Thursday, 19 December 2013

Adam Adamant Lives!

If there’s one thing that’s almost as much fun as the cult movies of the 1960s and 1970s it’s the cult television of the same era. This will be the first of an occasional series of posts on this subject.

One of the less known British adventure series of the 1960s was the BBC’s Adam Adamant Lives! which ran for two seasons in 1966 and 1967. Most of season 1 survives but unfortunately almost all of season 2 is lost.

The premise was a clever one that offered the opportunity for some satirical observations on the social mores of the past and present. Fortunately the fun adventure elements predominate. Adam Adamant (Gerald Harper) was an Edwardian adventurer and secret agent who disappeared in 1902. In fact he was deep-frozen by a dastardly enemy. In 1966 he is revived and resumes his career as crime-fighter, adventurer and secret agent.

Adam finds the world of Swinging London in the 1960s rather perplexing and he finds much of which he disapproves. His old-fashioned attitudes and sense of honour might seem to be a disadvantage in the world of the 1960s but they actually turn out to be more of an asset than a hindrance. Adam is both courageous and determined and wrong-doers find him to be a surprisingly formidable enemy. Adam prefers to use his sword-cane rather than firearms, a habit that causes amusement to his foes until they discover just how dangerous and skillful he is with such a weapon.

Naturally a hero has to have a sidekick and Adam’s sidekick is Georgina Jones (Juliet Harmer), a Swinging 60s chick whose modern attitudes are often disturbing to our hero. In spite of often disapproving of her he can’t help also being rather fond of her. Georgina is brave to the point of foolhardiness and is always getting herself into scrapes but if there’s one thing Adam admires it is courage. Although Adam is a gentleman of the Edwardian era and Georgina is a free-spirited modern girl a considerable mutual respect develops between the two characters. The interplay between Adam Adamant and Georgina Jones is always a delight.

Adam Adamant Lives! is an excellent example of a program that has a very English feel to it, but in a very good way. It has not only the Swinging London of the 60s vibe but also a London of the 1890s vibe as well. And the very English flavour is in this case very definitely an asset.

It is also, for a BBC production, extraordinarily good fun in a light-hearted tongue-in-cheek way. It’s one of the few BBC series that captures the same kind of witty, sexy and good-natured feel that made series like The Avengers so successful. The scripts weren’t always up to the standards of The Avengers but it benefits from a truly wonderful cast with all three recurring characters being just right.

Despite the BBC’s legendary reluctance to spend real money on mere light entertainment such as this the production values are reasonable, a tribute to the ability of BBC producers  to make a very small amount of money stretch surprisingly well.

The stories are fairly typical of 1960s secret agent/crime-fighter series but the unusual nature of the hero gives the series an original and very engaging feel.

The surviving episodes have been released on DVD. Adam Adamant Lives! is immense fun and is highly recommended.

No comments: