Thursday, 15 March 2018

The Adventurer (1972) episode 2: Return to Sender

Episode 2 of The Adventurer sees Gene mistaken for a friendly bear from deepest, darkest Peru who gets adopted by the Brown family and fed lots of marmalade… ok, maybe not, but Mr Barry is really rockin’ that ‘Paddington Bear’ look at the start of this episode. Return to Sender, shot under the title ‘Spy Man’s Holiday’, opens with Gene once again in grumpy git mode, this time because of the British weather. “Do you realise it’s been raining for weeks, do you know what that does for me, can’t wait to hit those beaches in France”.

Mr Parminter wants Gene to work a secret mission into his French holiday, but Gene has only one thing on his mind, indicated by a quick cut-away to a bikini-clad actress. It does tend to fly in the face of typical ITC series heroism, the message of the scene seems to be that the Gene Genie is after some tail, so leave the saving the world crap to some other guy. “There’s only one thing that interests me down there…and it’s something you wouldn’t know about” Gene bitches to Parminter…did my ears deceive me or did Gene just basically ‘out’ Mr Parminter there, and make Mr P the first, openly acknowledged to be gay character in an ITC series?. No time to ponder on that though, because Gene is goin’ where the sun keeps shinin’, through the pourin’ rain, goin’ where the weather suits his clothes, bankin’ off of the North East winds, sailin’ on summer breeze, and skippIn’ over the ocean like a stone…

Soon we are back in the French Rivera, just in time for a bit of Chevrolet pleasing product placement, as Gene drives his Chevy to a luxury hotel where he checks in for his regular ego massage. No soon as he has entered the lobby, then he is mobbed by women, all hungry for his John Hancock. Even the bad guys in this episode are in awe of the Gene Genie “hey isn’t that Gene Bradley, I’ve never been that close to a film star before…wait until I tell my Mum”.

Gene is soon back to being grumpy again though when a female corpse turns up in his bathroom “this is my bathroom you know” he moans on the blower to the long suffering Mr Parminter. In what will become a reoccurring theme in Adventurer episodes its left to Parminter to explain this week’s overly complicated plot to Gene over the phone. Michelle (Pamela Salem), a secret agent who works for Parminter, had been transporting a microchip across Europe alongside Gene’s male assistant, who used to be called Vince and be played by Stuart Damon, but is now called Gavin and played by Garrick Hagon. Unfortunately they were run off the road by two bad guys Fleming and Gorman (Patrick Mower and Donald Burton), Gavin was injured in the crash but Michelle escaped with the microchip. Unable to get in contact with Parminter, Michelle ended up at the hotel Gene is staying at, where she concealed the microchip behind a stamp then attached it to an envelope. In the midst of Gene’s impromptu autograph session in the lobby, Gene mistook Michelle for a fan and signed the envelope. Michelle then had the envelope sent up to Gene’s room, and managed to sneak into his room herself, only for the bad guys to show up as well and murder her in the bathroom. Good God, it’s only when you try to transcribe them do you realise just how convoluted and illogical Adventurer episodes are. Incredibly, the plot gets even more complicated when Gene realises that he has given away the signed envelope to a star stuck young girl called Debbie, and Fleming and Gorman show up again to kidnap this week’s love interest Valerie (Sharon Gurney).

An intended holiday trying to pull the birds in the French Rivera therefore transforms into a race against time to retrieve the microchip from Gene’s young fan Debbie, and rescue Valerie from Fleming and Gorman who have her held hostage on their yacht. The big set piece of this week’s episode though is Gene’s helicopter pursuit of Debbie’s family across the French Rivera, ending with him landing the chopper on a motorway and forcing their car to a standstill. As Gene can’t be seen to be a total bastard, who terrorises an innocent family and snatches his autograph off a little girl, he has thoughtfully brought along a signed photograph of himself for little Debbie to have instead…because let’s face it what little girl doesn’t dream of receiving a signed photograph of a 53 year old man. Lest we forget, “Gene Bradley is Everyone’s Pin-Up, and Nobody’s Fool”.

No look at ‘Return to Sender’ can ignore the fight scene that occurs midway through this episode. If it was intended as a legitimate action scene, it is quite tragic, if it was intended as the homage to old slapstick comedy that it comes across as, then it is simply fabulous. It plays something like this…girl throws a pillow at Patrick Mower which causes him to drop his gun… Gene wrestles with Patrick Mower for a while… girl hits Patrick Mower with a fake vase which makes no noise when it shatters…Gene suddenly has a handful of plant leaves which he proceeds to slap a man around the face with, to understandably no great affect…bad guy takes a swing at Gene, misses him by a mile but Gene reacts as if it had connected…Gene goes to swing on a curtain rail, but it collapses under his weight and the whole curtain falls on top of him…he then gets knocked out.


I still shake my head and laugh whenever I recall this scene; it is as if the scene turned out so badly that they tried to salvage it by passing it off as pure comedy. Either that or, even at this early stage, the crew were creating their own amusement by trying to make Barry look as foolish as possible without him realising it. This episode does after all open with him dressed like Paddington Bear!! The fight scene makes Barry/Bradley look like an ineffectual joke, there is even a put down from Mower at the end of the scene about how big Hollywood stars always need stuntmen to look good onscreen. A line which feels extremely meta given Barry’s extensive use of a stuntman in this scene, something that either due to ineptitude or malice the director hasn’t even bothered to disguise.

Did Gene need others to make himself look silly though? he seems to have been his own worse enemy in that respect. Ironically in his prime, circa Burke’s Law/Secret Burke/G.B. Sings of Love and Things, he was a relatively conservative dresser, smart suits, tuxedos, maybe the odd polo neck jumper. However the older he got, the wilder and dare I say more ‘adventurous’ his fashion sense became, as he attempted to turn to clothes to make himself look younger. By the end of all 26 episodes of The Adventurer you’ll be convinced that, in terms of fashion, Gene Barry was the white Rudy Ray Moore, every costume change brings a new assault on the senses. Safari jackets, oversized sunglasses, tartan suits, shirts made from old curtains, mustard coloured underwear, all form a part of the Bradley dress sense, but none can hold a candle to Gene’s taste in trousers. A piece of apparel that burned itself so deep into my psyche that I once used to post on a certain message board under the username ‘Gene Bradley’s Trousers’, such was their impact.

Rumour has it that a low-regarded, shot on 16mm ITC series will soon be making its way onto Blu-Ray, remastered in all its high definition glory for the very first time. The Adventurer certainly fits the bill of being a low-regarded, shot on 16mm ITC series, although all the smart money seems to be on the series in question being Jason King… I don’t think the world is yet ready for the sight of Gene Bradley’s trousers in HD, even in SD they are a sight to behold.

BTW: a search of the internet reveals there was a tie-in novelisation of The Adventurer, released in early 1973. One Robert Miall, who seems to have quite the career novelising ITC series, was given the task of fleshing out Return to Sender into a paperback novel (back cover blurb: “in Nice two girls brought double trouble. One was warm and willing, the other cold and contorted- a corpse on his bathroom floor.”) I can’t help feeling my life will never be fully complete until I’ve seen how Miall managed to translate the sight of Gene bitch slapping a man with a handful of plant leaves into the printed word.


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