The frankly flipping gorgeous Valerie Leon plays a very accommodating nurse in the somewhat heavy handed 1967 Johnny Speight TV satire 'If There Weren't Any Blacks, You'd Have To Invent Them'. It's unbelievable what you used to be able to get on the NHS, isn't it?
Saturday, 8 March 2014
Friday, 7 March 2014
‘Paranoiac’ is one of those stylish, squiffy supporting feature thrillers that Hammer quietly excelled at in the sixties although, sports cars and Hush Puppies modernism aside, it could just as easily have formed part of their better known Gothic cycle. It’s about a haunted house, after all, and is as morbid as hell - choc-a-bloc with murder and madness and desiccated corpses and organ playing in the dark. Oh, and darts.
It’s also about the 25 year old Oliver Reed, excellent here as the febrile Simon, a bag of neuroses in a bruiser’s body– an overgrown, over-wrought child who drinks too much, drives too fast and has a dirty, nasty, nutty secret which has driven him around the bend. He’s in good company, though, as more or less everyone in the story is absolutely barking mad – except for the hero, who is a fraud and a criminal. It’s a wonderful advertisement for country living, and a nice summary of upper class values that still rings true today.
The story, which twists and turns before skidding through a hedge and hurtling off a cliff, is competently and cleanly directed in crisp black and white by Freddie Francis, perhaps the most interesting of all Hammer helmsmen. The dénouement is a thick, fat slice of Grand Guignol, and is absolutely delicious. I must have seen this film a dozen times. I never tire of it.
Thursday, 6 March 2014
Derren Nesbitt is one of the great British characters, capable of creating hugely interesting characters wherever he goes, especially when it comes to bad guys. A powerful presence and scene stealer, he pinches everything that isn't nailed down in a 1964 episode of 'Gideons Way' called 'The Tin God', playing a super-confident, super-smooth psycho bastard with great hair called John 'Benny' Benson. Benson breaks out of prison in order to kill his his wife, who turned him in because she realised he was a monster - and, true to form, the bastard plans to ruthlessly uses his adoring son as bait to bring her to him.
Dez is great - at first he's charming and funny and likeable - although clearly something of a rogue. As soon as you warm to him, however, he commits an unnecessary, furtive murder and you realise that you've fundamentally misjudged him: he's a psycho.
Just for company, he takes a seemingly pre-pubescent John Hurt along for the ride. Then makes him drive. Then shoots him when things don't work out. Hurt looks ridiculously young (he's actually 24, which still seems ridiculously young to me given my advanced age) and hasn't yet developed his trademark voice, equal parts whine and gravel.
All these older people seen when much younger gives me an idea for a new feature, but I think the title will need some work.
Sunday, 2 March 2014
Saturday, 1 March 2014
Hotel photograph includes new Devonshire Wing.
These Britons on holiday in Britain are doing what Britons on holiday in Britain always end up doing: making the best of it. On that unforgiving beach, under the relentless scrutiny of older people in deckchairs and in the shadow of the monstrous, unsympathetic new Devonshire Wing, the adults smile and try and look like they're having the time of their lives. To their right, however, their daughter undermines their plucky efforts with a simple but eloquent gesture of abject despair.
The back of the postcard says it all.
Friday, 28 February 2014
In 1952, approximately 12,000 Londoners had died as a result of ‘The Great Smog’, a pollution pea souper that brought the capitol to a standstill. The Clean Air Act of 1956 followed, decreeing a vast number of ‘smoke control’ areas, where it was illegal to burn coal. Conversion grants were made available to those who wished to install gas or electric heating, and a mind numbing variety of exotically named ‘clean’ fuels were marketed to a largely confused public.
‘Arthur Clears The Air’ is a short film which attempts to make it all a bit clearer but, as this is the last hurrah of the ‘I say, old chap’ era, does so in a completely incomprehensible way, with housewives dreaming of teddy bears coming to life, eerie energy themed masked balls and anamorphic representations of fuel (the personification of Welsh Nuts is a missed opportunity, by the way). The names of the fuels are so perfectly 1961 that you simply couldn’t make them up: Phurnacite, Seabrite, Gloco, Cleanglo...
It’s a sweet little film, but I was none the wiser at the end of it. Mind you, I don’t really ever burn coal, only tyres.
Thursday, 27 February 2014
‘Epic’ is in many ways an atypical ‘Avengers’ episode: Steed isn’t in it much, and it has a small cast, rather than the usual cavalcade of familiar faces in small roles. If pushed to illustrate the freewheeling surrealism and gently experimental feel of the best of the programme, however, I would cite this episode as a perfect example. Full of striking visuals and with its tongue firmly in its cheek, it also gives a plum role for the genius of Peter Wyngarde to take flight.
The story is fairly negligible, but, for what it’s worth, Emma is kidnapped by a film director called Z.Z vom Schnerck who wants her to star in his magnum opus ‘The Destruction Of Emma Peel’. The film also stars two drunken, washed-up actors called Stewart Kirby (Wyngarde) and Damita Syn, who are more than willing to help von Shnerck abduct and murder if it revives their long dormant careers. Emma is not initially informed that she is in the film or, indeed, that the production will climax with her actual death onscreen.
Structurally and visually, the episode sometimes seems a precursor for both ‘The Girl Who Was Death’ and the UFO episode ‘Timelash’, both excellent episodes of sometimes variable shows. The studio setting gives plenty of scope to the production, not least the opportunity to parody a number of genres and stock characters.
He’s brilliant, and terribly funny. I love him very much. Do you hear me, Peter, I LOVE YOU!