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A darker turn for the forgotten sequel to Smuggler,
This review is from: The Adventurer - The Complete Series [DVD]  (DVD)
Smuggler - The Complete Series [DVD] (1981) (2-Disc Set) wasn't one of writer Richard Carpenter's biggest hits, so it's surprising that it got a fairly lavish though now almost completely forgotten sequel in Adventurer. An ambitious co-production with New Zealand television, it throws out the original series' Dick Turpin-like template, which saw Oliver Tobias' disgraced naval officer rebelling against the petty tyranny of 18th century England by outwitting the revenue men on a weekly basis in family friendly half hour adventures, as well as the supporting cast - no romantic interest, child sidekick or wise local gentry turning a blind eye here. More significantly it darkens the tone, with Vincent sentenced to transportation to the penal colonies and finding himself in the custody of his hated brother-in-law, who has gone from using our hero's sister as a punchbag to finding an outlet for his sadism in His Majesty's Navy, lashing prisoners and throwing the sick overboard to prevent them infecting the rest of the crew. It's not long before Vincent's taken over the ship and cast him adrift, but his plans to sail for the Americas are equally short-lived, his drunken and scurvy crew causing the ship to be wrecked in the first storm and subsequently finding himself and his two surviving companions at the mercy of Temuera Morrison's arrogant Maori, unscrupulous traders, a mystery woman, a cult of shipwreck survivors, a tribal war and - wouldn't you know it - having another unwanted family reunion with his increasingly insane brother-in-law...
Co-written by Charles Crichton, director of Ealing classics like The Lavender Hill Mob, the plot progresses from island to island, never staying in one place for more than a couple of episodes (although presented as 12 half-hour episodes, it looks as if it was originally intended as six hour-long ones). Although the violence isn't particularly graphic, it's a crueller show than any of Carpenter's other adventure series: the sadism and floggings that pass for naval discipline are very much expected, but the show veers off in different directions en route to its fairly bleak open ending, our hero even having a bad drug trip that inspires a psychotic personality change when he samples the local mushrooms, which isn't something you expect to see in a teatime adventure series. If it's not as entertaining as Smuggler it's still a good solid show with decent production values and a good use of its New Zealand locations that never a quite catches fire or is as exciting as it could be but still makes for decent entertainment. Network's UK DVD includes all 12 26-minute episodes, but the only extra is a brief stills gallery.