1 9 7 0 (UK)
6 x 54 minute episodes
This drama series from London Weekend Television was based on true-life cases of women who made the headlines of Victorian newspapers. The six episodes aired as part of Saturday Night Theatre (1969 – 1971), a compendium of dramas produced for ITV by a variety of companies.
Alice Rhodes | Christiana Edmunds | Augusta Fullam | Anne-Maria Moody | Florence Maybrick | Madeleine July
This story of Alice Rhodes (Joanna Dunham), a woman who systematically starved her lover’s dull-witted and plain wife, Harriet (Gillian Raine) to death in an attic was an unpleasant one but made far worse by a good deal of gloating over the poor woman’s scabs and excrement, and a flip application of sexual sadism.
The cool beauty of the murderess, her wish to make love after her visits to the attic to whip her victim, and the amount of hovering camera work made this an unattractive stomach-turning hour.
This story of Christiana Edmunds (Anna Massey), a mad girl who was prepared to murder at random to gain the love of a handsome doctor. The case made headlines in the heatwave summer of 1870.
The episode was well-constructed and enjoyably harrowing as it looked behind the genteel facade of a seemingly respectable house in Brighton where the young Christiana was kept virtually a prisoner by her mother and the forbidding housekeeper, Mrs Boding (Sonia Dresdel).
Escaping briefly, the girl lights on the handsome Dr Beard (Richard Gale) and instantly conceives an obsessive passion for him.
Charles Lloyd Pack
Played by Vivien Merchant, Augusta Fullam is the shy, reserved, Anglo-Indian wife of a government official in Imperial India at the turn of the 20th century. They live in a tight little expatriate British society, as enclosed as a village in which everybody knows everybody else’s business.
“In London, lovers are all the rage,” remarks one of the mem-sahibs.
The touch of envy does not make the ladies less resentful of the man who steps out of line, the incorrigible womaniser Dr Harry Clark (Edward De Souza). They primly agree that he must be taught a lesson, and Augusta is chosen to give it. But it is a plan that badly misfires.
Dr Harry Clark
Edward De Souza
Anne-Maria Moody (Jane Asher) is the young and passionate mistress of Major Murray (William Lucas) – a cold, mean, humourless man. Plunged hopelessly into debt by her desires and extravagance, she turns in desperation to a money-lender who soon becomes infatuated with his flirtatious client.
Seeing a chance of happiness with the moneylender’s attractive son, Anne-Maria persuades the usurer to murder her protector, Major Murray. But one of those cruel, ironic twists of fate cheats her of everything she longs for.
Major William Murray
The fifth in this series of plays concerns 20-year-old Florence Maybrick (Nicola Pagett). Lost, lonely and frightened, Florrie is a bride of only a few months, bound to a man twice her age.
James Maybrick (John Carson), already an adulterer, flaunts his escapades in his young wife’s face, knowing that the drunken orgies revolt her. But the role of the Victorian wife was one of submission and when lust drives James to demand his rights, Florence is left in no doubt that she must submit.
Revulsion, fear and terror drive her to a desperate solution.
Madeleine July (Billie Whitelaw) is a failed showgirl and part-time trollop who is offered security and marriage by a tradesman – she takes it and is driven to murder.
An old lover, a malicious neighbour, a demanding husband – and passion – all play their parts.
It is not surprising that this story is set in France. The year is 1897.