• title card: white all caps text reading ‘DIAL A DEADLY NUMBER’ outlined in black and superimposed on a closeup of a large, black, old-fashioned rotary dial telephone with a printed card insert behind the dial to remind the user of the letters associated with the numbers
  • Steed tips the waiter, dressed as the Mad Hatter, for pointing out Jago
  • An overhead view of the Boardman’s coffee table, showing that it’s designed to look like an old coin. Steed, Mrs. Boardman, Mr. Boardman, Mrs. Peel, and Harvey sit around it
  • Steed is attacked in the basement carpark by two men on motorbikes who atempt to run him down
  • The wine duel begins in the cellar: Harvey faces us holding a tray with two glasses of red wine, he smiles at Boardman to his right. Boardman and Steed are both in profile, facing each other, Boardman on the left
  • Looking over the shoulder of Fitch, who points his silenced pistol at Emma as he undoes her zip and touches her soft white skin
  • Steed crouches behind a wine rack as he hunts down Harvey in the cellar
  • Steed and Emma, seated in the back of a cab, sample one of the bottles they liberated from Boardman’s cellar

Series 4 — Episode 10
Dial a Deadly Number

by Roger Marshall
Directed by Don Leaver

Production No E.64.10.4
Production completed: January 22 1965. First transmission: November 30 1965.

Production

Production dates: 11 — 23/01/1965

Patrick Macnee, was instrumental in getting Don Leaver to direct this episode, having had a long and fruitful connection with him over the previous three series. Leaver stuggled with the change to filming schedules from his familiar videotape world. He was used to full rehearsals and single takes with little post-production and found adjusting to the constant rewrites, read-throughs of single scenes, and re-dubbing difficult.

Coming straight after The Master Minds, the crew took the weekend off and started filming on Monday July 11, completing the episode shortly after July 22. As there was barely any location work involved the crew were able to pick up time from the initial adjustment phase. Leaver directed two more episodes near the end of the series - The House That Jack Built and How to Succeed .... at Murder.

Being another early episode production-wise, it's notable for Steed using a gun which was absent more or less from this point on. It's also the first use of the standing set for Steed's new flat although when it was broadcast other episode had already shown it.

Regional broadcasts

BroadcasterDateTime
Rediffusion London3/12/19658:00pm
ABC Midlands4/12/19659:05pm
ABC North4/12/19659:05pm
Anglia Television2/12/19658:00pm
Border Television5/12/19659:35pm
Channel Television4/12/19659:05pm
Grampian Television3/12/19658:00pm
Southern Television4/12/19659:05pm
Scottish Television30/11/19658:00pm
Tyne Tees Television4/12/19659:05pm
Ulster Television3/12/19658:00pm
Westward Television4/12/19659:05pm
Television Wales & West4/12/19659:05pm

TV Times listing

TV Times listing for December 4 1965, 9.05pm (Midlands edition)
Sydney Morning Herald listing for March 8 1966, 8pm
The Age listing for April 26 1966, 7.30pm

9.5 The Avengers
starring
Patrick Macnee

as John Steed
and
Diana Rigg

as Emma Peel
in
Dial a Deadly Number
By Roger Marshall

In which Steed plays bulls and bears — and Emma has no option …

Cast also includes

Henry Boardman Clifford Evans
Ruth Boardman Jan Holden
Ben Jago Anthony Newlands
Fitch John Carson
John Harvey Peter Bowles
Frederick Yuill Gerald Sim
General Michael Trubshawe
Macombie Norman Chappell
Warner John Bailey
Waiter Edward Cast

Music by Laurie Johnson
Directed by Don Leaver
Produced by Julian Wintle

ABC Weekend Network Production

International broadcasts

BroadcasterDateTime
ABN2 Sydney, Australia8/03/19668:00pm
ABV2 Melbourne, Australia26/04/19667:30pm
ABC New York, USA21/07/196610:00pm
ORTF2 France4/04/196710:10pm
Suisse Romande, Switzerland12/11/19668:35pm
French titleMeurtre par téléphone
ZDF Germany6/12/19669:15pm
German titleVorsicht bei Anruf
KRO Netherlands18/10/19669:05pm
Dutch titleDe dood telefoneert
Italy (RAI 1)3/10/196910:00pm
Italian titleDoppio gioco
Spain21/02/196710:15pm
Spanish titleMarque un numero mortal / Discar un numero mortal

With this episode, The Avengers moved to Thursday nights on ABC in the USA, the previous 14 episodes had been shown on Monday nights. There were six more episodes after this one, and the other five episodes were not broadcast.

This was the first episode in the somewhat random first series of The Avengers broadcast on ORTF2 in France, comprising 13 episodes from series 4, shown weekly up until July 1967.

This was the first episode in the exceptionally random first series of The Avengers broadcast by KRO on Nederland II in Holland. It comprised 38 episodes from series 4 and series 5, sometimes up to eight weeks apart, and ran until November 1969.

USA: New York Times listing for July 21 1966, 10pm
Netherlands: Provinciale Zeeuwse Courant listing for October 18 1966, 9.05pm
Switzerland: Gazette de Lausanne listing for November 21 1966, 8.35pm
Germany: Hamburg Abendblatt listing for December 6 1966, 9.15pm
Spain: ABC Madrid listing for February 21 1967, 10.15pm
France: Journal de Genève listing for April 4 1967, 10.10pm
Italy: Radiocorriere listing for October 3 1969, 10pm
Italy: Radiocorriere episode description

Episode Rating

Subject 0–5
Direction
3½ stars
Music 3 stars
Humour
1½ stars
Intros/tags 3 stars
Villains 4 stars
Plot
4½ stars
Emma
3½ stars
Sets/Props 3 stars
Overall
(0–10)
6½ stars

Is it just me? Financial storylines just don’t grab me, so this episode slips down the list.

The Fashions

Emma’s Fashions Steed’s Fashions
  1. light jacket with pink furred hem and button line — no buttons visible, the jacket is two overlapping semicircles, with large fur handbag and pale calf-length skirt, the hem below the knee being in dark silk, pale court shoes
  2. cotton hooded coat with drawstring with long-sleeved blouse
  3. pale embroidered knee-length dress, embroidery in flower pattern covers the breast, belly, shoulders and cuffs of long sleeves
  4. (3) with mink jacket (closed down back, belted at waist) and small handbag
  5. dark dress with lace on shoulders and cuffs — triangles of interlocking leaves
  6. (1) with chamois gloves
  7. zip-up leather catsuit with buckles, with knee-high boots
  8. black high-collared, long-sleeved dress? with black gloves
  1. navy three-piece suit with white shirt, dark silk tie with diamond pin
  2. grey three-piece suit — 2 vents, flap covered pockets, cloth buttons — with white shirt with blue stripes (collar striped), light silk tie
  3. (2) with brown overcoat, tan bowler and black umbrella
  4. evening suit with black bow tie, plain formal (city) shirt, initially with black overcoat, the waistcoat has metal buttons
  5. (4) with overcoat and gloves
  6. (2) with dark tie and pale green shirt
  7. (1), briefly without the jacket, then briefly with a bowler
  8. Navy chalk stripe three-piece single breasted suit, single vent, slit pockets. Matching waistcoat, white shirt, navy tie with pin, then with a pale horizontally striped navy tie.
  9. Prince of Wales check jacket, dark waistcoat with metal buttons, dark silk tie (plain) and white shirt, tan bowler
  10. brown serge suit, white shirt, dark patterned tie

The Cars

Marque/Model/Type Number Plate
Mercedes Benz 300 saloon -
Bentley 3 litre UW 4887?
Austin Mini -
Jaguar S-Type -
Volvo 122 S Saloon -
Austin Mini 24 BLX?
Triumph motorbike -
Triumph motorbike 452 VMF
Ford Zephyr MkII 1956 752 OPA
Ford Zodiac 1956–62 2658 MU
Austin A35 M15 63?
Austin taxi SGY 477
Ford Thames 1956 E83W van YMV 445
Bedford CALV van IPS 523
Austin taxi PKL 767

Who’s Killing Whom?

Victim Killer Method
Tod-Hunter Fitch V* needle through heart
Myers? Steed and himself V* motorcycle crash (caused by gunshot?)
Frederick Yuill V* Fitch V* needle through heart
Fitch V* himself and Steed bicycle pump gun (in fight)
Henry Boardman? Ben Jago V* shot
Click a name to see the face

Continuity and trivia

  1. The Beatles were famously late going on stage one night for a gig in Newcastle as George wanted to see the end of an episode of The Avengers. It seems like the episode in question was this one as they played Newcastle City Hall on 4th December 1965. There are two other contenders though: Killer Whale was being shown on 23rd March 1963 and The Medicine Men was shown on 23rd November 1963; on both nights they were playing at Newcastle City Hall.
  2. 1:16 & 1:33 — The clocks above the bar read: Rome steady 8:10, Frankfurt irregular 2:10, Zurich further losses 2:10, New York firm 8:10, Melbourne further rises, 10:20, Tokyo sharp losses 10:23.
    The times must be meant to indicate when the last report came in rather than the current time, otherwise Melbourne & Tokyo are wrong by 10 and 13 minutes respectively, and Rome is 6 hours out.
    There’s also a Easter Egg in this shot — the man at the chalkboard is Ernest Blyth and he’s just written his own name on the board — and possibly those of some of the other extras.
  3. 3:34 — the phone number of the bar is Leadenhall 7141. The same phone turns up again in Two’s a Crowd, did the Russians steal it?
  4. 3:56 — Steed tells Emma the dent in the pocket watch he’s been bequeathed saved his uncle’s life in the Great War. “German bullet?” she queries, and he replies, “Canadian mule!”
  5. 4:07 — we go straight from the board room to Steed’s kitchen for no apparent reason.
  6. 6:53 — you can see the shadow of the boom microphone on the wall as Harvey is introduced to Steed.
  7. 10:09, 12:45 etc. — the Bank on England facade outside Yuill’s window is a bit too obviously a blow-up.
  8. 15:33 — When Steed first meets Ben Jago he tells him they have the same broker; Jago replies, “Charlie Bingham?” as a test. Steed looks taken aback and replies “Yuill, Brian Yuill” (but the character is called Frederick Yuill, as Boardman says at 7:54), and Jago merely says, “One can’t be too careful.”
  9. 16:13 — Separated by a common language — When Steed queries the lack of ice in his drink, the waiter explains it’s a house rule. A Wall Street broker once asked for “bourbon on the rocks” and two brokers fell dead on the spot. ("On the rocks" being City slang for a market crash).
  10. 20:37 — Steed questions Emma’s lack of tan and is told it’s the rainy season in Barbados; Harvey chips in that half the annual rainfall of 36″ falls between September and November, putting this episode in October or November — it was filmed in January and screened the following December.
  11. 23:07 — Steed contradicts the above when he notes that next Tuesday — the day of the wine-tasting — is the anniversary of the relief of Ladysmith in 1900 (which occurred on 28 February, and was a Tuesday only in 1961 and 1967). If, on the other hand, the date was the start of the seige of Ladysmith, then it’s November 2 1965, which works perfectly.
  12. 23:57 — Mike Stevens stands in for Patrick Macnee in the garage, dodging the motorbikes and firing his revolver.
  13. 24:30 — After Myers crashes with Steed’s cape around his head, the other rider takes off, but the shot is of Myers!
  14. 25:28 — Yuill causes more problems later on when he swallows while Emma examines his corpse.
  15. 28:06 — Steed approaches Emma at the wine tasting, smiles and says, “Agreeable, well-rounded, a little on the flinty side”. She smirks and he produces a glass of Pouilly Blanc Fumé which she tastes (and spits everywhere in what seems to become a theme for the episode). She then replies, “Venerable, devious, a little ambivalent” — and reveals she’s talking about Boardman’s. (A similar exchange happens in The Murder Market).
  16. 28:50 — Later, at the wine tasting, when Steed chooses a wine for the duel, he tastes a glass of the Latour ’59 but spits most of it onto his jacket, as he did at 26:56.
  17. 28:40 (29:33) — Steed’s tasting notes:
    STEED: It’s either a ’65 Algerian red or a Premier Cru...
    STEED: Chateau Lafitte-Rothschild.
    [BOARDMAN: What year?]
    STEED: No nose; it’s old, very old. Pre 14–18 War?
    [HARVEY: Correct.]
    STEED: It’s an outstanding vintage, definitely pre 1914 but no earlier than 1880.
    [BOARDMAN: You still have 34 years to play with. Well?]
    STEED: 190- 8 [Harvey smiles] — would not be the year. 1909!
    [Boardman looks surprised]
    STEED: From the northern end of the vineyard.
    [Boardman is so surprised his monocle falls from his eye]
  18. 41:49 — Fitch claims to have invented the bicycle-pump gun.
  19. 48:35 — Once again Mike Stevens stands in for Patrick Macnee during the fight.
  20. 50:05 — Mrs. Peel emulates Steed’s wine identification in the cab — but she’s read the label:
    EMMA: A claret with unusual body, — the Bordeaux distict.
    Mmmmm... the little village of St. Perignon which would make it the de Villé vineyard.
    A Mérignac Sainte-Claire!
    Nineteen-thirty... would not be the year — 1931!
    STEED: Fantastic, Mrs. Peel! Nose or palate?
    EMMA: Uh uh, eyes, I read the label.
  21. Running time: 51′50″

A note on the timecodes

Timecodes for episodes are problematic as each release has its own quirks so the 2009–11 Optimum Releasing/Studio Canal DVD sets have different run times compared to the A&E and Contender DVD sets from a decade beforehand. The newer Studio Canal & Via Vision blu rays seems to be back in line with the earlier releases, except they often have StudioCanal idents lasting 20 to 22 seconds added to the beginning.

The Optimum Releasing/Studio Canal DVD releases were 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).

The 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 running 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 greatly improved picture quality, most notably in the Tara King episodes which are finally (mostly) back to their original glory.


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