Adam Adamant Lives! 1.1 – A Vintage Year for Scoundrels

So there’s this absolutely perfect little shot right at the end of the first episode of Adam Adamant Lives!, and as we watched it tonight, I said to myself: “There! That’s the picture for tonight’s blog post!” As I do. Then I put the disk in my Region 2 external drive and watched it tell me I’d bought an Australian copy. So, as with The Secret Service and a small chunk of Thunderbirds are Go which we watched on my multi-region player before I bought a separate external drive for Region 2 disks, we’ll just have to make do with a pic of the DVD box.

But then again, my history with Adam Adamant Lives! has long been one of the world’s different television formats conspiring to exasperate me. Back in the VHS tape trading days, I struggled through some incredibly ropey copies of the first six episodes, with tape hiss that was so incredibly loud that, until I actually bought this two years ago, I honestly thought that the party guests in the first scene were dancing to silence. The music in the scene is quiet, but the hiss was so loud it masked it completely. And yet it was worth the struggle to watch and listen, because the show is just so fun.

Adam Adamant Lives! stars Gerald Harper as an incredibly famous and successful gentleman adventurer from the turn of the century. In 1902, he vanished on his final case, trying to track down a Moriarty-type foe called The Face. But Adam’s first encounter with the villain saw him betrayed by his lady love, and frozen in suspended animation, left in a block of ice for “eternity.” The world never learned what happened to Adam Adamant, until his frozen tomb was uncovered in 1966.

Bizarrely, Adam’s icy resurrection is incredibly like the way that Jack Kirby and Stan Lee handled the return of Captain America in issue 4 of The Avengers, published a little over two years before this was made. Even more bizarrely, if you flash forward to the epilogue to 2011’s Captain America: The First Avenger, then it’s so much like Adam escaping from the hospital in 1966 that you’ll do the same double-take I did when I saw the movie seven years ago. Adam is dazed by the sights of Picadilly Circus, while it’s Times Square that stops Cap in his tracks, but they’re awfully similar. At least Steve Rogers had the advantage of knowing what an automobile is, mind.

Adam is assisted by Georgie Jones, played by Juliet Harmer, a longtime fan of Adamant’s who lets him recuperate in her flat, much to our Victorian-era hero’s embarrassment at her social situation: dressing like a boy and allowing men to sleep overnight in her home. He doesn’t understand the slang of the present day, much like how people in the 25th Century don’t understand some of Buck Rogers’ patois.

Adam Adamant Lives! was devised by Sydney Newman and produced by Verity Lambert, and the first episode was written by Tony Williamson, Richard Harris, and Donald Cotton. So there’s lots of behind-the-scenes talent from the worlds of Doctor Who and The Avengers, which is why so many fans of those programs eventually check this one out. Having some familiar faces from the UK’s deep bench of character actors active in the 1960s helps; Joby Blanshard is a police inspector with a single scene in this one.

Our son wasn’t blown away or anything, but he liked it. The criminals in the first episode are a dreary trio running a common protection racket, nowhere as grandiose or weird as the show’s villains would become, and the story lingered a little too long on them for our son to be happy. They have the upper hand for far too long, basically, but these criminals don’t realize that Adam Adamant comes from a world where the villains die at the end of his sword stick, and he doesn’t wait around for Dixon of Dock Green to calmly make an arrest.

The scenes of Adam staggering around mod London, weakened and semi-conscious, horrified by the noise and the lights and the – surely that sign doesn’t say “striptease” on a city street?! – prurient nightmare of the contemporary world are really effective, and our kid enjoyed that scene a lot. I marveled at just how great the restoration of this print is. You’ll have to take my word for it, but the film sequences look like they were made just yesterday. The studio stuff is, like a lot of programs its age, a little variable, but it’s so nice to see Adam Adamant Lives! as it was meant to be seen… and hear it as it was meant to be heard!

2 thoughts on “Adam Adamant Lives! 1.1 – A Vintage Year for Scoundrels

  1. Somewhere, there’s an alternate universe where Mark Gatiss helmed a reboot of this series in 2005 starring David Tennant as Adam.

    1. That could have been amazing! It could still be amazing – Tennant’s not too old, yet. Somebody needs to throw some money at the BBC and get this show into production!

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