Article: Castle, Avengers (not what you think) and the Classics

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In Season Five, either the FACT of Caskett’s newly declared love forever binds them together as an unstoppable crime fighting duo, or the FRICTION continues and takes a darker turn in fine film noir tradition.

It appears that every fan, everywhere can agree that there are certain TV shows we do NOT want to see Castle emulate in Season Five or ever: Bones, Moonlighting, Bones, and most of all, Bones. Now the point of this article is not to begin a discussion of those shows and their respective shortcomings but instead, to re-imagine Castle as a television or film predecessor who successfully combined romance and suspense without resorting to tired clichés. What are the shows or movies you hope S5 will most resemble? My choice is that kickin’ 60’s classic British TV series the Avengers. The chic designer clad duo, not the spandex costumed dudes.

Let us begin by clinking our champagne glasses and imagining, if you will, the following scenes featuring Castle and Beckett instead of  Avengers‘ Steed and Emma.

Too Many Christmas Trees” – This mind-blowing episode opens with a Rick Castle-like moment. We see his Christmas tree topped by, not a sweet little angel, but a blond bikini clad Barbie doll, and his bachelor apartment in disarray that is obviously the aftermath of a wild party. She enters, surveying the apartment and the disheveled bachelor with a wry smile. Her only comment is, “Coffee, black?” to which he readily agrees. She makes the coffee and her easy familiarity with his kitchen, and with his attractively rumpled condition, suggests that they have shared this cozy scene many times before. He tells her of a recurring nightmare and she senses that there is something more going on than insomnia. Questioning him about political secrets and the possibility of a leak, he leans close to her and says, “Impossible. I’m the only one who knows and you’re the only person I confide in.” She invites him to a Dickens of a Christmas party at a big spooky house where his nightmare begins to come true and her suspicions are confirmed. As his nerves start to unravel, it is up to her to find out what is really going on and put a stop to the insanity.

There are many moments in this episode that impress the viewer with a little something I like to call The Emma/Steed Mystique, which is the sneaking suspicion that Steed and Emma know each other a whole lot better than they are letting on, and this is the quality I hope to see in ample evidence during S5 of Castle. There’s no need to explain, nothing more is offered than what is suggested through sexy dialogue, the brief touch of a hand or an unspoken understanding, but the attraction and the close bond between the dynamic duo is undeniable and a whole lot of fun to watch.

A scene that Beckett and Castle could do to perfection comes when Steed and Emma join together to sing Christmas carols in order to confuse an eavesdropping villain. The mutual understanding they share as they connect only through eye contact and without words, with the common purpose of confusing the enemy, is brilliant. It not only accomplishes the goal of outwitting the foe, but it also shows us that they are perfectly paired. Think of the tense moment in “A Deadly Affair” in which Castle and Beckett appear to be aiming pistols at each other, the brief glance of trust passing between them, as they each shoot the bad guys who are coming up behind them sight unseen, and you have caught a tantalizing glimpse of the Emma/Steed Mystique thriving in Castle and Beckett!

The Avengers TV show can be purchased online or to pique your interest you may enjoy viewing this delightful three minute fan video that deftly captures the enduring Emma/Steed Mystique.

“Love is blindness, I don’t want to see, won’t you wrap the night around me. . .” (U2)

A chill ran through my veins when the gritty film noir The Killers was referenced at the beginning of Castle’s season finale “Always”. Could this be foreshadowing of a most shadowy and sinister nature, I wondered? If so, then those familiar with the 1946 film noir starring Ava Gardner as a dangerous dame and Burt Lancaster as the sucker who falls for her all the way to his death may have good reason to worry about the direction S5 may possibly take. Let us consider the facts, as cold and hard as those facts may be, that indicate the continuation of Caskett’s conflicted romance.

Classic films have always played a part in our favorite show, usually giving us clues about that episode’s story or insight into the characters, such as the opening scene of “A Deadly Game” in which Castle is watching His Girl Friday while dreaming of his girl Kate. “To Love and Die in LA” referenced It Happened One Night, and the stunning painting featured in the hotel room was inspired by the silent film and tragic romance, Camille. (You may have seen the later Garbo version, with sound!)

“Slice of Death” referenced a slew of films noir such as The Usual Suspects, Gilda, and – again – The Killers. In “The Blue Butterfly”, the entire episode paid homage to film noir.

Keeping this in mind while viewing “Always” (my trusty box of Kleenex by my side) and remembering that brief reference to The Killers, I couldn’t help but wonder what Beckett was really thinking during the scene in the rain. Yes, she was sorting through her feelings for Castle. Yes, she came to the conclusion that it is time for a change. Yes, she really does love him, want him, gotta have him and is now ready to admit that to him. But I’m not convinced that she has tossed aside the search for her mother’s killer, or that she has forgotten the things Castle let slip about Montgomery’s files. She knows that he knows the location of that envelope. She knows what Castle wants most – Kate Beckett. Now at this point any femme fatale worthy of the title has only one thing in mind: get those files by any means necessary!

Does this mean the romantic ending of S4 was a red herring and that the new relationship we hope to see in S5 is a lost cause before it even begins? Not necessarily. Every film on the following list is a masterpiece on the subject of conflicted romance, and despite all the obstacles some (but not all) have happy endings. We will have to wait and see if S5 brings us a femme fatale and an antihero in a continuation of their conflicted romance, or a fun and sexy dynamic duo that no one and nothing can separate. I’m hoping for fun and sexy! But to pass the time during this long hot summer of waiting for what’s next, let’s kick back with a few episodes of the Avengers, or cozy up with a few classic films, and dream of what the future may hold for Caskett.

  • The Killers – referenced at the beginning of Always and this makes me nervous. Starring Ava Gardner and Burt Lancaster, it’s about love, and crime, and a dirty double crossing dame, and the guy that loves her anyway. [Buy Now]
  • Gilda – The definition of a conflicted romance! Definitely of the moody film noir genre, the thing that makes this movie distinctively different is its focus on the relationship between Gilda (Rita Hayworth) and her old flame, Johnny (Glenn Ford), which takes precedence over the crimes and shenanigans. In most films of this genre, the criminal element is the focus and the love interest takes a lesser role. [Buy Now]
  • The Lady of Shanghai – Also starring Rita Hayworth, this is another tale of good love gone bad. Real bad. [Buy Now]
  • Vertigo – Starring James Stewart and Kim Novak, and arguably Hitchcock’s most twisted suspense film. Is it a mystery, a ghost story, a psychological drama, a love story, or all of the above? No matter what you think, you will never forget the ending. [Buy Now]
  • Notorious – Another by Hitchcock, examining the love/hate relationship between special agent Devlin (Cary Grant) and bad girl Alicia (Ingrid Bergman). This is a great suspense film loaded with subtext. And the kissin’ scenes are H-O-T hot! [Buy Now]
About chandlersdame

Castle fan, classic film fan and a reader and writer of mysteries. Find me on twitter for pulp fiction quotes, old movie recommendations, random tweets and just plain fun.

@chandlersdame on Twitter.

Comments

  1. gretchen says:

    I thought Castle was talking about John Woo’s The Killer and Hard Boiled. I’m pretty sure I read somewhere that AM said they used John Woo films because Castle was trying to ‘woo’ her.
    (but I love your Avengers analogy…)

    • Thank you, gretchen! Glad you liked it. I can’t find anything on the imdb or anywhere else about a John Woo film titled The Killers. There are about eight films titled The Killers, or Killer, or The Killer, but none of them are Woo. If anyone can clear up this mystery for me I’d appreciate it, as I’m not familiar with his films. Hardboiled is one of his films, I only know that because I saw it on the Internet. ;-)

      • Okay, found it! There was a 1989 Woo film, The Killer, about Hong Kong gangs and a torch singer and people getting beat up and shot and stuff. So I guess it’s kind of a modern day film noir. As you can probably deduce, I am not familiar with modern day film, except those I absolutely have to know about as a freelance writer.

  2. I’d like to see them as the inimitable crime fighting duo – Nick and Nora Charles of “The Thin Man” movie fame. Only I see Beckett as Nick and Castle as Nora! LOL!

  3. Elisabeth Clauzon says:

    Methink, sir, that the actress playing “Emma” – Diana Rigg – in “The Avengers” (I loved this series!!) is or was a very talented theatre actress for a start, who enhanced the quality of this British series, let alone her personal charm (which the male character did NOT have).
    In any case, the “Shakespearean or theatrical flavour” of “Castle”, may have something to do with the success of the series.
    Perhaps the scriptwriters even draw some of their inspiration on Shakespeare’s plays, while the talent of the actors does the rest. If not, Shakespeare is universal and pervades both scriptwriters’ and actors’ subconscious!
    On the other hand, such fairies touched by grace as Ava Gardner, Diana Rigg, Ingrid Bergman, Rita Hayworth, Vivien Leigh, or Lauren Bacall are likely to have inspired Stana Katic who obviously shares the same grace and talent and would obviously be perfect in another Shakespearean play called “The Taming of the Shrew”: lots of humour, lots of depth, lots of everything. (French actors Rosy Varte and Bernard Noël gave a stunning and wonderful performance of this play adapted for French television in the old days).
    Besides, I believe both N. Fillion and S. Katic have something European-like in their acting, sthg lighter, not “All-American”.
    My best wishes.

  4. Thank you , admin for posting my article. I really like the photo/vid link, too. Let’s hope Caskett will give us some similar moments in S5!

  5. southerngirl says:

    Wow, Chandlersdame! You are a person after my own heart. I agree so much with your comparisons. As a dyed-in-the-wool fan of classic films both comedy and Noir, I really appreciate your article. What I enjoy so much about Castle is that it encompasses both – the dark and the light. Even some of the more lighter episodes, can elicit tears – I think AJM et al as well as an excellent cast account for this.

    Notorious has always been one of my all-time favorites movies. I, thanks to my mom, also absolutely love The Thin Man Movies. I think Nathan Fillion is a combination of William Powell and Cary Grant in his acting. In his comedy, he has perfect timing yet he carries sensitive scenes to perfection with his willingness to display deep feelings. Of course, I agree too that Stana is also great. She almost doesn’t need dialogue to convey what’s on her mind. She has so much facial expression and the audience is totally in sync with the message received through her eyes! Yes, she would have been perfect for the silver screen!

    Thank you too for your homage to the Avengers! Such great classic television and thanks for letting me know it can still be purchased.

    As for season 5, I’ve faith that Marlowe will not disappoint us. Whatever goes on with our duo will be surprising and something we fans will love.

    PS – another great femme fatale of the 40’s was Gene Tierney – Leave Her to Heaven!!

    • Leave Her to Heaven – that is a great film. Tierney is absolutely chilling in that role! I considered adding the film Laura to the list of conflicted romances, but decided to keep it short in hopes the readers would add their own recommendations. :-) Yes, I agree that Nathan is very much like Powell and Grant, in his great comedic timing combined with hidden depths. And let us not forget, sex appeal! In some ways he also reminds me of Patrick McNee, in that they both have the reputation of being generous actors, that is, not afraid or unwilling to step back a bit and allow their co-actors to shine. In this way Nathan and Stana are a reflection of McNee and Rigg. There’s a wonderful moment in Two Many Christmas Trees in which we catch just a fleeting glimpse of Steed’s jealousy when Emma is approached by another man. McNee is brilliant at this sort of thing; in this scene, unless you’re watching him closely rather than Emma (and I freely admit that I enjoy watching Steed very closely!) you wouldn’t notice the subtle tense moment, that flash across his face when he feels the grip of jealousy but pulls back quickly, realizing that he has no right to be jealous. So much expressed in just a few brief seconds.

      • southerngirl says:

        I don’t know why I didn’t think about Laura, one of my all-time favorites. Another great Hitchcock film is Shadow of a Doubt – maybe doesn’t fit in with our Castle comparisons; but I still get chills watching that movie.

        Hitchcock films that stand out as perfect for Nathan are, North by Northwest and To Catch a thief. Two flawed, yet lovable heroes – just his cup of tea!

        I’m also a Patrick McNee fan and think he was way under-rated in the Avengers. Emma certainly stood out but he was perfect playing against her take-no-prisoners character.

        Again thanks for a great essay!

  6. Phillip says:

    There is another version of “The Killers,” directed by Don (Dirty Harry) Siegel and released in 1964. It was adapted (supposedly) from a Hemingway short story by Gene L. Coon, who would become a member of Gene Roddenberry’s inner circle in the early days of “Star Trek.” Lee Marvin and Clu Gulager are professional hit men who track their latest quarry to–how convenient–a school for the blind. To their astonishment he not only makes no attempt to flee but is relieved they have finally caught up with him. After dispatching the man they resolve to learn who hired them and why. Along the way they encounter Angie Dickinson as a femme fatale and Ronald Reagan (!) in his last film role before entering politics. Reagan’s best line is “I believe in larceny; homicide is against my principles.”

    “Laura,” with its timeless story of a jaded cop who becomes dangerously obsessed with the portrait of a dead woman, is of course in a class by itself. Yeah, I can see Nathan as Det. MacPherson and Stana as Laura Hunt. Another noir classic is “The Big Heat,” directed by Fritz Lang. A corrupt cop takes his own life but first spills his guts in a suicide note, detailing chapter and verse how crime lord Mike Lagana controls a nameless metropolis from behind the scenes. The cop’s widow finds the note before his fellow officers and uses it to blackmail Lagana. Enter Glenn Ford as Sgt. Dave Bannon, who asks questions about the suicide his superiors don’t want answered. Before long he comes up against Lagana’s chief enforcer, played again by Lee Marvin. Mayhem ensues. Alex Scourby, famous for his National Geographic special voice-overs, was cast against type as Lagana and is chillingly convincing in the role.

    • Thanks for those suggestions, Phillip. I haven’t seen that version of The Killers but it sounds interesting. The ’46 version was based on the Hemingway story but the movie went in a completely different direction, as so many Hollywood movies do. :-) I’ve read the short story and it’s good (well duh, it’s Hemingway!) but very different from the film.

  7. Toronto says:

    Just to note that there is a May 18th submission here recommending a range of these classic movies.