Bat Out Of Hell
BBC 1966
TX : 26th November 1966

Publicity : John Thaw, Dudley Foster and Sylvia Syms in Bat Out Of Hell - What could be more normal than a Sussex estate agent preparing to fly off for a month's holiday? But this new thriller serial has been written by that master of suspense, Francis Durbridge: Ever since he devised his first thriller serial (radio's Send For Paul Temple) at the age of twenty-four, Francis Durbridge has not looked back. He's never had time: serials have poured from his typewriter, each one consolidating his reputation as the world's best-known writer of this form of entertainment. The BBC sells films of his stories to many parts of the world, notably Canada, Australia and Europe.

"It's what I set out to do," he says, "a deliberate plan to appeal, as did the books of Edgar Wallace, as universally as possible. Of course, when I started I had no idea whether or not I could manage it and it certainly hasn't all been done by writing skill. To have got this far, there had to be an element of luck. No, I don't work to a formula. There's no set of ingredients on which I depend. I just get an idea that appeals to me and work from it. I also spend a lot of time touring around, looking for likely locations. If I can, I always visit a place before I write about it". Bat Out Of Hell, which starts tonight, is Durbridge's fourteenth television serial and it stars Dudley Foster, Sylvia Syms and John Thaw. "It's different from my previous stories," he says, "in so far as you know the villain early on. I usually start with a body and the problem is who dunnit? This time, we begin before the murder". Producer Alan Bromly adds: "Nevertheless, there's no lack of surprise. I think Francis' success lies in his gift of making a thriller's setting and character seem quite ordinary, at first. It would be easy to slick up the presentation and make the episodes look fashionably bizarre, like The Man From U.N.C.L.E. But that would destroy the Durbridge atmosphere". This thriller can also be followed on Wednesdays. (Radio Times, November 24, 1966 - Article by David Griffiths).

Notes :
Episodes were originally transmitted 10:05pm to 10:30pm on BBC 2 under the banner title of Francis Durbridge Presents….

TX : 3rd December 1966

Synopsis : Wealthy Geoffrey Stewart is shot by his wife Diana and her lover Mark Paxton. But their plans go wildly astray when the body disappears and Diana gets a shock telephone call.

TX : 10th December 1966

Synopsis :
The mysterious Kitty Tracey telephones Mark to say that Diana has been arrested at the motel for the murder of her husband.

TX : 17th December 1966

Synopsis :
Diana has seen Thelma's body lying on the landing of the blackmailer's flat. At her home she and Mark are visited by the police with a surprise witness.

TX : 24th December 1966

Synopsis : Mark and Diana are shocked to learn of the will in favour of Geoffrey's mistress. Mark hurries to the girl's flat only to find she has a visitor.

Portrayed By
Inspector Clay
Dudley Foster
Diana Stewart
Sylvia Syms
Mark Paxton
John Thaw
Geoffrey Stewart
Noel Johnson
Thelma Bowen
June Ellis
Walter Bowen
Emrys Jones
Mrs Houston
June Bland
David Quilter
Ned Tallboy
Stanley Meadows
Sergeant Booth
Clive Graham
Mary Wayne
Ann Windsor
Margaret Frost
Kitty Tracey
Patsy Smart
Sergeant Booth
Clive Graham
Sergeant Dawson
Bernard Martin
Diana Valesco
Paddy Glynn
Patrick Ellis
Nigel Mills
Norman Scace
Ali Hassan
Terence Donovan
Len Morgan
John Caesar

The series was created and written by Francis Durbridge, and produced and directed by Alan Bromly.
The series was designed by Roy Oxley.

One of the more memorable and popular entries in the Francis Durbridge Presents series of thriller serials (second only to the superb Melissa), Bat Out Of Hell took the rare approach of starting the story before a murder had taken place, and investigated the reasoning behind the intentions of both Diana Stewart (Sylvia Syms) and Mark Paxton (John Thaw) to murder her husband, Geoffrey (Noel Johnson). Diana and Mark, lovers wanting on being together, realise the only way Geoffrey will grant a divorce is on the basis of being deceased.

The added incentive that Geoffrey has a mistress is all the justification the pair require, and they set about planning his demise. However, whilst Diana successfully shoots her husband and Mark arrives on the scene to help her dispose of the body, their plans to be together go awry when not only the body disappears, but later Diana receives a telephone call from her husband, asking her to meet him at a local hotel - or he will telephone the police and have her arrested for attempted murder.

She is instructed to come alone, and whilst Mark reluctantly agrees to the demands and allows her to leave, he is shocked to receive a call from Geoffrey's mistress later that evening to reveal that Diana has been arrested at the hotel, whereupon the police found Geoffrey's body - the man in question is actually dead on this occasion. However, owing to insufficient evidence Diana is later released, and the pair believe they are "home and dry". But another interested party knows precisely what transpired on that fatal night, and blackmail is on their mind… In the grand traditional of Durbridge thrillers, further murders and a healthy dose of mysterious events follow, with a climax which is particularly well remembered.

The series, which notably featured a post-Redcap Thaw and a young Sylvia Syms, was produced and directed by Durbridge-contributor Alan Bromly, and boasted supporting performances from Dudley Foster as Inspector Clay (the investigating officer), Stanley Meadows and Paddy Glynn. The programme became a firm favourite when successfully exported to both Germany and Australia, but was never commercially been released.

Text © Matthew Lee, 2004.