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  • title card: white all caps text reading 'THE GRAVE- DIGGERS', outlined in black, superimposed on a view of the graveyeard, ivy creeping over the cross nearest us
  • Marlow lies in his coffin
  • Fred tries to create the illusion that Sir Horace's train carriage is moving through the countryside with a range of wheezing, puffing old equipment
  • In full surgical garb, Dr Massie prepares to operate with a blow torch. Miss Thirwell attends on his right while Sager control the gas flow, rather than anaesthetic, in the background. A huge operating theatre light dominates the scene
  • Sir Horace happily rides his miniature steam engine
  • View through the telescope of Massie tying Mrs Peel to the railway tracks
  • Steed dives under Baron's legs as they fight on top of the miniature train
  • Steed happily toots the engine's horn while Mrs Peel, sitting behind him, covers her ears

Series 4 - Episode 2
The Gravediggers

7 stars

by Malcolm Hulke
Directed by Quentin Lawrence

Episode Rating

Subject 0-5
3½ stars
4½ stars
3½ stars
Intros/tags 3 stars
Villains 3 stars
Plot 4 stars
Emma 3 stars
Sets/Props 4 stars
7 stars

A bumbling bunch of saboteurs are nabbed red-handed. All the hallmarks of an Ealing Film.

The Fashions

Emma's Fashions Steed's Fashions
  1. knee-length coat with embroidered ruffles on shawl collar and cuffs over a grey wool sleeveless top and matching pleated skirt, alligator handbag and leather gloves.
  2. (1) without coat
  3. (1)
  4. Sleeveless blouse and pleated knee-length skirt with a dark overcoat (fur?)
  5. (4) without coat
  6. Nurse's uniform
  7. Leather jumpsuit with leather boots and a black skivvy, and a matching leather jacket.
  8. Surgical gown, cap and mask over (7)
  1. brown serge 3-piece suit with felt collar, dark tie with circular motif, light collared shirt, cloth-covered buttons on the waistcoat.
  2. (1) with bowler and umbrella
  3. (2) with carnation
  4. Suede-fronted cardigan, grey skivvy and slacks.
  5. Prince of Wales check jacket, dark waistcoat with metal buttons, khaki shirt and a red paisley tie, tan trousers, chelsea boots, bowler and umbrella
  6. (5) with a tan overcoat and bowler
  7. (5) without bowler or umbrella

The Cars

Marque/Model/Type Number Plate
Ford Zephyr 4 MKIII -
Humber Pullman Hearse OJJ 676
Ride-on 1/5 scale train David Curwen 4-4-2 Atlantic 'Blanche of Lancaster' No. 750
Ride-on 1/5 scale train David Curwen 4-4-2 Atlantic 'John of Gaunt' (more info) No. 751
Vauxhall 30/98 XT 2275

Who's Killing Whom?

Victim Killer Method
Dr Marlow V* Miller V* ? (off screen, under Johnson's orders)
Click a name to see the face

Continuity and trivia

  1. I always think of the radar station as being somewhere North but it can't be as Mrs Peel goes from the station to Pringby, then straight to Steed's flat in London without any apparent delay - It's not very clear, givern the camera angle, but the map at the station suggests the installation is in Lincolnshire, but Pringby must be East or South-East of it, given the warning light.
  2. While filming at The Stapleford Miniature Railway, they actually used two different engines, 'Blanche of Lancaster' (No. 750) and 'John of Gaunt' (No. 751). 751 appears more often on film, but 750 is in most of the promotional stills*.

    John of Gaunt is still at the railway, now renamed John H Gretton in honour of the late Third Lord Gretton, but Blanche has been sold to the Trago Mills shopping centre railway in Devon. The Stapleford Miniature Railway is still running today, after a shaky period following the untimely death of the Third Lord Gretton in 1989. Their website has a comprehensive history of the railway and a short section about The Avengers.

    * I suspect the green livery 'lit' better than the blue of Blanche, much as Cathy Gale's leather fighting suit was made of green leather so it looked better in black and white footage.

  3. 2:30 - there's a clear distinction between the grainy stock footage and the studio film.
  4. 8:44 - a thread is stuck to the bottom centre-right of the camera lens as Steed walks down the path. It reappears (17:10-17:17) in the exterior shot of Steed in the woods.
  5. 8:50 - the shot of the sign for the hosptial is completely out of focus.
  6. 9:38-10:08 - a thread is caught at the top right corner of the camera lens in the reverse angle behind Wanda Ventham (see 16:30). It wasn't on the camera at the beginning of the scene, but appears when the vision cuts back after Nurse Spray checks the filing cabinet. These hospital scenes must have been filmed together, much as the exteriors were, as the thread reappears throughout the episode: (16:30-16:57) in the long shot of Emma and Nurse Spray walking down the hallway; (25:15-25:40) when Emma unpacks the flowers and discovers one of the boxes is surprisingly heavy.
  7. 10:08 - Paul Massie's native Canadian accent appears as he reprimands Marlowe. He slips back into it at 16:57 and 36:40.
  8. 11:46 - Steed steals a carnation for his buttonhole
  9. 12:02 - ABC's favourite iron spiral staircase prop makes yet another appearance.
  10. 12:30 - Steed claims to be from the Foot-platemen's Friendly Association.
  11. 14:40 - Miller & Son ("Undertake with decorum") is at 22 Carling St, Pringby.
  12. 15:15 - Steed in splaying with a toy gun that can shoot round corners.
  13. 32:00-32:10 - scratches on the film
  14. 39:38 - The Avengers first outré bondage scene, softened later on when Emma is tied to the railway tracks. The scene is more extremely reprised in A Surfeit of H2O. Cathy Gale had been bound and gagged before but never in the suggestive manner used here as Clemens pushes the boundaries of acceptable televison for the Sixties. These days, we wouldn't even blink.
  15. 41:50 - Sir Horace declares that the Winslips have served in 5 wars, for 4 kings and 2 queens
  16. 43:59 - Emma tied to the tracks, silent movie style, supreme parody as dramatic silent film music starts as the train approaches her at 46:42.
  17. 44:10 - sped up footage for Steed running through the woods.
  18. 44:39 - a delightful piece of comic relief as Steed bends his knees while waiting for the train, acting like a commuter who's been standfing on the platform for a long time.
  19. 45:05 - more sped up footage as Steed runs after the train at the station
  20. 45:11 - excellent editing as a stuntman leaps onto the train and then we cut to a closer shot of Macnee in the carriage he just leapt into.
  21. 45:15-45:25 - Steven Berkoff does his own stunts, leaping on and off the train, but he's replaced by a double at 45:30 as he's thrown from the train by Macnee's stunt double.
  22. 45:33 - Berkoff's double rolls on the ground, head closes to the bushes, but the cut back to Berkoff has his head away from them.
  23. 45:40 - black spot on film, left of centre.
  24. 46:15 - Berkoff isn't one for climbing fences - he struggles to get up, and catches his foot in the wire after he comes down.
  25. 46:38 - It looks like Cliff Diggins standing in for Berkoff for the leap over the train as he fails to tackle Steed.
  26. 46:48 - Macnee climbs between the carriages but it's his double who struggles with Ray Austin (46:54).
  27. 46:57 et passim - we keep catching glimpses of the camera crew's shadows on the ground on the grass embankment alongside the train.
  28. 47:05 - Expert editing as Austin raises the laundry basket over the stunt double and we cut to Macnee sliding under him to avoid it.
  29. 47:48 - More great editing as we get the mid shot of Macnee switch the train to the other train, intercut with the stuntman in the long shot.
  30. 48:20 - Massie is completely out of focus as he is thrown into the pond.
  31. 48:29 - the matte in-studio close-up is a bit obvious.
  32. Running time: 49'46"
  33. Brian Tesler, Production Controller for ABC Television, asked Julian Wintle to cut the railway sequences by 30 seconds for the transmission print.
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). Let's hope the much-rumoured bluray release will revert to native 24fps with soft telecine so we won't have these problems again.

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