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A&E Home Video presents
The Avengers '64 —Set 1, Volume 2 (1964)

"Yes, I want to buy a present for a friend; I think a liqueur. Some people have lamentably bizarre tastes and actually prefer them to cognac."
- John Steed (Patrick Macnee)

Review By: Mark Zimmer   
Published: April 30, 2000

Stars: Patrick Macnee, Honor Blackman
Director: various

Manufacturer: New Video Group
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Run Time: 02h:32m:01s
Release Date: March 28, 2000
UPC: 733961700701
Genre: television

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer

DVD Review

This disc gives us three more episodes of the second season of the Cathy Gale (Honor Blackman) version of the British television program The Avengers. They originally aired on the BBC in late January and February, 1964. These episodes are fairly late in the run and show both the trademark humor and character interaction beloved by fans of the series to good effect. The episode Mandrake is, in my opinion, one of the best of the Gale programs. All three episodes feature Honor Blackman kicking various men around while she is clad in black leather; the kinky sexual subtext is hardly subtle, but neither is it explicit or too unseemly.

Mandrake features a stylish opening in a Cornish cemetery as Steed (Patrick Macnee) investigates the mysterious deaths of various wealthy men, all of whom are buried in an otherwise abandoned churchyard in Cornwall. Mrs. Gale also makes inquiries that lead to a suspenseful climax as the culprits are undone by their own greed. Steed gets to use his umbrella in combat to a greater extent than in hardly any other episode of the entire series.

This episode rated 4 out of 5 libations.

The Secrets Broker involves the interplay of a blackmail ring, a mysterious wine dealer that seems to be connected to theft of military secrets, and a phony medium who preys upon the gullible.

4 out of 5.

Trojan Horse (listed as The Trojan Horse on the package) features an assassination ring operating out of a horse stable. Steed pretends to be guarding a sultan's horse at the stable while investigating who is the guilty party, and what their motives might be. This episode features some extremely arty camera angles quite unusual for television of the period, shooting a dinner conversation between Mrs. Gale and the head bookmaker, Heuston (T.P. McKenna), through brandy snifters on the table.

Rated 4 out of 5.
These episodes are rather above average, without delving too deeply into camp as the series tended to do later on.

Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: A


Image Transfer

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

Image Transfer Review: Unfortunately, this season of The Avengers does not exist on film, but only videotape. The resultant quality of both video and audio is thus about on par with a bad kinescope. The picture is overly contrasty, smeary and blurry, and looks like a poor VHS. There are many motion artifacts and the picture will be unbearable on a large screen.

Mandrake is particularly smeary and contains frequent video dropouts, no doubt a sign of overduplication from the master. The Secrets Broker also displays occasional jitter.

The problems with the video don't appear to be due to the transfer, since a high bit rate around 8 Mbps is used. If it weren't for the fact that the source material is obviously so poor, this would rate an "F" grade. Given the limitations of the source, we'll be charitable and give it a "D."

Image Transfer Grade: D


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access

Audio Transfer Review: The sound throughout is a tinny two-channel mono. Voices sound canned and distorted. The program was clearly shot under nearly live circumstances, for the tape doesn't stop in the several occasions where the principal stars quite obviously muff their lines.

All of the foregoing would be acceptable given the flawed original materials, if it weren't for the fact that Mandrake has clearly been time-compressed. Looking at the timings, this may be a problem with the master as well, but the dialogue seems pitched far too high and goes by so quickly in this episode that it is extremely difficult to understand. It would have been nice to slow this episode down slightly to a reasonable speed, even if it didn't actually reflect broadcast conditions. Trojan Horse shows evidence of similar time compression, although not quite as severe as that in Mandrake. The other episode doesn't display any obvious time-compression of this kind. Trojan Horse has a rather muffled soundtrack, particularly at the beginning.

Both the first and last episodes have a low background hum which is rather irritating. While not spectacular in any way, the sound in the Cornish church in Mandrake is suitably cavernous-sounding and makes for a nice distinction in setting.

Audio Transfer Grade: D


Disc Extras

Static menu with music
Scene Access with 26 cues and remote access
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual
Layers Switch: 01h:16m:48s

Extra Extras:
  1. Production stills
Extras Review: The sole extra is a set of six unexceptional stills, two from each episode. As always in this set, the stills are presented rather small on the screen, covering less than a third of it. The lack of subtitles makes the language all that more difficult for those of us in the colonies. The layer switch occurs at 25m:38s of The Secrets Broker.

Extras Grade: D


Final Comments

These classic episodes of The Avengersare unfortunately hampered very badly by the quality of their source materials. The time-compression makes several episodes difficult to follow, and the picture quality is nothing less than abominable. Alas, these programs will probably never be available in any better format.


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