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  Green Man, The Roots Bloody Roots
Year: 1990
Director: Elijah Moshinsky
Stars: Albert Finney, Linda Marlowe, Sarah Berger, Nicky Henson, Josie Lawrence, Michael Grandage, Natalie Morse, Michael Culver, Robert Schofield, Michael Hordern, Nickolas Grace, Sandra Caron, Brian Greene, Anna Skye, R.J. Bell, Philip Franks
Genre: Horror, Comedy, Drama, TV SeriesBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: Maurice (Albert Finney) has just woken from a very strange nightmare where he witnessed a woman from some age before walking through the forest near his hotel home, a lantern held aloft to light her way, when suddenly the trees around her began to creak and shift. As she paused to take this in, a branch was thrust through her back to emerge from the other side with her guts hanging from it, and others joined it, leaving her screaming in her death throes. Not the sort of thing to start the day off with, especially as Maurice has guests arriving to sample his well-respected menu, but he puts it from his mind and tries to persuade his teenage daughter Amy (Natalie Morse) and elderly father (Michael Hordern) to join the event downstairs…

That’s right, on the BBC in 1990, at just after nine o’clock on a Sunday evening, there was an homage to Sam Raimi’s The Evil Dead. No wonder there were complaints, the day was still regarded with some religious significance by many viewers and this wasn’t the sort of programme they expected after enjoying an episode of sitcom Bread. But this adaptation of a Kingsley Amis novel was merely following in a new tradition begun by Dennis Potter’s work The Singing Detective, and so it was Points of View, the BBC’s right to reply for viewers magazine show, was inundated with shocked television watchers not used to such spectacle – and not only that, but there was a good deal of sexual activity for randy old goat Maurice to get up to into the bargain.

The Amis name – and Malcolm Bradbury on adaptation duties – must have led the production to think they could get away with sex and violence for what was at heart an English ghost story, and not everyone who saw this was a prude, suiting the tone of the piece which invited viewers to indulge themselves appreciating Maurice’s adventures in as indulgent a manner as he did himself. The premise was that he was overfond of the bottle, so either he was suffering the effects of alcoholism or there truly was a supernatural explanation for the woman in the cloak he sees on the stairs or the severe-looking gentleman from the past who tells him he can in essence grant his wishes when it comes to the pleasures Maurice is wont to try, he being something of an ageing hedonist.

He is pulled between the two desires of bringing the spectre of the cleric back to the world and basically having a three way with his wife (Linda Marlowe, Big Zapper herself) and mistress (Sarah Berger), and it’s a question by the time we get to the final episode of three which he is most interested in, not least because one seems a distraction from the other. The programme looked to be more happy with being cheeky and sprightly than it did with the scarier business, which again gave the impression of a work falling between two stools: in one scene they would be sending up a trendy priest (Nickolas Grace) for his right-on but rather vague philosophies, then in another Maurice would be attacked in the bath by an unconvincing pixie rendered in stop motion, and neither really slotted together.

By the third instalment, there was a lengthy horror sequence as the cleric asserts his control, though not after a gnomic appearance by Philip Franks as some sort of all-knowing being – you hesitate to call him God Almighty. Again, Raimi was invoked as much as any pagan spirits or demons, but at least by committing to the scary aspects for such a sustained stretch it gave them room to breathe, though even then all concerned came across as more content with the punchline to the threesome plot. Amis was essentially a conservative writer, so we should not be too taken aback that while there was a scene of heaven as an orgy, the morals of Christianity asserted themselves and besides, you were never sure how authentic they were when the possibility of Maurice being off his rocker was uppermost in the dramatic elements. Nor should we be suspicious of the ultimate exorcism of whatever forces lurk in the forest, though we may be disappointed more wasn’t made of them further than your average spooky bogeyman shenanigans, and also that our anti-hero’s womanising is rewarded. Yet with these caveats, Finney’s charm carried it considerably. Music by Tim Souster.

[Simply Media's DVD holds no extras, but fans of the series will be pleased to finally get this on disc looking fine.]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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