Great Expectations (BBC, 1967) – Simply Media DVD Review

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When young Phillip Pirrip, nicknamed Pip, meets a strange, reclusive lady called Miss Haversham (Maxine Audley) it opens up a new world of possibilities. Miss Haversham’s ward, the beautiful Estella (Francesca Annis), bewitches him from the first time they meet, although she is unable to return his love.

As the years pass by and the boy grows into a man, Pip learns that he has “great expectations” and will shortly come into the possession of a handsome property. Since his most heartfelt desire is to become a gentleman (only then, he believes, will he be able to win Estella’s heart) it seems like a dream come true.

So he moves to London and at first all seems well. But later he receives a shock – his anonymous benefactor turns out not to be Miss Haversham after all, but a convict named Magwitch (John Tate) ….

Originally published across 1860/61, Great Expectations was Charles Dickens’ penultimate completed novel (Our Mutual Friend and the incomplete The Mystery of Edwin Drood would follow).  A popular success at the time of its original publication (unlike Our Mutual Friend, which received a much more muted reception) Great Expectations has proved to be one of Dickens’ most enduring works.

Its popularity can be judged by the number of film and television adaptations it has inspired.   Great Expectations made its debut in the cinema all the way back in 1917, whilst on television the 1959 BBC adaptation, with Dinsdale Landen as Pip, was the earliest.  Sadly, the 1959 Expectations is missing one of its thirteen episodes (episode eight) so it looks unlikely to be released on DVD.  Some eight years after the BBC first tackled the novel they did so again – with this 1967 ten-part adaption by Hugh Leonard.

Since so much of the impact of Great Expectations comes from the travails of Pip, strong casting of the character is essential.  Luckily this production managed the feat twice – Christopher Guard played the young Pip, whilst Gary Bond took over when he reached adulthood.  Guard had already appeared as David Copperfield the previous year, so was clearly well versed in the world of Dickens.  Bond had racked up a varied list of credits since his screen debut in 1962 (including a notable film appearance in Zulu as Private Cole).

The first episode opens with Pip’s graveyard encounter with Magwitch. It’s a sequence that required a certain amount of skill on the part of the vision mixer, due to the way it frequently cuts from film (establishing shots of Pip) to videotape (the studio dialogue between Pip and Magwitch) and then back to film again. It’s a pity that the entire scene wasn’t shot on film, but presumably this was a matter of cost. There’s more filmwork across the serial than there was in Our Mutual Friend, but the studio scenes still dominate.

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John Tate makes for a menacing Magwitch, although even in this intial scene there’s a feeling of conflict in his character. He might issue bloodcurdling threats against Pip, but he also holds him close in a way that almost seems to be tender. And when he’s later recaptured (Tate excellent again here, mudcaked and weary) he chooses not to mention that he forced Pip to fetch food for him.

Young Pip’s homelife is pretty grim. He’s abused by his sister (played by Shirley Cain) although her husband, Joe Gargery (Neil McCarthy), is a much more genial – if simple-minded – chap. McCarthy, like so many of the cast, impresses with a deftly sketched performance.

Sound effects and music are prominent right from the start. The music is dramatic (possibly over-dramatic at times) although the sound effects are more successful in creating mood and atmosphere. The constant wailing of the wind throughout the early episodes helps to create the impression that Pip lives in a cold, desolate and foreboding area. Visual signifiers – a rotting corpse hanging on a roadside gallows – reinforces this.

If Pip’s first meeting with Magwitch is a signature moment, then so too is his initial encounter with Miss Haversham. As Pip approaches her intimidating house the music swells and then abruptly cuts off as Pumblechook (Norman Scase) lays a hand on him. This could be intentional, although it seems more likely that it was a grams error.

Whilst Maxine Audley’s Miss Haversham is muted to begin with, the meeting between her and Pip still has a uncomfortable, off-kilter feeling. Not least because of Francesca Annis’ cold and abusive Estella who treats Pip with the utmost contempt.

Francesca Annis, Maxine Audley & Christopher Guard

Christopher Guard gives a very internal performance as Pip. Since he’s only a young boy (and one you can imagine has beaten into obedience from a very early age) Pip is unable to talk back to his elders and betters. So Guard has to either suffer in silence or express his true feelings somewhat obliquely.

The third episode – Apprenticeship – sees the mantle of Pip pass from Christopher Guard to Gary Bond. It’s done in a visually striking way as we see Pip, apprenticed as a blacksmith to Joe, toiling in the forge. Overlaid smoke effects and mournful music create a weary mood as the camera moves down to focus on the metal he’s hammering. And when it moves back up, the boy has become a man (thereby not only solving the problem of how to move from one actor to another, but also neatly suggesting that Pip has spent years in a form of statis – doing the same thing, day-in and day-out).

Great Expectations boasts many fine performances across its ten episodes. Ronald Lacey casts a menacing shadow as the drunken and violent Orlick (who, like Pip, starts off as an apprentice to Joe) whilst Hannah Gordon radiates honest goodness as Biddy, a maid who helps to keep Joe’s household together after Mrs Gargery is left insensible after a violent attack from an unknown assailant.

The always dependable Peter Vaughan has a nine line in icy disdain as Mr Jaggers, the solicitor who informs Pip of his great expectations. Bernard Hepton, another fine actor, plays Jaggers’ clerk, Wemmick, a much more approachable and amusing fellow. After they’ve become better acquainted, Wemmick takes Pip on a tour of his house – a wonderfully eccentric creation which features a drawbridge, waterwheel and a gun on the roof (which he fires every day at 9.00 pm). And all this in the heart of London!

Richard O’Sullivan is a pleasingly jaunty Herbert Pocket and sharply contrasts with a brooding Jon Laurimore as Bentley Dummle

Pip remains a curiously unlikable character for most of the serial. His desire to better himself and become a gentleman is generated purely by the hope it will win Estella’s approval (although given her utter indifference for him, he seems doomed to failure). Her mocking laughter at the end of the fifth episode – The Betrayal – shows that while Pip may have changed, she hasn’t.  Unlike some of Dickens’ other novels, where you sensed that the author approved of and supported his hero, there’s a much icier feeling here as well as a deep sense of melancholy.

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Maxine Audley, Francesca Annis & Gary Bond

The seventh episode – Pip’s Benefactor – helps to pivot the story into new and unexpected directions. The return of Magwitch is heralded by a brief burst of icy wind on the soundtrack (a nice, understated nod back to their initial graveyard meeting).

Pip’s horror that Magwitch is his benefactor is plain to see. Is it because Magwitch, although wealthy thanks to his efforts as a convict in Australia, is still somewhat uncouth? Or does it have more to do with the fact that transportation is a life sentence and so by returning to England, Magwitch faces certain death if he’s caught?  Initially there’s no doubt that he’s somewhat repulsed by Magwitch but eventually he acknowledges the sacrifices the older man had made for him, which is a key moment (from this point on Pip becomes much less self-centered).

Alan Bridges peppers the ten episodes with some interesting directorial flourishes. Miss Haversham’s mausoleum of a house offers plenty of unusual camera angles whilst elsewhere (Mr Jaggers’ office, for example) the use of projected light helps to create striking shadows on the wall. Miss Haversham’s death in episode eight is another standout moment, although like Pip and Magwitch’s first meeting it’s puzzling that the scene (mostly shot on film) still has a few brief videotape inserts.

This adaptation of Great Expectations has no weak links on the performance front – Peter Vaughan, John Tate, Bernard Hepton, Richard O’Sullivan, Neil McCarthy, Francesca Annis and Maxine Audley are especially noteworthy – whilst both Pips, Christopher Guard and Gary Bond, acquit themselves well. Bond is especially impressive in the closing episodes as Pip faces one reversal of fortune after another, although they do help to deepen and strengthen his character.

The prints are of a pretty consistent quality throughout – there’s the occasional sign of dirt and damage, but given that the materials are some fifty years old that’s not too surprising. In general the picture is clear and watchable although there’s always a slight drop in quality during the film sequences (not surprising, due to the way that the film inserts would have been telecined in during the recording session).

Even with so many different adaptations of Great Expectations jostling for position, this 1967 serial – although it may lack the budget and scale of some of the others – is still worthy of attention.  Tightly scripted and well acted, it’s a very solid production which still stands up well today.  Warmly recommended.

Great Expectations is released by Simply Media on the 3rd of July 2017.  RRP £19.99.

Bernard Hepton & Gary Bond

1950’s/1960’s BBC Charles Dickens Classics to be released by Simply Media – July 2017

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It’s very pleasing to see that a number of 1950’s/1960’s BBC Classic Serial adaptations of Charles Dickens’ novels are due shortly from Simply Media.  Three have been confirmed for release on the 3rd of July 2007 – Our Mutual Friend, Great Expectations and Dombey & Son.

Below is a little more detail about them.

Our Mutual Friend.  Adapted by Freda Lingstrom and broadcast in twelve episodes during 1958/59.  Paul Daneman, Zena Walker, David McCallum, Richard Pearson, Rachel Roberts and Robert Leach head the cast, whilst many other familiar faces – Rachel Gurney, Peggy Thorpe-Bates, Wilfred Brambell, Melvyn Hayes and Barbara Lott – also appear.

Great Expectations.  Adapted by Hugh Leonard and broadcast in ten episodes during 1967.  Gary Bond, Francesca Annis, Neil McCarthy, Richard O’Sullivan, Peter Vaughan and Bernard Hepton are the major players in this one whilst there’s also plenty of quality to be found lower down the cast-list (Ronald Lacey, Jon Laurimore and Kevin Stoney amongst others).

Dombey & Son.  Adapted by Hugh Leonard and broadcast in thirteen episodes during 1969.  A typically strong cast is headed by John Carson as Mr Dombey with Clive Swift, Pat Coombs, Ronald Pickering and Davyd Harries amongst the other familiar faces appearing.

And with three further releases to come in late August – Barnaby Rudge (1960), Oliver Twist (1962) and Bleak House (1959) – the next few months look to be good for those who enjoy classic BBC B&W drama.

The Further Adventures of the Musketeers – Simply Media DVD Review

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Broadcast between May and September 1967, The Further Adventures of the Musketeers (based on Dumas’ novel Twenty Years After) was a sixteen-part serial which followed on from the previous years adaptation of The Three Musketeers.

Brian Blessed and Jeremy Young returned as Porthos and Athos, but there were also two important changes.  Joss Ackland took over the role of d’Artagnan from Jeremy Brett whilst John Woodvine replaced Gary Watson as Aramis.

I have to confess at not being terribly impressed with Brett’s performance as d’Artagnan, so I wasn’t too sorry he didn’t return – although it would have been intriguing to see how he would have handled the older, more cynical character seen in this story.  In The Three Musketeers, d’Artagnan is young, keen and filled with dreams of heroism.  It’s therefore more than a little jarring when Ackland’s d’Artagnan is introduced at the start of the first episode.

Others may continue to call him a hero, but he’s not convinced.  Although he still holds a commission in the Musketeers, it now appears to be a hollow honour – especially since his three former steadfast friends (Porthos, Aramis and Athos) have all left and gone their separate ways.  When he recalls their old battle cry (“one for all, and all for one”) it’s done so ironically and whilst he bursts onto the screen with an impressive bout of swordplay, it was only to subdue a drunk in a tavern.  Brawling in taverns seems to be something of a comedown for the brave d’Artagnan, as he himself admits.

He’s therefore keen to grasp any opportunity to rekindle the glory days of old and when Queen Anne (Carole Potter) asks for his help, how can he refuse?  Potter was something of a weak link during The Three Musketeers and her rather grating performance continues here. This may be a deliberate acting choice though, as we see over the course of the serial that the Queen is a far from admirable character – instead she’s capricious, vain and frequently misguided.

d’Artagnan pledges his allegiance to the Queen, her young son, King Louis XIV (Louis Selwyn) and Cardinal Mazarin (William Dexter).  They are the orthodox ruling establishment, but the majority of the people seem to side with the imprisoned Prince de Beaufort (John Quentin).

The question of personal morality is key, especially when understanding which side the four Musketeers support.  As we’ve seen, d’Artagnan supports the Cardinal and Queen, but is this because he believes they are the right choice for France or is it just that they’ve offered him a chance to redeem his tarnished honour?

When d’Artagnan meets up with Porthos, his former colleague quickly joins him.  Blessed, a joy to watch throughout the serial, is never better than in his first scene.  He’s the lonely lord of a manor, complaining that his neighbours consider him to be something of a peasant and won’t talk to him, even after he’s killed several of them!  So he agrees to join d’Artagnan, mainly it seems because he’s always keen for a scrap.

But Aramis and Athos are both on the Prince’s side.  They believe their cause is just and Athos regards d’Artagnan’s allegiance to the Cardinal with extreme disfavour.  Athos supports the King, but in his opinion the Cardinal is manipulating both the King and the Queen to serve his own ends. It’s telling that d’Artagnan doesn’t deny this.

Joss Ackland, from his first appearance, is totally commanding as d’Artagnan.  If Brett’s take on the role tended to see him play the character at a hysterical pitch then Ackland is much more restrained and therefore much better. As I’ve said, Brian Blessed is tremendous fun – he gets to shout a lot and has some great comic lines.  John Woodvine, a favourite actor of mine, is excellent as Aramis whilst Jeremy Young once again impresses hugely as Athos.

Although there wasn’t a great deal of evidence of this in The Three Musketeers, at the start of this serial d’Artagnan tells us that Athos was always his mentor and closest friend (essentially a second father to him) so the fact they are on opposing sides means there’s some dramatic scenes between them.

Young, a rather underrated actor I feel, is compelling across the duration of the serial. Athos’ monologue in episode five, after d’Artagnan bitterly rounds on his old friends, is one performance highlight amongst many. “We lived together. Loved, hated, shared and mingled our blood. Yet there is an even greater bond between us, that of crime. We four, all of us, judged, condemned and executed a human being whom we had no right to remove from this world. What can Mazarin be to us? We are brothers. Brothers, in life and death.”

Athos is referring to the murder of his former wife, Milady de Winter. As we’ve seen, her death still preys heavily on his mind – but he’s not the only one. She had a son, Mordaunt, who spends the early episodes vowing vengeance on the men who murdered his mother. As the serial progresses we see that his thirst for revenge makes him a formidable foe. A variety of other plot threads also run at the same time – such as the kidnapping of the boy King, Athos and Aramis’ secret mission to England to rescue King Charles I (d’Artagnan and Porthos are also in England and change sides to fight for the King) and the continuing conflict between Queen Anne and Prince de Beaufort – all of which helps to ensure that the story, even though it lasts sixteen episodes, never feels repetitious.

Plenty of quality actors drift in and out.  Edward Brayshaw (once again resplendent in a blonde wig and complete with a wicked-looking dueling scar) returns as Rochefort, Michael Gothard is suitably villainous as Mordaunt, Geoffrey Palmer is memorable during his fairly brief appearance as Oliver Cromwell, David Garth is remote and aloof as King Charles I, whilst the devotee of this era of television can have fun picking out other familiar faces such as Nigel Lambert, Anna Barry, Morris Perry, Vernon Dobtcheff, David Garfield and Wendy Williams.

The budget was obviously quite decent, as there’s a generous helping of location filming and several notable set-pieces – such as the Prince’s escape from his prison fortress, which sees him absail to safety from the castle ramparts (although the use of illustrations as establishing shots for various locations is never convincing). Generally though, Stuart Walker’s production design is impressive – for example, his studio reproduction of Notre Dame Cathedral includes various architectural features from the original. Few would have missed them had they not been there, but it’s a nice example of the trouble taken to be as accurate as possible.

With a number of interconnecting plotlines, there’s certainly a great deal to enjoy in Alexander Barron’s dramatisation.  The episodes set in England may lack a little tension (as we know Charles is doomed to die) but his execution is still a powerful moment.  Athos is under the scaffold, frantically attempting to rescue the King, and is crushed when he realises that all his efforts have come to nothing.  A macabre note is created when Charles’ blood drips through the floorboards onto the numb Athos. Christopher Barry and Hugh David share the directorial duties and although there’s (possibly thankfully) few of the directorial flourishes that made The Three Musketeers notable, they manage to keep things ticking along nicely.

The Further Adventures of the Musketeers looks and sounds exactly how you’d expect an unrestored telerecording of this period to look and sound.  It’s perfectly watchable, although the picture is a little grainy and indistinct at times (and the soundtrack can also be somewhat hissy).  A full restoration would have been possible, but as always it’s a question of cost.  Niche titles like this don’t sell in huge numbers, so it’s no surprise that this DVD was a straight transfer of the available materials.

But although the picture quality is a little variable, the story and the performances of the four leads more than makes up for it.  With many classic BBC black and white serials still languishing in the vaults, hopefully sales of this title will encourage more to be licenced in the future.

The Further Adventures of the Musketeers runs for sixteen 25 minute episodes across three DVDs.  It’s released on the 23rd of May 2016 by Simply Media with an RRP of £29.99.

The Three Musketeers. Part Ten – Walk to the Scaffold

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The war is over and Milady de Winter once more vows vengeance on her enemies, especially D’Artagnan.  She’s tracked down D’Artagnan’s mistress, Madame Bonacieux, who is sheltering in a convent and anxiously awaiting the arrival of her lover.

Although she’s been absent for a few episodes, Kathleen Breck picks up where she left off (alas) by still playing Madame Bonacieux as a wide-eyed giddy schoolgirl, which makes her fate something of a mercy killing for the audience. And given her broad performance during the serial it’s no surprise that she also milks her death scene for all its worth.  You can probably guess how Brett’s D’Artagnan takes it (not very well at all).  It’s just as well that the ever pragmatic Athos is on hand to tell him that “women weep for the dead, men avenge them.”

Even in this final episode, it’s clear that Peter Hammond was attempting to push the limitations of studio shooting as far as he could (the convent set features several high camera shots, not easy to do with the sort of cameras in use during the mid sixties).

Mary Peach’s bosoms once again heave impressively as D’Artagnan and the others track her down, list her crimes and find her guilty.  Naturally enough, the sentence is death.  Her executioner (Kevin Stoney) is already known to her and it’s poetic justice that he’s the one who’s tasked to carry out the act.  Shot on film, Milady’s final scene is extravagantly played by Peach, but unlike some of the other broad performances it works well.

Although some of the playing throughout the serial isn’t subtle and Peter Hammond’s direction is rather idiosyncratic, there’s still plenty to enjoy in The Three Musketeers.  The 25 minute format means that each episode zips along and there’s plenty of familiar faces – Kevin Stoney in this episode, Pauline Collins and Milton Johns, amongst others, earlier on – who pop up in small roles.

It’ll be interesting to shortly compare this to The Further Adventures of the Musketeers, especially how the recasting (Joss Ackland for Jeremy Brett, John Woodvine for Gary Watson) blends with the returning Brian Blessed and Jeremy Young.  The additional six episodes and shared directorial duties (Christopher Barry and Hugh David) should also give the sequel a different feel.  My review can be found here.

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The Three Musketeers. Part Nine – Assassin

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With a limited budget, the battle scenes we see throughout the serial have to be somewhat impressionistic.  This is demonstrated at the start of Assassin, as D’Artagnan and the Musketeers are seen defending a hill fort.  Although there’s a limited number of extras – representing both their allies and their enemies – sound effects, smoke and hand-held camera work all have to create the impression of many more.

The jumpy camera-cuts do effectively suggest the confusion of battle though, and it’s amusing that the Musketeers and D’Artagnan are cool enough to stop for a bite to eat and a discussion of their current troubles.  Milady de Winter’s mission to England spells trouble for all of them and although some of her plans (such as arranging the assassination of the Duke of Buckingham) don’t directly involve them, it’s still vital that they stop her.  A letter to Milady’s brother-in-law (who, we remember, had his life saved by D’Artagnan) should do the trick.

Presumably The Three Musketeers, like many series and serials of the time, had an allocated amount of film work per episode.  Since the previous episode had no filming at all, this may account for the more generous allocation in Assassin.  Some of it – for example, showing Milady’s arrival in England and her travels through the country –  aren’t strictly speaking vital to the plot, but they provide gloss and an expansive feeling (otherwise it would be too easy for the story to simply jump from one interior set to the next).

Milady de Winter’s reunited with her brother-in-law, but it’s not a happy meeting.  “Spy, bigamist, would-be-assassin, branded criminal. I’m sending you to our Southern colonies. In a few months the tropic sun would have burnt out that fatal beauty and sucked dry your evil mind.”  He leaves her a prisoner, guarded by young Felton (John Kelland) but Milady is easily able to manipulate this pious, worthy man.  Once again, it’s a pleasure to watch the delight on Mary Peach’s face as Milady manipulates yet another hapless victim.  She clearly has deep powers of persuasion, as not only is she able to obtain her release, she also convinces him to kill Buckingham.  A powerful lady indeed.

The scene where the Cardinal confronts D’Artagnan and the Musketeers is, like the earlier scene with Brett, Blessed, Young and Watson, shot on film.  This clever piece of scheduling meant that they weren’t required for the studio recording, therefore giving them a week off.

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The Three Musketeers. Part Eight – The Cardinal

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The revelation that Milady de Winter is Athos’ treacherous wife, whom he believed was put to death years ago, spins the story in a different direction.  Athos doesn’t fear for his own life – we’ve already seen that he doesn’t care if he lives or dies – but this revelation also places D’Artagnan’s life in immediate peril.

After the high drama of the opening scene, we quickly change gear as Porthos is brought face to face with the cuckolded husband of his latest mistress, Madame Coquenard. Porthos is humiliated by the elderly Monsieur Coquenard, who capers around in a bizarre fashion (complete with antlers on his head!) before collapsing.

D’Artagnan is summoned for a meeting with the Cardinal. Pasco’s Cardinal remains conversational and reasonable – as stated before, it makes a change from portraying Richelieu as a cackling villain and it only serves to make him all the more deadly. He doesn’t attempt to suborn people through fear, instead he uses the much subtler weapon of charm. And even when he gives D’Artagnan an ultimatum, Pasco still doesn’t raise his voice. “Up till now, whether you knew it or not, my hand has been behind you. The moment I withdraw my hand, why then my friend I would not give one farthing for your life. You will remember hereafter, if any misfortune befalls you.”

There’s more odd shot changes during this meeting. Every so often, the camera cuts away from the two actors to show the various suits of armour dotted around the room. If it happened once you might believe it was a miscue from the vision mixer, when it happens again it must be a deliberate choice.

Later, the Cardinal enlists the assistance of the three Musketeers to escort him to a meeting. This is a baffling move, since his meeting is with Athos’ hated wife Milady de Winter, whom he’s planning to send to England to meet with Buckingham.

The Cardinal wishes to prevent Buckingham from intervening in France’s civil war and has chosen the Englishman’s love, the Queen of France, as the lever. If Buckingham doesn’t withdraw his army, then the Queen’s honour will be tarnished beyond repair. With the three Musketeers ear-wigging in the next room, they now know all of the Cardinal’s plans ….

Once again an episode closes strongly, this time as Athos confronts his wife. Both Jeremy Young and Mary Peach are excellent in this short scene. Considering the wrongs he’s suffered, you might expect that vengeance would be uppermost on his mind, but, as highlighted before, he’s more concerned about D’Artagnan’s fate.

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The Three Musketeers. Part Seven – All Cats are Grey in the Dark

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Milady de Winter has succeeded in winning the love of D’Artagnan, but tells the Cardinal that she’ll only reciprocate in order to convert him to their side. Interestingly he reacts strongly against this, as he wants no suborned followers. If D’Artagnan is to serve him then it must be because he wishes to act for the glory of God. Appearing in just this single scene, Richard Pasco continues to impress as the wily Cardinal, offering a subtle performance that contrasts sharply with some of the more, shall we say, exuberant turns.

Speaking of exuberant, D’Artagnan turns up at the house of Milday de Winter, only to be told by her maid Kitty (Pauline Collins) that her mistress doesn’t love him at all. Considering that he spent the previous episode bemoaning the loss of his one true love, Madame Bonacieux, he clearly seemed to have quickly forgotten her once Milday fluttered her eyelashes at him (he’s clearly a fickle type). When Milady returns, Kitty hides him and this enables him to hear Milady utter the following words. “One day I will have D’Artagnan’s head on a platter.”

The Musketeers are tasked to escort the King in his upcoming campaign against the Huguenots. Porthos would sooner be fighting the English and given the current political climate it looks as if that will happen soon.

Aramis’ desire to leave the secular world has been a running thread throughout the serial and now it seems to be on the verge of happening. Porthos isn’t best pleased about this (and Brian Blessed shows this displeasure in his most typical way – he raises his voice). The cultured, religious Aramis contrasts well with the sensual, rumbustious Porthos and the pessimistic, nihilistic Athos – over the course of the seven episodes to date their various differing character traits have been skilfully drawn out.

The news that Aramis’ love still loves him changes everything though. All thoughts of taking holy orders are instantly forgotten, demonstrating that, just like D’Artagnan, he’s ruled by the women in his life.

More directorial flourishes are in evidence after Milday receives a letter which pleases her, but upsets Kitty. The picture rapidly cuts between Milday’s ecstatic face and Kitty’s distressed one. Elsewhere, a lack of location filming means that the friendly duel between Porthos and Aramis has to take place on a rather unconvincing studio set dressed as a forest clearing. Animal sound effects and a gentle breeze attempt to sell the illusion, but it’s no substitute for the real thing.

D’Artagnan’s climatic confrontation with Milady reveals that she bears the mark of the fleur-de-lys. Which means there’s a great deal of wailing and the return of the projected fleur-de-lys on the wall. It’s a strong way to conclude an episode that’s mostly chugged along in second gear (which is understandable in a ten-part serial – there’s bound to be a few episodes where the plot doesn’t advance a great deal).

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