Production Number: 3507 Tape Number: VTR/ABC/1979

PLOTLINE

A delegation from the Republic of the Balkans, headed by the country's president, Yakob Borb, is in London to negotiate an economic aid programme in exchange for use of naval bases. However, members of Borb's retinue seem prone to meeting sticky ends, beginning with his secretary, who is attacked and killed at the Balkan Embassy by a masked intruder.

Steed, assigned to protect the president, encourages nightclub singer Venus Smith to help him by joining Borb's staff. She can report back on anything of interest to him, and teases her that a singing contract may be in the offing if she impresses. Her meeting with Borb is a success, and he engages her as a replacement for his deceased secretary. Borb tells Venus to meet him that evening at the East Paddington Public Baths, where an international wrestling bout is being held.

Steed joins Venus at the public baths, but there is no sign of Borb. As they await the bout, between the Butcher of Islington and a mysterious, masked fighter, the Decapod, they get talking to Edna Ramsden, the wife of the second wrestler. When the fight is announced, it transpires that the Decapod's billed opponent is indisposed. A Balkan wrestler, Georgi - one of Borb's bodyguards - is taking his place. The fight does not go to plan, and the bodyguard is killed in the ring by the masked fighter, who escapes in the confusion.

Edna cannot believe that her husband, Harry Ramsden, is capable of such a terrible act. Steed suspects that she is right, and that a substitution has been made. He later meets Harry, who confirms he was told to stay away from the venue, but within minutes Harry is implicated in the death of Borb's remaining bodyguard.

Steed must discover who the masked murderer is, and keep Borb safe until the negotiations are over and he is out of the country. However, the Balkan Ambassador, Stepan, is concerned that Borb has no desire to return to their country, and wishes to abscond. When Borb sweet talks Venus and proposes a tour of the world's major holiday destinations, it seems as if Stepan's suspicions may well be true.

PRODUCTION & ARCHIVE
The Avengers: Series 2, Episode 8
Production Completed:
Thu 13 Sep 1962
Recording Format: 405 Line B/W Video
Archive Holding: 16mm B/W Film Recording

UK REGIONAL PREMIERES

ABC Midlands: Sat 13 Oct 1962, 10.05pm
ABC North: Sat 13 Oct 1962, 10.05pm
Anglia:
Sat 13 Oct 1962, 10.00pm
ATV London: Sat 13 Oct 1962, 10.00pm
Border:
Not transmitted
Channel: Sat 13 Oct 1962, 10.00pm
Grampian: Not transmitted
Scottish: Not transmitted
Southern: Sat 13 Oct 1962, 10.00pm
Teledu Cymru: Sat 13 Oct 1962, 10.05pm
TWW: Sat 13 Oct 1962, 10.05pm
Tyne Tees:
Sat 13 Oct 1962, 10.05pm
Ulster: Sat 13 Oct 1962, 10.05pm
Westward: Sat 13 Oct 1962, 10.00pm
INTERNATIONAL PREMIERES
ARGENTINA: Tue 25 Apr 2000
AUSTRALIA:
Mon 4 Nov 1963
CANADA:
Mon 28 Sep 1964
FRANCE:
Thu 5 Feb 1998
GERMANY:
Fri 10 Dec 2010
MALAYSIA: Sat 16 May 1970
UNITED KINGDOM: Sat 13 Oct 1962
CHARACTERS & CAST
John Steed
Venus Smith
Ito
Girl in Shower
Guards Officer
Cigarette Girl
Yakob Borb
Stepan
Edna Ramsden
Harry Ramsden
Bodyguard (Giorgi)
Bodyguard (Czarko)
Big Man
Chauffeur
Girl at Club
Wrestling Fan/General
Wrestling Fan/General
Wrestling Fan/Admiral
Wrestling Fan
Patrick Macnee
Julie Stevens
Wolfe Morris
Pamela Conway
Harvey Ashby
Valerie Stanton
Paul Stassino
Philip Madoc
Lynne Furlong
Raymond Adamson
Douglas Robinson
Valentine Musetti
Stanley M. Ayers
Melvyn Mordant
Rosemary Chalmers
Victor Harrington
Richard Cuthbert
John Denison
Alison Leggatt
The Dave Lee Trio:
Pianist
Double Bassist
Drummer
Dave Lee
Spike Heatley
Art Morgan
Additional Male Extras:
Messrs Becker, Coventry, Cowles, Davis, Driver, Eden, Fraser, Fry, Fulton, Galsworthy, Geen, Jennings, John, Lenon, Matthews, Murch, Nellor, Nott, Scott, Sefton, Selwyn, Webb, White and Wooliscroft
Additional Female Extras:
Mmes Bacon, Burnett, Hancock, Harris, Harsant, Kennedy, Kent, Page, Raye and Symes
ORIGINAL SOUNDTRACK

Not released.

DVD EXTRAS

StudioCanal, UK: Video Introduction by actress Julie Stevens Camera Script PDF

PRODUCTION CREDITS

Writer Eric Paice
Series Theme & Music
Johnny Dankworth
Designer
Terry Green
Story Editor
John Bryce
Producer
Leonard White
Director
Don Leaver

Production Assistant Sylvia Langdon-Down
Production Assistant (Timing) - Uncredited
Floor Manager Harry Lock
Stage Manager Betty Crowe
Call Boy David Granger
Wardrobe Supervisor - Uncredited
Make-up Supervisor - Uncredited

Technical Supervisor Peter Cazaly
Lighting Supervisor Luigi Bottone
Senior Cameraman Michael Baldock
Sound Supervisor Michael Roberts
Grams Operator - Uncredited
Racks Supervisor - Ray Knight
Vision Mixer - Del Randall

Studio Teddington 1
An ABC Network Production

MINISTRY VERDICT

A tightly scripted episode which shows Steed at his most manipulative, putting a friend in potential danger without ever letting her in on the truth, seemingly without a moment's hesitation. The idea of a masked murderer is not exactly original, but Eric Paice's script tears along at such a rate, dropping red herrings along the way, that it hardly matters. A fine cast, headed by Paul Stassino and Philip Madoc, and a terrific debut from Julie Stevens as Venus Smith, make this an involving, enjoyable watch.

THE DECAPOD DECLASSIFIED

  • Production Brief... The first reading by the cast of the script for The Decapod took place in Rehearsal Room 2A, ABC TV Studios, Broom Road, Teddington, Middlesex, on Friday 31st August 1962 at 10.30am. Rehearsal commenced later the same day and ran until Tuesday 11th September 1962 in the same location.

  • Camera rehearsals for this episode commenced at 10.00am in Studio 1 at Teddington on Wednesday 12th September 1962, concluding with the pre-recording from 8.45pm of the first scenes of Act 1 (featuring Pamela Conway) and Act 3 (Paul Stassino's conference speech). These scenes, coded VTR/ABC/1979A and B respectively, would be played into the main recording of the episode on the following evening. The session ended at 9.00pm and the actors and crew reconvened at 10.00am the next day, Thursday 13th September 1962, working towards a dress rehearsal between 4.15 and 5.30pm, and the final recording between 6.30 and 7.30pm. The episode was transmitted from videotape on Saturday 13th October 1962 at 10.05pm, although some regions commenced their transmissions five minutes earlier.

  • The character of Venus Smith debuted in this episode, although in typical Avengers style, there is no traditional introduction for the character. The idea for a nightclub singer as a new character for the series was first mooted by producer Leonard White in late 1961. In an internal memo to ABC Television's musical director Bob Sharples, dated 11th December 1961, White confirmed that he had decided to go ahead with the character. He suggested that Sharples should consult with casting director Dodo Watts, who was in possession of a character breakdown, in case he had any ideas as to who might fit the role. Referring to an earlier conversation with Sharples, White then noted: "I now understand that you have estimated a figure of 200 as being the cost to include one [musical] number in each programme with the musicians in vision." The memo ends with White asking for Sharples' advice as to how the Johnny Dankworth style could be kept going "in relation to our song spot".

  • Actress Julie Stevens was first recommended for the role of Venus Smith in a memo of 21st March 1962 from ABC Television programme administrator George Brightwell to Leonard White. In his reply of the following day, White noted that Miss Stevens was very much under consideration for the role.

  • Auditions for the role of Venus Smith were held in the Band Room at Teddington Studios between 4.45 and 6.15pm on Tuesday 7th August 1962, with Sydney Newman and Don Leaver presiding. Leonard White was unable to attend as the auditions were held during his holiday. Each artiste had to sing and was accompanied on the piano by Patrick Smythe. Fifty-one actresses were considered for the role, including Judy Cornwell, Vera Day, Diana Decker, Angela Douglas (who had previously impressed Leonard White with her role in the Series 1 episode Dance with Death), Shirley Eaton, Anita Harris, Kathy Kirby, Millicent Martin and Sally Smith (Bunty Seton in the Series 1 episode Toy Trap). Artistes to be auditioned were Angela Douglas, Paddy Glyn, Virginia Graham, Anita Harris, Judy Kenny, Julie Stevens (credited as "Julie Samuels" on the documentation) and Denise Warren. Two performers, Judy Cornwell and Barbara Moore, were unable to attend rehearsals due to prior commitments, and instead sent taped recordings. The initial decision was in favour of Angela Douglas, but unfortunately she proved to be unavailable. A second audition was then staged on the evening of Friday 31st August 1962, a head-to-head between Vera Day and Julie Stevens for the role. Both artistes were required to sing three numbers, and the decision was made in the favour of Miss Stevens.

  • There is an outside chance that this story started out with the working title End of the Line, as production paperwork exists that mentions the introductory Venus Smith episode, and this is annotated with the words 'End of Line' in Leonard White's handwriting. However, the title appears to have no bearing on the content of the episode as transmitted, so it is quite likely that the storyline for Julie Stevens' debut was completely changed after this point.


  • On Location... This episode was completely studio bound and featured no location work or stock footage.


  • Musical Interludes... On Thursday 6th September 1962, Bob Sharples contacted Leonard White with a shortlist of classic songs that might be suitable for Venus Smith to sing in The Decapod. White chose two songs from the twenty-five suggested, You're Getting to be a Habit with Me, written by Al Dubin and Harry Warren in 1932, and I Got It Bad (and That Ain't Good), written by Duke Ellington and Paul Francis Webster in 1941. These songs were rehearsed and recorded in the Band Room on Friday 7th September 1962 between 4.00 and 7.00pm.

  • Joining Julie Stevens in the musical numbers were the Dave Lee Trio, comprising Lee (piano), Spike Heatley (double bass) and Art Morgan (drums). Dave Lee would, with Herbert Kretzmer, go on to write the Honor Blackman and Patrick Macnee songs Kinky Boots and Let's Keep It Friendly. These tracks were released as a 7" single by Decca in February 1964, but the record did not initially bother the charts. However, when Kinky Boots was reissued as the lead song of a four track Deram CD single in December 1990, it peaked at number 5 in the British Singles Chart. The additional tracks featured were Let's Keep It Friendly from the original single and the Honor Blackman solos I Wish I Never Loved You and Men Will Deceive You, which both hailed from her 1964 album Everything I've Got. The Kinky Boots track had started life as an instrumental on the satirical BBC television comedy programme That Was The Week That Was, and the lyrics were written specially for Macnee and Blackman.


  • Trivia... Julie Stevens wore a blonde wig in this episode as she was naturally a brunette. Strangely, in the episode's opening title sequence, her hair seems even less natural - it is drawn on with a soft pencil!

  • After the recording of this episode, Leonard White sent an internal memo to make-up supervisor Lee Halls, noting that the next episode to feature the character of Venus Smith would be recorded on Thursday 4th October 1962. White requested of Halls that she should see that she was "personally, entirely satisfied that Julie [Steven]'s make-up and hair-styling presents her in the best possible way".

  • In response to her debut in The Decapod, producer Leonard White commented to ABC heads of department Sydney Newman, Bob Sharples and Michael Chapman in a memo dated 14th September 1962, that Julie Stevens "did very well on the first show. Having been thrown in at the deep end, she behaved like a very good trouper and deserves to succeed."

  • There is a suggestion that Wolfe Morris (Ito) may possibly have been a late addition to the cast, as his caption card credit seen in the end titles is clearly pasted over an earlier one. There is of course the possibility that this was done to correct a misspelling of Morris' name.


  • Bloopers... At 15 minutes and 39 seconds into the programme, Steed is seen holding a printed souvenir programme pertaining to the wrestling event. It is clear when he and Edna Ramsden are holding it that it is a mock-up with print only on the front cover. All inside pages and the back cover are blank. This is also the case with the copy that Ito holds in the ring.

  • At 20 minutes and 33 seconds, the masked wrestler attempts to escape the ring following his murder of Georgi. However, he misjudges his leap over the ropes and his left leg becomes caught between the top and middle ropes. He eventually extricates himself from his predicament!

  • At 21 minutes and 55 seconds, vision mixer Del Randall cuts back to a camera before it is ready. The cameras used to film The Avengers at this time had multiple lenses of fixed lengths, which could be turned manually to change the type of shot from close-up to wide angle, etc. When Randall cut to the camera, the telephoto lens was still in place, and we see the lens barrel being turned, distorting the image, before it settles on a wide angle shot.

  • At 46 minutes and 50 seconds, Philip Madoc (Stepan) can be seen making his way to his mark, where he enters the fray just over a minute later.


  • Stop Press... The 5th October 1962 edition of TV Times magazine featured a brief interview with actress Julie Stevens, as part of John Gough's Looking Around spread. Gough recounts having met Stevens at a party and being surprised at her admission that The Avengers represented her debut as a television actress: "I said this was difficult to believe, remembering the 25 year old Manchester girl as hostess of The Sunday Break for more than two years and having seen her in admags and other programmes." Stevens responded that she did "once have a part in a TV play but I was never seen on the screen. It was a naval story. I stood behind a screen and when my big moment came, I [pinched my nose to produce the nasal sound of a public address system and] said, 'Lieutenant Madison wanted in the ante-room, please!' " 

  • Perhaps predictably, The Daily Mirror's coverage of this episode on Saturday 13th October 1962 was more interested in a naked woman in a shower than in the episode's more dramatic facets. A piece entitled Pamela's Birthday Shower focused on actress Pamela Conway, seen in the pre-title teaser, and noted that she was celebrating her 21st birthday on the night of the episode's broadcast. "But it's an all too brief appearance. Pam gets murdered, and Patrick Macnee, as special investigator John Steed, tries to find the killer."


  • And Finally... Harry Ramsden, the wrestling alter-ego of the Decapod, has a name with a decidedly fishy association in Britain. His namesake, who lived from 1888 to 1963, was the founder and proprietor of a chain of fish and chip restaurants. Ramsden's original premises in Guiseley, West Yorkshire, still operates today and is recognised as the largest restaurant of its kind in the world, seating 250 diners. It serves in excess of one million diners each year.

Plotline by Alan Hayes UK Transmissions by Simon Coward, Alan Hayes and John Tomlinson
International Premieres by Denis Kirsanov Ministry Verdict by Alan Hayes

Declassified by Alan Hayes and Richard McGinlay

With thanks to Dave Matthews, Dave Rogers, Piers Johnson, Jaz Wiseman
and StudioCanal for their kind assistance

 

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