Saturday, 29 March 2014

Please Stand By

A random selection of telly apologies / announcements from the golden age of broadcasting, i.e. not now. See you next Thursday.

Jobs For The Girls

The 1974 recruiting film 'When You Wake Up' ruthlessly went all out to get women to join the Armed Forces,  turning their pretty little heads with the amazing range of career opportunities available. 'Code breaker' is a civilian post, presumably. 

Friday, 28 March 2014

Nobody Knows What He Does

I don’t know exactly what it is about ‘Sebastian’, but I really, really like it. Ostensibly a somewhat frothy mix of Swinging London tropes and Cold War cliché, there’s an element of truth in its somewhat patchy narrative that I find irresistible. It also has really good music, mainly by the amazing American composer Jerry Goldsmith, with some electronics from Tristram Cary.

Dirk Bogarde stars as Sebastian, a supercilious academic who just happens to be the Government’s top code breaker, presiding over an all-female staff in some anonymous London skyscraper. These days I suppose he’d have Asperger’s or something but, in 1968, he’s simply portrayed as a spiky super genius with commitment issues, some odd bod habits and horrible wallpaper that he hasn’t even noticed.

Into his drab and monomaniacal life drops Susannah York, a dizzy dolly with a penchant for direct action and tiny dresses. When he realises she can make a dozen words out of ‘thorough’ without blinking, he immediately adds her to his pool of clever ladies (women are better are cracking codes, apparently), but his interest in her is always more than professional, which is not particularly surprising as she is absolutely adorable.  Things become complicated when an old flame is forced to sell him out to the Enemy, and things get really weird when the other side feed him LSD and try to get him to jump off a roof on the pretext that he can fly*.

It’s an all over the place sort of thing, half based on the true life exploits of Leo Marks (look him up – fascinating fellow), half seemingly made up on the spot. It struggles to decide what it's really about, and giddily (and endearingly) veers between genres and styles and changes tone from scene to scene. But everyone in it is good, and Bogarde and York make a lovely couple, however unlikely the pairing may initially seem. 

As you may recall, Bogarde grew to despise the ‘triviality’ of his early films so, after the mid-sixties, went all out to star in as many ‘masterpieces’ as possible, with often quite tedious results. ‘Sebastian’ is slap bang in the middle, a frivolous masterpiece, if you will**. I love it, not just because the marvellous Michael Powell had a hand in it, but also because, every time I watch it, frothy and a bit giddy or not, I just really ENJOY it.
* This is the only film in which Dirk Bogarde trips his tits off on acid although, in ‘The Mind Benders’, he does trip his tits off in a flotation tank.

** Bogarde described the film as a 'non event', one of many things he and I differ on.


Thursday, 27 March 2014

Portrait Of A People

013: A Hospital Ward Cock-a-Snooker


Milton Reid appears briefly at the very beginning of the 1969 black comedy 'The Assassination Bureau', playing a circus performer who is murdered when the fake TNT he uses to fire his fake cannon is replaced with the real thing. He flies through the air with the greatest of ease, and leaves a considerable hole in the roof of the tent. God speed, Milton and R.I.P.

Saturday, 22 March 2014

Interesting Postcards

1972 Outspan Orange
The National Motor Museum
Beaulieu, Hampshire

'Outspan commissioned six of these advertising vehicles in the early 1970s and they were used extensively both in this country and abroad. The engine of the car is from a Mini, though a specially fabricated chassis is used'. 

I'll bet this provided a fantastically embarrassing driving experience, as well as causing whiplash injuries wherever it went as heads snapped around to watch its progress. My only comparable experience is from when I was in the village of Bournville and a Cadburys Creme Egg car from nearby 'Cadbury World' drew up alongside us at the lights. It was the only time in my life when I have literally rubbed my eyes in disbelief. I was so shocked, in fact, that I had to pull over for some chocolate. 

More Of The Many Moods Of Jason King

Friday, 21 March 2014

Where Science & The Occult Clash!

‘Nothing But The Night’ is a bit of a one off, which is wholly appropriate given that it was the sole product of Charlemagne Films, a company set up to make intelligent horror films but lost so much money that they folded before they could make a follow up.   

The narrative takes a while to come together but, ultimately, it turns out to be a curious mix of (to paraphrase the US poster) science and the occult, with some lovely Highlands and Islands scenery and a great cast, including Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee, Diana Dors, Kathleen Byron, Keith Barron, Fulton Mackay and Cassandra out of ‘Only Fools & Horses’ as a kid who WILL-NOT-STOP-SCREAMING and, ultimately, will utter the greatest lines ever spoken on film by a child:

"You've destroyed my dreams. I curse your cruel God"

At its core is a rather disquieting tale of child abuse in a remote orphanage, but perhaps not in the way that you might immediately think. There’s also a marvellous sequence in which dear old Diana Dors (playing a crazy, shouty clairvoyant) goes feral, running around the countryside evading the authorities like a chocolate munching Ray Mears in a ginger wig and red leatherette rain coat.

Little seen, somewhat neglected, this film always reminds me of a pleasing mix of ‘The Damned’ and ‘Scream and Scream Again’, and although it’s no kind of masterpiece, it nevertheless has strange ideas and weird horror at its core, and that’s like Turkish Delight on Toast for me.     

Nothing But The Night

Thursday, 20 March 2014

The Fatal Floor

‘Polish a floor, put a rug on it – 
you might as well set a man trap’

Native American Wisdom

‘...and to think he’d just come from the hospital’

‘The Fatal Floor’ has to be my favourite Public Information Film. It works on so many levels it makes Escher look like a one dimensional idiot.

There’s the relaxed, jolly ‘Man About The House’style music; the happy woman who thinks she is helping, but is actually putting everyone in mortal danger, including a new born Grandson. Then there's the technical virtuosity: the sublime dissolve as the rug turns into the trap; the freeze frame finale, the shocked faces and the strangled, slightly comical off-screen cry. It makes you gasp, laugh, think and, most importantly, it makes it simply impossible for you to polish a floor and put a rug on it without knowing exactly what sort of hell you’re getting into.

Finally, I particularly like the sheer level of micro-management that the powers that be are getting into here. Are they really going to tell us what to do in our own hallway? Yes, yes, they are. It’s rather sweet. Nowadays you’re lucky if they let you have somewhere to live, let alone give a shit about how you keep part of it tidy.  

Saturday, 15 March 2014

Interesting Postcards

Ullapool Mercury Motor Inn,
Rosshire, Scotland,
Telephone: Ullapool 2314

Ah, Ullapool, gateway to the Outer Hebrides.  If you should miss the Isle of Lewis ferry, however, you can always stay the night at the Mercury Motor Inn* although please be aware that getting pissed on Youngers Tartan Ale the night before can seriously impair your sea going experience.

* Please note: this hotel is now called the Morefield, and its number is 01854 612161.

F*** Me, It's Freddie!

FMIF as Detective Superintendent Clegg in a 1977 episode of testosterone and bullshit fuelled Patrick Mower vehicle 'Target'. His character is less than impressed to find out that Hackett (Mower) has been using his abnormally flared nostrils to sniff around Clegg's attractive daughter (Pamela Stephenson) and decides to take action. 

Freddie being Freddie, however, he manages to fit in a cup of tea before nailing Hackett's balls to the station wall.