Tuesday, 28 February 2017
618 The Mad Death
First viewed : July 1983
Besides the water shortage, the long hot summer of 1976 was also marked by a rabies scare. I can't recall what sparked it off but there were posters in the local health centre warning of the dangers of flaunting quarantine laws. It seemed like Death was just waiting to pop over from Calais and get us. Radio playwright James Follett ( not to be confused with Labour luvvie Ken ) capitalised on this with a scary drama The Rabid Summer on Radio Four which made such an impression on me that I taped the repeat and played it to my friends.
I don't know if Nigel Slater who wrote The Mad Death some six years later heard the play but there are strong similarities. In both, the hero is a vet who has to impose unpopular control measures in the teeth of opposition from countryside interests and mad old pet-loving ladies. In this case, the vet was a younger man Hillard , played by Richard Heffer with an arrogance that made him very difficult to like. The green wellies brigade were represented by Dalry ( Richard Morant ) who was also the suspicious boyfriend of Hillard's assistant Anne ( Barbara Kellerman ). Brenda Bruce played the psychotic cat owner.
I think I missed the first episode of this three-parter but I recall a scene , which must have given Richard Whiteley nightmares ,where Hillard is ambushed in a pub by a group of yokels and has a ferret pushed to within a centimetre of his face. I also remember Dalry giving Hillard a long-overdue punch at some point in the final part.