Diana Rigg, R.I.P.


How can days turn into such downers because you hear about the death aged 82 of someone you never met?

But only the physical shell of Diana Rigg has died: she is a light that will never go out, and we will remember her long beyond the years.

Uncollected Thoughts: Avengers – Infinity War


Well, at last!

It’s been a long week of industriously avoiding spoilers and demanding that workmates don’t discuss it within twenty feet of me, but at last I can get to see Avengers – Infinity War. Admittedly, the first available performance was four hours after I booked, leaving time to fill in between, but I made use of it under a seriously sunny sun (ironic, actually, considering what else I might have to do next week).

Of course, setting a time to be back for only invoked my well-known paranoia, so getting there with only twelve minutes to spare was seriously cutting it fine in my universe. Though as I was on Screen 10, the furthest screen upstairs, about halfway back to my pokey little flat, it felt, the margin was down into single figures by the time I took my seat.

It’s also my first visit to The Light, which has replaced Showcase in Stockport. The seats are wide and luxurious, more like armchairs and if you don’t sit up, they start to slide forward, putting you, should you wish, in the semi-legendary recumbent posture.

Not until the trailer started coming at me in 3D did I realise I’d been lucky to book for a 3D performance. Though I may have to look at upgrading my 3D glasses for a pair less dirty and snaggled before The Incredibles 2.

I think that it was about Guardians of the Galaxy 2 that I said that you know what to expect from a Marvel movie, and that’s what Infinity War delivers, in spades. I could say that in terms of superhero characters, we get everything bar the kitchen sink – from memory, I think the only living ones missing are Ant-Man and Hawkeye, and they both get mentioned – but whilst that’s true, the expression does not suit the film.

Because this is bigger. And more serious. And more real. Bigger, badder, heavier, more powerful and yet in a true balance for every moment. The jokes, the quips, are less frequent but more in keeping: quick, incisive, apt, perfectly suited to the moment.

In short, this is the closest I’ve ever come to a superhero film that is exactly like the experience of getting immersed in a bloody good superhero comic. Everything is real. Everything is exact and believable, however fantastic it is. And the stakes could not be higher. This is for the Universe. And the bad guy wins.

I’ll return to that. Speaking to a workmate before going off to book, I mentioned successfully avoiding spoilers to the extent that all I knew was that there was at least one major death. He denied it, straightfacedly. He didn’t remember any deaths. I was right not to believe him: there were two in the opening scene, Heimdall and Loki.

And another one two-thirds of the way through. And a fourth in the closing phase.

That’s not counting all the still, silent, painless and passionless deaths that follow Thanos’s victory, endless in number, because although this film is over two hours long and I would have gladly welcomed another hour of it and even more characters, it’s really only half a film. Like The Fellowship of the Ring was only a third of a film. There’s another one to come, and who knows what resurrections we’ll see before it’s all done.

There’s a long wait for a single post-credits scene that’s a teaser not for Avengers 4 but for next year’s Captain Marvel movie, though that’s apparently set in the 1990s.

As for tonight, I’d happily agree with this as the best Marvel film so far, which means a great deal has to be done to top it. If we’re still here in a year’s time, I’ll tell you if I think it does.

Peter Wyngarde RIP


I remember Peter Wyngarde. Only in later life, much later life, did I see him in the ‘Hellfire club’ episode of The Avengers, with Diana Rigg in her fetish outfit (I would definitely have been regarded as too young for that episode), and though I would have seen him in his role as Number 2, in the ‘Checkmate’ episode of The Prisoner, I only remember him in that austere role from later watchings of the series.

No, like the rest of us who were around for any part of the late Sixties, early Seventies, Peter Wyngarde is only and ever could be Jason King.

I only ever watched him in the role in Department S, in which he co-starred with smooth-suited, sleek-haired Joel Fabiani and bubbly-permed Rosemary Nicholls. Wyngarde was one of three equal stars, attached to a specialist Interpol department.

Department S debuted on a Saturday night in 1969. There was a single series of 28 episodes, filmed as cheaply as possible (to save costs, the series was shot back to back with its contemporary, Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased)). It was a typical, shoestring ATV production, aimed at the American market (hence the American lead).

Fabiani was ex-FBI agent Stewart Sullevan, a pragmatic agent whose background was never filled in, the vivacious Nicholls played Annabelle Hurst, a computer expert and analyst. He was the straight man, she did the glamour (in episode 1, trapped in a suspect’s apartment, she escaped by stripping down to bra and knickers, donning a long blonde wig and sashaying out: I faithfully watched every other episode without her ever doing anything like that again).

Wyngarde was the break-out star, though, the one the public loved. He was an adventure novelist by trade, the ideas man, the comic relief. Wyngarde played him in hip three piece suits, with a Zapata moustache and a flamboyant manner that sent himself up.

The series was dirt cheap. None of the cast ever left the studio. Outdoor scenes were filmed with extras, body-doubles and anonymous locations. But it was fun, in the way so many of that type of series was in the middle to late-Sixties, and the combination of the straight performances of Fabiani and Nicholls with the high camp of Wyngarde made it stand out.

The show wasn’t renewed. Instead, Wyngarde was asked to star in a spin-off as Jason King. This ran for a single, 26 episode series, concentrating on trying to write his fictional self-image agent, Mark Caine. I didn’t watch this, though I’ve occasionally caught scenes on afternoon TV: King worked as relief in the trio but for me was far too over the top as a solo star.

In later life, commenting about The Prisoner, Wyngarde claimed that Patrick McGoohan had originally wanted him to play Number 2 every week, but that he couldn’t fit that into his schedule. I’ve never seen any comment from McGoohan about this claim, but it couldn’t have worked, and that’s not criticising Wyngarde: a ‘ecurring Number 2, same opponent week in week out would have been a disaster.

As times and tastes changed, Wyngarde’s theatrical style got further and further out of fashion. But at that time and for that time, he was the toast of the town, the King of his own particular hill, and we who watched the ATV thrillers of that time took great delight in them, and in Jason King, Wyngarde achieved his own little slice of immortality.