The Mad Death DVD Review

By Will Barber Taylor

Based on the novel by Nigel Slater and first broadcast on BBC One in 1983, The Mad Death is a frightening thriller about a modern plague that spreads across Britain!

The BBC’s terrifying three-part drama about a rabies outbreak in Britain, captured the attention of the nation. Rabies had been eradicated from the United Kingdom but was still prevalent in parts of the Continent. Unwilling to leave her precious Siamese cat at home in France, a holidaymaker hides her pet in her fur coat and smuggles it into Scotland. Unknown to her, the cat had an encounter with a rabid fox and enters the country carrying the disease. It goes on to infect numerous other animals, but the spread of the plague goes unnoticed until it claims it’s first human victim. The symptoms are horrific. The deadly rabies outbreak not only threatens the nation but is set to spread even further. Michael Hillard (Richard Heffer) and Ann Maitland (Barbara Kellerman) join forces to combat the killer plague, but is it too little too late?

Acclaimed for chilling cinematography and a haunting rendition of the title song ‘All Things Bright and Beautiful’, The Mad Death is a fictional story rooted in fact.

Directed by BAFTA-nominee Robert Young and adapted by Sean Hignett (Emmerdale) the drama co-stars Ed Bishop.

A stark and frightening account of a plague affecting the UK, like Threads, The Mad Death relies on the threat and fear of the possible. Unlike Threads, however, The Mad Death is more Hammer Horror than documentary – whilst Threads feels like it could happen at any moment, The Mad Death is more circumspect with its narrative. Rather than presenting what could happen it presents what may have happened – the fear factor comes less from the possibility of the events in the series occurring but rather the sheer terror of it happening at all. Like the best of Hammers output, The Mad Death is all about the reaction it engenders in its audience rather than pure reality. A great deal of thought has clearly gone into ensuring that the outbreak is realistic but like The Day of the Triffids, it takes fact with a pinch of salt.

The acting in the series is terrific with Richard Heffer giving a particularly powerful performance as Hillard. Heffer gives Hillard an insatiable conviction that he has the right solution to the outbreak and that he’ll be able to save Britain. This allows the relationship between Hillard and Maitland (Barbara Kellerman) to be appropriately tense and give a heightened sense of drama to the proceedings.

The Mad Death is an engaging and exciting drama, that takes one of the worst possible human occurrences and turns it into a shocking a riveting piece of drama that has to be seen to be fully understood. It is truly remarkable that The Mad Death hasn’t previously been lauded as one of the great horror series ever to grace British television – hopefully, now it will.

The Mad Death is available to buy from Amazon here.  


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