There is something about Conrad's "Heart Of Darkness" which draws moths to the flame - getting to the essence of this brief but extremely complex and difficult story has presented numerous eminent adaptors with an irresistibly insuperable challenge. Of all the attempts to do justice to it, only Orson Welles's radio version from the 1930s has come anywhere close to providing a sufficient version. This "Playhouse 90" adaptation is pretentious and yet over-simplified (advising us at its close that love conquers all), closer in several scenes to Kafka than it is to Conrad, full of impossibly flowery dialogue ("Terror is inside me, where it hides like a snake") and making bizarre changes to the story which arch-Conradians would be bound to reject. Yet, with everything that should make you roll your eyes, it's got something, and its intensity keeps making you watch. If Roddy McDowall has the hardest job of all the actors, trying with a desperation that is not entirely disguised to hold it all together, one can relish the marvellously creepy cameos by Oscar Homlka and Richard Haydn, and admire the ingenuity with which the whole show is designed and directed. Its stylisation is bound to irritate a great many, yet it nonetheless fascinates.
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