The Avengers

Season 4 Episode 19

Quick-Quick Slow Death

Aired Unknown Feb 05, 1966 on ITV
out of 10
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Episode Summary

Quick-Quick Slow Death
An agent is run over disposing of the body of a man in a dinner suit, while he was pushing him along in a pram. This all has something to do with Terpsichorean Training Techniques, a dance school where Emma teaches and Steed enrols.

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  • A runaway pram holds a dead man in evening dress. Being The Avengers, this naturally leads to shoes, a tatooist, a sausage, a long first step and a dance school. With enemy agents about, Steed and Mrs. Peel must be on their toes.moreless

    <p>* Spoilers *</p>

    <p> Robert Banks Stewart's script could serve as a template for the better Avengers adventures, mixing high style, absurd mystery and campy action into something entirely original.</p>

    <p> For those unfamiliar with this 1960s UK spy series, smooth Patrick Macnee is agent-about-town John Steed. By this season, Macnee had refined the character into a high-gloss English gentleman, but kept a bit of menace for the tight spots. Here, Steed is accompanied by perhaps his best-known partner, arch, thin Diana Rigg as the bold Emma Peel.</p>

    <p> The opening scene quicly stakes out its far-out territory. A pram is being pushed by a rather seedy looking man, and the first few moments seem realistic as he stops to make a phone call. Then the pram rolls away down the street, creating fear for its presumed small passenger. But when the worst happens, it turns out the cargo is full-grown and already shot dead. There's no logic to this, of course, but we're off on a merry chase to find out who the victim was and why he was killed.</p>

    <p>That leads to such typical Avengers touches as a clue inscribed on a sausage, an officer with an injured throat who communicates by Morse code instead of writing and a foot man who makes shoes. For the era, this show often featured novel camera angles and striking art design. There's a great visual as Steed follows up one lead and learns that when calling at Purbright & Co. in Chelsea, mind that first step!</>

    <p>There are some glitches. David Kernan makes a very sweaty Italian as posh shoemaker Piedi (Feet), fawning over Diana Rigg's feet. It's another example of the show's mild kinkiness, certainly fitting for the swinging era. Foot fetishist may take note, although they may not appreciate the portrayal. As often happens here, this minor character is overdone. Kernan overacts, and it may not be entirely his fault since his Piedi is bathed in artificial sweat. </>

    <p>The real attraction here is Eunice Gayson as dance school operator Lucille Banks. In the relatively small world of UK cinema, it was logical there would be plenty of cross-fertilization between this TV spy show and the James Bond movies. </p> <p>Originally auditioning for the Bond role of Miss Moneypenny, Gayson instead landed what appeared to be a plum part as Sylvia Trench. In "Dr. No," it's her introduction of herself as, "Trench, Sylvia Trench. I admire your luck, Mr. ?" that prompts Sean Connery's first, "Bond, James Bond." His line has been repeated ad nauseum as though it was a mantra, but it was simply the logical response to the social situation.</p>

    <p> Sylvia (and Eunice) returned in "From Russia with Love," but after that the character was dropped, so she would have been better off playing M's secretary. Diana Rigg had a parallel experience when cast as the obviously ill-fated Mrs. Bond in "On Her Majesty's Secret Service." Rigg's bigger problem came off screen, where she couldn't hold the interest of the new Bond, George Lazenby, who was chasing every other skirt in sight. Humiliated, the jilted Rigg publicly accused George of all sorts of other boorish behavior.</p>

    <p>That's relevant here because Rigg seems slightly put out during this episode. Some reviewers have suggested that is because by now, she had found out she was being paid less than anyone on the set except the cameraman. Her pay dispute also became public, and it seems bad feeling lingered. Whatever the reason, Rigg makes her dissatisfaction work while undercover as put-upon dance instructress.</p>

    <p> It's interesting that while Rigg is 5-foot-8 1/2 _ tallish but not enormous _ the producers often seem to surround her with small actors and actresses. That's the case here, and it may be intended as nasty fun to have her squired around the dance floor by short men. Rigg also towers over Eunice Gayson, although to give the latter her due, Gayson has a far better Bond girl figure than Rigg, who might euphemistically be called "athletic." </p>

    <p> Gayson is charming, and particularly plays well off the always supportive Macnee. Carole Gray also has a nice turn as another dance instructress. She's small-framed but very expressive and makes the most of her limited lines. John Woodnutt makes the best of the wacky role of the vocally impaired officer.</p>

    <p> As usual, the fashions are significant in setting the show apart from more pedestrian procedurals. Always impeccable, Macnee looks particuarly resplendent in the last reel, when he shows up in top hat, silver-knobbed walking stick and black cloak with shiny silver fastenings, not to mention his ballroom kit. </p>

    <p> Gayson wins the evening gown competition in a walk. She's very pretty and chic in a low-cut black dress that displays her superior bust and lovingly hugs all her dangerous curves. In contrast, a sleeveless and gauzy white A-line with a plunging V-neck hangs limply on Diana Rigg's boyish chest. The skirt does have some shiny bands, but overall it's not flattering.</p>

    <p> On the other hand, the black-and-white outfits Rigg wears at other points do look, if not quite mod, good on black-and-white film. And there's no obvious impediment from her lack of cleavage as Rigg chest butts a bad guy around the dance floor. The advantage is clearly with Rigg in the fight scenes, as she disposes of Gayson with a push and a punch. As so often happened, the action scenes are poorly staged, but there is some humor here, and Macnee's stunt man has a very effective visual as he whirls around seven or eight times with an ostensible bad guy on his shoulders.</p> <p> There's a Fred and Ginger ending, as our heroes dance off into the clouds, which is only slightly marred by Rigg's fixed expression, as though she's dwelling on that paycheck.</p>

    <p> While most shows from this era are dated, many Avengers episodes hold up well, and "Quick-Quick Slow Death" shows why. </p>moreless

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