Monday, 12 March 2018
The Adventurer (1972) episode 1: The Good Book
Quite where you begin with The Adventurer is a matter of some conjecture, the first episode on the DVD is ‘The Good Book’, which was also the first aired during the ITV4 repeats. However the IMDB identifies the first episode as being ‘Miss me once, Miss me twice, and Miss me once again’, which is episode six on the DVD. I’m inclined to think the series was shot so that it could be transmitted in any order that the broadcaster saw fit. So, confusingly for audiences there is no ‘origins’ episode to the series, no story arcs, and no two parters (the same I believe is also true of The Protectors). Therefore anyone who hadn’t bothered to catch the advanced publicity for the show or read a basic story outline in the TV guide was gonna have to play catch-up, because in its early days The Adventurer is a pretty pacy show. One that hasn’t got the time to stick around and explain any trivial matters, such as who the main characters are, or how they came to know each other, or form a crime fighting team. I would stick my neck out and say that The Good Book is the intended first episode. If only because it features a trick ‘surprise’ opening scene that only really works if this is the first episode you’re watching, and aren’t fully aware of what the main character does for a living. It sees Gene Bradley fleeing from gunmen, then seemingly being shot to death in a bullring. Only for the scene to then pan out to reveal a film crew and –surprise, surprise- it has all just been a scene in a movie that Gene is shooting. Beginning as he means to go on, Gene is rather grumpy after a day’s filming, and is having a moan at Mr. Parminter “pictures wrapped, I’m tired, I wanna go skiing” he whines.
Adventure beckons though, and soon we are off to the Cote D’Azur, where Gene seeks out ex-lover Nita (Adrienne Corri). Nita has fallen in with Armand (John Moffatt), a crime boss who possesses a code book that he is on the verge of selling to some unscrupulous general. Unbeknownst to Armand, his code book is actually a fake, and Gene and Mr. Parminter are there to undermine Nita’s credibility within Armand’s organization. This they attempt to do by staging a burglary of Armand’s safe and replacing his fake code book with the real code book, so that Armand will think the real code book is a fake code book, and that the stolen fake code book is the real code book… welcome one and all to the world of Adventurer logic.
As all Adventurer plots are required to feed Barry’s ego, Bradley gets to gatecrash the party on Armand’s yacht, and is soon being mobbed by the star stuck jet set, thrilled that they are in the company of the world famous Gene Bradley. This crowd includes Diane who has been working undercover and trying to worm her way into Armand’s inner circle. In order to maintain her cover, she too has to pretend to be awestruck to be in Gene’s company. Good God, how Catherine Schell must have hated shooting these scenes, in which her character is required to act like a giggling schoolgirl and –tee, hee- ask Gene for his autograph. Behaving like his biggest fan, she attempts to impress him by telling him that she knows his star sign is a Leo, to which Gene corrects her with “you’re wrong, I’m a Gene”. Oh, what a witty, smooth talking so and so Gene is!!!
Of course the Bradley charm also proves handy when it comes to causing tension between Armand and Nita, with devilish Gene driving Armand crazy with the knowledge that he and Nita used to have a thing going on. After all aren’t all men jealous of Gene? As there is always enough of Gene to go round, he also finds time to romance party goer Gabrielle Drake, who gets the notable honour of being Gene’s first love interest on the show. Poor Gabrielle, all those years studying at RADA, only to end up with a role that requires her to do nothing but hang on to Gene’s arm and deliver such shockingly bad dialogue as “the last time I was in a library, this little boy he took me behind the back of one of the bookshelves and made love to me”. Still, never let it be said that appearing in The Adventurer didn’t lead on to greater things. Gabrielle would soon be appearing in Val Guest’s Au Pair Girls (the Adventurer/Au Pair Girls crossovers don’t stop there either) and incredibly this episode features a very early appearance from Ben Kingsley. Not that you’d ever recognize him here with a full beard and full head of hair, plus only two lines of dialogue as Armand’s henchman. Although given how bad Gabrielle Drake’s dialogue is in this episode, maybe he should be grateful his dialogue was kept to a minimum.
This episode also boasts an appearance from the lesser sighted Stuart Damon, who gets only one line of dialogue. In the first sign that things were already starting to go wrong with this show, Damon isn’t even mentioned in the end credits, while Garrick Hagon is mistakenly credited with playing a role in the opening titles. Almost every second Damon and Barry share together in this episode makes for uncomfortable viewing. In one scene Gene steps out of a party at Armand’s mansion, onto the balcony, and observes that Damon’s character has shown up in a car. By rights Gene should be pleased to see him, they are after all on the same side, yet Gene shoots him the meanest look imaginable, rolls his eyes, then steps back inside to the party. Even the placement of the two actors in this scene seems grotesquely symbolic of their positions on the show. Gene as the king of the castle looking down at the unwanted intruder, Damon the isolated outsider, kept at bay from the party and the fun by Gene.
Fortunately The Good Book also brings us a much needed shot of unintended hilarity, when Diane is required to perform a daring trapeze leap into Armand’s vault. At which point Catherine Schell is replaced by an extremely masculine stuntman with legs like a rugby player, who may well be the most unconvincing woman since Bernard Bresslaw in Carry on Girls.
Despite that howler, and the distasteful side-lining of Damon, The Good Book is overall an agreeable piece of lightweight escapism that offers up an idea of what the series could have been. The series opener may stick to the tried and tested ITC formula, still if it ain’t broke… don’t fix it. The Good Book’s combination of a once big time American star whose headlining of a British TV show was still a big deal, flash cars, bikini clad babes, punch ups and picturesque French Rivera locations couldn’t have been without its wish-fulfilment charm for a homegrown audience watching this on a small screen in rainy old England over a fish and chip supper. To give an idea of how the series would have originally been seen, it went out on ITV at 8:30pm on Friday nights after ‘The Comedians’ and ‘The Protectors’. A piece of alpha-male scheduling if ever there was one. I’d wager that The Good Book was one of the earliest episodes to be filmed. There is an energy and enthusiasm about the show at this point, and as they filmed away in the summery Cote D’Azur the crew must have thought they’d hit the career jackpot, Gene Barry induced malaise had yet to fully set it.