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.

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