Saturday, March 19, 2022

The Avengers - You Have Just Been Murdered ( 1967 )

Terence Canote, the blogger behind A Shroud of Thoughts, is hosting the 8th Annual Favourite TV Show Episode Blogathon and this year I could not resist sharing an episode from one of the best British shows of the 1960s - The Avengers

The Avengers were comprised of the crime-fighting duo of John Steed ( Patrick MacNee ), a dapper English gentleman, and his good friend and colleague Mrs. Emma Peel ( Diana Rigg ), a spunky young woman with a talent for karate. Together, they worked as field agents for the "Ministry", a top-top secret intelligence agency that handled highly unusual cases involving British defense and security. 

Unlike most crime dramas of the era, The Avengers was unique because the cases were strange and uncommon. For example, in The Bird Who Knew Too Much, they had to track down a missing parrot who memorized information about a secret missile base; in The Man-Eater of Surrey Green they tangled with a man-eating plant from outer space; in Dead Man's Treasure, they partook in a treasure hunt on a car rally to retrieve secret papers; and in The Cybernauts, had to wrestle with a robotic killer (!). Yet, our intrepid heroes handled all of these strange occurrences with customary British nonchalant efficiency and a good deal of humor. 

The Avengers ran for six seasons, between 1961 and 1969 with Honor Blackman co-starring with Patrick MacNee in the first three seasons and Linda Thorson taking over in the last season. Like most of the show's legion of fans, I feel the best episodes were from the "Emma Peel Era" with Dame Diana Rigg, especially the color episodes of 1967....which brings us to You Have Just Been Murdered, Episode 21 of Season 5. 

In this classic, Steed receives a call from millionaire Gilbert Jarvis asking to have a word with him about a private matter. He tells Steed he has "just been murdered". A fair-haired well-suited man broke into his apartment and shot him! Only he didn't. It was a fake killing. But the intruder leaves an ominous calling card with only the words You Have Just Been Murdered printed on it. 

At a cocktail party at George Unwin's mansion, Steed and Mrs. Peel have a chat with Lord Maxted, chairman of British Banking, who informs them that a number of his clients have suddenly withdrawn £1,000,000 in cash. Sounds like blackmail. Gilbert Jarvis has just requested a million-pound withdrawal as well, which leads Steed to dash over to Jarvis' apartment...only to find that he has just been murdered - this time for real. 

The Avengers' cases are not mysteries that you are intended to solve. Quite the contrary, usually the audience sees what is happening and it is Steed and Mrs. Peel who need to put the pieces of the puzzle together to find the criminal. In this case, we clearly see that multiple millionaires are being threatened by mock stagings of their own death. If they pay the £1,000,000 blackmail, they will be left alone, otherwise, they die. 

It's a clever premise for an episode, one of many clever plots penned by Philip Levene for the series. He was the screenwriter behind other Avengers classics such as From Venus With Love, The Fear Merchants, Death's Door, Something Nasty in the Nursery, and Return of the Cybernauts. 

After Jarvis' death, the other victims of this blackmailing killer are doubly alarmed....but, in typical British fashion, not afraid enough to pay the ransom and "give in to the scoundrel". When George Unwin ( Barrie Ingham ) becomes the next target, Steed urges him to let Mrs. Peel and himself take the matter in their own hands, but Unwin insists he can defend himself and puts in a good effort, too. 

What makes this episode so enjoyable is its most ingenious plot and its appealing villian: the boisterous and scheming Mr. Needle, admirably played by George Murcell, a very familiar face in British television during the 1960s. The banter between Steed and Mrs. Peel and the location filming around Elstree ( especially Tyke's Water Lake ) are an added plus that make for an altogether delightful bit of viewing. 

To see a full list of The Avengers episodes, check out Wikipedia's summary here. And if you really want to explore the series, then stop by these two fan sites, which have some excellent material to gander at: 

The Avengers Fan Site 

The Avengers Forever 

And lastly, but not leastly, be sure to head on over to A Shroud of Thoughts to read more entries in The 8th Annual Favourite TV Show Episode Blogathon


  1. One of the delights of this annual blogathon is being reminded of shows my family used to watch and were favorites, including adventures with Steed and Mrs. Peel. Well done.

    1. Glad to remind you of something special, Jacqueline! It's a favorite in our family as well. I think The Avengers and The Thunderbirds were probably the best known - and most watched - British programs here in the States in the 1960s.

  2. I think it is no secret The Avengers is my favourite show of all time. I have repeatedly gone on record as saying that Emma Peel was my first crush! Like most Avengers episodes, "You Have Just Been Murdered" is certainly a lot of fun! Needle is definitely one of their best diabolical masterminds. Anyway, thanks for taking part in the blogathon and writing about The Avengers!

  3. I'd love to see this one, as well as some of the other Avengers episodes you mentioned. I never knew that there was any other co-star with MacNee besides Diana Rigg. I always thought they were the epitome of cool!