Production Number: 3412 Tape Number: Unknown

PLOTLINE

Wealthy businessman Sir Thomas Weller telephones a man known as the Deacon regarding a "nuisance abatement" problem. The Deacon is to deal with it as arranged. A young man named Jeremy de Willoughby has been paying unwanted attention to Weller's beautiful daughter, Marylin, and Sir Thomas wants the frighteners put on him good and hard...

In his secret headquarters behind a grocery store, the Deacon instructs a couple of goons called Moxon and Nature Boy. Moxon is on probation for a previous assault, and he is reluctant to get any more black marks on his already tarnished record. The Deacon reminds the thug that he has sufficient incriminating evidence against Moxon to have him put behind bars until he is old enough to draw a pension. Before departing to ambush de Willoughby, Moxon arms himself with a straight razor and brass knuckles...

Steed is on the trail of the Deacon and his boys. Arranging a meeting with Dr Keel in the back of a taxi cab, Steed asks for the GP's help in dealing with a case of "massage contracting". He explains that this euphemism actually refers to beating the daylights out of the "patient" that is, the victim. Tipped off by an elderly flower seller, a waiter and a bus conductor, all contacts of Steed, the doctor and the spy track de Willoughby to his home. They arrive too late to prevent his beating by Moxon and Nature Boy, but they are able to knock out Moxon. They take de Willoughby and Moxon to Keel's surgery, for treatment and interrogation.

While Keel attends to de Willoughby's dislocated shoulder, Steed puts the frighteners on Moxon, threatening him with the straight razor. Keel puts a stop to this ill-treatment, but this allows de Willoughby to get away before he can be questioned by Steed. The agent pursues de Willoughby, leaving Keel alone with Moxon. When Moxon tries to leave too, Keel uses desperate measures of his own and rushes in where Steeds and angels would fear to tread...

 

Read the full story in Two Against the Underworld

PRODUCTION & ARCHIVE
The Avengers: Series 1, Episode 15
Production Completed:
Thu 25 May 1961
Recording Format: 405 Line B/W Video
Archive Holding: 16mm B/W Film Recording
John Cura Tele-Snaps: Photographed
Reconstruction: Not necessary

UK REGIONAL PREMIERES

ABC Midlands: Sat 27 May 1961, 10.00pm
ABC North: Sat 27 May 1961, 10.00pm
Anglia:
Sat 27 May 1961, 10.00pm
ATV London: Sat 27 May 1961, 10.00pm
Border:
Not transmitted
Grampian: Not transmitted
Scottish: Not transmitted
Southern: Sat 27 May 1961, 10.00pm
TWW: Sat 27 May 1961, 10.00pm
Tyne Tees:
Sat 27 May 1961, 10.00pm
Ulster: Sat 27 May 1961, 10.00pm
Westward: Sat 27 May 1961, 10.00pm
INTERNATIONAL PREMIERES
ARGENTINA: Sat 8 Apr 2000
FRANCE:
Thu 8 Jan 1998
GERMANY:
Mon 6 Dec 2010
UNITED KINGDOM: Sat 27 May 1961
CHARACTERS & CAST
Dr David Keel
John Steed
Carol Wilson
The Deacon
Jeremy de Willoughby
Moxon
Mrs Briggs (Doris Courtney)
Sir Thomas Weller
Marylin Weller
Nigel
Nature Boy
Beppi Colissimo
Butler
Secretary
Waiter
Inspector Charlie Foster
Flower Seller
Grekio
Fred the Cabbie
Street Sweeper
1st Plainclothes Officer
2nd Plainclothes Officer
Uniformed Policeman
1st Woman in Shop
2nd Woman in Shop
1st Man in Street
2nd Man in Street
Man in Restaurant
Woman in Restaurant
Cat
Ian Hendry
Patrick Macnee
Ingrid Hafner
Willoughby Goddard
Philip Gilbert
Philip Locke
 
Doris Hare
Stratford Johns
Dawn Beret
David Andrews
Godfrey James
Neil Wilson
Eric Elliot
Ann Taylor
Ralph Tovey
Benn Simons
Eleanor Darling
Benny Nightingale
Victor Charrington
Frank Peters
Charles Wood
Uncredited Extra
Uncredited Extra
Uncredited Extra
Uncredited Extra
Uncredited Extra
Uncredited Extra
Uncredited Extra
Uncredited Extra
Uncredited
ORIGINAL SOUNDTRACK

Not released.

DVD EXTRAS

StudioCanal, UK: Dialogue Script PDF, Episode Introduction from Channel 4 UK repeat (Easter Egg on Series 3 DVD set) Stills Gallery (images not actually from this episode)

PRODUCTION CREDITS

Writer Berkeley Mather
Series Theme & Music
Johnny Dankworth
Designer
Robert Fuest
Story Editor
John Bryce / Reed de Rouen
Producer
Leonard White
Acting Producer Sydney Newman
Director
Peter Hammond

Other credits not available

Studio Teddington 2
An ABC Network Production

THE FRIGHTENERS DECLASSIFIED

  • Production Brief... At the time of the recording of The Frighteners, producer Leonard White's role was being covered by ABC Head of Drama, Sydney Newman, as White was absent due to having to enter hospital from Monday 22nd May 1961 for a routine procedure that would keep him out of action for approximately a fortnight. Newman's involvement was not credited and White retained his normal billing. Before White left the office, he informed story editors John Bryce, John Lucarotti and Reed de Rouen and directors Peter Hammond and Don Leaver that "Sydney Newman will of course watch the series and anything normally referred to me should be passed to him. The script situation is still acute. We have to make sure that we are at least doubling up on every script for a possible production date. We should continue to make sure that the control of scripting rests firmly within the production and script departments. To this end we should involve Hendry and Macnee as early as possible so that we can minimise any problems during the rehearsal period. We are beginning to involve Reed de Rouen early in the scripting process. This is of great value and should be developed."

  • Berkeley Mather is a pseudonym of John Evan Weston Davies (25th February 1909 to 7th March 1996). He authored sixteen books, and also wrote for radio, television and the movies. Some of his screen work, including The Frighteners, is credited to Berkeley Mather, but more often he used the spelling Berkely. Uncertainty over this writer's identity doesn't end there... A number of contradictory accounts of his background have emerged over the years, including an article published in TV Times to promote The Frighteners in 1961 (see Stop the Press, below).

  • Davies was truly a man of mystery, and his story-spinning began during his military career. Posted to Lahore as a private soldier in 1933 to serve with the Royal Field Artillery, he hit upon the idea of posing as an officer. Arriving at the barracks, he claimed that his kit and papers had been stolen. Since he appeared to have all the attributes of an officer and a gentleman, he was accepted as such. He bargained that, in the days of tortuous communications between India and Britain, it would be some time before he was discovered. This proved to be the case, and it was almost two years before the authorities caught up with him. Possibly by doing a deal (it would have been a source of embarrassment for the Army if the story had come out), Davies transferred to the Indian Army Farms Department, where he made sergeant. When World War II broke out, he volunteered for active duty and was eventually commissioned in 1943, serving on the staff of Lieutenant General William Slim, commander of the 14th Army. Following Indian independence in 1947, Davies served in Hong Kong, Egypt and Cyprus, before finally resigning his commission as lieutenant colonel in 1959 to focus on writing.

  • The pen name Berkely Mather came into being around 1940, when Davies submitted a short story to a British Indian magazine. As a serving soldier, he was not allowed to write under his own name. Taking inspiration from two neon signs, for the Berkeley Grill and Mather's the Chemist, he put the names together, managing to misspell one of them, and Berkely Mather was born. During the 1950s, he proved himself to be a prolific and extremely fast scriptwriter, able to turn out a 30-minute teleplay in 8 to 12 hours. In 1957, he created the character of Detective Chief Inspector Charlesworth, who would feature in several series of crime dramas over the next four years and become one of the first popular television detectives. Mather's contribution to television drama was recognised with a Special Merit Award from the Crime Writers Association in 1962. His first full-length novel, The Achilles Affair (1959), was well-received commercially and critically. However, it was his second, The Pass Beyond Kashmir (1960), in which he drew upon his experiences in India, that established him internationally as a major thriller writer. Both books received glowing reviews from James Bond creator Ian Fleming, so it may be no coincidence that Mather was asked to work on the screenplay for Dr No (1962). The author's final work was the novel The Hour of the Dog, the third book in his Far Eastern Trilogy, published in 1982. To read more about the extraordinary life of John Evan Weston Davies aka Berkeley Mather, we recommend a visit to Ostara Publishing and a purchase of The Pass Beyond Kashmir.

  • The characters played by Eleanor Darling, Benny Nightingale, Victor Charrington, Frank Peters and Charles Wood are not listed on the episode's end credits. These actors are simply billed under the heading "With". As the only female on the list, it is pretty obvious that Eleanor Darling was the flower seller, and as the only black actor on the bill, it is fairly clear that Benny Nightingale portrayed Grekio, the bus conductor. Victor Charrington has been positively identified as Fred, the cab driver, thanks to his roles in two other 1961 productions, the Avengers episode Kill the King and the Merton Park Studios film Candidate for Murder. Frank Peters (the street sweeper) reappeared in The Avengers the following year, in Death of a Great Dane. That just leaves Charles Wood with a question mark over who he played. Given that he was aged 45 at the time of recording, he seems more likely to have been the plainclothes officer who accompanies Inspector Foster than the fresh-faced police constable seen patrolling the streets near the end of Act 1.

  • In this, the earliest surviving Avengers episode to be directed by Peter Hammond, the director's distinctive visual style is very much in evidence. For example, when we first see Jeremy de Willoughby and the waiter at the restaurant La Provence, we are actually looking at their reflections in a large mirror, as is revealed when the camera pans away. When Keel interviews de Willoughby during Act 2, we see the doctor reflected in a full-length mirror that de Willoughby is looking into. In Acts 1 and 3, the Deacon and Steed deliver lines through the bars of a parrot's cage.

  • Shortly before the transmission of The Frighteners, Leonard White gave the authority to Norman Kay for the arrangement of a further recording session with musician Johnny Dankworth. The session would concentrate on the recording of longer "stings", cues that would accompany suspense and fight sequences, and others on the themes of blues, glamour and romance "(not the pink icing variety)", "a macabre waltz" and "something fairly quiet and restrained (foggy) with an edge of menace to it". There was also thought given to a commercial release: "I do hope that [Johnny Dankworth] can be prevailed upon to extend the theme music into a full length piece. As we are now considering a possible 39 episodes of this series, I am sure it would be to the advantage of all concerned if the Avengers theme could be popularised on a disc." The idea was followed through and a 'record version' of the theme was released as a 7" single by Columbia in August 1961 DB 4694.


  • On Location... There were various brief exterior scenes during the first couple of acts: a daytime establishing shot of Sir Thomas Weller's office building and a daytime sequence showing a bustling London street market in Act 1, followed by shots of London nightlife in Act 2 (Coventry Street looking towards Leicester Square; Shaftesbury Avenue, looking towards Piccadilly Circus two separate shots). None of these sequences featured characters from the episode.

  • Weller's office block is currently unidentified but was most likely within easy reach of the ABC Studios at Teddington Lock.

  • The Act 1 street market footage appears to have been shot around Soho's Berwick Street Market.

  • The footage seen at 24:50 (Act 2) was definitely from stock, as it features footage of Shaftesbury Avenue, London W1, shot at a time when the musical Grab Me A Gondola was playing at The Lyric Theatre and Duel of Angels was running next door at The Apollo Theatre. Grab Me A Gondola debuted on Tuesday 27th November 1956 and ran for 673 consecutive performances until 1958, while Duel of Angels opened on Thursday 24th April 1958, which dates the second and third shots in this sequence to 1958. The first shot in this sequence was filmed on Coventry Street, London W1, presumably filmed at the same time as the Shaftesbury Avenue footage.


  • Trivia... Stratford Johns (Sir Thomas Weller), born Alan Edgar Stratford-Johns (22nd September 1925 to 29th January 2002), is best remembered nowadays for his starring role as Detective Chief Inspector Charlie Barlow in the long-running BBC police series Z Cars (during 1962 to 1965) and its numerous spin-offs, including Softly Softly (1966 to 1969), Softly Softly: Task Force (1969 to 1972) and Barlow at Large (1971, 1973). He also appeared as Barlow in Jack the Ripper, a six-part 1972 BBC series which dealt with the notorious Whitechapel Murders of 1888. He returned to The Avengers in 1968 to play Sidney Street in the colour film-era episode Legacy of Death. His many other roles included parts in Department S (in 1969), I, Claudius (1976), Return of the Saint (1979), Blake's 7, Great Expectations (both 1981), Brond (1987), The Secret Agent (1992) and Scarlet and Black (1993).

  • Philip Locke (29th March 1928 to 19th April 2004), who played Moxon, notched up numerous roles in fantasy and adventure series during his career, including The Baron (in 1967), The Saint (1968), The Champions, Department S (both 1969) and The Omega Factor (1979). He is perhaps best known as the sinister Vargas, the henchman who "got the point" after being harpooned to death by Sean Connery's James Bond in Thunderball (1965). Locke appeared in two further episodes of The Avengers, Mandrake (1964) and From Venus with Love (1967). In 1982, he was reunited with his co-star in The Frighteners, Stratford Johns, in the Doctor Who serial Four to Doomsday.

  • An apparent in-joke occurs at the end of Act 1, when Steed asks Keel to take the unconscious Moxon to his surgery. Steed proposes that they "give the police surgeon the night off". Prior to working on The Avengers, Ian Hendry had starred in another ABC drama series, Police Surgeon, also produced by Leonard White. When Police Surgeon was cancelled in late 1960, The Avengers was created as a new star vehicle for Hendry.

  • The act endings for this episode are unusually light-hearted. At the end of Act 1, Keel quips to Steed about getting de Willoughby and Moxon to his surgery before anyone else passes out. At the end of Act 2, we see the comical reaction of the Deacon as he realises that he has been fooled by the escaping Keel.

  • For the second time in the series, Keel uses a 'deadly needle' trick. In Brought to Book, he threatened the murderous Spicer with a supposedly lethal injection. In The Frighteners, he pretends that his syringe is loaded with hydrochloric acid in order to bluff his way into and out of the Deacon's headquarters. In fact, the needle contains witchazel (more commonly spelled 'witch hazel'), a mild astringent mainly used to treat sores, bruises and swelling.

  • Steed is seen to have an extensive network of contacts, informants and other helpers, including a cab driver (in whose vehicle Steed has two meetings with Keel), a flower seller (who gives Steed a carnation for his buttonhole), the waiter at La Provence, a bus conductor, a street sweeper and two plainclothes police officers.

  • Steed's attitude towards Keel in this story is slightly at odds with the surviving scripts of other Series 1 episodes. Here the agent berates the doctor for going it alone and confronting the Deacon: "Keels rush in where Steeds and angels fear to tread." However, Steed has sent Keel and other civilians into similarly dangerous situations before (for example, in Hot Snow, Brought to Book and, just one episode ago, The Springers) and would do so again (in Toy Trap and Dead of Winter, to name but two). Thus in a way Steed's characterisation arguably works better when The Frighteners is viewed as the second complete surviving episode of the series, or even as the first complete rediscovered episode (as Keel places himself in considerable danger in Girl on the Trapeze), than when regarded in context as Episode 15. Perhaps Steed is just peeved that Keel did not discuss his strategy with him first!

  • The surviving film print of this episode bears witness to a most unusual telerecording artifact. At 42 minutes and 45 seconds into the episode, a fly can be seen on the bottom right of the picture for about 15 seconds. Were this a case of the insect landing on the camera during the recording in studio, it would have appeared on screen as a soft blurry spot, as the focus point would have been some way beyond the lens itself. The fact that the fly is in focus means that it must have landed on the monitor screen while telerecording to film was taking place. This was not to be an isolated incident for The Avengers, as the telerecording of the Series 3 episode The White Elephant proved to be too good for an insect to miss, with another fly spending two minutes on screen during the episode. We assume that it wasn't the same one coming back for more...

  • An excerpt from The Frighteners, featuring Steed's exchange with the flower seller and his conversation with Keel, was shown in Ian Hendry's This Is Your Life programme, transmitted on 15th March 1978. The selection of a clip from this particular Series 1 episode suggests that even in 1978, The Frighteners was the only instalment from the first year known to survive. It would remain as such until the discovery of Girl on the Trapeze and Hot Snow Act 1 at UCLA in April 2001.

  • In 1979, a scene from The Frighteners appeared in the most unexpected of places, on a television screen in a scene from the cult movie Quadrophenia. When the film was released for the first time on Blu-ray in 2011, this marked the debut of footage from The Avengers on the high definition format! With the film generally agreed to have been set in the mid-1960s, the inclusion of the excerpt from The Frighteners would appear to be somewhat anachronistic. The episode was transmitted in 1961 and was not repeated until Thursday 7th January 1993 when it was screened by Channel 4 as the first of a season of Avengers videotape era repeats.


  • Bloopers... At 54 seconds into the programme, the camera collides with an obstacle and shakes, causing a momentary disturbance in picture and sound.

  • At 12 minutes and 34 seconds, a bespectacled member of the crew can be seen momentarily in the background of the shot. He clearly realises he is in shot as he stiffens and tries to conceal himself behind a scenery flat.

  • At 12 minutes and 36 seconds, while intimidating de Willoughby, Moxon and Nature Boy are suddenly no longer wearing stockings over their heads. (It is possible that the criminals feel safe to remove their disguises now that the actual beating is over.)

  • At 13 minutes, the camera misses Nature Boy's escape. We just hear Steed telling Keel, "Let him go."

  • At 26 minutes and 7 seconds, a camera operator or the vision mixer appears to miss a cue. The camera lingers on a two-shot of Moxon and the Deacon during Keel's line, "That remains to be seen." The picture then cuts to another two-shot of Moxon and the Deacon from a slightly different angle.

  • At 26 minutes and 39 seconds, Ian Hendry fumbles one of his lines. Keel tells the Deacon, "I want two answers to two facts." He was probably supposed to repeat his earlier line, "I want two answers to two questions," or go on to his next line, "I want the facts."

  • At 29 minutes and 44 seconds, the camera hits an obstacle and shudders slightly.

  • At 32 minutes and 54 seconds, as Steed enters Beppi's shop, we see Benn Simons (Inspector Foster) reflected in the door window, awaiting his entrance. (It could be argued that this is not a blooper and that the officer is standing in the street nearby, having agreed to follow Steed into the shop a few moments later.)

  • At 40 minutes and 22 seconds, Philip Locke (Moxon) fluffs a line, momentarily confusing his character's supposed injury with that of the Deacon: "Well, come to that, what about your flippin' neck... and your face?"

  • As the action fades out at 51 minutes and 5 seconds, Steed gets rather a lot of soda in his drink, despite having asked for "a large brandy... and a very small soda."


  • Stop Press... TV Times magazine, cover dated 19th May 1961, included a short item exploring the background of this episode's writer, as part of the magazine's regular Looking Around with John Gough feature on page 4. Subtitled Meeting the Underworld, the article began: "Next Saturday's episode in ABC's The Avengers The Frighteners has been written by Lt.-Col. Jasper Davies, formerly of the Royal Artillery, once an intelligence officer in Cyprus." In fact, Jasper was just another pseudonym, a nickname acquired after Davies grew a luxuriant moustache, which friends said reminded them of a pantomime villain called Uncle Jasper. The writer's full name was John Evan Weston Davies. "But perhaps we all know him better under his famous thriller-writing pen name of Berkely Mather. Mather goes to great lengths to draw his criminal characters true to life. He told me from his Sussex home: 'I have a working arrangement with a former Scotland Yard Superintendent and a Chief Inspector, who arrange for me to meet underworld characters from time to time. Usually, I pop up to Soho for a drink with them. These tough types are astonishingly frank when they know they are talking in front of former policemen.' One of the underworld types Mather met recently is the basis of a character in The Frighteners but he won't say which."

  • The following week's TV Times, cover dated 26th May 1961, featured a letter in the Viewerpoint section on page 3 from Mrs Kay Platt of Bell Green, Coventry. She asked whether Patrick Macnee's "wonderful clothes, including his shirts and ties, in The Avengers" were his own. A response from the series' wardrobe supervisor explained: "Patrick Macnee's suits were specially made for him for this series, and we also bought his shirts and ties. Occasionally, however, he does wear his own clothes."


  • And Finally... In 2010, this episode and Girl on the Trapeze were dubbed for the first time in German, along with all episodes from Series 2 and 3. These were broadcast on ARTE from 6th December 2010 (starting with The Frighteners) and all these German-dubbed episodes have since been issued on DVD by Studio Canal in Germany. ARTE's French channel mirrored the transmissions but elected to screen them in English with French subtitles. The 2010 broadcasts in both countries marked the first time Series 1 episodes had been transmitted outside the United Kingdom.

 

Plotline by Richard McGinlay UK Transmissions by Simon Coward, Alan Hayes and John Tomlinson
International Premieres by Denis Kirsanov Declassified by Richard McGinlay with Alan Hayes

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

 

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