"The Owl Service is a peculiar work. Singular. Mesmerizing. It stands out as a one off" - Gillian Hills.
Granada Television for ITV. Original run: 21 December 1969 – 8 February 1970. 8 x 30 min episodes, colour. Theme music: "Tôn Alarch" (traditional) by Jean Bell.
Director: Peter Plummer. Producer: Peter Plummer. Script: Alan Garner. Production Designer: Peter Caldwell. Art Department: Alan Kennedy. Sound Department: Harry Brookes, Phil Smith & Peter Walker. Camera and Electrical Department: David Wood & Ray Goode.
Cast: Michael Holden (Gwyn), Gillian Hills (Alison), Francis Wallis (Roger), Edwin Richfield (Clive), Dorothy Edwards (Nancy), Raymond Llewellyn (Huw)
Teenager Alison finds a dusty dinner service in the loft of her Welsh holiday home. Seemingly possessed, she traces their flower pattern and from the tracings makes paper owls. This unleashes ancient forces feeding on the jealousy and attraction between Alison, her new stepbrother Roger and local boy Gwyn...
The Welsh legend of Blodeuwedd is a tale of betrayal retold in the 11th Century book of The Mabinogion. Blodeuedd, a woman made of flowers, was unfaithful to Lleu Llaw Gyffes with Gronw Bebyr. Gronw then killed Lleu with a spear so that Lleu became an eagle - Lleu's magician Gwydion turned the unfaithful woman into Blodeuwedd, the owl, as punishment.
Now three modern-day teenagers are revisited by Gwydion's curse. Upper-class Alison, her haughty public school stepbrother Roger and working-class Welsh boy Gwyn are similarly locked into a triangle of love and hate that threatens to destroy them. Gwyn later learns of the father he's never known and discovers that his mother was once possessed by the same old plates Alison uncovered in the attic.
Very much a product of the 1960s, the serial used a contemporary source novel (Garner's book was two years old when adapted for television) that dwelled upon class struggles and adolescent permissiveness, albeit within a supernatural fantasy framework. Then-fashionable jump cuts and psychedelic imagery were used for the all-film production. This was the first fully-scripted drama to be made entirely in colour by Granada Television, although it was shown in black and white on its original runs and not seen in colour until its 1978 repeat. This ruined the visual joke of Alison, Gwyn and Roger always wearing respectively red, black and green outfits - the colours of electrical wiring at the time - hinting at the power the three could unleash.
Further information here, here & here.
The Owl Service is available on Network DVD "The definitive adaptation of Alan Garner's award-winning novel, combining mystery, adventure, history and the legend surrounding a complex set of human relationships"
"I never thought The Owl Service was for children only. It felt as if it fit a larger audience. That's what made it special. Because it also belongs somewhere where the memory of one's own adolescence lies. It is super-real to the extent that it becomes unreal. Wagnerian. And too, like an old film it unreels itself repeatedly, then begins again. Any criticism that the series was unsuitably adult for children is untrue. Never underestimate the child; it is pure, it observes, makes up its own mind. But then is taught to see things otherwise" - Gillian Hills.