Production Number: 3509 Tape Number: VTR/ABC/2056
Working Title: 'That Most Expensive Commodity'

PLOTLINE

Working at the instruction of One-Ten, Steed infiltrates a gang of professional killers who are working the France Riviera. The group, headed up by Jack Dragna, operates out of a Bug Siegel's nightclub, Les Centaurs. One-Ten knows that Siegel was responsible for a contract killing in Italy the previous week, but with Steed's help is keen to bring the whole organisation down.

To bring himself to the attention of the gang, Steed breaks into the Dragnas' apartment, and steals Cecile Dragna's jewellery. Rather than sneaking out with it, he announces himself to Cecile before departing, ensuring that her husband will track him down. He makes it even easier for him by visiting Charlie Binaggio, a jeweller who acts as a 'fence' for the gang's other nefarious activities, to ask for a valuation of his haul, knowing that the stolen jewels will be recognised.

Siegel and Binaggio track Steed down to the club, where he is chatting with Venus Smith, who has been hired as resident performer at Les Centaurs. He has told her that he has a desire to buy Siegel's club and asks her to do a bit of snooping for him. Before long, Steed has been hauled before the Dragnas, but he plays it very cool, and impresses Jack Dragna. He even asks for a job, suggesting that Dragna could use a man with his skills. There is no vacancy, but he will be kept in mind.

Steed has One-Ten instruct the French police to arrest Binaggio, thus creating the required vacancy. Visiting the heavily built Italian in jail, Siegel ensures that their compromised colleague will not talk. He is found hanged in his prison cell.

Dragna then recruits Steed and gives him a tough assignment as a test of his nerve and commitment: he is to murder Nicole Cauvin, a young and beautiful French film star. She has outspokenly aligned herself with the campaign to grant independence to Aluda, a French territory, and in the process has made enemies who will pay large sums to see her terminated.

Steed must find a way to save Nicole Cauvin's life, while making it appear that he has killed her as demanded.

PRODUCTION & ARCHIVE
The Avengers: Series 2, Episode 10
Production Completed:
Thu 4 Oct 1962
Recording Format: 405 Line B/W Video
Archive Holding: 16mm B/W Film Recording

UK REGIONAL PREMIERES

ABC Midlands: Sat 3 Nov 1962, 10.05pm
ABC North: Sat 3 Nov 1962, 10.05pm
Anglia:
Sat 3 Nov 1962, 10.05pm
ATV London: Sat 3 Nov 1962, 10.05pm
Border:
Not transmitted
Channel: Sat 3 Nov 1962, 10.05pm
Grampian: Not transmitted
Scottish: Not transmitted
Southern: Sat 3 Nov 1962, 10.05pm
Teledu Cymru: Sat 3 Nov 1962, 10.05pm
TWW: Sat 3 Nov 1962, 10.05pm
Tyne Tees:
Sat 3 Nov 1962, 10.05pm
Ulster: Sat 3 Nov 1962, 10.05pm
Westward: Sat 3 Nov 1962, 10.05pm
INTERNATIONAL PREMIERES
ARGENTINA: Tue 9 May 2000
AUSTRALIA:
Mon 25 Nov 1963
CANADA:
Mon 19 Oct 1964
FRANCE:
Sun 22 Feb 1998
GERMANY:
Wed 15 Dec 2010
ITALY: Thu 26 Aug 1965
UNITED KINGDOM: Sat 3 Nov 1962
CHARACTERS & CAST
John Steed
Venus Smith
Bug Siegel
Jack Dragna
Charlie Binaggio
One-Ten
Cecile Dragna
Nicole Cauvin
Godard
'Charlie' Bonet
Jailer
Harbour Officer
Waiter (Georges)
Tourists (Extras)
Patrick Macnee
Julie Stevens
Edwin Richfield
Reed de Rouen
George Roderick
Douglas Muir
Patricia Denys
Edina Ronay
Donald Tandy
Hira Talfrey
Hugo de Vernier
Ivor Dean
George Little
Roy Denton
Vincent Charles
Michael Moore
Joan Mane
Andrea Lawrence
The Dave Lee Trio:
Pianist
Double Bassist
Drummer
Dave Lee
Spike Heatley
Art Morgan
Additional Male Extras:
Paul Duval, Ivor Ellis, Michael Hamer,
Paddy Kent, Umberto Lombardi, Steve Patrick and Mike Sankar 
Additional Female Extras:
Fran Brown, Monica Dwyer, Valerie Gold, Helen Hancock and Cornelia Lucas
ORIGINAL SOUNDTRACK

Not released.

DVD EXTRAS

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

PRODUCTION CREDITS

Writers Roger Marshall and Jeremy Scott
Series Theme & Music
Johnny Dankworth
Designer
Patrick Downing
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 Shirley Cleghorn
Call Boy John Cooper
Wardrobe Supervisor - Frances Hancock
Make-up Supervisor - Lee Halls

Technical Supervisor Peter Wayne
Lighting Supervisor Peter Kew
Senior Cameraman Tom Clegg
Sound Supervisor John Tasker
Grams Operator - Uncredited
Racks Supervisor - Bob Godfrey
Vision Mixer - Gordon Hesketh

Studio Teddington 1
An ABC Network Production

MINISTRY VERDICT

Another strong episode, but one with Venus Smith somewhat sidelined and not really in on the action for the most part. Again, Steed keeps her in the dark, and this is perhaps one of the reasons the character was not a success in the way that Cathy Gale was she is not treated by Steed as an equal. The episode sports a decent plot, as one might expect from the debut Avengers script of Roger Marshall, one of the series' great writers. Here he shared the writing duties with his friend Jeremy Scott, who produced the initial draft. The guest cast is a little variable: Reed de Rouen, Edwin Richfield and Edina Ronay all do creditably well, but elsewhere, particularly in the cases of Patricia Denys and Donald Tandy, unconvincing accents seem to be the order of the day, and ones that drift alarmingly at that. Patrick Macnee and, despite being poorly served, Julie Stevens, are both on excellent form in The Removal Men, and there's a welcome cameo from Ivor Dean, Inspector Teal of The Saint. Where the episode really falls down, however, is in the way in which it incorporates a jazz number played by the Dave Lee Trio, stopping the action and morphing into a music show for no apparent reason. Not perfect, but a decent enough debut script from Roger Marshall and Jeremy Scott, well staged, and affording the viewer a rare glimpse inside the ABC TV Studios a lovely bonus.

THE REMOVAL MEN DECLASSIFIED

  • Production Brief... The first reading by the cast of the script for The Removal Men took place in Rehearsal Room 3A, ABC TV Studios, Broom Road, Teddington, Middlesex, on Friday 21st September 1962 at 10.30am. Rehearsal commenced later the same day and ran until Tuesday 2nd October 1962 in the same location.

  • Camera rehearsals for this episode commenced a day earlier than was usual, with a two hour session on Tuesday 2nd October 1962 between 6.00 and 8.00pm in Studio 1 at Teddington. Cast and crew returned for a full day's camera rehearsal from 10.00am to 9.00pm on the following day. During this Wednesday session, the sequence inside the film studio featuring Steed, Nicole and Venus was pre-recorded between 2.15 and 2.30pm within the ABC TV Studios complex. This insert, coded VTR/ABC/2056A, would be played into the main recording of the episode on the following evening. Camera rehearsals resumed at 10.00am the next day, Thursday 4th October 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 3rd November 1962 at 10.05pm.

  • The script, along with that for The Death of a Great Dane, was drafted by Jeremy Scott, an executive producer at TV Advertising Ltd, whilst on a three month stay in Jamaica in 1961. On his return, he ran them both by his friend Roger Marshall, who agreed to collaborate, and the final scripts of these two episodes were written as a team effort.

  • Production Assistant Sylvia Langdon-Down annotated her copy of the first draft of the camera script (dated 17th September 1962) and noted the potential for a serious underrun based on timings taken in rehearsals. Initially, the production came in at just 40 minutes and 30 seconds, approximately 11 minutes short of the intended running time. This was initially extended by 3 minutes and 30 seconds by lengthening Steed's break-in and theft of Cecile Dragna's jewellery, adding the sequence in the corridors and stairwell of Teddington Studios, and by  allowing for an extended jazz number by the Dave Lee Trio, bringing the running time to 44 minutes. This still represented an underrun of some 7 minutes and 30 seconds, something that would have been severely frowned upon by the ITV Network. The revised camera script estimated the running time at 51 minutes and 25 seconds. The finished episode actually overran by one minute, coming in at 52 minutes and 32 seconds!


  • On Location... Despite the exotic locale of this episode, the only location filming undertaken outside the studio environment was shot elsewhere in the ABC TV Studios buildings at Teddington. The sequence in question saw the building double as a film studio, and was committed to videotape using two pedestal cameras. Footage was shot on a studio corridor (complete with ABC-TV's "wall of fame"), the staircase to reception and the reception area of the studio building, looking towards the main entrance. The angled shots of Patrick Macnee and Edina Ronay running down the stairwell were achieved using a pedestal camera seated on a 45 degree up-pan wedge used in conjunction with a low-angle platform dolly.


  • Musical Interludes... The songs chosen for Venus Smith to sing in The Removal Men appear in Leonard White's handwriting on Bob Sharples' shortlist of suggested songs, dated Thursday 6th September 1962. An Occasional Man originally formed a part of the soundtrack to The Girl Rush, a 1955 musical comedy film, and was written by Ralph Blane and Hugh Martin. I May Be Wrong was a much older tune, dating back to 1929, and was written by Henry Sullivan (music) and Henry Ruskin (lyrics). This song was written to be sung by a male vocalist and so a number of minor changes to the lyrics were made by Dave Lee and Julie Stevens for The Avengers. The third track was Sing for Your Supper, a number from the stage musical The Boys from Syracuse, which had been written by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart in 1938.

  • In addition to the three songs featured in the episode, the Dave Lee Trio also play two additional instrumental pieces, one of which is introduced as one of their own compositions. This is a lengthy piece that seriously jars the flow of the episode, and the actors in the scene, Ivor Dean as the Harbour Officer and Edwin Richfield as Bug Siegel, appear somewhat bemused as it continues for nearly two minutes. The early estimates of The Removal Men's running time, which suggested a potential underrun of as much as 11 minutes, undoubtedly had some part to play in its inclusion as it serves no dramatic purpose whatever.

  • Near the end of the episode, Venus Smith performs a song at the piano, with a gun trained on her. When interviewed for the 2009 UK DVD release of Series 2, actress Julie Stevens revealed that the terror of the scene was very real for her, as she had suggested that she should be seen playing the piano as well as singing. She had spent two weeks learning the chords to Sing for Your Supper, which pianist Dave Lee had written down for her. It all went well in the studio, and Julie played the piece with no mistakes. However, the tension that she felt worked to good effect in the scene: "I had to act frightened, and I really was because of the piano playing!"


  • Trivia... Bug Siegel's club, Les Centaurs, was originally to have been called Le Chat Noir, complete with "an effigy of a black cat hanging by its neck over the bar", as the first draft of the camera script quaintly put it.

  • Having spoken in positive terms about Julie Stevens' debut in The Decapod, producer Leonard White recommended, in a memo dated 14th September 1962 to ABC heads of department Sydney Newman, Bob Sharples and Michael Chapman, that she be given "at least one number which has more 'go' and vitality in it [for The Removal Men]... Anything, therefore, that we can do to get away from the 'sophisticated' in her presentation will help."

  • Although it is not alluded to directly in the dialogue, it seems highly likely that Venus Smith's engagement at Les Centaurs is, unbeknownst to her, something that has been engineered by Steed and One-Ten.


  • Bloopers... At 1 minute and 22 seconds into the episode, a pedestal camera is seen in the background of the shot.

  • At 7 minutes and 1 second, Dave Lee calls Julie Stevens by her real first name, rather than the character name, Venus.

  • At 38 minutes and 27 seconds, vision mixer Gordon Hesketh cuts in error to Reed de Rouen, and the shot is held for a fraction of a second before it settles again on Patrick Macnee.

  • At 41 minutes 30, when Venus sings An Occasional Man, the sound from her microphone is faded up late and her first three words are muted, which, for completists, should have been "I got an (island in the Pacific)".


  • Stop Press... Jeremy Scott's work on The Avengers was mentioned in The Stage and Television Today on 8th November 1962. The short item noted that he had drafted scripts for The Removal Men and Death of a Great Dane whilst on a three month "creative holiday" in Jamaica in 1961, and had later co-operated with Roger Marshall to create the final versions. The piece ended by stating that "Scott is currently working on a script for a third episode in the series", although whatever this third script may have been, it never made the screen as an episode of The Avengers.

  • The TV Times for the week of 28th October to 3rd November 1962 featured a cover depicting Patrick Macnee as John Steed, with his two female co-stars Julie Stevens and Honor Blackman. The episode screening during the week of the magazine edition was The Removal Men, which of course did not feature Honor Blackman.

TV Times, dated 26th October 1962

  • Today magazine ran a feature that tied in with The Removal Men in their edition dated 3rd November 1962. The issue ran a cover photo of Edina Ronay and an interview with Patrick Macnee on pages 16 and 17 entitled Girls - They're a 'Con' Trick. In the piece, he revealed how his time in Canada made him a better actor and helped him make a success of Steed, but the article also reveals that Macnee could be unlucky in love: "My whole trouble is that I fall in love too easily. I'm always falling in love - and I end up being walked over. It tears me apart inside. Agony. But you smile because there's always tomorrow. It's part of the fantasy. I'll give you an example of what I mean. I was in the bar of a strip club in America, one night after touring with the Old Vic. Everyone went back to England except me. Why? I saw this gorgeous blonde in the bar. German. Tough type. But absolutely gorgeous. I fell in love on the spot. The romance began - and then she really blue-angeled me. Cleaned me out. I finished up washing dishes at the club for six months. The girl? I'd be the first to admit it wasn't the ideal relationship - because she went off and joined Nasser's army to fight the British at Suez."


  • And Finally... After the appearance of a seemingly naked woman in a shower in The Decapod, there is a further ramping up of the titilation in this episode, with Cecile Dragna (Patricia Denys) also seemingly naked in her bathroom when Steed breaks into her apartment, and the delectable Edina Ronay (as Nicole Cauvin) appearing in the beach scene in a bikini that more than flatters her figure. There is also a scene where Cecile tests Steed by attempting to seduce him, flashing her cleavage provocatively by leaning towards him in a low cut dress, an action which elicits a smirk from the agent. These inclusions were almost certainly due to a conscious decision to make the programme more sexy, in the wake of Leonard White's response to a query from Sydney Newman in August 1962 in which he professed that the "trouble with [the] series this year so far, is that is hasn't [had] enough sex!".

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, Mike Noon, Ian Beard, Jaz Wiseman
and StudioCanal for their kind assistance

 

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