gervase_fen: (ermine)
[personal profile] gervase_fen
One of the best reasons to have a lovefilm account  - at the moment - is the chance to rent something like this for a fee less than half the price of buying a copy. Southern TV's adaptation downplays the dark Satanic mill town setting of Blastburn for budgetary reasons, but is fairly faithful to the novel (although it has been some fifteen years or so I think since I read it, so I could be wrong!)

Simon Gipps-Kent is excellent as the imperilled orphan Lucas Bell, Maxine Gordon does her best with a French accent that pitches her performance towards a state of nervous anxiety a lot of the time. As well as Simon Gipps-Kent, there are some other familiar faces in the cast from Doctor Who of this era - William Squire, David Collings, Erik Chitty and Milton Johns. William Squire doesn't make it past episode four, so scenery chewing duties thereafter are shared between Reginald Marsh, Ron Moody and Mr Johns.  Production values are pretty high, with the sewers under Blastburn comparing favourably with those of the Talons of Weng Chiang. Bonus points awarded from this viewer for the unsettling muddy brown colour of the water used in the TV studio.  The main carpet press is also a thing of practical in studio effect wonder, augmented by some strong sound design.

We both enjoyed this, spotting Joan Aiken's riffs on Jane Eyre, Dickens and any Victorian plot containing a contested will.  As with the other October vintage TV serial we watched, neither of us wanted to wait weeks between episodes to find out what happened next.  Said other serial was from the master of "Make 'em laugh, make 'em cry, make 'em wait", Wilkie Collins.

One of the pleasures for us with this adaptation was the crossover of actors who would later work on The Pallisers, namely Basil Dignam, Martin Jarvis and Peter Sallis (who gives pretty much the same, fine performance.) Paddy Russell keeps the cast on their toes, especially during episode two when the fallout from the Moonstone theft means that at least four characters are not letting on exactly what they know. John Welsh is clearly enjoying himself a great deal as very cerebral Sergeant Cuff, more than capable of facing down an aristocratic Kathleen Byron in her library. The budget extends to real horses (as opposed to sound effects in Midnight is a Place) and an astonishing variety of well designed cravats. Looking up the Radio Times entries on the BBC Genome website, I was amused to see a tag line for an interview with Vivien Heilbron's Rachel Verinder, "I'm not a typical Victorian heroine", which I would guess has been reused by the RT many times since 1972.

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