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Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Childhood Magic

Okay, so it's another long post. I try to edit them down, I really do (you'd never make it through the first draft of one of these things believe me), but it seems that I can't write anything without rambling on. And I've just made it even longer by writing that . And that. And that. And... (Sorry)

The Chronicles of Narnia are among the most well loved works of childrens literature in the English language. At least among the kind of people who use phrases like "well loved works of childrens literature". To be honest though, (and this may speak more to the sort of communities I was raised in and still inhabit, than society in general), most of the people I know (Not me though, I is all cultural and shit) would be hard pushed to name one that didn't have Lion and Wardrobe in the title.

So I suppose it's fitting that when it comes to adapting the books for the screen the accepted wisdom is to start with Lion... and go from there, even though the internal continuity of the Narnia books has The Magicians Nephew as the first title. To be fair, even if Lion... weren't the better bet ratings/financially speaking, ...Nephew is pretty unrepresentative of the series as a whole and so probably wouldn't be the best bet artistically either.

All of which is just my roundabout way of getting to the fact that I've been watching the BBC's 1988 adaptation of The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. It was the first of 4 Narnia serials that the Beeb produced in the late 80's/ early 90's, and was followed by Prince Caspian, Voyage of the Dawn Treader and The Silver Chair, all broadcast under the umbrella title Chronicles of Narnia. I haven't watched them and shan't be in the near future. In fact the only reason I've been in a position to knock off Lion... is because I've come into possession of a DVD that came free with the Daily Mail a while back, courtesy of a family member who hoards these things despite not owning a DVD player themselves.

I'd been under the impression that these freebies were all "heres the first episode now piss off and buy the boxset" type deals but in this case it's a complete serial from a boxset of 4 so well worth the watch. I may have to pay closer heed to these offers in future, even if it does mean I end up buying the odd copy of the Daily Mail.

Anyway, to the show itself. The four lead characters (siblings Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy) arrive in the country having been sent packing from London during the war. They are to be taken in by an aging Professor. While exploring the Profs big old house they find a wardrobe which on occasion, but not always, serves as a doorway to a magical land called Narnia, wherein they have lots of adventures fighting with the native Narnians (anthropomorphised animals mainly) against The White Witch who has taken it upon herself to cast a spell on the land, making it eternally winter. Thats as much of the plot as I'm going to type because frankly, if you don't know the story of this then shame on you. Read the first paragraph again, "most well the English language." Away with you to Waterstones (or an indoor market, or a library, or...) and get it read.

The four kids are played by your typical BBC kids of the day, all perfect enunciation and proper manners. To be fair, Richard Dempsey and Sophie Cook, playing the two eldest, acquit themselves quite well considering.

Their are also occasional flashes of something special in Jonathan Scott, playing Edmund.

I do feel duty bound to point out that Sophie Wilcox (Lucy), despite growing up to be a bit of a hottie, has at this point in her life the biggest teeth I've ever seen in a childs mouth. Frightening.

The effects work on the show is something a bit different. Obviously well aware that they didn't have a hope in hell of getting some of C.S Lewis' more fantastical creations on screen using conventional methods of the day they opted instead to go with animating some of the trickier stuff and dropping it into the live action scenes in a Roger Rabbit style, only not as slick obviously. It doesn't sound like the most elegant of solutions and to be honest it's far from seamless but it earns points for charm and I'd imagine it was far from cheap. Especially the scene of Edmund riding an animated flying horse.

Biggest fly in the ointment of the whole thing was Barbara Kellerman, playing Jadis, the White Witch. She's gives a completely overblown performance that makes you think that she thought she was in a pantomime. Even the people dressed as giant beavers managed to retain more dignity in their performances. She went on to star in the subsequent BBC narnia adaps, playing a different role in each. I can honestly say that this news has seriously dampened my enthusiasm for these stories.

In all though, it was better than I expected it to be and far from a wasted 3hrs.

Next : Either a 3 parter on the horror channel or a wrap up of the stuff thats just ended. They're both in the works but I don't know which will be ready first.

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