The Avengers: Epic (1967)

Country: United Kingdom
Director: James Hill
Starring: Diana Rigg, Patrick Macnee, Peter Wyngarde, Isa Miranda, Kenneth J. Warren, David Lodge, Anthony Dawes
Music: Laurie Johnson

Epic is a bizarre little episode in The Avengers. Although there is a simple plot, the way it unfolds is not very linear and confusing. It’s meant to be that way. We are on a journey with Emma Peel (Diana Rigg) and really we don’t know where it is going. But let me start from the beginning.

The episode opens in the film studios of a famous film producer and director, Z.Z. Von Schnerk (Kenneth J. Warren). With him are actors, Stewart Kirby (Peter Wyngarde) and Damita Syn (Isa Miranda). They are auditioning an actor for a role in a film. They decide that the auditionee has what it takes for the role, so Kirby pulls a gun and shoots the man dead. You see the role is that of a corpse.

Next Von Schnerk needs a leading lady for his film, and after a secret screen test, he chooses Emma Peel. To get her to the studio, Kirby disables her car, and when she goes to use it, he just happens by in a taxi. Emma gets intoi the back of the cab, and for her trouble is gassed and passes out. When she wakes, she is on a film set in what looks like a lounge room. As she investigates her strange surroundings she moves from one set – and one set-piece at a time.

Firstly she strolls past a church where she is invited to ‘the wedding of Emma Peel’. From a hilltop, dressed as a priest, Kirby calls to her. She walks up the hill, only at the last second, to be pushed down the other side, where she rolls down to a funeral service. Her name is written on the coffin, and each of the tombstones in the cemetary has her name too.

Next she is in ancient Rome and has to do battle with Kirby, who is now a Legionnaire. The variations and sets continue. We have the wild west, incorporating a shootout in a saloon; then World War I, with Kirby as a German soldier in the trenches; and Emma is even attacked by a red Indian. All the while, as these strange scenes go on. Hiding in the wings is Von Schnerk, and he is filming everthing that Emma does for his latest movie.

The film that Von Schnerk is making is called The Destruction of Emma Peel. Why he wants to destroy Emma is never really explained, but I guess it doesn’t really matter. This is one wild ride and is not really meant as a cohesive an linear tale. It’s one strange and slightly surreal set-piece after another. As an episode of The Avengers, it must be considered one of the silliest, but at the same time it is very enjoyable and showcases both Diana Rigs’s brand of iconic sixties cool and Peter Wyngarde’s brand of sixties excess. They compliment each other.

Naturally Steed comes to the rescue just in the nick of time as Emma is on a conveyor belt, heading towards a spinning saw blade. There are a few more gags to round out the episode – because this is a comedy, and then we can be on our merry way – it’s over.

As I mentioned at the outset, this is a strange little episode. Added to the mayhem described above there are some crude sight gags like a ‘meanwhile back at the ranch’ inter-title, and even a scene where Emma imitates the MGM roaring lion logo. These only serve to heighten the sense that what we are seeing is not real…it’s all smoke and mirrors, much like the movie industry.

The screencaps used in this post have been taken from the website Hellfire Hall: A tribute to Peter Wyngarde. Youtube clip posted by Yovant7.

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