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A&E Home Video presents
The Avengers '66—Set 1, Volume 1 (1966)

"They need to take more time to suspend disbelief."
- Punch, 5 January 1966

Review By: debi lee mandel   
Published: April 21, 2000

Stars: Patrick Macnee, (Dame) Diana Rigg
Director: Various (see below)

Manufacturer: DVCC
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Run Time: approx.170 min total
Release Date: August 31, 1999
UPC: 733961700367
Genre: television

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer

DVD Review

For overall series review, click here.

'66 Set 1, Volume 1
3 episodes:

Silent Dust
Steed watches birds—and Emma goes hunting

US Airdate: Not in original US schedule
Director: Roy Baker

"Ah...I like a wine that fights back." - Steed

Martlets are missing from the skies above Dorset. This time our duo is lured into the counties when it is discovered that a chemical pesticide, Silent Dust, is killing the flora & fauna of the quiet English countryside. Of course, dead people turn up here and there as well, as they row and ride their way in pursuit of their foe.

After being out-foxed at the hunt, a presumably injured Steed has another bizarre dream that outlines the clues for him but left me in a haze. Miraculously healed a bit later that day, they take part in an actual foxhunt in proper British form - complete with animal rights protesters, a nice touch I personally appreciated. This hunt sort of ends, goes nowhere. Ah—but then there is yet another hunt, this time Mrs. Peel is the prey.

This is one of the poorest episodes in my recollection: weak writing, uninteresting dialogue, and slow, painful storytelling. It only gets fun near the end when Steed comes to Emma's rescue on a white horse and saves the day, but not the plot.

Libations: Steed: 1 glass of rosé, a swig of whiskey; ditto for Emma—a poor showing indeed. This one left me thirsty: 1-1/2 libations.

Room without a View
Steed becomes a gourmet--and Emma awakes in Manchuria

US Airdate: 27 June 1966
Director: Roy Baker

"I'll sign for her later." - Steed

Another "Holy-disappearing-scientists!" episode. This one begins with the sudden re-appearance of a physicist gone missing, who attempts to strangle his Chinese-born wife on sight instead of a simple "Honey, I'm home...". Steed and Mrs. Peel are called in, along with a by-the-book fellow agent, the nebbische Varnals, as it is discovered that the returned scientist has been brain-washed and seems to have cracked under torture and given up important secrets. No sooner than serving his purpose in beginning our adventure, he is mysteriously kidnapped, again, this time in the back of a chinese laundry truck.

To say "Chinese" is a bit embarrassing - there appears to be only one actual Asian actor although several are seemingly so, and Steed makes a shuddering remark about "chop suey". But he also delivers a truly shuddering description of a Manchurian Prison camp, leaving us to believe he may have experienced this terrible place firsthand. Bravo, for that, but that's about it for this one.

You may note by the weak quote I chose that the usual wit and repartee is missing from this story. Our terrific trio (!) heads for the Chessman Hotel, a swank London establishment that holds the key to this boorish mystery. The only real fun here is the proprietor, an ambitious, self-proclaimed "fat man" who likes to watch others eat indescribable feasts (his doctor has his diet torturously restricted). Steed poses as "Mr. Gourmet" and indulges poor Mr. Chessman by consuming more than his share of gastronomic delights while his host looks on.

Overall, there are too many twists, clichés and gaping holes in this plot for it to win an place on any "best of" list...may well rank more fittingly on Mr. Blackman's list.

Libations: More tippling might have saved the day..."sigh": Steed: oolong, 3 coffees (1 espresso), brandy, 3 unnamed glasses; Emma: oolong, 1 coffee, a brandy, one unknown drink through a straw. I'd be embarassed to raise my glass more than twice.

Small Game for Big Hunters
Steed joins the natives--and Emma gets the evil eye

US Airdate: 4 April 1966
Director: Gerry O'Hara

Proprietor: "Do much shooting, sir?"
Steed: "On occasions...."

When a farmhand is found comatose with an uncommonly good tan and dressed for the jungle, just 23 miles from London, he rightfully arouses the attention of a local doctor. Mrs. Peel meets Steed on the scene in Hertfordshire and the game is on.

Perhaps equally unexpected in the quiet shire is Emma's best couture to-date, arriving in a terribly 60's combo: dark halter top and wide-belted, topped by an impossibly shiny vinyl car coat, white beret and two-toned gloves I'd kill for.... And for you chaps who stayed with me through that, her standard fight scene at the finale is your reward: earning her "M-Appeal", we are treated to a brief wisp of sarong that actually allows cleavage as she poses this way and that - o, my! Mrs. Peel...!

The plot evolves as Emma attempts to nurse the victim while Steed goes on safari ­ there are the usual over-the-top characters, some grand-scale scheming and best of all, a least-likely villain. Revenge of the ousted conquerors—nothing like a bit of nasty politics to bring out our savvy savages to right the world again.

Note to continuity editor: Puleeeeeeez! In the final struggle for the gun, whose stunt double is whose, and who is wearing whose clothes???? And—wherever did that sheathed knife come from?

Libations: Steed: A couple of brandies with a touch of soda and a coffee; Emma tea-totals with a single cuppa. 2 libations from me.

Rating for Style: C+
Rating for Substance: C


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Framena - na
Original Aspect Ratioyesno

Image Transfer Review: There are still no real problems on this disc. I noticed no obvious artifacts or pixelation. There are no hard blacks or bright washouts, just a comfortable range of greys that is easy on the eyes and does not distract in any way from the action. Included in this 1966 set are 13 episodes in black & white, all of them crisp and clean as the original film format My only real complaint is the original title sequence, "The Age of Elegance", is a bit soft, which might be a result of the original production.

Image Transfer Grade: A


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
PCMEnglish, Monoyes

Audio Transfer Review: My complaint continues to be only the original title sequence, "The Age of Elegance": it has that annoying raise in volume TV productions seem to have by default. But the theme itself has always been stunning, an icon of the era, and the music chosen for individual episodes is, in most cases, equal to the scenes they underscore. From the comedic scenes to the height of suspense, the tracks are almost always right on.

Audio Transfer Grade: B


Disc Extras

Static menu with music
Scene Access with 27 cues and remote access
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. Production Stills Gallery
  2. Web Site Promo
Extras Review: The menus were obviously considered in the overall package design, a sort of 60's mod use of abstraction and color, a nice touch for that retro look. The extras consist of a gallery of stills from individual episodes included on each disc, but they're only about 1/4 of the screen. I would prefer them larger, perhaps as much as full screen to truly enjoy them. Every disc also has a menu link to A&E's "www.originalavengers.com", a good marketing move but poorly executed - why not give us a real taste of what's in store for us there? And - are there ever enough chapters? These would be easier to navigate with a few more choices within a few less clicks.

Extras Grade: C


Final Comments

This particular disc is not a big favorite. The episodes are relatively dull and boorish, not the best in the series by any stretch.

If one is picking and choosing instead of purchasing by the set, save your money on this one.

I barely raise my glass to the one.


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