INTERVIEW: Patrick Macnee

From Ultimate DVD #20

GENTLEMAN, BUSINESSMAN, AVENGER!

Ultimate DVD catches up with Patrick Macnee – alias John Steed – and talks to him about his latest adventures on DVD...

Macnee's much-loved alter-ego

Buy the Region 2 DVD @ BlackStar

The Avengers Definitive Dossier Files 1 & 2: Region 2 DVD released June 4 / August 6 by Contender Video
Vol. 1 reviewed in issue

One would have thought that veteran actor Patrick Macnee – familiar to many as John Steed, co-star of The Avengers – would be living a retired life at his home in Palm Springs, California.

Patrick Macnee, more recentlyNot a bit of it. Seventy-nine-year-old Macnee is as quick-witted as ever and his avenging days are far from over. Indeed, some years ago, he joined forces with two new avengers to fight diabolical forces in the real world…

Ever the gentleman, Macnee took time out from his busy schedule to explain to Ultimate DVD how he helped save a classic Sixties television show. “There wouldn’t be Avengers on cassette or DVD,” he insists, “but for the fact that 12 years ago, my good friend Dave Rogers and I, quite by chance, stumbled across the negatives of The Avengers in an open-shelved bunker in a field at Elstree Studios. These hadn’t been seen or even sold, for years and years. There were 166 of them. Sixty-six were bad and 100 were good and then Lumiere, then owners of an archive of British film and Television that included The Avengers, paid for them to be digitally – whatever that means – restored to their former glory!”

But Macnee’s discovery runs parallel with an adventure of corruption and justice; he is unexpectedly frank about his business interest in the show. “The Avengers is a commodity now, and since 1969, when it ceased production, seven companies had owned it. Two of them went bankrupt and one owner went to prison – where he still is!”

Pirate Copies

So with the rights in limbo, the appearance of poor quality video cassettes in rental stores in the USA must have seemed very odd? “Yes. It turned out that they had been copied straight from original showings on Network TV. These episodes were scratched, shortened, after years of being slotted in between reams of commercial breaks, and then duplicated onto thousands of cassettes and sold in video stores nationwide. Naturally, our actors’ unions couldn’t keep track of these massive illegal sales and so our members were being deprived of their residual payments [royalties for repeat showings].”

Incensed by the exploitation of a great programme, the Avenger was prompted to contact his accountant, Philip Aslin. “I realized I was due 2.5 % of the profits from The Avengers, none of which I was getting. But I have a contract dated 1964 which allows me to audit the books of whoever owns the show.

“So my accountant and I went to work and managed to come back with a large amount of money for all our members of British Actors Equity who’d done the show through the ’60s. Finally, to their intense surprise, we got them their residuals!” Macnee sounds justly proud of the achievement. But a greater struggle faced them...

Mike Fillis

Feature © Visual Imagination Ltd 2001
Images © Contender Video. Not for reproduction

On the eve of The Avengers release, some problems emerged with the discs, failing to play properly on some players. Here’s the official line from Contender Video...

The Avengers Dossier on DVD Vol. 1

The Avengers Definitive Dossier Files One and Two are to be remastered from their original components. This shows our unparalleled commitment to The Avengers brand by enabling us to search out rare extras, and troubleshoot any authoring problems that lower-specification players may have experienced. The discs do play without trouble on the majority of players, but we are dedicated to getting this release right, and are putting all our efforts into getting the final product complete and unedited – living up to the title ‘definitive’!’

Those who have already bought discs which do not work may be able to get replacements... we’ll keep you posted.

 

Continued in Ultimate DVD #20

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