Escape Into Night
ATV 1972
Based on the 1958 novel Marianne Dreams by Catherine Storr Escape Into The Night was networked during Wednesday afternoons by ITV in 1972. The novel was adapted by Ruth Boswell, Head of the Script Department at ATV, who fashioned it into a six-part series that had a lasting effect on the viewing audience of the time. Despite a very low budget the production eschewed negative feedback by using moodily lit sets to help conjure up a nightmarish quality to the complicated and adult storyline. The series was also pioneering as it utilised Outside Broadcast facilities to film on location, something which would not become the TV norm until later in the decade. Boswell, who had created and script edited Timeslip, moved to Thames soon after production on Escape Into Night finished to co-produce The Tomorrow People.

A young girl, Marianne, is bedridden after a riding accident for several weeks. To entertain herself, she begins to draw an imaginary place in a sketchpad. At night, she dreams of being in the drawing, and as the days and weeks go by, she eventually adds a house. She sees a boy looking out of a top window, but cannot reach him until she draws a stairway. The is a boy named Mark, who is parlysed. A friendship developes between the two. Marianne learns from her visiting tutor, Miss Maynard, that Mark is real, and seriously ill with polio though, the two never meet except in their dreams. Whatever Marianne draws cannot be erased and after an argument with Mark she draws living, menacing rocks with eyes around the house. The rocks, called Watchers, slowly begin to close in on the house and Mark and Marianne realise they must escape the house before their dreams end. However Mark is seriously weakened and unable to escape past the menacing rocks until Marianne on waking is able to draw a bicycle.

Marianne was portrayed by Birmingham born newcomer Vikki Chambers who would later become a presenter on BBC Radio Birmingham. The character of Mark was played by another newcomer Steven Jones. The adult cast consisted of veteran actress Sonia Graham, who had appeared in Compact and The Changes, as Mrs Austen and Patricia Maynard (later a partner of Dennis Waterman) as Miss Chesterfield. Boswell had pitched the idea of adapting the book to Alan Coleman when he was first appointed as Head of Children's Drama at ATV in 1971. He was quick to snap up the proposal and suggested Richard Bramall as director. Coleman and Bramall also worked together on series The Kids From 47A.

A film version materialised in 1988 under the name of Paperhouse directed by Bernard Rose with Charlotte Burke in the role of Marianne. The film lacked the appealing darkness and unearthliness of the TV version, though the bigger budget did enable the ending involving a helicopter and a lighthouse to be more fully realised. The TV series had all this action take place off screen.

All six episodes exist as black and white film, though the series was made in colour, and although a video or DVD is highly unlikely, the surreal complex story and truly scarey imagery (the cliff hanger ending with a zoom in on the hissing, living rocks springs particularly to mind) have ensured that viewers who caught it on the original transmission have been left indeliable impressions and memories of the series.

Regular Characters
Portrayed By
Vikki Chambers
Steven Jones
Miss Chesterfield
Patricia Maynard
Mrs Austen
Sonia Graham
Doctor Burton
Edmund Pegge

The series was produced by Alan Coleman, directed by Richard Bramall, designed by Don Davidson and adapted by Ruth Boswell
TX : 19th April 1972

Notes : Actress Vikki Chambers has also appeared in Watch Your Language,
Angels, Coronation Street, Star Cops, Chalkface, Truckers and An Actors Life For Me.

TX : 26th April 1972

Notes : Born in 1942 actress Patricia Maynard also appeared in The Year Of The Sex Olympics, Doomwatch (Train And Detrain), The Sweeney and Doctor Who (Robot).

TX : 3rd May 1972

Notes : Actor Edmund Pegge also appeared in Moonbase Three, Secret Army and Tenko.

TX : 10th May 1972

Notes : Producer Alan Coleman began his career as an actor in the Birmingham Rep before moving into directing. After joining ATV in 1964 he worked on Crossroads before promotion to Head of Children's Drama in 1971. In this capacity he would produce The Jensen Code and The Kids From 47A before emigrating to Australia in 1974 where he has produced many soaps including Sons and Daughters, Neighbours and Homa And Away.

TX : 17th May 1972

Notes : Director Richard Bramall has more recently contributed to episodes of Emmerdale, Eastenders and The Bill.

TX : 24th May 1972

Notes :
Writer Catherine Storr was the pen name of Catherine Cole who died in January 2001. Storr wrote a sequel to the book called Marianne And Mark, though this has never been translated to moving image.

Text © Andrew Screen, 2004.