Clever old grotesquely wealthy Felix Dennis (KEVIN ‘Brother of Keith’ ALLEN), branded the biggest dum dum of the three underground magazine editors in the 1971 Oz Trial (along with Richard Neville and Jim Anderson) and given a shorter prison sentence as a consequence, manages to have the last laugh here. He can be found, when he’s not media magnating, on a You Tube near you bragging about years and years of promiscuity, drug taking and revealing his forthcoming excitement as seeing Sienna Miller’s tits in Hippy, Hippy, Shake.
Impressively true to actual events (according to an introduction by Jonathan Dimbleby, who covered the trials as a cub reporter) this televisation is nonetheless as wacky as can be. Daft highlights include a very long-haired, snake-hipped Richard Neville-sort-of-alike HUGH GRANT, not even attempting an Australian accent, and then, after a hair cut, doing a more than feasible impression of Hugh Grant. (Anderson sounds more authentic, but then he is played by PETER ‘Shane’ O’BRIEN).
An altogether better performance is NIGEL PLANER impersonating a deadpan and eruditely unfazed John Peel. JEMMA REDGRAVE, as Release founder and leggy, arty, lush, Caroline Coon, is a ‘breath of fresh air in an otherwise very (sigh) long afternoon’. (Well, according to patronising, fan of girls in shorts Judge Michael Argyle, played by an eye-rolling LESLIE PHILLIPS, anyway.)
The expert witnesses called in to testify are sound enough, but the judge makes mincemeat of their new-fangled liberal, academic views. John Mortimer acting as defence counsel is played by a pouting SIMON CALLOW (who has the facial expressions on the money), up against smarmy prosecutor NIGEL HAWTHORNE.
The dramatisation deals only with the trial before appeal. The harsh sentences the three Oz editors received were appealed successfully after the judge was deemed not to take the expert witness testifiers seriously in his summing up to the jury but this is only mentioned just before the end credits. For a dramatisation based on a hugely significant cultural shift, which also succeeds in validity, there’s daftness aplenty nonetheless.