BOUQUET OF BARBED WIRE. (1976) WRITTEN BY ANDREA NEWMAN. DIRECTED AND PRODUCED BY TONY WHARMBY AND JOHN FRANKAU. MADE BY LONDON WEEKEND TELEVISION.
STARRING FRANK FINLAY, SHEILA ALLEN, SUSAN PENHALIGON, JAMES AUBREY, DEBORAH GRANT, ROLAND CURRAM, ROGER REES, ANN BEACH AND CAROL DRINKWATER.
REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©
Wow. I watched this vintage British television series over the May Bank Holiday this year and it practically fogged up the screen with the smouldering sexuality. I believe it was the critic Clive James who said of it that, by the end, everyone in it except for the baby had slept with everyone else, a pretty accurate assessment, if you ask me.
Not that you see any nudity or actual sex happening on screen, but you see the before bits and the after bits and it all leaves you with the distinct impression that you’ve actually seen the middley bits too, if you know what I mean.
It’s a family saga with lust, physical violence and forbidden desires simmering away under the surface, with a generous dollop of guilt, remorse and consequences thrown in for good measure, just in case any of the characters should be seen to be enjoying the deliciously illicit sex too much…!
Frank Finlay does a phenomenal job as grey-haired paterfamilias Peter Eliot Manson, a wealthy publisher with the ‘perfect’ family: Cassie, his lovely wife, who’s devoted the best years of her life to supporting Peter and bringing up her family (but she has her secrets too); their twin sons of about ten whom we hardly ever see, because they’re ‘away at school;’ and a beautiful, spoiled adult daughter called Prue…
The series was mired in controversy on its release because of the overtones (never mind the undertones!) of incestuous desire between Peter and his daughter. They’ve never actually slept together, as far as we know, but Peter is head over heels in love with the flirty, mischievous, shit-stirring Prue who, all her life, has always gotten exactly what she wanted from both parents. Now she’s as manipulative and dangerous as any other spoiled child to whom no-one’s ever said the word ‘no…’
Peter is sick with jealousy that Prue, a university student (for all the work we ever see her do…!), has met and married an attractive but independent-minded fellow student, an American chap called Gavin Sorenson.
Gavin’s had the exact opposite upbringing to Prue and therefore has no problem in calling her out when she’s out of line. Prue is having Gavin’s baby now too, and Peter wants to kill Gavin for sullying the virginal body of his beautiful perfect daughter. It’s all very uncomfortable, albeit thrilling, to watch…
Into Peter’s complicated life (and office) then comes his new secretary, Sarah Francis. Sarah is one of those independent working girls who shares a house with other girls, the kind where there are always knickers and tights hanging in the bathroom to dry. Her house-mate Annabel is rich and a walking bitch, just thought I’d mention it!
Anyway, Sarah doesn’t come from a rich, privileged family. In fact, she hails from quite a dysfunctional one and she’s never been able to depend on them for anything. She has to fight for her place in the world. She has two lovers, the impoverished artist Simon and the handsome son of a rich businessman, Geoff, and she can’t decide between either of them. (Geoff would be my choice, lol.) In fact, Sarah never seems to really know what she wants in life and this could spell trouble for her down the line.
Sarah has a delicate beauty and an air almost of damaged fragility that draws her restrained, prim and proper cold fish of a boss Peter to her in his hour of need. He feels betrayed by his precious daughter, he hates Gavin’s guts and he and his wife are barely communicating.
Sarah is like a soothing balm to Peter’s many wounds. Knowing the risks, but nonetheless supremely confident that they can be the first two people in the world ever to have an affair where absolutely no-one gets hurt, not even themselves, they embark on a secret relationship. No-one gets hurt, right, because no-one ever needs to find out? Talk about famous last words…
The series was also famously controversial for its dark themes of sadomasochism, a shady subject that probably had never been openly portrayed on the screen before. Prue Manson-Sorenson has a powerful need to be knocked about by her husband Gavin, and she manipulates him into doing it by pushing him to his limits.
He needn’t respond, of course. He could of course just walk away with his hands in his pockets, but he’s such a hothead that he can’t resist getting into it with her every time. They need to be very careful, these two, especially with Prue’s being pregnant and everything. This is a dangerous game they’re playing and, if they’re not prue-dent, excuse the pun, the consequences could be deadly…
The Manson family is a hotbed of secrets, lies, terrible betrayals, sex, violence, resentment and, buried deeply somewhere underneath all that, love. The aristocratic Frank Finlay at fifty, with his cut-glass accent and meticulous dress, would put one in mind of Christopher Lee, who was only four years older.
Both men would attract you in the same way, with their same aura of stern austerity and regal command. I’m getting weak at the knees now at the thought of it all, lol. I hope to be back to you all in a few days’ time with my review of ANOTHER BOUQUET, the follow-up to the original BOUQUET, so until then, stay safe and we’ll talk again soon.
AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.
Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:
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