The Avengers | 1998
The film of the groundbreaking 60s TV series was so savagely cut before release that it seems unfair to judge the truncated version, even so, Ralph Fiennes and Uma Thurman are no match for Patrick Macnee and Diana Rigg. If cuts had to made, couldn’t 30 or 40 of those hilarious references to cups of tea have been first to go?
The deserted village where John Steed (Fiennes) undergoes a Ministry test, fending off a bobby, a milkman and a machine-gun toting nanny, is Hambleden in Buckinghamshire. It’s where David Blakely takes Ruth Ellis for a drink in Dance With A Stranger and it’s also the village seen in 101 Dalmatians.
The stylishly minimal apartment of Emma Peel (Thurman) is 45 Royal Avenue – the home of architect Richard Rogers, the designer of the famous Lloyd’s Building seen later in the film. Although the period exterior remains untouched, as you can see, Rogers gutted the interior.
‘Boodle’s’, the gentlemen-only club to which Mrs Peel is invited by Steed, is the Reform Club, 104 Pall Mall – a screen regular seen in 2002 Bond movie Die Another Day, Guy Ritchie’s revamp of Sherlock Holmes, the 2001 remake of The Four Feathers with Heath Ledger, Lindsay Andersons anarchic O Lucky Man! and Roger Donaldson’s The Bounty.
The underground entrance to the Ministry is a bit of screen trickery. The entrance itself is the (now gated) mouth of the disused Kingsway Tram Tunnel, which you can see in the middle of Kingsway at High Holborn. Unused since the last tram ran in 1952, the tunnel emerges on the Embankment, under the arch of Waterloo Bridge.
In the film, it appears to lead under the River Thames to Greenwich – about four miles to the east. The view across to the Old Royal Naval College was added digitally, and the striking interior of the college itself is seen later on.
‘Hallucinogen Hall’, the vast estate of Sir August de Wynter (Sean Connery) is Blenheim Palace, in the village of Woodstock in Oxfordshire. It’s also been seen in Kenneth Branagh’s Hamlet, Stanley Kubrick’s Barry Lyndon, The Young Victoria, Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nationand (as an Italian palazzo) Spectre.
The interior is Blenheim’s Long Library, but the greenhouse is the the Great Conservatory at Syon Park, Brentford (tube: Gunnersbury) – which you might recognise as ‘Heaven’ in the original 60s film of Bedazzled and as the conservatory of ‘Buckingham Palace’ in King Ralph, with John Goodman inheriting the British throne.
Syon Park House itself provides the interior of ‘Wonderland Weather’, de Wynter's London HQ, where he uses the old "Who wants to leave?" ploy (learned from many a Bond villain) on the teddy bears. You can see more of the house in Accident and The Madness of King George.
When Mrs Peel chases one of the bears outside, only to be confronted by her evil clone, the hi-tech exterior is that of the Lloyd’s Building, 1 Lime Street, EC3, headquarters of the insurance company in the City of London. Famously built ‘inside out’, the interior is left clear and uncluttered while all its services – the lifts, power cables and plumbing are on the outside. You can see the unmistakable landmark tower on screen in Mike Leigh’s High Hopes, Taylor Hackford’s Proof Of Life and Agent Cody Banks 2: Destination London (where it is used as the Metropolitan police HQ). More surprisingly, the iconic building is used as both a ‘New York’ hi-rise and the entrance to the ‘Petronas Towers, Kuala Lumpur’ in Entrapment, as the ‘US Embassy, Hong Kong’ in Tony Scott’s Spy Game, and even as the planet 'Xandar' in Guardians Of The Galaxy.
De Wynter’s maze can be found in the grounds of Hatfield House, Hatfield, north of London in Hertfordshire. The grand Jacobean pile itself is seen in Greystoke, the Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes, the film of Virginia Woolf’s gender-shifting fantasia, Orlando, as the mansion of Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, and as the interior of ‘Wayne Manor’in Tim Burton’s Gothicky Batman.
The interior of ‘Hallucinogen Hall’ this time, where Mrs Peel is held captive, are the Marble Saloon and the Music Room of Stowe House in Buckinghamshire. This former home of the Duke of Buckinghamshire, set in grounds landscaped by Capability Brown, is four miles north of Buckingham town itself (a few miles west of Milton Keynes), and usually open to the public for the first two weeks in April and from July through to the beginning of September. Stowe’s exterior was used as ‘Berlin’ for Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade and as the English school in Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham...
The Ministry’s mobile HQ – a London bus naturally – is seen trundling along by the Nash Terraces of Regent's Park, and this is where you’ll find the exterior used for John Steed’s flat, York Terrace East. The interior is a studio set, modelled on the Sir John Soane Museum, home of the great architect at 13 Lincoln's Inn Fields, WC2.
It’s back to Greenwich for the emergency session of the international ‘Council of Ministers’, gatecrashed by de Wynter in full Highland regalia , which is the Painted Hall of the Old Royal Naval College, King William Walk, London SE10 (rail: Greenwich) – another familiar location, also seen in The Madness of King George, as well as Lara Croft – Tomb Raider and many other movies.