Obsession and unreturned love in 1920s London
By a customer
, 24 Aug 2007
This is an adaptation of Patrick Hamilton's novels, 'The Midnight Bell', 'The Siege of Pleasure' and 'Plains of Cement'. In more recent years these novels have been published as one volume under the name 'Twenty Thousand Streets Under The Sky'.
The adaptation is not without it's faults. In particular the widespread use of East End accents seems to owe more to the BBC wanting to give an Eastenders feel to proceedings rather then having much basis in being faithful to the books. The books were set not in New Cross or Woolwich but around the Warren Street and Soho part's of London. Even the prostitute, Jenny, was a West End girl. While we might hear the odd east end accent or two in this part of London in the 1920s - everyone having one is a bit over the top. Nevertheless this is probably splitting hairs.
In general the adaptation is very good. It does all feel a little soapy at first, which the books did not. However, this passes once you get used to the dialects and the portrayal. One can't help feeling that perhaps the first part is the weakest. It feels to me as though it's played out like a rather inappropriate teenage liaison whereas the book managed to convey it as something deeper then that (not surprising as it's a semi-biographical story).
However, part two of this adaptation is an improvement being a genuinely interesting study into how the girl in question came to be a prostitute in the first place. The third part is probably done best and perhaps that's because it's easiest to understand concerning itself with the unnoticed love of another.
The crossing of points of views (the first and third parts of the story occur in the same time and space) is nicely handled with a few events from the first story crossing fleetingly into the third story. So if you are paying attention you can match up the time lines and get additional twists of irony.
In general among friends, in both the book and this adaptation, I find women love the third part best of all - perhaps because they can identify with it better. While men tend to prefer the first part and everyone likes the second part about equally (assuming they like the stories at all).
I gave this 5/5 stars - it's not without it's faults but this is certainly one of the best attempts at adapting Hamilton's book - perhaps only rivalled by the Anton Walbrook version of 'Gaslight'.
If you like miserable stories about doomed love affairs give 'Twenty Thousand Streets' a go. You likely won't be disappointed.
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