Patrick Macnee Dead at 93: So Long John Steed

John Steed from The Avengers
As a kid I adored The Avengers. John Steed, the man who carried an umbrella instead of a gun and managed to have the world’s most beautiful women as partners in the world of off the wall espionage was a childhood hero. While my crush may have been Diana Riggs as Miss Emma Peel, the chap I aspired to be was Macnee’s Steed and it hurts to say so long to John Steed and Patrick Macnee who died Thursday at 93.

161 episodes of a series that featured Honor Blackman, Diana Rigg and Linda Thorson as the other half of a team that was years ahead of the rest of the world in showing that feminism could work. Although poor Thorson was never in the same league as the first two female stars of the show by the time she showed up, as the actress put it herself, the producers did not really know what to do with her character.

The Avengers was a parody of spy movies like the James Bond franchise, and later the Harry Palmer “bargain basement” version of Bond, where Steed was not quite so glamorous, or as rough, as Sean Connery’s Bond. Steed was: Totally cool, a gentlemen, utterly unflappable, and braver than brave; going up against all sorts of baddies and rarely armed except for that umbrella.

Steed never carried a gun and his character was actually the “second banana” to Ian Hendry’s character (Dr. David Keel)in season one. By the time the series reached season two Keel was gone and Steed was not. Macnee was the quintessential Englishman from 1961 to 1969 and the show made stars of Patrick, Blackman and Riggs on both sides of the big pond. Macnee would go on to do The New Avengers but it never gelled with me the way the first series did, despite Joanna Lumley’s Purdey.

Macnee worked practically nonstop, even appearing in one of the Bond films, A View to a Kill with Sir Roger Moore, whom he had worked with on The Sea Wolves, as well as David Niven, and according to Sir Roger, he was under the impression that Patrick and he were related. Moore gave his old “relative” and colleague a sending off after news of his death was made public.

The actor was a prolific performer and played many different roles, most of whom were English although he did portray other nationalities. He was also very good at playing villains, in the 1988 horror/comedy Waxwork, and its sequel, Macnee was a treacherous old family friend and stinker who tries to kill the hero. He played the baddie many times in his long career and always quite convincingly.

But it is as John Steed that he will stay in my memory. He once revealed that the reason The Avengers worked so well was that he and Diana Rigg, a very serious actress with a background in Shakespeare who was also voted, somewhat ironically, the world’s sexist ever TV star by the American publication TV Guide, wrote their own dialogue as the show’s scripts were, he said, abysmal.

Arthritis slowed him down later and forced him to give up acting except for voice over work. Patrick Macnee died at his California home of natural causes and his son Rupert informed the patrickmacnee.com website that he was with family when he died.

So long Patrick Macnee, aka John Steed, the umbrella carrying English gentleman and “action man.”

Waxwork (1988) Comedy Horror Revisited

Waxwork 1988
Waxwork 1988

I am beginning to love Netflix. If they keep bringing up old classics like Child’s Play and Waxwork, I may ask the channel to marry me. I was overly delighted to see that they had included Waxwork, the 1988 comedy horror and I sat down to revisit a film that I remember loving so much when I first saw it on videotape!

I was a little surprised and saddened by the young-looking cast and I couldn’t help but keep thinking that Zach Galligan needed Phoebe Cates on his arm during his adventures in the wax museum. I did find though that my old delight in seeing David Warner and Patrick Macnee in the cast had not dissipated and that I still enjoyed the hokey film and its daft plot.

A group of high school kids find a wax museum has been deposited in their neighbourhood and they get an invite to a midnight showing. When they show up, they start to disappear into the exhibits.

WaxWork01FrONT

Pretty straight forward really. Of course there is the subplot of David Warner having sold his soul to the devil and he needs to take X amount of souls to regenerate the world’s most evil denizens, who will then destroy the world. Oh and the other subplot of the groups young virginal lady being obsessed and possessed by the Marquis De Sade and the group slut being entranced by Dracula and Patrick Mcnee being an old-time demon slayer of sorts.

Of course the film doesn’t take itself seriously and neither should the viewer. It’s all in good fun and the deliberate cheesy mechanizations make it all the more fun. The tiny malefic dwarf doorman and the ludicrously tall (and strong) butler; the angry cop and his, less angry, but dumber partner; the rich kid and all of the characters are really little more than 2 diminutional caricatures and that’s okay.

The film, as I mentioned before, does not take itself seriously. It is strictly Saturday Matinee popcorn fare. Meant to be laughed at as much as with. It was also made while Zach Gallagan as “still-hot” from his success in the 1984 film Gremlins and he hadn’t started making the sequel Gremlins 2 just yet. Despite all the above mentioned things that I’ve said about the film, 2D characters, silly plot, and not mentioned but still there, the poor acting; I do love this film.

It hasn’t aged too well. The FX are sadly dated and the museum’s burning scene, if I remember correctly, didn’t look real back in 1988 and it looks worse now. But as the film really is just “good fun” and the audience gets to see good old John Steed (From the Avengers and what wouldn’t I have given if the filmmakers had included the delectable Diana Rigg, aka Emma Peel along with Steed.) in a motorised wheelchair and David Warner getting to be a real meanie.

Because it was so dated, it’s actually put me off of watching Child’s Play. Another 1988 favourite that, I seem to remember, had me alternately laughing and shrinking back from the scary doll who had Brad Dourif’s soul in it. It also had the added bonus of starring Catherine Hicks, who I had a major thing for, back in the day.

Cover of "Child's Play (Chucky's 20th Bir...
Cover via Amazon

With the news that Hollywood are planning on re-making Child’s Play, and “Please God, let them use Dourif again as the soul of Chucky, I’d better watch the original, no matter how badly it’s dated.

I am surprised that the Dream Machine hasn’t remade Waxwork. They’ve redone quite a lot of older horror films and some, “not-so-old” ones. If they re-did it, Zach Gallagan could play the new Wax Museum curator or perhaps he could don the wheelchair and play his own uncle!

If you’ve never seen the film before, I urge you to do so now. Put your “hokey” hat on and pop some popcorn and maybe run down to the shop and get one of those big boxes of Milk Duds, the ones that used to be sold in cinemas in the 1980’s and have some delicious and ridiculous fun watching a classic comedy horror that hasn’t aged well.

Still good fun and a good laugh!

Milk Duds
Milk Duds (Photo credit: Wikipedia)