Redcap – Epitaph for a Sweat

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Sergeant Mann has travelled to Aden in order to question Sergeant Rolfe (Leonard Rossiter).  Rolfe, an unbending soldier of the old school, is admired for his fighting qualities but has few friends amongst the men. Accused of beating up a local, he denies the charge – but the matter becomes much more complex after Rolfe dies on manoeuvres.

I’ve said it before and I’ll probably say it again, but Redcap featured some excellent guest casts. In today’s episode we have Rossiter, Kenneth Farringdon, John Horsley, Ian McShane, John Noakes and Mike Pratt. That’s not too shabby a line-up.

Rossiter catches the eye early on. Rolfe and Mann, as you might expect, clash quite strongly.  It’s restated in this episode that Mann is young and inexperienced and this naturally irritates an old sweat like Rolfe.  Although Rolfe denies any wrongdoing, there seems little doubt that he did viciously beat up the local – purely because he felt the “wog”  (a term which is used several times) needed to be taught a lesson.

Sergeant Rolfe may, we’re told, sometimes overstep the mark but the British army needs soldiers like that. That’s certainly the opinion of Major Coulter (John Horsley) who attempts to guide Mann into accepting this point of view. Mann doesn’t acquiesce immediately, which is another source of friction.

The Aden setting (achieved with a spot of stock footage and liberal application of fake sweat) is an interesting one. By the mid sixties it was one of the few remaining outposts of the British Empire and the pros and cons of occupation are discussed here.  Each side is allowed their viewpoint – chiefly Coulter and Asst. Sup. Yacoub (Norman Florrence) – but Richard Harris’ script isn’t a polemical one. The viewer is left to make their own mind up, although the historical distance of fifty years or more has no doubt changed the perspective somewhat.

Whilst Mann is investigating Rolfe, there’s a secondary plot bubbling away. Two young sappers, Russell (Ian McShane) and Baker (Kenneth Farringdon), are clashing time and time again. Baker is cocky and aggressive whilst Russell is passive and disinclined to respond to Baker’s taunts and jibes.  Whilst – at first – this doesn’t seem to connect to the main plot, it’s still very intriguing. Why is Russell so self-contained?

Both have little love for Rolfe, so when the pair of them – along with Morse (Roger Heathcott) and Evans (John Noakes) – head out into the desert with him, there’s an obvious question to be answered – was Rolfe’s death an accident or murder?  Having earlier questioned Rolfe, Mann now has four fresh subjects to quiz – indeed, this episode is an excellent one for showcasing Mann’s methodical approach.

Morse seems like a bit of a non-entity (he’s easily the one allocated the least lines) so can probably be discounted. And since Evans has been painted throughout as the comic relief, that leaves us with Russell and Baker as the more likely suspects.

Unlike the opening episode, there’s a satisfying conclusion to this investigation – Mann is able to extract a confession which isn’t under duress this time (even if he does play a slight trick).  The final few scenes with both McShane and Farringdon crackle very nicely – three episodes in and no duds so far.  And if this one hadn’t been an episode of Redcap then it could have slotted quite comfortably into an anthology series like Armchair Theatre.

Apart from those already mentioned, Mike Pratt has a couple of key scenes as Sergeant Bailey – possibly Rolfe’s only friend.  As you’d expect from Pratt, it’s a self-contained performance with just the odd flash of panic (at the point when Mann’s questioning becomes too probing). Much more exuberant is John Noakes’ turn as Evans. Evans is Welsh. Very, very Welsh.

During this era of television, it’s never a surprise to see British actors browning up to play ethnic roles (it upsets some today, but due to the small pool of actors available there wasn’t any alternative).  However, it’s slightly more surprising to see a Yorkshireman cast in this role.  Noakes isn’t bad (and it’s nice to see one of his handful of acting performances) but goodness, he ladles the accent on rather thickly ….

Redcap – A Town Called Love

After assaulting a German girl called Gerda, Private Pendlebury (Michael Robbins) crosses over into East Germany. He may not be prime defector material, but he’s still made welcome. Back in the West, Mann is confronted by Pendlebury’s distraught wife.  She pleads with Mann to retrieve her husband ….

There’s one really clever thing about A Town Called Love, although I have to confess that until the credits rolled I’d completely forgotten about it. Gwendolyn Watts plays two roles – Gerda (Pendlebury’s German girlfriend) and Vera (Pendlebury’s wife).

Gerda is blonde whilst Vera is a brunette. This simple act of changing hairstyles obviously helped to create the illusion that they were two different people. Or maybe I was just distracted by Gerda’s transparent negligee …..

There’s no particular reason why the two parts should have been played by the same actress, but it offered Watts a more than decent showcase for her talents. Gerda – who possibly is seeking to entrap the unwary Pendlebury into criminal activity – is the less well defined of the two, but Vera is gifted several strong scenes.  Alternating between vulnerability and calculation, she’s able to appeal to the kind-hearted Mann, who then risks his own safety by crossing over the wall in an attempt to bring Pendlebury back.

Once again, there’s so much quality in the cast.  Michael Robbins, best known for playing the long-suffering Arthur in On The Buses, is equally long-suffering here. Pendlebury is a straightforward sort of chap – after his altercation with Gerda (he says she slipped and hit her head) he hot-foots it over to the East. But he finds life to be no better there than it was in the West, so he’s easily persuaded by Mann to return and take his punishment. But there’s a nasty sting in the tale for him when he does come back.

Magda (Yootha Joyce) and Bob McGregor (Garfield Morgan) are both very welcoming to all new defectors, but only because it’s their job. Morgan’s plummy good-cheer and Joyce’s sultry seductiveness both have a very hollow feel, but then I doubt that either Pendlebury or Mann were taken in by them.

There’s a cold opening to this episode, as Mann’s now changed location and seems to have a permanent base, operating with Sergeant Coulter (Glynn Edwards) and Colonel Matherson (Peter Copley). Neither appear again though, so this posting presumably was only temporary. That’s a pity, as both characters had scope for future development – Coulter’s friendly opposition with Mann (they have very different opinions about Pendlebury) and Matherson’s avuncular but steely command style could easily have been examined in more depth across a series of episodes.

Not quite as gripping as the first episode, possibly because there’s the sense that Mann isn’t going to remain in the East for very long (it would have been a short series had he done so) there’s still enough character conflict to keep things ticking along nicely.

 

Redcap – It’s What Comes After

Sergeant Mann’s investigation into a soldier who went AWOL is an open and shut case. But it indirectly leads onto a more puzzling affair – why has a previously upstanding officer, Captain Lynne (Keith Barron), suddenly started to act in a very erratic manner? Maybe it’s connected to his wife’s recent breakdown ….

Airing between 1964 and 1966, Redcap offered John Thaw his first starring role. Sergeant Mann, a member of the army investigative unit, has free reign to travel the globe, unearthing crime, corruption and disorderly conduct wherever British soldiers might be stationed. This gives Mann the air of a permanent outsider who’s always faced with an uphill battle to bring any perpetrators to justice. In retrospect, this sort of character fits Thaw like a glove – it’s easy to see echoes of Jack Regan in Mann (both, at times, are no respecter of authority).

Although Mann visited a fair few countries, the series never left the UK (and indeed rarely ventured outside of the studio). Some might view this as a weakness but if you love 1960’s studio-based VT drama, then Redcap will be just your cup of tea.

There was plenty of quality on the technical side – it was produced by John Bryce (who helmed The Avengers during 1963/64) and script-edited by Ian Kennedy-Martin (later to write Reganthe Armchair Cinema pilot which spawned The Sweeney). Plenty of familiar names pop up on the writing front such as William Emms on this opening episode.

The mystery as to why Lynne has gone to pieces is eventually revealed – his wife (played by Miranda Connell) was raped after leaving a mess party. With the crime having taken place inside the army compound, this makes it more than likely that a soldier was responsible. But even after this revelation there’s still an air of mystery – why is Lynne so reluctant to admit what happened?

Barron plays Lynne as an upper-crust type and manages to nicely suggest the conflict and turmoil that lies behind his apparent passivity.  He eventually does come clean, and to Lynne’s credit he wasn’t acting purely out of self-interest (although he does admit that public knowledge about his wife’s rape would damage both his career and reputation).

Emms’ script briefly attempts to tease out the puzzle concerning the guilty party by offering us several possibilities. But since we only focus on one – Private Bolt (Kenneth Colley) – this mystery soon dissipates.  There are still several different ways the story might play out though – Bolt is guilty and confesses, Bolt is guilty but doesn’t confess, Bolt is innocent.

In the end, everything is wrapped up slightly too neatly. Mann has very little evidence, but contrives a situation where Bolt and Lynne are left alone. Lynne, having already been told by Mann that Bolt is the most likely suspect, snaps and viciously beats Bolt up. And having been pulped by Lynne, Bolt then helpfully confesses his crime to Mann.

Hmm, given this confession was extracted under duress it’s possible that it might not stand up in court. Mind you, it’s the kind of stroke you could imagine Jack Regan pulling.  Indeed, Thaw does glower throughout with the same sort of barely supressed fury that he’d later display in The Sweeney, so maybe even this early on Kennedy-Martin was taking notes ….

As with each episode, It’s What Comes After is immaculately cast. Keith Barron is good value as Lynne, whilst Colley slips in enough off-kilter gestures to suggest that Bolt is indeed the man we’re looking for.  Derek Newark, as the long-suffering Mess Sergeant (who has to deal with the insubordinate Bolt on a daily basis) also catches the eye.

It may not impress as a great example of detective work, but It’s What Comes After is certainly a strong opening episode.

The Saint – The Work of Art

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Simon’s gone to Paris in order to spend a little time with the attractive Juliette (Yoland Turner). But this pleasant sojourn is cut short after Juliette’s brother, Andre (Alex Scott), is accused of murdering his business partner, Jean Bougrenet (John Bailey). Unbeknown to Andre, Jean was a member of an Algerian rebel organisation and since he recently defrauded Andre out of five hundred thousand francs, Andre had a clear motive for murder.

Attempting to clear Andre’s name, the Saint finds himself tangling with the implacable Major Quintana (Martin Benson) as well as Vladek Urivetsky (Hamilton Dyce), known as the Master Forger of Europe …..

The pre-credits sequence shows Simon relaxing at a street café. Everything is calm and peaceful, at least until the police turn up and drag a seemingly inoffensive man into the back of their police car. You might expect that this will have some bearing on the plot, but no – the man simply exists in order for Simon to tell the viewers that whilst Paris looks calm on the surface, revolutionary intrigue is bubbling away in the most unlikely quarters. It’s a slightly clumsy way of signalling what the thrust of the story will be, but no matter it’s only a passing irritation.

John Bailey was one of those actors who suffered beautifully (he had a wonderfully expressive face which could express a world of pain). He’s therefore perfect as the twitchy Jean, a man on the run from the imposing Major Quintana. Jean works for Quintana, but Quintana has come to distrust him (easy to see why, since Jean radiates unease and guilt). It’s therefore no surprise that Jean doesn’t last terribly long – he’s throttled to death within the first twenty minutes.

If the opening half of the story is rather dour and humourless – it’s mainly comprised of a number of grim looking men looking grimly at each other – then the arrival of Mère Lafond (Hazel Hughes) helps to lighten matters somewhat. Hughes – an experienced actress with a career which dated back to 1938 – is great fun as the fiery Madame Lafond. She’s a woman who operates on the shadier side of the law and expresses disbelief that the Saint may now be aligned with the godly! Hughes’ appearance is only brief but it helps to provide the episode with a much needed injection of levity.

Yolande Turner, in the first of her two Saint appearances, manages a decent French accent as the alluring Juliette. It’s not the greatest of parts, but she does her best. Robert Cawdron is given some decent comic material as the long-suffering Sergeant Ludic. Tasked with the job of staying by the Saint’s side at all times, it’s no surprise that Simon delights in leading him a merry dance.

At one point, Ludic is dragged along to a fancy dress party. He remains in plain clothes whilst Simon enters into the spirt of things by dressing as a clown (some twenty years before he did so again in Octopussy). It’s difficult not to love the groovy music and general revelries, although it won’t surprise you to learn that Simon organised this treat as something of a diversion ….

Part of the problem with The Work of Art is that the Algerian question isn’t really examined in much detail (we therefore never really know exactly what Major Quintana is fighting for). Urivetsky – although he barely features – at least is given a clear motivation. Unlike Quintana he’s not interested in politics – money is his only goal.

Roger Moore gets the opportunity to demonstrate yet again that the Saint is very handy in a fistfight, whilst his trademark calm under fire is also in evidence. It’s a pity that Simon doesn’t meet Quintana and Urivestsky until the last ten minutes or so, as when he does the story starts to pick up a little impetus.

Adapted from Charteris’ 1937 novella The Spanish War, Harry Junkin’s teleplay retooled the original quite considerably – changing many of the names and relocating the action from London to Paris. The Work of Art is solid enough, but isn’t terribly engaging and so only rates two and a half halos out of five.

Watch for the sign of the Saint, he will return …..

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The Saint – Judith

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The Saint, relaxing in Canada, is approached by Judith Northwade (Julie Christie).  She  tells him that her uncle, ruthless businessman Burt Northwade (David Bauer), has appropriated the design for a revolutionary new engine from her father and plans to sell it for a small fortune.  So Simon agrees to break into Northwade’s house and steal back the plans …..

There’s plenty of stock footage used in the pre-credits sequence, which sees Simon attending an ice hockey game.  Although you might not have tagged this as Simon’s natural environment, he’s enjoying himself enormously (if the lusty shouts of encouragement he directs towards his team are anything to go by!).  His comfy sheepskin jacket was an unexpected fashion moment.

In the sort of remarkable coincidence that the series thrived on, Burt Northwade just happened to be sitting a few seats ahead of Simon.  They don’t talk – but this moment allows both of our principal characters to be seen together early on.  The episode then follows a traditional path as Simon, after popping up before the credits, fades away for a while in order to allow the guest characters to be established.

Northwade’s hard business streak is quickly spelt out.  His desire to press ahead with the sale of the engine distresses his wife, Ellen (Margo Johns) and their first scene together somewhat lurches into melodrama after he rather theatrically raises his hand to strike her.  She’s disgusted that he’s planning to swindle his own brother, whilst he blames her for not bearing him a son and heir.

We then see a mysterious and beautiful young woman keeping observation on their palatial house.  This is the titular Judith who – after being startled by Northwade’s guards – literally runs into Simon’s path (their two cars almost collide).   Judith drives off, but Simon finds himself arrested as a trespasser.  Clearly the Canadian laws on trespassers were very strict at this time – the Saint is told that if he moves before the police turn up then he could be shot!

This week’s police representative is Inspector Henri Lavan (John Serret).  He’s more suspicious of the Saint than some of his international colleagues and we’re left with the strong impression that he’s not prepared to be fobbed off by Simon’s easy charm.  The moment when he demolishes the Saint’s stated reason for visiting Montreal (Simon claimed he was planning to visit a favourite restaurant) is an interesting one, since it’s rare to see the Saint discomforted or outmanoeuvred by a member of the police force.  But Simon’s not knocked off his stride for long, as he then proceeds to laugh it off and disappears before Lavan has a chance to realise what’s happened.

Simon is given a police shadow – Sergeant Soustelle (Ross Parker) – who sticks to him like glue.  This is a little irksome, so the Saint boldly tells him that he’s planning to pick up a girl.  “And if you promise not to disturb me, you can sit at the bar and have an unlimited number of drinks at my expense”.  That Simon Templar, he’s something of a lad ….

But since the girl is Judith and Simon’s still curious about why she drove so erratically earlier, possibly his interest is purely professional.  Possibly.  Judith pours her heart out to him and it’s not surprising that her sob story hits home – after all, it’s a good story (and she’s gorgeous, which never hurts either).

Judith is an odd one.  For most of its duration it follows a linear path with no apparent mystery – Northwade’s deal is legally sound but morally reprehensible – which means that it’s not the most absorbing of yarns.  But you can still enjoy the various incidental pleasures along the way, such as the entertaining turn by Ross Parker as the gullible Sergeant (Simon is able to wrap the poor man around his little finger).

Although we shouldn’t feel too sorry for him as he doesn’t do badly out of their association – he’s able to eat and drink to his heart’s content!  And when Simon later locks him in the cupboard, the Sergeant’s half-hearted cries of “you’ll go to jail” never fails to amuse. Quite how he’s managed to stay in the force so long is a bit of a mystery.

Julie Christie is lovely of course, and she also helps to keep the interest ticking along although Judith isn’t the most sharply drawn or interesting of characters (at least not until the late twist).  This adaptation slightly softens the bite of the original, but otherwise it stays pretty faithful to Charteris’ story.  The reversal in the last ten minutes is a decent one, but since the rest of the episode is fairly forgettable, overall Judith only rates two and a half halos out of five.

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The Saint – The Bunco Artists

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After the elderly Sophie Yarmouth (Mary Merrall) is cheated by two confidence tricksters, Simon – along with Mrs Yarmouth’s daughter Jean (Justine Lord) – decides to turn the tables and play the tricksters at their own game ….

We open in London’s glittering West End.  The scene-setting stock footage tells us that Phyllis Calvert, Marius Goring and Elizabeth Sheppard are playing in Menage A Trois whilst next door David Tomlinson is appearing in Boeing Boeing.

Simon is cooling his heels by the stage door, waiting for Jean to appear.  She’s delayed, which allows the Stage Door Keeper (played by Meadows White) to wax lyrical (“all the world’s a stage”, etc).  He also has one of the most arch deliveries of “why, you’re the famous Simon Templar” seen in the series to date.

She’s worth waiting for though (Justine Lord is a vision in white).  Jean’s a not terribly successful actress, but she’s hopeful that her big break is just around the corner.  I love her breathless précis of the exciting new role she’s hoping to snag.  “I go insane in act two, I yell and scream and carry on. And then in the end I put three bullets in my husband’s heart”.

But whilst Simon is squiring Jean around town, what of her mother?  She lives in a picturesque English village and is a big wheel at the Netherdon Parish Church.  She’s approached by a pleasant young American woman, Amelia Wade (Louise King), who tells her that the church is in line to receive a handsome donation from a mysterious American foundation (which would allow them to meet their restoration target).

This seems too good to be true – and alarm bells really start to ring when Amelia tells Sophie that she actually needs to see the money they’ve collected so far for the church restoration (records and receipts aren’t acceptable – only sight of the actual cash will do).  Of course, we’ve already got a good idea about what might happen, since Simon’s primed us in the pre-credits sequence about con artists.

But it seems as if Simon won’t be needed as Mr Henderson (Peter Dyneley), from the International Detective Agency in New York turns up, hot on Amelia’s heels.  Hurrah!  Along with the local copper, Charlie Lewis (Victor Platt), they ask Sophie to play along – if they can catch Amelia in the act, actually attempting to steal the cash, then she’ll be bang to rights.  But of course, Henderson isn’t what he seems either (he and Amelia – or Joyce, as she’s really called – are husband and wife confidence tricksters) so poor Sophie finds herself conned, good and proper.

The con is done very neatly – it’s not quite Hustle, but it’s still an effective set piece.  What’s especially entertaining is how Henderson explains to a rapt Charlie and Sophie exactly how “Amelia” carried out the switch (a case with a false bottom) only for him to then pull the same trick.  Dyneley and King make for an effective double act.  This was Dyneley’s second of three Saint appearances (it’s certainly a better role than his first, The Careful Terrorist).  American-born King made a string of appearances in British series during this period (her final credit was in 1964).  Her character is allowed a little twinge of conscience – after all, conning an old lady out of six thousand pounds (what will happen to the church roof now?) is a bit mean.

It doesn’t take Simon too long to work out that they’re actually called Mr and Mrs Richard Eade and have made their way to the South of France.  They can’t be terribly good criminals if they leave such an obvious trail ….

So the Saint and Jean set off for France and after the usual orgy of stock footage, Simon adopts the role of a friendly Texan and impresses Eade by flashing his cash about.  I’ve commented before about Moore’s interesting range of accents, and this is another good example.  Although as before, I’m not sure whether it’s supposed to be deliberately bad or not.  What’s certain is that Moore’s comic timing is put to good effect during these scenes (I like his bootlace tie as well).  But Simon’s not the only one with a silly accent as Jean’s gone all French.  Like Moore, Lord plays the comic scenes well.

There’s some familiar faces lurking about in the background. André Maranne makes his second and final Saint appearance. It’s not a terribly interesting role (hotel barman) but he does get a few lines.  John Standing plays a Gendarme whilst an uncredited Ingrid Pitt can be seen lounging by the hotel pool.

Charteris’ original tale appeared in the short-story collection, Thanks to the Saint (1957).  A fair bit of retooling went on during the first half of the adaptation (in the short story, Mrs Yarmouth believed she was handing over the money in order to make her nephew a film star) but the second half (Simon turns the tables with a sting revolving around a valueless necklace) was pretty much the same.

This change of emphasis – from film stardom to church welfare – allows Simon to make an amusingly impassioned speech after he and the Gendarme (Standing) run the crooks to ground.  “All over Netherdon parish, old people, widows, children, plumbers, bricklayers, carpenters, ordinary people, contributed their pennies and their shillings to the Netherdon Church restoration fund and these parasites stole it”.  Standing gets to react in a suitably shocked manner (“oh no”).

A lovely comic episode where everyone’s on fine form.  Roger Moore, of course, was made for this sort of role whilst Justine Lord is also very watchable.  Hard to see how this one could have been any better – five halos out of five.

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The Saint – Marcia

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Simon is mourning the death of Marcia Landon, famous film star, who took her own life after being disfigured in an acid attack.  Rising starlet Claire Avery (Samantha Eggar) has taken over the role Marcia was due to play in an upcoming film and after receiving a threatening letter – stating that unless she hands over five thousand pounds she too will be disfigured – calls on Simon for help.  So the Saint finds himself with a film studio full of suspects to investigate …..

The pre-credits sequence has a bleakness which wasn’t typical for the series, as we see Simon pay Marcia a fullsome eulogy.  Her face – prior to the attack – is prominently displayed both in the newspapers and on the studio walls where Simon has called to see Claire (and Marcia’s image will continue to appear throughout the episode).  The attack is shown in flashback – shot from distance and mostly using shadows, it’s effectively moody (and also isn’t explicit – which was always a consideration).

It’s a cliché but Samantha Eggar – just like Claire Avery – has undeniable star quality.  Director John Krish favours close-ups in the early part of the episode – as Claire and Simon chat about Marcia – and these shots, along with Eggar’s low, breathy voice helps to create a considerable impression.  The camera loves her and, to be honest, so do I.

Johnny Briggs creates an immediate impression as the chirpy runner, Johnny Desmond – he’s an upbeat sort of chap, always ready with a bad joke.  Marion Mathie, later to be the third and final television She Who Must Be Obeyed in Rumpole of the Bailey, is another familiar face who pops up (she plays Sheila – wife of Mike Sentinal, the director).

Jill Melford is deliciously bitchy as Irene Cromwell, an older actress who clearly believes that she should have been given Marcia’s role.  Dripping with honey-tongued venom, she’s highly entertaining.  Mix in Tony Beckley as Claire’s very disgruntled co-star and Philip Stone as a dogged police inspector and it’s hard to see how this story could have been better cast.

What’s nice about this one is that it gives us a rare chance to look behind the scenes at the studios where The Saint was shot.  It’s nowhere as self-reverential as some of the later UFO episodes, but it’s still interesting (and I daresay since it was pretty cheap to shoot, it would have pleased the producers).

As the story progresses, Claire continues to stress.  Things come to a head when a prop gun, used in the recording of the film, is substituted for a real one.  Simon, standing off-camera, shouts “drop that gun and nobody move!” in an incredibly forceful way (very uncharacteristic) whilst Claire just screams.  Oddly, she does so after the shot’s been fired (she appears to be working on a slight delay).  John Krish doesn’t really do Eggar any favours by zooming into her screaming mouth – it’s an arresting image, but not terribly flattering.

Towards the end of the episode, there’s a chance to see even more of the studio as Simon pursues a mysterious stranger through its various nooks and crannies.  This might be little more than padding, but it’s shot so well that it’s hard not to enjoy it.  Indeed, that sums up the story as a whole.  The mystery is fairly slight, but with such a strong cast it’s easy to be totally absorbed.

The use of Marcia’s photograph is an especially memorable touch.  It’s seen so often, in various different locations, that it’s almost like she’s always present – albeit as a passive, non-speaking observer.  This is one of the reasons why Marcia is a fascinating story which rates four and a half halos out of five.

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