Now I know I did the 90s series in strict Blytonian order but as a pure mistake (or was it careful planning?) I ended up looking at Five Go to Smugglers Top Part 1 instead of Five Run Away Together which was filmed for the second season. Strangely both versions of Five Run Away Together are both placed in the second series of their respective adaptations.
Anyway enough about Five Run Away Together for now, we’ll pick that up another time.
Fiona’s favourite book is split into two parts in both adaptations which means that we’re able to have the characters explore the storyline in a lot more depth than a standard 25 minute episode. Both sets of episodes have their positives and negatives, so lets start with part one’s positives.
The house used in this version is very close to how I imagined the actual Smuggler’s Top. It has the big and rambling feel to it and has the hidden tunnels and passages. We have all the bits such as the tower for the flashing lights, and Sooty’s carefully set up buzzer to tell him when someone is coming into his room. However that thing is so loud I am never sure how the people approaching don’t hear it!
However that is neither here nor there! We at least have a full compliment of characters for this series.We have the usually forgotten Marybelle, and I say usually forgotten because I honestly do forget she exists sometimes. She doesn’t play a big part in the books and quite frankly isn’t missed much from my point of view. She doesn’t add much to this adaptation apart from being an apparent link to Anne, I think they’re supposed to go to school together. It links them in I suppose but it doesn’t really allow for George in the picture because she seems not to acknowledge Marybelle.
Michele Gallagher’s George once again feels underwhelming, as her reactions as George leave lots to be desired. In the book, George is at her most explosive, worried about Timmy, worried that they’ll be found out to be having him in the house and panicked when she can’t get to him. This leads to one of the most explosive scenes in the book becoming very very tame with no real oomph in it at all. George is at her rudest and fiercest when she tries to rescue Timmy through Mr Lenoir’s study and gets caught, but we have none of that here. The scene where she discovers her father and Sooty missing is also underwhelming as there is no real panic to her acting. Not that Gallagher wasn’t a fantastic George in her ways but this was not her crowning glory.
One thing that bugs me about these episodes is that the children were not allowed to film at night so filters had to be used which makes the night episodes very dark. Not to mention that during other supposed night shots the curtains aren’t drawn properly and you can see daylight though them which spoils the illusion. You can see this clearly in the scene after Sooty has seen the lights on the marshes and from the tower and he shows Dick and Julian and they get caught by Mr Lenoir. I mean they could have at least blacked out the windows surely?
So there we are for the moment, not a highly atmospheric episode with some let downs on the acting and staging side, but otherwise quite true to the book! Next week, I shall look at part 2 and we shall see how the story concludes.