- Episode aired Jan 20, 1969
A foreign agent in the guise of a Colonel Mannering has found an ingenious method of extracting secret information from British agents.A foreign agent in the guise of a Colonel Mannering has found an ingenious method of extracting secret information from British agents.A foreign agent in the guise of a Colonel Mannering has found an ingenious method of extracting secret information from British agents.
The narrative kicks off with an incident that is a clear nod to John Frankenheimer's classic Cold War parable, THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE (1962): an Army Intelligence officer ostensibly visiting the barracks' dentist finds himself at the mercy of Col. Mannering (Lee), his sadistic Chinese sidekick and assorted vicious henchmen. Lee's intent is that his victim reveal the identity of his contacts which are duly eliminated. Amusingly, the torture – naturally conducted in a dentist's chair – is briefly interrupted for a spot of tea, to which even the oddly relaxed officer is graciously invited! The latter's two contacts turn out to be an archery enthusiast (who, appropriately enough, lands an arrow in his back) and a one-man-band entertainer donning a clown's outfit that is felled by a sniper in a landfill!!
As it happens, all 3 men are known to John Steed (Patrick Macnee) and his rotund superior "Mother" and they suspect that a close associate of the first victim will be Lee's next target – which is indeed what transpires. Eventually, more Army personnel are abducted and/or murdered – a state of affairs that necessitates Steed's partner at that point in time, Tara King (Linda Thorson), to visit the scenes of the various crimes and get herself in harm's way i.e. sitting for a Test of Human Endurance held in a fully-equipped country manor. This leads to one of the surviving young officers being uncooperative towards Steed's own interrogation by continuously coming up with excuses to explain away his bruised facial features and ends up getting trashed within an inch of his life by the usually composed Avenger!
Although it is never revealed who it is that Lee is working for or whom he is supposed to be impersonating, the episode succeeds by virtue of its clever juxtaposition of the above-mentioned grim torture scenes and colourful characters and surroundings: Steed and "Mother" always convene in a glass house a' la Howard Hawks' THE BIG SLEEP (1946), etc. The story ends with Steed "interrogating" King about the ingredients of the soup they are having for dinner! As had been the case with the other episode of THE AVENGERS I had watched the other day as part of my ongoing Christopher Lee tribute, this was viewed via a fogged print on "You Tube" but, luckily, I have just managed to score a copy of all existing episodes of the series from ulterior sources!
- Jun 24, 2015