Adam Adamant Lives! – A Vintage Year For Scoundrels

Having worked on Doctor Who, Verity Lambert was already well versed in the difficulties of bringing a television concept to the screen. Like Who, Adam Adamant Lives! had a “pilot” episode which was reshot, but in the case of AAL!, the changes were rather more dramatic ….

Donald Cotton’s original script was deemed to be unworkable, so the majority of his work was binned (only the opening ten minutes – set in 1902 – were retained). Also deemed surplus to requirements was the original Georgina (Ann Holloway). With only a handful of production photographs existing to document her brief association with the show, it’s impossible to know for sure why she didn’t work out. Lambert’s assertion that Holloway simply wasn’t sixties enough has always seemed a little odd to me.

But with a new script and a fresh Georgina (Juliet Harmer) the series could try again. Cotton’s surviving material (all shot on film) is rather entertaining – it firmly establishes the 1902 Adam, a man who tends to throw his assailants off high balconies at Windsor Castle and then ask questions later. But his sense of honour is obvious – an adversary can be respected if they play the game, but a traitor is beyond the pale.

So when his one true love – Louise (Veronica Strong) – turns out to be in cahoots with the evil Face (Peter Ducrow) poor Adam is rather distraught. Never raising his voice above a whisper (as well as being shot out of focus) the Face makes the most of his limited screentime. His masterplan (encasing Adam in a solid block of ice, thereby ensuring he exists forever in a living hell) does beg a few questions mind you, such as how the ice never melts.

This question was still bothering me some sixty years later when a group of workmen uncovered Adam – still perfectly frozen. Oh well, you have to accept that plot vagaries are part and parcel of AAL! Now we’re in 1966, there’s one more notable film sequence – this occurs  as Adam wanders dazedly around the West End of London, encountering Georgina for the first time – before the series largely switches over to videotape.

Contemporary reviews noted that Adam’s disorientated stumbling went on a bit (which it does) but it’s still an interesting spot of guerrilla filming. Lambert and Gerald Harper had different recollections about it – Lambert was sure that they had permission before shooting, whilst Harper remembered dashing from one location to the next in order to keep out of the clutches of the police. Certainly most of the passers-by seem to be simply ordinary members of the public, unaware they’ve briefly become television stars, rather than extras.

The comic possibilities between the upright Adam and the groovy Georgina are successfully mined. Adam’s shock at being left with an unattended Georgina in her flat (not to mention his amazement that she wasn’t – as he first thought – a boy) are entertaining. Although the entertainment ratchets down a notch when the main plot comes into play.

If the story of the villainous Margo Kane (Freda Kane) and her dopey henchman was really a step up from the storyline in the pilot then goodness knows how feeble that must have been. The shock of switching from film to videotape is most obvious during the fight sequence in Georgina’s flat. Even though the VT sequences were transferred later to film to allow for tighter editing, there’s only so much than could be done – so they end up looking a little rough round the edges.

But overall it’s not a bad debut and given the production difficulties it’s possibly surprising that it turned out as well as it did.

13 thoughts on “Adam Adamant Lives! – A Vintage Year For Scoundrels

  1. It would not surprise me if Cotton’s script was too “cerebral” for what was wanted. They (BBC) clearly wanted a dashing Avenger and no real continuing theme. From what I learnt of the Cotton script is that it sets up a running narrative in regards to the Face

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  2. I enjoyed the pilot (thanks YouTube!) but struggled to take any of it seriously. I know it’s pretty tongue in cheek but it’s possible Gerald Harper is playing it a bit too straight. And also, the sequence where he falls off that landing into the lair of the Face was hysterically funny, and for the wrong reasons.

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    • I think Harper pitches it just about right – if he was too knowing then I think that some part of the joke would be lost. As I’ve probably mentioned before (and no doubt will again) it’s just a shame that the archive representation is so skewered towards the first series – there’s a sense that by series two AAL! had begun to find its feet a little more, but alas there’s little visual evidence to support this.

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      • I understand from one of your recent tweets that a company called Kaleidoscope is currently animating the missing Adam Adamant episodes. Do you know anything about this project?

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      • Hi Dennis. This tweet from Kalediscope fills in a little of the background (it’s the episode The Bascardi Affair which they’ve located the audio of) –

        They confirmed recently that they’re still working on the animation, although it’s not clear what will happen to it once it’s finished (it might be made commercially available or possibly it’ll just be screened at one of their events).

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  3. Love Adam Adamant, these articles are going to prompt me to dig out the DVDs again (and maybe my annual too!) It’s a shame in a way, but the series was already behind the times in terms of budget and compared with what The Avengers and ITC productions were doing on the other side, it couldn’t last – mind you, Doctor Who did, I suppose! I still love it though.

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