Episode 9 : Love Always, Magda
"Women's logic has never been one of my strong points..."
Gene is in Beirut, on the trail of the girl he loved. She dumped him four years ago, but clearly he still won't take no for an answer...anyway, there are people sitting around, and people talking, and people kissing. What more do you want?
'Gene Barry and Barry Morse as Mr Parminter'. He likes his helicopters, does our Parminter.
Also worth noting here is that we've lost executive story consultant Marty Roth, who was also the writer of Return to Sender, Double Exposure, and Miss Me Once, Miss Me Twice, and Miss Me Once Again. In other words, the better episodes. This does not bode well for the remainder of the series...
Kieron Moore (Nessim), Cyd Hayman (Magda), Paul Maxwell (Don Fleming), David Cargill (Narouz), Stefan Kalipha (Maurice), Jerry Stovin (Al Graham), Vera Fusek (Simone Laforque), Sue Gerrard (Jane), John Horsley (John Burdett), Larry Taylor (Angelo) and Kerima as the belly dancer...
Phillip Broadley. This also does not bode well, as Broadley was perhaps one of the lesser ITC writers - his episodes tended to be plodding and dull, and always directed by the same man...
Cyril Frankel. Yes, that would be him. Together, Broadley and Frankel mean one thing - mediocrity.
Gene's adventure in Beirut takes place against a backdrop of stock footage and back-projection and twangy sitar music.
No mission briefing here, as Gene's acting independently of Parminter. Yes, this time It's Personal.
Still, I suppose you could count Parminter's cricketing tips as a briefing of sorts...
At the start of this episode, Gene is being taught the basics of cricket by Parminter, and clearly has no idea what he's doing. By the end of the episode, he's good enough to play in a charity game at Lords. We also learn that he likes baseball. Nothing like a good bit of stereotyping, is there? Also, the bat he uses seems to be covered in autographs...
He's got a lot of people round him at the start as well - a tanned secretary called Jane, as well as a few other people who all want him to do various things. After receiving a message about Magda, he immediately heads for the airport, leaving all these people in his house, and, as you would do in a situation like this, they immediately read this very personal message.
Gene takes his personal jet, 88 Delta, out to Beirut. The co-pilot (his name is either Don, John or Dunn - one of the latter two would make more sense, as otherwise we'd have two characters called Don) seems to be the same one he flew with at the start of Double Exposure, although they've swapped seats this time around so that Gene can be closest to the camera...
Once in Beirut, Gene checks into a hotel, and calls the Beirut Star (though the line is so garbled it could easily be the Daily Star) in order to inform them that he is now in Beirut. His plan here is to get a picture of himself into the papers, and hopefully get Magda's attention that way, but at first it just seems like he's arrived and he's a bit put out that he's not been given the grand welcome he thinks he so rightly deserves...
Parminter seems to be coaching Gene in the basics of cricket, which is nice of him.
We later find out that Parminter strolled up to Magda in a casino, and employed her as an undercover agent, making use of her relationship with Nessim in order to get hold of the information that'll put him away for good. Whatever that information actually is.
And no Gavin. Gene's had both of them quietly dealt with behind the scenes...
Gene spends much of this episode in a bright yellow shirt, which just looks wrong. I don't know why, as I've let him get away with wearing much worse in the past, but the shirt just feels wrong...
Fortunately, he then later wears a white and blue pinstrip suit, which I can mock mercilessly. Ha.
When Magda's life is threatened, Gene snaps into action, kicking and elbowing and shoving with gay abandon. Atta boy, Gene.
Aside from Magda, obviously, private eye Don Fleming is the man who alerts Gene to the fact that his old girlfriend is in Beirut. They've not seen each other for four years (presumably not since Magda ran out on Gene), but they're very chummy, and Gene says that he knew Don even when he was working for the Government...
Wow - that long, huh?
Don is played by Paul Maxwell, the second member of the Captain Scarlet cast to pop up in the series. He's done other stuff, too. I expect. He also has the hairiest chest I ever did see. Even hairier than Gene's, which is obviously saying a lot.
Anyway, he gets himself shot while showering, while Gene is in his room having just another little drinky. Very Hitchcock. Except that Janet Leigh didn't get shot while Gene Barry was in the next room getting soused, but you know what I mean....
Magda herself, played by the gorgeous Cyd Hayman, ran out on Gene because...um...yeah. Well, she decided to make him fall in love with her, and he did. She then fell in love with him...and ran off. She mutters something about not being good enough for him, but that still doesn't really explain anything...
After shooting one of Nessim's thugs, Magda runs out on Gene again, leaving him with just the watch and his memories, which were all he had at the start of the episode. Aww.
Oh, and Gene never actually finds out that Don was killed, thus rendering his death utterly pointless. Nice job on tying up all the loose ends there, Pippy boy.
Nessim is the head of the 'Syndicate'. He likes to sit around and drink and smoke and look smug about things, and also to listen in on private conversations between Gene and Magda. He has a few helpers; Maurice, who makes coffee and wears a big medallion, and Narouz, who works at the hotel where Gene is staying. Convenient, no?
Oh, and they also have that generic ITC ugly hairy thug guy.
Him. He'd make a good Klingon, he would.
Anyway, once they get defeated they all have the manners to stand perfectly still and not try anything while Gene phones the police. Very obliging fellows.
PARMINTER - "You know me, Gene - I never interfere in people's private lives."
GENE - "Yeah...a couple of words in the English language that applies to someone like you."
We couldn't go through an entire episode without one of Gene's nonsense retorts, could we?
It's actually a reasonably effective cliffhanger, with Gene heading to Beirut in his little jet, and a look at the inscription on his watch - "To GENE love always MAGDA." Aww.
"Gene, I'm stoned." Presumably this is what Lew Grade said when he agreed to finance 'The Adventurer'...
Don is killed for no real reason and no one mentions it, so presumably Gene never found out...
This episode is in really bad condition. They all are, but this one especially. Just a simple rinse under the tap would do it a world of good, as many of the location shots look like they were filmed in heavy smog...still, this is (I think) the first episode in which the episode title caption isn't at a wonky angle.
A bug is placed on the bottom of the champagne bucket that Gene orders when he arrives in Beirut, and it records his conversation with Don. Amazingly, it apparently has the ability to focus in on sounds from parallel universes, as when played back, the recorded conversation sounds nothing like the spoken one - not just a different delivery of the dialogue, but completely different dialogue at times...
Magda vaguely inferring that she might have had sort of romance with another lady at some point. See below.
Gene actually acts at times in this episode. I know, it came as a shock to me too. It's an odd sort of acting, though...it's Gene Barry's own special brand of 'intense' acting, which involves whispering most of his lines, and then occasionally shouting a whisper. Or whispering a shout. Either way...it's all odd. But he was trying, bless im.
He's also very rough with Magda whenever he has to kiss her. He tends to take hold of her entire head, and force it to his lips, and she's clearly not interested.
The newspaper in Gene's hotel room gives us a date for this episode - Thursday, July 6th, 1972. July 6th is also my birthday, so now you've all got no reason not to get me anything. Ha.
These three guys are sitting in front of Gene and Parminter at the end of the episode:
I can't be sure, but I think they're all dead. Or dying.
Oh, and there's a couple of transvestites up the back too:
I'd like to conclude, if I may, by talking about gays.
That got your attention, didn't it? Perhaps you imagine I am about to make some grand and controversial statement, or something like that. Or perhaps you really don't care either way what I do. I know I don't.
Anyway, yes - by gays, I mean homosexuality -specifically, in ITC programmes. The reason for all this is the rather bizarre scene I listed as the 'Defining Moment', where Magda sees Gene's picture in the paper and says "I met him once...my girlfriend ran off with him." This gets Nessim's attention. "Your girlfriend?" he asks smugly. Magda looks at him, takes a deep breath and sighs "Mmm." Nessim grins, and goes back to his reading.
This may or may not be the first reference to homosexuality in an ITC production, depending on how you look at it. It is certainly possible she just means girlfriend in the 'female friend' sense...but it's dwelled on a bit too long, and there are one too many knowing glances for it to be just that. Of course, the villains (and in many cases, the heroes) in all these ITC series were verging on camp at the best of times (particularly if they were being played by Peters Bowles or Wyngarde), but the passing of time has given a lot of the dialogue certain other connotations that it was never intended to have. Man in a Suitcase in particular had more than its fair share of men putting their arms around each other and calling each other "Dear boy." before heading out for a "gay" night on the town. Going back into the Fifties historicals, the second episode of The Adventures of Sir Lancelot features this rather wonderful scene where Sir William Russell of Camelot meets up with young runaway kitchen boy Brian...
BRIAN: "You did make me your squire yesterday, for a time...and afterwards, you said I'd done well..."
BRIAN: "Well, it had a strange effect on me...now all I can think of is being your squire, and riding round the country, helping you in your adventures... I know I'm a little young, but I'm strong and can be useful to you in more ways than one."
We suddenly cut to this shot of Lancelot, helping himself to some of Brian's 'broth'...
...crikey. He's clearly counting the ways in which Brian can be useful, and no mistake...and for the rest of the series, Brian and Lancelot are best pals, with the occasional bit of hilariously dodgy dialogue thrown in every couple of episodes to keep us wondering.
Later ITC series (The Buccaneers, The Baron) would also go in for the odd bit of man/boy dodginess, but not to the same hilarious extent. And me, I'm miles off the point here. Let me see if I can get this back on track...
The only ITC series to actually acknowledge that homosexuality was a real thing (aside from a piece of graffiti in a Randall and Hopkirk episode that declared 'The Saint is bent'), and not just something that happened in dodgy European films, was an episode of Return of the Saint in 1978, where it turned out that Tessa Wyatt had killed someone or other because she had been having an affair with that person's wife, thus giving them a perfect opportunity to get back together again. After a few fond glances and general touchy-feeliness between the two, Ian Ogilvy found what might have been a rather revealing photograph (that we never got to see) and said something like "You look like very good friends indeed", while the wife looked guilty and Wyatt had gone psycho and was now brandishing a shotgun. Clearly, not a very positive image of the whole homosexuality thingy.
So that leaves us with Magda, who may or may not have been the first bisexual ITC character if she hadn't so vague about it all. I decided to consult Mr The Secretive Bus, to ask his opinion...
'I don't really know what she means there, but the bloke she's with seems to like the idea. Look at 'im, smarming all over the place. But, yeah, sorry but I haven't a clue what she's on about.'
That's the thing about The Adventurer. It's got so many layers, so many possible interpretations, and all because its bloody incomprehensible.
And now, having said all that, I'd like to complete contradict myself and conclude with a mention of The Champions, that wacky ITC series in which three secret agents gained superpowers that varied from week to week and went around the world using them to murder various Chinese people who were planning to take it over.
Anyway, the cast was made up of William 'Orcini' Gaunt, Alexandra 'Bikini' Bastedo, and Stuart 'Arch-enemy of Gene Barry' Damon. Two guys, one girl...and no sexual tension at all between them. It's odd, because in other ITC series it was a major factor in the whole 'two guys, one girl' thing. Department S had Stewart and Annabelle doing a will they/won't they thing. Ham and Evy went on a few dates (I think) in Strange Report. John Mannering (AKA The Baron) and Cordelia clearly fancied each other. Same for Harry Rule and the Contessa, AKA The Protectors. Heck, even Jeff Randall and Jean Hopkirk had that romantic tension (very vaguely, though, as ghostly Marty Hopkirk wasn't going to allow anyone to get close to his widow.)
Yet you get the impression from watching The Champions that Sharron (Bastedo's character) clearly isn't interested in the chaps, and they're not interested in her. The chemistry between the three leads, although good, doesn't really allow for any romance to develop - even though in the first episode, we learn that her husband is dead, thus leaving her available to pair off with one of them, hint hint. But that never happened. She was a curiously asexual girl, was Sharron...and the only time she actually ever seemed genuinely interested in anyone at all was...
Ah well. Maybe she just wanted the helmet...
Something of a relaunch for the series, this is actually a fairly good episode, despite what I said about its writer and director. That still holds true, though, as by the end of the series they'll be attempting to pass off chess matches as thrilling action sequences. They do a good job with this episode, though, no doubt helped by quality guest stars Hayman, Maxwell and Moore, as well as (I really never thought I'd say this) Gene Barry, turning in a rather nice little performance - and actually making you feel sorry for him by the end of the episode.
I must be going soft.
Gene demonstrates the techniques he used
to get Damon, Schell and Hagon off the show...
"Be with you in a moment, folks. Just on the phone to mother, don't mind me..."
He was rather hastily put together, wasn't he?
Paul Maxwell was surprised to find himself on the set of The Adventurer...
"You know, Mr Bradley, we are very much alike, you and I...we both like hideous jackets, for one..."
Magda fondly remembers the girlfriend
she used to have. Or didn't have. Or did have, but not in that way...