Production Number: 3517 • Tape Number: VTR/ABC/2299

PLOTLINE

At the Gemini club in London's West End, a magician's disappearing lady trick goes badly wrong when his assistant Valerie reappears dead, with a shotgun wound to her back.

John Steed is investigating the leaking of NATO secrets, and suspects that the source may be someone near to General Sutherland, a NATO commander who has been recalled after retirement. The General is a semi-invalid confined to a wheelchair and dependent upon his daughter Kathleen, who acts as his carer. Steed has worked his way into the General's household, posing as a masseur.

Steed has learned that his friend Venus Smith knew Kathleen Sutherland from their times together at the YWCA at Victoria a couple of years ago. He meets her at the Gemini club, where she is working, and encourages her to pay her friend a visit.

Kathleen is desperate to help her father, and has been taken in by a faith healer, Dr Gallam, who instructs her to conceal wooden boxes that he has filled with healing minerals close to her father. Steed learns of this man and discovers from Venus that Gallam is often to be seen hanging around the club. Steed and pays him a visit at his surgery, posing as a very wealthy, but very ill man. Gallam is unconvinced by his new patient, particularly when he is evasive about giving an address, asking for the box to be delivered to his friend Venus Smith instead.

Meanwhile, with a meeting of NATO representatives imminent at the Sutherland's residence, Kathleen places a new box from Gallam in the pouch at the back of her father's wheelchair. She is told to bring the box to the Gemini club that afternoon, and in doing so, she is unwittingly putting herself in great danger.

PRODUCTION & ARCHIVE
The Avengers: Series 2, Episode 18
Production Completed:
Thu 17 Jan 1963
Recording Format: 405 Line B/W Video
Archive Holding: 16mm B/W Film Recording

UK REGIONAL PREMIERES

ABC Midlands: Sat 19 Jan 1963, 10.05pm
ABC North: Sat 19 Jan 1963, 10.05pm
Anglia:
Sat 19 Jan 1963, 10.05pm
ATV London: Sun 20 Jan 1963, 10.35pm
Border:
Not transmitted
Channel: Sun 20 Jan 1963, 10.35pm
Grampian: Sun 20 Jan 1963, 10.35pm
Scottish: Not transmitted
Southern: Sat 19 Jan 1963, 10.05pm
Teledu Cymru: Fri 18 Jan 1963, 10.45pm
TWW: Sun 20 Jan 1963, 10.35pm
Tyne Tees:
Sat 19 Jan 1963, 10.05pm
Ulster: Sun 20 Jan 1963, 10.35pm
Westward: Sun 20 Jan 1963, 10.35pm
INTERNATIONAL PREMIERES
ARGENTINA: Tue 27 Jun 2000
AUSTRALIA:
Mon 20 Jan 1964
CANADA:
Mon 4 Jan 1965
FRANCE:
Thu 26 Feb 1998
GERMANY:
Fri 31 Dec 2010
MALAYSIA: Sat 9 Feb 1969
UNITED KINGDOM: Fri 18 Jan 1963
CHARACTERS & CAST
John Steed
Venus Smith
Kathleen Sutherland
General Sutherland
Dr Gallam
Gerald 'Gerry' Weston
Denise
Manager (The Major)
Henriette
Head Waiter (Nino)
Doorman (Harry)
Maξtre d'
Maid (Mary Jackson)
Showgirl
Hostess
10 Male Extras
9 Female Extras
Patrick Macnee
Julie Stevens
Jane Barrett
Maurice Hedley
Edgar Wreford
Ian Curry
April Olrich
Dallas Cavell
Jacqueline Jones
Robert Hartley
Royston Tickner
Gregory Scott
Gail Starforth
Lynn Taylor
Yvette Herries
Uncredited
Uncredited
The Dave Lee Trio:
Pianist
Double Bassist
Drummer
Dave Lee
Spike Heatley
Art Morgan
ORIGINAL SOUNDTRACK

Not released.

DVD EXTRAS

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

PRODUCTION CREDITS

Writers – Peter Ling and Edward Rhodes
Series Theme & Music –
Johnny Dankworth
Designer –
Anne Spavin
Story Editor –
Richard Bates
Producer –
John Bryce
Director –
Kim Mills

Production Assistant – Eileen Cornwell
Production Assistant (Timing) - Paddy Dewey
Floor Manager – John Russell
Stage Manager – Michael Pearce
Call Boy – John Cooper
Wardrobe Supervisor - Margaret Morris
Make-up Supervisor - Lee Halls

Technical Supervisor – Peter Cazaly
Lighting Supervisor – Bob Simmons
Senior Cameraman – Dickie Jackman
Sound Supervisor – Michael Roberts
Grams Operator - Uncredited
Racks Supervisor - Alan Fowler
Vision Mixer - Gordon Hesketh

Studio – Teddington 1
An ABC Network Production

MINISTRY VERDICT

The first thing that's obvious when watching this episode is that we are being presented with a new Venus Smith. It's not just the Sassoon bob-style haircut, it's the whole character that's changed, and not for the better. Whereas Venus as seen in The Decapod and The Removal Men was a sassy lady who was suspicious of Steed's motives, and could come back with a cutting rejoinder, here she is as an effervescent girl, too smiley and innocent to be someone working in the nightclubs of Soho. The script has a very Avengerish conceit in the contents and purpose of the boxes of tricks, but it is all too easy to guess what they are. Additionally, locating the radio transmitter in the dressing room of a Soho club, within spitting distance of the scene of two murders, seems exceptionally contrived. Surely those involved in espionage would be working in private rather than in a space used by others? There is also far too much of a suspension of disbelief required to accept that Kathleen Sutherland can be quite as innocent and gullible as she appears. Meanwhile, Kim Mills' direction is somewhat perfunctory, and there are more instances than normal of performers waiting for their cue at shot changes. The biggest plus point of Box of Tricks is the sequence in which Steed feigns illness when he visits Dr Gallam, posing  as Thackeray. Macnee is absolutely brilliant in this scene, and shows what he was capable of when given material that pushed him beyond the standard Steed persona. All told, it's an enjoyable episode, but there are far too many flaws, both in plotting and execution, for it to be considered a particularly good one.

BOX OF TRICKS • DECLASSIFIED

  • Production Brief... Camera rehearsals for this episode commenced at 10.00am in Studio 1 at Teddington on Wednesday 16th January 1963. They concluded with the pre-recording from 8.30pm of scenes 33-35 from Act 3, which were set in the under stage area and Gerry Weston's dressing room, and led up to the climactic confrontation between Steed, Kathleen, Weston and Dr Gallam. These scenes, coded VTR/ABC/2299A, 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 17th January 1963, 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 Friday 18th January 1963 at 10.45pm (in the Teledu Cymru ITV region), Saturday 19th January 1963 at 10.05pm (ABC Midlands and North, Anglia, Southern and Tyne Tees), and Sunday 20th February 1963 (ATV London, Channel, Grampian, Television Wales & West, Ulster and Westward).

  • Timings of the rehearsals suggested that the expected duration of the episode would be 51 minutes and 25 seconds, not including commercial breaks. This estimate proved to be reasonably accurate, with the episode coming in at 51 minutes and 38 seconds.


  • On Location... This episode was completely studio bound and featured no location work. It did however feature stock footage of Piccadilly Circus at night and of neon signs adorning Soho and West End nightclubs, such as the Raymond Revuebar (11 Walkers Court, W1F), the Gargoyle Club incorporating the Nell Gwynn Revue  (69 Dean Street, W1D) and the Latin Quarter Bar, Restaurant and Lounge (13 Wardour Street). The neon sign for the club where Venus is playing, the Gemini, appears to have been mocked up by the design department.


  • Musical Interludes... Julie Stevens performs two songs with the Dave Lee Trio in Box of Tricks. These are a little shorter than in previous episodes, and intrude less upon the dramatic progression of the episode. The first song, It's A Pity to Say Goodnight, had been written by William Gordon Reid in 1946 and was successfully revived in 1961 by Ella Fitzgerald. The version sung by Julie Stevens featured an altered final verse designed to round off the evening's entertainment with a reminder to the audience not to forget to pay their bill on the way out. The second song, It's De-Lovely, was a famous Cole Porter composition from the musical Red, Hot and Blue (1936). It, like the first song, had received fresh attention shortly before the recording of this episode, when the song was incorporated into a revised stage version of another Cole Porter musical, Anything Goes, in 1962.


  • Trivia... This episode is reputed to have been written originally as a Cathy and Venus Smith story. However, although there is documentation suggesting such a possibility, it does not confirm that the idea pertained to this particular episode.

  • Despite the very obvious changes in Venus Smith's appearance and character traits, the image of Julie Stevens in the opening credit sequence remains the same as it had been for The Removal Men.

  • Venus Smith's booking at the Gemini is the result of co-operation between Steed and the club's manager. He believes Steed to be a theatrical agent and that Venus is his client, but Venus and her genuine agent are in the dark as to how the booking came about. He had just received a telephone call, out of the blue. Regardless, the booking has been a great success; the manager confides to Steed that the death at the club had been very bad for business, but that attendances have really picked up since Venus arrived.

  • When Kathleen Sutherland asks the operator at the telephone exchange to put her through to WELbeck 9291, this locates Dr Gallam's surgery as being in the Marylebone area, served by the WELbeck exchange. Extrapolating further, this very likely means that Gallam's surgery was situated on Harley Street, the Marylebone street that has since the 19th century been home to many private medical and surgical specialists.

  • Gallam and Weston's transmitter, by which they disseminate the NATO secrets, is concealed within a piano in Weston's dressing room. This seems a rather foolish place to hide it, as anyone trying the piano would find that it doesn't work.


  • Bloopers... At 42 seconds into the episode, Valerie, Gerry Weston's assistant comes to her mark a fraction too early and hesitates.

  • At 2 minutes and 28 seconds, vision mixer Gordon Hesketh accidentally cuts momentarily to a camera showing a BCU of Steed during Venus' rendition of It's A Pity to Say Goodnight. The image is held for only for a fraction of a second.

  • At 3 minutes and 36 seconds, a boom microphone intrudes at the top of the frame as the waiter approaches Steed and Henriette's table.

  • At 10 minutes and 4 seconds, the camera cuts to the hall of the Sutherlands' residence, and a figure (Patrick Macnee) is seen waiting for his cue before walking into frame and exiting through a door off the hallway.

  • At 15 minutes and 6 seconds, there is another instance of an actor frozen waiting for his cue. This time it's Ian Curry (as Gerald Weston), who is delaying painting a face mask until the light on the camera comes on.

  • At 16 minutes and 17 seconds, while Denise is confronting Weston in the dressing room, we hear a loud thump from outside in the under stage area. We then learn that the noise had been caused by Venus, who had accidentally knocked down a human skeleton prop. The sound, which ought to have been a clatter, does not marry up well with the action. In the same scene, we still hear the dressing room sound (Weston saying "Listen!") even though the vision mixer has cut to Venus outside it.

  • At 18 minutes and 53 seconds, Denise falls out of the magician's box, with a stocking at her throat, quite dead. Unfortunately, actress April Olrich seems to think it necessary to hold the stocking to her throat, so that it doesn't fall off!

  • At 32 minutes and 44 seconds, actor Ian Curry is again seen frozen, waiting for his cue, before continuing his act on stage.

  • At 39 minutes and 15 seconds, as the camera pans right to follow General Sutherland traversing the hall in his wheelchair, a boom microphone can be seen in the top of the frame.

  • At 47 minutes and 44 seconds, trying to make his escape, Dr Gallam leans against a brick wall on the stairwell leading up to the club, and the brickwork proves to be rather wobbly...


  • Stop Press... Coming soon.


  • And Finally... What looks like a blooper at 30 minutes and 38 seconds, is actually a result of union rules of the time. We see the maξtre d' (played by extra Gregory Scott), standing front-of-house at the Gemini, as he takes a customer booking on the telephone. He is clearly mouthing words rather demonstrably, and then greets Steed, but no sound can be heard, despite our hearing the door open beside him. This looks faintly ridiculous, but generally, extras were not given lines of dialogue to speak. If they were required to deliver speeches, however small, an additional payment to the performer would be incurred, as dictated by an agreement between ITV and the actors' union Equity concerning 'walk-on' performers. 

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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