Ah, Sunday evenings in the 1970s; Cliff Michelmore's Holiday programme, and then, if you were lucky, Poldark. This was the first bit of grown-up telly I remember watching, and terribly grown up it seemed too, with characters dying and going bankrupt and lots of love and stuff. But it was set in my then-favourite period (late 18th/early 19th century - I was an odd child) and so the outfits and atmosphere carried me through all the bits I didn't really understand. Better still, it was set in Cornwall, so for fifty minutes a week I'd be whisked away from dismal old Brighton to storm-wracked smugglers' coves and wild granite cliff tops.
Anyway, so much for nostalgia: how would Poldark stand up when viewed again in the 21st century, thanks to the miracle of DVDs?
|Robin Ellis, Angharad Rees, and Cornwall|
Then one day, as you do, he saves an androgynous ginger waif from being beaten to death for pasty-theft at a local fishmarket. She turns out to be Demelza, played by lovely, lovely Angharad Rees, who becomes his housekeeper, lover and eventually his wife, her humble background and peculiar 'Cornish' vowel-sounds startling the local gentry and driving a series of BBC regional accent coaches to drink, madness and suicide*. Bickering, doubting each other, falling in and out of love, Ross and Demelza are still one of the most memorable and oddly convincing couples I've ever seen on TV.
|Oh, I doan' know, Ross, what |
sorta accent be this, then?
The stories are gripping, involving Ross in smuggling, duels, law-suits, bitter rivalries. even raids on revolutionary France. It also treats business as something important and worth telling stories about. Robin Ellis is terrific, and I assume the only reason he's not better known is that he was so memorable in Poldark that he got hopelessly typecast. Angharad Rees is every bit as good. Ralph Bates, who arrives in the second series as the scheming George Warleggan, is a simply magnificent villain. Even Christopher Biggins is a revelation, playing a particularly repellant vicar.
Only two things disappointed me. Firstly, the DVDs which are currently available have been re-edited (perhaps for US TV?) so that on each disc three or four fifty minute episodes have been run together into one movie of unwieldy length; you have to edit them into watchable chunks yourself, which involves much mucking about in the menu, and I missed the cliff-hanger endings and that cut to sea bursting on Cornish rocks while the credits roll.
Secondly, I spent the whole time waiting for Demelza (she of the uncertain West Country accent) to say, "What're you doin' doon there on the floo-er, Ross?" This became a sort of catch-phrase in my family when Poldark was first on, but either it's been edited out or, more likely, it was just something we made up while doing Angharad Rees impressions, because she never actually says it. Ah, how our fickle memories play us false...
*This is not true.