GEOFFREY PALMER more or less exported Jimmy off of FALL AND RISE OF REGINALD PERRIN into Harry Truscott for this decent enough saga of incompetent right-wing rabblerousing militia full of more undesirables (in Hazza’s eyes) than there are to fight in the “real” world. Terribly hush hush, don’t you know. JEREMY SINDEN, LIZ FRASER and RAY WINSTONE among the “wet leftie feminist loonies”.Read More
Posts Tagged With 'Stiff upper lips being tested in adversity'
MUCH-TRUMPETED “prestige” adaptation of the venerable Blytonian underage derring-do saga, adapted by RICHARD ‘FLYING KIWI’ SPARKS from the musty-smelling Hodder and Stoughton paperbacks that everyone read whether they wanted to or not, and lavishly filmed in various privately owned chunks of the New Forest for that idyllic “eternal summer of youth” vibe.
It was, of course, all updated for the go-ahead seventies. Starched collars and Pathfinder shoes were ditched to make way for zip-up cagoules, ten-speed Grifters and those lovely polyester polo shirts with an off-centre brown zig-zag up the front. Blyton’s busting out! But only by about so much, as the Enid Blyton Foundation, jealously guarding their intellectual property as well they might, weren’t too keen on that many liberties being taken with those timeless storylines. So despite the Tartrazine-coloured Year of Three Popes costumery, our intrepid heroes still found themselves going after gorblimey smugglers and swarthy gypsies, and the local bobbies still turned up on a rickety old bicycle in the nick of time. (“Constable! Thank goodness you’re here!”) We were still firmly in “lashings of ginger beer” territory, which to your average ’70s child was as exotic as Servalan’s homeworld. And what were the odds, in 1978, of happening across an Aunt Fanny still able to get about under her own steam? Yet here she is, baking scones in a sparkly top. Something doesn’t quite fit.
On top of the period elephant in the room, there was the small matter of the production values not being quite up to scratch. Lots of lovely countryside and stately old piles, yes, but, with all due respect to GARY ‘Dick’ RUSSELL and pals, the acting, direction and pacing were Children’s Film Foundation level at best. Every other shot ended in a pause so long you could practically hear the key grip lighting up a post-take fag. Line delivery was firmly of the posh-gosh declamatory style. The odd medium-big name guest star provided a bit of variation, but much of the action was as flat as the browned-out ’70s film stock that captured it. All kids telly is prone to this to some degree of course, but here it was acute and chronic. Luckily the crims were as stiff as everyone else, otherwise nationwide anarchy would have ruled by the end of the first season.
And yet… everyone watched it. Slothful story progress, niggling period worries and the suspicion that Julian was a bit of a git weren’t nearly enough to offset the fact that here were some kids getting to muck about outdoors on the telly. Which, as it turned out, was all anyone wanted entertainment-wise during those heady Callaghanian summers. Look-In strips and spin-off books (OK, the original books but with cagoules on the cover) abounded. The oddly tuneless school choir theme tune (“Julie and Dick Annan, Georgian TIM-my the do-O-og…”) was, as was seemingly compulsory for all Southern kids TV themes, released as a single for nobody to buy. Hay was well and truly made.
Ironically enough, none of the Five ever went on to become truly famous by themselves, although Dr Who conventions are occasionally set on a roar when some wag claims that old Who is best because at least Tom Baker could operate a punt without falling in the water. The best part of twenty years on, ITV went back to Blyton, this time keeping the thing firmly in the time of grey flannel shorts and postal orders for six shillings. They’d learnt their lesson. Don’t decimalise Dick!Read More
DIRTY-FACED FEISTY POWS of the fairer sex see out the Second World War in an internment camp in Malaya. The key word there being ‘camp’. Banding together under the de facto leadership of ANN BELL were rape victim STEPHANIE BEACHAM, doctor STEPHANIE COLE, nurses CLAIRE OBERMAN and JEANANNE CROWLEY and tottering old academic JEAN ANDERSON. Legendary BURT KWOUK was a camp commandant, the key word there being… oh, you get the idea. Stirring stuff and, once Michael Grade had sniffed out some post-SONGS OF PRAISE potential, a weekend hit. Last series offered up a multitude of baked bean endings by virtue of concentrating on that old dramatic stalwart, Life After Wartime, i.e. reunions with lost loves, arguments with other people’s lost loves, fights over lost loves, and lost loves staying positively lost through the small matter of, well, death. Lousy “reunion” finale in 1985 was set in 1950 and took the form of – erk – a murder mystery. At least nobody saw it coming. Unlike the end of the war.Read More
A celebration of London and friendship gets off to a slow, stiff-upper-lipped start in this early eighties screen adaptation of Helene Hanff’s novel of the same name. This is a true story of an enduring relationship between book-hungry single New York woman Hanff (Anne Bancroft) and a shopkeeper who presides over Marks & Co in Charing Cross Road (Anthony Hopkins as a reticent F.P. Doel). As their friendship develops, Doel and later his family and staff, come to rely on the generous New Yorker who sends them food supplies during the forties ration era.
Hanff’s acerbic wit and lack of deference for popular English editing is a breath of fresh air to Doel who finds himself going out of his way to procure her increasing demands for rare editions of books she semi-scurrilously finds impossible to locate in New York. Lots of nice cross-referencing of staid wordless marital dinners between Hopkins and wife Nora (Judi Dench) with Bancroft’s friendly and lively lunches in Manhattan delis serve to delineate their lives. Bancroft sends food parcels to the staff at Marks & Co where the reception to such indulgence is one of excitement except with one employee’s elderly aunt who screws her nose up at the idea of air mail meat. Bancroft’s smitten with her Brief Encounter (she’s seen cooing over the film) mental picture of England and Marks & Co are inadvertently happy to indulge her. (‘They say you see the London you want to see.’)
Time rattles on. The forties bloom into the fifties and then dive full throttle into the sixties (Bancroft is watching herself on the news being lifted and bundled into a van at a Civil rights protest just before she learns of Doel’s death). She never did make it over during his lifetime (the clue is there in the first scene as she edges gingerly into a long-deserted bookshop) but the protracted nature of their correspondence touches a handful of lives in a meaningful way and you ‘re left contemplating that this friendship endured perhaps because of the remoteness, and in any case was no less profound through mutual invisibility.Read More
ORIGINAL WAS a top MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE UK-style Bentleys and fist-fights spy thrillah, with JOEL FABIANI, ROSEMARY NICHOLS and most importantly PETER WYNGARDE, a long-time swarthy baddie in THE SAINT who mutated off into JASON KING. Crazy big band music and seventies graphics, fingers on typewriter keys, etc. King was chief investigator of Department S, the branch of Interpol which specialised in solving unsolvable cases. His other pastime was writing detective fiction featuring a character called Mark Caine, whom King used to pretend to be to help him solve the cases. Long hair, droopy ‘bandito’ moustache, King was a vain, seventies playboy who wore clothes only Noel Edmonds would wear nowadays (and does) and managed to irritate his fellow detectives with his unconventional antics. Thanks to this programme Wyngarde became the most popular man in Germany. Viewers fed up with Roger Moore’s Saint kicking the giblets out of up to three blokes at a time then straightening his tie with not a hair out of place, were charmed into this one because King always got the boot in the baddie’s face first, but invariably he was given a good hiding and passed out artfully reaching for a fag or some brandy. Baddies were identifiable by their short-back-and-sides. Swilled brandy, wore frilly shirts, kaftans, and eau de cologne; quite an admission in those pre-Brut days. Entertained glamorous but oddly sexless women (they all were then, except FELICITY KENDAL who appeared as a young Frenchwoman). The spin-off concentrated even more on the debauched and hedonistic lifestyle of our hero who by this time was a freelance, with an even greater selection of implausible plots in glamorous locations (how many times has that panoramic view of Monte Carlo been used?).Read More
THE PINNACLE of Potterism. Here, over six weeks on peak time Sunday BBC1, was childhood repression, physical degradation, casual racism, a profusion of breastage, village school bullying, turds in desks, runaway wheelchairs, runaway Underground trains, too too too much flaky skin, PATRICK MALAHIDE’s bare bonking arse in the woods, imaginary hitmen, pulp crime fiction, palm court dance bands, word games, ALISON STEADMAN – or maybe JANET SUZMAN – being fished naked out of the Thames, talking scarecrows, the tallest tree in the world and MICHAEL GAMBON getting his penis greased. All set to the swinging sound of 1940s popular music classics. “When I grow up, everything, everything will be all right.”Read More
TRUE-LIFE ESPIONAGE yarn adapted for the small screen by masterful TROY “EDGE OF…” KENNEDY MARTIN. Eponymous “ace” (SAM NEILL) is planted inside newly-Revolutionised Russia by UK Whitehall toff Major Fothergill (PETER “DECREASING” EGAN) to sabotage best laid plans of Bolshie bastards. Lenin (KENNETH “LOOT” CRANHAM) and Stalin (DAVID “DR. WATSON MK. I” BURKE) not best pleased.Read More
TWO COCKTAIL-SIPPING Auden-spouting flappers move to Hungary, find the Second World War has broken out, and proceed to spend the next four years defeating Hitler by staging amateur productions of Shakespeare, having Alan Bennett for tea, hoofing in hotel saloons and sitting on top of pyramids. KENNETH BRANAGH, sporting his favourite Woody Allen glasses, and EMMA THOMPSON, her hair like two damp dishcloths, were the twittering twosome forever bumping into the likes of RONALD PICKUP, ROBERT GRAVES, ROBERT STEPHENS and CAROLINE LANGRISHE while out taking their similes for a walk.Read More
JAMES BOLAM laid the memory of THE LIKELY LADS to rest with this grisly 1920s depression-quest. Concerning the struggle of a bunch of Geordie ex-squaddies to earn a crust, a young SUSAN JAMESON put food on t’ table as Bolam’s long-suffering wife, and MALCOLM “OUR JOHN WILLIE” TERRIS propped up the bar with a pint o’ black and tan. Pigeon lofts featured, as did a lot of clothes drying in the back yard and cross-class boundary politics. Cue plenty of clenched-fist-wringing angst. Don’t worry lads, there’s another war on the way.Read More
ALEC GUINNESS unearths a mole in the British Secret Service very very slowly, mostly by talking abstractedly about lamplighters and ju-ju men, while MICHAEL JAYSTON steals dodgy dossiers, GEORGE SEWELL watches the door, ANTHONY BATE worries about “the minister”, BERYL REID gets pissed, SIAN PHILLIPS has a lie-in until the very last scene and Seymour off of LAST OF THE SUMMER WINE repeatedly lights a pipe. BERNARD HEPTON, TERENCE RIGBY and IAN RICHARDSON sweated. IAN BANNEN got chased through the Czechoslovakian woods by dogs. Oh, and Control (ALEXANDER KNOX) goes mental. A masterpiece.Read More
STIRRING TREMBLE-LIPPED stoicism from the Second World War, charting the ‘ALLO ‘ALLO-inspiring Belgian resistance capers of BERNARD HEPTON (Albert Foiret) running a restaurant patronized by Nazis while smuggling PoWs out of the country on the side. Unbearably tense, undeniably sentimental but unashamedly ace. JAN FRANCIS was the original resistance ring-leader before getting killed by a falling brick. CHRISTOPHER NEAME was her love interest and British agent who ultimately escaped by driving a bus, Roger Moore-style, very fast towards Switzerland. ANGELA RICHARDS was the angelic-voiced chanteuse and Foiret’s bit on the side, forever irking his bedridden cantankerous missus. CLIFFORD ROSE peered down his nose at all and sundry, failing to ever guess what was going on behind his Beef Wellington, while MICHAEL CULVER almost worked it out before shooting himself and future Demon Headmaster TERRENCE HARDIMAN guessed it but just as the war ended. STEPHEN YARDLEY showed up as a treacherous piano player (always the worst kind), RON PEMBER was the ever-loyal wireless man Alain, and VALENTINE DYALL the superb, non-ruffled Dr Keldermans. Rose resurfaced in KESSLER, wherein his eponymous evil bastard was trying to stay anonymous in some South American banana republic. Opening tracking shot down stills of railway lines, canals, roads and winding tracks set to sombre theme music the epitome of the perfect title sequence.
You might also want to see... ‘Allo ‘Allo!.
SUNDAY NIGHT past-your-bedtime Nazi/nightclub confection with CAROLYN “DAUGHTER OF JUDGE” PICKLES as real-life Irish hoofer Margaret Kelly who whiled away World War II in Paris presiding over bawdy burlesque house peopled with leggy blondes of stipulation 6ft plus height. Much earnest bicycle riding and opening of giant French internal doors, in-between “artistic” exposure of bare breasts. Madge’s Irish passport conveniently saved her from Nazi arrest every week; other cast not so fortunate. Eventually married Jewish bloke played by PHILLIP SAYER, who had to hide in a loft for the duration. ELIZABETH HURLEY looked in.Read More
DEFTLY SURFING the wave of post-Falklands yomp-inspired rejoicing, BERNARD FALK narrated these talk-of-the-classroom-the-next-morning fly on the barrack-room wall documentary efforts. Plenty of shouty blokes with moustaches yelling: “You call these boots clean?”, lots of assault courses, spectacular airborne footage (in Pilot) and many a fat-necked participant’s heart broken as they are deemed “not to have what it takes”.Read More
SUPERLATIVE RECREATION of famed Nazi uber-jail and repeated attempts by do-or-die inmates to pull ultimate fast one on ruthless guards. Banged up together (which in hindsight was asking for trouble) were: DAVID “MAN FROM…” MCCALLUM, EDWARD “DR. WATSON MK. II” HARDWICKE, ROBERT “TOKEN YANK” WAGNER, CHRISTOPHER “SECRET ARMY” NEAME and JACK “ESCAPE COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN” HEDLEY. Chief key-jangler was, of course, BERNARD “GOOD NAZI” HEPTON, ably supported by ANTHONY “BAD NAZI” VALENTINE. Each week’s episode began with the group gathered in hushed circle seated on packing cases/crates devising another “ingenious” ruse to exit dank slimy castle walls for good. Each week they failed. Many highpoints, including attempt by one inmate to escape by faking madness, only to end up properly and incurably insane. Series concluded with Germans taking flight ahead of advancing Allied liberating armies.Read More
DAILY MAIL-BOTHERING armchair general-alarming Beeb-bashing yarn “based on true events” but spun into a rabblesome fantasy by ALAN BLEASDALE, much to the horror of apparently every soldier who ever served in the army ever, and to the discomfort of Michael Grade and Bill Cotton who’d spent ages saying it was fact when it wasn’t and consequently had to go on OPEN AIR every week to apologise to PATTY COLDWELL. PAUL MCGANN was Percy Toplis, archetypal reluctant tommy who decides to stir up a bit of World War One mutiny on the eve of the most important battle in the history of human conflict since the last one. TIMOTHY WEST, PENELOPE WILTON and CHERIE LUNGHI were in on it.Read More
TIM “SON OF EDWARD” WOODWARD and NICHOLAS “BROTHER OF GEMMA” JONES lead dull canter through life in the Royal Flying Corps during WW1, with occasional beefed-up flying sequences slung in to hook the viewers. In no way familiar twist of depicting personal struggle against the winds of war. Yokel country boy Alan Farmer overcomes predictable class prejudice to enter ver Corps, befriending Etonian buffer Charles Gaylion, who nicks his girlfriend Lorna, then mouths off when Farmer gets too familiar with his own sister.Read More
ROISTERING RESISTANCE tales from World War Two France, clearing its throat by way of Beethoven’s Fifth and a cartwheeling Islamic procession of swastikas. Each week PETER BARKWORTH tried his damndest to stop the filthy vile Hun from discovering neither the lovely CYD HAYMAN nor “plucky” British pilot ALFRED BURKE, all the while giving dastardly local Obergrumphenabwehrfunfencommandanten bastard ROBERT HARDY the slip. Went on for 26 weeks, (the show, not the war) but then again it was the only thing the LWT drama department could afford to make at the time.Read More
“YOUR WEDNESDAY night entertainment on BBC2 continues at 9pm with another helping of…”Read More
MORE PERIOD PALAVER. Plucky Ewan Cameron, professional Highlander, adrift amongst Jacobite Rebellion of 1745 discovers his “fate” entwined with prightly English Captain. Much contemplation of comradeship and platonic/national bonding ensued, brought to welcome end by Captain’s swift exit via a broadsword (courtesy of Ewan’s manservant) and Ewan himself pissing off to France.Read More