Once again, keep in mind that in my initial post, I wrote "allegedly", so I took that statement with a large grain of salt. I also provided links to sites that made the claim. I had my doubts, but yes, it IS an interesting story.
Diana Rigg will always be remembered as Emma Peel, her Shakespearean aspirations or whatever else be damned. That's more than a lot of better actors can claim.
Sorry about skipping your "allegedly".... after all these years I have read many stories about that episode, and Rigg even mentioned on the bonus disc holding the snake all day and being warned it might pee on her, but that was it. I won't take away from "Dame Diana's" theatre accomplishments... I adored her in "The Assassination Bureau" and "In This House of Brede" but none of her other films captured my interest. I really hate "The Hospital" which she claims is her best performance. But Emma Peel has brought me much joy these past 40 years...
An Early Version of the George Lazenby Curse Department:
Linda Thorsen’s insurmountable problem (aside from those with the PTB) was in having the terrible timing and dastardly fate of following An Impossible Act(tress) …
She’s always gotten the most unfortunate reception
when, fact of the matter is, she ain’t half bad with her own charm and gamefulness in tackling all that was tossed her way.
Then again, those of us riveted on that night in 1965 when this episode brought Steed and Mrs. Peel so unforgettably to Amurrican audiences, it’s an experience wayyy up there in the Most Unforgettable Status – and the thrilling, nail-biting ending STILL remains classic:
As for the world-class gentleman that’s
BillyBard, we’re gonna post some of our interview (replete with an absolutely lovely Laurence Olivier story re the latter’s admiration of Pat!) with him anon when we spent a super afternoon in the Beverly Wilshire dining room with him – it ranks up there in our Most Unforgettable Moments EVER.
As to that, if you’ve never heard this delightful little dittie, have a listen.
Another allusion: The villain in the X-men arc is named Jason Wyngarde, a nod to Peter Wyngarde's TV show "Jason King."
Yes, of course! I'd read that in THE X-MEN COMPANION, published in 1982 or so and artist John Byrne mentioned that. I've always enjoyed the dashing scoundrel that was Jason Wyngarde and it would be twenty-five years before I would see Peter Wyngarde's fantastic performance in "Brimstone." Having re-read the "Dark Phoenix" storyline this past Summer, I am once again reminded of what a fine likeness the Byrne-Claremont Wyngarde truly is, as seen in the AVENGERS. Make sense?
Two decades ago, I discovered the black and white era of Emma Peel: marvelous and very Film Noir-oriented. Find the three masterpieces for that B&W era: "The Hour That Never Was" "A Touch of Brimstone" "The House That Jack Built"
And one decade ago, I discovered the Cathy Gale era but I was not amazed.
I feel that the monochrome filmed series of "The Avengers" represents this television program at its zenith. It retained some of the qualities of the previous video-taped seasons' emphasis on dialogue and characterizations and clever plots, and improved upon them with cinema-quality photography and more impressive (or less limited) direction than the Cathy Gale seasons could attain within their tape technology at the time. Nevertheless, I also think that allowing Brian Clemens (who was a regular script contributor for this show during the prior seasons) too much control, as a script editor/associate producer, in this series' content sowed the seeds for "The Avengers"'s eventual downfall into the pop-art silliness, a trait for which this show seems to be remembered by most. During this program's 3rd season (the 2nd year with Honor Blackman and the last year of video-tape usage), every half-dozen shows appears to have been written by a cycle of regular script writers:
When the popularity of these Cathy Gale episodes was significant enough for this series to be marketed to the USA for network broadcast, the switch from video-tape to film became a requirement. A new production team was assembled for "The Avengers" with experience in film work and filmed TV. This team ultimately selected Brian Clemens, as he was not only one the regular writers, but had, even before the commencement of "The Avengers", written scripts for films. Half of the regular writers from the taped season 3 were commissioned 1 script apiece for the monochrome filmed series, starring Diana Rigg:
"The Grave-diggers" by Malcolm Hulke
"Castle De'ath" by John Lucarotti
"A Sense Of History" by Martin Woodhouse
These men never contributed further to the program, plus Eric Paice never even wrote 1 show for Emma Peel. Only one of the writers along with Brian Clemens became a regular scribe for the monochrome film series: Roger Marshall. But Roger Marshall's days were also numbered when "The Avengers" transitioned to color film, as Marshall disagreed with Clemens regarding the stylistic direction into which "The Avengers" was entering. It would seem that Brian Clemens was becoming something of a one-man-band after getting approval from offices above regarding the content, and no longer commissioned scripts from the "old hands". Clemens could not write every single segment on his own, so his partner-in-crime became Philip Levene. Levene, the man who gave us "The Cybernauts" and man-eating plants from space during the Black-and-White filmed season, began to function as Clemens' go-to-man for outlandish ideas which resonated with Clemens' own sensibilities at the time. This, in my opinion, made "The Avengers" take a turn for the worse into unbelievable fantasy worlds and outrageous villainy - comic book stuff, not at all like the program's origins. "The Avengers" was at its highest quality during the earliest 5 episodes to be shot on film by Gerry Turpin:
"The Murder Market" by Tony Williamson (his first script, and it's very good)
"The Master Minds" by Robert Banks Stewart (his first script, very good also)
"Dial A Deadly Number" is Roger Marshall's finest hour, superbly directed by Don Leaver
"Death At Bargain Prices" is Brian Clemens at the top of his form
"Too Many Christmas Trees" another winner by Tony Williamson (perhaps my favorite of all)
After this, Gerry Turpin left the series, and Philip Levene entered with "The Cybernauts", an overall good segment, but, alas, one which started an unfortunate trend later in the series. There's still plenty great stories, though: Robert Banks Stewart's "Quick-Quick-Slow-Death" and "A Sense Of History" by Martin Woodhouse, for instance. It wasn't until Terry Nation started writing for "The Avengers" and became its script editor during Linda Thorson's Tara King season that the cinematic quality resumed on some of the episodes, such as "Legacy Of Death", "Take Me To Your Leader", "Stay Tuned", "Thing-u-ma-jig", & "Take Over"...
While I'm certain that those who followed "Avengers" from the beginning in the Ian Hendry and then Honor Blackman period would view the show as descending into silliness in the same way that I rue that trend for a show like "Voyage To The Bottom Of The Sea", I think for most people whose exposure begins with Diana Rigg can never quite see it that way. Ultimately, for someone like myself the greatness of "Avengers" is the Steed-Emma pairing and their magnificent on-screen chemistry that makes the stories, outlandish and serious ultimately somewhat secondary to the proceedings.
"The House That Jack Built" is probably the one exception for me in terms of an episode I enjoy based on a gripping story and atmosphere and where the Steed/Emma byplay doesn't factor in at all.
The Murder Market is an excellent episode and it's hard to believe that it's Diana's first go 'round, as she seems right in character with the exception of her slamming her hand down on Steed's toy soldier table.
As for the villains, Patrick Cargill was brilliant!
With The Peel-era Avengers, I sometimes get the feeling that the rest of the "Swingin' '60s" is happening just off camera and that the show is a part of the whole "scene" of the time. I'm sure I'm just romanticizing the time but somehow the strains of Sgt. Pepper's and the sights of Carnaby Street are vivid in my mind.