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Category:    Home > Reviews > Spy > Action > Adventure > Avengers Mrs. Peel MegaSet (A&E U.S. DVDs)

The Avengers: The Complete Emma Peel Mega-Set


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



The Avengers remains one of the most important TV series ever made.  Influential, unmatched, and amazing, the series remains one of the most enduring and endearing shows ever made.  This show was so clever that most viewers simply write it off as “weird” instead of trying to enjoy it, or deal with the higher level it is working on.


It is also one of the most enduring releases on DVD, still holding a high watermark for its exceptional sound and picture quality due to expensively restored source material, plus the way in which it was transferred.  Before they released The Avengers, A&E was thought of as a company with small stakes in the DVD market, which could only sell small numbers of artsy British dramas.  The announcement that they had found the original negative material for which to make new copies of the show, especially after showing extremely horrible prints of the series on their network in the past, came as a big shock and relief all around.  Patrick Macnee went overseas and found them in an underground vault, where research had finally uncovered the missing materials.


Le Studio Canal+ then spent much money to restore each show as completely as possible for DVD, as well as lesser VHS and even cable/satellite broadcast.  The result is that the complex uses of monochrome in the early shows, as well as complex use of color in the later seasons, are impressive.  The monochrome shows often used deep-focus cinematography, while the color schemes in the color shows are exceptionally masterful and practically cinematic in their superior application.


The show had solid success in America, but it remains even more successful worldwide, but these DVDs have helped change that.  Especially considering the horrible prints, bootlegs, and poor VHS copies that were circulating since after the show’s early 1980s run on CBS Late Night.  Once an audience appreciates the great writing, acting, set design, directing, and particular chemistry of Macnee and Diana Rigg, they cannot stop watching.


With that in mind, it is time to look back on the earlier episodes that made the show world famous with The Avengers: The Complete Emma Peel Mega-Set, which boldly brings all 51 of the Diana Rigg shows together in one tidy 16-DVD collection.  1999 is when A&E began issuing the Rigg episodes on DVD.  They began with the later color shows, and then backtracked by issuing the black & white ones.


Especially then, the most demanding critics and fans were impressed with their stunning picture and sound reproduction.  What had been restored was some of the best looking and creative television ever made.  The people who fixed the shows did their job right.


The double-DVD boxes of the Diana Rigg shows have been reviewed on this site previously, which can be referred to for more details, and earlier impressions of the DVDs themselves.  Four years have now past, but the quality of the DVDs are still worthy of the show itself.


Thanks to both the high bit-rates that A&E implements for sound and picture, plus the exceptional remastering of the episodes, all 51 shows are still look pretty state of the art for their age, as far as DVD transfers of material from mid-1960s TV can look.  The fullness, warmth, and depth of the full-frame images are still impressive.  Digital restoration was applied to all the color shows, which especially needed the work with their very complex uses of color.


Some of the greatest cameramen ever worked on the show, so these transfers finally did their work justice like nothing since the original broadcasts of the shows in the late 1960s, early 1970s analog TV broadcasts.  Those broadcasts could not capture the quality captured on these DVDs though.  These were shot with high quality color reproduction in mind, especially at a time when color TV was still so new.  This also applies to the black & white shows, which have fine gray scale, rich black, and clear white to offer.  The color shows can also boast jet-blacks and ivory whites, since the color system used to produce the show’s prints was more advanced than the many competing systems of the time.


Now this does vary from show to show, with these details available already in this site’s coverage of each double-DVD set of these Rigg/Peel shows.  You can also see an actual comparison on A&E’s own site of the before and after of how the opening color-season credits were restored.  The quality can vary wildly from show to show, yet there are impressive moments in every single episode here.  This includes some variance in gray scale in the black and white episodes.  More work will need to be done to preserve these shows in the long run, as well as for HDTV, but damage is on the minimal side from the newly found materials.


Considering how far DVD has come in six years, it is amazing to see the depth, color fidelity, cleanness, and fullness of these transfers and the finely restored source materials.  As we enter digital high definition video, the 540i transfers of these DVDs will hold up better than the lesser full screen transfers of countless other full-screen DVDs that have not had this luxury.


The sound is also full and warm as compared to similar monophonic sound of the time, especially for feature films, despite its age and background hiss, which is present-but-minimal.  Between the intense dialogue between Rigg and Macnee, the great music by Laurie Johnson, and unusual sound effects throughout the show, sound on The Avengers was exceptionally creative for its time.  The audio really shines when it keeps up with the rapid-fire dialogue and allows the unique sounds to come through clearly.  That indicates a good combination of good source material, with good encoding.


A brief guide to each title, plus other credits follow.  The first eight DVDs are the black & white shows, while the remaining eight are the full color episodes.  They seem to be mostly in order in this particular set, which is not quite the case throughout A&E’s placement order of the shows.  More details are again offered on our reviews of the double-set releases of all the Mrs. Peel shows.  Most are classics of their genre, but often go beyond genre.  They are:


Disc One: “The Town Of No Return,” “The Gravediggers,” and “The Cybernauts”


Disc Two: “Death At Bargain Prices,” “Castle De’ath,” and “The Master Minds”


Disc Three: “The Murder Market,” “A Surfeit Of H20,” and “The Hour That Never Was”


Disc Four: “Dial A Deadly Number,” “Man-Eater Of Surrey Green,” “Two’s a Crowd,” and “Too Many Christmas Trees”.


Disc Five: “Silent Dust,” “Room Without A View,” and “Small Game For Big Hunters”


Disc Six: “The Girl From Auntie,” “The 13th Hole,” and “Quick Quick Slow Death”


Disc Seven: “The Danger Makers,” “A Touch Of Brimstone,” and “What The Butler Saw”


Disc Eight: “The House That Jack Built,” “A Sense Of History,” “How To Succeed... At Murder,”

and “Honey For The Prince”


Disc Nine: “From Venus With Love,” “The Fear Merchants,” and “Escape In Time”


Disc Ten: “The See-Through Man,” “The Bird Who Knew Too Much,” and “The Winged Avenger”


Disc Eleven: “The Living Dead,” “The Hidden Tiger,” and “The Correct Way To Kill”


Disc Twelve: “Never Never Say Die,” “Epic,” and “The Superlative Seven”


Disc Thirteen: “A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Station,” “Something Nasty In The Nursery,” and “The Joker”


Disc Fourteen: “Who’s Who???,” “Return Of The Cybernauts,” and “Death’s Door”


Disc Fifteen: “The 50,000 Pound Breakfast,” “Dead Man’s Treasure,” and “You Have Just Been Murdered”


Disc Sixteen: “The Positive-Negative Man,” “Murdersville,” “Mission: Highly Improbable,” and “The Forget-Me-Knot”


Starring Patrick Macnee as John Steed, and Diana Rigg as Mrs. Emma Knight Peel.


Produced by Albert Fennell & Brian Clemens. Music by Laurie Johnson.


Directors: Roy (Ward) Baker, Quentin Lawrence, Sidney Hayers, Charles Crichton, James Hill, Peter Graham Scott, Gerry O’Hara, Don Leaver, Bill Bain, Robert Day, Gordon Flemyng, John Krish, Robert Asher, Roy Rossotti, Peter Duffell, and John (Llewellyn) Moxey.


Writers: Brian Clemens, Malcolm Hulke, Philip Levene, John Lucarotti, Robert Banks Stewart, Tony Williamson, Colin Finbow, Roger Marshall, Martin Woodhouse, Richard Harris, Brian Sheriff, and Michael Winder.


Cinematographers:  Ernest Steward, Alan Hume, Gerry Turpin, Lionel Banes, Wilkie Cooper and Gilbert Taylor.


Too many American viewers unaware of the show, as well as some in the video industry, were surprised highbrow A&E would even be interested in issuing the show on video at all.  Many did not think the show had the audience to make the DVDs sell, but they were wrong.  Though the show still does not have the following it deserves here in the United States, despite remaining one of the most successful series ever to come out of Great Britain.  They were sadly mistaken!


The show was A&E’s first bestseller of many to come, many chain stores made the big mistake of under-ordering boxes as a result, as the shows went flying off the shelves.  The DVDs were even offered individually, but that was dropped due to consumer confusion, leaving only the double-packs for sale until this Mega-Set was issued.


A&E remains the company to beat for its many great pop culture titles for those who want high-performance out of older, classic TV DVDs.  This set is sadly lacking in extras, but the quality is too stunning to pass up.  The Complete Emma Peel Mega-Set is a new high in DVD boxed sets, and a cornerstone (along with the eight double sets that contain the same shows) of all world-class DVD collections.  Add how vital these shows are and it is a must-have if there ever was such a thing!



- Nicholas Sheffo


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