Chicken runs, rounds of Russian roulette, and teetering on ledges are for "thrill-starved teenagers," observes gentleman spy John Steed (Patrick Macnee), and not for distinguished soldiers with chests full of battle honors. So why is a corps of army elite acting "like irresponsible beatniks"? Steed and Mrs. Emma Peel (Diana Rigg) meet "The Danger Makers" in a thrilling episode from the fourth season of The Avengers, directed by A Fish Called Wanda's Charles Crichton. Hold your breath during Mrs. Peel's harrowing initiation into the organization that Steed refers to as "Death Wish, Incorporated," and cock an eyebrow at Steed's provocative suggestion that Mrs. Peel impress the ringleader, a phrenologist, by showing him her "bumps" (Macnee's double take at his own innuendo is priceless). This DVD also includes the episode "A Touch of Brimstone," in which Steed and Emma are put up for membership in the Hellfire Club, whose practical jokes mask a plot to stage "a coup so outrageous the whole country will be up in arms." One Avengers-appreciation Web site ranks this among the top 10 of the Emma Peel era. Reason enough: the too-hot-for-American-television "Night of All Sins" sequence, during which Mrs. Peel reigns as Queen of Sin. Monty Python fans: that's Carol Cleveland as the insatiable Sara. In "What the Butler Saw," someone is leaking defense secrets to "the other side." While gentleman spy Steed goes undercover as a butler to locate the culprit, Mrs. Peel launches "Operation Fascination" to attract the attention of the womanizing prime suspect, Captain Miles. About to meet him for drinks, she is memorably advised by Steed, "Don't do anything I would do." Two notable bits: for security purposes, three defense officials zip themselves up in a ridiculous giant plastic body bag that anticipates Get Smart's Cone of Silence; and Mrs. Peel flees from a pursuer through a succession of doors used to train butlers, a scene echoed in Sam Raimi's Crimewave. --Jenny Brown
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