Television Review: The Avengers – The Complete Series 3

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(Optimum Releasing)
DVD on release

By Guy Sangster Adams

The Avengers: The Complete Series 3 is the second phase of Optimum’s fantastic intention to release the first full restoration of every episode of The Avengers over the course of a year, which began in October 2009.  Where episodes have been lost, they are recreated through stills and commentaries, and the DVDs come replete with a host of fascinating extras.

With series 3 The Avengers established the model for which it is best remembered and the ingredients that have ensured it has remained both highly influential and a classic exponent of the spy-fi genre.

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Filmed in 1963 and originally screened in 1964 in a peak time Saturday night slot on ITV, for series 3 Patrick Macnee’s John Steed, described in the original promotional material as a top level secret agent “who works under cover of his life as a wealthy man-about-town with an aristocratic background,” became ever more dandified, his bowler hat, furled umbrella, and flared cufflink displaying cuffs now omnipresent. Whilst the idea of Steed being aided by alternating amateur assistants in the earlier series was shelved in favour of Mrs Catherine Gale (Honor Blackman) being his partner in each episode. Which also allowed for a crackling sexual tension to be developed between the two characters.

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With her PhD in anthropology and social conscience Mrs Gale was presented as a foil to counter Steed’s more ruthless and louche character traits. Though she equally, and importantly, subverted stereotypical roles for women combining not only brains, beauty, and independence, but also physical prowess; the fight scenes in each episode more often than not displaying Gale’s expertise in Judo. Blackman, as she explains in an interview included amongst the host of great extra features on the DVD, always threw herself wholeheartedly into the action sequences, which in the episode Mandrake, also included here, lead to her inadvertently knocking out the actor playing her assailant for seven minutes. Early in series 3 Gale’s leather outfits were introduced, ostensibly as clothes it would be easier for her to fight in, and became both influential and infamous. They were teamed with knee high leather boots that very quickly gained the widespread sobriquet of ‘kinky boots'; their popularity leading Blackman and Macnee to record the single Kinky Boots in 1964.

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Lobster Quadrille, the last episode of series 3, was originally screened in March 1964, and was Blackman’s last episode as she left the programme to take up the role of Pussy Galore in the James Bond film Goldfinger, which was released in September of that year. Redolent of the humour inherent in both The Avengers and the Bond films which the series undoubtedly influenced, the final scene features Steed bidding farewell to Gale as she sets off on holiday with the suggestion that she might spend her time “pussyfooting along those sun-soaked shores.”

Links
Optimum Releasingwww.optimumreleasing.com

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