“Beware evildoers, wherever you are!” Everyone raves on about Zelig, but we prefer this slice of Woody waxing nostalgic over wireless wonders, which for the most part runs like the best of his written stuff, ie like comedy clockwork.
R is for…
Firstest and mostest of the Indiana Jones films – and from a time before they were even called Indiana Jones films and got all smart-arsed and in-jokey. No, this was serious stuff. We all know the story of course: Ark of the Covenant found in Egypt, nicked by naughty Nazis, opened by him out of The Long Good Friday; but what we’re really looking for when it’s shown on the telly is just how much they include of the gore at the climax. Will they show Paul Freeman’s head exploding? They almost never do. Nor the skin and blood being drained away from Ronald Lacey’s face, neither. Depends on the time, we suppose. Denouement after 9? Hmmmm, maybe. Before, never. BBC, hardly ever. Channel Five, always.
TV CREAM SAYS: INDEX ON CENSORSHIP: SNAKE SPECIAL
Coen Brothers comedy rendered mostly-annoying by typically self-conscious ‘wry’ with and ‘irony’ etc. and of course the appalling Nicolas ‘how does that man get work?’ Cage. What makes this worth watching though is the scene where the police are interviewing Nathan Arizona (formerly Huffheinz) the father of the baby taken and ask him to describe the clothes the baby was wearing, upon which they are told that it was wearing it’s damn jammies which were decorated with ‘Yodas and shit’ which is just brilliant.
TV CREAM SAYS: ALSO: BEST OPENING 20 MINUTES OF ANYTHING EVER. "OK, THEN!"
Aka, er, Roommates. But this slight music college tale has Sid, Kenny, Jim Dale and Liz Fraser (plus Esma ‘Flo’ Cannon!), mixed up with James Robertson Justice and Leslie Phillips from the Doctor franchise. Ken’s famed ‘they’re going too fast!’ conducting catastrophe is seen by many as a key turning point in the development of his mid-period ‘manic’ persona.
TV CREAM SAYS: WHAT'S THE BLEEDING TIME SIGNATURE?
Delightful load of complete bollocks not so much based on the hoary old Poe poem as crapped onto it from a great height, and all the better for it. Beginning with Vincent Price tracing a bird in mid-air (why we know not and care less), it escalates into a comedy of wizardly daftness with Peter Lorre enlisting Vince into a fight with evil sorcerer Boris Karloff, Jack Nicholson acting as badly as anyone has ever done as Lorre’s son, a sprinkling of top gags (Karloff’s ‘Hmm, not quite ready yet’ is great), Lorre turning into birds and raspberry jam, and a fantastic spelling duel finale. A textbook example of the ‘everyone obviously having the time of their lives on set’ film, and fortunately one where the viewer isn’t left there feeling left out of the merriment through sheer buggering boredom.
TV CREAM SAYS: MARVELLOUS!
Gad-flaming-zooks. Yes, as featured on Moviedrome on 29th May 1988 (while BBC1 was showing a That’s Life holiday special and Everyman – The Fully Ordained Meat Pie), here’s Russell ‘Le Bon on elephant back’ Mulcahy’s mad pig outback horror, which is actually nowhere near as bad as it sounds, with the pig being out of shot for most of it, Jaws-style, and some effective bits like the house being pulled in half, but it’s still far from great, looking at times like a bunch of pop video ideas Duran and Queen had taken one look at while lounging about in Cannes, and thrown overboard. Although Simes and chums did lend New Moon on Monday (‘And a fiiiiredance through the niiiiiiight!’) to the film.
TV CREAM SAYS: AND LOOK, BILL KERR!
The first film made by GTO records, under the aegis of one Ron Inkpen, who would produce a couple of real stormers before the genre fizzled out. This, however, wasn’t one of them, being part live concert footage of Gary Glitter at the Rainbow Theatre, part half-arsed backstage ‘portrait of the artist’ vanity cobblers, and part Netto version of The Beatles’ Help, with its perfunctory plot about a mysterious far-right group out to assassinate Mr Do You Wanna Touch Me. Never has a film’s title accumulated so much sad irony.
TV CREAM SAYS: TITULAR REQUEST UNLIKELY TO BE GRANTED
This second John Cleese/Graham Chapman offering for David Frost’s Paradine Productions knocked its predecessor The Rise and Rise of Michael Rimmer’s satirical inclinations firmly on the head, this was out-and-out farce (or at least it did after Ned Sherrin and pals had got their hands on it), with the plot mixing the story of a hapless ‘tec (Richard Beckinsale) spying on an adulterous Richard Briers, and getting mixed up in a Japanese plot to steal a deadly new nerve gas from Donald Sinden’s chemical plant. The usual high quota of stars, all no doubt personally cajoled into this mess by Frostie himself, duly lined up to take part in frankly offensive scenes such as a bizarre Chinese world domination scheme, and the moment where Ronald Fraser’s racist major tries to drown Derek Griffiths by filling the cab of his removals lorry with petrol. When an admittedly storming opening theme re-imagining of “A Policeman’s Lot” by Dave Dee and the Kings’ Singers is the high point of your film, perhaps it’s time to have a look elsewhere for projects.See post
Arthouse? Yeah, maybe, but lest we forget, this was a Compton Films production, under the aegis of the great Tony Tenser, who’d later make Tigon the de facto third best horror film studio in the country. You can still sense his lairy exploitation zeal at work in this film, trying to haggle with Polanski over the number of extras groping at Catherine “If I only had” Deneuve through the walls of her flat (Tenser argued more hands = more extras = more toilet breaks = more time wasted, Polanski went huffily off for a fag). So unless you’re Trevor and Simon launching a hoplessly obscure sketch on Going Live that’ll get pulled after a week, check the term ‘arthouse’ in at the door. We’ll arthouse you in a moment. And so on. There’s plenty more in Compton’s vaults we’d like the schedulers to get their hands on – Holmes vs. the Ripper drama A Study in Terror (not to be confused with Holmes vs. the Ripper drama Murder by Decree – that one had John Gielgud in it, this one has Barbara Windsor); period thriller The Black Torment, in which Tenser solved the problem of a lagging filming schedule by walking onto the set and tearing a handful of pages out of the script; and the wonderfully designed and truly bizarre Wonderwall, in which pervy prof Jack MacGowran drills holes in the wall of his dingy flat to watch model Jane Birkin parading about in her ultra-swinging pad next door. The fact that Oasis named a song after this last film is seemingly not reason enough for anyone to dig it out and show it again. What do they want?
TV CREAM SAYS: "I MUST GET THIS CRACK MENDED." FORESHADOWING, THERE
Christopher Lee and Bette Davis (resembling EL Wisty and Beryl Reid respectively) take over from Ray Milland to go after supernatural kids Kim ‘Diff’rent Strokes’ Richards and Ike ‘Duffy Moon’ Eisenmann and exploit their Geller-like powers for nefarious, power station-sabotaging ends.
TV CREAM SAYS: TEXTBOOK '70S DISNEY LIVE ACTION FLIM FLAM
Forever to be known, sadly, as ‘the film that killed Roy Kinnear’, Richard Lester’s belated third Muskefeature has none of the atmosphere of the two ’70s originals, and little of the fun. Michael ‘Logan’s Run’ York, Oliver Ginandorange, Frank Finlay, Richard ‘Kildare’ Chamberlain, Kim ‘Sex And Don’t Mention Those Early Films’ Cattrall, Christopher Lee, Billy Connolly and Bob Todd are all here, often on a horse.
TV CREAM SAYS: ONE FOR ALL, AND ALL FOR T'PUB
We had never actually seen this until a couple of years ago and we must confess to having had serious doubts about it when we read the synopsis that told of a modern day (1976, that is) cop who hits his head and upon waking up thinks he’s Sherlock Holmes and starts working on a big embezzlement case. Hmmmm, we thought. Hmmmm. Then we read the magic words ‘Larry Hagman as Sherman Holmes’ and we were rooting around for a blank tape before you could say Kristeen Shepherd.
TV CREAM SAYS: ALSO STARRING COACH OFF OF CHEERS. WE WIN!
Second installment of Hammer’s Cushing-fronted Universal copyright-dodging franchise, with the good doctor eluding the death sentence meted out to him by angry burgermeisters at the end of the first film, dropping the ‘Franken’, and setting up as a GP in another town. Rather a lot of needless amputations from his patients pave the way for a patchwork monster, who goes from society gadabout to drooling violent imbecile via the standard ‘Abbie Somebody’ brain slip-up.
TV CREAM SAYS: THE TELEGRAPH WEREN'T HAPPY WITH THE RESULTS, APPARENTLY
“Special delivery! A beumb! Were you expecting one?” Final Sellers outing with a string of limp ‘funny costume’ set pieces and Lom, Kwouk, Dyan Cannon, Graham ‘It’s about this crane, right…’ Stark, Alfie ‘Excused Boots’ Bass, John ‘Q’ Bluthal, Sue ‘Crossroads’ Lloyd, Henry ‘Puffs’ McGee, Andrew ‘Hamster’ Sachs and Frank ‘Yes, Your Reverence’ Williams on the payroll.See post
You may have seen Grizzly Man, the Herzog curiosity where bear munches nitwit, reclines his sticky paws into his lower back, stretches wide with relief, burps and moves on upstream, leaving us to ponder the harsh truth that man and beast together isn’t entirely natural. A not very similar but nonetheless cautionary tale of man’s apparent ease and then inevitable disharmony with nature, takes place in this gentle tale of one man’s (Bill Travers) psychologically questionable close tie with an otter set in the backdrop of a swoonsome Scottish village. The debt of affection Travers holds for the otter is seeded in the realisation that ‘their’ cramped London flat is simply not big enough for the ‘arrangement’ and so Travers makes the not entirely mislabelled life changing decision to move to an idyllic Scottish Isle to move the relationship forward, as it were. Not entirely unlike Linda McCartney to look at (maybe it’s the Wellington boots and rugged scenery), Virginnia McKenna plays the completely unflirtatious, strawberry blonde, Island doctor who is as at home with the otter, her dog and nature as she is with her bucket load of amorous reserve. It’s also under her care that the otter snuffs it. No wonder the heartbroken partner of the deceased ‘Mij’ keeps her at arm’s length then.
TV CREAM SAYS: THIS SLOW, SWEET-NATURED TALE JUST GOES TO SHOW THAT MAN AND BEAST AREN'T EXACTLY DESTINED TO SHARE BUNK BEDS
If you *must* watch a western, it might as well be a good ‘un. Tremendous frontier caper with John Wayne, Ward ‘Fargo’ Bond but especially Dean Martin and Walter Brennan. Watch for the barely contained hysteria in Dino whenever Brennan starts his schtick.
TV CREAM SAYS: AFTER THIS FILM, WAYNE... BOUGHT A NEW HAT
1970, and voters face an unedifying choice between a tired old Labour government and a slightly prannyish Tory challenger in a political climate that’s fast becoming 99% froth. The time seems right for Peter Cook, John Cleese, Graham Chapman and director Kevin Billington to lift the British political satire out of its comfy old constituencies of class war and union bashing and cock a snook at the emerging cult of the opinion pollster.
Cook, as the titular mercurial time and motion man, enters the ineptly run Fairbairn advertising agency literally from nowhere, and starts shaking up the complacent staff by standing about in the gents with a clipboard. The slug-abed likes of John Cleese and Arthur Lowe don’t take well to their comfy routine of in-office ballroom dancing and test match viewing being interrupted by pesky efficiency, but when the company starts actually showing some signs of success (through a pornographic TV campaign for Olde English humbugs) Rimmer leapfrogs them with ease and sets about establishing opinion poll dominance for the firm by nobbling Denholm Elliott’s rival firm as they survey the religious propensities of the folk of Nuneaton. (Result: 42% Buddhist.)
From then it’s a small matter to nobble politics itself, manipulating both Labour and Conservatives from the sidelines, joining the latter himself and rising through the ranks to high office. There, Rimmer unveils his masterstroke: the introduction of hourly compulsory electronic voting for the populace on every single policy issue, after which he just sits back and waits for the people, sick of their lives being interrupted by the flashing red light on the front room voting terminal, to beg him to form a dictatorship and make all the pesky democracy stop.
As a Well Made Film it stinks – sketch follows sketch with little regard for shape, characters are paper-thin and drop out of the action as soon as their satirical point’s been made – but for sheer prescience (not least predicting the surprise 1970 Tory election victory – sadly the distributors got cold feet and held off releasing it until after the poll) it’s in a class of its own. Bits of business come thick and fast, and some are great: the slapstick sabotaging of a live Party Political broadcast, some overexcited ‘big desk’ election night coverage, and a high tech defence system straight out of Thunderbirds. As you’d expect, an endless succession of acting stalwarts parade before the camera, many of them great fun. Arthur Lowe’s bumbling advertising placeman and Denholm Elliott’s unscrupulous Peter Niss are excellent, as are Ronald Fraser, channeling Ted Heath via Harold MacMillan as the easily-led over-emotional ‘compassionate’ conservative leader and George A Cooper as the Wilsonian pipe-smoking, fireside-chatting, smugly insincere Labour chief.
Elsewhere, topical cameos about: Graham Crowden’s agnostic bishop is a take on the infamously doubting Bishop of Woolwich; Jerry Ram’s bent far-left activist Ranjit X takes the piss out of Tariq Ali; Ronald Culver’s fuming racist (“Are we mad??”) is Enoch Powell to a tee, and Harold Pinter’s supercilious chat show host Steven Hench could be taken for a David Frost parody, if Rimmer himself wasn’t so clearly an embodiment of Frostie’s rise-without-trace, from Cook’s blank-eyed offensive charm, through a decidedly Frostesque VIP breakfast party at London Zoo, right up to an uncannily accurate recreation of his modish front room (brave stuff, considering Frost’s Paradine Films initiated the project in the first place).
It’s very much one of those bitty, slightly flaky 1970s British comedy films, to be sure, but unlike, say, Rentadick, there are some sharp ideas and great lines among the shapeless mass of random incidents and cameoing comedians. And it’s the only film where Cook’s much debated acting ability is matched to his role: he glides through the film as if on castors, while everyone around him knocks themselves out. Just like Rimmer himself, he bakes his own cake and eats it, backed by a brilliantly swinging theme tune from John ‘Psychomania‘ Cameron. Super!
TV CREAM SAYS: "FIRE FERRETT!"
Cocked-up beyond redemption film of the series. Say what you like about Porridge: The Movie, but at least that had Richard Beckinsale in it. Here Christopher Strauli joins the remaining cast traipsing through a patchwork of old TV show plots and lines of dialogue to zero effect. Even Denholm Elliot and Derek Griffiths don’t help matters much. And Rigsby gives away his Christian name at the end, which is just wrong.
TV CREAM SAYS: THAT MAD DISCO THEME IS RATHER STUPIDLY GOOD, THOUGH DON'T BOTHER WITH ANYTHING AFTER THAT
The first word of that title’s a strong clue as to what to expect here. Mikey off of The Goonies and two pals go on a wilderness weekend supervised by Kevin Bacon, and – hey! – find out as much about themselves as the do about canoeing, camping and queen snakes. A sort of rip-off amalgam of Stand by Me and, rather dodgily, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, in that the film was made in ’85 (so the Stand… rip-off charges can be dropped) but left on the shelf, then, in ’87, post-Bueller success, Mikey was called back to add scenes of sardonic to-camera narration, which just happened to mirror Ferris’s memorable fourth wall-breaking gambit exactly. We’re sure it was pure coincidence, of course. The soundtrack was first-rate, at least – The Cult! Journey! Cutting Crew! Bruce Hornsby and the Range!
TV CREAM SAYS: ER, NEXT!
Odd little Roald Dahl-penned horror with Patricia Neal falling for disturbed maniac Nicholas ‘Excalibur’ Clay, who has a penchant for raping women and burying them under freshly-laid tarmac. With Jean Anderson, Graham Crowden, Yootha Joyce, Peter Sallis and Brigit Forsyth.