June 4th, 2003


Wimsey on DVD: The Nine Tailors

This is the oddest of the Ian Carmichael adaptations, because it strays farthest from the text. As I've become used to, there's a lot of movement in the novel's dialogue, mostly breaking up long speeches among several characters in a scene, in ways that I don't think I'd notice were I less familiar with the books, or in some cases holding the book in my hand as I watch. The Nine Tailors has some of that, and various small omissions and shifts to accomodate the medium and the budget. One event I really missed is Peter having to climb onto the roof of the church, but I could see how that would have been a challenge for the cameras.

There's one big difference between this adaptation and the others. The Nine Tailors adaptation has some completely original material. An important element of the novel is the theft of the Wilbraham emeralds during World War One, which here is dramatized, taking about 25% of the total length. Carmichael, though a bit too old to be convincing as a callow young Peter, nevertheless carries it off with changes in his manner and speech, and the judicious addition of a moustache. The viewer is then dragged to the trenches with Peter and Bunter; Peter's traumatic experience is dramatized, and Bunter's subsequent arrival to be Peter's valet. At the same time, we see what happened to Deacon, and how.

It's scripted; none of this business is shown in the novels at all; yet I confess I liked it. Better than I liked the rest of this adaptation, which I found rather dry. (Yes, I know there's a flood. Ahem.) The acting was all excellent, but for some reason, this particular adpatation didn't grab me like some of the others. Maybe I was just in a mood when I watched it. Maybe it's because I find large sections of the novel itself to be rather dull; by that point in the sequence, I want more Harriet, and here I feel her lack acutely.

Fans of Blake's 7 will easily recognize David Jackson (Olag Gan) playing Jim Thody, the sailor brother of Will Thody. They may or may not spot Peter Tuddenham (voice of the computers Zen, Orac, and Slave) in Mr. Godfrey, who rings Batty Thomas; he's using one of his innumberable accents, but traces of his future characters can be heard by the keen of ear.

The Five Red Herrings should arrive in the mail shortly, and that will be the last of the Wimseys that were made for television. Hmm, I wonder if I can somehow get hold of those British audiobooks?