• title card: black all caps text reading ‘THE UNDERTAKERS’ superimposed on a cap and a pistol lying on a white table
  • Paula hangs up the phone while Lomax sits next to her on the step
  • Paula smiles, her face reflected in the mirror next to her, as Lomax leaves; Daphne is less impressed with the man
  • Madden emerges vampirically from his coffin hiding-place
  • Cathy questions the loopy Mrs. Renter as the old lady chats to a bird in a cage
  • Steed pats the bottom of one of the statues in the grounds of the nursing home

Series 3 — Episode 2
The Undertakers

by Malcolm Hulke
Designed by David Marshall
Directed by Bill Bain

Production No 3608, VTR/ABC/2899
Production completed: August 2 1963. First transmission: October 5 1963.

TV Times summary

In which Steed meets an undertaker and Cathy joins the millionaires

Plot summary

A man is killed by an undertaker. Steed arrives to discuss a new invention with Professor Renter, but finds that the gentleman has retired to Adelphi Park, which he discovers is a very exclusive rest home for millionaires. Mrs. Gale becomes the Assistant Matron to investigate and learns that the wealthy are evading death duties by having actors impersonate their deceased loved ones for five years. The man killed at the beginning turns out to still be alive and the ringleader of the undertakers, swearing revenge on his colleague for arranging his murder. The criminals decide to kill Cathy and Steed, but Steed’s arrival forces them to flee into the grounds of the retirement home where they are soon captured.

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An undertaker, Green (Howard Goorney) conducts four pallbearers out of a lift into the hallway of an exclusive penthouse floor of a building. He checks his pistol then creeps silently into the flat where Madden (Patrick Holt) is reading the paper. Green fires his gun three times; at the second shot, the pall bearers remove their top hats and bow solemnly.

Act 1

Catherine Gale (Honor Blackman) is stripping down her guns when John Steed (Patrick Macnee) arrives. He’s brought her groceries that he won’t need1 as he’s been assigned to accompany Professor David Renter to America and will be absent some months. He tries unsuccessfully to butter Cathy up, suggesting he’d rather accompany her, but she is busy cleaning her guns and is not interested.

Steed then goes to the same building as the undertakers, but knocks on the door of the next flat after stealing a white carnation for his lapel from a vase in the corridor.

The professor’s wife, Mrs. Renter (Lally Bowers) answers the door, and tells Steed that her husband has gone away. Steed is suspicious and talks his way into the flat and asks when he will return. She claims David has suddenly retired to a life of meditation and will see no-one, visitors are not allowed at Adelphi Park.2

After Steed leaves, Mrs. Renter goes into another room where Lomax (Lee Patterson) is coaching Wilkinson (Ronald Russell) in impersonating the Professor.

Lomax later slips next door for a liaison with Madden’s wife, Paula (Jan Holden). They rejoice at her “late-lamented” husband’s demise but their embraces are interrupted by the unexpected early return from a Swiss finishing school by Madden’s daughter Daphne (Mandy Miller). Daphne tells them she got bored so she came home.3 When she asks where her father is, they tell Daphne he has gone away for a few days.

Steed visits the exclusive rest home Professor Renter is supposedly residing at, but the stern Mrs. Lomax (Marcella Markham) refuses to let him in, telling him that unless Renter gave him a yellow visitor’s card, he can’t come in. Steed leaves a note on his business card then notices Green’s pallbearers carrying a coffin out of the building.

Mrs. Lomax calls her husband at the Madden’s apartment, telling him about Steed, and that he wrote “Queen Mary, New York” on his card.

MRS. LOMAX: Have you thought about my proposition?
LOMAX: (DISTORT) Yes. No chance, out of the question.
MRS. LOMAX: I’m sorry about that. You won’t like it in prison — no one ever does.
LOMAX: Now hear me — hear me good. You try to jail me and you’ll bring trouble on yourself.

She tells Lomax she wants a 50/50 split of the profits, now their relationship is purely business and no longer friendly, and gives him until tomorrow to think about it.

PAULA: Darling, what are you going to do?
LOMAX: Call the undertakers.

Lomax calls Green and arranges his services for the following night; Green tells his men, who are emptying the coffin they’ve brought from Adelphi Park of a dummy and some bricks.

Meanwhile, Steed is retrieving his groceries from Cathy and is astonished that she ate the jellied bumble bees. He tells her about Renter’s sudden retirement and shows Cathy a list of the ‘inmates’ of Adelphi Park and she exclaims that they’re all millionaires.

The next day, Steed investigates Green’s funeral parlour, posing as Mr. Small from Small, Blake and Sombre, funeral suppliers of dubious and graceless quality, offering mass produced, mass market, artificial goods.4 Green brushes him off, saying he is a small operation and when Steed suggests his clients at Adelphi Park would want better, Green proudly shows him the funeral service that is currently in the chapel. Steed looks in and sees Mrs. Lomax lying in the coffin.

GREEN: The late Mrs. Lomax.

Act 2

Steed returns to Mrs. Renter’s apartment but she says she knows nothing about her husband’s invention, or his impending trip to America. When Steed impresses upon her how important it is he see him, she repeats that David has gone into meditation, and the yellow cards are only for relatives.

STEED: It could be very good for you — and your husband. The Government are prepared to finance his invention to a very high degree, now the inventor’s royalties alone could amount to, ooh, a million pounds.
MRS. RENTER: But I already have a million.
STEED: I’m sure another one wouldn’t be in the way.
MRS. RENTER: Well, I’m not so sure. What with death duties, being rich hardly seems worthwhile.
STEED: (GRITS HIS TEETH) I suppose not. Mrs. Renter, may I put it another way — if I don’t go back with those plans, my boss is going to be very, very angry.

She takes pity on Steed and goes to look in the laboratory; as soon as she’s out of the room he starts ransacking the furniture but stops when Daphne enters from the balcony. She pours him a brandy and asks if he’s a burglar, and he explains that he and Mrs. Renter are looking for the professor’s papers. She confirms the professor has long talked about going into meditation but she hadn’t seen him recently as she had been in Switzerland — until they threw her out of her finishing school.3 Daphne then reveals that her father went to school with Renter and is the Robert Madden — but he disappeared three days ago as well!

Mrs. Renter returns to say she can’t find her husband’s plans but will search through his things at Adelphi Park.

STEED: Why not ask him?
MRS. RENTER: That’s exactly what I meant.
STEED: When will you be back?
MRS. RENTER: That’s indefinite. You see, ha! I’m going to become the Matron there.

She confesses she will need an assistant, and that friends of hers run the place and she’s going just to keep an eye on things.

In Madden’s flat, Lomax is telling Paula the opposite — he hired Mrs. Renter to keep an eye on her, and keep her out of the way. They argue about Mrs. Renter’s appointment and Daphne enters just as Lomax smacks her mother in the face for arguing.

Lomax storms out and Daphne wonders what Paula sees in him, then accuses them of being the reason her father has gone. Paula denies this and claims Madden is ill and has been put in a home.

Their tense conversation is interrupted by Cathy’s arrival, posing as a charity collector from the Architect’s Friendly Society of Great Britain. Paula tells her Madden has gone into retirement at Adelphi Park and won’t see any visitors — and Daphne overhears where her father has gone…

Back at her apartment, Cathy points out to Steed that death duties can be avoided by making a gift of all one’s assets five years before decease but if death occurs within five years, death duties are invoked on the gift.

CATHY: What if there were a way of keeping the millionaire alive for the required five years, on the books at least? You see, no-one ever sees the inmates of Adelphi Park.
STEED: Quite. Of course there is one person who could see all the inmates.
CATHY: Are you proposing to scale the high wall?
STEED: Nothing so energetic, but they’re looking for an assistant matron. Female.

Madden emerges vampirically from a coffin in Green’s workshop after the pallbearers are called away and pinches some of their tea and sugar, then returns to his grim hiding place.

Lomax returns to Paula’s flat and is alarmed when she says she had to tell Daphne about her father — not the truth, she explains, but that he had gone onto a home.

PAULA: You know, as a woman, I find someth1ng rather intriguing about a murderer.
LOMAX: Well, I’m sorry to disappoint you, but I’ve never killed anybody in my life. I have some of men in the country who do that for me — “The Undertakers”.

Paula tells him about Cathy’s visit and says she was a phoney, Madden never gave away a penny in his life. At Adelphi Park, Mrs. Renter takes a call warning her about the phoney charity collector and asks her new assistant to let her know if she shows up — but her new assistant is Cathy, already installed!

Wilkinson enters in his guise as Professor Renter and chats briefly with Mrs. Renter while she makes him a cup of tea — but then she slips up by asking if he takes sugar. After he’s gone, Mrs. Renter happily tells Cathy that her husband is dead and “The Undertakers”, a fine organisation which organises for millionaires’ families to avoid death duties, have arranged to keep him alive so she doesn’t lose most of his fortune in taxes, in return for 25%. Cathy asks if Mrs. Renter can trust her and Mrs. Renter beams — she’s checked on Cathy and knows about her criminal past, as related by the helpful Mr. Steed5 at the employment agency. She reveals Mr. Lomax takes care of anything, but there’s another man higher up who runs it all.

Madden meanwhile thanks Green for his setup and asks how Mrs. Renter is getting on. Green tells him about Mrs. Gale and her apparent time in jail, which makes Madden think she can be trusted. He tells Green he’s going to kill Lomax when he arrives, then descends back into his Draculaean lair.

Act 3

The retirement home arranges the send-off of the actress playing Dame Gwyneth Hope-Griffiths, Mrs. Baker (Helena McCarthy), as the legal date of death has been reached. The actress is going out to Australia, with £2,000 being paid into the Bank of New South Wales.

Daphne arrives at to Adelphi Park and enters the house looking for her father, but is shown the actor Reeve (Denis Forsyth) instead and detained by Mrs. Renter. Green informs Lomax that Daphne has turned up at Adelphi Park and Madden plots with Green to avenge himself on Lomax, who will be in the coffin for the next funeral instead of the usual bricks.

GREEN: Lomax, 3.15. And what about your wife?
MADDEN: I haven’t quite decided.

Steed rings Cathy at Adelphi Park, saying Mrs. Renter has cleaned out the apartment. He’s checked the inmates list and they all made over sums of money to next of kin in their lifetimes. Cathy confirms the inmates are all impostors and that Daphne is there; she asks him to check Green’s funeral parlour on the way. Unbeknownst to them, Green is listening to the call on another extension…

Green and Madden get ready to go to Adelphi Park. Green confirms that Daphne is quite safe as Mrs. Renter is looking after her. Green retrieves loaded handguns from the first aid cabinet and passes one to Madden.

MADDEN: Tell me, Green, when Lomax ordered you to murder me and dispose of my body, why didn’ t you?
GREEN: Well, sir, I reckoned that the organisation could operate without Mr. Lomax, but it certainly couldn’t operate without you. After all, it takes a millionaire to be on speaking terms with other millionaires. Without you, how would we ever find any new clients?
MADDEN: I see. So it wasn’t a question of personal loyalty?
GREEN: Oh, no, sir. I’m in this for what I can get out of it. That’s why you can trust me.

They depart, leaving Frank (Valentino Musetti) in charge. A short time later, Steed breaks into the parlour and overpowers Frank6 before searching the place, finding Madden’s hiding place, and a coffin with his own name on it!

Cathy tries to help Daphne escape but they’re cut off by Mrs. Renter and then by Lomax, who reveals he learned of her phone conversation with Steed.7

Mrs. Renter and Paula enter, and Paula recognises Cathy as the phoney charity collector. Paula then tells Daphne her father is dead — a heart attack, adds the dotty Mrs. Renter, they had to hush it up to avoid death duties.

Lomax orders them to take Daphne to London while he waits for Steed but Cathy seizes her chance and attacks him, throwing him down the steps. He turns and pulls out his pistol but at that second Madden appears at the door and shoots Lomax in the chest.

Madden waggles his gun at Cathy, ordering her to go to Green then asks Paula what she planned to do to Daphne then says Paula will have the trip back to London to ponder her own fate. Madden turns to Cathy, saying her friend has been taken care of, but then Steed bursts in and a furious running gun battle8 takes place through the grounds and pseudo Grecian statues of the home. Cathy stops the wounded Lomax when he tries to go for a gun and then gives it to Daphne. Cathy leaves Daphne in charge of Paula and Lomax as she joins the chase, The Avengers eventually subduing Green and Madden.


Mrs. Renter tells them she will pay her husband’s death duties so it’s no more champagne for her, but Steed tells her he found the professor’s plans and she is set to make a new million from the royalties of her husband’s invention. Mrs. Renter grimaces at the prospect of paying tax on the royalties then farewells Steed and Cathy to go on an around the world tour.

CATHY: I’m glad they didn’t press charges against her.
STEED: It would have been absolutely pointless, she’d never have understood.

Steed mentions that Madden has opened Adelphi Park to the public and contemplates taking a day trip to revisit the “very big girls”9 around the fountain…

  1. He givers her tins of food and calls out two exotic ones: sugared mangoes, and jellied bumble bees. The jellied bumble bees return as a plot point in Death at Bargain Prices.
  2. When Steed questions the Professor retiring at the peak of his career and not informing the Research Council, Mrs. Renter rather tellingly says “He went very suddenly.”
  3. Daphne tells her mother she got bored of the school but later she tells Steed she was thrown out, with a gloriously understated pun on ‘finishing’:
    DAPHNE: No, finishing school. But they said I was already the end, so they threw me out!
  4. The litany of grave-digging engines, plastic flowers and prerecorded music brings Bagpipe Happychap of Bizarre to mind.
  5. Mrs. Renter laughs at the coincidence of two Mr. Steeds but doesn’t twig to the obvious truth.
  6. Steed uses his umbrella extensively in the fight and afterwards does some business tapping the tip and the ferrule, as though retracting a mechanism. This makes it the second episode in a row (production wise) where Steed’s umbrella conceals some sort of weapon.
  7. Green must have told him as well as Madden, but Madden after he arrives thinks that Steed has already been dealt with, had the Undertakers been sent to kill him or was Frank expected to prevail in their fight?
  8. At times, the film is sped up.
  9. The return of lascivious Steed.

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