Tag Archives: John Steed

With Umbrella, Scotch and Cigarettes

With Umbrella-Avengers-Paperback Cover FrontWith Umbrella, Scotch and Cigarettes, the sister-book to The Strange Case of the Missing Episodes, has just been released – with co-authors Richard McGinlay and Alan Hayes telling the fascinating behind-the-scenes story of the mostly-missing series one of cult ’60s TV show The Avengers.

In this exclusive guest article, Richard explains why he and Alan (who also runs the The Avengers Declassified website) decided to don the trenchcoats once more and further investigate the monochrome crime-fighting adventures of Patrick Macnee’s mysterious secret agent John Steed and Ian Hendry’s Dr. David Keel.

“Some of you might be thinking: “Hang on a minute! The Avengers? Series 1? Haven’t you done a book about that already?”

Well, yes, we have. In 2013, Alan Hayes, his wife Alys, and I produced a book entitled The Strange Case of the Missing Episodes, which retold, in the form of detailed summaries, the lost stories from the first series of The Avengers. There were plenty of those to cram into the book, as 24 of the 26 episodes from that period of the show are missing or incomplete, presumed wiped.

However, Alan and I had a lot more to say about this mostly missing year. Aside from a short introductory essay, Strange Case had barely scratched the surface of the real-life story of Series 1 – that is, its production. With Umbrella, Scotch and Cigarettes looks at the why, who, how and where of the Keel and Steed era of The Avengers. It examines why the show was commissioned in the first place, touching upon the cancellation of Ian Hendry’s previous series, Police Surgeon. It discusses who worked on The Avengers behind the scenes, including detailed biographical information about drama supervisor Sydney Newman, producer Leonard White, the directors, writers, actors, and many others. It describes how The Avengers was realised, from the earliest discussions of the show’s format and the gathering of scripts, to the design of sets and the creation of special effects. It also explores where the series was made, including a history of Teddington Studios and details about the locations used for exterior filming.

It wasn’t an easy ride for the programme makers, and our new book documents all the difficulties of the process – from late scripts and contentious rewrites to rickety props and stunts that did not go quite according to plan – as well as the pleasures. Despite the problems, those involved with the series have all looked back upon it with affection.

Avengers-HendryAlan and I had this book in mind even before the publication of The Strange Case of the Missing Episodes. Our initial plan was to produce a single book about Series 1, covering the storylines as well as the behind-the-scenes stuff. However, as soon as we started collating our researches, it became clear that there had to be two books. The total page count of the two volumes we have now published is close to 700 pages, and though it would have been possible to produce a book of that extent, it would not have been economical for us to do so. Therefore, we published the storylines book first… and now the ‘making of’ book.

In case you are wondering why it has taken us a year to complete With Umbrella, Scotch and Cigarettes, there are a couple of reasons for that. Firstly, we wanted to see how the first book went down with its readers. As it happens, we have had a lot of very positive and useful feedback, which has helped us to make the second book even better! For example, reader comments inspired us to add illustrations, which were provided by the talented artist Shaqui Le Vesconte. The second and arguably the most important consideration is that we have been a lot more ambitious with the content of this book.

Avengers-MacneeAs some of you will be aware, there is already a large body of work about the making of Series 1 on Alan’s website, The Avengers Declassified. However, we have built upon those researches substantially. Though of course our coverage of the individual episodes contains some fundamental facts that are common to both the book and the website, the episodic chapters of With Umbrella have been expanded considerably. Nowhere else can you read about the hazards of the sewer sets from Hunt the Man Down, for instance, or the Armchair Mystery Theatre and Callan teleplays that bear comparison to the episodes Death on the Slipway and Kill the King. About a third of the page count is wholly exclusive to the book, in the form of an in-depth essay at the front, covering the creation of The Avengers, another essay at the back, regarding the enforced hiatus that brought about a change of direction for the show after Series 1, and 60 pages of appendices, including full episode guides for the unmade storylines and licensed publications featuring Keel and Steed.

The opening essay includes some impressive detective work by Alan regarding precisely where and when a set of famous ‘sleuthing shots’ of Ian Hendry and Patrick Macnee were taken. Alan has also contacted a number of people who were involved in making The Avengers (or the relatives of those who are sadly no longer with us), who have kindly helped us to fill in some of the blanks. We’ve also been out and about, visiting the British Film Institute, for example, in whose Special Collections reside the unproduced Keel storylines The White Rook and Fifi and the Scorpion.

Yes, Alan and I had a very great deal to say about Series 1 of The Avengers, which is somewhat better represented in terms of production documentation than it is in the form of actual surviving episodes – but after this book, we are moving on to other subjects.

The topic of our next volume will be of related interest, though, as it will cover the aforementioned Ian Hendry series Police Surgeon, of which only one episode is known to exist from its thirteen-week run back in 1960. Dr Hendry’s Casebook will be published some time next year. After that, we have some nebulous ideas for other books that should also appeal to readers of Wiped News!

With Umbrella, Scotch and Cigarettes (£19,99 paperback/£24.99 hardback) and The Strange Case of the Missing Episodes (£19,99 paperback/£24.99 hardback/£2.99 ebook)  are available in print exclusively from www.lulu.com, though from November 2014 they will also be for sale at Amazon sites worldwide. Until October 6, you can use the following discount codes togetger: ‘FWD15’ gets 15% off and ‘GMF14’ gives free shipping.

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Lost episodes of The Avengers to be remade by Big Finish Productions

The AvengersBIG FINISH Productions is delighted to announce that it has signed a licence with STUDIOCANAL to produce full cast audio productions of 12 lost episodes of the classic TV series The Avengers.

Lost for over fifty years, the missing episodes from the first series of the cult classic have been lovingly recreated on audio from the original scripts.

The Avengers first launched in 1961, and starred Ian Hendry as Dr David Keel and Patrick Macnee as the elusive and suave John Steed. Beginning with the murder of Keel’s fiancée, and his sworn intent to avenge her death, that first year comprised 26 episodes. Sadly, only two of them exist in their entirety as film prints (Girl on the Trapeze and The Frighteners), while just the first act remains of the opening episode, Hot Snow.

Working from the surviving scripts, Big Finish will be presenting the adaptations in three four-disc box sets. The scripts will be adapted, with minimal changes, by John Dorney, the director is Ken Bentley and the producer is David Richardson. The executive producers are Nicholas Briggs and Jason Haigh-Ellery.

“We are absolutely thrilled to add this wonderful series to our catalogue,” says David Richardson, “and we look forward to faithfully recreating those classic lost episodes. We have two brilliant, high-profile actors for the roles of Dr Keel and John Steed – look out for an announcement of the casting once recording begins in July.”

“This opportunity confirms the enduring appeal of this classic TV series and the resonance of the SC collection in the context of British Film and Pop culture,” says John Rodden, General Manager Home Entertainment at STUDIOCANAL.

Volume 1 of The Avengers: The Lost Episodes will be released in January 2014 (and includes a full recreation of Hot Snow), with Volumes 2 and 3 following in July 2014 and January 2015.

Each person who pre-orders will be entered into a draw to win a copy of The Avengers: Series 1 and 2 on DVD box set, containing the remaining three first series episodes.

For for more information visit www.bigfinish.com

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New book explores the strange case of The Avengers’ missing episodes

IN THE mid-Sixties, The Avengers proved itself to be a cultural phenomenon. Despite its quintessential Englishness, it transcended international barriers, and established itself as British television’s most successful export of the day. Front cover of The Strange Case of the Missing Episodes - The Lost Stories of The Avengers Series 1

Today, it remains hugely popular, perhaps because of the schizophrenic nature of the show as it developed; it was a series of many colours, with something for everyone. But the earliest episodes of the show – produce by ABC Television and pairing Ian Hendry as Dr David Keel alongside the mysterious John Steed (Patrick Macnee) – have, since their 1961 broadcast, disappeared from view, the vast majority of the recordings lost forever.

The Strange Case of the Missing Episodes lifts the lid on that first year, and retells the stories in extended synopsis form, covering twenty-four episodes, often with script extracts, in greater depth than ever before. The book also boasts a detailed introduction, which explores how these much sought after programmes came to be lost, and a detailed retelling of an alternative, untransmitted version of the episode Double Danger.

The Strange Case of the Missing Episodes – The Lost Stories of The Avengers is available in hardcover (£19.99) and paperback (£14.99) from Hidden Tiger. Visit www.hiddentigerbooks.co.uk

Read an interview with authors Alan Hayes, Alys Hayes and Richard McGinlay about their fantastic new book.

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Telesnap Treat For Avengers Fans

Images from The Avengers Declassified website

Images from The Avengers Declassified website

THE FIRST two seasons of The Avengers have been released by Optimum in what has to be the most comprehensive DVD release yet.

The Avengers: The First Two Seasons

The Avengers: The First Two Seasons

Including all that remains of season one (1961)  and the entirety of season two – which saw the arrival of Honor Blackman as Cathy Gale – the eight-disc digitally restored DVD set also boasts a huge wealth of extras.

Of particular interest to missing episode enthusiasts will be the inclusion of recently discovered telesnaps from missing season one episodes.

Telesnaps are sets off-screen photos taken off the TV during original transmission. The inventor, John Cura, captured many shows in this way,  famously including Doctor Who.

Thanks to him, and Avengers producer Leonard White for saving them in scrap books, fans can at last get a real idea of the visual feel of a significant number of missing season one episodes, including Dead of Winter (tx 9/12/61).

DVD Special Features

  • Surviving Ian Hendry Series 1 episodes:

– “Hot Snow” (Act One only, 15 minutes)

– “Girl on the Trapeze”

– “The Frighteners”

  • Exclusive audio commentary by Producer Leonard White on the surviving footage from the opening episode, “Hot Snow”.
  • Police Surgeon – “Easy Money” (tx 10/09/60) – starring Ian Hendry. The only surviving opening episode of the series that is regarded as the precursor to The Avengers.
  • Filmed introduction to Police Surgeon by Producer Leonard White.
  • Exclusive, newly filmed interview with Honor Blackman.
  • Exclusive audio commentary by writer Martin Woodhouse on “Mr Teddy Bear”.
  • Exclusive audio commentary by Producer Leonard White on “The Mauritius Penny”.
  • Exclusive audio commentary by writer Roger Marshall on “Death of A Great Dane”.
  • Exclusive audio commentary by actress Julie Stevens on “A Chorus of Frogs”.
  • Filmed introductions by actress Julie Stevens.
  • Insert reprint of original publicity brochure for the first Honor Blackman season.
  • Insert reprints of Leonard White’s scrapbooks featuring telesnaps of lost Series 1 episodes.
  • PDF material: original scripts, TV Crimebusters comic strip, TV Times covers (for Police Surgeon and The Avengers), a ‘knit with The Avengers’ feature from Woman’s Mirror featuring Hendry and Ingrid Hafner, and music cue sheets.
  • Extensive stills galleries featuring both b&w and colour promotional stills and behind=the-scenes photos.

The Avengers: The Complete Series 2 & Surviving Episodes From Series 1 has a RRP of £79.99 but you can find it cheaper from websites including Play.com (£57.99). There are good reviews of the release on the Television Heaven website and at Cathode Ray Tube.

TV Times covers (for Police Surgeon and The Avengers), a ‘knit with The Avengers’ feature from Woman’s Mirror featuring Hendry and Hafner modelling some choice knitwear and music cue sheets.

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