Armchair Thriller: Season 1, Episode 5

A Dog's Ransom: Part 1 (7 Mar. 1978)

TV Episode  |   |  Drama, Thriller
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Ratings: 7.2/10 from 25 users  
Reviews: 5 user

Patricia Highsmith is a powerful writer with a great ability to glue you to your seat when viewing a movie version of one of her novels... See full synopsis »



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Episode cast overview:
Zena Walker ...
Gina Reynolds
Leon Eagles ...
Prentis Hancock ...
Desk sergeant
Brian Stirner ...
Clarence Duhamel
Paul Angelis ...
Tom Choley


Patricia Highsmith is a powerful writer with a great ability to glue you to your seat when viewing a movie version of one of her novels... See full synopsis »

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Drama | Thriller





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7 March 1978 (UK)  »

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User Reviews

Memorable stuff
30 May 2008 | by (England) – See all my reviews

I can remember this vividly from seeing it on its first broadcast, when I was 12 - so I grabbed Network DVD's new release of the series when I saw it in a bargain bin in Soho. The series certainly lives up to my remembrance.

It begins with as high-concept an inciting incident as you could imagine - a middle class couple have been receiving poison pen letters, and now the letter-writer dognaps their beloved poodle. The police are too busy to investigate but a fresh-faced young Oxbridge graduate constable steps in to help them, carrying out his own investigation and discovering that the kidnapper is a mean-spirited old Pole with a Winston Churchill fetish. The plot thickens and thickens, with the dog, the dognapper and the investigating constable all meeting their demise by the final episode. In the process, what has been uncovered by the series is a 70s Britain riven by class resentments, sexual politics, violence, homophobia and racism.

It's almost impossible to get one's head around the fact that this stuff was going out pre-watershed to millions of viewers. It's subversive, intelligent writing full of witty dialogue, complex characters and nasty incidents (s**t disguised as chocolate; football thuggery; creepy sexual stalking by officers of the law). I haven't read the Highsmith novel the piece derives from (that was set in New York) but this displays her usual caustic view of a society and its citizens flailing about in an existential no man's land.

The direction, editing and acting are a bit stiff, formal, slow and dated for today's taste - but in terms of ambition and scope not to mention intellectual content, A Dog's Ransom leaves nearly everything on British TV today in the shade (and it was made not by the BBC but by a commercial channel). Bring back real writers like John Bowen on TV!

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