One of my resolutions for the New Year was to watch and review all the episodes of Hammer's 1968 TV series Journey to the Unknown. Though I had copies of these shows available to me for quite some time, I never got around to watching them. So it's time to fill this hole in my Hammer filmography.
Can't tell you much about the series in general quite yet: Whatever little I may at one time have read about it, soon vanished into mental oblivion so all I really know offhand is that this is one of Hammer's rare excursions into television and and that it wasn't all too successful.
Eve premiered on September 28, 1968 and features a young Dennis Waterman as Albert Baker, a socially inept dreamer who watches romantic movies but is otherwise incapable of establishing any kind of relationship with the fairer sex. When he imagines a mannikin winking at him one evening while walking past the shop he works in, he straight away asks to be transferred to work as a window dresser to be closer to his new found love now christened “Eve”. His new boss, a cheating womaniser, is played by Michael Gough and provides the only link to the classic Gothic Hammer movies. When he orders the mannikins to be destroyed to make room for new ones, he seals his fate: Albert, afraid that Eve, too, will be burnt, tries stealing the dummy (as well as an expensive fur coat to keep her warm), but gets caught in the act by Gough, accidentally kills him and escapes from the police into the countryside. But will he find peace and happiness there? Well, don't hold your breath.
At this stage I don't have the slightest idea whether or not this episode was typical for the series overall. As a standalone, however, it is all rather pointless. For a show from the late 60s it is surprising to see Albert's love affair with the mannikin played straight and not for laughs, thereby given it a rather unsavory feeling. The trouble, however, is that the entire concept is just ridiculous beyond belief and on top of that the first 20 minutes are wasted on endless scenes of cliched soft focused, slo mo and psychedelically coloured images of Albert with Eve running through the forest or sipping champagne in luxurious surroundings. (In those scenes Eve is played by American actress Carol Lynley.)
Worse than these involuntarily funny scenes, however, is the utterly confusing characterisation of Albert. Despite the fact that we are supposed to believe that he considers the mannikin to be real we are time and again shown that he is quite aware that she is just a dummy. After all, why else would he request to be transferred to the window dressing department and why be concerned with the burning of the mannikins if he really believed her to be a hot blooded woman?
What is amazing about this episode, however, is how contemporary it was at the time. This surely must have been one of the first occasions where we see a hippie drop out get high on smoking dope on British television. And those bikers that we see towards the end could have come straight off a 1970s NEL pulp paperback.
Still, despite these touches this is a show that has outrun its ultra thin concept far before it hits the 50 minute mark and its anti climactic finale. Bit of a disappointment really. Let's hope the next episodes will improve on this lacklustre debut.
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