I don’t know what it is recently, but I have the urge or need to watch a DVD most nights before going to bed, no matter how late it is. Unfortunately for me, I have already exhausted my supply, so now it’s a case of playing ‘repeats’. The trouble is that they have to match my mood. You would think then that this wouldn’t be a problem. What sort of mood am I in? Well, I don’t really know for sure until I play one. The other night, I felt this need to watch something. I debated whether to watch part 3 of I Claudius. It’s my favourite part, with John Hurt as Caligula. But no – no sooner had I got it out of it’s sleeve, then back it went. The next applicant was ‘Byron’ starring Johnny Lee Miller. This I ran for about 15 minutes before ejecting. I toyed with Bleak House for a few minutes, eventually plumping for ‘Twenty Thousand streets under the sky’ with Sally Hawkins, Zoë Tapper and Bryan Dick.
It is a trilogy by Patrick Hamilton, but originally 3 seperate books. Each story tells the three protagonists own tale. The first one ‘The Midnight Bell’ sets the scene for most of the tale, the ‘Midnight Bell’ pub in which Bob is a barman or waiter. He comes across as bright, cheerful, charming and honest, but by the time the tale ends he is a very different person (and a lot lighter in wallet). The Midnight Bell is Bob’s side of the story. We see him worshipped by Ella, also of the Midnight bell, with a room next to his. Ella is just a friend, though she may have stood more of a chance if Bob had not seen Jenny the prostitute who steals his heart amongst other things.
The second tale ‘The siege of pleasure’ is Jenny’s story and seen from her point of view. It tells of Jenny’ descent from poor but respectable skivvy into prostitution through her addiction to drink. It is a sordid tale of seduction, deceit and rather sad. Even when offered by Bob, a way out, Jenny does not divert from the path she has chosen. Probably the most noblest thing she does, is let him down at the end, though that is debateable
The last tale, ’The plains of cement’ is Ella the barmaids tale. In some ways although this one does have some humour in it, it is also the most poignant. The humour (though disturbing) is down to the elderly, well off Mr Eccles, an elderly customer who takes a shine to Ella (who’s in love with Bob, who is in love with Jenny, who is in love with money and booze). Though unsuitable as a boyfriend, Eccles at least sees Ella as a ‘young beautiful thing) and she isn’t offered many chances: Both are lonely: both are destined to stay so
None of these people achieve their hearts desires. The acting is positively superb and the atmosphere is convincingly 1930s smoky pubs. First shown on BBC TV and available on DVD. I’ve watched this over and over again and read the book: a marvellously good read. I would say that the BBC version is very faithful to the book. The characters are very 3 dimensional and all too human.
This review was originally on my Echostains blog