Tuesday, 24 April 2018

The Adventurer (1972) Episode 8: The Bradley Way


This episode of The Adventurer has something of a ‘ladies night’ feel to it, with Gene obviously feeling that his female fans were in need of a treat. A decision that manifests itself in Gene coming over all Chippendale and spending a fair amount of this episode stripped down to his underwear. Remember that wigged out period that Kirk Douglas went through? where he seemingly wouldn’t touch a role unless it required him to do nudity and be partnered up with a significantly younger actress (circa Saturn 3 and Holocaust 2000). Gene looks to have gone through a similar episode during this Adventurer outing. I believe the expression I’m looking for is ‘mid-life crisis’.

Wasting no time in giving his female fans what they want, The Bradley Way opens with Gene working up a sweat in his sauna, followed by a cold shower. All the while being pestered by Mr Parminter,who follows him around like a love sick puppy. On a personal note, all the tanned flesh that is on display in this opening scene did serve to remind me that I needed to pick up some BBQ chicken that day…so as they say, every cloud has a silver lining.



After roughing it in Bavaria the week before in order to rescue an elderly scientist, The Bradley Way requires Gene to do more of the same, albeit in the more familiar and inviting destination of Nice. Once again the Gene Genie is doing his bit for help the aged by coming to the aid of General Schlessen (Norman Caro) a former NATO bigwig, currently in poor health and being cared for by Dr Kerston (Anthony Ainley), under the watchful eye of Nurse Gerda Hoffman (Joanna Dunham).

Natch’ Hoffman is a Russian agent, who is blackmailing Kerston into working for her and forcing him to inject Schlessen with a truth drug. As you might expect from all the kit-offery he gets up to in this episode, The Bradley Way is based around the idea of Gene being God’s gift to women with the effortless power to evoke the green eyed monster in his fellow man. A talent put to use in this episode on Virginia (Janet Key), a former co-star of Gene’s, and currently the trophy wife of wealthy businessman Werner Von Beck (Richard Marner). Gene’s plan is to drive Von Beck up the wall with jealousy by planting the seed of suspicion in Von Beck’s mind that Virginia is having an affair with Dr Kerston. This is intended to cause friction between Von Beck and Kerston, who up until Gene’s arrival had been close allies, with Von Beck allowing Kerston to treat Schlessen on board Von Beck’s yacht.

Life is never simple in Adventurer land, and this is a series that frequently wrestles with cluttered and over complicated plots. At the heart of the problem seems to be that The Adventurer was the work of people more accustomed to shooting shows intended for one hour time slots. Suddenly having to compress storylines that realistically needed an hour to fully make sense into half an hour scripts is an issue that haunts both The Adventurer and The Protectors. The scripts of both these shows are the equivalent of trying to pack your entire wardrobe into one suitcase. Try hard enough and you might just be able to cram anything you want in there, but the end result is still going to be pretty messy, disorganised and confusing.

There is a surprise moment in this episode where Gene takes a look at a film script and admits “it’ll never replace James Bond”. Which plays like a winking admission of this show’s own failings. After this self-deprecating gesture though this episode then does a defensive 180% turn and insists that while The Adventurer isn’t worthy of comparison with James Bond it is however worthy of comparison with the work of William Shakespeare. Namely ‘Othello’ which this episode is keen to invite comparisons to, with Von Beck as the Othello figure, Virginia as Desdemona and Gene as Iago. Admittedly The Bradley Way is a rather unorthodox take on Othello, one in which Othello is a minor character and Iago is the good guy whose poisoning of Othello’s mind against Desdemona is essential in order to defeat the forces of communism. Still you have to admit that The Adventurer sure has mighty big balls when it comes to so blatantly pilfering from Shakespeare and all but flaunting the fact.

Maybe this aspect was more subtle in the original script, but Gene looks to have taken this as his cue to prove his untapped worth as a Shakespearian actor and is soon walking around Von Beck’s yacht reciting whole passages from Othello. Irregardless of how illogical it would be for someone on a secret mission to poison a husband’s mind against his wife to go around liberally quoting from a world famous play, in which a husband’s mind is poisoned against his wife. Shakespeare scholars throughout the land would be wise to stuff their ears with cotton wool at these points, leaving the rest of us to be driven deaf by the sound of The Bard rolling about in his grave. Say what you will about Gene, but when it comes to showing off he rarely misses an opportunity. Throw some ITC money his way and he is happy to strip, recite Shakespeare and since there is a party on the yacht…music…drink and women to impress in this episode we also get…. GENE, GENE…THE DANCING MACHINE!!!




How do you even begin to describe Gene’s dancing? If I had to put a name to his dancing style I’d have to call it ‘The Marionette’. It honestly looks like Gerry Anderson is working him at times. If The Adventurer ever makes it to Blu-Ray one day I wouldn’t be at all surprised if we’re able to spot the strings. Much to Gene’s no doubt chagrin he has to share Adventuring duties in this episode with Diane and yet another brand new male assistant in the form of Brett (Warren Stanhope). Now, I have to confess that it had completely slipped my mind that The Adventurer went through four different male assistants. By rights Brett should leave more of an impression than he does, since he is significantly different than what has gone before. Brett being stocky, close to Gene in age and Canadian. Brett is also the first of the Adventurer gang to really take one for the team (getting badly beaten up by Nurse Hoffman’s thugs early on) yet for all this he is the least memorable of The Adventurer’s ever revolving door of male assistants.

Fortunately Catherine Schell isn’t as wasted in this episode as other Adventurer outings of late, and I can’t help wondering if the arrival of Val Guest into the director’s chair was a factor in this. After all, Guest’s career was never blind to the appeal of female glamour, most famously in Hammer’s fur bikini fest ‘When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth’ and more recently in 1972’s ‘Au Pair Girls’ (which proved a rich source of female talent for The Adventurer). As someone, probably Robin Askwith, once said “crumpet was Val’s hobby”. Therefore give Val Guest a camera and ask whether he wants it pointing in the direction of Gene or Catherine Schell, and it is no real surprise that Guest’s Adventurer episodes tend to be more ‘Team Catherine’ than ‘Team Gene’.



Guest’s eye for the ladies does result in this episode having a resurgence of interest in the Diane Marsh character. She shows up in several scenes with Gene here (which neither party seems too pleased about) and even gets her own subplot which requires her to go undercover as a nurse, before Gene retakes the show’s reins for its big set piece. One that sees Kerston and Hoffman follow an ambulance taking Schlessen to hospital, only to lose him when Gene and Brett show up in identical ambulances and confuse them over which of the three ambulances contains Schlessen. A kind of high speed chase equivalent of the magicians’ ‘cups and balls’ routine, but rather than it being a case of which cup is the ball under, it’s a case of which ambulance is the retired NATO general in. Feel free to play along at home.

I must admit that until I stated revisiting The Adventurer for these blog posts, I hadn’t realised just how preoccupied with the spread communism the series is. Something which feels out of place for the 1970s, with ‘red scare’ obsessions in films and TV being more synonymous with the 1950s McCarthy era or commie bashing 1980s actioners like Invasion USA and Red Dawn. The landscape of The Adventurer is one of paranoia, with Europe depicted as being awash with Russian agents who have their knives out for peace loving politicians, critics of the Russian regime, and defecting Russian spies. By rights it should date the series as a cold war relic, and yet with the old fears about Russia returning and the rise of Putin as Europe’s chief bogeyman, The Adventurer doesn’t feel quite at odds with the modern world than it once did. Who on earth would have ever thought that on some level The Adventurer would seem topical again? As to whether Gene’s mustard coloured underwear will make a similar comeback….well only time will tell.
  

Tuesday, 17 April 2018

The Adventurer (1972) episode 7: Counterstrike


It doesn’t quite feel like an episode of The Adventurer unless it opens with Gene and Mr Parminter getting into a heated argument. Honestly, these two are like an old married couple at times. Although in fairness, few married couples have probably got into a row over an elderly Russian scientist, one whose innovative work in early Russian cinema has both played an important role in the development of the cinematic medium and caused him to be hunted and persecuted by the Russian authorities. A failed attempt to defect to the West has recently seen the scientist/filmmaker in question, Andrei Korony, trapped somewhere “on the wrong side” of the Austrian border. Gene, being a movie actor, feels he owes Korony a debt due to Korony’s work having advanced the techniques of modern filmmaking. Parminter however feels that Korony is now too old and unimportant to risk venturing behind the Iron Curtain to rescue. Naturally, Gene completely ignores Parminter’s advice and is soon piloting a glider behind enemy lines. Before doing that however Gene manages to throw the obligatory insult in Parminter’s direction, claiming that Korony has “been making motion pictures since I was in the cradle…I’ll change that..since you were in the cradle…if you ever were”. Really, Parminter does put up with so much shit from Gene.



Counterstrike seems to have lodged in my memory as the “green polo neck jumper” episode. A piece of camouflage-esque apparel that Gene wears at length during this episode. For once Gene’s dress sense is actually appropriate to his surroundings, this episode having a particularly rural feel, with a backdrop of dense woodlands and mountain ranges. I’m guessing the setting for Counterstrike episode is meant to be somewhere in Bavaria. Although the episode is politely vague as to the specifics, probably because the residents of the small village this episode is set around are depicted as a bunch of uncivilised, beer drinking, lederhosen wearing thugs. Counterstrike does get a fair amount of mileage out of the culture shock between smart, jet setting Gene and these backwards, Bavarian yokels. I imagine its fairly offensive stuff if you happen to live near or come from where this episode is meant to be set. Despite Counterstrike taking place in the 1970s, the Inn that Gene visits and stays at during this episode feels as if it belongs in a period piece Hammer Horror movie, you half expect to see Michael Ripper behind the bar, or Gene to start asking for directions to Castle Dracula. My favourite line in this episode occurs Gene asks for a toothbrush for his room, only for the innkeeper to reply “I got just the toothbrush for you sir, my own”…we sure as hell aren’t in the Cote D'Azur anymore.

Counterstrike often puts me in mind of a relatively obscure horror film from the period called ‘The Legend of Spider Forrest’ (1971) which features a similar Bavarian setting and likewise drops a foreigner amongst some hostile and secretive villagers. Although I’m sure there was no direct influence there, both The Legend of Spider Forrest and Counterstrike could only have really been made by British crews working in Bavaria. Both have this ‘outsider’ viewpoint of Bavaria as an enchanting yet alien and dangerous territory, and succeed in milking the fear and mystery of such a landscape for all its worth. Counterstrike is the first Adventurer episode that gives the impression of not entirely being smitten by its surroundings. Whereas the French Rivera and Amsterdam episodes have quite the love affair going on with these settings, Counterstrike seems to be erring on the side of caution when contemplating Bavaria as a future holiday destination. The non-existent book ‘Gene Bradley’s Guide to Europe’ would probably chalk this place up as “nice place, shame about the people…although on the plus side at least none of these hicks appear to be taller than I am”.




By Adventurer standards Counterstrike is a relatively coherent Gene Bradley outing. At its heart it is basically a run-around episode with Gene gliding into energy territory, making contact with the missing scientist and then being pursued on foot and on motorcycle across the Bavarian landscape. Somehow the episode manages to dig itself out of a typically confused opening, with the unnecessary backstory about the scientist’s film work being quickly forgotten about. A potential subplot about Gene dressing up as a gendarme, which threatens to turn this into yet another ‘Gene, the master of disguise’ episode, is also wisely disregarded at the first available opportunity.



The vast majority of Adventurer episodes were the work of either Cyril Frankel, Val Guest or Paul Dickson. Three veteran directors whose careers stretched back decades, and whose efficient, professional ‘director for hire’ work on the series means that their Adventurer episodes are near indistinguishable from each other’s. For the record Counterstrike was directed by Dickson, a Welsh filmmaker who is now undoubtedly the least remembered of this Adventurer directing trio. His work being largely confined to shorts, TV episodes and commercials, with little in the way of the well-remembered big screen outings that distinguishes Guest and Frankel’s careers. For a director whose work was mostly centred around the small screen, Counterstrike is surprisingly cinematic and action packed. Motorbike chases, a fight scene in a beer cellar, and the episode’s piece de résistance… Gene using a pair of rockets to modify his glider into a super charged getaway machine, do little to mask The Adventurer’s naked ambition to muscle in on Bond territory.

Realistically, The Adventurer was never going to match Bond movies in terms of spectacle and budgets, but as a small screen alternative that the public didn’t need to go out to the cinema to see, I can’t imagine people felt too short changed by episodes like this. It is probably no coincidence that The Adventurer originally aired in 1972-73, a time during a temporary drought in Bond movies between Diamonds are Forever and Live and Let Die. It is also probably no coincidence that the series was repeated in 1975 (not long after the release of The Man with the Golden Gun) and again in early 1977 (just before the release of The Spy Who Loved Me) in further attempts to grab an audience hungry for some 007-style thrills.
     


Counterstrike might be the most straightforward and least eccentric episode of The Adventurer so far. One that only leaves a slightly nasty taste in the mouth due to the usual side-lining of Gene’s co-stars. The Adventurer is still a very Gene-ccentric show at this point, with characters like Mr Parminter and Diane barely getting a look in. Considering the exposure Nyree Dawn Porter and Tony Anholt were simultaneously receiving over in The Protectors, Gene’s co-stars would have been right to feel hard done by. Catherine Schell in particular is wasted here, a subplot about her character Diane working undercover as a schoolteacher in the Bavarian village goes absolutely nowhere, and with the emphasis being on Gene’s escape from Bavaria, Diane’s fate appears to have been a low- priority. Indeed, Counterstrike near enough forgets that Diane is still behind enemy territory at the end of the episode, with a quick cutaway to her reassuring Gene “don’t worry about me, I’ll be out of here within the hour” coming across as a hastily shot afterthought. For now at least this is a series that isn’t about to let its co-stars forget that they’re acting in a show called The Adventurer and not The Adventurers.
     

Wednesday, 11 April 2018

The Adventurer (1972) episode 6: Miss Me Once, Miss Me Twice and Miss Me Once Again


Did you know there was an Adventurer movie? Well, don’t get too excited, sadly Gene Bradley wasn’t a big enough deal to warrant his own bona fide movie spin-off in which the character gets to visit Pontins or anything like that. Instead ITC simply cut together a few episodes of the TV series and released it theatrically in some territories, following in the footsteps of 1969’s Vendetta for the Saint and a practice continued with the Space 1999 ‘movies’ that appeared in the late 1970s. Quite how widely distributed the Adventurer movie was I’m not certain, but Italy at least got to see Gene Bradley on the big screen in ‘La Doppia Faccia Della Legge’ (The Double Face of the Law). Going off the billing of Dawn Addams and Sylvia Syms on the poster, two of the episodes used to cut the film together were ‘Skeleton in the Cupboard’ and ‘The Case of the Poisoned Pawn’. While Gene’s ‘Doppia Faccia’ disguise used on the poster suggests that this episode ‘Miss Me Once, Miss Me Twice and Miss Me Once Again’ may have also gotten worked into the movie version. Don’t quote me on any of this though, as Garrick Hagon also gets a mention on the poster too, despite not appearing in any of those episodes!!




Miss Me Once, Miss Me Twice and Miss Me Once Again takes place at the Cannes Film Festival, although given all the posters around with you know who’s face on them you’d think that this was the ‘Gene Bradley Film Festival’. Naturally Gene has put his finest pair of trousers on for the occasion, and is there to host a TV special about the festival. Cannes certainly attracted all sorts back in 1972, no soon as he arrives then Gene spots Gregory Varna (Alex Scott) a renowned hit man loitering about the lobby, and is soon introduced to Eastern bloc politician Vladimir Horvic (John Barrie). In the current climate you do automatically expect any politician with a Russian accent and a name like ‘Vlad’ to be the bad guy. Horvic however goes against expectation by turning out to be an ally of the West, and his good character is truly beyond question when he reveals himself to be a big fan of Gene (“oh Gene Bradley, I’ve seen you may times on the screen”). Horvic also kind of looks like Gene, that’s if Gene were wearing glasses, a cheap stick on beard and sporting a bad Russian accent. Keep that in mind, that’s if you haven’t already guessed where that resemblance is going to lead to in this episode. The actual villain of the piece is Horvic’s chief deputy Micholas Zentner (Bernard Kay), who plans to have Varna assassinate Horvic at the height of the film festival.



It has to be said that Gene is uncharacteristically efficient in this episode, breaking into Varna’s room and uncovering the plot to assassinate Horvic even before the opening credits, then planting a bugging device on Zentner in order to discover more. For once, Gene doesn’t seem put out that circumstances are forcing his showbiz lifestyle to be put on hold in favour of his covert spying activities.

If you haven’t already guessed this is one of several Adventurer episodes centered around the idea of Gene being a master of disguise. One of the series’ weaker aspects, which in keeping with the general anti-logic behind The Adventurer was promoted as one of its chief selling points in the US market (“in the face of danger, his chief weapon is disguise” being the US tag line for the series). Soon Gene is swapping his trademark flowery shirts and legendary trousers for a pair of glasses, a cheap stick on beard and a bad Russian accent in order to assume Horvic’s identity. Trouble is, the Gene Genie never really blows you away with this, or any of the other transformations he gets up to during the series. Gene strikes you as being very much of the “only ever really plays one role, but it’s one of public enjoys seeing him in” school of actor, akin to John Wayne, Chuck Norris or to give a more modern comparison Jason Statham. His characters in War of the Worlds, Burke’s Law, Maroc 7, Subterfuge and The Adventurer may all have different names but essentially there is little to distinguish them from each other. The amount of dressing up in disguises and playing duo roles in The Adventurer, Amos Burke-Secret Agent and Burke’s Law comes across as a heavy handed attempt to prove he has range as an actor, but the end results sadly tell a rather different story. By this stage in his career though Gene appears to have surrounded himself with yes men, who were never going to be honest with him about his limitations. Thus, the Emperor’s new clothes spectacle we get in this episode of Gene prancing around pretending to be an elderly Russian, prepping his disguise and complementing himself in a mess of a foreign accent “verdee good, verdee good, verdee interesting”. Quite what a red-blooded Italian audience, pumped for the Poliziotteschi type thrills promised by a title like La Doppia Faccia Della Legge, made of this is anyone’s guess.

 

Given the time spent on showcasing Gene’s transformation into Horvic, by rights you’d expect this episode to play out with Gene integrating himself with Zentner whilst in the Horvic disguise, and suspense being generated over whether Gene’s cover will be blown. For all of the build-up though, little is actually made of Gene’s elaborate disguise, as if the show’s makers realised this transformation wasn’t really credible and wanted to brush this subplot under the carpet at the earliest opportunity. Get this, Gene never even meets Zentner whilst in the Horvic disguise, the only use the disguise is put to is to gain entry into Horvic’s hotel room, which Gene could have discreetly done without being in the Horvic disguise anyway. Gene also speaks on the phone to Varna whilst using the Horvic ‘voice’, which again he didn’t need to be fully disguised as Horvic to do, at which point Varna detonates a bomb in Horvic’s room, providing the ‘end of part one’ cliff-hanger.

In the face of danger Gene’s chief weapon doesn’t really appear to be disguise, rather his ability to cause utter confusion, as Gene & Co go about bamboozling Varna into thinking he has been double crossed by Zentner, and misleading Zentner into thinking Varna’s assassination of Horvic has gone to plan. Gene also sends Diane on Varna’s tail, who goes after the rather flamboyant, cravat sporting assassin like a dose of salts. Chatting him up at a restaurant, chasing him around the streets of Cannes and generally invading his safe space, Diane is quite the saucy minx in this episode. Poor Varna seems not only extremely resistant to Diane’s attempts to seduce him, but quite terrified of her. Maybe Mr Parminter or one of Gene’s male assistants would have been more suited to this assignment …or perhaps Varna just shared Gene’s fear of tall women… get thee behind me Hungarian giantess.





This all leads to Gene coming over all David Frost and rehearsing a hard hitting TV interview with the still very much alive Horvic for Gene’s TV special…which is just part of a plan to get Zentner to accidentally confess to being behind the assassination attempt on Horvic. After weeks of plugging Chevrolet cars the “TV Special” subplot finally allows ITC to blow their own trumpet for a change, with name checks for the company in the dialogue and close-ups of a truck bearing the ITC logo registering as some of the most shameless examples of self-promotion you’re likely to see outside of a David Sullivan sex movie.




It’s hard not to feel sorry for Ed Bishop here in his sole Adventurer outing as Gene’s male assistant Wayne…used to be called Gavin….used to be called Vince. This episode gives Bishop more to do than Stuart Damon in last week’s episode, but it is still an insulting non-role that requires him to do little more than drive Gene around Cannes whilst dressed as a chauffeur. The script appears at a loss over what to do with his character, before deciding to have him shift road signs about, the same thing his previous regeneration Vince did in the last episode. Given that this must have felt like more of a chaperoning gig than an acting role, Bishop looks justifiably unengaged and miserable throughout. In contrast Catherine Schell has a real spring in her step in this episode, due I’m sure in no small part to the fact that this episode was filmed in sunny Cannes and doesn’t require her to interact with Gene whatsoever. Indeed so estranged are their characters in this episode that Gene seems to have forgotten what his female assistant is actually called, at one point referring to Diane as ‘Diana’…and this guy calls himself a spy!!!     


 

Wednesday, 4 April 2018

The Adventurer (1972) episode 5: Poor Little Rich Girl


After last week’s display of fencing you may well ask yourself…what sport is Gene excelling at in the opening of this week’s episode? Well, it is a case of ‘Silver Gene Racer’ as Gene completes in a motor racing competition. Despite a pit stop to take a call from that pesky Mr Parminter, Gene still manages to bring home the cup, to add to the countless other cups currently cluttering up chez Gene. A small price to pay though, for being brilliant at everything.

For once it is Gene who has to explain to Parminter what is going on in this week’s episode, which centres around Suzy Dolman (Judy Geeson) a free spirited dropout who has decided to reject her privileged background in favour of a hippie existence hitchhiking around Provence. Suzy has appeared on The Adventurer’s radar due to her headline making decision to sign away her entire fortune, a 51% share in an oil company to a small, fanatical “Red country”. An offer that has been generously accepted by the country’s slimy, sneering Consul (John Savident) who would surely take the number one spot in an “Adventurer villain most likely to win a Lenin look-a-like competition”. Should the similarity be lost on some viewers we also get a crash zoom in on a portrait of the real Lenin that adorns the Consul’s office, subtlety isn’t in this series’ vocabulary.




Since the future of the oil business is at stake it is up to Gene and Co to put the kibosh on the deal going through, prevent Savident from grapping Suzy’s assets, and try to convince Suzy that signing over every penny she has to a bunch of Lenin fanboys may not be the smartest decision she’ll ever make.

This episode of The Adventurer appears rightly pleased by its coup of securing the services of Judy Geeson, a hip young actress who’d first come to prominence in 1967’s To Sir with Love, and thereafter cornered the market in playing strong willed yet vulnerable wild child roles. Poor Little Rich Girl does fit in quite nicely with her roles in films like ‘Three into two won’t go’ and ‘One of those things’, in which the culture and generation gap between Geeson and her older male co-stars fuelled the dramatic fireworks. Poor Little Rich Girl can’t be accused of squandering Geeson’s talents. The personality and philosophical clashes between Suzy and Gene dominate the episode’s opening half, with Suzy’s rejection of money and responsibility pitted against Gene’s unswerving belief that capitalism and big business can be a force for good. The fact that this series is brought to you courtesy of Chevrolet /General Motors had I’m sure no bearing on the fact that this episode fights in Gene’s corner of these debates, or how much of this episode is taken up by Chevrolet vehicles doing their thing around the back roads of rural Provence.

After week in, week out of women falling head over heels for Gene, it does make a refreshing change to encounter a female character who is initially at loggerheads with him. Suzy even gets to insult him by claiming “I’m not one of your fans”, wash your mouth out with soap young lady!! After an ear bashing like that Gene is in need of an ego boosting pit stop, which comes in the form of a visit to a transport café. Of all the transport cafes in all the world, Gene just so happens to stop at one that has a poster for one of his films hanging on the wall. The poster in question being for his foray into French ‘art’ cinema “La Vallee du Funnerre”, a poster that of course is in immediate need of a Gene Bradley autograph.




A long, black cloud is hanging over Gene in this episode…oh, no, hang on that’s just Stuart Damon’s shadow. Yes, Damon’s character Vince Elliott is back in the show, and raring to do as much adventuring as Gene will allow, which isn’t very much. Vince’s purpose in this episode being to dress up as a gendarme and occasionally drag diversion signs into the middle of the road in order to send the bad guys in the wrong direction….not exactly up to the James Bond level of excitement is it? Again Damon and Gene’s screen time together defines their positions in the show’s hierarchy. Gene the supercool dude out to rescue the damsel in distress in his Chevrolet, Damon given the silly uniform and lowly job of hanging around in the middle of nowhere, arranging and rearranging street signs…. Eat my dust, Damon!!!





The behaviour of the good guys in this episode is at times suspect, Gene steals Suzy’s purse, causing her to get in hot water with the owner of the transport café. She is then picked up by Damon’s fake gendarme who locks her up in a mock-up of a jail in order to prevent her business deal going through. Technically Gene and Co are guilty of theft, impersonating a police officer and false imprisonment in this episode, it is just as well they are allowed to run around Europe with seeming immunity from prosecution…and less we forget, everything they do is to serve the greater good. Try telling that to Suzy though, who really loses it in that phoney police cell, in the process reminding us that when Judy Geeson does go nutzoid onscreen the results can be fucking terrifying. There is definitely a proto-Inseminoid look of madness in Geeson’s eyes during this scene.




Poor Little Rich Girl is yet another Adventurer episode that insists on casting an actor whose height was at odds with its star’s strict requirements. In this case 6’0” John Savident, yet another who has fallen foul of the show’s ‘sit down for Gene’ rule, and is tellingly required to remain seated in all his scenes playing opposite Gene. You’d think the producers of this show would cast people whose size was more in keeping with Gene’s comfort zone. I mean, surely Kenny Baker, Rusty Goffe and Charlie Young Atom weren’t totally inundated with work throughout 1972.


Since Savident is prevented from standing up in Gene’s company, much of the subsequent villainy in this episode is relegated to henchmen who abduct Suzy from Gene’s apartment and steal documents signing Suzy’s shares in the oil company over to them. Proving once again that the most glamorous stars of the show always get handed the least glamorous assignments, Catherine Schell and Damon have to disguise themselves as French peasants in order to prevent the papers from leaving the country. Gene on the other hand gets to fire up the Chevrolet and speed off to a bullring where Suzy is being held hostage. Eagle eyed viewers will note this is the exact same bullring that Gene’s movie was being shot in at the start of Episode one. For a show with such a globe-trotting ethos about it, the world of The Adventurer often seems like a small one at times. The overall message of this week’s episode seems to be “money itself isn’t evil, just some of the people who have it are” either that or- if you have to speed off to rescue a troubled wild child from Commie goons make sure the car you’re driving is a Chevrolet.


On a sad note this is the last we’ll see of Stuart Damon on the show, not that we ever saw much of him anyway. So, its bye bye Vince Elliott, we hardly knew you. By the time of next week’s episode Vince will have regenerated into Ed Bishop and for some reason will be calling himself ‘Wayne’.



 

Wednesday, 28 March 2018

The Adventurer (1972) episode 4 : Thrust and Counter-Thrust


As all proud owners of ‘Gene Barry Sings of Love and Things’ know “singing has always come naturally to the tall and handsome actor” and will of course agree with the sleeve note’s modest assessment “when you listen to the appealing songs Gene has recorded for this album, you naturally ask the question ‘Why hasn’t Gene Barry recorded an album like this sooner?’”. Of course, you didn’t think The Adventurer would deprive us of this side to the Gene Genie’s talents did you? Yes, Thrust and Counter-Thrust manages to work Gene’s singing into the proceedings.

Well originally it did anyway, however when ITV4 repeated this episode in 2005 they cut the scene in question out. No doubt just to make way for more adverts…since surely they couldn’t have possibly thought Gene’s singing was too bad to inflict on their audience…could they? However, have no fear, the DVD preserves the scene in all its intended glory, so all the Gene fans out there can enjoy it over and over again.

Proving that there really is no end to Gene’s talents, this episode opens with a fine display of fencing from the man himself, yes he is great at that as well. It has certainly got this week’s love interest, a Countess no less, all hot under the collar. Not even the aristocracy it seems can resist his trousers. Incredibly Thrust and Counter-Thrust actually gives us something of a Gene backstory, which comes pretty close to acknowledging that Amos Burke-Secret Agent and Gene Bradley are basically the same character. 10 years earlier Gene had been a secret agent before adopting the cover of being a famous actor, and the only people who fully know about Gene’s pre-acting life are Mr Parminter, the American President, the British Prime Minister ….and rather inconveniently a Russian colonel called Andreyev. Even more inconvenient is the fact that Andreyev now moves in the same social circles as Gene’s Countess girlfriend. Still this doesn’t prevent Gene from getting the whole gang together (yes, he and Catherine Schell actually have scenes together in this episode, miracles do happen) and cooking up a typically complicated mission.

Thrust and Counter-Thrust is batshit crazy, even by Adventurer standards, big hearted Gene decides to put on a song and dance show at the Moravian embassy, with himself as the star attraction. However, he has an ulterior motive for putting on the show, involving his male assistant Gavin (Garrick Hagon) who adopts the guise of Gene’s support act ‘Wild Man Jones’ a hippie musician complete with Afro wig, glue-on goatee and flower power threads. It’s a rare example of one of Gene’s co-stars getting the chance to dress more outrageously than the man himself. Naturally, Gene’s song and dance routine goes down a storm with an adoring crowd of old ladies, as the Gene Genie serenades them with one of those wonderful songs. Quite literally as he performs a song called ‘One of those Wonderful Songs’. Some jazz hands action and cane swinging ensures that this audience is soon eating out of his hands. ITV4 should hang their heads in shame for depriving their audience of this.





Gene’s old school showbiz shtick might be music to the ears of this audience, but Wild Man Jones’ incoherent piano playing bombs with the same audience. However there is a twist, Wild Man Jones’ piano solos actually contain ‘hidden messages’ in Morse code that are being overheard by the captured spy Anton Jurzyck whom Colonel Andreyev has hidden away upstairs at the Moravian embassy. Will Gene get to rescue Jurzyck from the embassy, and live to get his leg over with Euro-Royalty? Will Diane get an extra blanket for her bed during her stay at the Moravian embassy? (doesn’t Catherine Schell get all the exciting sub-plots!!) Will Gavin alias Wild Man Jones go on to cut an entire concept album containing songs full of hidden messages in Morse code? Will the audience be disappointed to discover the ‘Thrust and Counter-Thrust’ of the title has no sexual connotations whatsoever? Tune in, then drop out to discover the answers.





The first response to this episode is to wonder ‘what were they on when they wrote this?’ The second is to immediately retract that statement, since none of the makers of this episode look to have been around young people in a good few decades, let alone any mind altering substances. If you delight in seeing not remotely hip filmmakers trying to get down with the kids, only to make fools of themselves on a grand scale then you may well consider Thrust and Counter-Thrust the greatest thing since Dracula AD 1972. Man, this episode is outta sight, dig that funky gear on that cat Wild Man Jones, this Adventurer show is better than grass, Wild Man Jones rocks!!!, no need to call the fuzz, man, cause this is more mind blowing than hanging out with Johnny Alucard during a jazz spectacular at the Albert Hall!!!

Well, maybe not quite, the more The Adventurer tries to be with it, the more is reveals its aged stuffiness. Gene makes jokes about Wild Man Jones’ hair (“what does your barber say?”) and Wild Man’s clothes are meant to evoke middle aged chuckles over what the kids are wearing these days, which is rich considering the Gene Genie’s attire during the series. The brainwave for this episode probably went something like this “have you seen those youthful hooligans of today, with their long hair, jazz festivals and free love…and the music, it’s not like it was in my day, back then we had proper music like that appealing ‘Gene Barry Sings and Love and Things’ album, now that was real music, you can’t call that rot of today music, why it’s so loud it might as well be Morse code messages designed to help defecting Russian spies for all the sense it makes. Hang on!! That would make a great storyline for the Gene Barry show that Lew Grade is putting together”….and thus in that moment Thrust and Counter-Thrust was born.





Rightly or wrongly Thrust and Counter-Thrust gives the impression its makers’ only real remaining pleasure in life was making actors look stupid. Garrick Hagon sure earned his money this week for what they made him wear, Stuart Damon certainly missed out on nothing by having to sit this one out. Spare a thought too for actor David Lawton who in the role of Jurzyck spends the first part of the episode bandaged up like the invisible man and the second half in the Wild Man Jones outfit as the Adventurer gang try to smuggle him out of the embassy under the guise of a stoned out Wild Man Jones. Further suspicion that the Adventurer was just a front for the British film industry to humiliate Gene Barry on a weekly basis, is added to by the fact that this episode ends with him exiting with a woman’s hand bag over his shoulder!! Gene obviously wasn’t afraid of expressing his feminine side, had someone asked Sean Connery to sign off a James Bond film like that they’d have gotten a right clout around the ear.