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  • title card: white all caps text reading 'A TOUCH OF BRIMSTONE' outlined in black and superimposed on Cartney sitting in his armchair eating chocolates
  • Cartney, cowled and masked, stand on the right, in the catacombs. Winthrop stands behind him, similarly attired
  • Willy Frant fills Steed's quart tankard from the pewter jug
  • Steed and Mrs Peel, in period dress, survey the orgy; Steed gets a better look by peering through his eyeglass
  • Cartney reveals Emma as the Queen of Sin: black corset, gloves and underwear, a spiked dog collar, knee-high lace-up boots and a python
  • Steed fight Willy, who tries to gouge his eyes with the hooks on his prosthetic fingers
  • Mrs Peel, wearing only a black corset and underwear, swings the chain attached to the collar around her neck as she fights Pierre in the catacombs
  • Steed quips about the passing 'horseless carriage' as Emma drives the stage coach away from Cartney's house

Series 4 - Episode 21
A Touch of Brimstone

10 stars

by Brian Clemens
Directed by James Hill

Episode Rating

Subject 0-5
Direction
4½ stars
Music
4½ stars
Humour 5 stars
Intros/tags 5 stars
Villains 5 stars
Plot 5 stars
Emma 5 stars
Sets/Props 5 stars
Overall
(0-10)
10 stars

It doesn't get much better than this. Wyngarde is fantastic as the villain, and Mrs Peel looks fantastic, both before and after her drug-altered Queen of Sin transformation. A great plot and debauched characterisations, fantastic sets and great acting by the ensemble cast.

The Fashions

Emma's Fashions Steed's Fashions
  1. Silver-blue lamé collarless jacket worn over a bustier and hipster pants of the same material
  2. Black and white knee-length dress, mostly black with three thick bands of white at the hem and white sleeves with three thick black bands at the cuff, concealed buttonholes leading to a single pleat in the front of the skirt, worn with white shoes, white stockings and black and white driving gloves
  3. cream rollneck blouse, orange pants, Edward Rayne's black & white boots
  4. loose white cotton dress with dark embroidery around the v-neck and cuffs
  5. (2)
  6. reproduction green Regency dress (zip up the back) hooped skirt, large bow below exposed cleavage
  7. Large black cloak, briefly concealing...
  8. Black whalebone corset, laced up the back, covered with black lace, descending to a sheer lace skirt, half covering black silk bikini briefs, worn with a spiked dog collar with silver chain leash the loop of which is slipped over the left wrist, long black gloves, glass bindi on the forehead, with smaller gems on the eyelids, knee-length demi-boots, high-heeled with stiletto heels and laced up the back of the calf.
  9. black and white cruciform jacket and b/w driving gloves
  1. black tuxedo (shawl collar, matching silk waistcoat with silver buttons), plain white shirt, black bow tie
  2. grey three-piece suit (2 vents, suede collar back, no breast pocket, slanted slit pockets at hip, hard buttons on the waistcoat, 1 button on suit cuffs) with matching bowler and whangee cane handled umbrella, pale shirt, double cuffs with square links and light knitted tie
  3. Dark polo shirt and trousers
  4. dark suit, with white shirt, dark tie, black bowler
  5. brown overcoat and bowler, over the above
  6. (2) without the bowler and umbrella
  7. (2)
  8. tapered stovepipe hat and Regency dandy attire, waistcoat patterned with fleurs de lys, later without the coat and hat

The Cars

Marque/Model/Type Number Plate
Bentley UW 4887
Four-horse carriage Chippenham Stage

Who's Killing Whom?

Victim Killer Method
VIP Willy Frant V* electrocution
Lord Darcy Willy Frant V* trapdoor into river
John Cartney V* John Cartney V* & Emma trapdoor into river (accidental)
Click a name to see the face

Continuity and trivia

  1. 1:00 - Is Cartney house using some of the same sets as Castle De'ath? Some of those doors look familiar.
  2. 1:34 - Cartney certainly eats lively chocolates! The scene has been recut in the editing room, but this means we see the chocolates on the arm of the chair (1:34) before he picks them out of the box (starting at 1:51).
  3. Steed has a television in his car!
  4. 8:58 - Steed casually pours himself a sherry while searching Darcy's flat.
  5. 6:51/13:25 - The date on Cartney's diary and cheque clearly read 12 January 1966 but Darcy's newspaper is dated 10 November 1965
  6. 21:53/22:28 - Steed's patent hangover cure, which he calls "National Anthem" comprises two eggs, salt and worcester sauce.

  7. 23:00 - Diana Rigg is enjoying herself and cheering on the fighters in the long shots, but in the close-ups she's looking pensive.
  8. 37:49 - The old standby prop, the cast-iron staircase is put to use once again.
  9. 38:16/39:30 - Emma turns tail and hears for the staircase when the box is opened to reveal TNT inside the fireworks boxes - but there's no way she could have seen that from where she was.
  10. 40:34-36 - One of the extras is sitting by herself and the next second there's a close-up of her in an embrace with one of the revellers. At 40:49, she's on her own again as Mrs Peel is presented.
  11. 42:22/43:53 - They couldn't have sex scenes on Sixties television, but we come close here. Cartney says Mrs Peel is theirs, to do with as they will. The men rush her and carry her around the room with the women throwing petals over her, before descending the stairs. At that point the camera cuts back to Mrs Peel's snake, no longer flaccid in her hands but now before the fire, it's long neck rearing up and erect. Mrs Peel's snake seems to... uh... grow from a reasonably sized python when she's holding it to a much larger constrictor when it's crawling around the mantel. Paging Dr Freud!
  12. 47:06 - There's a rather obvious backdrop for the catacombs scene.
  13. 47:15 - There are streaks down the right-hand side of the film.
  14. 47:44- The whipping scene was supposedly too much for the American network (Mrs Peel is lashed 12 times by Cartney), so it was censored. The story goes that network executives used to show the full scene to their friends and colleagues at the Christmas party.
  15. Running time: 49'32"
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.

Cast notes

  1. Carol Cleveland will be familiar to Monty Python fans - she was a regular of the ensemble.
  2. Robert Cawdron returns as the fake policeman in Murdersville.
  3. Colin Jeavons returns as the comic book writer Stanton in The Winged Avenger.
  4. Peter Wyngarde returns gloriously as Stewart Kirby in Epic (as well as in Jason King and Department S). Michael Latimer and Bill Wallis both return in The Positive-Negative Man (as the villainous Peter Haworth and the ill-fated Dr Charles Grey respectively)
  5. Jeremy Young is the double agent Burton in The Forget-Me-Knot and the Russian agent Chislenko in Gnaws.
  6. Bill Reed is another notable stuntman who's being throwing himself off buildings for years, here he stacks explosives in the cellar - he is also the hooded man who fights little Art Thomas.
  7. The man I've described as a Beaky Libertine appears in a multitude of episodes, as well as in Dangerman and The Champions.
  8. We don't get to see much of Alf Joint in this episode - he's the sheik's security guard (far right). Interested viewers can see more of him as Cosher Klaus in Legacy of Death or as the thug who jumps James Bond and winds up electrified in a bathtub at the beginning of Goldfinger (near right).


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