Famous Five 70s Style: Five on a Secret Trail

This episode is one I remembered from my childhood, I think it was one that I had on video with Five on a Hike Together. I don’t remember a lot of the episode as a rule, but I certainly remember the beginning with Anne and the house! Let’s see now, with hindsight, if the episode is close to the book.

The Good

What really strikes me about this episode is the way it actually seems to stick to the story in the book. Obviously we skip ahead a little to Anne joining her cousin on the moor, where she is staying because Timmy was being laughed at for having a cone over his head where he had hurt his ear. So far so good, the girls are on the moor, camping with Timmy and they go to look at the Roman ruins and get introduced to Guy and his dog Jet.

After mentioning that there is a lake they can swim in, George and Anne leave Guy and walk straight into his unknown twin brother, Harry, who is perplexed by the girls familiarity and rebuffs them sharply.

The whole plot then takes off, with the girls sheltering inside the ruined cottage during the storm, and being woken by Timmy barking. At first they believe it down to the thunder, but then they see a silhouette at the window and get very scared, agreeing to pack up and go home the next morning. On cue the boys turn up and a plan starts to unfold.

The details are whats important in episodes like this; the book, Secret Trail starts off quite slowly, mostly because the boys don’t arrive until chapter eight it takes me ages to get through the faff of the girls’ first chapters, but then the interesting stuff begins to happen and the whole adventure takes off. Weaving in and out of the mystery people trying to scare them out of the cottage and trying to work out what the bad guys are looking for. In a strange twist we don’t find out what the Five plus the twins Harry and Guy manage to find until right at the end, which also happens in the book. Usually we found out early whats been stolen but this is a nice twist. Maybe Blyton was trying something new?

Richard Sparks, the writer of this episode, has stuck pretty close to the book, just the few odd lines where you can definitely tell that Blyton hadn’t wrote that, but otherwise a successful adaptation.

The Not So Good

Really there is very little wrong with this episode, it doesn’t differ from the book too badly, but just the odd placement of dialogue and random words. For example right at the beginning where George and Anne meet up, and George is telling Anne about Timmy’s cone of shame, she almost immediately takes it off. I mean obviously for Toddy, the dog who played Timmy, it must have been uncomfortable or he was unable to understand why he was wearing it; so realistically it would have to be removed as soon as possible.

glauberBasically we come down to my own pedantic opinions and feelings on certain things for this episode, it really is hard for me to fault. However, we are again stuck with a comic villain, dark beard, hair, and a foreign accent provided by an actor called Gertan Klauber (who I have now found out played Mr Slither in the 90s Famous Five; Five have a Wonderful Time).

One last peeve, and this time it comes down to the filming and the use of the dark filters instead of letting the children film at nighttime. Even with the digitally remastered DVDs this episode’s nighttime scenes with the children are extremely hard to view and almost come close to making a great episode unwatchable.

Final Thoughts

Five on a Secret Trail has to be one of the best adaptations of a Famous Five novel. All the key components of the novel are there and with the shorter time frame we actually seem to get a slow novel moving fairly quickly, efficiently, and effectively. Richard Sparks did us proud on this episode so if you haven’t watched it, I suggest you do!

As always don’t forget to let me know what you think of the episode!

And from me that’s all until over Christmas, so let me wish you a happy one and I’ll see you on the other side! Merry Christmas!

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7 Responses to Famous Five 70s Style: Five on a Secret Trail

  1. Francis says:

    A very happy Christmas, Stef. Thank you so much for your wonderful contributions over the year – they were very much appreciated.

    Another nice review of the TV adaptions – they have encouraged me to re-watch them.

    Happy Christmas and thanks to Fiona as well.

    All the very best.


    Liked by 1 person

  2. chrissie777 says:

    When I read this book around 1965/1966 for the very first time, I had never read a book about identical twins before, so I didn’t guess that George and Anne kept meeting two different boys.


  3. chrissie777 says:

    Merry Christmas and a happy and healthy New Year, Fiona and Stef. Thank you so much for your efforts to create the World of Blyton blog which is always such a joy to read for me.


  4. chrissie777 says:

    One last question: did you ever comment on the 1990’s episode from “Secret Trail” as I’m not very fond of the 1970’s TV series in general even though I’ve watched it in the 1970’s on German TV when I was in my twenties. It was way back (and is still today) too modernized for my taste. I also dislike the song with the opening/end credits.


  5. chrissie777 says:

    Thank you, Fiona, I will check it out right away :).


  6. Dale Vincero, Brisbane, Australia says:

    Secret Trail has never been one of my favourites. Bit of a daft story if you ask me. But then I don’t expect EVERY Famous Five book to be a cracker. Got to be an occasional dud. And this is one of them.
    I will join in with others here, in thanking you two girls for prompting us out there in EB Land with weekly provocative articles about the books we love. We don’t always agree with your assessments, but where else is anyone talking about Enid Blyton? Thanks from Australia.


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