Ace of Wands – Sisters Deadly
I first saw an episode or two of Ace of Wands many years back on a copy of a copy of a c….opy of an off air VHS recording. It was occasionally in colour, the dialogue was mostly audible and the advert breaks were rather crudely hacked out. Then in 2007 the DVD box set came out and I finally saw the rest of the existing episodes and I got to experience the full colour experience. And sadly there’s a reason it didn’t last much past the three years it got.
For those that haven’t seen it or don’t know about it Ace of Wands is a children’s TV series from the early 70s centred around Tarot, a magician with genuine powers and his various helpers. The first season is completely lost (as of writing it is anyway), there are audio recordings of season two (I’ve got them somewhere but they’re shockingly low quality) and season three exists in full. “Sisters Deadly” is two thirds of the way through the season and Tarot is currently accompanied by Mikki and Chas. There’s also Ozymandias (played by Fred the Owl) but he’s not in this one much. Chas has been employed to take photos of an old lady’s 100th birthday party but ends up with memory loss and robbing a post office. Tarot goes to investigate and finds more old ladies involved in a rather bizarre plan to kidnap military personnel. It’s all rather weird…
Tarot, played by Michael MacKenzie suffers majorly from a case of the seventies. His hair and clothes are dated in the extreme which instantly distracts from the plot (not such a bad thing at times). Chas (played by Roy Holder) also suffers from the bad hair decade but ends up in military uniform and doesn’t suffer too badly. Mikki, the rather stunning Petra Markham, didn’t strike me as being too badly fashioned but everything just ends up looking rather dated. DVD picture quality, unfortunately, makes the twist in episode three very obvious from the start of episode one (I could be generous and say that it wasn’t supposed to be a huge secret but I’m guessing that they didn’t intend us to guess straight away) but thankfully Sylvia Coleridge is so brilliantly dotty (isn’t she always?) that you can easily watch the scenes and get diverted from the blindingly obvious. Nothing can really hide the cheapness of the production though and the film sequences involving the army really make it look as though this country is protected by an undermanned Dad’s Army.
It’s very hard to watch this and not compare it to more modern productions. It’s slow and lumbering in places, it tries to make old ladies seem creepy and threatening (the end of the second episode almost succeeds but doesn’t quite work and left me laughing sadly) and the back of the DVD case tries to make it sound surprising this was the last season. There’s nothing actually wrong with it, a modern remake would probably work exceptionally well, but this is just a little too 70s to be good and not so 70s it’s fantastically awful. Tarot looks unearthly and I wish I could see season one to find out more about him, but by this third season it’s very much about plot rather than characters. The booklet with the DVD fills in quite a bit of the back story but it’s just not the same. I think I might just have got unlucky with the choice of story (picked at random) as I remember some of the others being much better this. Then again, it could just be the memory cheating again. Hmmmm, back on the shelf or do I give it another go with a different story…?