FORGET RUNNING WILD, their hopeless first foray into television during the 50s. From 1961 when they barrelled onto ATV, Eric ‘n’ Ernie’s small screen shows were incomparable. Masterstroke was acquisition of Scouse gag-master EDDIE BRABEN and producer JOHN AMMONDS for the BBC series after 1968. Out went KENNY BALL’S JAZZMEN and MILLICENT MARTIN and in came a dazzling array of guest stars, the brown paper bag and invisible stone schtick, the shared double bed, big musical numbers, and that Groucho Marx inspired dance. Reflecting a music hall inheritance, each programme would open with the pair appearing from behind mock theatre front-cloths. Some ribbing of Ernie would follow (“get out of that”, “short fat hairy legs”, “you can’t see the join”) and a guest star, usually asking for payment. Then some pastiches, like “Singin’ In The Rain” with Eric getting soaked while Ernie “does” Gene Kelly. SHIRLEY BASSEY wearing hob-nailed boots, or ANGELA RIPPON high-kicking to “Let’s Face The Music And Dance”. A bit more variety nonsense padded out the rest of the show before the final act, usually a play “wot Ernie wrote”, disrupted heavily by Eric’s asides to camera. In later years, with Morecambe’s health fading, Ernie would duet their signature tune, “Bring Me Sunshine”, with DES O’CONNOR or similar whilst Eric wandered around nonplussed in the background. Move back to ITV in 1978, leaving Braben behind, was the cue for a slow decline into creaky retreads, laboured gags and too many white studio backgrounds. When Eric died in ’84, Ern went on to write gardening columns for the News of the World.Read More
Posts Tagged With 'Millions of other bloody people'
LAUNCHED ON Christmas Day 1985 by NOEL EDMONDS, COMIC RELIEF has, down the years, popularised such phrases as “stick a red nose on your conk”, “pants” and of course “there’s thousands of Amys everywhere” (never as heart rending we feel as Bet Lynch’s “but then there’s the kiddies” on ITV’s short-lived TELETHON).
And never more can an honest citizen walk up a homeless person-strewn backstreet of one of Britain’s major cities without calling to mind the opening piano bit from Coldplay’s Trouble.
Much like IT’LL BE ALRIGHT ON THE NIGHT, COMIC RELIEF has established itself as classic workout fodder for your video remote controller, with the fast forward button deployed whenever JULIE WALTERS/ANNIE LENNOX/BILLY CONNOLLY pops up on screen.
Inevitably over the years, the show has lost all of its edgy appeal, and what was once an unpredictable night of alternative comedy has long since transmogrified into the kind of mutual back-slapping society that retains a shred of artistic integrity, thanks only to the fact that we know it really pisses off ALEXEI SAYLE. For many though, the sad truth is that COMIC RELIEF lost its last vestiges of coolness once there were no more Saturday morning kids shows for LENNY HENRY to piss about on the next day (always a highlight that).
Still, it raises loads of money for good causes, and for that, we’re quite happy to put up with hour upon hour of television that thinks comedy consists of an incongruous celebrity turn up in the middle of a sketch. Make your donation here!Read More
THE IMPERIAL Leather of costume soap combining the best and worst of rich people and their servants with lots of dressing up, elegant living and snatches of well-honed period detail. JEAN MARSH, who played Rose the maid, dreamt up the Bellamy family and their well-appointed pad at 165 Eaton Place, London. Lining up for the aristos were RACHEL GURNEY as Lady Marjorie who went down with the Titanic and was replaced by a dapper HANNAH GORDON as Virginia Hamilton, second wife of Lord Richard Bellamy (DAVID LANGTON), a well-meaning but fundamentally useless politician. Spoilt-brat kids parts were taken by SIMON “AGONY” WILLIAMS, NICOLA PAGETT and LESLEY-ANNE DOWN. Below stairs was where they had all the fun. GORDON “CI5″ JACKSON was Hudson the grumpy butler and ANGELA BADDELEY was Mrs Bridges the cook with a bad chest. Additional bowing and scraping from Sarah the maid (PAULINE COLLINS) and Thomas the chauffeur (JOHN ALDERTON) who went on to do a lousy spin-off series of their own, and assorted footmen (including CHRISTOPHER BEENY), scullery maids, seat-wipers and candle sharpeners ensured that there was always coal on the fire and that the posh folk never went short of a cup of tea when they pulled on the silk sash next to the fireplace. All major historic events from World War I to the Wall Street Crash found their way into the storylines and in true soapy style the Bellamys had more than their fair share of disasters and scandals to contend with. Meanwhile in the kitchen or attic the servants were struggling to control their reproductive urges, fending off unwanted advances from Young Mr Bellamy and trying to live up to the morally sound, upstanding, salt-of the-earth behaviour that the melodramatic scripts required. Much imitated (and in some cases reheated – Jean Marsh was also responsible for The House of Elliott) but probably never bettered. A new three-part run was commissioned for Christmas 2010… on BBC1. Set in 1936, Jean Marsh returned, as did Gordon Jackson’s handwriting (on a key fob). The comma in the title, however, didn’t make it into the new era.Read More
OH LOOK, Compo tries to catch a glimpse of Nora Batty’s night attire and then ends up in a bath on wheels careering down a hill. To the casual viewer, LOTSW seemed to take place half a mile down the road from the similarily libidinous fuelled antics of Arkwright in Open All Hours. Indeed both series began transmission in the same year and both sprang forth from the pen of ROY CLARKE. To most, it’s been one long, unchanging thirty seven year Sunday night monolith of placid Pennines, plaintive harmonicas, wrinkled stockings and gravity-driven porcelain. But familiarity has bred not only (in a few cases) contempt, but a gross simplification of the four very distinct ages of Summer Wine.
1) WAITING FOR FOGGO (1973-5)
Building on the moderately successful Comedy Playhouse pilot The Last of the Summer Wine, which did reasonable business despite being buried in the unforgiving wilderness of early January, the first two series paired Norman Clegg (PETER SALLIS) and Compo Simmonite (BILL OWEN) with MICHAEL BATES’ austere, authoritarian Blamire, for a series of bucolic, rambling ‘second childhood’ picaresques, in which the trio would hang about in and out of Holmfirth much as proper teenagers would have done if there’d been any, reminiscing, arguing, and generally mucking about. Even by Clarke’s slow burning standards, this was gentle comedy indeed, with few belly laughs to be had, or even outright gags: if your stomach makes involuntary spasms at the sound of the words “bittersweet character comedy”, look away now. But for all that, this early incarnation was pleasant enough, and it’s still worth catching when it scuds idly by on the cable channels, not least for the surprise “I don’t remember it being this political!” moments when staunch Tory Blamire locks ideological horns with a very bolshy socialist Compo in deserted churchyards, with Clegg, as ever, caught uneasily between the two.
2) A DRINK NOW TO MELLOW DAYS (1976-85)
Faltering health saw Bates out and BRIAN WILDE’s bluff ex-serviceman Foggy Dewhurst in, initially giving a softer edge to the three-way al fresco bickering under the aegis of comedy supremo Sydney Lotterby. The supporting cast of locals was built up, augmenting the already long-serving trio of cafe owner Sid (JOHN COMER), curtain-twitching Ivy (JANE FREEMAN) and the inevitable gargoyle on the front steps that was Nora Batty (KATHY STAFF). But still, it was mainly about your three rambling duffers, traversing hill and dale in an already set-in-stone format. Changes, however, were afoot. For the 1981 Christmas special, two things happened: the theme tune gained lyrics (which didn’t catch on), and a new producer in the form of populist Hitch-Hiker’s fan hate figure Alan JW Bell (who did). Bell upped the comedy clowning ante, eliding Owen’s already noted ability to fall off a dry stone wall in a hundred different positions with Foggy’s idle dreams of restaging the D-Day landings once a week. Increasingly outlandish Compo-carrying contraptions were manufactured from waste materials, among which, it must be said, tin baths did feature once or maybe twice. But viewers were still mainly there for the to-and-fro bickering, now got down to a fine art by Clarke, even if it was already getting a tad formulaic. (The ‘sounds like a gag but it isn’t’ repetitive whimsical construction, e.g. “I’m quite partial myself to an Eccles cake. It sets you up for the day, does an Eccles cake” was guaranteed to crop up around once every ten minutes.) The slapstick did one important thing – it got the kids watching, and thus the whole family. Perhaps most importantly, a move from midweek to Sunday nights helped cement that homely, mellow quality. (Or exacerbate that hatefully drab, purgatorial, it’s-either-this-or-draw-a-diagram-of-a-pigging-glacier-for-tomorrow irritation, depending on your age.) Compo and Nora turned up in character on every BBC show going, from Pebble Mill to Crackerjack to It’s a Knockout to that sure sign a sitcom has arrived, the 1984 Royal Variety Performance. A brand was slowly, quietly forged in the Holmfirth hills. It was all – literally – downhill from here.
3) THREE BLOKES IN A BATH (1986-90)
Wilde, by many accounts never the most joyous of actors to work with, ups sticks and leaves in a huff soon after his name slips down the running order in the Radio Times. The Holy Trinity is rent asunder. It seems all is lost. Then Bell has the bright idea of simply bunging in MICHAEL ALDRIDGE as Seymour Utterthwaite, basically a Foggy clone with inventing rather than military planning as his shtick, and everything carries on as usual. Then Wilde comes back, and everything carries on as if everything hadn’t previously been carrying on as usual. Owen gets too old to do stunts himself. The repertory cast is expanded with the addition of THORA HIRD’s respectable gossip Evie and perennially outed rural canoodlers Howard and Marina, the latter of whom seems to have once had a thing for Cleggy. (“Eee, Norman Clegg, tha’ was!”) First of the Summer Wine, featuring the youthful escapades of the gang, and thus surely missing the point of the original series in the first place, comes and goes to little interest, but the brand rolls on undaunted. It becomes clear to all that only a nuclear war will put an end to the franchise, and every other comedy starts to take the piss out of it as a matter of course.
4) IS THAT STILL ON? (1991-2010)
Time, inevitably, starts to catch up with the programme. Wilde checks out in 1997, to be replaced by FRANK THORNTON’s Truly Truelove. The casting of the locals heads down progressively more familiar paths, with the likes of STEPHEN LEWIS, ELI WOODS and JIM BOWEN drafted in. Come the new millennium, the unthinkable happens, and Owen finally snuffs it. Much talk wafts round the media of how the show can’t possibly go on. To nobody’s surprise at all, the show goes on, with a brief bit of continuity provided by Owen’s son Tom as Compo’s son, er, Tom. By now the series has reached the same shapeless years of perambulating dotage as its protagonists, drifting from Sunday to Sunday without care or purpose, picking up stray retired comic actors en route. Look, there’s BURT KWOUK! Here comes BRIAN MURPHY! Isn’t that NORMAN WISDOM? My God, it’s DORA BRYAN! CANNON AND BALL, as I live and breathe! And so indestructibly on, until the Beeb finally decide to pull the plug for, seemingly, no greater reason than that RUSS ABBOTT’s joined it, thus depriving us of seeing Ardal O’Hanlon, Lee Mack and Peter Serafinowicz in 2030 going downhill on a rusty old iPad or something. Feelings as to its ultimate passing can, we think, best be described as ‘mixed’.Read More
GOSPEL ACCORDING To Lord Lew. ROBERT POWELL played Him in Sunday-night multi-buck epic, born out of word-in-your-ear “exchange” twixt Pope Paul and Grade over tea in the Vatican. ANTHONY BURGESS and FRANCO ZEFFIRELLI were on scripture duties, while predictably stellar cast reeled in OLIVIA HUSSEY (Mary), ANNE BANCROFT (other Mary), IAN MCSHANE (Judas), MICHAEL YORK (John the Baptist), LAURENCE OLIVIER (Nicodemus – who?), RALPH RICHARDSON (Simeon), JAMES EARL JONES (King #1), DONALD PLEASANCE (King #2), FERNANDO REY (third King), JAMES MASON (Joseph – not that one), PETER USTINOV (baby-eating Herod), CHRISTOPHER PLUMMER (another Herod), ROD STEIGER (Pilate), STACY KEACH (Barrabus), CYRIL CUSACK (Yehuda), IAN BANNEN (Amos), OLIVER TOBIAS (Joel) and legions more. Three-year shoot based in Italy and Tunisia. Cigar-chomper reputedly arrived at million-pound selling price in above-Atlantic aircraft “daydream”.Read More
THAT EXCLAMATION mark says it all. More perspicacious production line period palaver from the pens of David Croft – who with Jimmy Perry wrote the vastly overrated DAD'S ARMY and the endless HI-DE-HI! – and Jeremy Lloyd which never seemed to be off the telly and lasted longer than the war it was “gently lampooning”. Entire premise ripped off from SECRET ARMY. Rene (GORDEN KAYE), a moon-faced smart-alec cafe owner who spoke like someone doing a shit impression of Inspector Clouseau, reluctantly agrees to help the French resistance during WW2. Married to a prickly wife Edith who can’t sing (“Youuuuuu stupid woman!”) but also fancies the arse off barmaid Yvette, but who keeps being distracted by Michelle the “collaborator” (“Listen very carefully, I shall say zees only once”), who keeps trying to avoid the machinations of Gestapo goon with a limp Herr Flick, and Helga the blonde Nazi officer who took to appearing in only her underwear, and the gay Nazi officer, the stupid Nazi officer, British airmen in terribly unamusing inability to escape to “Blighty” and uproarious false accents (“I was just pissing by”), “Mother” upstairs called Fanny with comic ear trumpet, the French policeman next door… Oh, dear god. Entire seasons seemed to revolve around Rene being presumed dead and being replaced with his identical brother (GORDEN KAYE, unsurprisingly), or the location of the Fallen Madonna With The Big Boobies, or comically-shaped bratwurst. Each episode opened with Gorden looking stupid (standing in a bale of hay, or appearing dressed as a woman, or appearing dressed as a woman in a bale of hay) and asking us what we thought he was doing. How the hell did we know ? RONNIE HAZELHURST arranged the theme, which didn’t really fit in on account of it being really rather good.Read More
BOMBASTIC TEATIME behemoth which sprawled across half a decade before the BBC decided to “cancel this and all future editions of the programme. Tonight, instead of The Late Late Breakfast Show and Every Second Counts, we’re now showing the feature film One Of Our Dinosaurs Is Missing”. Noel would helm proceedings from a variety of none-more-80s pastel sofas, introducing, variously: MIKE SMITH on location at the sight of some “amazing stunt, never before attempted on British television”, usually involving stock-car racing, fighting the world’s tallest fire, or stock-car racing in the middle of the world’s tallest fire; The Hit Squad, secret camera stuntery wherein a man’s office gets rearranged while his back is turned; The Golden Egg Awards, basically a round-up of all the week’s “bloopers” including, one week, the time Phillip Schofield took the whole of the network off the air (Phil, gamely, showed up to collect the award in, of course, jacket and jeans); big guests like The Bee Gees, Duran Duran (who pretended to be commissionaires, so that all the audience members had their tickets signed by the band, only then had to give them in) and Phil Collins; viewers’ letters of the standard of “what’s that brown cakey slab that seems to float in the sky on Stevie Wonder’s ‘I Just Called To Say I Love You’ video, is it a piece of toast?”; the never-ending search for Mr Puniverse; and of course Give It A Whirl, wherein one poor sod on the other end of a phone would be encouraged to try some zany physical stunt selected by the Whirly Wheel. Usually involving something “never before attempted on British television” – or again, after Michael Lush. JOHN PEEL was involved during the early days, before falling out with Noel after – yup – a stock-car racing stunt went wrong. Show boasted textbook Edmonds titles: Noel is woken from his slumbers by a Noel-shaped alarm clock, “flies” across breakfast table covered in Noel-faced objects, then arrives in studio via convoluted journey in Noel-branded ultra-fast ultra-shiny transportation including helicopter, sports car, speedboat and assorted “television firsts”.Read More
ANNUAL TIN-RATTLE from Television Centre, once a reasonably entertaining celebrity drop-in centre affair, now a dreadful parade of promotional star turns and role swapping (“this year: Casualty *do* We Will Rock You; plus, the BBC newsreaders as you’ve *never* seen them before – since the last time!”). Actual campaign began on radio on Christmas Day 1927, then became a regular ten-minuter on a Sunday night telly, until ex-NATIONWIDE nabob Mark Patterson suggested turning it into a telethon and Bill Cotton dutifully cleared the schedules. The first televised moneyspinner found – naturally – Lord Wogan holding fort from, bizarrely, the Cunard Hotel, Hammersmith at what looked like a rudimentary garden party with groups of fellow personalities seated at numerous round metal tables regaling Terry and us with an anecdote, a song and a shenanigan or two. Something of a freewheeling fancy, all told, albeit with SUE LAWLEY and ESTHER RANTZEN on hand to talk about “why we’re really here tonight”. Early 80s efforts pretty much forgettable, although proceedings were shamelessly hijacked in 1983 by that three hour long special 20th anniversary episode of Dr Who with all the Doctors in it apart from the one who was dead and the one who couldn’t be arsed. Michael Grade had the idea of fashioning a whole night’s frivolity around the cause; somewhere along the way that horrendous kiddie-shrieking song was written – “We are the future/we are the seed/if you want to help/help Children In Need” – probably by Mike Batt or BA Robertson, subsequently adopted as the official CIN “theme”. Dr Who “trick” repeated a second time for the show’s 30th anniversary, this time by way of – of all things – an EastEnders crossover filmed in 3-D. Smell-O-Vision “themed” 1995 offering similarly stank. Will remain on the third Friday in November for evermore, or until Tel croaks it, whichever comes first.
Give over! At the BBC website >Read More
YET ANOTHER load of You Have Been Watching lummoxery from David Croft, as usual set in some hilariously over-cliched recent period of British history, and as usual starring SU POLLARD, PAUL SHANE and JEFFREY HOLLAND. This time the laughs were to be found – allegedly – in a 1920s house where, and hold onto your sides now, the upper classes are battier than those below stairs! And everybody’s either trying to diddle or screw everyone else! Basically, Shane and Holland gain the employ of Lord Meldrum (DONALD HEWLETT) years after saving his life in the First World War, only to install Shane’s – gulp – daughter Su Pollard as parlourmaid. Cue “oo eck!” accidents with dusters, slippery scullery floor scrapes and falling out of cupboards in ill-fitting clothes. Also living in the house are, variously, a demented biddy, a lesbian who dresses as a man, a randy pensioner, numerous stupid toffs and toffesses, wailing cooks, dim-witted errand boys and BARBARA WINDSOR. Oh, and BILL PERTWEE used to call round for a bit of tongue from the head cook. And some food as well. Best thing by far was undoubtedly the theme tune, crooned by none other than SIR BOB MONKHOUSE in his best clipped-voice posh-man impersonation (“From Mayfair to Park Lane/you will hear the same refrain/in every house again, again…”) replete with PAUL SHANE interjections (spoken, thankfully: “You rang, m’lord?”). Various topical events of the 1920s turned up, including – implausibly – the General Strike. Ended when the Meldrums ran out of money and had to sack everyone. Now that’s our idea of going out on a high.Read More
TEA-AND-SLIPPERS SLEUTHERY, best taken over doilies and Darjeeling, if not Lucozade and egg soldiers. Casting aside her leatherbound library of crime, Jessica Beatrice Fletcher would sally forth unto this week’s house warming party/family reunion/community tea dance only to discover a horrible killing, a clueless local police force and a dozen bystanders urging her to apply her literary skills to this real life tragedy. Having taken up mystery writing once widowed and found fame across the States for her seemingly endless stream of treacherous novellas, Jessica also had cause to travel around the country on promotional junkets which coincidentally – and fortuitously for the viewer – also delivered her unto the scenes of yet more dastardly crimes. ANGELA LANSBURY got stolen from over here and made a star over there, turning Murder, She Wrote (that comma was all-important) into a veritable pension plan. The opening titles set the tone majestically: Jessica in a montage of scenes from her escapades, set to the sound of a cheerily tinkling piano and oom-pah orchestra. Approximately 325,671,290 guest stars appeared, including the great TOM BOSLEY in the semi-regular role of Sheriff Amos Tupper and the two-part special when Jessica went to Hawaii and pooled resources with MAGNUM. Later episodes saw our heroine taking it easy, “appearing” at the beginning of each episode to introduce that week’s “guest sleuth” then pissing off back to her writing desk. Well, she was almost 90.Read More
SIMPERING SITCOMMERY involving a single studio set standing in for the entire British World War Two Indian subcontinent campaign and two million shit gags standing in for pithy punchlines, enlightened witticisms and well-crafted tomfoolery. Like DAD’S ARMY, went on for longer than the war it was supposed to be fucking lampooning, and contrived to do so in a noisier, more over-stated fashion as well. WINDSOR DAVIES bellowed his way through proceedings helming a platoon of various comedy gay soldiers including dragged-up MELVYN “GLORIA” HAYES, pintsize kit factory DON ESTELLE, STUART “PLAY SCHOOL” MACGUGAN, GEORGE LAYTON and JOHN “MR LA-DI-DAH GUNNER GRAHAM” CLEGG, plus the requisite number of thick/aloof officers and pretend Asians. More offensive than LOVE THY NEIGHBOUR, less funny than EDGE OF DARKNESS, less credible than AROUND THE WORLD WITH WILLY FOGG.Read More
“OH, I MUST say, Princess Diana looks really scrummy in that picture, don’t you think so Nick, really gorgeous.” Main, indeed for a time only, plank in ITV’s half-built semi-bodged creaking edifice of a breakfast television service, responsible for making household names of ANNE “TODAY’S NUMBERS ARE 3, 15, 26…” DIAMOND, NICK “…27, 33 and 45″ OWEN, WINCEY “AND SO IS WINCEY WILLIS” WILLIS and a host of other day-glo undesirables. Whole thing almost sank with all hands after a mere two weeks on air thanks to original boss PETER JAY’s demented policy of ultra-earnest mithering, having the weather forecast at 7.52 and 13 seconds precisely, and letting fellow investor DAVID FROST do interviews that went on for five hours. Frostie was one of original “Famous Five” supposedly destined to piss all over rival BREAKFAST TIME business thanks to “sexual chemistry” of ANNA FORD, ANGELA RIPPON, MICHAEL PARKINSON and ROBERT KEE. Only chemistry evident on screen was that of rapidly combusting careers and evaporating viewers. GREG DYKE showed up to save the day, not before JONATHAN “HE LIED AND LIED AND LIED” AITKEN had sacked Anna and Angela (big news) and made Robert quit (nobody noticed). Parky hung about sulking for a year before pissing off. In came Anne, Nick (promoted from sports presenter), Wincey, ROLAND “RUN VT!” RAT, GYLES BRANDRETH, JIMMY GREAVES, CHRIS TARRANT, HENRY KELLY, JAYNE IRVING, MIKE MORRIS, RICHARD KEYS, ULRIKA JONSSON, LORRAINE KELLY and, over in the kids corner, TIMMY MALLETT, TOMMY BOYD and MICHAELA STRACHAN: basically your entire gamut of harmless mid-80s ITV faces who could hold their own on a shit-brown coloured sofa for as long as necessary going on about a) which members of the royal family were in the tabloids today b) the weather c) what happened on telly last night d) where they were going for their holidays e) Gyles’s knitted jumpers. And people watched in their millions. Genuinely ace opening titles had GOOD MORNING BRITAIN spelled out by pigeons in Trafalgar Square, crew of a Royal Navy ship, load of people on the Bristol Downs and so on. Loads of memorable stuff ensued: Rat On The Road, Tarrant going round the resorts, John Stapleton reporting on the Brighton bomb in a call box, industrial action every other week meaning endless repeats of FLIPPER and BATMAN, Anne quitting, Anne coming back, Anne quitting again, the eggcup copyright slide at the end of every programme, Mallett’s Mallet, After Nine, Mad Lizzie, Commander Philpott doing the weather, GORDON HONEYCOMBE doing the news… Party came to an end when Mrs Thatcher decided GMTV would do a better job of things, except she had second thoughts and wrote BRUCE GYNGELL a letter saying how sorry she was. Too late! Fell off the air on New Year’s Eve 1992 with Mike Morris blubbing to the sound of ‘Simply The Best’.
Mid-period mad scientist slapstick of Sellers vs. Lom – stand by to tick off Lesley-Anne Down, Burt Kwouk, Leonard Rossiter, Richard ‘Slartibartfast’ Vernon, Geoffrey ‘Catweazle’ Bayldon, Graham Stark, Gordon Rawlings, Omar Sharif, Dudley ‘CFF’ Sutton, a very young Chris Langham, and that’s Mrs. Director Julie Andrews overdubbing Michael ‘On The Buses’ Robbins.Read More
One of the late-period Ealing drama series to cover a particular location or institution ( e.g. The Square Ring – boxing, Pool of London – the docks, The Rainbow Jacket – racing) via an ensemble cast and criss-crossing narratives. Here it’s Heathrow – sorry – London Airport, and as well as drinking in the evocative recreation of BOACland, you can augment the rather dull action with a round of spot-the-typecasting – James Robertson ‘bleeding time’ Justice (stalwart captain, of course), Sid James (oh look, he’s gambling!), Bernard ‘M’ Lee (“did you pack this bag yourself, 007?”) and Esma ‘Flo’ Cannon (no-one’s telling *her* how to behave!). William ‘Schhh!’ Franklyn and Terence ‘Bergerac’ Alexander are there too.Read More
Whether or not the Reverend Sun Myung Moon was told by Jesus to fund an epic retelling of this pivotal moment in the Korean War is a moot point. Whoever told Laurence Olivier to accept the lead role as General MacArthur, wearing truly bizarre prosthetic make-up and getting paid in briefcases full of cash flown to the film set by helicopter, must have been working for the other side. The film looks fine, but with acres of long, expository speeches by main characters telling other main characters what they must surely already know, it’s a crashing two-and-a-half-hour bore. Meteorological destruction of outdoor sets and language barriers amongst the crew ensured the price inflated well beyond what was visible on-screen. The Moonies saw a return of about – yes – one tenth of their $46 million outlay, scuppering the Rev’s plans for a billion-dollar series of Biblical epics. So it wasn’t all bad news.Read More
One of those actors we love even though we’re never sure whether they’re actually being any good or not, Nicol ‘Seven Percent’ Williamson, stars as a straight laced minor British spy (married to Iman, no less) keeping an eye on his lefty colleague Derek Jacobi and an unpleasant South African diplomat in this Graham Greene adaptation with one of those casts we haven’t had for a while – Richard Attenborough, John Gielgud, Robert ‘bricks’ Morley, Richard ‘Slarti’ Vernon, Martin ‘Vogon captain’ Benson, Tony ‘Kinvig’ Haygarth, Ken ‘Ives’ Jones, Frank ‘your reverence’ Williams, Adrienne ‘Leisure Hive’ Corri, Tom ‘Rod Hull and Emu Sing a Christmas Song’ Chatto and – it’s good to be back – Marianne Stone.Read More
Stanley Holloway leads a darts team on a trip to Boulogne. Basically another of those ‘Brits abroad’ ensemble comedies like San Ferry Ann, or Innocents in Paris. This one’s courtesy Ralph ‘Doctor’ Thomas, and showcases Donald ‘Mmwwwwrrrgh, Smallbridge!’ Sinden, James ‘Mr Tebbs, you know, the short-lived, toupeed Mr Grainger replacement off of Are You Being Served?’ Hayter, Harry ‘Dead Ernest’ Fowler, Peter ‘Book’ Jones, Bill ‘Compo’ Owen (with our own Marianne Stone on his arm, the cad!), Thora Hird, Shirley ‘Goldfinger’ Eaton and Deryck Guyler.Read More
Gawd. Now there are no more clips to raid, Edwards finds he has to think fast (the simpler option of just not bothering anymore seems beyond him). So, in comes Ted Wass – former Danny off of Soap, future Blossom’s dad off of Blossom – to do a bit of sub-Sellers schtick in lieu of the original lieu enforcer. It’s grim stuff, particularly the ponderous poolside inflatable duck routine with a not-getting-any-better David Niven. Lumley, Korman, Crosby, Stark, Smith and Porkins all return, bolstered by Robert Wagner, Leslie Ash, Michael Elphick, Hugh Fraser, and Roger Moore as a post-plastic surgery Clouseau. The Godawful ’90s Roberto Benigni-starring Son of… is enough to drive you screaming onto the streets, if you’re not there already.Read More
GLENDA JACKSON shaves her head, wears a beak and paints her face white in order to rule England for 60 years. Giving her a warm hand on her entrance – but forsooth no more than that – were ROBERT “VET’NARIAN” HARDY, BERNARD “ARTOIS” HEPTON, LEONARD “GOOD OLD” SACHS, RONALD “TROUBLESHOOTER” HINES, ROBIN “CLUEDO” ELLIS, ANGELA “MARJORY FROBISHER” THORNE, MICHAEL “CHARLIE CHALK” WILLIAMS, PETER “MARTIN!” EGAN and anyone else who mattered.Read More