Sunday 26 April 2015

From Bollywood to Michael Sheen: Saki (H. H. Munro) adaptations on the YouTube

He's not been mentioned here for a little while, but longtime readers of this blog will know of the enthusiasm round these parts for the work of H. H. Munro, better known by his pen name Saki, who wrote brilliantly comic short stories where genteel society collided with often chaotic, sometimes even supernatural elements.

That admiring forewords to collections of his work have been written by everyone from A.A. Milne and Noel Coward to Will Self and The League of Gentlemen's Jeremy Dyson is proof enough of his influence on a wide selection of British writers since his untimely death on a WW1 battlefield in 1916.

He's not exactly a household name though, due in part perhaps to his stories never having made a successful jump to the great populariser of the 20th century, television. (Would P.G. Wodehouse still be quite as popular today without the efforts of Fry and Laurie? Discuss.)

That's not to say Saki has never been adapted for the screen though, far from it. Below is quick romp through some YouTube links which will prove of great interest to Saki Fanciers.

First up is a programme which has only recently (February 2015) been posted online, and what a treat it is. In 1962, Granada broadcast an 8-part series called Saki: The Improper Stories of H. H. Munro. I knew of this production's existence, but had long given up hope of seeing any of it. It's a no-frills, studio-based affair, which would have been performed pretty much as live (if not *actually* live), but with cast members including the great Richard Vernon and Fenella Fielding at the top of their game, it's a pleasure to watch.

Fast-forwarding several decades and spinning to the other side of the Earth, here are two Indian adaptations of the same short story, 'Dusk'. Perhaps there was an 'Adapt Dusk' competition, or it was set as homework at film school or something...

Here's another pair of takes on a story, this time 'The Interlopers', one of Saki's bleakest tales. The second is somewhat more polished than the first...

... and for good measure, here's a puppet version...

'The Open Window' is deservedly one of Saki's best-known and most anthologised tales, so to finish off, two versions of it: the first is a 1980s version from Alfred Hitchcock Presents, the second a quite wonderful short film adaptation (retitled 'The Open Doors') from 2004, starring a pitch-perfect Michael Sheen. (Has Sheen ever not been pitch perfect in anything?) If you only watch one link on this post, watch this one. It's brilliant.

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