• title card: HUNT THE MAN DOWN superimposed on a street scene (recreated by Richard McGinlay)
  • Publicity still: Carol & Dr Keel tend the injured Frank Preston
  • Publicity still: Frank Preston dramatically lit by a streetlight, looking like Bogart
  • Publicity still: Dr Keel & Preston contemplate entering the sewers
  • Publicity still: Dr Keel enters the sewer while Frank holds his injured arm
  • Publicity still: Stacey & Rocky arrive at the sewer entrance with Carol
  • Publicity still: Steed peers from a doorway

Series 1 - Episode 10
Hunt the Man Down

by Richard Harris

Production completed: 12 March 1961. First transmission: 18 March 1961

This episode summary is written from the published synopses and other previously published material as this episode is now lost except for a set of night location photographs. The final filmed production may have been different and I have made a few assumptions, marked with footnotes, to try to explain gaps and plot holes.

Frank Preston (Nicholas Selby) is released from prison after serving time for a robbery which had netted more than £100,000. The proceeds were never recovered so he is tailed by Steed, who is hoping he'll lead him to the money.

Preston drives to his old stomping grounds and enters a narrow street near St Paul's cathedral to reconnoitre the area of the hiding place but he's surprised by East End gangster Stacey (Maurice Good) and his goon Rocky (Gerry Duggan), who also want to discover the location of the loot. Preston makes a run for it down an alleyway, pressing himself against a wall to try to evade them*, but they catch him and beat him, trying to get him to talk. Steed bursts in upon them and sends the thugs packing then helps the injured Preston to his car.

Steed brings Preston to Dr Keel's surgery where he is tended to by Carol and the doctor. He asks to see his wife as they dress his wounds and put a bandage on his right arm. Dr Keel gives him morphine for the pain and Preston falls unconscious. Steed fills Keel in on the case then goes to fetch Preston's wife, Stella (Melissa Stribling). When they return, Stella hears Preston semi-consciously mumbling, "That's where we hid it", as she enters but pretends to have heard nothing when Carol and Keel look round. Dr Keel has decided that Preston needs more treatment than he can provide so he has called for an ambulance and Stella accompanies Preston in the ambulance when it arrives to take him away.

The next day1 Carol is grabbed off the street outside the surgery by Stacey and Rocky and driven to Preston's house where Stella is waiting for them. She had left her no-good husband for Stacey while Preston was inside and wants to steal his ill-gotten gains. They think Dr Keel knows where the money is hidden from what she overheard so Stacey rings the surgery, threatening to kill Carol unless Dr Keel tells them where it is. Keel assures them he doesn't know anything but they won't have a bar of it, warning him Carol has little time left. Dr Keel rings Steed about this and he promises to use his department to find the gangsters.

Before Steed can act, Preston has regained consciousness at the hospital. He asks Nurse Wyatt (Susan Castle) to fetch him a cup of tea and when she's gone he grabs his clothes and escapes out a side door2. Preston managed to make his way back home but as he approaches the house he stops. Through the window he can see Stella and Stacey kissing and hears them discussing what to do with their captive, Carol3. Crestfallen, he turns and staggers away, making his way back to the doctor's surgery in Chelsea. He's bleeding badly now and needs further treatment, weakly waving a gun at the doctor to get him to help. Hearing that Carol is at Preston's house, Keel is only too eager to help and tells him the gun is not needed4 so they make a plan to retrieve the money and capture the gang at the same time. When Stacey calls back, Dr Keel tells him to meet them near where they first set upon Preston the previous night5.

Preston's arm is still throbbing with pain so Dr Keel drives them to the street that night*, pulling up at a small church tower. Beside it, Preston indicates the manhole cover in the pavement and instructs Keel to open it, and they descend into the gloom and stench of the London sewers. Stacey and Rocky turn up later, dragging an unwilling Carol with them*. They stop when they spot Preston's distinctive Ford Zephyr convertible parked by the church and, noticing the open manhole, they too descend into the funk of the subterranean tunnels. Preston has located his cash box deep underground but when he hears Stacey calling him through the tunnels they decide to run further into the gloom to escape. Preston realises he's made an error of judgement and won't be able to evade his pursuers as he weakens and they are eventually cornered by the crooks. Keel takes on Rocky and they trade blows while sinking into the sludge until the doctor lands a lucky blow and Rocky sinks slowly under6. Stacey grits his teeth and raises his pistol but the blast of a police whistle pierces the air and Steed enters, leading a troop of bobbies who round up Stacey and Rocky, Stella having spilled the beans on their movements7.

Back at the surgery, Steed congratulates the doctor on a job well done and wonders why the place looks different...8


* This is based upon the stills from the night-time location shoot.
1. Some time must have passed in order for Stella to have been able to get in touch with the gang to tell them what she heard.
2. Sound familiar? Steed does a similar thing in The Forget-Me-Knot so I borrowed it for this scene.
3. Dave Rogers' synopsis doesn't mention Carol but it would partly explain how Keel and Preston could hatch a plan to thwart Stacey and Stella.
4. Dave Rogers says Keel is ordered at gunpoint by Preston but that seems at odds with much of the episode. It's possible that he orders him to drive his car as his arm is injured but there's no gun visible in the location stills.
5. Dave Rogers doesn't give a reason for how Stacey made it to the sewer and this resolves the threat to Carol as well as how they arrived there.
6. Ian Hendry relates an anecdote in the TV Times special for "The New Avengers" in 1976 about a fight in a sewer than resulting in him knocking out an unlucky stuntman who nearly drowned as he rushed off to get ready for the next scene and had to be fished out of a tank full of slime by the crew.
7. Again, this is not in the synopsis but it explains Stella's absence and how Steed managed to reach the sewer with the police. Melissa Stribling appears in some of the night time shoot stills but as she's not in makeup or costume I don't think her character was supposed to be present at the church for the climax.
8. This episode and Dance with Death make reference to the surgery having been redecorated (see the details section).

Crew

Teleplay by Richard Harris regularThe SaintAdam AdamantPolice SurgeonThe Sweeney
"The Avengers" Theme composed and played by Johnny Dankworth regular
Designed by Robert Fuest regular
Producer Leonard White regularCallanPolice Surgeon
Directed by Peter Hammond regular

Production and transmission details

Studio details: Teddington Two, VTR/ABC/1211 (recorded off TX.)

Transmission: 18th March 1961, 10.00-11.00 p.m.

Camera rehearsals were apparently done on the previous weekend, 11th and 12th March, 1961, in a schedule simliar to the other episodes of this time. The VTR recording took place on the evening of 12th March from 6pm to 7pm.

TV Times listing

TV times listing from the March 18 1961 Granada edition of the TV Times, showing The Avengers in the 10pm timeslot

A woman's secret and a double-cross involve David Keel and Carol in a man-hunt under the city streets.

Minutiæ

  1. Preston can't have hidden all of the loot because he drives a Ford Zephyr Mark II 1956 convertible which an old lag like him wouldn't normally have been able to afford. The car would have cost £1193 in 1961 and the average wage back then was £750 a year. Preston, being a petty crook, would no doubt have been earning less than that.
  2. The switch to a fortnightly schedule upon the networking of the show across most of the ATV network gave the crew (and cast!) a bit more time to breathe and relaxed the recording schedule, giving them an extra week. From this point on, the idea of "Keel and Steed" episodes was reduced, although it does happen again later in the series, presumably as the leads took holidays.
  3. Leonard White sent a memo instructing that this episode and Dance with Death, two episodes later, make reference to the surgery having been redecorated as they built a new set when sales talks with ATV were finalised.
  4. A memo dated 30 March 1962 proposed a replay season for the nine episodes not broadcast by ATV and Anglia and also the first two episodes, which had been seen on ATV but not Anglia. This proves that all live episodes had been recorded any may yet be out there somewhere.
    This episode was so highly regarded that it was suggested to be the first one shown in the replay run, it was in the top category of ratings when first broadcast.
  5. This episode bears a similarity to the The New Avengers episode, The Tale of the Big Why - but not so much with the original script for that, which Philip Broadley titled The Tale of the Big Cross. One wonders if his original script was rejected because it was like this one or if Brian Clemens made it more like this one when he rewrote it.
  6. The actor playing Frank Preston was uncredited in the TV Times listing in 1961. It's possible the part was cast late. It wasn't until the discovery of additional publicity stills for this episode that his identity was uncovered. This was due to excellent work by Alan Hayes and his colleagues who matched him to Nicholas Selby's appearance in an episode of The Saint.
  7. The location photographs from 1961 show filming on Wood Street EC2, outside the St Albans church tower. All that remains of the church now is the tower, now a private residence, but it seems that very little remained even in 1961, there was one other structure where there is now a tree. You can see the very corner of the tower with the manhole as it is today. Most of Wood Street now has changed and all the other buildings in the location shots have gone.
  8. All the cast were present for the church chase sequence filming (and in the pub afterwards!) as evidenced by the location photos but Melissa Stribling and Susan Castle are not in make-up or costume so it can be reasonably assumed that their characters had no part in those scenes. It's a shame that Melissa is wearing her spectacles in every photo as she would not have worn them on set, and the promo photo for this episode in the TV Times (see above) is an odd shot of her head - just the head - floating in the white space beside the listing and not really useable for a cast photo.
  9. Hot Snow was first broadcast to the ATV London, Southern, Tyne Tees, Television Wales & West, and Ulster regions on 18th March 1961, the same night as Midlands, Northern and Anglia were showing this episode. Accordingly, to make network schedules stay in line, this episode was deliberately given the exact same running time as Hot Snow.

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