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Adam Adamant Lives!

We’ve recently been watching the surviving episodes of Adam Adamant Lives! – that iconic British television series first broadcast in 1966-67.Adam Adamant Lives! - The Complete Collection (5 Disc Box Set) [1966] [DVD]

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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Patrick Macnee RIP

Patrick Macnee RIP
We were very saddened to hear of the death of the actor Patrick Macnee, star of the classic television “The Avengers” at the grand age of 93.

This quintessential English-born actor almost defined the word ‘gentleman’, in his role of John Steed in that ground-breaking series, so much a part of life to anyone who grew up in the 1960s. “The Avengers” started as a fairly traditional spy and crime programme, but then broke its own boundaries as it transformed into a series that mixed fantasy and reality with great aplomb.

It featured most of the great actors of the period, and gave us an unforgettable line-up of co-stars including originally Ian Hendry, who was actually the lead in early episodes, Honor Blackman as Cathy Gale, Diana Rigg as Emma Peel and Linda Thorson as Tara King.

But Patrick Macnee’s John Steed was never eclipsed by any of these talents. His Steed was probably the coolest character in the history of British television. A man who could emerge from a fight without a crease in his immaculately tailored suit, bowler hat still in place and umbrella to hand.

Patrick Macnee played many interesting roles over the course of a long career, including films such as “The Battle of the River Plate”, “The Howling” and “The Sea Wolves”, and was a staple in American TV programmes for many years, appearing as a guest star in a great many series. He played Dr Watson to the Sherlock Holmes of two old friends, Roger Moore and Christopher Lee. He acted in “Hamlet” with Lee when he was a pupil at Eton.

But it is as Steed that he will be remembered. An unforgettable character played by an actor who was every bit as iconic as the role he played.

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