Shades of Ruritania

This is my review of The Scapegoat [DVD].

I read Daphne Du Maurier's "The Scapegoat" too long ago to recall how true this new TV drama/DVD is to the original. It is an entertaining psychological not-quite thriller, if you can accept the implausibility of two identical but apparently unrelated men meeting by chance, and one deciding to foist his identity on the other.

John, the Welshman without family ties who has just lost his teaching post finds that, in becoming Johnny he has gained a palatial family home, an army of respectful servants, an adoring wife and cute daughter. However, it soon becomes apparent that he is a scapegoat, since he has also been lumbered with a family business in crisis, and somehow managed to estrange both his sister and brother. Then there is the ultra-efficient and possibly sinister servant, always dressed in black, a younger version of Mrs Danvers lurking in the background.

Much of the initial entertainment lies in seeing how on earth John will manage to gain acceptance from close relatives and friends who ought to know him too well to be fooled, especially since he does not know the way to his mother's bedroom, is unclear how to distribute the presents he seems to have brought, and never knows which of the women he meets will be one of Johnny's lovers.

Although they may look so alike, the two men have very different personalities and values. So, the drama begins to focus on how John will act as he begins to learn more about the business and the individual family members.

A lightweight story on the surface proves to have hidden depths, assisted by a strong cast and careful reconstruction of life in the early 1950s, down to the novelty of the first television set.

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ 5 Stars

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