1 9 7 2 (UK)
6 x 25 minute episodes
This short weekly serial from ATV was an adaptation of Catherine Storr’s 1958 novel Marianne Dreams, about a young girl whose drawings come to life in her dreams.
Marianne (Vikki Chambers) is confined to bed after falling from a horse. Out of boredom she doodles an imaginary house in her notepad – and is subsequently transported there in her dreams.
There is nobody in the house so when Marianne awakes again she draws a boy at an upstairs window – a companion during her next dream visit. As it turns out the boy, Mark (Steven Jones) is also in bed in the real world – seriously ill with polio and unable to walk – and has now been pulled into her alternative world.
Mark also has the same homeschooling teacher as Marianne, Miss Chesterfield (Patricia Maynard) although the two children have never met.
The children don’t get on too well at first and when Mark buys Miss Chesterfield a more impressive bunch of birthday roses than Marianne, she vents her annoyance by drawing some menacing boulders with eyes surrounding the dream house.
Marianne eventually discovers just how sick Mark really is and her attitude towards him mellows. She starts drawing objects to make Mark more comfortable at the house.
The sinister one-eyed rocks outside the house (called “watchers”) become increasingly threatening and Marianne is horrified to discover that not only can they move but she is also unable to erase them from her drawing.
Together, Marianne and Mark decide they must find a way to escape from the house.
The action switches between Marianne’s dream existence and her bedroom where her mother, doctor and teacher are concerned by her strange behaviour, nightmares and obsession with Mark.
More experimental than most children’s drama series, Escape Into Night’s surreal, dark tone and eerie sense of unearthliness made an indelible impression on its young viewing audience. The creepy stones and their harsh metallic voices made it a nightmarish serial in every sense.
The series was filmed at Barr Beacon, Aldridge, near the ATV Birmingham studios. A film version (Paperhouse) was produced in 1988 with Charlotte Burke in the role of Marianne.
The film lacked the darkness and unearthliness of the TV version, although the bigger budget meant the ending (involving a helicopter and a lighthouse) could be fully realised – this action had taken place offscreen in the series.
Vikki Chambers later became a presenter on BBC Radio Birmingham.