“You know, while we’re standing here talking about it the need for the real Jan de Groote gets slimmer by the minute.”
Plot – Powerful businessman Jan de Groote is an old friend of Gene’s. Rather foolishly Jan married an ‘enemy agent’, Elayna Snow (AKA ‘Hummingbird’, AKA Ingrid Pitt), got himself captured and is now being held in ‘their’ embassy. Wherever that is and whoever ‘they’ are. To complicate things even more the people Elayna works for have sent a perfect double of Jan to take his place, while the real Jan is forced into signing away all his money and property and somehow that will make these dastardly foreigners…um…something or other.
Anyway, no doubt there will be a problem or two as Gene comes up with an equally bonkers plan of his own to rescue Jan and restore balance to the Force.
Starring – ‘Gene Barry with Catherine Schell, Garrick Hagon and Barry Morse as Mr Parminter.’ Again, the shot of Parminter is of Gene’s helicopter taking off.
Guest Cast – Donald Houston (Jan de Groote and ‘Jan de Groote’), Carl Duering (Colonel Kazan), Ingrid Pitt (Elayna Snow).
Uncredited: David Graham as ‘Berlin Centre’ voice
Writer – Marty Roth.
Director – Cyril Frankel.
Locations – Gene’s plane is diverted to Amsterdam, and that’s where this story takes place. Lots of car chases across lovely Amsterdam.
Mission Briefing – The briefing occurs in a taxi, and while Gene and Parminter talk we get to see Gene riding around on a horse with Jan, and then Jan’s wedding to Elayna. After that, Gene and Parminter are suddenly in some hotel room talking some more. We get to see Jan being interrogated by the baddies and then his double driving around (taken from later in the episode). Then Gavin and Diane appear out of nowhere. It’s all too much information to remember unless you’re actually there taking notes on everything, but who’d be silly enough to –
The Bradley Way – The pre-credits sequence gives us the first glimpse of Gene’s personal jet, codenamed ’88 Delta’, which demonstrates the rather amazingly ability to bank to the right when Gene tilts the controls to the left. Yes, amongst his many talents is that he’s a pilot. But for some reason he’s sitting in the co-pilot’s seat. Odd. In later episodes he’ll switch over to the other seat, probably to be nearer to the camera…
During the mission briefing we get to see Gene on horseback, and he seems fairly comfortable with it. Unfortunately I can’t say the same for the horse…
We get to meet Frank Jordan, Gene’s ‘stand-in’. This is just Gene Barry wearing a grey wig and struggling to do an ‘English’ voice in the best tradition of Dick Van Dyke. Frank disguises himself as Gene, while Gene paints himself chocolate brown and puts on a bald cap, which only makes him look like he’s had some sort of accident with mud. Or worse.
After staging an assassination attempt on the fake de Groote at the airport, Gene, now calling himself ‘Scarne’, jogs away. Slowly. Followed by the other ‘Gene’, going equally slowly. They meet in a bathroom and remove their makeup, with Gene taking over the part of himself again. For a while.
While staying over at the de Grootes’ house, Gene gets bored in the middle of the night and decides to wake everyone up and pretend that there’s some nasty piece of work on the loose outside when of course there isn’t. My theory is that the miserable old git decided that he if he couldn’t get some sleep, then nobody else was going to either.
Mr Parminter is a Very Cautious Man – Not much Parminter here. He pops up at the start of the episode, gets Gene’s plane diverted and then briefs everyone before then buggering off again. He returns at the end of the episode where he meets Gene and Frank at some sort of holiday camp which has a lot of fruit around. And girls in bikinis, but I was more interested in the fruit.
“What About Diane?” – Diane clips Elayna’s car as she leaves the evil embassy, causing her to crash into a lamppost and creating enough of a distraction to allow…
“And Gavin?” – ….Gavin to sneak up and steal the contracts Jan signed from Elayna’s car. And how did they know Elayna would have the contracts? Gavin fired a small listening device at the window of the room where the real Jan was being held, just in time to hear the baddies force Jan to sign over all his money and property. Which was rather lucky, all in all. And by the by, he’s now got an American accent.
Once he has the contracts, Gavin runs off to a truck parked not far from the scene of the crash and rubs out Jan’s signatures, replacing them with…Jan’s. And then he puts them back in Elayna’s car. Yes. I don’t know why, but it’s all part of Gene’s masterplan. He later explains it as being “preventative medicine. Just in case we goofed somewhere along the line.” Ah, well, that explains precisely nothing. Thank you, Gene.
Gavin later arrives at the de Grootes’ home posing as a police inspector and offering the fake Jan a bodyguard. Which he refuses, obviously, because..um, well, because he’s a fake. But he’s a fake who thinks someone’s trying to kill him, so surely he should have taken up the offer of protection…
Gavin is last seen with the police at the windmill where Elayna brings the real Jan de Groote to meet the fake Jan and ‘Scarne’.
The Oldest Swinger in Town – There’s no dancing and no fighting from Gene this time round, so all I’ve got left to comment on his snazzy blue-with-flowers-on dressing gown, which he wears to bed. Over his suit, of course.
And, of course, that goofy ‘Scarne’ makeup of his. And his goofy ‘Frank Jordan’ makeup and voice. And the ridiculous tartan trousers that both he and himself wear in the final scene.
“Alright, old friend – let me see you!” – Jan de Groote is an old friend of Gene’s, although they haven’t seen each other for a while. He’s just married enemy agent Elayna Snow, and he apparently has a lot of enemies.
Gene appears to have some knowledge of Elayna. “Oh, that one.” he says. “On the outside she’s hummingbird…inside, she’s all vulture.” Ooh-er.
“Shall we take them?” – Again, the baddies are from an unnamed country, which is getting annoying. Aside from the fake Jan there’s one Colonel Kazan, who is overseeing the operation, and Elayna. And that’s it.
Near the end of the episode they both decide that they may as well kill the Jan de Groote fake if ‘Scarne’ doesn’t manage to. That would of course completely ruin their plan to control the de Groote empire, because even though they think they have control of it (which technically they do, as Gavin has written Jan’s signature back onto the contracts for no readily apparent reason) any autopsy carried out on the fake Jan is surely going to prove that he’s had plastic surgery and therefore isn’t the genuine article. Yes. Quite.
Quotable Quotes –
FRANK – “Yes?”
GENE – “Frank?”
PARMINTER – “Frank Jordan – your stand-in?”
GENE – “Yes.”
Yes, exposition! Glorious exposition from the masters of exposition!
‘SCARNE’ – “What will you do with me and the other Jan de Groote? You can’t just leave us lying around here.”
ELAYNA – “…The windmill will take of that.”
GAVIN (suddenly appearing by the windmill with a load of armed police) – “WE COULDN’T AGREE MORE, MRS DE GROOTE!”
Gavin, Gavin…please stop shouting and let Ingrid Pitt explain her stupid plan. The windmill? What the heck? What’s she going to do, strap them to the vanes or something? Yes, that might finish them off…in a few days…maybe…
And by the way Gavin, what was your plan if she hadn’t mentioned the windmill that you happened to be hiding behind? Were you just going to crouch behind the fence all day?
Cracking Cliffhangers – The pre-titles sequence ends with Gene calling up Frank Jordan, telling him he has a job for him. When Frank asks what the job is Gene replies “Well, it is a little risky. I wouldn’t taken on too many commitments.”
Yes. Quite. Well, we certainly won’t taken them on then.
The Irony of It All –
GAVIN – “We need more to go on. The description is too vague.”
“What’s it all about, Gene?” – Gavin wiping Jan’s signature off the contracts only to then immediately write it back on makes bugger all sense whichever way you look at it.
Gene’s entire plan, like all his plans, seems to rely heavily on random chance and pure luck. I especially don’t understand why he and Frank keep switching identities, as it probably wouldn’t matter either way if Gene stayed as Gene and Frank played Scarne…
Elayna tells Kazan that the police have a suspect as to who broke into the de Grootes’ home, whereas in the previous scene ‘Inspector Gavin’ said that they didn’t. She could be lying, of course, but if she is then it may not be the most sensible lie she could have told under the circumstances.
Oh, and it’s this episode that this section’s quote comes from, by the way.
“It’s all rather difficult.” – The title caption and writer / director credits for this episode are white rather than the standard yellow. Isn’t that something?!?
In the establishing shots of the airport, watch out for a shot when the camera is on an elevator, going upwards. In particular, look to the bottom left of screen, where you’ll see three rather annoyed-looking airport people staring back at you.
Ingrid Pitt is dubbed by Nikki van der Zyl, an actress who dubbed every vaguely foreign woman in the later ITC shows.
Donald Houston hams it up big time here. He’s normally pretty good in this sort of thing, but this time out he clearly just can’t be bothered. And I don’t blame him.
‘Jan”s car has a tendency to change colour – it’s red on location but gold during any back-projection scenes.
When Gene drives his car off the rising bridge, the bonnet appears to open when it lands.
Gene Barry mispronounces ‘Jan’ at the start of the final scene. And also his ‘English’ accent makes the way he says “Gene” at the start of the episode sound like “Jane”…
The Defining Moment – aside from Gene’s goofy makeups, there’s also the very boring car chase that takes up around three minutes of the second half of the episode. I was surprised when I checked it that it was actually only three minutes, it felt much longer. The fact it includes an actual genuine car stunt – which in an ITC action series is about as rare as a dodo – and yet still manages to bore the pants off me should say something about how stodgily this is directed.
Ramblings – You’ll notice that I’ve named Gene’s alter-ego as Scarne – that name isn’t given in the episode, I got it from the publicity booklet included in the DVD set. It was easier to call him Scarne rather than ‘that vague bad guy with no name that Gene decides to dress up as for no very good reason’.
I rather like Gene’s co-pilot. He’s clearly realised that, like Stuart Damon in the first episode, if you haven’t got any lines to say then you can still outperform Gene Barry with just some good ol’ fashioned eye-rolling.
This episode seems to introduce the ‘Gene Bradley – Master of Instant Disguise’ idea, which is another ridiculous angle to the series given that you couldn’t possibly mistake the guy for anyone else…
Rating – 2/5. Oh dear, oh dear. Again, too convoluted, too much going on, and none of it is very exciting. The plot is far too complicated; not to the level of The Good Book, but pretty darn close. This is the first episode to feature the idea of a character having a double, and unfortunately it isn’t going to be the last.