Monday, 10 June 2013

Mystery and Imagination - The Suicide Club

The Suicide Club was one of the late episodes of the British gothic horror anthology television series Mystery and Imagination. This episode was broadcast in 1970. It is a feature-length adaptation of three connected short stories by Robert Louis Stevenson.

Stevenson’s original idea was delightfully twisted and this adaptation captures that perverse quality extremely well. A bored Bohemian prince, Prince Florizel (Alan Dobie) wanders London at night in disguise, looking for the sorts of adventures that will appeal to his jaded tastes. Accompanied by his faithful Master of the Horse (Colonel Geraldyne, played by Eric Woofe) he finds an adventure that is too rich even for his blood.

The Suicide Club is a club for those who have grown weary of life and who lack even the energy to end their lives themselves. Each Friday night the cards are dealt at the club. Whoever draws the ace of spades is destined to be that week’s victim while the man who draws the ace of clubs will be his executioner. It’s the sort of Russian roulette that appeals to those who wish to end their existences in the most dissipated and decadent manner possible.

Prince Florizel has his suspicions that the Suicide Club may be even more sinister that it appears to be. The President of the club (Bernard Archard) and his beautiful, mysterious and creepily cold assistant (played by Hildegard Neil) may be playing a game of their own, a very profitable if very cold-blooded game.

In order to gain admittance to the club Prince Florizel had to sign the articles of membership. As a man of honour he will have to settle matters on his own account without any assistance from the police. The prince is a man of courage and of intelligence and he will be a formidable adversary, but the President of the club is also a very dangerous man.

The period detail is done well, as you expect from British television of this era. The club rooms of the Suicide Club are the right mixture of decadence and gothic excess.

Alan Dobie makes a fine hero and the role gives him the opportunity to indulge himself in some rather theatrical but very effective acting. Bernard Archard and Hildegard Neil play their roles to the hilt.

A fine adaptation of one of the perverse classics of gothic literature.

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