Mrs. Peel, We’re Needed!

By James H. Burns: This might be neat, to mark the debut of The Avengers this week on Cozi TV (afternoons at one).

If one remembers the absolute fascination Diana Rigg as Emma Peel held for millions upon millions, once upon a time, the revelation is absolutely extraordinary.

In 1966 and 1969, Rigg, on her own, made two short films, where she essentially played Mrs. Peel once again!

The Diadem was shot in Germany, and The Mini-Killers three years later, in Spain (roughly around the same time, perhaps, as Rigg’s work in the 007 film, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.)

Apparently, these were ultimately marketed as home movies in Germany, but that likely wasn’t their original intent.

I discovered some interesting speculation on these films in an old thread over at The Classic Horror Film Board, but there’s yet another mystery:

While hardcore Avengers fandom has apparently known about these shorts for quite a while, their existence, for most genre enthusiasts, has been unknown.

Particularly for those of us who were at least on the outskirts of the collectors market in the 1980s (and beyond), you would think that the discovery of these mini-Riggs (quasi-Peels?) would have been major news!

The larger mystery has always been that the impact of Rigg as Mrs. Peel was never evidently quite recognized by Hollywood, or the community’s British filmmaking counterparts. Even a modestly budgeted, IF well written and lensed, Mrs. Peel movie could have been gangbusters in the mid-’70s.

She turned down the chance to guest star in The New Avengers later in the decade, but the producers then did something which still seems inexplicable, and which most fans have never seen:

They basically wrote off the character.

In Part One of “K is for Kill (The Tiger Awakes)”, Rigg is seen in a brief cameo when John Steed places a phone call to her. She ultimately, and rather standoffishly, as I recall, tells him that her name is no longer Mrs. Peel…

When I saw this on its CBS Late Night premiere over thirty-five years ago, I was astonished. Why just throw such a moment away?

(And if the internet is to be believed, the sequence is even odder: Historians say the producers used some OLD footage of Rigg, and had it dubbed by Sue Lloyd…)

Those unfamiliar with The Avengers might wonder about all this attention…  So below is one more clip, a rather lovely tribute. While you won’t necessarily gleem Dame Rigg’s dramatic chops, or verbal wit and dexterity and charm — it should certainly help show why more than one generation found her “simply irresistible”.

3 thoughts on “Mrs. Peel, We’re Needed!

  1. I’ve never heard of The Mini-Killers. My favorite Rigg non-Avengers role was in The Assassination Bureau, also from 1969.
    We saw her live on stage, once. It was just before the 1987 Worldcon, in the London production of Follies, and I found her performance disappointing, at least partly because her American accent was so unconvincing, compared to the rest of the cast.

  2. James Burns: Thanks for the links to these two obscure Diana Rigg films. MINIKILLERS (no hyphen) is a truly weird weird weird piece of Sixties chesse. I’m amazed it survives.

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