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  • title card: white all caps text with black dropshadow to the left reading 'THE JOKER' superimposed on someone wearing a mustard jumper cutting up Emma's photo with a pair of scissors
  • subtitle card: white all caps text with black dropshadow to the left reading 'STEED TRUMPS AN ACE
					EMMA PLAYS A LONE HAND' superimposed on the hands feverishly chopped at the remains of the photograph with the scissors
  • Youtube video - Mr Peel drops round to see Steed who stumbles down his stairs. She breaks in and he gasps, 'Mrs Peel, you're needed'
  • The inside of the house with the ominous Death's head ace playing card as the door at the top of the stairs
  • The Strange Young Man holds the severed telephone wires up for Emma to see
  • Emma stares wildly at the carving knife embedded in the pine wall of the kitchen by the door
  • A worried Emma stands behind a chair, the candles on the foreground are ot of focus with the narrow field
  • An extreme close-up of Prendergast, so close he entrirely fills the screen and you can't see all of his face
  • Youtube video - Steed is playing Solitaire when Emma drops round. He shows her a card trick - the two cards she chooses add up to the year of his vintage champagne; she throws down two jokers

Series 5 - Episode 15
The Joker

8½ stars

by Brian Clemens
Directed by Sidney Hayers

Steed trumps an ace
Emma plays a lone hand

Episode Rating

Subject 0-5
Direction 5 stars
Music 5 stars
Humour 3 stars
3½ stars
Mastermind 5 stars
Plot 4 stars
Emma 5 stars
Set Design
2½ stars
8½ stars

Excellent from top to bottom. Diana Rigg and Peter Jeffrey shine in this homage to the Hitchcockian psychological thriller. I must enjoy the dark side because I rate this as one of the five best episodes ever.

After a fall down the stairs in his apartment, Steed barely has the strength to tell Mrs Peel she's needed - to care for him!
She has already arranged to spend a weekend in Devon with a bastion of the Bridge world - Sir Cavalier Rusicana. Steed is told an old nemesis of the Avengers, Max Prendergast, has escape gaol in Germany and heading their way. Realising that his injury was no accident, Steed sets out for Devon, sure that Max is trying to kill them. Alone in a country manor, Emma is terrorised by the strange housekeeper and a disturbed young man, then nearly murdered by Prendergast, but Steed plays the joker - finishing the criminal's plans.
A relaxing game of solitaire interrupted by Mrs Peel, the Avengers trade card tricks - Mrs Peel not wanting to ruin the trick that produces a bottle of Bollinger.

The Cars

Marque/Model Colour Number Plate
Lotus Elan S3 glacier blue SJH 499D
Bentley Speed Six 1926 British racing green RX 6180
Ford Prefect (107) blue -

Who's Killing Whom?

Victim Killer Method
Major George Fancy Max Prendergast V* Poisoned razor blade
Strange Young Man Max Prendergast V* Pistol
Click a name to see the face

The Fashions

Emma's Fashions Steed's Fashions
  1. pale sea green jacket & pants, yellow skivvy, yellow boots
  2. chinese red patterned silk pant suit, silver shoes (black bra exposed before top put on)
  3. (1)
  1. light grey chalk stripe single-breasted 3-piece suit, white shirt, dark blue tie
  2. grey overcoat and bowler over light grey chalk stripe single-breasted 3-piece suit, white shirt, dark blue tie
  3. light brown pinstriped single-breasted suit, pale blue shirt, copper tie

Continuity and trivia

  1. 2:15 - That's not Peter Jeffrey or Sally Nesbit reaching for the scissors!
  2. 3:30 - Rocky Taylor takes the fall for Steed.
  3. 3:25-3:55 - Right at the beginning of the episode, Mrs Peel arrives at Steed's apartment and rings the doorbell, then throws the vase through the glass to gain entry. All this time, the three lower buttons on her coat are fastened, but when she opens the door and comes through [3:47], the middle button is unfastened, and it's done up again moments later when she's mixing him a stiff drink.
  4. 4:00 - Steed's tuba, blown up in the previous episode, is back to it's normal shape.
  5. 4:15 - Emma mentions she's visiting Sir Cavalier Rousicana and Steed quips, "He sounds like an opera". Of course he does, the name is a play on "Cavalleria rusticana", the one-act opera by Pietro Mascagni.
  6. 6:24 - It's the same house exterior set as in The Superlative Seven, just a bit cleaner.
  7. 7:30 - It's the same hallway set as well, except the upper side stairs have been removed and the playing card door set into the back wall. At 9:24 - you can see the hole in the newel post where the side stairs have been removed.
  8. 8:39 - You can see the shadow of the boom microphone on the painting above Ola's head.
  9. 12:36 - Steed's kitchen is poorly designed - when he unplugs the coffee pot, the cord goes flying off the counter.
  10. 13:25 - Steed's military friend who's killed with the poisoned razor blade is billed in the cast list as Major George Fancy, but answers the telephone with the words "Wentworth here". Of course, he might have been Lord Wentworth.
  11. 22:38-22:50 (23:00-23:20) - The strange young man and Mrs Peel are much closer together in the first reverse angle than in the shots before and after, with the strange young man not stepping forward until just before the second reverse angle (at 22:47).
  12. 23:53 - The close-up of Emma while she's listening to the strange young man has her leaning on the bannister of the staircase, but the mid shots have her standing near the suit of armour. She only leans on the bannister after the strange young man goes to use the telephone (24:49). They must have forgotten that when they filmed the close-ups.
  13. 25:43 - Sir Cavalier's house is at Little Dayton, which is "the other side of Exmoor".
  14. 25:00-26:35 - This very pivotal scene is a complete rewrite, the original script had it a 'phone call and George wasn't killed.
  15. Major Fancy wears some pretty unimpressive ribbons: Korea Medal 1951, United Nations Service Medal for Korea 1950-1955, General Service Medal 1918-1962, General Service Medal 1962-2007, and what might be a Queen Elizabeth II Coronation Medal 1953
  16. 28:30 - They thankfully cut the line "I'm Jack the Ripper", the strange young man simply says, "I'm travelling incognito it's a fact!"
  17. 30:34 (31:26) - When Mrs Peel is investigating the roses in her bedroom, she's standing by the bed looking around and you can spot the shadow of a stage hand's arm appear twice, on the wall above the bed.
  18. 31:43 - the reconstructed photo doesn't seem to be the same as the photo chopped up at the beginning of the episode.
  19. 39:26 - How long has she been sitting in the box room? The hallway is festooned with roses.
  20. 43:10-43:16 (44:40) - Prendergast leans forward in his chair in the frontal shot, but the close-ups of the hands cutting the photo still have him sitting back in the chair.
  21. 45:46 - The hole in the card door caused by the bullet goes the wrong way, the paper sticks out instead of in.
  22. 46:00 - Rocky Taylor stands in for Peter Jeffrey and there's some very fine intercutting of close-ups of Peter. I'm not sure who took the tumble down the stairs for Sally Nesbitt. Diana Rigg seems to be doing her own stunts in most of the sequence, so we can assume it's Cyd Child, who so closely resembled her, in the action shots.
  23. 46:15 onwards - the original script has Steed appear from behind the card door and knock Ola down, then trip over her and fall down the stairs; it's Emma who saves him, so the poignant closing scene is another rewrite.
  24. 46:23 - How does Steed start the gramophone with the 'Mein Liebling' record (which must be upstairs somewhere) when he's lurking behind a playing card in the dining room?
  25. Running time: 49'17"
  26. Sally Nesbit is cousin to Sir John Hunt, who led the team which first climbed Everest.
  27. Some of Sally's stunts were done by Art Thomas.

Music notes

  1. Speaking of that song, Whispering Carl Schmidt's "Mein Leibling, Mein Rose", Laurie Johnson recently wrote:

    Laurie Johnson composed the tune, Brian Clemens wrote an English lyric and Leo Birnbaum, a viola player in the orchestra, translated it into German [ unfortunately someone made an error when they produced the props and the record that was actually released, it should have been 'Mein Liebling, Meine Rose' - ed. ]. The title was "Mein Liebling, Mein Rose". For the recording session Mike Sammes of the Mike Sammes Singers, took on the persona required for this musical subterfuge. Mike was a much called-upon session musician of the day.

    Strangely enough, the impact of the featuring of the record in that one episode resulted in the necessity to release a commercial 45 record of the song. Fans from all over fell under its strange spell. Even Kim Novak wrote to Laurie Johnson, from the States, requesting a copy of the dastardly confidence trick. From start to finish, the song and recording had to be accomplished in a matter of days to be ready for the episode. The name "Deutsche Phon" (see left) was a fictional record company name thought up by Brian Clemens for the label[ suggested by the name & colours of "Deutsche Gramophon" & the logo of "Domino" - ed. ]

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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