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.


No comments: