Saturday, 27 July 2013

Wacker's World

It's holiday season on The Island (and Mounds & Circles). There are other blogs, of course, but they mainly just pinch stuff from us. I'll be back on the 1st September, but I'll leave you in the capable hands of those glorious Scouse femme fatales The Vernons Girls.

Be seeing you!

The Long Goodbye

If you want to see really good screen acting, just watch the last couple of minutes of 'The Long Good Friday' and watch Hoskins go through a dozen emotions just using his massive face and expressive eyes. Subtle, believable, you can read his frantic jumble of thoughts so well that it doesn't need anything apart from a big close up - the moving picture that says a thousand words. The car journey from hell - to hell.    

Who Lit The Fuse?

'The Long Good Friday' takes two bete noirs of the seventies - gangsters and the IRA - and makes them fight, like 'Alien Vs. Predator' with worse teeth. it's a superb film: lean, savage, surprising - and the ending is one of the most unnerving in British cinema.

Bob Hoskins plays Harold Shand, a pugnacious East End crook who, having risen to the top by killing all of his opponents, is now looking to consolidate his position by doing a deal with the Mafia to develop what is now known as Docklands, just in time, he hopes, for Britain to host the 1988 Olympics. Without Shand's knowledge, a few of his mob have (rather unwisely) pissed off the Irish Republican Army, who then go after Shand and his boys with all the knives, guns, bombs and masonry nails they have at their disposal.

A film rich in dialogue, atmosphere and performances, 'The Long Good Friday' packs about three hours of story into just over an hour and a half and, like all the best tragedies, ends up with more or less everybody dead, lost or facing disaster or, in Harold's case, a mix of all three, as we never find out exactly what happens to him, although I think its safe to assume the very worst.

Perhaps the benchmark for the British gangster genre, how can you not love a film where Belloq from 'Raiders Of The Lost Ark' gets knifed trying to pick up Pierce Brosnan? Or where Denzil from 'Only Fools & Horses' gets his bare arse slashed with a machete? Or, best of all, where Charlie from 'Casualty' is stabbed repeatedly in the jugular vein with a broken bottle? All in all, it's a pretty stabby sort of film (although there are also shootings and blowing ups): brutal, brilliant, British.

The Long Good Friday

Friday, 26 July 2013

Not For The Squeamish

'The Squeeze' has a bit of a reputation as an under-appreciated classic but, for me, although it has its moments and a great cast, it simply isn't dynamic or consistent enough to be anything other than an interesting also ran. The superb Stacy Keach plays Jim Naboth, a Scotland Yard detective turned private investigator turned skid row alcoholic. When his ex-wife is kidnapped as a prelude to a million pound security van heist, Naboth gets dragged back into the game, ultimately overcoming his problems temporarily to prove more than a match for his ruthless opponents.

As well as Mr. Keach, who maintains a good but rather too generic English accent throughout, we get Edward Fox, Stephen Boyd, Alan Ford, Roy Marsden, Carol White and, playing a real bastard, Island favourite David Hemmings. Freddie Starr plays Naboth's best mate in a stilted and uncomfortable performance that was inexplicably praised at the time, perhaps simply because Freddie confounded expectations and didn't do it dressed as Hitler.    

It's an interesting story, sleazy and violent, but it has far too many characters and is too fond of going off at tangents, which is fine if you are Raymond Chandler, but just seems untidy here. The film is building nicely to a climax, for example, when for no particular reason, it takes a ten minute diversion for a scene set in a massage parlour which is amusing, but completely diffuses the tension and derails the narrative. Director Michael Apted seems too keen to give it a documentary feel, so there are very few 'compositions' - it's all filmed on the hoof, and seems slightly scruffy and muddled, as if the action is always at the corner of the screen.

Somewhere in 'The Squeeze' there is a first rate crime film waiting to get out, or, at least, a bloody good episode of 'The Sweeney', but it's thirty years too late to do it now. Don't be put off by that, though, it's still worth watching, if only for some of the trousers.  

The Squeeze

Thursday, 25 July 2013

My Name Is Jack

Jack Regan (l) wears a chocolate brown suede military style jacket with elephant collar and matching tie by Keith of Mayfair; white and brown striped shirt by Mr. Byrite;  black eye model's own. 

A Gun For George

Matthew Holness is a comedian and an ace pasticheur, but 'A Gun For George' has a horror at its heart that transcends mere parody and goes somewhere altogether darker. Holness recognises that the best pulp fiction often originates from the worst places in people - the scared, bigoted, angry, anguished, dangerous parts - which is perhaps why they appeal so much to us, presenting violent wish fulfilment fantasies where the characters behave exactly how they like. You want money? Rob it. A woman? Grab her. Has someone crossed you? Kill him, and his friends, and his fucking dog. All on a diet of Bells Whisky and sixty Rothmans a day. Seriously, how funny is that?

Watch the whole film here, then visit this excellent and brilliantly observed website which seems to have been building up to something for a while without ever getting there. I'd like to see some more whenever you're ready, please, Mr. Holness, you have a very special skill set.. 

Wednesday, 24 July 2013


'Target' is a deadly serious show, which may be why it's so very funny. A sort of Alan Partridge re-imagining of 'The Sweeney', 'Target' is set in Southampton, and stars ant eater featured Patrick Mower, who plays Inspector Steve Hackett. Hackett is the sort of man who never speaks when he can bellow, does all his own stunts (sometimes) and drives a flashy American car: the sort of maverick on the edge copper who one day they'll throw the book at but, for now, gets results. Crime is a disease - he's the Beechams. He's also desperate for a shag, but only has two hours off a week so is reduced to making dates he can't keep with witnesses or sniffing around old flames who had more than enough of him when they were going out.

A tiring, violent show (for the first series, anyway - things were toned down second time around thanks to the efforts of Mrs. Mary Whitehouse) 'Target' reminds me of something that would have appeared in boy's comics of the time like 'Action' and 'Fireball': full of shooters and villains and cars being driven into each other, but utterly one dimensional - an adolescent fantasy of blood and guts, pretty girls and shouting. Hackett dominates everything, which is just as well, as no-one though to write any other characters, so everyone else in the show is dull and interchangeable, just puppets for Hackett to yell at or nick, send out to get killed or ordered to the shops to get him a bar of chocolate. Much worse than that, however, is that Mower tries to live up to his inexplicable image as a sexy symbol by constantly walking around in his underpants, and once you've seen that, it stays with you and rakes at the inside of your eyeballs until you weep blood.

Who says men can't multi-task?

So - not much 'cop' (don't forgive the pun, I get away with far too much as it is) but not entirely without merit - it's certainly entertaining. I'd like to see the show remade, properly, as a comedy, using the same scripts and starring Matt Berry. That would be ace. Come on, BBC: GO! GO! GO!

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

My Name Is Jack

NEW SERIES! Featuring the many modes of Sweeney bastard Jack Regan. I went to a fancy dress party as Regan once, having simply raided my Dad's wardrobe. It was 1987. That sort of formative sartorial influence is incredibly powerful.

So, taupe jacket, beige shirt, brown tie, brown strides, earthenware coffee cup. Black socks? Black shoes? No, Jack, NO!

Jack & George

After four series and two films of 'The Sweeney', Jack Regan and Carter started to resemble an old married couple, not least in the mornings when they busied themselves in a kind of domestic bliss - "I'll shave; you make the breakfast. Where's that Brut Roll On?".

In the office, they unconsciously mimicked book-ends, never more than a few feet apart. 

Fact is, they loved each other, like brothers, like friends, like, well, like lovers - with all the ups and downs, blazing rows, chilly estrangements and warm reunions that entails. But there was no sex. Well, there was lots of sex, but not with each other. Seriously, regardless of how good he could be for you, why shag Dennis Waterman when you can have a go at Janet Ellis wearing a German helmet? 

I love every detail of this picture.

Monday, 22 July 2013

New Scotland Yard

‘New Scotland Yard’ is a police procedural programme which ran on ITV from 1972 to 1974. It’s a programme that I can distinctly remember watching as a really quite small kid, perhaps because, although it seems fairly restrained now, there was an inventive and sadistic quality to the violence perpetrated – an element of the unusual that scored my squishy young brain. In the episode 'Shock Tactics', for instance, a man kills his wife by sneaking up behind her in a gorilla mask and literally scaring her to death. In other episodes, an ex-SS officers is stabbed with his ceremonial dagger, and a woman's corpse is found in a trunk in the bedsit she used to share with her retarded husband. I also remember an episode where a number of long dead bodies were found bricked up behind a wall, but I haven't tracked that one down yet.

The show stars the great, stone faced John Woodvine as the rose growing Detective Chief Superintendent John Kingdom and John Carlisle as his assistant / adversary, Detective Inspector Ward. Ward is a know all, whereas Kingdom knows all - which inevitably leads to an interesting dynamic (in later series, Ward has been busted down to Sergeant). They are called in to deal with the big cases – the murders and scandals – which Kingdom, after ascertaining the facts, usually solves using a blend of calm intelligence and adherence to routine. The crimes they investigate are varied, which makes the show unpredictable – and uneven - but, when it's good, it's great. 
Woodvine and Carlisle were replaced for the final series, which I haven’t seen, and the show was cancelled after that. In the end analysis, 'New Scotland Yard' was simply not action packed enough, and the leisurely pace was matched by a reflective, sometimes mournful tone, which wasn't what people wanted from their Saturday night telly.