Like the previous reviewer I also loved this show during my childhood when it was continuously repeated on BBC during the early to mid 80's. It's important to emphasis though that this production has far more going for it than mere nostalgia. It really is without doubt the best and most spirited screen adaptation of both the Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn novels and indeed watching other interpretations have only ever served to highlight its strengths. Most notably the 11 hours running time prove that it's almost impossible to do justice to either of Twain's most famous novels in a 90-minute feature film.
The casting here is inspired with Huck, Tom, Jim, Aunt Polly and Injun Joe all given definitive portrayals. The Tom-Huck, Huck-Jim relationships are handled magnificently and it's obvious that they all care deeply for each other. Ian Tracey is a great actor and with his trademark subtlety he really breathes the part of Twain's most famous creation, while Sammy Snyders frenzied acting style suits Tom Sawyer down to the ground. For a kid's show Huckleberry Finn and His Friends really is very dark and gritty, particularly in the early episodes where the two fantasy loving youngsters are top of Injun Joe's hit list. Quite a lot of this section is shot at night such as the graveyard murder and one scene that I'll always remember is Huck nervously hiding in a tree above Joe and Pard as they close in to burgle the Widow Douglas. One wrong move and he knows he's dead. It's during these scenes that both Tracey's husky narration, brilliantly used throughout the show, and the unforgettable musical score really adds to the tension and atmosphere. Further such nail biting moments arise when Tom and Huck have to hide in the attic of the haunted house as Joe and Pard search for their treasure and also when Tom and Becky encounter Joe while lost in the cave.
Speaking of the caves the location shoots on this serial are absolutely superb. The costume department do an amazing job and, unlike other productions, Huck and co. really look quite grubby, just like they ought to. Although a previous reviewer points out that this is a West German production, I prefer to think of it as Canadian. It was co-produced by a Canadian company, mainly features Canadian actors and was shot in Canada including the Heritage Village Museum in British Columbia, which really is highly evocative of both the time and place that the novel is set.
The show covers all the famous episodes of both novels with the exception of the Wilkes episode, which is one that I've never been keen on anyway. The main difference between the book and this adaptation is that the series revolves around Huck throughout, even relegating Tom Sawyer to a secondary role during the first half of the show which covers his character's novel. This is no bad thing though bearing in mind how stunning Tracey's performance is. The one great misfortune though is that the series has been strangely forgotten since it left our screens in the late 80's. While the German dub has received an edited video release, the English version is sadly still awaiting one. Perhaps a DVD release might be the key to bringing this back to the public's notice. Until then Huckleberry Finn and His Friends must be content to lie in the vaults with the label of 'forgotten gem' attached to it.
21 of 25 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?