Sunday, 19 March 2017
635 The Old Men At The Zoo
First viewed : 15 September 1983
This was an interesting BBC2 drama, a five part adaptation of Angus Wilson's satirical novel by the ever-reliable Troy Kennedy -Martin. My mum tuned in for her favourite actor Stuart Wilson but didn't like it and abandoned it after the first episode. My viewing was interrupted by the inconvenient fact of starting at university during its run and I missed the final episode.
Wilson plays Simon Carter, a TV personality in a not too distant , largely pedestrianised future , who accepts a job at a London zoo run by a gerontocracy of eccentric old men, some benign, others highly dangerous. He soon finds he has to jump to the tune of another old man, a megalomaniac press baron, Lord Godmanchester ( Robert Morley ). Europe is on the verge of a nuclear war with the OPEC countries and Godmanchester wants the zoo evacuated to Wales, nurturing the wildlife reserve visions of crackpot director Leacock ( Maurice Denham ) . After Leacock's bra-less hippychick daughter ( Jan Harvey ) dies in an overzealous bout of bestiality with her dog ( mostly offscreen thankfully ) he switches loyalties to the equally insane Bob Falcon ( Robert Urquhart ) whose age doesn't prevent him screwing Carter's wife.
It's not perfect by any means. Much of it was shot on VT and the budget was a bit unequal to bringing the wide sweep of the novel to the screen. It's also flabby in places; much of the first episode is concerned with the death of a young keeper whose gonads are mashed by a giraffe and there's an extended scene at his funeral introducing characters that we don't see again. Nevertheless it had a thought-provoking premise, an excellenr cast and many bleakly comic moments.
At the time of writing you can watch it right through on YouTube.