We’ve recently been watching the surviving episodes of Adam Adamant Lives! – that iconic British television series first broadcast in 1966-67.
I say, surviving episodes, for about half the episodes from the two series have been lost, the recording tapes wiped by the BBC soon after original broadcast. What survives makes you yearn for what we cannot see. The BBC is still searching for lost episodes of this and other programmes. See their website and contact them if you can help. Some taped episodes were transferred to film for foreign sales and it’s quite possible that some survived.
For those who haven’t met Adam Adamant, the premise is simple: Adam Adamant is a gentleman adventurer at the end of Queen Victoria’s reign. In 1902, he is lured into a trap by Louise – the woman in his life – and a masked villain called The Face. He is frozen in a block of ice and emerges in 1966, to face a very different world, an England that is truly swinging.
Being a Victorian gentlemen, in every sense of the world, courteous to women, shocked by some of the modernities of life in 1966, there is a great deal of fun to be had here, as Adam is called upon to help fight present-day evils and villains and re-encounter some old enemies.
He is helped in this task by a 1960s girl called Georgina Jones, an admirer of the adventures of the historic Adam, who has a penchant for crashing into his cases, and a valet William E. Simms, whose provides us with cynical limericks and a supposed detestation of Miss Jones.
This sort of series succeeds or falls on the casting of the leads. Gerald Harper, as Adam, is the very epitome of the English gentleman, suave and handsome, polite and brave. Juliet Harmer, as Georgina, is so 1960s girl it’s quite incredible. She sums up that whole very colourful era and is real fun. Jack May is terrific as Simms, often stealing his scenes.
Adam is a superb fighter, both with fisticuffs and his sword-stick. I remember watching this as a boy and quite envying the sword-stick. This image of a man in a cape with one of those deadly weapons, never quite vanished from my mind, as you’ll know if you’ve read my novel The Shadow of William Quest, which owes something to the notion of similarly-armed gentlemen adventurers – though my Quest is nowhere near as pleasant to people as Adam Adamant.
Much of the joy of Adam Adamant Lives! is revisiting the 1960s, the last optimistic decade for us Britons, before it all started to go downhill. A time when it was taken for granted that there would be social justice and the world would become a better place. Ah, well… But how lovely to have programmes such as this, to see London again before it was wrecked by skyscrapers, the fashions of the time, the Mini car that Adam drives. And the lovely thought of Adam reconstructing his Victorian home on top of a multi-storey car park!
All this and terrific adventures too. The stories hold up really well, and there are a number of familiar acting faces both as friends and enemies. With Adam Adamant Lives! there was a crossover of production staff and writers, with other great series of the time, such as The Avengers and Doctor Who. The basic idea seems to have come from Sydney Newman, the producer was Verity Lambert, writers include Tony Williamson and Brian Clemens. If you love The Avengers you should enjoy Adam Adamant Lives!
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