Posts Tagged ‘K is for Kill’

The Avengers never really did two-part stories, unless you’re going to count the first and second episodes of the series, which had a continuing storyline. Then again, the very earliest episodes of The Avengers barely count as The Avengers at all, and – seeing as they’re lost – we’ve no way of knowing if they’re any good or not. We are able to look at the final episodes of the series, however, and some would say that in many ways they barely count as The Avengers (or even The New Avengers) either, due to the unusual circumstances of the production. Needless to say, there is a two-parter lurking in there.

My understanding is that The New Avengers came about when Patrick Macnee and Linda Thorson were reunited for a series of champagne commercials made for French TV, and the executive responsible expressed surprise that The Avengers had been out of production for about five years – when Brian Clemens explained they weren’t able to secure production funds, the exec apparently went off and raised the money off his own bat, with the result that The New Avengers was technically an Anglo-French production from the start. Usually, with this kind of international deal, the co-producers are keen to get local talent or locations on the screen (hence the frequency of imported Italian stars in the first year of Space: 1999), although in this case The New Avengers‘ French shoot was held back until the second season, by which point it had been joined by an equally substantial Canadian sortie.

A few French-shot scenes make it into Angels of Death, while there’s a lot of Paris on display in The Lion and the Unicorn – but the bulk of the French shoot seems to have gone towards the aforementioned two-parter, K is for Kill (by Brian Clemens, and regrettably mistitled K is for Killing on the DVD menu screens). One good thing about a two-parter, usually, is that it gives the story some room to breath and scope to develop onto a slightly larger scale than usual. And so it proves here, although most of the scope and scale come from the use of stock footage of Tibet, supposedly in 1945, where a Soviet colonel is investigating the strange faculties of a mysteriously well-preserved monk.

A somewhat inspired interlude follows, as the scene shifts to a quiet English village in 1965. A man dressed as a Russian soldier charges into a meeting of uniformed men and mows them down with his submachinegun, not paying much heed to the fact they are only Salvation Army officers. The Russian then ages to death in the blink of an eye. It’s England, in 1965, there’s been a bizarre murder, so who are you going to call? That’s right, it’s original-series-vintage Steed, complete with Bentley (Macnee keeps his back to the camera throughout this bit) – and even featuring a tiny cameo (courtesy of reused footage) from Diana Rigg as Mrs Peel. In terms of tipping the audience off to the fact that this episode is extra-ambitious, it works quite well.

Back in the present day, another Russian soldier attacks a garage in France, which naturally makes the papers. (Though the episode seems to suggest that Steed takes The Guardian, which I find rather hard to believe – surely he has Times reader written all over him?) Steed gets a phone call from Emma – who has supposedly changed her name by this point, though to what we are not told – pointing out the similarity with the unsolved mystery from a decade earlier. Steed is already on the case and he and the others are heading to France to investigate.

Literally the most exciting photo from this episode I could find.

Brian Clemens is easily a good enough writer to have figured out one of the tricks to writing an effective two-part story for a series like this one: you basically do two closely linked stories, each with its own focus and style. The first part of K is for Kill, The Tiger Awakes, is basically just about what happens when dozens of 1945-vintage Soviet soldiers come out of suspended animation in 1977 France and act in accordance with a plan to… well, it initially seems like they’ve been infiltrated in the event of the Cold War suddenly turning hot, a sort of instant fifth-column, but the second episode confuses matters a bit. Suffice to say it’s not the most involved of plots, with lots of comfortingly affordable action and our heroes not doing a very great deal (Gambit gets another of his big macho moments when he dropkicks someone out of a tree).

Then that Russian colonel from 1945 turns up, having been sent in to shut the whole operation down: the Soviet leadership don’t want to risk a war with the west, and it seems like the resuscitation of the soldiers in France was a mistake. But the colonel sees the opportunity to overthrow the decadent western powers whether it’s what the Kremlin wants or not; the fact his own father is one of the suspended killers may also be a factor. (Frankly, the ages of the two characters aren’t right for the son-is-now-older-than-his-father angle to work, but the episode has got bigger problems.) The Russian ambassador in Paris gets wind of this scheme and runs off to tell Steed, who is of course an old friend of his. This flows over into episode two, where it’s now suggested that the whole point of the suspended-animation army is to cause a third world war at a time of the Russian leadership’s choice. Can our heroes track down the defrosted killers before an international incident takes place?

It’s mostly shot on location, and clearly has a decent budget behind it, and – let’s not forget – it also has a decent Avengers-ish premise to it. But it does feel like the French producers haven’t cottoned onto the fact that the series, even the new one, is supposed to be weird and offbeat and witty: these episodes are written and played very straight, with the exception of a couple of ‘comedy’ scenes involving a rather reactionary waiter in a Paris cafe. That doesn’t keep them from being quite silly and hard to take seriously in the wrong way – there are plenty of moments of wild implausibility and painful coincidence before the story concludes. As in the previous French episode, the characters spend more time sitting around trying to work out what’s happening than they do actually investigating the case. The results are not completely awful, but it’s quite hard to keep yourself interested.

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