Ace of Wands (TV Series 1970–1972) Poster

(1970–1972)

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Magical mystery series
mabelgarland4 December 2004
I remember this TV series back in the early 1970s because it had such an impact on me as a young teenager(only just). I fell in love with the lead character Tarot and aspired to be like his assistant Lulli.

It has stayed in my mind over 20 years so it must have had something. I remember the main character was a performing magician/conjurer who was involved in solving mysteries of a supernatural/magical nature and I remember a guy with a white glove who used to refer to it as the hand of stabs or something similar. I used to rush home from school to watch it - wish we'd had video recorders then I'd love to see it again. Anyone else out there remember it?
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10/10
Very competently made, mystery why Mackenzie never went further
gregory_quinn4 April 2015
Idling around a few weeks ago I searched for Ace of Wands online and found a short video clip. I was prompted to buy a region 0 DVD of the surviving episodes (I live in the US now). But in 1970/71 I was a spotty kid in a London, UK School not having such a good time, so escapism like this show was great. I never really did watch shows about kids, I wanted to see grown up situations, like Dr. Who and Ace of Wands.

What I noticed about the show after receiving the DVD was that Ace of Wands is actually still quite watchable - some shows from the early 1970's I certainly can't watch now. I guess they mixed it up for the kid audience, so it was never dull. For some reason, my memory of the show was that it had a lot of atmosphere, but the sets were bad and the acting dire. On re-seeing the shows, that's certainly not the case. All the acting is good, and the sets were perfectly good for what I'm sure was a low budget venture. Michael Mackenzie as Tarot is very good in the lead and in no small way carries the show; at 6'2" he towers over most of the relatively short UK cast, but isn't aloof in the way he plays the role. I'm puzzled why Mackenzie didn't achieve lead status in UK films or other TV shows. No one ever really knows the reason for why one actor become big and others languish.

The first two series were wiped, which is a shame because I preferred Judy Loe and Tony Selby. Nowadays, it's not that unusual to see a UK star do children's TV. In the 1970's, it wasn't exactly a mark of accomplishment, and perhaps both actors felt career-wise it wasn't a good idea to hang around. Petra Markham (sister-in-law of Vanessa Redgrave) and Roy Holder are good enough in their roles in the third series though.

The stories often used to hinge on telepathy between Tarot and his assistant (Loe or Markham) and some were quite inventive. The show was replaced on ITV by the "Tomorrow People", which can actually be streamed on Amazon (I'm sure this is due to their status of being shown in the US - Ace of Wands wasn't).

I'm hoping Thames sold the show to another European countries and that someday the wiped episodes will surface. In the meantime, what's available is a good idea of what the show brought to kids in the early 1970's.
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10/10
"Tarot guards wherever he can!"
ShadeGrenade2 November 2010
Warning: Spoilers
Down the years. I.T.V. attempted to invade 'Dr.Who' territory with varying degrees of success, the most recent being 'Primeval'. Back in 1970, Thames Television came up with this entertaining children's show created by Trevor Preston ( better known now for his work on Euston Film series such as 'Minder', 'The Sweeney' and 'Fox' ). It told of the exploits of 'Tarot', a flamboyant magician played by Michael Mackenzie. Described by his creator as a 'Twentieth Century Robin Hood, with a pinch of Merlin and a dash of Houdini', Tarot was something of an enigma. His talents included sleight of hand, escapology, hypnosis, even telepathy, all of which came in useful in his encounters with some of the country's greatest super-villains. Real-life magician Ali Bongo acted as Consultant on the series. Like Dr.Who, Tarot had assistants - the first was the beautiful Lulli ( Judy Loe, widow of the much-loved comedy actor Richard Beckinsale ). They met when her beach buggy collided with his sports car, and found they had an instant telepathic connection ( similar to 'The Champions' ). Then there was rough diamond Sam ( Tony Selby from 'Get Some In' ), who was Tarot's bodyguard cum stage manager. Appearing from time to time was the eccentric bookshop owner Mr.Sweet ( Donald Layne-Smith ). The other member of the cast was Ozymandias, Tarot's pet owl. The first 3-part adventure - 'One And One And One Are Four' - had a Nobel Prize-winning professor's benign invention - a paralysis-curing device - falling into the hands of the deadly Madame Midnight ( Hildegarde Neil ) who wished to sell it to the highest bidder. 'Mind Robbers' by William Emms concerned Government Ministers succumbing to a mind control plot.

The show, with its psychedelic title sequence and Andy Bown theme song, proved a big hit with both adults and children alike. Mackenzie and Loe became the David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson of their day. With 'The Avengers' having ended the year before, 'Ace Of Wands' seemed set to take its place. It certainly seemed more in step with the times. Season 2 opened with Preston's 'Seven Serpants, Sulphur & Salt' which introduced Russell Hunter ( 'Lonely' from 'Callan' ) as sinister magician 'Mr.Stabs'. He proved so popular he reappeared on his own in the children's anthology series 'Shadows' a few years later. But Don Houghton's 'Nightmare Gas' attracted the most interest. The plot revolved around a gas that made people see horrific visions, images that caused them to die of fright. One episode climaxed with Tarot imagining himself being burned at the stake in medieval times. Michael Winder's 'The Eye Of Ra' had Oscar Quitak as 'Ceribraun', a chess-playing computer genius after the titular gem, the light of which could turn people into chalk figurines. Tarot was nearly crushed to death on a giant-sized chessboard by two pieces, only to escape by achieving checkmate over his foe.

Though made on video tape and lacking the scope film might have brought, it still managed to thrill. Season 3 brought changes - a new producer ( John Russell replacing Pamela Lonsdale ) and new friends for Tarot - 'Mikki' ( Petra Markham ) and 'Chas' ( Roy Holder ). Otherwise things stayed much as before. 'Mama Doc' had Pat Nye as an obese old woman who injected people with an immobility drug and played with them the way a child might with dolls. The late Brian Wilde was brilliant in 'Peacock Pie' ( written by P.J. Hammond, future creator of 'Sapphire & Steel' ) as a mild-mannered man with the ability to make people see things which were not there. He tormented Chas at the end of one instalment with two different versions of the same woman - Mrs.Macfadyean - both endlessly repeating an offer of a cup of tea! It is hard to see why Thames threw in at the towel at the end of this run, but they did. The final story - 'The Beautiful People' - saw Tarot and his friends seemingly perish ( we never found out for sure ) in an explosion whilst defeating alien beings who have programmed domestic appliances to go berserk.

The show surprisingly enjoyed little merchandising - no Annual, no paperback book, no 'Look-In' nor 'T.V. Comic' strip, not even a 'Tarot' magic set! Thames' next venture into sci-fi was to be the long-running 'The Tomorrow People'.

'Ace Of Wands' is fondly remembered by those who saw it. Only Season 3 survives intact ( it came out on D.V.D. a few years ago ) which is a great shame. I'm not normally in favour of remakes, but - with the right people behind it - 'Ace Of Wands' could be a hit all over again.
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9/10
Aces high
Lejink23 October 2014
I suppose everyone has one television programme from their childhood which stays with them down the years and evokes instant nostalgia at the slightest remembrance. Well for me "Ace Of Wands" is that show, as, aged about 10 I would rush home after school to watch it before going out to play with friends.

Of course, the groovy, spacey, psychedelic theme tune, by later Status Quo side-man Andy Bown was a great hook for starters, but I remember the stories too as being exciting and imaginative, each episode invariably ending Dr Who-style, with a cliffhanger of some type.

Michael MacKenzie was Tarot, a magician/conjurer hero long before the days of Jonathon Creek, leading his companions in and out of danger, the peril usually supernatural in some way. I duly bought the boxed DVD of the surviving third series and of course it's not as good as I remember, with iffy special effects, dodgy sets and some unconvincing acting. But you know, nothing can take away the nostalgic glow I get just remembering it again and would dearly love to see the sadly wiped first two series.

That, however, is a mystery that even Tarot himself couldn't solve these forty odd years since...
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7/10
More Inspirational Kid's Telly
screenman24 August 2008
Warning: Spoilers
Here was another series from that late 1960's to early 1970's period of inspirational television creation.

The lead character, 'Tarot', was a handsome young bloke who was gifted in the art of conjuring and 'magic'. Each week, assisted by his charming associate Lulu (or something similar) he found his peculiar talents called into service to deal with a variety of suspicious and seemingly supernatural issues.

Although it was very entertaining, I don't think the idea was explored half as far as it might have been. He really could have engaged with a supernatural world and become a kind of 'Dr Who', of the paranormal, an 'Amazing Mr Blunden' for the 20th century. When you think how long the 'Timelord' has lasted, with his now international fan base, it gives some idea of how successful 'Tarot' and the 'Ace Of Wands' might have been if only it had caught on. I suspect a serious anti-hero was lacking.

But production values were, as usual, telly-tacky, and the idea badly conceived. It lasted for less than a year. What could have been a megabuck franchise in the long-term, with a universally popular hero, faded into obscurity instead. Such is the British way.

It had a catchy little theme tune too.
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8/10
Shame so many episodes are missing
kris-gray30 January 2019
I missed series one and two due to the fact I had no TV whilst living in bedsitter land at the time. I had my grandparents old B&W in time for series 3, despite being 20 by then I was still attracted to the Sci fi element and enjoyed every episode. I have recently acquired the DVD box set of all available episodes, series 3 in fact. Nice to see the lyrics to Andy Bown's theme printed in the booklet, despite the fact that I now know he sings 'Tarot the Diamond man' it still sounds like Tarot banana man.

OK so the production values are a bit cheap, typical 70's stuff but the story lines are well written and acted by Michael Mackenzie (what ever happened to him) Roy Holder, who still pops up now and then and the lovely Petra Markham who I still would given half the chance.

Shame the first two series have vanished without trace, hopefully someone will find them in an attic somewhere so I can finally get to watch them.
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10/10
An explanation of many aspects of Ace Of Wands
editor-1072 August 2017
Warning: Spoilers
I loved "Ace Of Wands" when it was on, but was never allowed to see it unless I was at my grandmothers in Brighton (rare) when my parents no longer had control over what was on "the box".

Sadly, one of the things that crippled it was the level of complaints. As it dealt with magic and was a children's show, Thames TV was besieged by complaints from British fundamentalist Christians who kept demanding that it was pulled. Briefly, it held the World Record, according to Guinness, as the most complained about TV show in history and newspapers were filled with damning letters about it. However, in this day and age, in this era of Harry Potter, it seems laughable for such a response to such a tame, well meant and well produced show, entirely free from sex and violence. Sadly, this pretty much stopped any large scale merchandising of "Ace Of Wands" by Thames.
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