Mrs. Peel, Bodysuits, Catfights

For Emma, Keeping Fit Means a Slap, a Hairpull -- Then Vengeance 

     Emma Peel was one of televison's first Modern Women, displaying all the traditional female traits while also exuding those usually reserved for men -- leadership, self-reliance, toughness. She would work with men, but never defer to them. 

     The producers of "The Avengers" pushed this angle hard, knowing from public reaction that it was a winner . Thus Emma continued to flaunt  convention, from her fashions to her fighting, while working as an equal with John Steed (who proves to be a thoroughly Modern Man in proper British guise). 

     For this, Mrs. Peel -- as well as Diana Rigg, the great actress who portrayed her -- is revered as a feminist icon today, as women still fight for equality around the world.

    Yet, in "How to Succeed... at Murder," "The Avengers" presents us with a twisted and megalomaniacal version of feminism. A group of beautiful young women are trained to kill the captains of industry, and then take their place.

    It's far-fetched idea, but it's nothing compared to the leader of the gang, who is a puppet. An actual wooden puppet -- a dummy -- known as Henrietta. She talks, her head and eyes move, and she orders these women to murder their bosses.

     She also bosses around her "husband," Henry, a flesh-and-blood man.    

     Emma and Steed are introduced to this strange group as they investigate the murders. Much fun ensues, as Emma dons the tights and battles the beautiful but twisted women of Murder Inc.    

Investigating a series of murders, Emma Peel (played by Diana Rigg), takes a job working for Mary Merryweather (Sarah Lawson)...

...only to find Mary is part of a militant-feminist group run by Henrietta, a puppet. An actual puppet. But who is controlling Henrietta?

That's what Emma and Steed will find out...

Mary

Emma

Emma Does Some Snooping

As her boss drives away from work, Emma secretly trails her -- who would notice a little white Lotus following them? But Emma is surprised to find out Mary's destination is a gym, offering "Keep Fit Classes for Young Ladies." Looks like Emma's going to have to get in shape!

Welcome to the Club

The training, Emma finds, consists of martial-arts exercises! The obedient Henry leads the classes.
"What could they be talking about?" Emma wonders, as Mary chats with Sara, who Steed is investigating.
Mary introduced Henry to Emma, her new star protege.
"We're wasting time, ladies!" says Henry, who then points to Emma's stomach and adds -- much to her chagrin: "Those muscles and sinews are dragging, drooping as we're talking!" 

Emma and Mary Do the Twist

It's an invigorating exercise, and fun to watch! Emma works Mary for information, as they twist back and forth, bodies locked together, hair flying...
But all good things must come to an end...
...and Emma go boom!

Trial By Combat

`Attack her!'

     As soon as Emma walks into the gym, Mary cries out -- and the rest of the women surround Mrs. Peel. She's been set up! Only one thing to do... Fight!
First, she deals a karate chop to the brunette behind her... 
...then turns to meet the blondes charging hard at her!
Grabbing each by a hand, over they go! Mary watches in disbelief.
The brunette is back for more, though she'll be sorry she ever got up...
...as Emma slaps on a chokehold! 
"Excellend, Mrs. Peel," Mary says. "A fine fighting spirit!"
That's good enough for Henrietta. Emma is in!

End Part 1