Time to move away from two parters for a short while, and look now at a 25 minute adaptation of Five Go to Mystery Moor.
Mystery Moor is one my favourite books and in fact was the first one I ever read as a child. The gloomy, brooding moor is almost a character in itself in the book, but possibly because it’s hard to replicate, somewhat lacking atmosphere in the episode. It doesn’t feel dangerous and that’s the main thing; if the moor felt dangerous then the whole tone of the episode would be so much darker.
The start of the episode is also a dead give away that something very dodgy is going on. A plane on an airfield (to the French national anthem) is being loaded up and piloted in the dead of night. Now we know something is up and that the Five are going to be on hand to sort it out and solve the mystery.
We seem to skip an awful lot of the book to get to the part where the Five are all together in Captain Johnson’s riding school. There’s no mention of them being separated or Uncle Quentin deep in work and not wanting to be disturbed. Anyway we start off with the Five all sat in a barn with a reedy voice calling out “Georgina! Georgina!” from the book you know straight away that this is Henrietta played in a rather over the top, sketch show parody by Bianca Bonomi. The problem here is that the dislike between George and Henry (as Henrietta likes to be known) is not very clear so you end up siding with the disliked Henry. Again this shows how convincingly Jemima Rooper plays George that you start to dislike George’s treatment of Henry. Unfortunately Bonomi’s Henrietta is not styled so that she looks more convincing as a boy than George. Her hair is too long to be really convincing otherwise it would be perfect. The bravado she has as Henry isn’t genuine either, this might be to do with the over the top acting but even though you don’t agree with George about disliking Henrietta, you can’t really warm to Henry either.
We have been introduced to Lee Turnbull as Sniffer before, however as the episodes are out of sync with the books, this is really the first time we’re meeting him as the bedraggled gypsy boy who brings a lame horse to the stables in the hope of getting him made better. Sniffer’s good for nothing father disapproves of the horse being left at the stables and follows Sniffer to menace the others into giving him the horse back. Julian stands up to him and saves Clip the horse from having to pull a heavy caravan. One of Julian’s nobler deeds I’m sure you’ll all agree.
Jesse Birdsall as Sniffer’s father, Pedro, is an excellent bad guy as is his side kick Teddy Kempner as Moses. These two seem to pull away from the ‘comic’ bad guys that the other epsiodes have and are truly frightening and scary characters. It is possible that because Bonomi as Henry was playing a rather over the top character the show’s producers thought it would be too much to have the villains be comedic as well. (Just as a sidenote, Jesse Birdsall played opposite Jemima Rooper in the TV show As If and she mentions him in our interview with her here.)
As the Five go off to camp on the moor, its clear to see that Marco Williamson is still very much in control of Julian being the leader and Paul Child is very much back in second place, unlike in other episodes in the second series where Child pulls more in front due to Williamson’s broken leg. It can be deduced from this that the break hadn’t happened before filming this episode, otherwise it certainly would have changed a lot more of the dynamic and in fact the flow of the adaptation. Due to this, there would have been a lot more arguing between the brothers and the scene where they go to hide the packages thrown from the plane would have caused a lot more aggravation between the Five.
I am glad that this episode wasn’t tampered with in that respect. As the balance between the boys is right and how it should be, Mystery Moor is not a book to change that balance. Julian needs to be in charge because otherwise there would be massive issues above and beyond the simple mystery behind the packages out of the sky.
The basic plot of Five Go to Mystery Moor is quite complicated, too complicated for me to explain in a review at any rate so I suggest you read the book if you haven’t already. I don’t want to go into too much detail about the plot or the ending anyway in case I upset it for people. Looking at the episode it is mostly all there, but there are a few slip-ups, like the stable hand William is much older than he is in the book, and Captain Johnson is there at the rescue where he is absent in the book. So you’re looking at minor things, which are more than made up for by the superb quality of the villainous actors and Lee Turnbull as Sniffer. As always I’ve made it through the blog without mentioning Laura Petela! Oh dear. Well she’s just as always a very good Anne, but maybe not as scared as Anne in the book but quite firm with the sulky George and Henry, this is a nice development and its a shame it can’t have carried through. However my most favourite Anne moment it yet to come in Five Have a Mystery to Solve!
So there you are, a look into Five Go to Mystery Moor; a not too shabby adaptation, with a few niggly bits that only a fanatic would pick up on. What are your thoughts on the episode? Do you agree with me?
Let me know in the comments!
I am going have to watch this again, Stef. Thanks for your review, it makes a change to have the tv episodes reviewed.
First of all, Pippa, your reviews on the Famous Five are top quality; they’re extremely enjoyable to read. Secondly, do you perhaps know how I can watch Five Go To Smuggler’s Top (1995) ?
I think the only way at the moment is to buy one of the foreign import DVDs such as De Vijf or I think there was an Australian release a few years ago. It’s not on YouTube, and it’s not on the UK DVD release.
Thanks for your quick response, Fiona. Keep up the good work!