Wednesday, 21 March 2018

The Adventurer (1972) episode 3: Double Exposure

What could be better than one Gene? Two Genes of course, as this episode sees Gene playing the dual role of Gene Bradley and Gene Bradley’s hitherto unknown stunt-double Frank Jordan. That’s double the fun, double the excitement, double the screen time, and yes, double the trousers, folks.

As the episode title implies, actors playing two roles is something of a theme this week, with guest star Donald Houston initially playing Jan De Groote, a Dutch businessman who has recently married Elayna (Ingrid Pitt). Unbeknownst to De Groote, Elayna is actually the ruthless secret agent ‘Hummingbird’ (“on the outside she is hummingbird, on the inside she is all vulture” sez Gene). Houston also gets to play a bad guy, who just so happens to closely resemble Jan De Groote, and whom Elayna replaces the real Jan De Groote with. While the real Jan De Groote is kidnapped and worked over by Elayna’s cronies, the fake Jan De Groote and Elayna are busy draining the real Jan De Groote’s fortune.

Never one to be outdone, Gene calls on his lookalike stunt-double Frank, and attempts to mess around with the fake Jan De Groote’s head. Mainly by staging fake assassination attempts on fake Jan, in which Frank masquerades as Gene, while the real Gene turns up with a bald cap on and takes pot shots at fake Jan. Gene’s plan seems to be to unnerve the fake Jan into leading both Genes to the real Jan. There is nothing complicated about this plot, eh?

Actually the plot of Double Exposure sort of makes sense until the introduction of Frank Jordan/Fake Gene, which brings with it a whole number of plot holes. Chiefly being, if Gene is trying to deflect suspicion away from himself by always appearing to be by fake Jan’s side during these assassination attempts, then why pose as the assassin himself? Since the assassin’s resemblance to Gene would surely just serve to throw suspicion back onto Gene. However, logic and The Adventurer are never the greatest of bedfellows.

The two Genes subplot does come across as a bit of a self-indulgence for Barry. It is as if Barry felt having another actor play two separate roles in one episode may upstage him, and insisted that two separate roles be written for him as well. Exposure to the Barry back catalogue tends to indicate that he had quite the fondness for dual roles. One of the later episodes of Burke’s Law had seen him play both Amos Burke and Burke’s Irish uncle, with as much of an overblown accent as you can imagine “top o’ the morning to ya Amos, ya sure got the luck o’ the Oiresh”, which seems to have planted the seed for this tale of two Genes.

Double Exposure does have quite a bit going for it though, there is a terrific car chase that sees Gene and Donald Houston burning rubber through the streets of Amsterdam, no doubt appeasing the Chevrolet sponsors in the process. It is hard to believe that this sequence was staged by the same director who gave us the sorry sight that was the fight scene in episode 2, which was car crash television of an altogether different variety. After years of only being able to evoke overseas settings by stock footage, The Adventurer finally sees the ITC crew get to travel to actual locations as well. This episode positively screams out “by jingo, we really did shoot this one in Amsterdam chaps, and to prove it, canals and windmills pop up in every other scene”.

Double Exposure also has the Ingrid Pitt factor on its side too. Pitt enjoys the rare distinction of being one of the few actresses with a ‘sex symbol’ reputation who didn’t get cast in The Adventurer as Gene’s love interest. Instead, she gets to sink her teeth into a femme fatale role, with Donald Houston’s wimpy, nervous wreck of a character only emphasising Pitt’s cold villainy. Of course, height could have been a factor in why there is no romantic interaction between Pitt and Barry. Pitt was only 5’5’’ which is shorter than the 5’7’’ of Hungarian giantess that is Catherine Schell. However the fact that in the three scenes they have together, Pitt is seated in two of them and in their last scene, the big confrontation between Gene and Hummingbird, neither are seen in the same shot, tends to suggest Pitt had fallen foul of Gene’s phobia of acting alongside tall women.

For someone who almost exclusively gravitated towards playing good guys, Gene appears to relish the rare opportunity to indulge in some onscreen villainy here, even if it is put on villainy. Playing two roles does seem to have given Gene his mojo back, he is positively hyperactive in this episode, running around Amsterdam airport with a gun and a bald cap on and putting the willies up poor Donald Houston. In his ‘hitman’ disguise, Gene cuts a genuinely mean and menacing figure, with a look that unintentionally anticipates the ‘what would you look like bald and unshaven’ face warping phone apps of today. To prove my point –and to also prove I have too much time on my hands-, here is what Gene looks like in this episode, and here is what the photo of Gene on the cover of ‘Gene Barry Sings of Love and Things’ looks like after being run through such an app.

….and since I can’t resist cashing in on the current craze for ‘what would you look like as a woman’ face warps…here fellas, is the fox you’ve been waiting for…Miss Jean Barry


Presumably playing two roles put Gene in such a generous mood that he even allows his co-stars to do something in this episode. Garrick Hagan, the longest suffering…sorry to play the “didn’t you used to be Stuart Damon” role, gets to futz around with some Bond-esque gadgetry on the roofs of Amsterdam. Even the Hungarian giantess has something to do, crashing into Ingrid Pitt’s car and distracting her while Garrick uses some kind of magic ink to erase Jan’s signature from a number of business papers. A subplot that even the episode itself fesses up to being utterly pointless. So much goes on in Double Exposure that it nearly forgets to flatter Gene. A situation rectified in the last scene, where Frank/Fake Gene (who you’ll be unsurprised to learn shares Gene’s taste in trousers) marvels at Gene’s ability to pull the birds. Yes, men might look like Gene, they might even wear the same trousers as Gene, but there can be no bigger babe magnet than Gene himself… accept no substitute, ladies.

Gene Bradley will return in… ‘THE SPY WHO SCALPED ME’

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