2 May 2018



'TUNNEL OF FEAR' is the twentieth episode of the first series of the 1960s cult spy-fi television series THE AVENGERS, starring Ian Hendry, Patrick Macnee and Ingrid Hafner and which was broadcast by ABC TELEVISION on 5th August 1961. It's one of only three known complete SEASON ONE episodes to have survived since the original broadcast. Lost for 55 years, the episode came to light in a private film collection in 2016 and was recovered by the British television preservation group KALEIDOSCOPE. Now for the first time ever, fans of THE AVENGERS will be able to own the episode in its entirety on DVD with a whole host of extra content.'

'Please don't put me to sleep, Doc! I 'do things' when they put me to sleep!'

Madame Xenobia to Dr. Keel: 'Cold hand, in your type that means that you're tensed up inside!'

Dr. Keel: 'What do you know about the law of probabilities?'
Ma Black: 'Can you be done for breaking it?'
Dr. Keel: 'No, but you can cut corners by studying it!'

Aw, the hour I spent watching this lost episode over breakfast one morning this week was absolutely the most enjoyable and entertaining part of that entire day. I'm not old enough to have been alive when these episodes were first broadcast on television, which was still kind of in its infancy itself, but that only adds to the charm and mystique of it all.

I loved that it was filmed in the stark black-and-white of my favourite year (yester, lol!) and that it was conceived, written and made in an era when the dust hadn't yet had time to settle over the end of the Second World War. It's so beautifully old...!

So let's have a look now at the plot, shall we? We first see a businessman, a perfect English specimen of a businessman, in a pinstriped suit with a bowler hat, a pinched expression and a tightly-furled black umbrella. His inside coat pocket should certainly contain a rolled-up copy of THE TIMES, that's if he wants to call himself a proper English businessman.

He's taking a seat on the Ghost Train at a fairground, just as the barker- the guy who's paid to shout things- exhorts the public to 'take your seats now for the Tunnel of Fear...!' At the end of the ride, we see that he's left his umbrella behind. Then the title music to THE AVENGERS starts up...

Now we're in the surgery of Dr. David Keel, one of the two main characters. He's good-looking in a sensible, don't-lose-your-head kind of way, thirty-ish, and when he gets married it'll be to a nice quiet girl who'll make a good doctor's wife and squeeze out a few chilluns. She might even help out at reception in the surgery sometimes if needed. Either way, his work will always take precedence over anything she might wish to do herself. That's just the way it was back then.

Anyway, he and his assistant Carol are in the process of closing up the surgery for the night when a desperate man bursts in, claiming to have been run over by a car. Certainly he has a terrible shoulder injury and passes out when the doctor attempts to remove the glass from it.

The doctor quickly works out that the man is an escaped jailbird. 'Prison clothes. By the look of it, he dived face-first through a window.' The man begs Dr. Keel not to call the cops. He's a man on a mission, you see, this particular convict. 'I can't rest easy till I find out who framed me.'

Well, all convicts say they were framed, don't they? But this Harry Black fella, charged with stealing the weekend takings from the funfair where he worked, genuinely seems to be telling the truth. Dr. Keel promises to do all he can to help the man.

Enter John Steed, Dr. Keel's partner-in-fighting-crime and the other of the show's two main characters. He wonders if Harry Black's story has anything to do with the seaside town
of Southend-On-Sea, a man called Wickram and a case currently being investigated by his department, that is to say, an espionage chain that's taking vital defence secrets out of the country illegally.

The immaculately-dressed Steed seems always to be cool, calm and collected and viewing everything he sees with a slight air of ironic amusement. He gets the best and funniest lines of dialogue and the writers do seem to be enjoying themselves with the character somewhat. I'd say he was great craic altogether to write dialogue for.

Anyway, off goes Harry Black to the funfair to try and clear his name. Steed and Dr. Keel are heading there too, but for different reasons. Dr. Keel is off to visit Harry's old Mum, Mrs. Mary Black who runs the shellfish concession at the fairground.

'Keep your thieving hands off my shrimps!' she bawls at a couple of chancers. 'I won't half paste you when I catch you! Geddit? Deliciously funny. Though suspicious of the good doctor at first, Ma Black wholeheartedly and unreservedly agrees to help Dr. Keel to help 'her Harry' in any way she can.

Played by a lady called Doris Rogers (Stick a hairnet on her and she could play Ena Sharples too!), Ma Black is my favourite character after the two leading males. She would have survived the Blitz and World War Two and Hitler's best efforts to destroy the English way of life, no mean feat in itself.

She would have brought up her family under adverse circumstances, abject poverty in a tiny terraced house maybe, possibly with a violent alcoholic for a husband. Given what she says later in the episode when she clouts a villain over the head, she's no slouch at having to defend herself from male violence: 'I haven't done a thing like that since me old man died...!'

Anyway, the funniest bit of the whole episode is probably seeing the cheeky, mischievous Steed working undercover and dressed up as a 'barker' for the belly-dancers. Dressed in a long jewelled caftan and turban, he's got the gift of the gab all right as he's urging the public to come and check out these 'beauties of the mystic East,' these busty slave-girls fit for a Sultan's harem with jiggling boobies, nice flat midriffs and long cascading hair.

Steed is quite the Lothario as he touches up the girls, gives them cheeky little nods and winks and slaps them on the rump as they disappear behind the magical curtain. I wonder what the 'Me Too' campaign would make of his touchy-feely behaviour? Ah well sure, it was a different time back then, a time when slave-girls apparently chewed gum while they twirled and gyrated...!

Harry's girlfriend Claire is a real 'Sixties dollybird, a blonde bombshell living on a houseboat pining away for Harry... but not too much, lol. She's got a little blanket-wrapped surprise for Harry when they come face-to-face, and it remains to be seen how the escaped convict takes the news...

The rest of the episode is taken up with Dr. Keel's and Harry's 'reconstruction' of the crime and the hilarious 'hypnotism' of Steed, who's no more being hypnotised than the chair on which he's seated is. We get an insight into the world of 'Sixties computing and we learn something I've known for a long time myself, purely from watching movies... Never allow a condemned man to smoke a cigarette. It only ever leads to trouble for the villain...!

This brilliant lost episode is available now to buy from STUDIOCANAL (ORGANIC). The extra features include two lovely interviews, both from the early 'Sixties. There's one with with Ian Hendry and one with Patrick Macnee. Patrick Macnee tells us movingly about the man on whom he based John Steed's slick sartorial style and Ian Hendry smokes a cigarette... on live television...! Oh, how things have changed, lol. You'd be burned at the stake for doing that today and no foolin.'

There's also an interview with John Dorney, the writer of the BIG FINISH episode, who talks about how much of an honour it is 'to be allowed to play in that sandpit.' This thoroughly engaging wee episode from the early 'Sixties is the most fun I've had watching television in ages. As John Dorney says, it's a real window into the past as well. Do yourself a favour and watch it too. You'll be so glad you did.


Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger and movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens' fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra's books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:


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