them have some nice refinements.  Also, it seems a slightly different look was attempted in many of these final shows.  At their worse, the picture might have slightly faded or off-colors, and some lack of sharpness from age may be apparent.

 

The big fat Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono at 384 kilobits-per-second (kbps) is as solid as ever, though some hiss can be heard when music by Laurie Johnson is added to the show.  I would be remiss if I did not finally discuss the work of Howard Blake on the Thorson shows.  Here was a man who had to come in and come up with new music for a well-established series that was more than established.

 

Trying to come up with yet more interesting and original music for a show that was always trying something new, having been doing that very thing for years now, is not easy.  Blake should get more credit for bringing out an odd new side to the show that allowed the Thorson/King shows to have their own identity, no matter how the Johnson music was continued in its use.  You can hear more from Blake on his DVD audio commentary for the special edition of Ridley Scott’s The Duelists.

 

As for extras, the DVDs from the first Avengers releases have roughly a half-dozen stills for each show, but none of these A&E releases have offered any other extras except for The Best Of The Original Avengers set.  Tara King fans might want that one for its featurette that introduces her, though more surfaces on the bonus DVD for the reissued Emma Peel MegaSet, but that is also out of print.

 

A brief guide to each episode follows.  They seem to be in order in this particular set, which is not quite the case throughout A&E’s placement order of the shows, which are:

 

Disc One:

 

Thingamajig” (Teleplay by Terry Nation, directed by Leslie Norman) – An imaginative, but average show in which something underground is running around killing people.  Not always feasible, but has some moments, though some of those spark unintended laughs.

 

Pandora” (Teleplay by Brian Clemens, directed by Robert Fuest) – The last great Avengers episode!  This masterpiece involves another Tara kidnapping, but with a twist.  She is brainwashed to believe she is the title character so an inheritance can be stolen.  Julian Glover is back one last time as a bad guy, while the script is exceptional, pointing again to more of what the Thorson/King series needed.

 

Requiem” (Teleplay by Brian Clemens, directed by Don Chaffey) – Steed and Mother are apparently killed, so Tara has to discover who did it.  If only she could remember what memory she lost in the explosion!  A good and somewhat challenging show.

 

Disc Two:

 

Take Over” (Teleplay by Terry Nation, directed by Robert Fuest) – A strange show involving a strange weapon aimed at destroying a peace conference by killing its attendees.  The show tried this sort of thing before, but this is still good.

 

Who Was That Man I Saw You With?” (Teleplay by Jeremy Burnham, directed by Don Chaffey) – A fair show that should have been better, as Tara is assigned to purposely break into a government installation to test how secure it really is.  However, despite this, a real leak begins occurring and Tara is high on the accusation list.

 

My Wildest Dreams” (Teleplay by Philip Levene, directed by Robert Fuest) – Edward Fox guests in this very good outing that involves murder and a sinister psychiatrist.

 

Bizarre” (Teleplay by Brian Clemens, directed by Leslie Norman) – The last episode has the dead not being able to stay buried.  It is a very good, fitting wrap-up to the show that all fans can appreciate.

 

 

The final shows still starred Patrick Macnee as John Steed, Linda Thorson as Tara King, and Patrick Newell as Mother.  They were still produced by Albert Fennell & Brian Clemens, with Music by Laurie Johnson and Howard Blake, and Lighting Cinematography in this particular set by Peter Jessop, David Holmes, and Frank Watts.

 

So ended an era.  When most TV series end, it is a mercy killing or just plain good riddance.  Few shows endure as The Avengers does.  It is also one of British TV’s all-time greatest achievements.  TV worldwide has become so bad, especially with the glut of remarkably poor “reality shows” [the reality TV that has become much worse since this was first posted] made cheap for a fast buck, that many a creative gem is not making it on TV.  Note the recent flap with David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive, which was intended as a TV mini-series, but landed up as an Academy Award-nominated feature film.  The innovative talent, give or take a very few cable outlets, are driving away creative talent left and right.  Not everything can be said in a feature film.  A font of ideas can flow for several seasons on a TV show.  The Avengers will forever remain the epitome of all the possibilities.

 

 

-   Nicholas Sheffo


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