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"Play for Today" Z for Zachariah (1984)

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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

An awful adaptation that grossly misrepresents the story

1/10
Author: seoulseeker from Victoria, Canada
22 March 2013

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This terrible adaptation turns a richly ironic story with an unreliable narrator into a simplistic struggle between a "good" girl and a mad scientist. Ann and Loomis are flat caricatures, often strangely unemotional and uncommunicative--staring blankly, speaking in a monotone, seldom even looking at each other. The absence of a narrative voice or monologues showing thoughts makes the movie dull to watch, robs Ann of complexity and reduces Loomis to a creepy maniac with no merits. Background music is similarly unsubtle—melancholy or lyrical for Ann, ominous for Loomis. A military drumbeat reminds us he's a threat in case we don't notice his shifty eyes, arrogance, and lies.

The filmmakers changed or omitted numerous details of the novel which show either Ann's selfishness and folly or Loomis's composure, sense, and humanity. Below are just a few examples.

After a nuclear war apparently left no other survivors, the film version does not show Ann curling her hair nightly, thinking of wearing a dress while hiding from a stranger, or, after meeting him, asking to use his prototype suit to get novels (probably romances) from a radioactive town. In place of Ann's vanity and escapist love of fiction, we see her love of sketching realistic pictures, which suggests she is patient and sensitive.

In the story, Ann's fear of an approaching stranger is paranoid, and she suppresses a strong urge to run to him when he calls out excitedly with the clear hope of finding another survivor. His voice is like a cheer. In the film, his call sounds harsh, and he seems wary rather than hopeful.

In the story, though the stranger appears no threat, Ann decides she can't risk her safety to warn him of a poisoned stream. She tells herself she isn't sure the stream is harmful though she actually knows it's dead. Later, she expresses regret 3 times. In the film it's unclear if Ann could warn Loomis, there's no hypocritical self-justification, and she shows regret only once out of kindness.

In the story, Loomis explains matter-of-factly his perhaps lethal exposure to radiation and the stages of sickness he'll undergo. Ann, impressed by his calmness and practicality, thinks, "I would have been hysterical." In the film, however, Loomis is fearful in this scene, he usually looks anxious or tense, and Ann seems the calm one.

In the story, Ann is attracted to Loomis, thinks of marrying him and having children, and hopes they can save the human race. Loomis's distress when he remembers Edward suggests guilt and remorse. The drama hints at none of this. Instead, Ann only expresses interest in romance by wishing Faro were a man and Loomis a dog!

During his recovery, the movie Loomis rudely refuses Ann's offer of help after a fall, saying, "Just don't stand and watch!" In the story, Ann first watches him struggle to his feet and fall again while she thinks amusedly how clownish he looks. Perhaps she smiles and stifles a giggle as he falls the second time.

Because events at the end are very condensed, Loomis can't be viewed as growing desperate from Ann's long denial of friendship, as she herself suspects in the story. He locks the store and hunts her right away, not after waiting two weeks for her to be reasonable. She then steals the suit directly--rather than after a month of hiding and planning.

It's omitted how Ann tricks Loomis by offering to talk if he meets her unarmed. To her amazement, he leaves his rifle and accepts her offer in good faith. But Ann takes advantage of this chance for a truce only to steal his safe-suit and leave the valley. With typical pettiness and unreason, she views this as her revenge—NOT for his trying to rape her (supposedly) or force her return, but for burning her favorite book!

In the story, Ann also restrains affection for the dog Faro because of fearing he'll betray her, then later leads him into the same dead stream to kill him. In the film, Faro's death is not a planned "trap" but just an upsetting accident while Ann is fleeing a madman.

To protect herself, Ann allows both Loomis and Faro to become poisoned; yet she hypocritically condemns Loomis as a murderer for killing a man in self-defense. So at the end, her words seem ironic and petty when she reproaches him, "You didn't even thank me for taking care of you when you were sick." She even admits these words were childish. In the film, however, Ann seems only righteous and dignified.

In my view, the BBC adaptation is mainly interesting for showing how a dramatization can ignore and distort a story's details. It also suggests how misinterpretation of this story occurs when readers sympathize with the narrator uncritically.

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The last Adam and Eve

6/10
Author: Prismark10 from United Kingdom
14 September 2013

This is one of the last Plays for Today dramas made by the BBC as the strand ended in 1984. Z for Zacariah attracted more press attention as it featured Anthony Andrews then a hot property because of Brideshead Revisited.

Here you get to see rather more of Andrews because of his full frontal nudity. The film is set in a post apocalyptic future, rather a popular setting in the early 1980s.

It is a dark tale which would had settle Andrew's fans. He plays John Loomis, a survivor of a nuclear war, ill with radiation wandering around the Welsh countryside in a nuclear protection suit where he comes across a young girl (Pippa Hinchley in her TV debut) who looks after him and nurses him back to health.

However as it becomes clear that there are only two of them, Loomis develops sexual desires for her and wants to control her. In a way its a young woman suddenly alone in the woods and in danger as Andrews turns nasty.

The plays is unsettling and rather unlikeable and divided critics at the time. Its an adaptation of a book and numerous changes have been made, one being the setting moved from the US to the UK.

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3 out of 6 people found the following review useful:

A fantastic premise done poorly

Author: rebecca-joy-page from New Zealand
14 March 2009

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

As a teacher i look for interesting books to read to my class for study, that we can watch a movie adaptation of after finishing the novel. this gives my reluctant readers something to look forward to and also allows us to compare the story lines etc.

the film is awful. Nudity, swearing, far more violence than depicted in the book. its so over the top when it needn't be. setting this novel in wales was such a woeful idea. Wales looks depressing to begin with. the buildings are dull and gloomy. the fact their is no voice over to keep in a 'diary' format is also pretty lame. her actions are filmed from a distance so you lose most of the interesting detail in how she goes about her day to day life, so you can contrast it later with the changes once Mr Loomis arrives.

Mr loomis is played far too loose as a character. I believe that the book is actually about Ann being a foolish naive teenager who misjudges loomis from the outset and her actions in being emotionally removed and presumptuous end up costing her the valley and any chance of survival with Mr Loomis.

when i first read the book at primary school i thought the story was about girl surviving, only to have this man arrive who turns out to be a monster. rereading it years later as a teacher and adult i realize its a book based around the errors of youth. Ann has no hope of surviving as an adult with Mr loomis as she is full of her own self importance and is so easily offended and distrusting of Mr loomis that she has herself in a stew over small things like his manners and tone of voice that when he does attempt to make a 'pass' she believes him to be a rapist. note here, Mr loomis isn't completely innocent but he makes it clear from the start that survival is his main priority and because he isn't a church going, novel reading, Jane Austen styled romanticist Ann judges him as cruel and unfeeling. if you have read the book you will realize she is an unreliable narrator.

anyway, this film would be amazing if it were recast and set in a more American 'farmy' style. i look forward to that remake and in fact as part of my unit i often encourage my class to work in groups to reenact and film a scene from the film, and trust me, they are a 100 times more engaging than any one scene from that film. -rebecca

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6 out of 16 people found the following review useful:

Perhaps A Bad Idea To Adapt This Novel For Television

2/10
Author: Theo Robertson from Isle Of Bute, Scotland
21 September 2004

This was one of the last dramas from PLAY FOR TODAY and probably hints that the concept had died a natural death . In the 1970s PFD was an often hard hitting drama series with social commentary on British contempary issues . It almost exclusively featured original screenplays from up and coming TV writers who didn't like to pull too many punches about sensibilities .

Z FOR ZACHARIAH is neither an original script being based on a novel by the American writer Robert C O'Brien nor is it contempary since it's set in the near future as a nuclear war breaks out . There's a serious problem in changing the location from America to Wales . You can imagine people in extreme rural areas of the USA surviving the immediate aftermath of a nuclear war without a scratch but would the Brits be so fortunate ? After seeing THREADS ( Broadcast seven months after this was shown ) I doubt it . Likewise the build up to the war is unconvincing compared to Mick Jackson's nuclear holocaust horror show . Okay the start of Z FOR ZACHARIAH is just to set up the story and introduce the heroine but it still jars in its unconvincing nature

The story proper revolves around the heroine Ann Burden living alone in a country house protected by the fall out by an idiosyncratic feature of the valley ( Another unconvincing plot point ) where John Loomis protected by NBC equipment enters the story . Loomis is made ill by the radiation but is nursed back to health by Ann but when Loomis realises they're both alone and that both law and sexual mores have ended his sexual desires begin to take over

In many ways it plays out like " A woman finds herself in danger in a lonely backwoods setting " type of plot which does go against the all too serious dead pan tone of this TV production . It should also be pointed out Loomis is played by Anthony Andrews an actor who made a career out of playing fine and dandy good chaps . He seems seriously miscast as a sexual predator . It's also interesting to note that according to the IMDb Z FOR ZACHARIAH was the first and last production that Anthony Gamer directed

If you want to see something that shows the aftermath of nuclear war then track down a copy of THREADS . If you want to see a classic PLAY FOR TODAY try looking for one of the dramas that were produced in the mid 1970s

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3 out of 12 people found the following review useful:

Not a fantastic idea... some weird storyline too

4/10
Author: David Chan from Australia
6 February 2007

Personally I don't believe that it was a good idea at all to adapt this book to a movie. I've read the book and seen the show. The book was a reasonable read but really had to have the reader look deeply and imagine what the area and situation was like. Putting into a show is almost as if you are being told that "the story was like this" when there are so many other endless possibilities to what it could've been.

The storyline was also a bit dodgy. It talks about how Ann Burden thought she was "the only person left in the world" in the diary format. If you look carefully she talks about how the United States were bombed. It does not tell that any other place was affected by this Nuclear Holocast. And even if other places were bombed somebody had to bomb it, and they would still be alive and running.

When you put a book from a diary form into a show it really just doesn't work. You are no longer in the first person view, even if the show just used the storyline.

Also in the show Ann never talks about the Nuclear Holocast. In the book the words "Nuclear Holocase" are not once mentioned. The only reason why people assume it is a Nuclear Holocast is because of the book's blurb, which says she is the lone survivor from a Nuclear Holocast. While some may argue that she didn't write the blurb of the book, the whole storyline is all over the place.

You have to give credit to Robert o'Brien and his family for the fact that the book even got published though. O'Brien died before he finished the last chapter of the book and his family finished it for him, as well as have it published and so on. In a way you could say it is a tribute to him.

If you are looking to relieve boredom than I wouldn't put this down. However I do not think it is great and there are better one's out there, even on the same topic. Anything like "Tomorrow Before the War Began" by John Marsden would be similar but much more exciting and realistic.

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