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Posts Tagged ‘The Correct Way to Kill’

The stunt doubles’ holiday is clearly over (along with my own) in Brian Clemens’ The Correct Way to Kill, which features loads of extras and some big fights before it concludes. We’re now at the point where virtually every significant visiting actor has been on the show before (or will come back again) and perhaps this just adds to a comforting sense of a sort of fantastic familiarity, quite the opposite to one of those bleak Swedish crime shows where everyone is an unknown face.

Of course, in the case of this particular episode, the familiarity could arise from the fact it’s a remake of a script we’ve seen before: The Charmers, from late in Honor Blackman’s second season. The change is style is significant, of course, and the plot has been touched up a bit, so I’m not entirely sure I would have noticed the duplication if I hadn’t already been aware of it.

A series of murders are being committed: we, the audience, know the culprits are a couple of proper English gentlemen in bowler hats and carrying brollies (perhaps you can already guess where this is going). The victims, however, are agents of the Other Side. Steed seems to find this somehow rather morally objectionable, despite the fact it theoretically makes his job easier. Mrs Peel suggest the Other Side are killing each other off in London just so that Steed and his colleagues get stuck with the paperwork.

The Other Side, however, are in the dark, and send top agent Ivan (Philip Madoc, his fourth of five appearances) to exact revenge. Steed, however, suggests an alliance between them, to identify the third party responsible for the killings. Ivan’s superior Nutski (Michael Gough, second of two appearances) agrees to the plan – so Ivan teams up with Emma (she complains a lot less about this than Cathy did the first time around), and Steed makes the acquaintance of a very earnest Russian woman named Olga (Anna Quayle, who miraculously appears in no other episodes).

Well, there’s a dodgy chiropodist and a gentlemens’ outfitters and the trail eventually leads to a sort of deportment school for men entitled SNOB (Sociability, Nobility, Omnipotence, Breeding), which is full of Steed-wannabes. Running the place is Terence Alexander (second of four appearances, if you include The New Avengers). Not all of this makes a very great deal of sense but there is some lovely by-play between the various characters, with the badinage between Steed and Olga particularly good. Not to mention the tag scene, in which Steed tells Mrs Peel some of the interesting facts he has learned from his temporary partner – quite apart from the fact that Olga is a qualified bricklayer. ‘25% of the electrical engineers in her country are women. 75% of the garbage disposal workers are women,’ he reveals (clearly modulating his diction for the benefit of the US audience). ‘5% of the male athletes… are drawn from the armed forces.’ Some good sword-fighting too. Not the greatest episode, but better than you might expect considering it’s a duplicate.

More duplication in the next show, Never, Never Say Die. An innocent motorist (Christopher Benjamin, second of three appearances) is out for a drive when an imposing figure walks in front of his car and is apparently killed. Yes, it’s one of the few Avengers guest stars who remains a genuine legend to this day: the great Christopher Lee (first of two appearances). Lee is carted off to the local cottage hospital and pronounced dead on arrival, but makes a remarkable come-back, rising from the slab and marching out of the place.

You can sense the episode is playing up Lee’s association with Hammer horror – this is almost stunt casting – and the general level of self-referentiality rises further when the intro sequence finds Mrs Peel watching TV. What’s on? The Avengers, of course. She herself is quite au fait with the series’ format at this point: ‘No body? But there’s always a body!’ But not on this occasion. She nearly gets her wish when Benjamin goes back on the road and promptly knocks down Lee again, but he is whisked away by a mysterious private ambulance (which he promptly bashes his way out the back of).

Various scenes make it clear that there is something very odd about Lee’s character – he seems weirdly susceptible to and antagonised by radio transmissions, but is curiously untroubled by taking a clip’s worth of submachinegun bullets in the chest. Steed himself is sufficiently concerned to equip himself with a double-barrelled shotgun, but still comes off worse when he tangles with Lee, who is netted and dragged away by men in white led by Jeremy Young (second of four, including New Avengers).

Clues lead our heroes to the Neoteric Research Unit, not far away, which is led by (wait for it) Professor Frank N Stone (Lee again). A little persistence by Steed reveals that Stone has been working on synthetic human duplicates which can absorb and replicate the brain patterns of the original ‘donor’, in the hope this will allow great intellects to survive indefinitely: the duplicates are effectively indestructible, but they are a bit iffy around transistor radios. Stone’s duplicate has been going out for unauthorised rambles, triggered by ham radios and suchlike in the area, but it’s all under control now. You’d believe Christopher Lee if he told you that, would’t you?

Well, it turns out the professor has made the elementary mistake of constructing his lifelike android replicas with an irresistible desire to supplant their creator and conquer the world (it’s surprising how often this happens). Stone and various other members of his team have already been replaced and it’s up to Steed and Emma to stop the duplicates from taking over the country. I probably don’t have to mention that this is a Philip Levene script.

Well, you know, it’s hardly the most plausible of premises for a story, nor is it especially original, but it’s good fun and, perhaps, somewhat influential (mash up the idea of malevolent perfect duplicates with the blank-faced boiler-suited walking weapons of Levene’s The Cybernauts and you get a pretty good approximation of the premise of the first colour story from the BBC’s most enduring fantasy series). And I feel one really has no grounds for complaint when a story features Patrick Macnee, Diana Rigg and Christopher Lee all in the same episode: talent, skill and charisma almost overflows the screen. (Lee and Macnee ended up playing a geriatric Holmes and Watson in a mini-series made a quarter of a century later). Could one have hoped for something a bit more special? Well, maybe, but as it stands the episode is still extremely entertaining.

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