Bouquet of Barbed Wire 1976

Monday, 04 October 2010 12:19

With a new version of the story having just been broadcast by ITV1, it was inevitable that Andrea Newman’s original controversial series, and its sequel Another Bouquet, would find themselves available again on DVD. Previous versions had been selling for upwards of £150.00, even for ‘previously owned’ copies, so there has remained a huge interest in the series, even before having a reimagining produced.

The first series took seven one hour episodes to tell its tale – the new version chose to compress everything into just three. It would be easy to conclude that this means the original was far slower, but if truth be told the web it weaves is far more intricate and a greater examination of all the characters involved. It is a perfect example of how the people who populate a story can move it on as much as any plot.

The original Bouquet of Barbed Wire available again on DVDIt’s a tangled web of sexual and emotional relationships, focusing on Peter Manson and his wife, Cassie. They appear to enjoy the perfect marriage, but their manipulative daughter Prue’s recent unexpected marriage to her American boyfriend, Gavin is a cause for much concern for Peter. When Prue becomes pregnant it is the catalyst for the family’s dramatic disintegration, as Gavin intrudes further and Peter can no longer contain his jealous feelings for Prue. Cassie, in search of emotional fulfilment, throws herself into a series of passionate affairs – and one of her lovers is Gavin...

This could easily be a schlocky tale of a middle-class family torn apart by a father’s obsessive love for his own daughter.  The storyline is far more pointedly incestuous in basis in the original, and there were no heroes or villains, far from being the black-and-white moralisation present in the remake.

What was excised from the 2010 version was that Prue had a dark side – she actually enjoyed being beaten by her husband. This is now something way off limits. Indeed, Prue is played as a victim in the reimagining, which she never was in the original, and to over-egg the pudding the new version has her hubby portrayed as a sick individual with a long-standing vendetta against Peter. These days everyone has to have a motive for their actions, rather than it just being the way things are.

Bouquet of Barbed Wire features some excellent performances. Frank Finlay, who had made a name for himself in the 1971 version of Casanova, is magnificently brooding, and believable in the way he hits his ‘self-destruct’ button. Sheila Allen as his wife Cassie is sufficiently confused by the moral climate around her to also have her own secrets and personal frustrations.

Susan Penhaligon gives a career-defining performance as the daughter Prue; you simply don’t know whether to feel sorry for her, fill yourself with hate for her, or just sigh with disdain at her manipulations. James Aubrey as Gavin is the husband who simply cannot understand his wife, trying to be what she wants him to be, but in the end becoming as much a pawn as everyone else whom has fallen into Prue’s orbit.

The series was hugely popular with both the viewing public and critics in 1976. Even without the attention of the tabloid press – an inevitable consequence of its many risqué scenes and its unflinching portrayal of a father’s incestuous desires – Bouquet of Barbed Wire was one of the most celebrated, and controversial, British television dramas.

Director of the first season, Tony Wharmby has become a major player on both sides of the Atlantic.  He was the creator of Dempsey and Makepeace, and became a producer and director on The X-Files. He is currently one of the regular directors on NCIS.

Another Bouquet - the sequel returns to DVDWith such a huge hit, ITV decided they needed a follow-up. This was perhaps not as wise a decision as it seemed, as Prue was no longer around to be the centre of everyone’s world. With Another Bouquet, Andrea Newman wrote a brand new caper, which was only later adapted to a novel.  In this she showed that even despite her death, Prue still had a power and influence over the people next to her in her life.

It is set six months after Prue died following the birth of her daughter, who is now being cared for by Cassie. Cassie’s husband Peter, still grieving over Prue’s death, becomes just as fixated on his grand-daughter as he was for Prue. Gavin, meanwhile, begins to have problems with Vicky (Elizabeth Romilly), the new woman sharing his life. Vicky is completely besotted and will put up with anything.  He failing is that she’s just no good with babies!

Deborah Grant is Sarah Francis, who in the first season was Peter’s secretary Sarah Francis. She is elevated in stature in the sequel - previously she had become Peter’s mistress amongst a bevy of her own relationships, but at one point Peter had become her ‘top dog’. However, with Peter’s problems, she agrees to marry the persistent Geoff Roberts (Eric Carte), who has wealth and patience – two essentials for dealing with Sarah.

Indeed, it is Deborah Grant’s performance in Another Bouquet which really lifts it from turning completely into banal soap opera. This is a woman completely torn, loyalty and guilt playing against each other at every turn and in every decision.

To help the second season over the finish line, in steps the excellent Philip Madoc as Dr Evan Lewis for the last four episodes.  Lewis is drafted in by his daughter Vicky to help Peter come to terms with his situation, and Madoc chews up the carpet with the material he’s given.  This Doctor’s a keen cook, and uses this as a divorcee’s primary tool of seduction, having a veritable harem of casual relationships filling up his week. While he’s open about his motivations, those in Prue’s orbit who encounter him cannot quite appreciate that his honesty is the opposite end of the spectrum to their cloak-and-dagger ways of handling relationships.

The series finishes by actually leaving the door open for another sequel, though how much mileage there would be in one is debatable: the clue is in Peter’s car being ticketed by a zealous traffic warden...

Another Bouquet was directed by John Frankau, who went on to be Executive Producer on the likes of Cover, Bognor, and The Brack Report (a trio of series that really should get a DVD release soon).

Certainly, Bouquet of Barbed Wire is essential viewing, although Another Bouquet falls way short of keeping the story as intense and bipolar. The lack of Prue in the sequel was a huge hurdle to get over, and the women who remain are not strong enough characters to make up for such a loss.

Bouquet of Barbed Wire is out now in a two DVD set from Network, with a ‘15’ certificate, a running time of 350 minutes approx and a RRP of £19.99. Another Bouquet is also over two DVDs with a ‘15’ certificate, a running time of 350 minutes approx and a RRP of £19.99.  There is also a box set available combining both series for a RRP of £39.99.  Or you can get both variants for less at www.culttvstore.com

 

Bouquet of Barbed Wire / Another Bouquet – Cast List

Frank Finlay as Peter Manson

Susan Penhaligon as Prue Sorenson

James Aubrey as Gavin Sorenson

Sheila Allen as Cassie Manson

Deborah Grant as Sarah Francis/Roberts

Eric Carte as Geoff Roberts

Roland Curram as Rupert Warner

Roger Rees as Simon

Ann Beach as Monica

Marilyn Finlay as Annabel

Peter Needham as Doctor

Jeremy Stacey as David Manson

Paul Stacey as Andrew Manson

Elizabeth Romilly as Vicky Lewis

Philip Madoc as Dr Evan Lewis

Simon Chandler as Freddy

Fred Bryant as Porter

Carol Drinkwater as Barbara

 

Last modified on Thursday, 10 May 2012 16:37

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