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Category:    Home > Reviews > Spy > Action > Adventure > British TV > The Avengers: The Emma Peel Collection (1965 - 1967/Associated British Co./Via Vision/Imprint Television Blu-ray Box Set (#3))

The Avengers: The Emma Peel Collection (1965 - 1967/Associated British Co./Via Vision/Imprint Television Blu-ray Box Set (#3))

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

PLEASE NOTE: This Region-Free Avengers Import Blu-ray box set is now only available from our friends at Via Vision Entertainment in Australia, can play on all 4K and Blu-ray players and can be ordered from the link below.

Still one of the greatest TV series ever made, one that may an action show has tried to emulate, The Avengers was so popular, it may have inspired a Marvel Comics title, but more important, the show surfaced a year before the first James Bond film, Dr. No (1962) and was originally shot on videotape and 16mm film, done live and in black and white. After an Ian Hendry drama called Police Surgeon was relaunched as The Avengers, the show gained an audience, Patrick Macnee showed up in a raincoat as Steed of MI-5 1/2 and the hit was cut short by an actors strike. Hendry left and they replaced him with a woman, Honor Blackman as Ms. Catherine Gale, a judo expert (among other things) not even bothering to rewrite the scripts meant for Hendry. That version went through the roof ratings wise.

Blackman left for the Bond film Goldfinger (1964) and Shakespearian actress Diana Rigg was eventually hired to play Steed's new partner, Mrs. Emma Peel. Now shot on 35mm film, the show was an international sensation and if it was not a classic before, it was now. Rigg did one season in black and white, one in vivid color and we reviewed the entire series in its U.S. DVD release at this link:


That review includes all the episodes and the legendary talent that was behind the camera making this show a hit, replacing the great Roger Moore series The Saint as the biggest U.K. TV export. Running from 1965 to 1967, it personified the 1960s, had groundbreaking plots, innovative ideas, witty dialogue, daring themes, great mysteries and terrific action sequences. So now, a new set has been issued on Blu-ray from the great Australian video company Via Vision and it is finally a replacement for the U.S. DVD (being Region Free) and has more extras than any other set on the show ever issued.

Fans had tolerated bad prints of the show on suspect VHS tapes and TV broadcasts for decades, but a few decades ago, star Patrick Macnee (who owned part of the show) and a superfan of the show tracked down the original 35mm camera negatives and much more of the series to underground vaults at the legendary Elstree Studios and got to the original camera materials, plus press materials, videotapes and promo stills (among other things) and essentially saved the series.

It is from that material that A&E's VHS tapes came from, then the DVD upgrades worldwide and now, slowly, Blu-ray editions of the filmed episodes starting with the black and white Diana Rigg shows. Lionsgate for A&E issued a terrible Blu-ray set of the color Peel/Rigg shows with no extras, too many shows per disc and compressed, lossy Dolby Digital Mono sound that made the actors sound like they were on helium. In 2014, Studio Canal started issuing the shows on Blu-ray in the U.K. (Region B locked sets, so you need a multi-region player for them) that included all the Rigg shows, plus a third set of all the Linda Thorson/Tara King shows (not in this set, save her first episode, The Forget-Me-Knot,) all with a great set of extras.

So now, Via Vision has issued all the Rigg shows in one Blu-ray box set with all the previous U.K. Blu-ray extras, new extras and two more discs of more extras not in the U.K. sets. Just on that basis alone, it is a set all serious fans of the show should get, but that leaves the big question of how the episodes look and sound.

Well, the 1080p 1.33 X 1 black & white digital High Definition image transfers rarely show the age of the materials used and are the same exact, outstanding HD masters used for the U.K. Blu-ray box with solid Video Black and nice Video White, plus a very convincing Gray Scale. The 1080p 1.33 X 1 color digital High Definition image transfers of the later Rigg/Peel season also hardly show their age and after years of research, I am convinced all the color lab work was done in dye-transfer, three-strip Technicolor by the British Technicolor labs, which is why they hold up so well and have such superior, vibrant color. Whether they were shot on Kodak and/or Agfa color negative is something I have yet to confirm, but these too are the same amazing, sometimes stunning HD masters Studio Canal used for their U.K. box of these color shows.

The only difference is that these transfers are very slightly lighter than the U.K. versions, so Video Black is not as dark, but in a very narrow, slight way. Additionally, like the U.K. sets, my video rating is an average of the 51 episodes with Rigg, but there are moments on most episodes that exceed my rating, are demo quality and so good, you would think you were looking at a 4K disc. Having some of the best Directors of Photography in cinema history on the show makes this one of the best-looking TV series ever made and it just gets better and better with age.

Then you have the sound, which is lossless PCM 2.0 Mono as it was on the Studio Canal U.K. Blu-ray sets. Like the HD masters, the sound is the same as that set and sounds incredibly good for its age and will likely never sound better than the show does here. The sonics (you get some sonic surprises here, despite the show's age) is exactly the same as the U.K. set and later extras are presented in PCM 2.0 Stereo. For those used to TV broadcasts, VHS tapes of the DVDs of the show, the clarity and even warmth of the PCM tracks will surprise you, sounding as good as most monophonic feature films of the time and more than worthy of the few shows of the time to get a Blu-ray release to date (The Prisoner, Department S, The Persuaders!, Man In A Suitcase, Mission: Impossible, sample episodes of TV shows from the era by Network U.K. on three retro-Action! Blu-ray discs) that happen to almost all be British TV classics. I'll bet it will hold up against U.S. shows of the 1960s like The Man From U.N.C.L.E., The Girl From U.N.C.L.E., Honey West and even Wild Wild West whenever they finally get Blu-ray releases as well.

Like the U.K. set, this set is the first time fans and those new to the show can finally see the show in a way that only a few people got to decades ago if they somehow got to screen a pristine 35mm or 16mm print of a given episode. Nothing like watching Rigg in her Lotus Elan karate, then Kung-Fu kicking villains in practically all the shows, while Macnee wheels around in classic Bentleys with his trick umbrella and deadly bowler hat, all with unbelievable sets and locales.

Extras are listed on the page to the order link below, but some highlights to note include various interviews conducted for the 50th Anniversary event held for the show that are not on the U.K. set, a ton of audio commentary tracks including a new one fo this set, the 120-page booklet here includes a great episode guide and is of a very high quality and four episodes of the Honor Blackman/Cathy Gale series (alas, in standard definition) that were remade as Rigg/Peel shows, finally included so fans can compare.

Our edition's packaging is limited to 1,500 copies with a nice, solid Hardbox packaging that is like nothing you see much in the U.S. market. Ultimately, though, it comes down to the legendary pairing of Patrick Macnee and Diana Rigg as John Steed and Emma Peel, a match made in espionage heaven with some of the most talented people around and some of the greatest actors and name stars around in some of the most remarkable, challenging and exciting stories ever told. One of the most cinematic TV shows ever made, The Avengers is a classic that just gets better with age, never fails to impress and re-impress me over and over again, which is why it is one of my favorite series ever made. I strongly recommend it as the best classic TV on Blu-ray set of the last few years!

To order this Avengers Blu-ray import box set, go to this link:


- Nicholas Sheffo


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