Friday, 25 May 2018

The Adventurer (1972) episode 12: Deadlock

After episodes centered around Gene being God’s gift to women and Gene being a master of disguise, here for a change we get an episode highlighting the fact that Gene isn’t short of a bob or two. Money in fact is a powerful weapon in this Adventurer outing, quite literally as Gene beats up an adversary with a briefcase containing a million dollars at one point. Up until this point the fact that Gene is one of the super rich hasn’t really been touched upon much in The Adventurer, but this episode serves to remind us that these are, as the French DVD release of the series bills it “les enquetes d’un jet setteur multimillionaire”.

Playing millionaires with ethical backbones who lead secret double lives as action heroes appears to have been something of a calling for Gene, this aspect of The Adventurer harking back to the Amos Burke character of Burke’s Law and Amos Burke-Secret Agent. I suppose in that sense Gene Bradley could also be considered an older, grumpier version of Tony Curtis’ character in The Persuaders. These days of course it might be a little difficult to wholeheartedly buy into the idea of American multi-millionaires with their own private jets and egos to match being heroic good guys, Donald Trump having rather brought that type into disrepute in recent years, undoing much of Gene and Tony Curtis’ hard work. Damn!!

Deadlock feels suspiciously like something of a reboot of the series. One that simplistically portrays Gene as a successful businessman, with the additional baggage of him also being a famous movie star and secret agent never alluded to. Gone too are the regular supporting male Diane/Diana Brandon the Butler...not even Mr Parminter can be bothered showing up this week, despite Barry Morse still being billed in the opening credits. In their place is Franz Kolmar (Mervyn Johns), Gene’s business mentor who helped make Gene the rich dude he is today. Mainly it seems by convincing Youngman Bradley to invest his money in adding machines “I remember trying hard to get you to call it a computer”. A trip down memory lane that has Gene casting his mind back to when he was young, carefree and only had a mere 25 thousand dollars to his name that he could have easily blown in Las Vegas had it not been for Kolmar. “I was young, I had no responsibility” Gene reminisces, although what with him now having millions and seemingly a different love interest every week, Gene hardly strikes you as a man bogged down by responsibility these days either. Kolmar however has found himself in hot water after another protégé of his, Johnny Morrison, has run off with a microfilm containing details of the biggest thing to come along in the world of business since the adding machine, and now Johnny wants a few million from Gene for the microfilm’s return.

If I was to tell you that Burt Kwouk was in this episode, and that the two main villains in it are called Johnny Morrsion and Sakuma, then how many of you would jump to the assumption that Kwouk would be playing Sakuma? However, don’t forget that this is The Adventurer we’re dealing with here, so of course Kwouk is playing Johnny Morrison. I don’t know whether the motive was subversive or mischievous, but this episode does have a thing about allocating Western sounding names to characters played by Asians and Oriental sounding names to roles played by occidental actors. Whatever the reason, this quirk did at least give Kwouk a break from playing characters with names like Kato, Mr Hong, Dr Chan, Mr Chang, Mr Yueung, Mr Han, Mr Kwang, Uncle Tai, Mr Ying, Mr Chung, Uncle Lau, Mr Chen, Mr Lee, Mr Ho, Mr Wok, etc etc.

In a series that isn’t renowned for its memorable villains, Johnny Morrison may well be the exception to the rule. The character even comes complete with his own (then) hi-tech gimmick of only appearing to Gene via CCTV recordings that are being beamed to Gene’s TV set. Having finally stumbled on an adversary worthy of Gene, The Adventurer then makes the characteristically bafflingly decision to kill off Johnny before even the halfway point of this episode... and in an uninteresting and off-screen fashion to boot. Its a decision you suspect the makers of the series may have quickly regretted, since Kwouk turns up again later in the series, playing a completely different character. Something the series’ makers must have hoped you wouldn’t pick up on...and let’s face it it’s not as if Kwouk was a prolific actor, highly recognizable from a massively popular movie franchise or anything like that.

In fairness, the building up of Morrison as a Bond type villain and his abrupt demise does feel like a calculated shock, and a deliberate attempt to go against audience expectations. So too does the revelation that Morrison, far from the supervillain, was actually a reluctant party in the plan to shake down Kolmar. The real brains behind that scheme being Kay Masterson (Jennie Linden) who initially presents herself to Gene as little more than Morrison’s assistant. Once that cat is out of the bag Deadlock becomes something of a retread of the themes of ‘Poor Little Rich Girl’, with the emphasis being on Gene’s relationship with a woman who is initially hostile to him, before realising (but of course) that she got it all wrong about Gene. In Kay Masterson’s case, she has Gene down as yet another ruthless, greedy capitalist who is receiving a taste of his own medicine by being shaken down for a few million. “Why shouldn’t we get a taste of what you lot take for granted” being the gist of her argument. What with his character once again being under scrutiny, it is up to Gene to counteract her cynicism by showing her that he got where he is on account of friendship and ethics, rather than backstabbing and walking over the little guy. The episode’s message being that rich people are just like the rest of us, aside from owning their own private jets and leading double lives as crime fighters.

The turning point in the Gene/Kay relationship comes when the luckless Kolmar gets himself kidnapped and Gene happily gives away a million dollars for his release to Kolmar’s captor Sakuma, a character who for all the world sounds like he should be Japanese but is played by the unmistakably occidental Wolfe Morris (a typo in The Adventurer DVD booklet rechristens this character ‘Satsuma’ indicating that the character might actually be part Japanese, part citrus fruit). Seeing that Gene really does value friendship over money, Kay does an about turn and joins the Gene fan club, helping him thwart Sakuma/Satsuma. Further plot complications arise however when it is discovered that Morrison hid the microfilm at a bank’s safe deposit box. Now the bank in question, the sinister named ‘Dobermann bank’ has its crooked eye on keeping hold of the microfilm...a turn of events that calls on Gene’s business skills to save the day.

A charming performance from the highly likeable Jennie Linden is about the only saving grace of this fairly forgettable instalment, which is otherwise only notable for the amount of time Gene spends handcuffed to a briefcase containing a million dollars. An accessory that this episode appears to be on a mission to establish as a character trademark. Had the Adventurer been a) made in the 1980s and b) popular, I’m in little doubt that the inevitable Gene Bradley action figure would have come complete with its own attachable briefcase designed to whack the other action figures in the toy line with. Although I’m sure Gene would have insisted that the Stuart Damon action figure would have to be fitted with its own slouching mechanism and that the Catherine Schell toy have detachable shoes to make her appear shorter.

Ironically given Deadlock’s emphasis on wealth, this is an extremely cheap looking episode, with sets recycled from previous episodes and an air of indifference about the whole affair. “My daddy always told me it takes to...too a friendship” claims Gene at one point, suggesting that Gene Sr. was either a pretty rubbish philosopher, or that Gene had flubbed the line and no one could be bothered going for a second take. Supposedly set in Istanbul, Deadlock relies on a whole chunk of stock footage to sell its Turkish location. Some of which fits in with what is happening onscreen, but at other times approaches a Bruno Mattei level of randomness, such as the inclusion of footage of a pelican strolling about. ITC sure seemed determined to use every scrap of Turkish stock footage they could get their hands on. It says allot about the quality of this episode that its highlight is stock footage of an Istanbul cinema premiering the latest Bond movie in an impressively grand style, with multi-coloured ‘007’ signing on the cinema’s marquee. The fact that this footage is cut into a scene in which Gene makes an absolute hash of jumping from one apartment balcony to another has the malicious effect of reminding us that “somebody does it better, makes you feel sad for Gene”.

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