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"Armchair Theatre" is a British television drama anthology series of single plays that ran on the ITV network from 1956 to 1974. It was originally produced by Associated British Corporation, and later by Thames Television from mid-1968.
Harry H. Corbett,
It is hard to know what rating to give this show. I have a DVD which has series 2 and 3 (from 1978). The first series was from 1967. On the one hand there are 10 mini series which give you simply loads of viewing but on the other hand they range from excellent to downright dreadful. I think the series was designed to adapt books from topical authors into gripping serials but it was very hit and miss. The serials adapted from still known writers such as Patricia Highsmith seemed to work best.
The two I could remember watching back in the day, "Rachel in Danger" and "A Dog's Ransom" are among the best. "Rachel in Danger" is about a little girl who comes to London to stay with the father she has not seen in years. Unbeknownst to her he has met with a nasty accident and the leader of a group of terrorists has taken his place. Yes it is improbable and even over the top but it is wonderful to see how this bright little girl outsmarts them. The little girl was a real find but if I remember, she did not have a huge career. "A Dog's Ransom" is from Patricia Highsmith's chilling novel and although, instead of New York professionals, the couple are now an ordinary married couple living in a rural English town, the story is still the same. This would be, in my opinion, Highsmith's bleakest novel with an over lying hopelessness about the Nixon era - obviously that is gone now but it is still a gripping story.
"Dying Day" we liked just as much, a very young Ian MacKellar plays an eccentric young man who finds a cassette on a train in which he is marked as the next murder victim. When he takes it to the police, the plot can no longer be heard - what is he to do!!! This had us on the end of our seats and the ending did not disappoint!!! In the "Just as Good" category "The Limbo Connection" - James Bolam (from "When the Boat Comes In" and "The Beiderbecke Affair") is a writer with a drinking problem. When his successful wife disappears from a health clinic, he puts all their troubles behind them in an effort to find her. The ending seemed a bit contrived but it was from the writer of "The Naked Civil Servant" (the TV series with John Hurt caused a sensation at the time). Also of note was "Quiet as a Nun" taken from a novel by Antonia Fraser. This was when "Armchair Thriller" was experimenting with cliff hanger endings and it really worked with this particular story. This one,which introduced Jemima Shore to TV viewers, was about an investigative journalist who visits her old convent and finds her favourite nun has starved herself to death!!!
Then there are the not so good by a long way (in my opinion). "The Girl Who Walked Quickly" involved espionage and was about the disappearance of a young student with a paralysing fear of lifts, brainwashing is involved. "The Victim" is about a man who decides to find the kidnappers of his daughter himself and disregard police ( a distinctly odd episode if I remember). "Fear of God" was about the connection of a girl's suicide with a religious cult.
To the downright dreadful!! - "The Circe Complex" was about a jewel robbery and a woman who was irresistible to all men (a very tall order, she was pretty in a 1970s dolly bird type of way, not what I would call an enchantress). Then there was "The Chelsea Murders", it was made as a six parter but released only in a heavily edited movie version and watching the movie it is not hard to see why. I lasted one episode of the mini series (which is included), I thought how bad can it get - the answer - very, very bad. The movie was all over the place and very confusing.
I have given 8 out of 10, which is a high score, for the few I have mentioned which I think are quite riveting. A big problem for "Armchair Thriller" is that most of the series are in 6 half hour parts. At the beginning of each part is a summary of the story that has gone before, but I feel six parts are just too long to sustain attention.
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