The Preventers (1996)

Every once in a while, I bend the rules for the blog and we watch something that isn’t commercially available. The Preventers, an absolutely delightful 25-minute comedy film written by and starring Morwenna Banks, Robert Harley, and Chris England, has never been released on video. A fellow in the UK with whom I was swapping tapes sent me a copy in early 1997, telling me correctly that I would love it. Shortly after, he sent me an audio cassette with Fab TV, the four-episode radio series that preceded this one-off special. It featured two installments of The Preventers, and one apiece of Curtis & Ballard (Deceased) and I am Not a Number.

So if you hadn’t guessed, this is all a loving lampoon and tribute to the worlds of ITC, along with plenty of other spy and adventure shows from the period. The Preventers are two fellows in turtlenecks, accompanied by an enigmatic and vaguely foreign woman, saving the backlot – Pinewood, not Elstree – from an international threat. Old ITC hand William Gaunt comes along for the silliness as the Preventers’ Controller, known only as the Controller. The villain is played by Simon Williams. His name is Lord Timothy Belvoir St Nash, but it’s not pronounced like that.

And of course the show is packed with specific little gags familiar to anybody familiar with these shows, even the Supermarionation ones. Our son was still chuckling about the Mysterons’ answering machine greeting after we finished, and of course ITC’s white Jaguar goes over a cliff. There’s hypnosis and there are martinis and casinos and poorly aligned rear screen projections so the characters can pretend to be in Paris. Harley’s unbelievably dumb hero character, Craig Sturdy, has had me saying “I think you’ll find that au lait is a Spanish expression, commonly used in bullfighting” for twenty-three years.

The plot doesn’t make a great deal of sense, but it probably doesn’t have to. It’s quotable and dopey and just plain huggable. It’s a ridiculous and funny half-hour, and Carlton Television definitely should have commissioned a full series of this.

Bootlegs of The Preventers are usually available on YouTube.