“Death at Bargain Prices” Review

Sometimes this is my favourite episode of The Avengers. Almost entirely set within a department store, with a brutal opening (an agent is gunned down in one of the stores lifts, through one of those open grills) and yet when Steed and Emma are cornered by gun wielding baddies, Steed picks up a ping-pong ball gun, and instantly The Avengers have the advantage. It’s a Brian Clemens script with him at his absolute best, with one of the best lines in the whole series too

Steed: “He said our Mrs Peel is in ladies underwear. I rattled up the stairs three at a time.”

Mrs Peel: “Merry quips department 4th floor.”

It’s directed by Charles Crichton (director of the Lavender Hill Mob) in between directing two brilliant, classic films, The Titlfield Thunderbolt and A Fish Called Wanda (alright, not directly in between).

If there’s a shared theme with The Grave-Diggers, in which wreaths are laid for closed railway lines, and cars are (foolishly) seen as progress, it is this notion of the passing of a golden age. There’s a floor which is closed to the public: “The department of discontinued lines. Relics of a bygone age.”

Mrs Peel was “Deep into thermodynamics” when Steed roped her into this one. There’s a scene where she firmly ejects Steed from her flat while she’s working on the paper. In the Cathy episodes, this would have been a fractious exchange, but there’s less friction here – and I think it’s because it’s clear that she has the higher status. (Diana Rigg’s costumes in this are also particularly splendid – the ‘space department’ outfit, unlikely as it sounds, is great!)

We get to see a little more of Steed’s chat up technique: “Is that a proposition?” the object of his advances enquires. Steed says “More of a sly suggestion?” Steed’s hat is again used to lethal effect in this one.

As with most of season 4, ‘that’ gun sound effect is heard here.

The transport in the tag scene is bicycles.

Wonderful wonderful wonderful stuff. And incredibly memorable classic, and if The Grave-Diggers now pips it to the post as my favourite, the gap between them is wafer thin.

About Simon Wood

Lecturer in medical education, lapsed mathematician, Doctor Who fan and garden railway builder. See simonwood.info for more...

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