Several times a wife, several times a wife for a night, alternately provided-for and penniless, Moll will die "a penitent," says the written prologue to "Moll Flanders." All the fun of this 1975 BBC production of the Daniel Defoe novel will obviously come from postponing penitence as long as possible.
That will take about four hours, in the television adaptation acquired by Channel 26 for broadcast in two two-hour installments, Sunday night at 10:15 and Monday night at 11:15.
Julia Foster plays, with utterly unaffected earthiness, the put-upon herione who occasionally gets to do some putting of her own in this very cheerfully sexy production.It is far less superficial than the Hollywood bawdy-romp version of the novel, made only to capitalize on the success of the film version of "Tom Jones."
We have scarcely met the orphaned Moll, called Betty in the first 52-minute chapter of the serial, when she has been lured to a haystack by the son of the woman who has befriended her and hired her as a chambermaid. The first seduction sequence is disarmingly natural and bold, as the rascal Edward (Jeremy Clyde) unfastens young Betty's dress while asking her about her experiences with other boys.
"Did they touch you here?" "Sometimes." "Did you like it?" "Sometimes." "Further down?" "Never."
Alas, Edward's brother falls in love with her as well, and Moll eventually joins him in a twinkling of a marriage. Later she agrees to wed the wealthly Humphrey Oliver (Ian Ogilvy), who scratches "You I love and you alone" on a window with a diamond ring.
Moll will travel to America, learn that her husband is also her brother, become pregnant, return to England, fall into a variety of clutches, turn to thievery and prostitution, return to America, return to England, and find peace in a home of her own at last. These 17th-century novels seldom lacked for plot.
"Moll Flanders" was acquired from Time-Life Television, which also makes an edited version available to stations. To the credit of Channel 26, management has decided to show the un-edited, and therefore occasionally bare-breasted, version.
Hugh Whitemore's adaptation, directed on tape and film by Donald McWhinnie, is bright, chilly and droll -- lusty, but not at all smuttty. The productiion is enhanced and dignified at irregular intervals with ballads of the day sung by The Watersons; its the icing on an awfully nifty cake.