"THE AVENGERS (The Undertakers) with Patrick Macnee, Honor Blackman, Lally Bowers, Lee Patterson, Jan Holden, Patrick Holt, Howard Goorney, Mandy Miller, Ronald Russell, Marcella Markham, Helena McCarthy and Dennis Forsyth.  Producer: John Bryce.   Director: Bill Bain.  Writer: Malcolm Hulke.  60 minutes, Saturday, 10.50 P.M.  ABC-TV from Manchester.

The offbeat character of this mystery skein has made it a fad in some circles.  Its return to the schedules, in top tongue-in-cheek form, indicated that there's still plenty of life in the formula.  The partnership of Patrick Macnee, bowler-hatted, charmingly insolent, and unruffled as Steed, and Honor Blackman, who has a passion for leather garments and ju-jitsu as Cathy Gale, is now a well-oiled affair, the two playing together with well-judged sympathy.  The scripts are conscious parodies of the genre, not expecting to be taken seriously, and Malcolm Hulke's "The Undertakers" was a good example of the breed.

In order to dodge death duties, wealthy widows were provided with substitute husbands when their own died.  An organisation, bossed by a millionaire, existed for the purpose, in cahoots with a firm of morticians who disposed of the superfluous bodies.  Steed and Cathy Gale were dizzily involved in unmasking them, and a rapid string of near farcical events led to the usual gun duel as a climax.   Lomax (Lee Peterson) wanted to get rid of the organisation's chief, Madden (Patrick Holt), and sent a killer and a coffin to his apartment.  Idea was that he would be shot, stuffed into the box and taken away for burial.  Other ingredients included a wide-eyed widow, Mrs. Renter (Lally Bowers) who capered through the segment [unaware] that anything criminal was afoot.  And a torrid affair between Madden's wife and Lomax.

Relief was constantly suspended, and the plot didn't respond to investigation.  Bill Bain directed John Bryce's production with a springy gaiety, and a strong team of supporting thesps gave sly substance, with Lally Bowers and Howard Goorney standing out.  Only danger is that scripts will go overboard for the yocks, and the mixture will lose its tension.  It wasn't always dodged in the one caught, but it was frolicsome enough to get by."

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