gervase_fen: (ermine)
A few weeks ago I was thrilled to accompany [livejournal.com profile] parrot_knight to the my first Kaleidoscope event since 2009.  2016 has turned out to be grim in plenty of aspects, but in terms of recoveries of lost television it’s been a proverbial annus mirabilis.
A 6 a.m. start on a cold, blustery morning... )

 
gervase_fen: (ermine)
I didn't make many New Year's resolutions this year.  Eat a piece of fruit every day was one.  The other was to tackle the backlog of DVDs accumulating on the shelves, specifically all the vintage TV series acquired splurging in the occasional 40% sales that Network hold every so often. At the last count I have box sets bought as far back as 2009 which have been through two house moves and have yet to trouble the Oppo.  So this month I have mainly been watching....

The Gold Robbers (1969) )


Villains (1972) )
gervase_fen: (ermine)
Well, I'm thrilled that it's back, of course, but this didn't transport me the way that Enemy did.  (Is it trying to compete against its reputation the way that the recovered Tomb did?  It's certainly competing against one of Terrance Dicks' best ever novelisations, embedded in my memory since receiving it as a Christmas present when I was eight.)

Perhaps part of the problem is that it's the back half of a story set up in The Abominable Snowmen ; Jack Watling's performance loses some of its impact if we can't compare and contrast it with the younger Travers on view in that story.  Nevertheless, the suicidal mission above ground in Episode 4 is still amazingly powerful - I can't recall an instance of a UNIT operation in the Pertwee era ever losing so many men in such a short time.
gervase_fen: (ermine)
What a joy to watch - and what a surprise too.  I read the Target novelisation when it came out, and ten years later watched the episode on "The Troughton Years" VHS, but neither of those prepared me for just how good the whole serial turns out to be.  Troughton definitely earns his time off in Web of Fear Episode Two. The supporting cast should also be commended -- they are always playing the 'reality' of the heightened reality of the storyline (well, almost always - Adam Verney's Colin hits the wrong note straight away).  Mash up the last three episodes of this with the first three of Web of Fear and you've more or less got Invasion (of the Dinosaurs.)
gervase_fen: (ermine)
Justice 'A Nice Straight-Forward Treason' (tx 03.12.71) James Mitchell is the script writer, so the episode is one of the best of the run so far. There's a high level Russian defector being debriefed by the Head of the security services, Paul Eddington (emollient and sneaky) ; a young widow and her lodger, who works in the local MoD plant and has a sideline in black and white photography and ham radio ; and a plot that could be the endgame in a final season of The Americans.  Indeed, some of KGB minutiae that The Americans has been using -- the school of seduction for spies, the unbreakable oath of loyalty - feature in the trial in the third act.  Compelling and impressive.

Justice 'People Have Too Many Rights' (tx 10.12.71) A rare trip to London for Harriet, as opposed to her usual regional circuit ; the case of the week is a corruption charge against a straight-arrow constable, orchestrated by East End master criminal Cyril Shaps and his henchmen, one of whom is Michael Robbins, in full 'On the Buses' mode.  Meanwhile the senior QC in her chambers (Philip Stone, charmingly condescending) has invited Harriet and her Doctor friend for dinner and some informal career guidance...

Silk 'Series 1, Episodes 2 - 4' (tx. 1 / 8 / 15.03.11)  Thoroughly enjoying this, particularly when Peter Moffat re-uses storylines from North Square but tweaks them to reflect changes in the law since 2000!  Neil Stuke is nearly erasing my memories of Phil Davis in the chief clerk of chambers role, Rupert Penry - Jones is clearly having fun playing a shallower, sleazier version of the romantic lead he's usually typecast as, and Maxine Peake is magnificent and mercurial.  Bonus points for having Maxine's character being accused of having a Dorothea complex, without explaining the literary allusion.
gervase_fen: (ermine)
Having yet again succumbed to Network's annual 40% off sale (and regretting that I forgot to order any volumes of Whodunnit?) I thought it was time to make some inroads into previous purchases.  The only way to do that, I suspect, is to blog about them, so lets see how we get on...

Public Eye 'Nobody Kills Santa Claus' (tx 30/1/65) The second ever episode transmitted, and the earliest to survive, suffers from an absence of likeable characters until Marker turns up towards the end of Act One.  We're in the world of tycoons, balance sheets, cigars with sherry, old school tie bankers, and it's reassuring to see Peter Barkworth add a touch of class as a mild mannered number two to Keith Baxter's cocky businessman on the make (surely a dry run for Mr Barkworth's recurring role in The Power Game). Meanwhile here's June Barry, bored, duplicitous housewife, with a wardrobe of clothes her husband didn't buy for her and a penchant for weekends away from him ("You were seen at Sidcup station!" is an accusation she has no reply to.)   This has more of a feel of American PI drama than anything in the later episodes that I've seen - there's extortion, a suitcase full of money, a hitman is hired (in a kosher East End cafe) and Marker takes a beating.  It's watchable (and Kim Mills' direction is excellent) but this lacks the one-on-one scenes between Alfie Burke and a.n.other that Public Eye would become so good at.

Justice 'When did you first feel the pain?' (tx 26/11/71) Series One, Episode Eight, and at last a potential boyfriend for Margaret Lockwood's Harriet Peterson.  Unfortunately he's a GP caught up in a medical malpractice case, torn to shreds at a coroner's inquest by a fantastically venomous Peter Sallis.  Harriet Peterson's score throughout the preceding episodes has been terrible - one partial win - so it's nice to see her get some results in her main case and the B plot (a comedy runaround about whether maintenance can be paid if the divorcing wife knew the wedding she was agreeing to was bigamous.)

The Paper Lads 'Round One' (tx 24/8/77) As the title suggests Series One, Episode One, and here's Glynn Edwards, last seen in Leeds as a retired policeman in The Main Chance, running the newsagents (having retired from being... a policeman.)  I found it quite hard to distinguish one Paper Lad from the other, but enjoyed Derek Martinus' location shooting and the maternal presence of Anne Jameson.

Silk 'Series 1 Episode 1' (tx 22/02/11) I missed both series of this the first time round (it's now getting a repeat on Drama ahead of the third series going out on BBC-1).  I'm delighted to find that it's North Square in all but name, shorn of the This Life yuppy lifestyle soap stuff that, whilst watchable and well performed, was run of the mill compared to the powerplays and Dickensian glory of Phil Davis' clerk of chambers, Peter McLeish.  So, instead of Phil Davis we have Neil Stuke (good but not as stellar), Maxine Peake instead of Helen McCrory, and Rupert Penry-Jones.... well, he's as good in Silk as he was in North Square, because the role is pretty much the same.  Lovely to see Peter Vaughan get a substantial role as a burglary victim whose memories of being a paratrooper jumping into occupied France play a vital part in the court case.
gervase_fen: (ermine)
The only chance I've got of staying alive is to stay dead.  Find out who wants to kill me - and why.

So this is an ITV drama, a whodunnit running over eight weeks with various familiar faces from Doctor Who cropping up -- but no, it's not really Broadchurch '75.  Edmund Ward's serial thriller opens every week with tough construction boss Lew Burnett (Colin Blakely, excellent) chugging along on a mini-digger down a ramshackle pier, and then plunging over the edge as he discovers that the brakes have been sabotaged - to the strains of Alan Tew's iconic jazz funk score (available on Spotify - track one, "Drama Suite Part 1").  Over on the shore, a mysterious watcher (Gary Watson) smiles to himself, puts away his binoculars, and leaves the scene of the crime.

Insurance claims investigator Alan Crowe (Michael Williams) is naturally suspicious when the body doesn't show up.  Burnett has clearly been reading Frederick Forsyth's The Day of the Jackal, and arranges a new identity through familiar looking underworld contacts  - Brian Croucher and Peter Miles, who earlier in the evenings when this first went out was assisting another single minded win-at-all-costs personality.

Crowe isn't so much a reader of Frederick Forsyth's books as a character from one - former army officer, ex-mercenary, skilled in unarmed combat and lethal with small arms.  It says much for Michael Williams' abilities - a performer I mostly associate with light comedy - that by episode two I'd stopped waiting for him to receive a phone call asking him to collect the family pet from the vets, or accompany his spouse to a parents' evening.  Crowe tracks down Burnett fairly easily,  and so a winning partnership is formed - a fine bromance, one might say.

After this set-up, and following an improvised wages snatch on his own business to fund his investigations, Burnett's quest turns into a mission-of-the-week drama series - confront Julian Glover's edgy helicopter pilot to see if he sabotaged the plane that killed Mrs Burnett, visit Switzerland to see if accountant William Russell has his hand in the till - all the while being stalked by Gary Watson's hired killer John Quentin, an only occasionally deadly assassin.

Edmund Ward writes what he knows - this webpage sets out his interesting career before TV.  The series probably ties with Auf Wiedersehen Pet for the number of health and safety defying scenes filmed on building sites.  It also consistently fails the Bechdel Test, most spectacularly in the Swiss episode (non-spollery contemporary TV listings here.)  The tarot references are retro-fitted onto the storyline ; I'd expect any 21st century remake would push these to the fore.  One last note - Tony Wharmby, who directed half of these episodes, is a prolific action adventure director still, currently working on NCIS and NCIS :  Los Angeles.
gervase_fen: (Default)
Fare Forward, Voyagers - very impressed by the in-studio massacre of the resistance meeting in Paris, as characters who could be assumed to be significant in the ongoing series are wiped out in under a minute of screen time. Really powerful performance from Yootha Joyce as the wife of a shopkeeper horrified by her husband's commitment to the cause. And, although he's only in it for a scene and a bit, Brian Cant still comes across as a really pleasant Nazi soldier!

Break-Up - I haven't seen a drama made in colour using OB video as early as 1969 before (it looks pretty chilly for the cast on location in this one.) Casting Blakey from On the Buses as a Vichy ex-con policeman with a sideline in raping French peasant girls was presumably a deliberate directorial choice as Stephen Lewis is as broad as ever here.

Only the Dead Survive - Philip Madoc the SS officer v. Richard Hurndall the Prussian Army general - riveting.

What Did You Do in the War, Daddy? Apart from being amazing in the episodes concerned, Peter Barkworth's guest role in Secret Army is nearly an alt-universe version of Vincent, given what we learn of Vincent's family here.

One More River - if there is a signature shot in the series so far, it's a long shot of the three fugitives running across a field until Nina falls over. The first of the run to be shot all on film - the hand to hand combat scenes are surprisingly poor. Highlight of the episode is the Nazi double act of Jerome Willis and Peter Woodthorpe as respectively posh clueless officer and shrewd investigatory NCO.

Open House - or Manhunt does Huis Clos. Written Jonathan Hales, who would come up with some of the more experimental episodes of The Guardians the following year.

Better Doubt Than Die Almost Secret Army with Bernard Hepton's star turn as the resistance organiser, using the cover of his funeral business to ferry fugitives in coffins. The always excellent Peter Cellier makes a strong impression as a Vichy sympathising aristocrat whose sense of honour obliges him to help Vincent. I would have said this was the best episode yet but for the bizarre third act swerve which leads to the immortal line of dialogue "Nobody dispenses Jimmy Briggs like a dose of jollop!"

A Different Kind of War It's the Christmas Special (sort of) and another studio bound chamber piece by Jonathan Hales, and a commanding guest role for Julian Glover.

General impressions - if they remade this today then Matt Smith would be my first choice as Squadron Leader Jimmy Briggs.
gervase_fen: (ermine)
Just to wrap up Saturday to say how much I enjoyed the Masterspy, a series I remember watching on Sunday afternoons probably because I liked the animated credits, the sense of a story behind the quizzes, and the suave assurance of William Franklyn. (Chance in a Million I would happily pay money to own, and would love to see a 'Comedy Connections' style programme on it.)

The edition of Out of Town gave me a chance to identify items that were in my wardrobe nearly 30 years ago, as modelled by contemporary Hampshire children.

Finally, words really fail to adequately describe "The Losers", except perhaps to quote Mrs Alan Coren:

"When I was writing my piece last night, my wife Anne came and looked over my shoulder as I typed away, and she suddenly said, halfway through reading it: 'When you are 60 years old, are you still going to be writing little pieces about men called Norman Foskett?', and my blood ran cold."
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