Most people know A.J. Raffles only as a gentleman of leisure and a top-rated cricketer, but he is also "the amateur Cracksman", an expert jewel thief. Alternately aided and hindered by his ...
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A display of jewelry at the Italian embassy proves too great a temptation for Raffles and Bunny. And so does the chance to rescue a beautiful young maid at the mercy of the evil ambassador. Raffles ...
After depositing his precious (and, naturally, stolen) silverware in a bank vault, Raffles departs for Scotland sans Bunny. With Raffles gone, Inspector Mackenzie sees his chance to finally bring the...
London's other gentleman thief has Raffles worried--the city isn't big enough for both of them. Raffles and Bunny track the man down to steal some of his booty. The crook is no pushover, though, and ...
Most people know A.J. Raffles only as a gentleman of leisure and a top-rated cricketer, but he is also "the amateur Cracksman", an expert jewel thief. Alternately aided and hindered by his old friend, Bunny Manders, Raffles cuts a dashing swathe across Edwardian England, helping himself to the baubles of the very rich, sometimes playing amateur sleuth or crime fighter, and generally enjoying himself.Written by
Marg Baskin <firstname.lastname@example.org>
By the time this series was made, Anthony Valentine was already a household name, due to his portrayal of the villainous Major Mohn in "Colditz". Here he gets to display a wide range of acting skills as E W Hornung's gentleman burglar A J Raffles. The part demands a range of different accents, which Valentine performs without slips, as well as some amusing scenes where he is being searched by the police. Any aspiring actor would do well to watch Valentine in action.
If Conan-Doyle's Sherlock Holmes was the most popular crime fiction of the Victorian/Edwardian era, Raffles, written by Conan-Doyle's brother-in-law, was number two. Hornung paid homage to Conan-Doyle by saying that imitation was the sincerest form of flattery. What he meant was that his stories were narrated by a companion who had an inferior intellect to the hero. There the similarity ends, and Conan-Doyle even went so far as to condemn Hornung's work by stating that a criminal should never be a hero. This argument is utter drivel, since audiences had been thrilled for hundreds of years by the exploits of Robin Hood.
A J Raffles is ex-public school who has a flat in Picadilly. He seems to live in evening clothes, and exists on a diet of Scotch whisky, Sullivan & Powell Turkish cigarettes, and coffee. He is a cricket all-rounder who plays for England. But he has to pay for his bon vivant lifestyle, and this he does by cracking safes. He is accompanied by a semi-inept schoolmate called Bunny Manders, and they are always just one step ahead of the wild-haired policeman Inspector McKenzie. Some of the scenes involving McKenzie and Raffles are performed with Chaplinesque timing.
In a strange way, Raffles has a code of ethics, based on public school practice. Interesting is Episode 1.9, where Raffles is up against Lord Ernest Belville (played by Robert Hardy), who is, in effect, a Raffles without the code of ethics.
I originally saw these episodes in black and white, and have only recently seen them in colour. The costumes and sets are utterly superb, and are a history lesson in themselves. At one stage, Raffles's flat is being converted from gas to electricity, and a telephone is being installed. There is a terrific attention to detail.
Mackie's scripts are witty, although, in my opinion, they lack some of the charm of the original Hornung dialogue, because the public school patter between Raffles and Bunny are toned down for this series. Nevertheless, with a wealth of acting talent involved, Raffles is by far and away the best costume drama I have seen on British television; and I cannot for the life of me think why it never gets mentioned as a classic TV series.
All the episodes are available, and I recommend you watch them. Believe me, you will not be disappointed.
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