Monday December 4, 2017
The story so far – the year is 1902 and Adam Adamant (gentleman, adventurer and all-round decent chap) is frozen in ice by his mortal enemy ‘The Face’.
64 years later he is thawed out after being found by workmen on a building site, and after coming to terms with the new world of Carnaby Street and beat combos, Adam quickly establishes himself as a crime fighter extraordinary.
According to the Radio Times of December 29th, 1966, his mission is to defeat those cads who variously ‘take advantage of the weakness of women, intimidate, extort money’ and ‘run down Queen, Country and Empire’.
And for official ‘superhero transport,’ there is an Austin Mini Cooper S Radford de Ville GT, registration number AA 1000.
Any reader thinking a) this must have been one of the inspirations for Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery and/or b) this must have been the BBC’s answer to The Avengers would both be correct. Adam Adamant Lives! entered production in 1966 as the Corporation’s rival to the adventures of Steed and Mrs. Peel, with Gerald Harper cast as our Edwardian hero and Juliet Harmer playing Georgina Jones his very ‘Swinging London’ assistant.
As befitting a 1960s television series of quality, there was a truly epic theme song courtesy of Kathy Kirby.
AA 1000 was originally a standard Tweed Austin Cooper 1275S that was originally finished in Grey and Olde English White that was subsequently converted by Harold Radford at a cost of more than £1,000.
There was a new colour scheme, alloy wheels, a Rosewood veneer fascia, a heated rear screen, Marchal spot lamps and even electric windows. Most importantly, the Webasto sunroof gave Adam the opportunity to make dramatic leaps in pursuit of all wrongdoers.
Prior to shooting Harper took the Mini for a spin around Blackpool as Mr. Adamant would have to take the wheel in several editions of the show.
Looking at Adam Adamant Lives! from the perspective of 2017 what really dates it is the BBC’s use of taped studio scenes and filmed exteriors.
By 1966 The Avengers and the ITC adventure series had already gone to an all-film format, and the fact that Adam’s thrilling adventures were made in black and white limited their opportunities for being aired in the USA.
In fact, the budget was quite high by the standards of the day but some of the scenery still managed to look as though it was about to collapse.
Hyper-critical readers might also note that the Mini clearly lacks a windscreen in some shots and that its wheels vary between Minilites to Cosmics - perhaps our hero was also a dedicated follower of automotive fashion?
One question is never answered – as Gerald Harper once mused, it is never explained just how Adam managed to pass his driving test!
The show ran for two series and 29 episodes, although 12 were wiped; thank you so very much BBC tape archiving policies of the 1970s.
By 1967 the Cooper S was returned to Harold Radford and after a varied post-filming career, it is now in splendid condition and more than ready to defeat over-acting master criminals.
The surviving programmes are tremendous fun and one story was directed by a young chap named Ridley Scott; whatever happened to him?
Would it be too much to hope for a BBC4 remake, with Mark Gatiss as ‘The Face’ and Daniel Mays as Adam? Plus, naturally, AA 1000.