Episode 23: Icons are Forever
"My apologies, Senor...it was all an unfortunate domestic matter..."
There isn't one.
Oh, alright...um, let's see...bearing in mind that the picture is so dark that I can't actually see anything...and the sound is so awful that I suspect it was recorded inside a toaster on the moon (I swear that at one point a character actually says "My knees will be quite desolate"), it seems that Gene has been told by some guys that something bad is going down at a castle in Italy, where his old friend Countess Stephanie Beacham lives. So he goes to investigate.
Hilarity does not ensue.
'Starring Gene Barry and Barry Morse as Mr Parminter'. And the opening title sequence is the best part of this entire episode, folks...
Stephanie Beacham (Countess Maria), Noel Willman (Holvera), Alfred Marks (Darron), Alan Lake (Carlo), Marc Boyle (Miguel), Richardson Morgan (Security Man).
Cyril Frankel. Yes, there's been no expense spared to make this episode a thoroughly wretched experience...
Supposedly we're in Italy, but I doubt it. Location shooting takes us to a field, and a cemetery, and the exterior of a big house posing as a castle...
And an exceedingly dull episode deserves an exceedingly daft opening, does it not?
Somewhere in the world, some poor fool is being lowered into their grave, and Gene is lurking behind a nearby tree watching the proceedings. Yes, our courageous hero has taken up gate-crashing funerals. I'm not sure what the exact term is for someone who gets off on funerals, but I suspect it has 'phile' or 'philiac' on the end of it. Suddenly, he hears a helicopter overhead, coming in to land to deposit one Mr Parminter and his brolly. Suddenly, Gene's out in a field in the middle of nowhere, with his car, and that's where Parminter's 'copter lands. So...already we're leaping from place to place with no explanation given. T'riffic.
Parminter, clutching his hat lest it blow away, cries "I say, I hope this is important, Gene! I'm supposed to be having lunch in Paris!" Ooh, how lovely for you.
"Beats me how you get around with all this jet-setting." Gene replies...and the clue is in the question, Gene boy. The clue being the word 'jet'. It's an aircraft used to transport people across the world by air, and you in fact have one. So shut up.
Anyway, Gene has a question, and that question is "Ever hear of Julian Hunt?" Parminter ponders profusely, before replying "Oh yes - private investigator!" "The only one of his breed to charge $100,000 a case." Gene replies. We watch the famous ITC white jaguar (I told you it would appear at some point, didn't I? Never say I don't know what I'm talking about, because you might occasionally be wrong) plummet to its smashy-crashy death as Gene explains "But he took on one job too many."
"Here?" Parminter gasps. "But what was he doing in Italy?" Oh, is that where we are today? Thanks for that...but, um...why couldn't you be having this conversation over the phone? You used to...why is this job more urgent than any other? "I assume he was on a case." Gene explains. "I believe it involved the Castle Delguedo."
"Oh, highly unlikely." Parminter replies, and I'd have to agree considering that we've not actually got any proof of that at this stage. I mean, for all Gene's told us, it could involve a funfair and a giant hamster. "Castles are out this year." Ah ha ha...huh?
"Chris Perley didn't think so." replies Gene smugly, and Parminter exposites to us that this guy was "the agent for international insurance", which is a nice job if you can get it. "Well, what happened to him?" We suddenly cut to a shot of some poor sod face down in a river with a tyre floating next to him, and again I suspect this is footage lifted from another series, possibly an ITC one, but I've no proof of that, so following Gene's 'Castle Delguedo' logic that of course means that I'm right.
"I believe he was a good friend of yours?" Parminter asks, as he and Gene now trudge over to Perley's grave. "Was is right." Gene replies gravely, as the camera pans down on the grave, which I think is meant to come as a shock but given that we've just had two mentions of his death in the past ten seconds then it's not really that much of a surprise in actual fact, don't ya know.
Oh, and the grave looks like the body was just laid out on the ground and covered over with some rocks.
"Oh, I'm sorry." Parminter says, as he suddenly realises that Chris Perley, who is dead, is now dead and buried and is also deceased as well. "It was Perley who brought me here." replies Gene sadly, before adding "Unfortunately too late."
"What were they after?" "Don't know." "And why the castle?" "I don't know that either." Well, we're certainly going to have this case wrapped up in no time at all, aren't we Gene? "But the locals are still talking about a truckload of security equipment that was brought in here." What - to the cemetery? And...sorry, this is probably the worst briefing scene we've ever had. It's like it's been made up of chunks of all the previous briefings from across the previous 23 episodes. Just who are the 'they' who offed the still-dead Perley who has snuffed it, and what's with the castle, and why would an entire village know about a truckload of 'security equipment'...the mind doth boggle here.
"And you think." Parminter says. Just like that. Phrase it in the form of a question, please...
"If it's good enough for Julian Hunt and Christopher Perley...then it's gonna be good enough for me." replied Gene...which would seem to be a little bit on the insanely gibbering daft side given that whatever 'it' he's talking about wasn't really that 'good' if it got them both killed. But if Gene's not realised that, then I don't really think we should tell him....
"Can you get into the Castle Delguedo?" "I met the Contessa Maria Delgeudo about a year ago." Gene tells us, about as smarmily as a man who walks around a cemetery with his hands in his pockets can do. "She's extended an open invitation to me." Well, woopty doo.
Gene's in a particularly smarmy, know-it-all mode this episode. Even more than usual, Lord 'elp us. I hear tell that he was the first choice for Peter Egan's role in Ever Decreasing Circles, you know. Oh yes.
He once had an icon 'just like' the one at Castle Delguedo, and is also a conneiseur of champagne.
Oh, and his electric razor contains a listening-device locator thingy. Rare for this series to feature standard spy story tech...anyway, upon finding a security camera behind a curtain in his room, he pulls out a lighter and melts it, which I would imagine would take a very long time, but then I'm not a master of international espionage like our hero is...
Gene's plan to nab a valuable icon from the castle's museum involves pulling out a fuse and plunging the castle into darkness, giving him time to sneak onto the ledge outside his window and along to the museum wing. Once there, he opens that window and sneaks in with a camera in a pillowcase. Yes, he's pulling off that old trick of 'take a photo of a room from the angle of the security camera, then stick said photo over said camera so that no-one realises there's anything wrong in that room'. In fact, he's going one better - sticking two pipe cleaners inside the camera one either side and attaching the photo to them before, er, setting fire to them. With that done, he then grabs the icon and escapes back to his room.
Maria soon arrives at his door, bags packed and ready to go, and he loans her his car with which she can escape to the airport. Thus, the plan is to make look like Maria has taken the icon herself, but I'm not sure Gene actually told her that part of it, so maybe the villains will be back to off her at some point in the future. C'est la vie.
As well as appearing for the mission briefing Parminter also pops up at the end of the episode to fill us in on a few things that we probably should have been told before the 23-minute mark. "It contained a sample of a new alloy." he says of the icon. Gene, unsurprisingly, says "I know." "Hunt and Perley both wanted it back, but Holveras was determined to sell it to the highest bidder." "I know that too." Oh, Gene...Shut. Your. Effing. Trap.
Apparently, after all the fuss made about this priceless icon that everyone wants, Gene's giving it to Maria as a wedding present and Parminter's absolutely fine with that. "Give them my best wishes for the, er...future, and all that." he says. "I will." replies Gene 'Gene Bradley' Bradley. "I must say, Parminter - who would believe you were such a romantic at heart?" And there is much cheeky grinning.
I grow tired of these 'will they/won't they' antics.
I do wish you'd stop asking me that.
No dancing, and no fashion statements that we've not seen him make before. There is a cracking fight scene, but I've listed that as the Defining Moment...
Gene met Maria Delguedo a year ago, though he does not inform us how exactly this meeting occurred. The open invitation she extends to him must however mean that he made an impact on her. Gene takes great delight in being particularly pervy towards her throughout the episode, and calling himself "Your servant." Stephanie Beacham, as is quite right and proper, tends to look thoroughly creeped out whenever he turns on the 'charm'...
She explains the mysterious goings on in the castle thusly:
"For the last four months, my uncle has been obsessed with the idea he's going to be robbed. Most of the staff are gone - there are alarms and terrible tv eyes everywhere. I am not allowed to leave the castle, not for anything, not even to go to the village." She thinks that all this has something to do with 'the icon', but she's powerless to do anything until she marries, for some reason. She mentions 'Phillippe', who is apparently her boyfriend or something, but she just witters on about him as if both we and Gene know all about him already. Well, Gene probably did, given that he knows everything...
Maria's uncle Holvera treads that fine line between vaguely evil and somewhat ambiguous throughout this episode, and I'm not sure what we're supposed to think of him. Not sure the writer knew, either...
Anyway, our main villain is the cigar-chomping Darron, who likes to say things like "Bradley, search his room!" and "What about Bradley, did you search his room?" and things like that. He suspects Gene of dodginess from the get-go, and his reason for this is:
"Listen - as long as we hold that icon, we've got the biggest industrial companies in the world stone cold. Stands to reason they'd send the best men they've got, right? The one we'd least suspect."
Yeah, that makes sense...until you remember that Gene stumbled across this plan pretty much by himself. Anyway, Big G takes advantage of Darron's suspicions in order to make him look a fool. Poor Darron.
He also has three random thug guys, all of whom are immaculately turned out in that wonderful seventies style of big hair and loud jackets, and who turn out to be worse than thoroughly useless in a fight against Gene 'as agile as a gazelle' Bradley.
SECURITY MAN: "Look, Darron, I'm supposed to stay here..."
DARRON: "You're also supposed to examine your equipment every day."
"I told you never to mention my equipment in public..."
GENE (after watching the security door to the museum open): "Oh, that's very good...opening..."
"His blood sugar level's gone down...50,000 volts through his chair, that should do it..."
GENE (sucking up to Holvera about his champagne): "May I suggest you apply your security measures to your cellar, or I might run away with a barrel or two..."
MARIA: "It's late..."
"...Gene's getting tired and that means his jokes become even more incomprehensible than usual..."
GENE (after being offered a cigar by Holvera): "No thank you. I shall savour the private stock and look forward to that...splendid...bed!...you've provided..."
Come on now, Gene, don't be impolite. You could at least take one cigar and wipe your nose on it before putting it back in the box, like you've done in the past.. Note that it takes great effort for him to reach the end of the sentence, too...that 'private stock' must be gooood stuff...
"I suggest you take up that offer." Parminter tells Gene upon learning of his open invitation to Castle Delguedo. "I already have." replies our hero, and with that we're off to the opening credits for much scowling and pacing and big beefy fists...
'Fraid there's nothing to put here. There's very little dialogue in this one, but there is plenty of sneaking around in darkness, which is good. Said sneaking is accompanied by much of the funky Paul Clay music we've been hearing over the course of the series, and so, with Gene crashing around in the background, here's some two minutes-ish of that music for you to listen to...
The plot itself, once explained, is fairly sound, especially compared to plots we've had in the past. But, and it's been a big problem with some recent episodes, the fact that we don't have the faintest idea of what's actually going on until seconds before the end credits roll is nothing less than insulting. I'm appalled, you know.
Nothing really major to report in this section, other than the episode being almost completely unwatchable (technically as well as for entertainment value). I wouldn't be surprised if the only reason these episodes weren't cleaned up for DVD was that the original masters had long since fallen apart...
Maybe that's for the best, thinking about it...
It has to be the scene where Gene, confronted by the three thugs, runs away to the gym in order to engage them in some bizarre martial arts ritual in which you have to go "Hoi! Hoi!" a lot. You can view that clip here, you lucky things:
Notice that they're just falling over willy nilly as soon as he looks at them.
When confronted by Holvera about the true purpose of his visit to the Castle, Gene claims to be interested in buying everything in his museum, but is met with the reply "I doubt even you could afford it." Gene then offers £1 million for the lot. Which Holvera seems to think is a reasonable sum. Odd.
And that's all I have to say about this one, really. My apathy is at an all-time high.
Well, this one's just terrible, isn't it? Deathly dull, a plot that makes no sense (again) and lots of plodding around in darkness. Gene's at his most annoying, the guest cast aren't great, and surely any casual viewer in the 70s would have tuned out by the time the plot is finally explained to us? Easily the worst episode of a very bad series.
It earns one star. A special star, because I can't give it nil stars.
|"I'm not dead! I'm getting better!"|
|There's a floatation device right next to him. But he still drowned. Idiot.|
|The Castle Delguedo. Yes, it is there. Somewhere.|
|A shot meant to convey something.|
|Stephanie Beacham, getting charmed by Gene.|