So here we are, starting to look at the 70s TV adapatations of the Famous Five novels. As you well know I’ve done a review of the 90s TV series, so now we need to look into how well the 70s ones were adapted to the screen.
Five Go Adventuring Again is not one of my favourite novels, neither is it one of my favourite adaptions in either series. If I am honest the 70s one seems a but more ‘loosely’ based on the story than the 90s one. We start off with George being at home because she’s had measles and her cousins arriving to find out that there is already a tutor in residence at Kirrin Cottage.
At first when we see Mr Roland, George seems to like him, even if Timmy doesn’t. This is a change of character for George as she usually sticks by Timmy and his instincts. Later on when Mr Roland is found to be creeping around downstairs and ‘mistaken’ by Tim to be a burglar, George is apologetic to the tutor until her father bans Tim from the house. Almost instantly George’s attitude towards the tutor changes, she unfairly refers to him as her cousins’ ‘precious’ Mr Roland when they haven’t been the ones singing his praises. However that aside I think Michele Gallagher does manage to perfectly display the ups and downs of George’s temper. She captures the quick changes of temper very very well, even if there is one point when she’s in her father’s study where she does almost cry – which we all know is something that George would never do. I don’t know whether this was something to do with making George a more relatable character or toning down her ‘boyish’ streak.
The rest of the characters, especially the main cast are probably quite well matched to their book bound counter-parts. There is no over the top-ness from Marcus Harris who plays Julian. He doesn’t have the over acted, over pompous way of playing Julian that Marco Williamson has. Gary Russell as Dick does well as the cheeky chappy, and once more there is none of the over the top acting that we got with the 90s series. I would pair the two actors, who played Dick, Gary Russell and Paul Child, as the best actors as they managed to portray their characters the truest. Michele Gallagher was a very responsive but passive George, and even people who adore the 70s series don’t go mad on her portrayal of George. Usually the talented Jemima Rooper is cited as being the perfect George, this does not mean that Gallagher was not up to par. She gave the viewers the a very credible version of George. As Anne, Jennifer Thanisch is almost too brave for the scared little girl in the books but is very good at bringing out Anne’s sweet and caring nature.
Our supporting cast in this one is made up of Aunt Fanny played by Susanna Best, Uncle Quentin played by Michael Hinz and Rogers played by Friedrich von Thun. Hinz and von Thun have a slight distracting hint of a German accent as half of the money for making the series was put forward by a German company and wanted their contribution noted. Hinz doesn’t really give off the scattiness of Uncle Quentin from the books, only the sternness. Somewhere in between the 70s and 90s Uncle Quentins we may find the perfect one, but the balance has not been discovered.
Just a quick word about the location and time of year. We had this problem during the 90s series that some of the books are set in winter wonderlands and yet filming in high summer meant that this was out of the question and we have the same here. Over the two years they were in production both series of the Famous Five were filmed in the summer meaning that there was no access to the frozen grounds and snow that was required by the book. The children are not kept inside because of the snow and Mr Roland is not trapped because of it. In fact it is Timmy who saves the day in the end by pouncing on Mr Roland.
Overall the plot is followed quite closely in this one, with a few minor changes for example when they discover the tunnel and where it leads, instead of all of the children going up to explore the rooms, only George and Julian go. The information from Uncle Quentin’s experiment isn’t stolen but photographed and the only hint that someone had been in the office was from the broken test tubes. It is the little things that get left out or changed and I don’t know if that’s just because they ran out of time or they didn’t translate onto the screen well. Another thing with the 70s series to bear in mind is that they did try and update the books, modernising them in attempt to keep them relevant and children interested.
Anyway we have a good episode that doesn’t let the book down too badly, a fairly strong cast who portray their characters pretty well. Its a good start following the confused situation of Five on Kirren Island Again, which was made into the first adventure. If you haven’t watched the 70s series yet I suggest you do. You’re in for a treat.