Monday, 15 February 2016
338 Armchair Thriller
First viewed : 21 February 1978
This show was made by Thames TV and was shown twice-weekly on Tuesdays and Thursdays. The first series comprised five completely separate stories adapted from previously published work and split into four or six episodes.
The first one was Rachel in Danger , about a shy intelligent Scottish girl who takes the train to London for a short stay with a father she hasn't seen since she was a toddler and who normally works in South America. Unfortunately he's been followed over by a friend Juan ( played by the very busy Stephen Grief of Blake's 7 and Citizen Smith fame ) who promptly murders him to steal his identity for a terrorist operation and isn't expecting company. What follows is just a little contrived but eminently watchable, in fact seeing it again, it's better than I remembered. The girl, Della Low, isn't much cop and looks suspiciously like she's reading from cue cards held above her co-stars' shoulders but it's still pretty gripping thanks to excellent performances from Grief and his terrifying Japanese accomplice Aiyako ( Eiko Nakamura ) a study in icy fanaticism. Struan Rodger pops up again as another of the terrorists though I didn't recognise him as the guy from Joe and the Sheep Rustlers.
That one was in four parts , the next one "A Dog's Ransom", was in six and was adapted from a Patricia Highsmith novel. It starts with the kidnapping of a poodle from a middle class couple by an unsavoury and resentful Polish immigrant who demands a ransom. We know by the end of the first episode that he's killed the dog but that's not the point. The police are not that interested apart from a smart young detective who investigates the case in his own time and brings a heap of trouble on himself and his girlfriend. If I recall correctly she gets sent thirty chocolate coins except it's not exactly chocolate under the wrappers. Matters escalate to a very grim conclusion, topped off with an ironic final scene of the couple happily playing with a replacement dog . However there wasn't enough action for some of my peers at school who decried it as slow and boring and I fear I may have listened to them because none of the subsequent stories ring any bells. In fact, judged on the first two stories , the subject matter is remarkably dark for a pre-watershed show and the fact they had to pull a few punches in its presentation shouldn't have put anyone off.