Directors of the Capital Land
and Development Company, a business involved in a secret
government project, are being murdered one by one. Steed and Mrs
Peel are called in to investigate. A clown's nose at the scene of
the crime leads them to suspect Merry Maxie Martin and his partner
Jolly Jenkins, retired music-hall artists residing at Greasepaint
Grange (a home for ex-vaudeville acts). It seems they may be part
of a campaign against the Company, in retaliation for its policy
of buying up and closing down old music-hall venues – a campaign
orchestrated by the leader of the Greasepaint Grange residents, Mr
Two old contacts of Maxie –
Marcia Rugman, curator of the clown registry, and Bradley Marler,
Maxie's old gag writer – are killed before they can pass on
information to Steed and Mrs Peel, and it is only by luck that
Steed finds Maxie's address in Marler's office. Meanwhile, after
she fails to prevent the murder of another company director, Maxie
and Jolly manage to overpower Mrs Peel, and present her to Fiery
Frederick at Greasepaint Grange. His act is cutting ladies in half
with a blow torch and he needs a new victim!
Steed arrives at the Grange
under the guise of 'Gentleman Jack – A Song, A Smile And An
Umbrella'. He manages to get a tour of the home, but is hustled
out before he can find anything. However, he notices Mrs Peel's
car and breaks into the house, only to rescue her from the
clutches of Fiery Fred. The two of them manage to deal with the
other residents including Maxie and Jolly, and unmask Mr Punch –
who turns out to be Seagrave, one of Capital's remaining
directors. Seagrave has actually been trying to sabotage the
government project the company was involved with by using the
demise of the music halls as a reason to get Maxie and company to
do his dirty work for him.
I say, I say, I say! Did you
hear the one about those dynamic partners in crime fighting, the
debonair John Steed and the girl with "M" appeal, Mrs Emma Peel,
tackling a band of murderous vaudevillains whose aim is to bump
off the board of directors of the Capital Land and Development
Corporation? You didn't? Well, let me enlighten you further...
Having successfully adapted
episodes from the 1965-67 Emma Peel seasons of The Avengers,
the production team at Sonovision Studios were presented with a
problem when these scripts ran out. Subsequent television scripts
featured the ingénue agent Tara King alongside John Steed, but it
was decided that these new adaptations should still feature the
tried and trusted partnership of Steed and Mrs. Peel. Often, this
would prove to be less than desirable, as Emma found herself
inheriting some of Tara's characteristics and mannerisms. The
amalgam of the two agents proves, however, to be quite an
interesting take upon the character as portrayed by Diane Appleby.
To my mind at least, Mrs Peel now comes across as a 'jolly
hockey-sticks' type of girl, slightly daffy and so eager to
please. Shades of Tara coming through here, perhaps, a case in
point being the sequence in Episode One, where Steed and Mrs Peel
are driving to the Capital Land and Development Corporation. Mrs
Peel manages to get Steed completely lost owing to the fact that
she's reading the map upside down! Something I feel the ultra-cool
and sophisticated Mrs Peel would never have done, surely?
As for Donald Monat as John
Steed, inevitable comparisons are bound to be drawn between his
portrayal and that of his TV counterpart, Patrick Macnee. However,
I feel that Monat does a more than credible job. Not satisfied
with simply turning in a carbon-copy performance, mimicking
Macnee's urbane charm and sophistication, Monat manages to instill
his performance with style and nuances entirely of his own making.
It is some achievement that it is quite possible to forget Patrick
Macnee's supposedly definitive portrayal while listening to Donald
Monat's creation. A formidable talent indeed! As for Hugh Rouse's
narration, this helps in filling in the visual information that
the medium of radio so often cannot deliver.
The adaptation remains quite
faithful to the story as televised originally. Two old time
vaudevillains, Merry Maxie Martin and Jolly Johnny Jenkins are
bumping off the board members of the aforesaid Capital Land and
Development Corporation at the behest of a mysterious third party.
Martin and Jenkins receive their murderous instructions via a
Punch and Judy show in a rest home for show people, Gresham
Grange, more commonly referred to as Greasepaint Grange. This
being Avengerland, I'm happy to say that the deaths are
suitably bizarre, the highlights being death by duckcall, a gag
writer "getting the point" courtesy of a very large knife (OUCH!)
and somebody comes to a very slippery end via a banana skin. I
must confess though to a slight disappointment that the death of
Lord Bessington was excised from this version. In the television
episode, he literally has the rug pulled from under his feet and
takes a flying swandive out of the window to his death!
As this story features old
music hall acts, the dialogue incorporates many groan-inducing
gags of the sort that I've previously mentioned, but it's
refreshing to note that both Monat and Appleby keep their repartee
quite sparkling, perfectly in tune with the vast quantities of
champagne consumed throughout the television show.
One slightly worrying factor
that seems to be glossed over is Emma's lack of fighting skills.
When the story draws to its close, it is Steed (in the guise of
"Gentleman Jack - A smile, a song and an umbrella" - rather apt,
don't you think?) who has to rush in to save Mrs Peel from a fate
worse than death at the hands of Fiery Frederick. But when it
comes to the final mop-up, rest assured that Steed and Mrs Peel
deliver the goods before revealing the diabolical mastermind to be
All in all, a very pleasant and
diverting way of passing an hour and a quarter, but now I must
depart, because, as in the words of Merry Maxie Martin, "When
you've go to go, you've got to go!"
Name Changes: Caritol
Land and Development Corporation (TV) becomes Capital Land and
Development Company (Radio).
Vauda Villa (TV) changes to
Greasepaint Grange (Radio).
Marcus Rugman (TV) becomes
Marcia Rugman (Radio).
Maxie's sidekick is Jolly
Jenkins on the radio, whereas his television counterpart is called
Character Changes: This is one of a number of
episodes adapted for the Sonovision Avengers which replaces
the television character of Tara King with that of Emma Peel.
Maxie's sidekick finds his
voice on the radio instead of using a car horn to communicate
Marcus Rugman (TV) has a sex
change and becomes Marcia Rugman (Radio).
A female resident known as Lettie the Lass from
Lancashire appears at the Grange (Radio only).
Storyline Changes: A
scene appears at the beginning of the radio adaptation where Mrs.
Peel is map-reading for Steed as they drive to the Capital Land
and Development Company. However, they only find the place by luck
as Mrs. Peel has been reading the map upside-down!