Last week I did a review of the first part of Five go to Smuggler’s Top and now I’m going to bring you a review of the second part.
We start this episode off with a recap of what happened the ‘week’ before, so Uncle Quentin arriving, the run-ins with Block and Mr Lenoir and the realisation that something funny is going on.
I must say some of the best bits of the book were left out of this adaptation, including the bit where Timmy is supposed to be smuggled into George’s room for the night and the five children create a distraction because Block is lying in wait for Timmy, and the brave dog bites the villain on the ankle as he’s dragged by. That has to be one of my all time favourite scenes out of the book, and in the 90s version but its never replicated in the 70s one.
Another point to make on characterization is that Block, played by Ron Pember, is a very good actor but doesn’t fit the mental image of Block. He’s not scary, just weird. Pember does invoke the mistrust of Block that the children pick up on straight away but the whole point of Block is that he is supposed to be terrifying, at least that’s what I think, there is something you’re not supposed to trust about him, this silent pale man who supposedly can’t hear a thing. One thing we can say for Blyton is that when she wanted to make it obvious who the villain was, she was excellent at creating a really effective baddie. However it is a hard sort of thing to translate onto the screen. Pember did a good job, even though you get the feeling it was simplified a bit.
One of the other things that is a constant source of frustration about this series is the use of dark filters over the camera lenses which make the nighttime scenes extremely hard to see and you lose so much atmosphere from these shots that it’s easy to lose interest. I understand that the actors were not allowed to work more than a certain number of hours a day and certainly not at nighttime, as I understand it, but someone should have seen that the filters were too heavy. However I suppose that might just be to my young and modern eyes as I’m used to a different type and quality of filters but I can’t be the only one who thinks they were a bit heavy handed on the dark filter. Surely there must have been some compromise?
Anyway, back to the actual story. We stick to the book quite closely in the second half which makes it an edge of the seat situation, especially with the missing Sooty and Professor Kirrin, though their wander through the catacombs is unfortunately cut short. The use of the fog is good, but rather than Uncle Quentin suggesting they wait until it lifts so they can see their way a little better around the marshes, he decides he wants to risk it. Without Timmy to help (as he’s found them and then run back to George) the likelihood of them being caught in the marsh and lost forever is a very real danger. You would think that a professor who was visiting to talk about draining the marshes would know that it was better to stay put than to attempt to walk over them; however this is Uncle Quentin, he does try to put mustard on his toast. To play devil’s advocate however Michael Hinz always seemed to play Uncle Quentin as a much more steady, clued up Quentin that Christopher Good ever did. Which means that the danger of the marshes should have been at the front of his mind. Anyway, you do have to admit that seeing Hinz walk around in those paisley pyjamas and a bright red tartan rug is one of the best things to have a giggle at (it comes second to the star jumps Marco Williamson does in Five go to Billycock Hill in the 90s adaptations)
With that all said, its a decent adapatation of the book, with a few areas and maybe some artistic licence with the characters and a few bits and pieces in the storyline which is understandable. Still, its watchable, nostalgic and the Famous Five we all love! Right?
Thanks again, Stef – I can see why you prefer the 1970s series.
Do you mean the 1990’s?
Yep, who can forget those star jumps !!