Nov 2, 2010

Repost: Mister Jerico Review

Continuing this week's blogiversary celebration, here's another repost. Reader and frequent commentor CK Dexter Haven once commented that this was his favorite of my reviews (and reading his own excellent Persuaders! blog, one can see why!), and I have to agree. It's one of my favorites as well, and another obscure title worth showcasing. Here's the first part of the review, and a link to the rest at the bottom:

DVD Review: Mister Jerico (1969) Starring Patrick Macnee

Last year, Network put out a DVD of Mister Jerico, a long-lost ITC TV movie starring Patrick Macnee made immediately after the conclusion of The Avengers, with much of the same crew behind the camera. I would have thought this release would have been greeted by Avengers fans with unrestrained jubilation, but it didn’t really make much of a splash, even in the fan community. Maybe that’s because nobody knew about it. If you are an Avengers fan–and especially if you’re a Patrick Macnee fan–Mister Jerico is well worth watching. It’s even worth picking up a $30 all-region DVD player at Best Buy for, as its unlikely to be released anytime soon on Region 1 DVD. I’ve been intrigued by this elusive title ever since seeing a single still from it in Macnee’s book The Avengers and Me, and I’m very glad to finally be able to have seen it!

Macnee stars as Dudley Jerico (presumably the writers felt that "Jerico" was too unbelievably cool a last name, so their hero should be saddled with a first name mundane enough to tether him securely to earth), a con man with an incongruous reputation for scruples. We meet Mr. Jerico (yes, that's how it's spelled) mid-con, as he relieves a wealthy American tourist of $10,000. Just as Jerico and his partner make their getaway from the man’s yacht by speedboat, their ruse is detected and the yacht’s crew give pursuit in their own launch, guns blazing. Jerico gives them the slip, Macnee peels off his unflattering fake mustache, and an impossibly awesome theme song kicks in sung by Lulu, with music by George Martin and lyrics by Don Black. According to Lulu’s website, this amazing track from a trio of Bond musicians has never before been issued in its entirety prior to this DVD release, which allows the whole thing to play out at the end of the movie rather than cutting it off when the credits end. I can’t believe it’s never made it onto some sort of Lulu compilation! (If anyone knows otherwise, please let me know, as I’d love to have it on my iPod.)

Macnee relishes his victory as Lulu croons, "A little bit won’t satis-fy him/that’s why he takes from everyone/as they pass by him! Yes, they’re pleased that they know... Mister Jerico!" and the boat skirts a beautiful Mediterranean coastline. What’s not to like? Well... Confession time: I’ve omitted one little detail. There’s Marty Allen.

With that revelation, I’ve probably lost any spy fan who’s ever battled their way through The Last of the Secret Agents or any of Allen’s other vehicles with his comedy partner Steve Rossi. In fact, it was in part Allen’s dependably irritating presence here that kept me from watching Mister Jerico for so long, even after I had the DVD. Fortunately, his part turns out to be relatively small, and though I did cringe the first several times he attempted to generate laughs by creepily ogling various beautiful women, even Marty Allen managed to grow on me by the film’s conclusion. Perhaps that’s because I was so swept up in the general charm of the whole affair, but I'll give him enough credit for it that I might give Last of the Secret Agents another shot...

The movie begins in earnest when Macnee and Allen put down their stakes in Malta (the real Malta, mind you, not an Elstree backlot!) and catch the attention of Victor Rosso, a shady millionaire with a reputation for his lack of scruples, played by the always top-notch Herbert Lom, and his secretary, Susan (an impressive Connie Stevens, sporting a blond Jean Seberg haircut). Rosso invites Jerico to his mansion for reasons that are never adequately explained, but that don’t really need to be in this kind of glossy con man caper. Neither man trusts the other, but both are ever so cordial. (We’d expect nothing less from John Steed, would we?) Rosso seems to expect Jerico to attempt to con him, and Jerico, in turn, seems to see it as his obligation. So begins a thoroughly enjoyable, gentlemanly game of one-upmanship involving a priceless diamond, its long lost twin, and more than one paste copy thereof. Complicating matters (and forcing Macnee to steal the same gem again and again) is the presence of a third party, the beautiful and mysterious con woman known only as Georgina.

Macnee charms Lom, romances both Georgina and Susan, cracks safes, dangles from hotel balconies, and models a wide array of the most hideous outfits from fashion’s darkest decade, the Seventies. Actually, this was 1969, but apparently ITC was already fashion-forward, eschewing the waning decade’s mod esprit and Carnaby flair for actual flares and velour T-shirts. Yes, Macnee’s casual attire actually includes a golden velour T, worn with shockingly orange trousers. I’m not convinced that anyone outside of an ITC program ever actually wore orange trousers, even in the Seventies, but ITC was big on them. Mister Jerico previews all the hideously camp stylings we’d see in their next generation of programming, from The Persuaders to Jason King to The Adventurer (in declining order of sartorial taste). Macnee wears one particularly perplexing purple-print silk shirt that proves remarkably versatile. It can be worn alone for a pajama-like casual look (good for sneaking about and blending into well-stocked women’s wardrobes) or dressed up with a sash, pendant and a wide-collared jacket that appears to be made out of hemp. I wish that I could provide you with evidence of all these fashion crimes, but for some reason the DVD won’t play on my computer, thus preventing screencaps. C’est la vie.

As should be evident, the appalling outfits actually added immensely to my overall enjoyment of Mister Jerico, as they do with those other, later shows. Macnee proves that his undeniable charisma was not due to Steed’s generally tasteful wardrobe, because he still manages to ooze charm even in these outfits. Furthermore, the beauty of the scenery, the women and the cars more than makes up for all the aggressive orange and purple in the costumes....

Read the entire review here.

1 comment:

C.K. Dexter Haven said...

I was in London back in August--I had my picture taken in front of Lord Sinclair's flat--and I also scored a highly-discounted copy of Macnee's The Avengers and Me, so I got to see the hallowed single still from Jerico.

I'm glad that you gave this one another spotlight as it's a highly-entertaining review. Thanks for the mention. I hope to have the next Persuaders episode review up soon.