Thursday, May 31, 2012

The REAL Avengers (to me)

This isn't the first time that I'm about to show my age or come off as a curmudgeon, nor will it be the last.

So it should come as no surprise that when I tell you my first thoughts when I hear "The Avengers" are not about comic book super heroes.

In fact, I can't wrap my mind around associating "The Avengers" with anything other than a derby-wearing Brit and his slinky female, crime fighting partner.

They made another movie called "The Avengers" back in 1998, starring Ralph Fiennes and Uma Thurman, but that is also not what I think of when I see or hear the A-word.

I'm about to tell you a story that isn't about box office records or men who turn green when angry or a red, white and blue-clad man who carries a shield.

It's not based on comic books and it has no traces of Robert Downey, Jr.

This is the story of that British-produced TV series of the 1960s starring Patrick MacNee and a trio of lovelies: Honor Blackman, Diana Rigg and Linda Thorson. A later version teamed MacNee and Gareth Hunt with Joanna Lumley.

"The Avengers" that I know fascinated me as a child, for much the same reason that it does so now, when I catch it on reruns: the eery lack of supporting characters or extras.

"The Avengers," British TV version, featured MacNee as John Steed and one of the aforementioned ladies as Cathy Gale (Blackman); Emma Peel (Rigg); and Tara King (Thorson). The pair fought crime, not with guns or special powers, but with an umbrella (Steed) and martial arts (female partner).

It was unclear who Steed and lovely worked for, really. But it didn't matter. Each episode started with MacNee notifying his lady partner in some way, shape or form that "We are needed."



Patrick MacNee with the second of his three original partners, Diana Rigg
 

The bad guys were typically white collar criminals who dabbled in such things as murder, world dominance or mind control. There was a lot of experimenting by mad scientists.

The Avengers that I know infiltrated, got caught and placed in peril (usually the female half), and were saved by their partner. There was way more hand-to-hand combat than there was shooting.

But as I mentioned before, the sets and exterior shots were so devoid of film extras and secondary characters that it made The Avengers' world surreal and borderline creepy. There were so few actors playing opposite MacNee et al that it seemed like the Avengers were among the last living people remaining on Earth.

I don't know if that was the effect that the producers were shooting for, or if they were just cheap or under a strict budget. But regardless, it worked---for me, anyway.

MacNee's Steed was debonair and dashing and almost unflappable. Nothing got him too excited or worried. He fought crime with a smirk and with hubris. Those were his gun and knife.

His female partner was sexy, of course, but even though she often got caught snooping, she was no dummy. And sometimes she kicked the baddies' butts with karate and judo.

The Avengers on the small screen with its lack of extras and fancy shmancy camera moves was like watching a story in a vacuum. The bad guys were often demented or, at the very least, just plain weird. And Steed and his accomplice reported to no one but themselves.

That is The Avengers that I know and love.

No, I won't see that movie that's out now and setting all sorts of records. They can never be, to me, the REAL Avengers.

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