Champagne That's Lost Its Fizz

By Ansen, David | Newsweek, August 24, 1998 | Go to article overview

Champagne That's Lost Its Fizz


Ansen, David, Newsweek


A '60s TV classic gets a bad big-screen update

It seemed like a good idea, but the more you think about it, the clearer it becomes that The Avengers should never have been turned into a movie. Not in 1998. It's not that it's the worst movie of the summer--it's merely the most irrelevant. It sits up there on the screen, as stiff and out of place as John Steed's black bowler. Who needs it?

A little explanation is in order for those who weren't around in 1966, when this cult British import took America by storm. Secret agent John Steed, played by Patrick Macnee, with his umbrella, bowler, antique car and veddy-upper-crust manner, was a parody of an Englishman. The character was matched with Diana Rigg's mod, mischievously unflappable Emma Peel, sexily decked out in midriff-revealing, chain-linked Carnaby Street fashions. "The Avengers"--located on the Zeitgeist halfway between James Bond and the Beatles--was something new on TV, with its tongue-in-cheek black comedy, its emotional cool, its champagne-popping hipness. No matter how many grisly deaths each episode recorded, the strongest reaction from Rigg and Macnee was an arched eyebrow.

But what could it mean today? Few things have dated so thoroughly as the absurdist whimsy of the late '60s. Looking at episodes of the show now, its hipness seems terribly quaint; the strongest emotion it evokes is nostalgia. The director of the movie, Jeremiah Chechik, and screenwriter Don Macpherson seem to think that all it takes to bring "The Avengers" into the '90s is computer-generated special effects. …

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