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Adam Adamant Lives! 2.2 – Black Echo

As we get to the two surviving episodes from the second season of Adam Adamant Lives!, I’m afraid the quality of the picture and the sound has fallen completely off a cliff. Worse, there’s one character who speaks in a rasping whisper, and we could make out maybe every fifteenth word: adamant, trap, pleasure, possibly empire. After we’d ejected the DVD, my wife mentioned there may be a subtitles option. There is; we watched it again. The word was indeed empire.

And it’s a real shame that this print is in such sore shape, because it’s amazing! This time, the Ministry Twit of the Week are a pair of bankers played by the wonderful Donald Eccles and Peter Bathurst, who I’m sure was also wonderful, but I only know him as that awful blowhard Chinn in “The Claws of Axos,” poor guy. They want Adam to confirm the identity of somebody claiming to be a Romanov, a Grand Duchess from Saint Petersburg who Adam knew in 1901 as a young lady and who is now 87 years old.

From time to time, people have suggested the BBC should remake Adam Adamant Lives!. I’m totally in favor of such a thing in principle, but tonight’s story is one that they couldn’t do in 2019. Back in ’66, there would have been a few people around the age of 87 who knew Adam from his past. Come to think of it, it’s kind of odd they didn’t hit on such a plot before now.

Now, I’d argue that there are a couple of magnificent twists in this story, but Marie figured one of them out instantly. The Grand Duchess is played by the excellent actress Gladys Cooper – I reminded our son of her knockout good episodes of The Twilight Zone – and her granddaughter by Judy Parfitt. They’re hiding a secret in the cellar so horrifying that it turned a deliveryman’s hair white. So there’s a lot going on in this adventure, and with a brilliant fight scene and one hell of a payoff at the end, it’s worth struggling through the muddy sound to appreciate.

(Note: I can play them, but I’m not presently able to get screencaps from Region 4 DVDs, so many of these entries will just have a photo of the set to illustrate it. Click the link to purchase it from Amazon UK.)

Photo credit: https://excusesandhalftruths.com

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Adam Adamant Lives! 1.16 – D for Destruction

In case you missed last time we watched an episode: if any readers have been disappointed or annoyed by the lack of photos to accompany these posts, I’ve got great news. The fab site Archive TV Musings has been writing about Adam Adamant Lives! with screencaps. So pop over there and enjoy his much longer posts and tell ’em that we sent you!

And speaking of great news, “D for Destruction” was lost for many years, one of the many victims of the BBC’s junking of old programs. A copy turned up in 2003, and while the picture quality is clearly not as good as the previous episodes we’ve enjoyed, it looks no worse than a VHS release might have looked in the mid-nineties. It’s so surprising that we should watch this relatively recent discovery today, because earlier this afternoon, the great people at Network confirmed a rumor we’ve been hearing, that two lost episodes of the sixties sitcom The Likely Lads (which co-starred Rodney Bewes, who we saw this month in “Resurrection of the Daleks“) have been recovered and will be released as bonus features on a new Blu-Ray release of the Likely Lads feature film.

When they announced Tony Williamson’s “D for Destruction” had been found, my interest in old TV was pretty low, and my stupidly large and cumbersome VHS collection was being whittled away in a series of moves from one suburb to another to another anyway. But once upon a time, that “M for Missing” in my old episode guide notebook was a real sore point because I’d read that Patrick Troughton was in this one. As it turns out, it’s a very small part, basically the Ministry Twit of the Week, only he’s a general, so it’s a Military Twit of the Week instead. Michael Sheard is also here, in an even smaller part, because the most important characters are played by Iain Cuthbertson and Michael Ripper.

The story’s about some strange goings-on and an unusual number of accidents in Adam’s old yeomanry regiment, the 51st. Since the army never actually cancelled his commission (is that the right term?) after he went missing in 1902, Colonel Adamant is asked to return to service and investigate. It’s a pretty good story, but it took our son a little work to understand what was happening. He was very restless at first, but a great scene where one of the corrupted soldiers corners Adam in the firing range got him sitting up straight and paying really close attention. There’s an even more action-packed finale than usual – and how Gerald Harper kept from dislocating his jaw when he low-tackles a guy on a concrete floor I have no idea – and it ends with a tremendously good gag about Georgie answering the phone and getting a big surprise. The audience was in on the joke: the criminals had just made their demands to Number 10, Downing Street.

“D for Destruction” was the last episode of the first series, but there was virtually no break behind the scenes at all as the production team began work on the next thirteen episodes. The show was only off the air for about two months before the new run started. Unfortunately, only two of these thirteen survive, but we’ll check one of them out later this weekend.

(Note: I can play them, but I’m not presently able to get screencaps from Region 4 DVDs, so many of these entries will just have a photo of the set to illustrate it. Click the link to purchase it from Amazon UK.)

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Adam Adamant Lives! 1.15 – The Village of Evil

If any readers have been disappointed or annoyed by the lack of photos to accompany these posts, I’ve got great news. The fab site Archive TV Musings has been writing about Adam Adamant Lives! with screencaps. So pop over there and enjoy his much longer posts and tell ’em that we sent you!

Well, after 13 consecutive episodes, we’ve had to skip one of the twelve that the BBC destroyed. “Ticket to Terror” is the only story missing from the show’s first series, and it’s the one that everybody who was around in the sixties remembers. It guest starred Max Adrian and had the burned-in-the-memory scene with a London Underground train with several hundred skeletons arriving in a station.

So that brings us to “The Village of Evil,” in which Adam is so outraged by discovering that a Satanic coven is operating in a small and quaint little town that actor Gerald Harper tries to outdo Adam West’s Batman in righteous, overacting fury. To be fair, Harper is always a little arch in the role – it calls for it – but man, does he ever go over the top this time.

Amazingly, this is the first episode where Adam and Simms succeed in keeping Georgie out of trouble and completely ignorant that he’s investigating anything. Unfortunately for Simms, he mainly accomplishes this by losing £6 to her in darts and cards, resulting in another of his cheeky limericks as he bemoans his bad luck. Speaking of sixties Batman, Adam gets trapped in a memorable coulda-been-a-cliffhanger moment with a combine harvester, and the whole shebang is done with flair and lots of wit that had our son cheering with the fights. The main bad guy’s comeuppance is telegraphed from space, but I’m fairly sure nobody saw the femme fatale’s grisly end coming.

(Note: I can play them, but I’m not presently able to get screencaps from Region 4 DVDs, so many of these entries will just have a photo of the set to illustrate it. Click the link to purchase it from Amazon UK.)

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Adam Adamant Lives! 1.13 – The League of Uncharitable Ladies

Our son caught a not-even-24-hours bug and went home from school yesterday. Today he’s fully recovered, but I had to take a day to stay with him before he can get back to class. So he’s rewatched both Guardians of the Galaxy movies – I didn’t write about Vol. 2 because I strangely found myself not really enjoying it the second time around – and then we popped back in time for another episode of Adam Adamant Lives!, which my boy really liked.

“The League of Uncharitable Ladies” is mildly famous for being one of the earliest professional jobs for Ridley Scott as a director. He’d worked at the BBC for a few years, and unsurprisingly the corporation managed to wipe several of his TV episodes, including the other Adamant installments that he did in season two.

There’s a massive hole in this one’s plot, which ended up bothering me for most of the hour. There have been a number of mysterious deaths of important diplomats, and nobody can find the connection. It’s that all of the ones who were married have wives who are members of the same club, devoted to peace.

This is perhaps a little predictably male of me, but just as the story subverts the possibilities of an all-woman crew bent on evil by having a man running things from behind the scenes (an Avengers episode from earlier that year had much the same problem), I was more interested in the few male guest stars. The only woman in the cast that I recognized was Geraldine Moffat, but I spotted both John Carson and Gerald Sim. Carson’s role as the master villain hiding in plain sight as a servant is obvious from space, but there is a neat twist about the motive that I didn’t see coming.

But is there anything here that predicts Ridley Scott’s later cinematic success? I wouldn’t say so, but some of the film work in the opening, which sees the camera following a man across St. James’s Park, is first-rate, and he did coax some very good performances from his actors. I really enjoyed the somewhat dark flirtation between Moffat’s character and Adam, which, in a first, doesn’t end with Adam getting conked on the head. In fact, he sees the betrayal coming and avoids it! Good, our hero is learning! He doesn’t get to slay the criminal this time, either. It’s always nice to break from the traditional tropes.

(Note: I can play them, but I’m not presently able to get screencaps from Region 4 DVDs, so many of these entries will just have a photo of the set to illustrate it. Click the link to purchase it from Amazon UK.)

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Adam Adamant Lives! 1.12 – Beauty is an Ugly Word

There’s a scene about halfway through this morning’s episode where Adam has a “who’s gonna break first” standoff with the villain, played by Peter Jeffrey. They’re challenging each other over weightlifting, adding twenty pounds each time. Flatly, it’s one of the best directed moments of any sixties BBC program that I’ve seen. You could hear a pin drop in our den, because we were all silent with our eyes wide. The rest of the hour didn’t quite live up to that, but there’s a really hilarious moment where the Ministry Twit of the Week tries to explain beauty pageants to our Victorian hero, and a couple of familiar faces from the period, Annette Andre and Roy Stewart, have small roles.

(Note: I can play them, but I’m not presently able to get screencaps from Region 4 DVDs, so many of these entries will just have a photo of the set to illustrate it. Click the link to purchase it from Amazon UK.)

Photo credit: https://excusesandhalftruths.com

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Adam Adamant Lives! 1.11 – Death By Appointment Only

This afternoon’s episode of Adam Adamant Lives! was written by Tony Williamson and guest stars Patricia Haines, and actually addresses the question of all the bodies that pile up in Adam’s wake. Our hero is visited by a man from the ministry with the problem of the week, and Sir Nigel requests that this time out, if he could leave some of the villains alive, Her Majesty’s courts would like to see justice done properly. The phrase “cutting them down like daffodils” is used.

The criminal scheme this time was a bit over our son’s head, as was the escort agency that the villains work from, but it’s basically an inversion of the traditional stock market advice. The villains are selling high and then buying low. They spend an afternoon making big sales, then murder the head of the company they’re selling that night, causing the shares to plummet. They scoop up the devalued stock over the next day and deliver those to meet their commitments. I have a feeling that’s not the sort of scheme that would work at all these days, but maybe 53 years ago, the financial market wasn’t quite so instantaneous!

(Note: I can play them, but I’m not presently able to get screencaps from Region 4 DVDs, so many of these entries will just have a photo of the set to illustrate it. Click the link to purchase it from Amazon UK.)

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Adam Adamant Lives! 1.10 – The Doomsday Plan

Surprisingly, just as soon as I mentioned it, the “conked on the head” flashback doesn’t appear in this morning’s episode, which was written by Richard Harris, but another recurring motif does. Adam Adamant has a complete blind spot to the possibility that any woman would be mixed up in the schemes of his enemies. I really hope the next time he wakes up in a cell with Georgie, who’s been in the cell for hours already, she hisses at him “WHEN will you learn to stop trusting women?!”

But speaking of enemies, today’s episode has a great one. It’s the wonderful actor Peter Vaughan as a doomsayer-type preacher who is organizing a fake nuclear attack to cause a mass panic while his men heist banks and jewelry stores. Our son really hated this guy. He got so irritated with him that he had to break out his trusty finger-pistols to start shooting at the screen. He also got so worried about Georgie investigating the enemy headquarters that he hid under his blanket, peeked out just long enough to see that she was getting away, and then gasped in total shock when the camera revealed Vaughan, showing that she wasn’t so lucky! Isobel Black plays the villain’s daughter, and Talfryn Thomas has a tiny walk-on part.

Thomas is only on screen during one of the filmed segments, and these are, again, completely beautiful. I’m always impressed by the restoration of black and white BBC material, but while the studio stuff looks very good – many of the same team worked on restoring Doctor Who – the film material looks like it was shot yesterday, with incredibly crisp blacks and resolution so fine you can marvel at the stonework on the old buildings in the London streets. There’s also a terrific scene shot at night where a man is surrounded by the doomsayer’s henchmen, each of whom is wearing one of those “The end is nigh!” sandwich-boards. There are probably people who saw this episode in 1966 and are certain it actually happened in an episode of The Avengers!

But two little elements just can’t help but remind you that you’re watching television and not the real world. One problem is that the studio set doesn’t match the exterior of the villain’s Mission Hall. The window that Georgie peeks through is on the opposite side of the front door when they cut from film to the studio. And the other problem is that Georgie’s fab scooter – is it a Vespa? – lies parked outside the hall for something like two days and nobody makes off with it!

(Note: I can play them, but I’m not presently able to get screencaps from Region 4 DVDs, so many of these entries will just have a photo of the set to illustrate it. Click the link to purchase it from Amazon UK.)

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Adam Adamant Lives! 1.9 – Sing a Song of Murder

It’s been about seven weeks since we last saw an episode of Adam Adamant Lives!, but that hasn’t been long enough for our son where one element of this fun program is concerned: the silly flashback scene. It may only be about fifteen seconds long, but whenever our hero gets conked on the head, he “remembers” that last trap from 1902 and the voice of the woman who betrayed him saying “So clever… but oh, so vulnerable…” You’ve never seen such eye-rolling. The kid slumped into a death pose, face to the ceiling, saying “Come on, this again?” Otherwise, he enjoyed this one!

So anyway, we’re back in 1966 for the last nine surviving episodes of this very fun series. This afternoon’s episode, “Sing a Song of Murder,” concerns a pair of villains played by Jerome Willis and Alex Scott who have perfected “hypersound,” which is a hypnotic beat hidden within a pop record. It’s the centerpiece to one of the most naive and ridiculous criminal schemes in any old show we’ve run across. It’s all done with flair and wit, and the squabbling between Willis’s dandy and Scott’s taciturn scientist is entertaining, but this really has got about as much understanding of the music world as an episode of Josie and the Pussycats.

In the real music world, the hypnotic tune, “This is the Moment,” was performed by a group by the News, and was one of two singles that the group released on Decca in 1966 before disbanding. Neither 45 seems to have troubled the charts very much.

(Note: I can play them, but I’m not presently able to get screencaps from Region 4 DVDs, so many of these entries will just have a photo of the set to illustrate it. Click the link to purchase it from Amazon UK.)

Photo credit: https://excusesandhalftruths.com

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