Windswept moors, smugglers and mangled west country accents, yes, we're in Du Maurier territory again for another remake of 'Jamaica Inn', starring Jessica Brown Findlay (dead Sybil Crawley from 'Downton') as Mary Yellan, the ingenue who 'bain't be from 'ereabouts' who must face cruelty, madness and Matthew McNulty on the Bodmin Road.
Ms Brown Findlay plays Mary less as naive waif than sulky teenager with a deprived childhood, while Sean Harris and Matthew McNulty reprise roles they seem to specialise in - laconic meanie and handsome rough diamond respectively - as Joss and Jem Merlyn. For a rollicking, sinister tale, it takes a long time to get going. Half an hour in and Mary's realised that the titular inn is barely upright in the evil wind blowing across the moor, and that it isn't a place to stay clean in any sense, but little else has happened. Joanne Whalley, as jittery, broken Aunt Patience, gives an understated performance in what could (and often is) either an overplayed or deeply unsympathetic role, but at a third of the way through, a stay in the modern, standardised and deeply unexciting Jamaica Inn would be preferable to a stay with the Merlyns, and as du Maurier fans that's saying something.
And while we're on the subject, nor is the adaptation particularly faithful to the book, with Mary helping her uncle's criminal gang, albeit reluctantly, in receiving wrecked goods on the beach. Women did lead hard lives, but Mary's active, physical participation in men's work of the day feels like a sop to a 21st Century audience. She ends the episode morally compromised, having protected Jem and by implication her uncle, echoed by a tide line of mud risen from the hem of her skirt to her thigh. It would have been better scheduled over the Easter break, which has been largely devoid of new drama, and would have been improved by better sound. We aren't in our dotage, but half of the lines were muttered and thrown away, while the music blasted out loud and clear.