Famous Five 90s Style: Five Go to Demon’s Rocks

Five go to Demons Rocks is one of my favourite books and one of my first books as a child, although it was much later on in my life when I actually read the story. Again I see it as a high point in the series, along with Fix and Finniston Farm. Mystery to Solve and Together again always seem like let downs after such big adventures, and Together again should not have been the book to finish off such a well loved series.

Anyway, the adaptation of Five go to Demons Rocks, which I believe was on one of the videos I used to get out of the library as a child and watch almost continually. When I rewatched it as an adult I was crying with laughter at how bad it was. I wish I could have a different view of it, but now I can see all the flaws, and this particular episode feels worse than others, mostly because of the attempt at special effects. Nowadays we can see these  special effects as ‘bad’ but I suspect that is mostly because of the quality of Special effects nowadays!

The editing is a bit choppy as well, scenes are reused an stitched together with no continuity considered. As a child I skated over these inaccuracies but as an adult they are hard to ignore. There is a particular scene which is used multiple times, where Dick and Julian climb down the tunnel of the lighthouse and follow the cave network under the bay to try and find some treasure. However the part with Julian climbing down is from an earlier scene where he goes to explore the tunnel before the main bulk of the adventure happens. Now that might have simply been a padding shot, where the producers needed a few more seconds on the episode but the children had gone home, so they couldn’t film another bit and just slotted in another.

However a similar thing happens with two adult actors, Jacob and Ebenezer ( played respectively by Gary Dunnington and Shend) standing on the quayside making faces at Jeremiah and the children is repeated at another point when the nastiness of the villians needs to be reestablished. In fact, alongside the actors from Finniston Farm, these two make rather good villians with the non comedic aspect being played down.

On the other hand, looking at the children and their visiting co-star, James Tomlinson who plays Tinker, seem to have been given the most over the top things to say in this episode. There is a lot of overacting from Marco Williamson, and Paul Child. there is a possibility that Demons Rocks was filmed when they were still quite new to the Famous Five, so it was part of them being keen and settling down into the soon to be familiar routine.

Overall there is rather a mishmash of issues with this episode, including the timings. At one point Jeremiah says that they have plenty of time before the tide comes in and sweeps through the caves, and then almost only a minute later he says they better be leaving as the tide is on the turn. Its almost like someone turned the page and had forgotten what they had written! Either way, it should have been picked up and changed before airing. Even if you could have some other thing in there to make the time elapsed seem longer. As a child its possible I just didn’t care for this and it didn’t matter, which is why it was left in, but as an adult it feels sloppy.

The main bones of the story are still there however, and is quite successfully portrayed. Even the theft of the items from the lighthouse is shown and the conversation with the man in the general store after the children have spoken to Jeremiah. These are the nice touches that reassure us that the script on this occasion was in good hands.

Overall the episode has the story in place, but the production of it seems quite shoddy, as if the producers just couldn’t be bothered to get it right and make it quite as seemless as the other ones in the series. As I have said it is the only one that stands out as bad special effects. The use of the rain at the end, looks very superimposed (I don’t know what the correct term is, I’m afraid!), and the children just end up looking like they have had a bucket of water thrown over their heads.

As usual I would love to have your opinions, the episode can be found on YouTube, so please let me know what you think!

demons rocks1

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2 Responses to Famous Five 90s Style: Five Go to Demon’s Rocks

  1. VR says:

    I just watched this on YouTube: I was surprised to see it ran only 24 minutes, but I guess all the important bits were there. I read the book as a child fifty years ago and again with my own children years later. I thought this tv adaptation was reasonably well-done (except for Uncle Quentin’s appearance, and he was unnecessarily ferocious) and the casting of the Five, and their costuming, is perfect. If I had watched this as a child, I’d have been enthralled; for me today it was pleasant-enough viewing.


  2. Francis says:

    Having watched this again, I have to totally agree with you, Stef. It has a very slapdash and disjointed feeling about it. I must admit to not liking Marco’s interpretation of Julian – he makes him annoying and childish which is just not right.
    Thank you for your review.


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