Series 4 - Episode 18 stars
The Town of No Return
by Brian Clemens
Directed by Roy Baker
A splendid start to the season, but that might be because it was filmed a while down the track - Steed and Mrs Peel have instant electricity on screen, creating a classic.
- Black stretch cotton and catsuit with triangular leather or vinyl panels on the front and back, buttons covered in the same material down the front. Worn here with Edward Rayne's white boots with a black stripe and a fencing mask, later removed.
- Bates'" "TV" outfit. Grey wool sleeveless jacket and hipster pants with a black and white beret and white skivvy.
- White dress with black stitching
- (2) without the beret and with a pair of spectacles.
- (1) with a hounds tooth pattern head scarf and black beret, same boots.
- (1) with no headgear, same boots.
- (2) without the beret.
- Prince of Wales check jacket with flaps on the pockets, dark waistcoat and bowler, white shirt (double cuffs and cuff-links), mid tone tie and light trousers, with a black umbrella, chelsea boots
- (1) with a fencing mask instead of bowler
- (1) without bowler and umbrella
- (1) with overcoat and bowler, no umbrella
- (3) without the jacket
- (4) with umbrella
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Continuity and trivia
- There a delightful synchronicity between this episode and From Venus with Love - both are the first episode of the season and both feature Steed arriving at Mrs Peel's flat while she's practicing her fencing.
- This episode must have been a breath of fresh air for viewers back in 1965 - extensive use of location filming give it an openness that is new to the series, which had been studio-bound for its first three series.
- 3:14 - Diana Rigg's first 11 seconds on air is behind a mask, keeping the viewing public in suspense waiting to see the new Avengers girl.
- 4:10-4:30, 4:40-4:50 - stunt players substituted as we switch to the MS, returning to the stars after Steed is forced into the armchair, then again after Mrs Peel is trapped in the curtains.
- 6:00 - Steed declares there's no restuarant car on the train, so they'll have to rough it. He produces a caddy of China & Indian tea, cups, a silver milk jug and teapot (but no lemon), a cake stand with marzipan delights and a whistling, boiling kettle from his carpet bag.
- 6:30 - Mrs Peel prefers lemon in her tea, but as Steed only has milk, she has two sugars with milk.
- 6:39-6:42 - the locomotive 6108 is a Great Western Railway 6100-class 2-6-2T (stock footage from before Railway Nationalisation in 1948 even though the locomotive was in service until August 1965), but a later shot (8:24-8:29) of the train is different - the locomotive is a Fowler Class 4 2-6-4T, built by the London Midland & Scottish Railway between 1927 and 1934 (with very great thanks to Nigel Wassell).
- 13:20 - Smallwood goes off to see old Tom without paying for his round of drinks and Piggy Warren doesn't try to stop him.
- 13:40-18:40 - A Continuity error occurs when Smallwood goes looking for his brother Tom. He passes through the town with his suitcase in his right hand (13:40), putting it down near the forge in the smithy (15:10). He then proceeds to the church without it (17:20/17:52), but in the reverse angle of his approach to the church (17:31/17:54), and the beginning of his flight from it (17:55/18:22), the suitcase is back; only to disappear a moment later (18:40) when he's chased by Saul and the bloodhounds (Thanks to Jenna Clayton).
- 17:55 - We see Saul near the wall following Smallwood, then cut to him back at the cross, then again to down the hill from the wall.
19:15-23, 19:55-20:00 - Film from the original shoot was used wherever possible and causes the odd Continuity error. Most obvious is the scene where Smallwood is being pursued by the dogs. In one shot (19:55-20:00/19:42-19:50) you clearly see that the man running is fair haired, and much slimmer - I think it's a stand-in for Walter Horsbrugh, who was also chased in the original script, but the scene was deleted - the only hint that he was similarly pursued in the final print is the muddy and savaged state he appears in when he stumbles into the schoolhouse.
- 23:55 - when we switch from the location shot to the studio, you can see the shadow of the gantry on the backdrop at the top right corner of the screen.
- 27:30 - An example of casual Sixties sexism with a gratuitous closeup of Mrs Peel's stockinged legs. This sort of thing is repeated often with Mrs Peel over the course of the next two series.
- 30:10/30:55-31:05 - Mrs Peel's wearing gloves when she discovers the vandalised parish records, but she's bare-handed in the close-up - another piece of left-over Elizabeth Shepard footage?
- 34:10/35:14 - When the real Mark Brandon collapses and dies, his head falls to the floor. A moment later, as Emma examines the photograph, his head is resting on his arm.
- 39:15 - The first appearance of the steel-reinforced bowler hat. Steed taps the steel rim on the forge after defeating Saul and later (48:16), taps the steep top against the bunker door after defeating the soldiers.
- 42:30 - When they're traversing the tunnels before emerging in the bunker, it fairly obvious that the set is only about 20 yards long at the most and has painted backdrops. They must have walked back down the same set twenty times, with ladders moved in and out and the drops changed around, much like the lift in Death at Bargain Prices.
- running time: 49'50"
A note on the timecodes
Where I have listed two sets of timecodes, the first is from the 2009-11 Optimum Releasing/Studio Canal DVD sets, any other timecodes are from the A&E and Contender DVD sets from a decade beforehand.
The new releases have been remastered and their frame rate has been changed, resulting in a shorter running time. However, the picture quality has increased markedly. I assume this is because they used a simple 2:2 pulldown (24 @ 25)
when converting from the original film masters (film runs at 24 frames per second, while PAL runs at 25fps, the new DVDs are in PAL format).
This pulldown was also the cause of audio errors on many episodes, especially for Series 5, as the audio sped up to match the new rate (4% faster), rather than being properly pitch-shifted. Checking the dialogue sheets, which list the feet and frames of the reels, it looks like the speed change is around 5.04%, so there may be some cuts as well - probably from around the commercial breaks and ends of reels, as they amount to about 25 seconds. All my assumptions are based on the episodes having been filmed on standard 35mm film, which has 16 frames per foot and runs at 24 frames per second, so a minute of footage uses 90 feet of film (1,440 frames).
These audio errors have been corrected in the currently available DVDs, but the 2:2 pulldown remains. There is also the addition of a Studio Canal lead-in, converted to black and white to match the episode for Series Four, but colour for Series Five, adding an extra 18 or 19 seconds to the runnning time and making it harder to match timecodes with previous releases. It's annoying that it has been slapped on every single episode, Series 1-3 didn't suffer this indignity.
The previous Contender and A&E DVD releases didn't seem to suffer from these problems, so I assume they either used soft telecine and preserved the original 24fps rate of the film (my preferred option in DVDs) or they used 24 @ 25 pulldown (2:2:2:2:2:2:2:2:2:2:2:3 Euro pull-down)
Thankfully, the new blu ray releases for series 4-6 appear to use native 24fps with soft telecine so the running times and pitch all seem to be correct again along with a much grreatly improved picture quality, most notably in the Tara King episodes which are finally back to their original glory.