Life in the Past Lane

During the week I treated myself to digging out a couple of DVDs I hadn’t looked at for a while and give them a watch. The DVDs in question were Adam Adamant Lives! The Complete Collection and The Avengers Series 3.

I watched a single episode of each: Sing A Song of Murder and the Wringer respectively. Both episodes share some themes but are good examples of how different TV channels deal with a series.
For those of you not in the know Adam Adamant is a sixties series made by the BBC as an attempt to counter the Avengers and it gives… mixed results. The premise is that the titular Adam Adamant is an Edwardian spy cum adventurer who was frozen by his arch enemy in 1902 and gets thawed out in 1967 and we get a huge culture clash from the perceived ideas of a Edwardian man and the attitudes of the swinging sixties.

The episode in question was “Sing A Song of Murder” which was written by the series head writer and Script-Editor Tony Williamson who contributed several scripts for the Avengers and many of the ITC spy series, so the writing is decent and has a good set up. It revolves around a record company hiding subliminal messages in singles and thus hypnotising the listener into commiting various crimes. The downside is that the motive of the villain is weak (money) and like most episodes of Adam Adamant the principal villian seems to be a mildly effeminate man. However it is an entertaining romp though the in-house style off the BBC means it likes the polish and slick editing a film based series would have, though this has its advantages. It means the fights are a little more scrappy and ruff and ready and makes it seem a little more realistic then the almost balletic ones in the Avengers. The downside is at this point the flashback used when Adamant is knocked out has become intrusive but at least gives indication of the passage of time. The guest cast is pretty good and Jack May is well used as Simms though this offers a rather big plot hole in regards to the MO of the villain.

The Avengers episode is by far the more interesting episode though. The episode was the Wringer, written by Martin Woodhouse and Directed by Don Leaver. This is good pedigree as Woodhouse was a guy who heavily researched the background of his scripts and it shows in the production, Leaver was a experienced studio directer and was only one of two who made the cut when the series transferred to film, in later years he became the producer of the long running 90s police series A Touch of Frost.
The episode is about brain-washing and is rather grim throughout with Steed under suspicion for selling out an agent cell and being submitted to a correction institute run by the aptly named Wringer. The brain washing scenesare cleverly done given the as-live nature of the recording with lots of overlays, implied voices and the changing of the time. There are afew mistakes; the guard struggles with a lock, the air duct in which Steed escapes is alarmingly wobbly and a fly must of landed on the projector while the film recording was made and a few scenes have a fly walking over the picture.
The guest cast is uniformly excellent with a very haunted performance by Peter Sallis as Hal Anderson who was the first victim of the Wringer and as consequence he ran away and walled himself in fire spoting tower. Terence Lodge is excellent as the Wringer, part beat-poet, part psychologist and total nutcase. The sing song nature of his dialogue makes the character all the more memorable and compelling, there is no doubt the guy is a threat. Watch out for a young Barry Letts as Oliver, Letts is a familiar name for fans of Doctor Who as he was a writer, producer and director for the programme.

Overall some good viewing.

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