Three-part British mini series
Based on the novel by Nigel Slater.
Made by BBC Scotland (1981)
Producer Bob McIntosh
Director Robert Young
Music by Philip Sawyer
Richard Heffer as Michael Hilliard
Barbara Kellerman as Dr. Ann Maitland
Richard Morant as Johnny Dalry
Ed Bishop as Tom Siegler
Valerie Holliman as Norma Siegler
Debbi Blythe as Jane Stoddard
Vivienne Dixon as Siegler's secretary

Plot Summary

When a pet cat affected by rabies is smuggled into Great Britain, the spread of the disease amongst the animal population goes undetected - until the first human, Tom Siegler, falls victim to the terrible Mad Death.
Michael Hilliard and Ann Maitland combine forces to fight the disease : Hilliard moves quickly to contain the rabies outbreak inside the infected area, while Ann Maitland attempts to trace the source of the virus in order to save others the agonising death she has seen Tom Siegler suffer.
A deliberate act of sabotage by an 'animal lover' who frees her dogs from the place they were being contained jeopardises the containment of the rabies outbreak. Hilliard's life is threatened as he attempts to control the new danger and Ann's human concern leads her into danger too.

Ed Bishop's role

Ed Bishop plays Tom Siegler, an American business man who is a great animal lover and a womaniser. After a phonecall to one of his lady friends from a phonebox (he's also very much married) he sees a fox lying by the roadside and takes it home with him as a playmate for his two dogs, thinking the fox is tame since it appears to be friendly and quiet. What Tom doesn't know is that the fox is not friendly but sick, infected by rabies by eating from another animal's carcass.
Tom takes the fox into his garage and goes on to pet it after having cut himself with a knife, the foam around the fox's mouth coming into contact with this cut. The next morning the fox is into the wild stage of the disease and Tom first attempts to chase it away with a stick, then he tries to run it down with his car.
Just before Tom starts showing the first symptoms of the disease he manages to infect one of the women he is having an affair with by biting her lip!
As Tom is the first person to be infected, we follow him through the various stages of the disease, starting off with headaches, then confusion, disorientation, blurred vision and aversion to drafts. As he displays the latter symptoms while driving his car, he ends up having an accident and he is taken to a hospital. In hospital he starts having hallucinations of being strangled, brought on by his sore throat, while the doctors don't suspect anything more amiss than a concussion and shock.
Tom's next hallucinations have to do with the aversion to water usually associated with rabies, and his behaviour and lack of response alert the doctors that there is something very wrong with Tom. They put him in isolation to study his case and after Tom has convulsions and more hallucinations, the doctors diagnose him as suffering from hydrophobia, which in turn leads them to take some bloodsamples that confirm Tom has rabies.


The Mad Death typifies the British attitude towards rabies - they fear one animal with rabies in the country would quickly infect all wildlife and eventually spread to humans.
The Mad Death is well made and very enjoyable to watch. Ed Bishop is terrific and has a lot of real good scenes f.i. when running down the fox with his car and the ones where he starts having the symptoms of the disease : the hallucinations and convulsions seem very real indeed. Anybody who had been planning to smuggle an animal into Great Britain would surely be dissuaded from doing so by watching Tom Siegler's ordeal.


In his office with his secretary, trying to phone his mistress Jane.

"I'm sorry, Honey, I have to get home early, my wife is expecting me."

On his way home.
"I'm sorry, Jane, I can't come over tonight."

What is that? A fox?

"You seem like a friendly little fellow."

He would make a good playmate for my dogs!

(shouting) "Honey, I'm home!"

(still shouting) "I'll make us a drink!"

(to himself) "Darn, I cut my finger."

"Boy, do I have a present for you guys! Come and look!"

(she) "It smells"
(he) "It's supposed to smell that way."

(he) "It's really very friendly!"
(me) "Watch that cut in your finger, Ed!"

Next morning - taking the fox something to eat.

Quickly closing the door again...
"Darn! It has reverted to its natural behaviour!"

Opening the garage door from the safety of his car.

Eh - did I say 'safety'?

Just as well I closed the window quick...

I'll chase it away with my car.

I'll get you !!!

If it's the last thing I do !!!

(Tom) "I'll tell her I want a divorce.
Tomorrow. I promise!"

(Jane) "You bastard! You bit my lip!"

(Jane) "Tom, are you alright? You fell asleep."

(Tom) "I feel so weird. My head aches, my hand is throbbing..."

Feeling dizzy....

Everything is blurred....

After bumping into the combined harvester

First hallucination

Thirsty, needing a drink of water

Second hallucination

Food tastes weird

Third hallucination

The convulsive stage

Getting a sedative

(doctor) "Mr. Siegler, have your dogs ever bitten or scratched you?"

(doctor) "There is nothing more we can do for him"

Tom Siegler is dead...


This page by Lieve Peten, Belgium (email, member of the Fab-Ufo List.