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A&E Home Video presents
The Avengers '63—Set 2, Volume 3 (1963)

"I think it's time I threw myself to the lions."
- Mrs. Cathy Gale (Honor Blackman) in The Grandeur That Was Rome

Review By: Zark Plummer   
Published: September 26, 2000

Stars: Patrick Macnee, Honor Blackman
Director: various

Manufacturer: New Video Group
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Run Time: approx. 01h:36m:00s
Release Date: October 03, 2000
UPC: 733961700794
Genre: television

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
C+ CD+D+ D-

DVD Review

I can remember watching The Avengers some number of years ago on TV, but they were all the later episodes, the ones that featured Diana Rigg as Emma Peel. I didn't even know the show had existed before this and that Mrs. Peel wasn't in them. So when I was asked to review this set, I was intrigued: here was something completely different—Honor Blackman as Mrs. Cathy Gale (why is it always Mrs.? Must be a sixties morals thing....) opposite the intrepid Mr. Steed. I certainly liked the show before, how different could this be? I had no idea...

The three episodes on this disc are all black and white. They were also shot on videotape, not film. The entire thing feels more like watching a live stage play than a television show. There are numerous clues that this was an extremely low budget production, including mistakes that were left in that ordinarily would have been reshot. If you watch this expecting the polish and pizzazz of the later episodes, it's likely to be a bit of a shock.

Second Sight
Recorded: 11 October 1963
Aired (UK): 16 November 1963
Director: Peter Hammond

"The outlook at the moment is distinctly threatening"
-Mrs. Gale

Steed and Mrs. Gale infiltrate the Mount Blik clinic where a Mr. Halverson is sponsoring a corneal transplant. The problem is, the donor is still alive. Mrs. Gale discovers that the original donor IS dead, and that the stand-in donor isn't donating anything— he has killed a doctor that Steed had called in for his professional opinion. It turns out that it's all a cover for a diamond smuggling operation—and a double-cross at that—as Halverson's cohorts switch the real diamonds with fakes and try to kill Halverson, Steed and Mrs. Gale. Naturally, their plot comes to naught.

I'd say two-and-a-half libations for this episode.

The Medicine Men
Recorded: 8 November 1963
Aired (UK): 23 November 1963
Director: Kim Mills

"See you at the 19th [hole]"
-Mrs. Gale

This opens with a young woman being smothered in a Turkish bath. This sets Steed and Mrs. Gale off to investigate imitation medications. Steed uncovers a plot to sell poison that's labeled as stomach powder made by an English company, in order to sway a pro-British Middle Eastern oil country to sell their oil concession to someone other than England. Of course, an insider in the pharmaceutical company is supplying the labels, but it's not made clear just who the head of the counterfeiters is (at least not to me). Our intrepid duo manages to foil the culprits rather nicely and finish up with a round of golf.

Despite a small plot hole, this episode rates two-and-a-half libations.

The Grandeur That Was Rome
Recorded: 19 July 1963
Aired (UK): 30 November 1963
Director: Kim Mills

"Someday my prints will come."

A man who wants to be the leader of a new Roman Empire has been slowly spreading tainted fertilizers and animal feed around the world to cause crop failures and livestock poisoning. Now he wants to reintroduce the bubonic plague and kill off the population, except for his loyal minions, who have been given the vaccine he has developed. He turns out to be the chairman of United Foods and Dressing - a fertilizer, feed and pesticide company. Steed and Mrs. Gale infiltrate UFD and discover the plot in time to put a stop to it. Watch for the cameraman to nearly fall over something while backing up 40m:18s into the show, it's good for an unintended laugh!

Because this episode contains a plot hole big enough to drive a lorry through, it receives only a one-and-a-half libations rating.

This is almost like watching a different show. The character interactions between Steed and Mrs. Gale are there and work, but the whole tone of the show is much more deadpan than the later versions. Even the theme music is different.

Rating for Style: C+
Rating for Substance: C


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review:
There were numerous times where I felt I wasn't wearing my glasses, the image was so unfocused. It was extremely disconcerting to watch this disc and see shots where everything was slightly blurry. I suppose that it's due to the fact this was shot on videotape rather than film, but it's almost as though someone had smeared Vaseline on the lens too. Other than that, I thought the image quality to be good. I saw no artifacts of any kind, and no problems with either contrasts or image brightness.

Image Transfer Grade: D+


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access

Audio Transfer Review:
Most of the audio has a muffled quality to it, except for the opening theme music, which was very harsh and tinny. All qualities of having low-budget sound recording equipment as well as low-budget video equipment are present. Given the quality of the source, I doubt much could have been done to improve the quality of the transfer; after all, one can't add what wasn't there to begin with.

Audio Transfer Grade: D+


Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Scene Access with 25 cues and remote access
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual
Layers Switch: 24m:38s into The Medicine Men

Extra Extras:
  1. Production stills
Extras Review: The extras consist of half-a-dozen production stills, none of which are even half-screen in size, but the latter two are in color. Too bad the production itself wasn't.

Extras Grade: D-


Final Comments

This is only for die-hard fans of the show. Casual viewers need not apply, except for the extremely curious.


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