Monday #180

Bank Holiday Monday has come upon us and it’s the last one of the year before we get drawn into that autumn feeling. Still I hope that you’ll sit back and enjoy our blogs this week.

Fiona is planning to review Blyton’s Real Fairies book which she found in her library last week from where it was hiding in her overflow shelves. I’m sure we’re all looking forward to what she’s got to say about it.

I will be reviewing the second part of Five Get Into Trouble from the 1970s series. It’ll be interesting to look at how the rest of the story is done after such a successful first half.

One last thing before I go; as of this week we have recieved 2000 comments on the blog, across our various posts. Our 2000th blog comment was made by Chrissie. So we just wanted to say a huge thank you to everyone who reads and takes the time to comment on the blog. You guys are the reason we keep writing.

Hope you’ll join us this week for the blogs.

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Best of Blyton at the library

I’ve started my new job in a library now, and I’ve been taking full advantage of my access to all those books! In a quieter moment I ran a catalogue search for Enid Blyton and it came up with 264 hits over the 14 libraries.

I’ve listed the ones I’m most interested in below.


ADVENTURE SERIES TV TIE-INS

Written by Hugh Morgan, these are novelizations of the 90s TV series. All eight were published, but my library has just the two. Seeing as I just watched the Island of Adventure episode, I’d be interested to see if the novelization adds anything to the overall story.

the-island-of-adventure-tv


MALORY TOWERS AUDIO ADAPTATIONS

I think these are the same adaptations that Stef has reviewed, but I would like to listen to them myself and see what I think.


MALORY TOWERS CONTINUATION NOVELS by PAMELA COX

I’m not sure that there’s anyone who could really and truly capture Blyton’s characters and writing well enough to convince me they are worthy of having her name on the front of a book.Yet, I’d still like to read these continuations. These books pick up after Darrell, Sally and co’s last term at Malory Towers, then seem to focus on Felicity who is in her third year to start with. The blurbs make them sound rather like repeats of the original books – a new girl with a secret, a thief in the fifth form and so on, but the last one sounds interesting at least.

After taking their Higher Certificate, the sixth formers want to relax this term. But the Head has a surprise: a finishing school course, with old girl Gwendoline Lacey as teacher. Yet someone is determined to drive her out — and it takes the return of Darrell to solve the mystery.


ST CLARE’S CONTINUATION NOVELS also by PAMELA COX

There are three of these, filling in the gaps in the St Clare’s series, and my library has two. I think, potentially, these would be harder to believe in than the Malory Towers books as they slot in-between other titles and presumably feature all the main characters. That requires an even bigger skill in capturing personalities and atmosphere.

kitty-at-st-clares


THE NAUGHTIEST GIRL CONTINUATION NOVELS by ANNE DIGBY

The library has the first four novels out of the six that have been written. Some of them sound rather modern – girls called Kerry and Emma, waterpistol fights, a campaign to save a tree in the school grounds – but the first few sound closer to the sort of things Blyton wrote about.


ALSO OF INTEREST 


enid-blytons-holiday-stories

 

Enid Blyton’s Holiday Stories. This is one of the new themed collections that have come out recently (including Christmas Stories and Summer Stories amongst others) and contains a host of short stories from publications such as Sunny Stories for Little Folk. It also has At Seaside Cottage, which is a story about Janet and Peter before they formed the Secret Seven. That’s something I’d like to read, but it would be nicer in its original form.

 


the-riddle-that-never-was

 

The Riddle that Never Was – formerly known as The Mystery that Never Was – is part of a six book series created from stand-alone titles. Gillian Baverstock (Blyton’s elder daughter) edited each of them to form a series about the same children. I have read the original, so it would be interesting to see how it has been changed.

 

 


AND A FEW THINGS I’M PROBABLY BETTER AVOIDING

The first Famous Five Adventure Game I read/played the second in the series and didn’t think it was particularly good, however, my need to ‘complete’ series is making me want to borrow this too.

The Case of the Bogus Banknotes just one of several Famous Five on the Case titles the library has. I don’t think I could stomach a ‘Blyton’ story about bogus anythings.

Bizzy and the Bedtime Bear is another crazy continuation, this time of the Faraway Tree series. There are seven sickening-sounding titles in total. How revolting does this sound?

Recovering the Bedtime Bear from the Sleepeez who live there won’t be easy. Especially when the Faraway Fairies are accused of being ‘party poopers’. They need to put this adventure to bed quickly when Talon the Troll is ready to take advantage of any mistake.

The Island of Surprises is a Wishing-Chair follow up (one of six). These feature Jack and Jessica, and a Pixie called Wishler. They sound marginally better than the Faraway Tree continuations, but that’s not saying much!


AND THE ICING ON THE CAKE

real-fairies

I didn’t truly believe that this Spydus record would turn out to be true. It doesn’t exactly contain much detail, and at the time I viewed it it was apparently in transit from the Children’s Centre to Leisure Reading. It turned out to be amongst the other Blytons in the secondary stock area (where all the books that don’t fit out on the shelves have to live) and amazingly, it is indeed a 1923 copy! I’m going to do a proper blog about it later, so I won’t say anything more about it now.


I can see that I’m going to be very busy borrowing books now – thankfully as a staff member I can borrow up to 30 books and don’t get fined if I bring them back late!

  • Does your library have any good Blytons in its stock?
  • What gem would you love to discover on your library’s shelves?
  • Would you borrow any of these if you had the chance?

 

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Famous Five 70s Style: Five Get into Trouble Part 1

Five Get into Trouble is one of my favourite books; the complex plot, the danger, the really really bad crooks – plus all the mystery – makes it one super adventure. So I have to say that the rushed twenty-five minute adaptation of it in the 90s is not my favourite. We lose a lot of the mystery and back story, which is why I may prefer the 70s version where it’s split into two parts.

First of all we are treated to a nice friendly scene where the Five are about to set off and Aunt Fanny is fussing around George to make sure that she hasn’t left anything behind. Uncle Quentin is doing something mysterious to Anne’s bike, something that looks a bit like checking the tire pressure. Well fair enough, it needs to be done, but what’s the point? In the book Uncle Quentin only shows a passing interest in the Five and their trip only because he remembered that he had always had a puncture when he was younger.

So off we set with a lot of fussing from Aunt Fanny, and Timmy on the back of George’s bike on a special saddle. This is a completely new invention in the scheme of things; I wonder if Uncle Quentin thought of it. Anyway, off they go and its not long til we’re treated to that nights camp and the morning after. George is steadfastly still asleep with her head poking out of the tent, Anne is cooking and the boys are swimming in a lake, and complaining that the water is cold.

Enter Richard Kent.

Now I hate his character at the best of time, but Grant Bardsley makes for a very very arrogant, annoying, self entitled git of Richard Kent. Now, that is fair play to Bardsley because there isn’t much scope with a character like Richard Kent, but it makes the arrogance seem really real, and yet by the end of the episode he is beginning to shift and crumble into the scared little boy we know him to be. To begin with however, Bardsley makes Kent try to appear larger than life, inviting himself along with the Five without so much as a please, or my name is.

Bardsley works well to bring the arrogance of Richard Kent to the screen and not to mention there is something about him that you just don’t trust. The way he evades questions about his mother and his aunt is suspicious to say the least and quite frankly I don’t trust the little rascal. Julian gives him more than enough chances, more than I would that’s for sure, especially if this particular person had been the reason my brother had been kidnapped. I suppose we shall what happens to Richard in the next episode, and we shall find out if Bardsley manages to pull it off.

Character Development

Its nice to see Marcus Harris’ Julian interpretation come into its own here. The fact that Trouble is in the second series just demonstrates how much the cast has grown. Harris is beginning to demand a larger role in screen time, and is beginning to have  a mustache. He puts Bardsley’s Kent in place without needing to raise his voice, the presence he is now demanding is quite impressive. You know he’s in charge and this is a Julian who is not to be meddled with. Harris proves this later on in the episode when the Five find their way in Owl’s Dene where Dick is being held prisoner and he starts to talk to George, driving the ghastly Hunchy to get even more angers and threats to beat the children. Harris provides a strong, in control Julian that the rest can get behind and back up. This is completely different to Marco Williamson’s Julian who comes across as more of a caricature and the others undermine and argue with. The difference is phenomenal.

The dynamic between Harris and Gary Russell at this point is much more brotherly and in fact less awkward than the first series where Russell was simply following orders. Like Harris, Russell demands an on screen presence that really brings Dick to life. However this isn’t a Dick like Paul Child’s over compensating characterization, this is a Dick who’s growing up with respect for his brother, and fewer less noticible issues. In fact the boys are more like friends here than brothers, which helps the dynamic. Harris and Russell aren’t relying on each other as much now and are less of a double act but still work in a near perfect balance.  As a side note, can I just say that you can really see the shift in the times between the 70s and 90s adaptations, the change in dynamic between the fives and the focus on the story and characterization. For a sociology graduate, its utterly fascinating.

Overall

I quite like this episode, and the attention to detail is outstanding and actually the slow start to establish the story is effective and doesn’t feel drawn out. Its a wonderful adapation of the book and I like it not being rushed, drawing the characters out and showing us how they’ve changed and developed. I hope this follows though into the next episode and it isn’t too rushed with the storyline as they’ve got a lot to happen in that episode. Fingers crossed eh?

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Dick (Gary Russell), Timmy (Toddy), George (Michele Gallagher) and Richard Kent (Grant Bardsley) on their bikes in Five Get into Trouble.

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The Mystery of the Burnt Cottage: How has Blyton’s original text fared in a modern edition? part two

This week I’m back with the Five Find-Outers to see what else has changed.

To remind you – my personal copy is a Methuen from 1957 – the 12th reprint/impression of the original edition. The new copy is the most modern of any paperbacks I have used so far, an Egmont copy from 2014.



CHAPTER THREE: THE FIRST MEETING

Nothing too major to report for this chapter.

As per usual, hyphens are being removed from phrases. Summer-house is now summerhouse (except for the first time it is used, when it’s left with its hyphen).

When Bets is enjoying being one of the gang it is referred to as being one of the Big Ones. Generally random capitals are frowned upon – especially by me – but in this case changing that to one of the big ones means it loses some of its impact.

DSCN6302

Like the previous chapter fire it has been changed to set fire to it. 

Previous books have taken out a lot of the italics Blyton used for emphasis – and it happened twice in chapter two of this one as well. In this chapter we had it’s his mystery which has now lost the added emphasis.

Lastly something that will carry over into the next chapter too. Larry plans to drop a shilling so that they can pretend to be hunting for it in Mr Hick’s garden. This has been changed to drop a coin on both occasions it is mentioned.


CHAPTER FOUR: CLUES – AND CLEAR-ORF!

The shilling/coin change becomes silly in chapter four. Larry now says look for my coin, all of you, answers my coin to Clear-Orf’s question of what they are looking for, then Ah! My coin! when he finds it, and lastly, I’ve got my coin now. 

DSCN6301

Nobody drops a pound or fifty pence and says I’ve lost my coin (unless, I suppose the coin was of some historical value – but then you’d say I’ve lost my ancient Roman coin. Sometimes using a vague reference to coins or money works in updating, but in this case it doesn’t at all. If he had said my money it wouldn’t have sounded so silly, or he could have been specific and said a pound.

When looking for footprints in the garden it is said that There were none on the path, which was made of cinders, and showed no footmarks at all, of course. The 2014 book only says There were none on the path. I can’t understand why, unless they think that children will be stumped by a cinder path. It could easily have become gravel, which wouldn’t show footprints either.

In the original text Fatty says he won a prize for Art. School subjects always seem to be capitalised in Blyton’s books but are lower-cased in the modern reprints including this one.

While Fatty hasn’t been called fat in these chapters (not even when squeezing through a gap in the hedge) Larry’s joke about the art of  [Fatty] eating too much has been removed.

DSCN6300 circled

The hyphen is also lost from tea-time, but instead of the more common tea time they have rendered it as teatime.

And lastly – they have clearly decided all italics must be abolished.

  • You haven’t found a thing
  • This must be the print must
  • Yes he is clever
  • I would not have said
  • You nearly made me go green
  • You’d say we had been looking

Perhaps Blyton did use rather a lot of italics for emphasis, but I can’t see the harm in that. It’s all in direct speech from the children and it’s only natural, when speaking, to emphasise important words. Without the emphasis many of these lines fall rather flat.

Strangely, the reference to Mr Hick having a man-servant hasn’t been changed. Most references to servants and maids have been changed to staff or other more modern terms.


CHAPTER FIVE: FATTY AND LARRY LEARN A FEW THINGS

This chapter is surprisingly light in changes.

Italics are removed from two further phrases:

  • What about me?
  • She simply could not remember

Th only other changes are where Fatty talks about Horace Peeks. Thomas, the chauffeur talks about him as Peeks, and Larry asks who is Peeks? Fatty calls him Mr Peeks on all subsequent occasions, and he is also Mr Peeks in the ‘thoughts’ of the two boys.

DSCN6312


Seeing as many of these changes are just repetitions of earlier ones, the count is only 15 for these four chapters. Adding that to the previous ones we get a total of 37.

And – disclaimer! I haven’t drawn on any books, promise!

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Monday #179

OUR NEWS

This week our blog reached the magic number of 200,000 views. This may seem like small change to all those big professional bloggers out there, but we’re thrilled that we have built a small but steady readership for our admittedly niche blog. Our yearly views have continued to increase and we are on track for our best year yet.


COMING UP THIS WEEK

wedfrisun (1)

As you can see, we have an extra post this week! I had an evening of inspiration and couldn’t wait to write about the Blyton books at my library.


HAVE A GREAT WEEK!

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The Five Find-Outers and Dog Review: The Mystery of the Disappearing Cat

The Mystery of the Disappearing Cat

The Mystery of the Disappearing Cat

Well it’s safe to say I found my copy of the book, and as I had the day off on Monday due to my tootling up and down the country during the weekend I thought I would get on and read my copy of The Five Find-Outers and Dog; The Mystery of the Disappearing Cat. First of all I had to find the book, I knew it was somewhere, but as I have three possible places for Blyton books, I was going to have to search. Let’s just say by a stroke of luck it was in the second place I looked. Thank gosh it wasn’t the third otherwise I would have been ‘most put out’.

Now my first thoughts when I sat down to read this I couldn’t help thinking what a wishy-washy title it was, it doesn’t sound exciting at all and I hate to say it, I was right. What a let down! Fiona thinks this is weird but if the book is well written but I don’t like the story, I will still read it, and in good time. Now with the Disappearing Cat, the writing is Blyton at her best, the words carry you along and you want to gobble up the story but the actual plot is disappointing.

From the off I could have told you who the crook was, and that Goon was being an idjit and couldn’t see beyond his hatred for the children and their friend Luke. I know no one likes Goon, you’re not supposed to, but why isn’t he disciplined better- he shouldn’t be so dismissive of members of the public and disparaging of the children. If he behaved more like Inspector Jenks then he would get further in his inquiries. I have a hunch it is to show the difference between the educated and uneducated, Goon being the latter and Jenks the former.

You know what – I could go on the clear differences of class for the whole blog if I could, I mean it’s very obvious and even more so in the Find-Outers books than some of the others, I think. If you think about it the fact that the children are smarter than the police constable it’s quite a giveaway. However I should actually go over the story for you.

As with all good adventures it is almost the holidays and Bets is excited for her brother Pip to come home from school, as well as the arrival of Larry, Daisy and Fatty. She has been interested in the young boy next door, who is older than all the find outers, but still a child really. Luke is his name as I’ve mentioned before and he is the gardener’s boy for Mr Tupping who is employed by Lady Candling. Lady Candling is a collector of Siamese cats and has some that make  a lot of money in shows. Her most prized is a cat called Dark Queen who can be identified by having a ring of white fur around her tail where another cat bit her and thus is immediately recognisable. It is Dark Queen as you can guess who goes missing, not once but twice.

Now the way the cat ‘disappears’ under the gardener’s boy’s nose is remarkable, both times, and the children are ingenious at trying to work out how it occurred. Fittingly through all the teasing she endures Bets is the one who finds the main ‘glues’ and helps wrap up the mystery wonderfully well. She notices the smell of turpentine, and that its on a cat that isn’t Dark Queen.

Fatty of course puts it all together before anyone else, and seems to be edging out as the natural leader in this book, even though Larry tries to pull rank by reminding Fatty that he is the oldest. The dynamic of the children has changed from the first book, Fatty is no longer the big outsider, but a settled member of the group now. He is still occasionally boastful and the others tell him to shush, but its not as forceful as before, and as I mentioned he is beginning to take the lead away from Larry. Speaking of Larry, and naturally Daisy, they don’t seem to have much to do with this adventure it is mostly down to Pip, Bets and Fatty – not forgetting Buster  – solve a lot of this mystery without the Daykins having much input.

As someone said in the comments of the Monday post, it doesn’t appear to have a lot of atmosphere, and I have to agree with Chrissie, this is a very flat mystery. It’s all done in back gardens and feels much younger than I suppose it is. Given the age for the target audience is the same as the Famous Five, the Disappearing Cat seems woefully under developed.

Still a good read and I suppose it has decent character development, but the plot is thin, I hope the Mystery of the Secret Room is a stronger story, because its unusal for a series of Blyton’s to lose its spark so quickly.

Anyway, let me know what you think in the comments! Do you like the Disappearing Cat? Am I totally wrong? Let me know!

 

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The Island of Adventure on TV

Several people have told me that The Adventure Series got a better adaptation than The Secret Series did, so here I am about to test that theory.

adventure series dvd


FIRST UP: THE THEME SONG

This sounds like it should be part of a classic 80s film montage, but it is actually quite catchy too. It makes marginally more sense than the one from the Secret Series as well. (My boyfriend did complain about the lack of secret encoooounters!)

Wherever we go only the brave will follow.
Together we stand, that’s what friends are for.
Forever we try, we know the final sacrifice.
Whatever the price,
And when the night falls – don’t be afraid.
But whisper that forever you’ll stay,
Whatever the danger you gotta be strong
So trust in your heart
You can’t go wrong, be true
I’ll always stand by you x 2
I’ll always be true
I’ll always stand by you


THE PRE-CREDIT SCENE

As with all the Secret Series episodes this one opens with a short dramatic scene. A man runs along dark, dramatic cliffs carrying a bag. Hulk Hogan, with grey hair badly in need of a cut, is chasing him. The man trips, his bag explodes sending money flying everywhere. Hulk Hogan laughs.

Can't you just tell this is a baddie?

Can’t you just tell this is a baddie?


MEETING THE CHILDREN

They are playing paintball in the woods when we first see them. Kiki startles them and Jack falls from the tree to get shot at. Jack, Lucy-Ann and Philip already know each other from being at this summer activity camp together.

As a token nod to Philip’s animal taming abilities he rescues a ferret from those plastic rings you get on beer cans. “Careful – it’s liable to bite!” Jack warns in a lovely piece of stiff dialogue, but Philip says he’s good with animals. Not that he encounters another animal for the entire episode.

Lucy-Ann is played by the same actress as Laura from the Secret Series, so if I start talking about Laura, I mean Lucy-Ann. Jack is faintly red-haired and so Lucy-Ann is nothing like him – she also doesn’t look any younger than he is.

The reason for the Trents not being able to go home is that their Uncle Peter has chicken pox and can’t fly home, their Auntie Steph is stuck in quarantine with him. I suppose that’s sort of Blytonesque. He could just have broken his leg, though!

Philip has ‘just moved into a massive house’ so instead of the Trents being stuck with an awful neighbour he invites them to stay with him.

Over at Craggy Tops is a blonde woman who must be Mrs Mannering. I suspect there will be no Uncle Jocelyn and no poor Aunt Polly, then. Joe is a pleasant seeming white man who even offers to pick Philip up from the station, and is helping with the opening of the Mannering gallery.

Philip phones and Mrs M is disconcerted to know he’s bringing ‘two orphans and a parrot’. Joe asks, jokingly, if he won the raffle. And there in an uncle – ‘ancient’ Uncle Joss! I suppose there has to be someone to produce old maps still, unless Jack could have downloaded them to the tablet-type device he has. Uncle Joss is British and a war veteran who is always talking about what fever he had in Rangoon (a little Blyton reference?) and so on. He’s described as seeming grumpy but a good laugh, really.

Surprisingly Dinah runs and hugs Philip – his lack of animals clearly means she likes him more. A somewhat conspicuous open top roadster has been following the Mannerings around – could this be a full-head-of-haired Bill Smugs?


CRAGGY TOPS

Craggy Tops is naturally a bit of a let-down. OK, it’s by the sea but it’s a regular large house – extremely similar to Spiggy Holes. It may actually be the exact same house. It’s neither crumbling nor built into the rocks. I suspect there will be no mattress on the floor of a window-less tower. There IS a cellar at least, which was supposed to be an old smuggler’s house.

"Craggy Tops" and a less than gloomy island.

“Craggy Tops” and a less than gloomy island.

The Isle of Gloom is rather long and near, and only slightly obscured by fog. Joe openly tells them that it’s no longer inhabited, but there were copper mines over there. He does decline to take them over, though, saying the tides and rocks are too dangerous. I really can’t figure him out. Is he a criminal mastermind? Is he a good guy? Is he a good guy who is being forced into doing bad things?


“BILL SMUGS”

So Bill comes to the gallery opening and introduces himself as Bill Cunningham – not very good secret agent behaviour! He wants to buy a painting of the Isle of Gloom, but Joe tries to tell him it isn’t for sale. Bill charms Mrs M into having the painting now, instead of at the end of the month after the gallery display ends. He takes it back to his shack and lifts the back to reveal… a load of banknotes! I think I see Joe’s part in the illicit goings on now.

Bill, Joe and Allie

Bill, Joe and Allie

Oh Bill… what sort of secret agent opens the front door in the dark and lets himself get cracked over the head? And then lets all the money get stolen! Uncle Joss apparently went out in the night mysteriously… but as I suspected the person who attacked Bill was a woman.

Mrs M takes Bill into town to see about repairing his broken painting frame, but he arouses Jack’s suspicions by coming up with a bird that doesn’t exist. Why he didn’t just say ‘a lot of gulls’ or something… in the book they don’t figure out he’s not a real ornithologist for ages.

Bill and Mrs M are getting on very well, their romance seems to have started already. It’s a real shame they have chosen to make it seem like he could be the bad guy as we then miss out on his natural friendship with the children.

Jake – aka Hulk Hogan – is the framer. The mystery deepens.


SECRET PASSAGES AND THINGS ON THE CLIFFS

The children then do some cave exploring, in a cave that has seaweed six feet long hanging from the ceiling. They also use torches despite it being very bright inside. The hole which is extremely well-hidden in the book could not be more obvious here – it’s the size of a Mini. The boys still manage to blunder into it. At least we get a bit of Dinah/Philip arguing here.

The boys follow the tunnel and end up in the cellars of Craggy Tops.

Uncle Joss goes out wandering at night for some reason and the boys go out as well and see Jake unloading boxes from a boat. He chases them into the caves where they are able to escape to the house. This rather falls flat on screen as unlike in the book he just laughs and leaves them. In the book Jo-Jo sits and waits all day then is horrified that they got past him and back to the house without him knowing.


THE ADVENTURE REALLY STARTS

The children are so suspicious of Bill they want to tell Joe all about it, but Bill then takes them out in his boat. He has a huge motor-boat with a cabin, sat-nav and sonar. This wins the children over a little, though they suspect the sonar-lure they have dropped for him is so he can go back to the island alone and do something nefarious.

I suppose it’s fairly clever – making Bill very suspicious and later having Joe seem suss. I’m sure children who hadn’t read the books wouldn’t know who was up to what. But why does Bill use children he hardly knows to set up the sonar? It seems very foolish.

After the trip Dinah overhears Bill on his radio and sees a gun through the window. The children steal his boat (they feel justified as they “know” he is up to no good) and go to the island. In the mines they all see money being printed and get caught by Jake/Hulk Hogan.

High-tech forgery

High-tech forgery

The mines seem very modern – all brick walls and proper lighting. They don’t seem at all like old under-sea mines. Jack is the only one to get locked in a room.

"Undersea mines"

“Undersea mines”

The others end up in a mine cart and take a dramatic ride out into the open. The enormous boat is not at all visible or suspicious in broad daylight… no surprise Joe sees them coming back without Jack.

Joe cuts the phone wires at Craggy Tops to stop anyone calling for help. Philip goes off to use Bill’s radio (in the book he goes to get Bill’s help as they trust him, and comes acros the radio by chance). Uncle Joss has been tied up and gagged, and Bill drops bombshell that Joe’s a forger.


THE RESCUE

So, how to rescue Jack? Joe has stolen Bill’s boat. Nobody has to pore over old maps, and there is no sense of history at all. Dinah just glances at a framed map on the wall (a really bland detail-less one which had been left by previous owners) and sees a dotted line between the island and the house. Then they easily find an enormous trap door in the cellars.

Bill is a poor secret agent again and is very loud in the tunnels, allowing them all to be caught. There is lots more pointless torch pointing in perfectly well-lit areas.

Too little night-filter

Too little night-filter

Mrs M returns home to find Uncle Joss alone. “You’d better have a ginger nut, my dear,” he says before breaking the news.

The ?army have been drafted in via helicopter to come to the rescue, and the men do plan to blow up the mines. Bill picks the lock and they get out of the room, while Mrs M bravely goes to head down the tunnel. It’s rather late, though, as the explosives have already gone off causing an atrocious CGI flood to rush through the tunnels.

They escape without having to float their way up a mine shaft, to find that most of the men have been caught by the army. Only Joe is missing and he shoots Kiki then runs away and Bill’s first in pursuit… but Joe falls off a cliff in a clumsy moment (think Gaston at the end of Beauty and the Beast).

Don’t worry, by the way, Kiki was fine.


FINAL THOUGHTS

So. That was… ok, really? It was certainly interesting throughout, and enjoyable.

The downside:

It’s a real pity Bill’s role has been messed with so much, I think that is my biggest problem. I don’t mind having Mrs M in it so much, her gallery being used to hide the forged money was a clever tie-in. Philip’s lack of animals and Dinah’s lack of temper are also disappointing. I may have missed a few details but I was left wondering about the identity of the woman who attacked Bill, and whether Uncle Joss ever did go wandering at night.

The up-side:

The acting was better and there were no creepy monks or strange magics. They did retain a great deal of the original characters and plots even if they had to change them around a fair bit.


Posted in Blyton on TV, The Adventure Series DVD | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Monday #178

It has been a busy weekend for me, back and forth to Derby for my goddaughter’s christening has really left me worn out. Luckily Fiona knows what blog she’s bringing you this week and it’s a review for the first episode of the Adventure Series TV show for Wednesday. I’m sure we’re all dying to find out what its like!

I don’t know what I’ll do yet, I shall have a proper think when I’ve had some sleep and see if I can find some books I should read and review. In fact, I shall try and review the second Find-Outers book, as it has been quite a while since I looked at the first one.

I shall leave you with some meadow flowers and blue skies I took some pictures of some time ago in the sun. Hope it brings our sunny weather about once more!

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The Famous Five 70s Style: Five Go Off to Camp Part 2

L_Dvm140003dLast week I brought you part one of Five Go off to Camp, and this week it’s time for part two.

I suppose the question we’re asking this week is: can the second part of the adventure be as true to the book as the first? Shall we find out?

The start is strong, with a recap of the previous episode and then we start with the boys heading back to camp with Jock after they have been to spot the spook train for the first time. The nighttime filter at this point isn’t too bad, and you can see all three boys clearly as if the scenes were being shot at night, or at least early evening. I suspect by this point the idea is that it’s early the next morning and in the summer things might be getting lighter.

The row between the boys and George kicked off in the last episode, and comes to a head in this episode when Julian, Dick and Jock decide to give the string George has tied across the entrance to their tent a quick tug to wake her up. Poor George is furious unsurprisingly when she realises the boys have been and gone without her. Unlike the 90s episode we are not privy to the row that happens  between them, which is one of my favourite parts. Anyway George goes off in a huff and spectacularly manages to find herself in the tunnel with the spook train!

This second episode feels a bit rushed, as if the producers suddenly realised all they had to fit in, Jock for example is barely given any screen time, or lines, and just follows Julian and Dick around like a young kid brother – in fact the height difference does rather suggest that he was younger than the other two.

Most the the bits and pieces in the tunnel are hard to make out, I don’t know where they filmed that, whether it was actually in tunnels or a set, but the pitch black really doesn’t help the filming. However we do have some good acting from the cast, really working to make themselves look and appear afraid when the men come pouncing out of the tunnel. There isn’t a lot of actual interest in the train, as in the book they get on board to see what the gang are smuggling. That doesn’t happen here, almost immediately after the boys are captured, George frees them and the hunt to get out of the tunnel is on. As I’ve said before its almost as if the producers realised how much they had left to put in and just rushed through the ‘exciting’ stuff.

Overall its a neat little episode, some of the content however could have been used to better effect in the first episode, had some of the faffing around been taken out, but close to the book still, but none of the real excitement and tension you get from the book when the train is discovered and the boys are walking the railway tracks. Some of Enid Blyton’s best scenes (in my humble opinion) are in this book and they don’t seem to have made their way into this adaptation. Maybe it didn’t translate onto the screen, maybe it just wasn’t possible to recreate some of these bits and pieces, which is a shame.

Overall it’s a solid episode but not as good as the first part, which took it’s time, used the best scenes but may have just dallied a little bit when more important pieces of the story could have been used. Anyway, as I say, a solid episode, just a shame it felt so rushed.

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The Ragamuffin Mystery

And so I have reached the final book in the series. As with many of Blyton’s series the last book seems to be thought of as the weakest, yet I’m sure there will be some people who will hold this as their favourite.

the ragamuffin mystery


A CARAVANNING HOLIDAY

Roger, Diana and their mother along with Miss Pepper are going caravanning for three weeks. Mr Lynton was supposed to be joining them but had to go off to America instead (amazing how often parents and relatives have to rush off to the United States when it’s convenient to the plot) and his place has been taken by Miss Pepper. Surprisingly the children are actually disappointed by their father’s absence as apparently he’s ‘so much fun on holiday’. I can only imagine that for holidays Mr Lynton is replaced with a much more pleasant person, as he has only ever seemed grumpy, cross, impatient and, as Diana would put it – mouldy.

Anyway, man or no man, the holiday is on. Mrs Lynton and Miss Pepper are to share the driving. There is only enough room in the caravan for three, so poor Roger will have to sleep in the back of the car. They only manage a brief period of idyllic hols, eating, bathing, and so on before it’s rather spoiled. Mrs Lynton’s sister has been taken ill, and Mrs Lynton has to rush off to her. That leaves Miss Pepper, Diana and Roger with a caravan but no car.

Here the ‘girl power’ of Miss Pepper fails us entirely. We are used to her being no-nonsense and quite capable but now she quite falls apart. While she does make some contingency plans, the only reach as far as hiring a car and taking the caravan back to her own home for the remainder of the three weeks. They can’t go back to the Lynton home as it is shut up and – shock horror – cook’s away so they would have to fend for themselves. Probably one of the most upper-middle class bits of any Blyton story when a nanny can’t fathom taking care of herself and two children without hired help.

Then, Mr Martin (Barney’s father) steps in and Miss Pepper practically swoons at her knight in shining armour. He has a car. He will boldly and bravely drive them to a peaceful sea-side location for their holiday and then collect them at the end of it. He even makes telephone calls to check on Mrs Lynton and her sister, and gets everything organised.

As you may have noticed, someone, or rather two someones are missing. Barney and Miranda turn up with Mr Martin of course, but where are Snubby and Loony? For once they are not with the Lyntons for the hols. Don’t worry, though, Mr Martin even has Snubby and Loony’s whereabouts in hand.


PENRHYNDENDRAITH

He takes the three stranded carvanners into Wales and to a little place called Penrhyndendraith (which I cannot even try to pronounce) where there is an old, half-ruined inn (think Craggy Tops except less wind-swept) an ice-cream shop and lots of golden sand.

The inn is run by Mr and Mrs Jones (look you, whateffer… sorry, wrong book). Mr Jones is a very good cook, his cooking is very good. Very good cooking, he trained in London, he is a very good cook. Mrs Jones is hard to shut up, but eventually she lets them upstairs to pick rooms. Miss Pepper wants the one with the best view, but Mrs Jones is quite insistent that they take their Best Room.

Here’s the next strangeness. Miss Pepper has now regained enough of her peppery-ness to argue with the owner of the inn. She demands to have the room she wants. To be fair, Mrs Jones’ arguments are not the most convincing (why she didn’t just say that room was reserved… well, we know why. It would have ruined the mystery.)

So by now we know there is something up with Miss Pepper and Diana’s room. Mr Jones tells them there are noises to be heard. (Twang dongs, perhaps?)

Barney and Roger are camping in the caravan outside, and soon Snubby arrives by train. Snubby had been staying with the aunt who was taken ill – and needed to be out of the way. Like his first arrival in The Rockingdown Mystery he gets a different train and arrives early. This time he arrives looking even more like  a dirty ragamuffin as he has travelled the rest of the by by hay cart.

And here, at last, the true mystery begins. His clothes are yet to be sent on and the ones he is wearing need washed so he goes to the shop and buys second hand fisher-boy clothing. Thus clothed like another boy in the area, who also happens to have a small black dog, he is ready to be involved in a case of mistaken identity.

Dai, the fisher-boy in question has been asked by his uncle – the terribly un-pc Morgan the Cripple – to pass on a coded letter to someone else.  This someone else is a bearded man who finds Snubby trying to decipher a perfectly innocent coded message from a school chum. Naturally he assumes Snubby is Dai and snatches the letter away.

Snubby is only baffled until he spots Dai and they work out what has happened. It’s all a little too easily worked out, and Snubby getting the letter from Dai is similarly overly easy.

By now two famous and important men are staying at the inn – one of them being the coded-letter recipient. Snubby manages to hide from him for a day or two but is finally spotted. The two men seem shady, and are proved to be so when the famous ornithologist is easily tricked by a few questions about made-up birds.

The two men also hold very loud conversations with Morgan about the missing letter which explains what will happen on Friday night. It’s all far too easy for the children to overhear this and go exploring on Friday night. In a scene almost straight out of Spiggy Holes they go into a cave and up tunnels, then get trapped by the tide. Going the other way, they find a trap door and end up back in the inn.


FINAL THOUGHTS

I think as my review/synopsis shows, there’s a great deal of inconsequential fluff at the start, then the actual mystery is quit short and lacking in depth. There are no real twists or turns. There was scope for the decoding of the letter perhaps or at least some sort of obstacle thrown in their way.

Barney has lost some of what made him different, too. He is now as bland as Roger unfortunately, a little too sensible and ready to squash Snubby’s enthusiasms. He also telephones his father very quickly to ask for help investigating the two men at the inn.

There are also little things clearly re-used from previous Barney books without anyone noticing. The little shop that sells everything is just like the one from Rockingdown, and not too dissimilar from the one at Ring ‘o Bells also, yet they are all amazed. Diana even makes her witches and fairytale comments, without any real merit.

Something I haven’t even mentioned is Dafydd – the little boy at the inn. He and his goose add little to the story other than to pad it out with scenes of Miranda and Loony chasing the goose. He does let Loony out of the caravan, making Snubby identifiable to the men, but Loony could have escaped due to a faulty lock. He also shows them where the tunnel is from the cave – but that’s something they were more than capable of doing themselves given the opportunity.

So yes, unfortunately this is rather a weak end to the series. It’s not a particulary satisfying mystery, it lacks a lot of the humour of earlier titles (Loony doesn’t steal a single mat, brush or towel at the inn) and it is padded out a great deal with the early caravanning to-ing and fro-ing and then the silliness with Dafydd and his goose.

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Monday #177

So here’s what we’ve got coming up this week:

wedfri4 (2)

P.S. Is it wrong that I want to print off some of these Enid Blyton activities and do them myself?

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Famous Five 70s Style: Five Go Off to Camp Part 1

L_Dvm140003d

Famous Five DVD cover part one.

Five Go Off to Camp has been split into two parts – good! I say. It’s one of the more mysterious mysteries, and one that I cannot help but be drawn to. The 90s take on the book was unfortunately short because of the time restraints but there are so many levels to it that some were neglected, such as Anne thinking she’s sitting on a volcano. This is why I am so delighted that the 70s adaptations decided to make it a two parter, written by the very talented Gail Renard, who I have had the pleasure to meet on an Enid Blyton Society Day.

The detail in this episode is next to perfect, there are all the signs of a proper Blyton mystery, Mr Luffy being late to pick up the children, the funny old car that he drives with the trailer attached. Its all very true the book. We don’t see much of the jounrey but when they arrive the children get to camp a little way away from Mr Luffy and their adventuring really begins.

Very quickly the Five discover the deserted railway yard with the bricked up tunnel. They also meet the one-legged watchman, Wooden Legged Sam. He is quite a bit more like the description in the book, being tall and gangly, whereas the 90s series casting doesn’t do him justice. John Barrett was a superb piece of casting. Barrett only makes two brief appearances in the first part of Camp, but they’re enough to get the story moving and make an impression. Wooden Leg Sam is the one to tell the children about the spook trains and that starts the adventure.

I enjoy this story a lot because of the ghostly element to it; the feeling that there could be something completely un-explainable about these trains. I mean the first time I heard the story as a child. I was completely entranced in the ghostliness of it. I wanted to go hunting for the spook trains with the Five.

We meet Jock, who in the books I always assume is older than he appears in the episode. In fact he even looks younger than Jennifer Thanisch who plays Anne, but I am pretty sure in the book that he comes across at least as old as Dick. Jock shows them around the farm and they come across the vans in a barn when one of the puppies decides to run inside. This, as avid readers know, has masses to do with the trains but they are rather forgotten by the Five, especially when the idea of food comes into their heads. Over dinner, when telling Jock about the spook trains Mr Andrews turns up. Now he is very much like he appears in the book, but I found that he didn’t have the gravitas of the character. He is supposed to be the ‘cat’s paw’ but still the man is organizing men, he needs to have a spark. It’s not there unfortunately.

Last but not least (as we have another episode to look at next week) the blow up between George and Julian about George accompanying the boys to the railway yard at night and leaving Anne behind on her own. It’s handled well by Marcus Harris and Michele Gallagher who both know how to act out an argument convincingly. The only thing I didn’t like about this argument is that it took place at the lunch table, and I’m pretty sure in the book it takes place without the possibility of grownups overhearing. Its always an argument that bugs me because common sense dictates that really, they should either pair off, or all go. Now Anne won’t go, and that’s fine, but George could really do with being gracious enough to realize that. However without her hot temper and attempts to follow the boys we wouldn’t have the second part of the adventure really.

Overall, it’s a positive adaptation from the book for Camp, well the first part anyway. We shall see what happens with the next part next week, but so far the 70s series is really coming off as the better adaption of Blyton’s books than the 90s series. Let’s hope the praise continues.

 

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