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Films: F is for...

Film on Four: First Love

Channel Four’s Play for Today-surmounting cinema-on-the-telly franchise began its wayward career on the first ever day of the Channel’s own life, with the ‘make up your own Smith and Jones-style gag about willfully “difficult” drama’ icon Walter). Next day, fortunately, things got rather better with P’Tang, Yang Kipperbang, the wonderful Jack Rosenthal inter-war fumbling pubescence/down on girls’ arms/imaginary John Arlott cricket commentary confection. This in turn heralded the beginning of the occasional First Love series-within-a-series (keep up!), masterminded by David Puttnam and slagged off something chronic at the time for being ‘nostalgic’, ‘conservative’ and not ‘challenging’ enough, by punters who would doubtless nevertheless have run a mile from a diet of constant hot Walter and endless Twenty-Twenty Vision documentaries about the Zircon affair. Perhaps we’re mellowing in our old age, but we’re increasingly of the opinion that using eighty-odd minutes of screentime to metaphorically bugger Sir Keith Joseph with a rolled-up copy of his 1974 Edgbaston speech, admirable fun though it is, needn’t be the only signifier of dramatic worth, even up the militant end of the ’80s. But back to the films. Next up was Experience Preferred But Not Essential, with a gauche teenage girl meeting a bunch of oddballs in a Welsh seaside cafe, including a bolshy Miss Broom off of Jonny Briggs and Mr Price off of Troubles and Strife walking about in the nip. It was rather fun, in an innocent sort of ‘every lottery-funded British comedy isn’t yet strip-mining the exact same seam of eccentric whimsy for all it’s worth’ way. Secrets was a more subdued affair about Freemasons and rubber johnnies, and Those Glory, Glory Days was a top Rosenthal/Philip Saville romp about two girls hunting down the cup-winning 1961 Spurs side, with Julia McKenzie, Dudley Sutton and Danny Blanchflower as himself. Sharma and Beyond was something a bit dry and uninvolving about a teacher falling for the daughter of his favourite writer, but things picked up for final episode Arthur’s Hallowed Ground, a really lovely tale of the gradual softening up of dedicated but immensely grumpy old cricket groundsman Jimmy Jewel when new assistant Vas Blackwood turns up to help him stop nasty businessmen selling the pitch, which had bugger all to do with ‘love’ in the sense the others did, but was ace all the same. At the risk of exploding the sitting-on-the-fence-o-meter, we have to say it was, ahem, a bit of a mixed bag, all told – nothing in it reached the heights of other Film on Four classics like the impeccable Good and Bad at Games, but then again it didn’t spawn anything as dire as Ladder of Swords, either. In all, it was just about worth all that Godcrestian turmoil for that first little gem. What our point is exactly, we’ve no idea, but here’s to Jack. And of course P’Tang’s sainted female lead Abigail Cruttenden, last seen on that iffy BBC2 sitcom where Martin Freeman has posh parents and is sad.

19 Comments

19 Comments

  1. David Pascoe

    August 6, 2009 at 10:50 pm

    The only one of these I remember is Good and Bad at Games, which I watched on a telly in my bedroom that had the unfortunate fault of suddenly going very loud and staying that way until you banged it and/or turned the telly off.

    I stuck with Good and Bad at Games until the midway point when it all started getting a bit much for me (I was only ten at the time). Would be curious to know how it finished. Did Anton Lesser get his revenge?

    • Glenn Aylett

      May 30, 2020 at 12:54 pm

      Anton Lesser, who resembled a young Jeremy Corbyn in this film with the same political views, does get his revenge by opening fire on a cricket match involving old boys from his public school. Good And Bad At Games is quite good to watch as a revenge movie with Anton Lesser as a complete anti hero, a scruffy Trotskyite who lives in a bedsit who tracks down his tormentors from school. Nice to see him do well in series like Endeavour as well.

  2. David Pascoe

    August 7, 2009 at 10:41 am

    Did a bit of rooting around on the net and now I know. Ending wasn’t really a surprise but very well done.

  3. greg ashworth

    December 19, 2010 at 4:34 am

    where can i find a full list of the films in the film on four first love series

  4. pemory

    December 11, 2013 at 8:39 pm

    Greg:

    It’s been three years since you posted your question, but I too have been looking for the titles of all of the First Love films and, so far, haven’t really uncovered an extensive list via the Web. This page has just about the best that I’ve seen, however I believe that “Winter Flight” should be added to it.

  5. Pemory

    January 26, 2014 at 6:08 am

    Hi again:

    All of the 1st Love titles are designated as such in the Goldcrest Films catalog available via http://www.goldcrestfilms.com/sites/default/files/GFI-catalogue.pdf.

  6. HardcorePrawn

    January 20, 2015 at 5:42 am

    Most of the extras in Good & Bad at Games came from my school, so the entire school was urged by the headmaster to watch the film when Channel 4 broadcast.
    Needless to say, there were quite a few disgruntled parents outside the head’s office the next day…

  7. Droogie

    May 31, 2020 at 1:17 am

    Interesting that Good & Bad At Games is discussed the most here, despite never being part of the First Love series (unless your idea of school romance is a public schoolboy bullying revenge movie with handguns.) What I loved about the early Channel 4 First Love films like Kipperbang and Those Glory Glory Days were how they actually looked like movies. Shot on 35mm film and with higher production values than say Play For Today. The personal stories told were a forerunner of British movies like Bend It Like Beckham that came later to greater success. .

    • THX 1139

      May 31, 2020 at 1:34 pm

      Experience Preferred… But Not Essential was even given a theatrical release in the USA. Kipperbang was the gem, though, brilliantly written.

  8. Glenn Aylett

    May 31, 2020 at 11:34 am

    Those Glory Glory Days featured the actor who played Mr Robson in Grange Hill in a scene in the dressing room. Quite a good film, as girls who liked football were considered very strange in 1961 and women’s football was still a few decades away.

  9. Droogie

    June 1, 2020 at 12:51 am

    Kipperbang was indeed a gem. The scene where the shy hero has the chance to kiss the girl he adores on stage in the school play but can’t because the whole school is watching really affected me back when I was a similarly awkward twerp with a similar schoolboy crush.
    I also caught Those Glory Days on Film 4 a few years ago and thought how well it had aged. Interesting that it was a celebration of football made in the 80’s when hooliganism was still toxic and before the likes of Fever Pitch reclaimed the Beautiful Game. The fact it also had you rooting for someone who supports Spurs showed how well made it was 😜

  10. Glenn Aylett

    June 1, 2020 at 7:08 pm

    Liking football in the eighties was not considered cool and in the pre Nick Hornby, David Baddiel era, it wasn’t a topic for dinner party conversation and the game and its fans were widely hated by millions of people. I do quite like Those Glory, Glory Days as it reflected the more innocent world of football in the early 1960s and was the polar opposite of something like The Firm that confirmed people’s worst prejudices about football.

  11. Droogie

    June 2, 2020 at 1:39 am

    @Glenn Aylett. Indeed. Movies about football nearly always deserve relegation. Yesterday’s Hero starring Ian McShane! When Saturday Comes starring Sean Bean! Then you have curios like The Arsenal Stadium Mystery or Escape To Victory ( where are least you get to see Pele’ play on screen.) Recreating a convincing football match with actors on film nearly always fails. I can only think of Kes and The Damned United pulling it off.

    • Glenn Aylett

      June 3, 2020 at 2:48 pm

      @ Droogie, there is the charm of Gregory’s Girl, though, which again was unique, a girl playing football in 1980. Also has a few comic digs about living in Cumbernauld and has Chic Murray to liven things up. Yet generally football films are either totally unconvincing like Yesterday’s Hero are play on the game’s dark side with The Firm starting a long run of films about hooligans.

  12. richardpd

    June 3, 2020 at 11:18 pm

    Scripted TV shows about football seem to end up being underwhelming.

    United! was about 30 years ahead of it’s time, being a soap about a football team when soap fans weren’t into football & football fans didn’t care much for soaps.

    Athletico Patrick & A Prince Among Men were also fairly lame, Chris Barrie must quickly signed up for Red Dwarf VIII when he realised he was heading for a flop.

    Jossy’s Giants is a rare example that seemed to get enough things right to work, but was by no means perfect.

    There were Roy of The Rovers snatching victory from the jaws of defeat moments, but the dialogue was snappy & plenty of visual puns to spice things up.

  13. Droogie

    June 5, 2020 at 1:57 am

    @GlennAylett I completely blanked on Gregory’s Girl. Silly of me because I recently watched a fab interview with Clare Grogan as part of the wonderful Word In Your Ear series on YouTube with David Hepworth and Mark Ellen. Clare tells the story of how Biil Forsyth spotted her for the movie when she was working as a waitress in an Italian restaurant in Glasgow

    • Glenn Aylett

      June 6, 2020 at 10:41 am

      Clare Grogan must have had a ball in the early eighties with her pop career and Gregory’s Girl. I’m not a football fan, but Gregory’s Girl was such a unique film and always worth watching and anything that makes jokes about the ring road in Cumbernauld makes me laugh. OTOH all those self congratulatory, New Lad programmes like Fantasy Football League made me want to throw up in the mid nineties as you had David Baddiel putting on a laddish act and other luvvies faking an interest in something they’s run a mile from ten years earlier.

  14. droogie

    June 6, 2020 at 11:11 pm

    @Glenn Aylett Yep. I agree on all of the above. The wave of football movies that came later that focused on hooligans instead of players were loathsome too. BUT – a hilariously bad British movie from 1995 is I.D. about an undercover cop trying to infiltrate soccer yobs is a favourite of mine. Some decent acting talent involved here too like Sean Pertwee and Phillip Glenister (and especially Warren Clarke.) It’s a rubbish film, but hilariously so too, based on a London soccer club they can’t name, but that sounds like Willmall.

    • Glenn Aylett

      June 7, 2020 at 12:26 pm

      The Firm was very loosely based on the Inter City Firm of West Ham and one of the hoolies has a West Ham sticker on his car, but most of it was filmed south of the river, with the now gone Ferrier Estate in Kidbrooke featuring several times and a Sunday football game at Blackheath. Also there is a brief scene at Selhurst Park, so I’d assume the scriptwriters had based the hooligans on those of West Ham, Millwall and Crystal Palace.

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