Five Fall Into Adventure is one of the mysteries I don’t really enjoy reading much, so the finer details of the book escape me, but I still know the story well enough to give you a general overview of the adaptation from the 70s.
The Good Bits
This generally comes across to me as one of the more scary books, I mean George has been kidnapped for a start and her parents can’t be informed. The baddies are quite scary, in fact I do wonder whether Red Tower is even stable, but I can’t talk about him too much now because he only really appears in the next episode.
One of the best bits from this episode is the fact that it is split into two parts. Like all the other two parters it contains much more detail than the single episodes, so much so that this episode is very much the run up to the exciting ending and rescue.
For now let’s look at the best bits of the first episode where we have that tremendous build up to the big drama.
My first thought when we get past the credits is working out where in the story we are starting, and quite strangely Aunt Fanny and Uncle Quentin are still at home, packing for their holiday to Malaga. In the book Blyton just generally mentions Spain as a holiday destination, keeping things quite vague given that Uncle Quentin is supposedly being hunted by reporters, but in this there is a set place. I suppose that gives the audience some idea on where the parents are actually going and some context for the visit. While packing the car however, Quentin tries to take some of his work to do, much to his wife’s disgust, and the scene were they try and take it all off him in some sort of chain motion is very amusing to watch.
Another good point in the script, something I think writer Gail Renard knew needed a good build up and scene was the body swap, where Dick and the paper boy Sid swap places so Dick can go and spy on who comes to collect the papers. It’s a much smoother and less hurried effort than in the 90s series, possibly because they didn’t have the time constraints. It’s smooth, quick and perfectly executed by Gary Russell.
Julie Davis as Jo was an excellent piece of casting, she really had the ghastly little raggamuffin down to life (apart from being very clean and sharp in her clothes and hair cut). She was fiesty, determined and she had the best rapport with Gary Russell who played Dick. The two of them are a joy to watch, the way they fling the dry, sarcastic comments back and forth at each other is amazing. I don’t know if Gail Renard had intended that to happen but it did and for that I am greatful. It’s a shame that they didn’t do another adventure with Julie in as Jo because picking up where it left off would have been amazing. I was lucky enough to be able to meet, talk to and listen to stories from Gary Russell, Marcus Harris, Julie Davis and Gail Renard at an Enid Blyton Society Day some years ago and the stories they could tell were amazing! However, Jo and Dick are supposed to have a special relationship in the book, there’s a sort of respect and connection there, a fondness if you like. In these episodes we get less of the fondness and more of the raw sarcasm of people who don’t want to get too close to one another but can’t help liking the other person. If you know what I mean.
The Not So Good Bits
Now we all know I have my little niggles about these episodes, and here comes a few. Now they are nothing more than niggles, but for a seasoned Famous Five viewer they are enough to make you roll your eyes and sigh. I hope you can see I don’t do this out of spite, but out of love for the books.
There are a couple of cracking ‘niggles’, such as when Anne screams about a face at the window, the boys have enough time to run into her room that she shares with George and manage to put their dressing gowns on nice and neatly! I mean your sister screams and you still manage to get your dressing gown on before you go to see if she’s all right? Not sure that works.
Another thing that bugs me is how irresponsible the adults are. Uncle Quentin allows Julian to accompany him into the garden to check for intruders, but we’re forgetting, Julian is probably only 16! Quentin and Fanny as the responsible adults shouldn’t have allowed Julian to go outside with Quentin, even if he has faced all sorts of danger in past adventures.
Rodgers the gardener is exactly the same, he seems so hopeless with the children and usually he growls and warns them off his plants and how noisy they are, but in Fall into Adventure he suddenly becomes nice and really weedy! He does things like leave the house with the professor’s papers unguarded and not in the safe, he lets the children walk all over him, which isn’t characteristic of him at all.
One last character niggle and then we’ll wrap up, but the one thing I want to talk about is the fact that Jo does not meet the Five through stealing George’s sandy hole where she’s been sitting, but in fact tries for a bigger kind of theft and tries to make off with George’s beloved boat. Now I know that sets the tone for how things go with Jo, and all I can assume is that it was too cold for the cast to be swimming in the sea during filming to make the original introduction difficult to do. Anyway, it’s a big boat and Jo isn’t too big, so you wonder how she would have managed it. However, the punch up between Jo and Dick is pretty awesome and goes on much longer than it does in the book. Now if that’s not girl power I don’t know what is!
Overall, even though this episode may start off slow, and fills in all the details (which we like) it’s attention to detail is what makes it truly excellent. Gail Renard is a genius and a proper Blytonite. She managed to get those little quirks and tit bits into the episode so wonderfully that the actors, who by series two have settled into their roles, manage almost perfectly. Let’s hope that part two is just as well developed and detail filled. We shall have to wait til next week to find out!