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A Supurb History in Classic Images
on 5 November 2010
If you're expecting a detailed text book history of the making of the series, then of course this handsome coffee table hardback might not be exactly what you're looking for -- but it's unfair to castigate a book for not being something it never set out to be in the first place. Marcus Hearn's text is concise yet informative and provides an efficient chronology of the show's development (along with some of the flavour of its various transformations in style), with the aid of a blend of judiciously selected contemporary quotes and a brace of evocative behind-the-scenes descriptions; but the text really isn't meant to be anything more than an accompaniment, providing the setting and context for what are the real stars of the book: a fabulous collection of iconic images, all digitally restored from the vaults of Canal+, some of which you won't have ever seen before. Any Avengers aficionado is going to enjoy what rapidly becomes a beguiling pictorial history of a changing era; for the show evolved in such a way that each series seemed to mirror the cultural development of the sixties itself, invoking the gradual emergence of Britain from a black and white world of post-war rationed austerity with the earthy noir of series one, into the vibrancy and splendour of a `swinging' capital of consumer-driven affluence by the time series five burst onto TV screens in full colour. Patrick Macnee and Diana Rigg also began promoting the show as a brand, by participating in a round of modelling sessions, fashion shows and lavish location shoots, which, in combination with the show's production stills and unit photography, now forms just as evocative a summation of the decade as the episodes of the series themselves. This book presents some of the most potent images from all of the show's major periods of change -- all beautifully reproduced on some glossy large format pages and selected from an archive of over ten thousand images. They offer a mixture of gorgeous monochrome production stills (from many of the early episodes now lost in their videotape form), sumptuous publicity shots from the classic '63 Honor Blackman era, and trendy photo shoots from the classic mid- to late-sixties period, when Macnee appeared alongside Twiggy (who was modelling Mrs Peel's Alun Hughes designed cloths) and Diana Rigg became an unwitting '60s sex symbol, pictured galloping along a beach in a pristine white catsuit. The Avengers was all about style, sophistication and class, and this lovely book is the perfect pictorial spokesman for it, even without a raft of description and text analysis.