Thursday, 10 April 2014

Police Surgeon: Easy Money

Police Surgeon, which ran for one series beginning in September 1960, is usually trumpeted as the predcessor of The Avengers. It received a lukewarm reception & was axed after its first run for reasons which differ depending on whom you listen to. The production was done by many names familiar to us from the early days of The Avengers, & of course Ian Hendry. It is even implied that The Avengers was thrown together as a vehicle for Hendry's star quality (source of this potted history: http://theavengers.tv/police/history.htm).
I have one colossal problem with this show, & it effectively prevents me taking it at all seriously: it's the theme music. All it makes me think of is strippers. Having safely got that out of my system hopefully I can concentrate on the actual programme.
I don't object to this show at all. It is plainly, to my mind, only a predecessor of the Avengers in that it comes out of the same gritty underworld milieu. It is *so* much of its time, in set-bound production, its social ideas, the fact that all but one episode are missing-believed-wiped,  even the mention of one of the long-gone psychiatric social workers, & the underlying idea screams 1960s ideas of do-gooding:
'Bond�s idea had been for a socially conscious crime series, the sort of worthy but rather dreary sort of thing that was all the rage with British television producers at the time. Dr Brent would be a bleeding heart police surgeon who would deal with social outcasts and the other assorted misfits who needed saving by people like Dr Brent.' (http://cult-tv-lounge.blogspot.com/2014/02/police-surgeon.html?m=1)
In fact what primarily strikes me about Police Surgeon is that I see it differently from the majority of the reviews I've read, for example:
'The half hour format of the show ensures the story is quite brief, and on the evidence of this episode the writers had aspirations to provide some sort of social commentary. The boy has spent most of his youth in borstal; Brent struggles to engage him with the idea of working hard to go straight. Hendry�s charm goes along way to kerb the preachiness, and there�s what appears to be intended to be a cynical twist at the end. It passes 25 minutes easy enough, but it�s dry fare with none of the flair, fun or fantasy of The Avengers; and if Hendry weren�t so watchable it could have quickly grown stale.
'Watching early Avengers episodes has awakened a longing for more to be found; but I�m in no hurry to watch more Police Surgeon and I won�t grieve too much if it stays lost.' (http://littlestorping.co.uk/2014/01/21/police-surgeon-easy-money-review/).
In fact, Police Surgeon was so little what I expected, I found it a pleasant relief. It is very much a crime drama of its time.
The main opinion expressed by Little Storping that I disagree with is that it is relieved by Ian Hendry. Obviously I'm only going by one episode but it's apparent (I'm re-watching Girl on the Trapeze as I write this) that Hendry is playing quite a different character from Dr Keel. He is one of these chummy people who think the youngsters just need to be understood, whereas in The Avengers he is a much more workaday old-fashioned GP. To me Ian Hendry is not the star actor of this episode at all, it is Michael Crawford playing Joseph Clark.
This is the nicest surprise of Police Surgeon as far as I'm concerned. I actually had to look online to check whether it was the same Michael Crawford! He so perfectly does the sulky, old-enough-to-smoke-&-get-into-trouble-but-still-a-kid-really act, perhaps very slightly overacting at times in the manner of the age. However this really shows his star quality as an actor, that I didn't initially connect this actor with Frank Spencer & the opera singer. Unrecognisable until I realised who he was - that is the mark of a really quality actor. I'm also interested to discover how unusual Crawford's own upbringing was in some ways.
Of course faults there are a-plenty. For me the major one is that the doctor is dumbing down his job to a mere chat with a very disturbed young man in a cafe. The young man in question clearly has the makings of a personality disorder - he evene talks about the kind of upbringing that causes psychopathy. That Dr Brent avoids the clear psychpathology in front of him & instead - almost - gets drawn into Clark's chaotic web, makes him an essentially flawed character, & makes a nonsense of the social concern the series sets out to portray, since he actually ends up contributing to Clark's situation.
So my summary is that, despite a flawed plot, this surviving Police Surgeon episode is a pleasant surprise & an excellent vehicle for Michael Crawford's surprise - to me - acting quality.
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Sunday, 6 April 2014

The Avengers: School for Traitors (Venus Smith was an Avengers Girl)

The opening scene of this Venus Smith episode may perhaps encapsulate what is wrong with all of them: I wasn't around in universities in the early sixties, but whatever the students were dancing to, I'm damn sure it wasn't the Varsity Drag. The song comes from a 1927 musical called Good News, & since this would be associated with their parents' generation, it would have been terribly demode. I don't get this total feeling of wrongness with the other songs used in the Venus Smith episodes: even if they are old songs they're suitable to their nightclub milieu.
The wrongness extends to everything else in this episode: the plot is outlandish, the characters unsympathetic, it simply fails to maintain interest. The university setting falls flat on its face - to me it feels like the idea of a university of someone who hadn't been one. Since James Mitchell, the writer, had been to Oxford, this idea is just plain wrong, but nonetheless it remains for me an Oxbridge man's idea of a provincial university, clearly based in sets trying to be an Oxbridge college. There's all the tweedy, pipe-smoking old school clubbishness of Oxbridge, but yet with town mixing too much with gown. This episode compares poorly with the Emma Peel episode A Sense of History, set in the fictional university of St Bode's. I think with the creeping unreality that set in with the Emma Peel series, the production could get away with creating a university with minimal personnel & sets: the whole point of St Bode's is that it isn't real, & so the unreal antics that go on in it are excusable & indeed to be expected. Here the unreality of the setting makes the story unreal, & that is definitely not what was being aimed for. The university setting does provide an opportunity (the earliest I've spotted so far) for the books which later formed Steed's library in Stable Mews to make an appearance.
To attempt to drag myself back to the point of this series of posts - Venus appears fully-formed as Venus in this one, the first time we see the Venus we love or are irritated by. She finally appears with hair & clothes that suit Julie Stevens & contribute to Venus's personality. Perhaps this is also the episode so far where she acts most like an Avengers girl, remaining a sidekick to Steed, but then her business is music not undercover work. Although she must like it - by now she really ought to be sharply on the lookout for any gigs Steed arranges for her & run quickly in the opposite direction if she sees him. In this one she addresses him as 'love': I maintain that despite her apparent naivety there is a sexual tension to their relationships.
Morally, of course this episode once again shows up Steed in a bad light: in fact the danger Venus is exposed to makes him look not that different from the villains of the piece, planning a takeover of the great & the good while they are still young, for rather non-specific reasons. I don't personally buy the connection people make to the traditional approaches made to Oxbridge undergraduates (by both sides in the Cold War) to become spies: this feels much more like corruption & blackmail, than an offer of 'work'. This is not being done by a side that you could defect to.
My dislike of continually reappearing actors is usually plain: here there's a relatively heavyweight actor playing East, in the shape of John Standing, who became a Baronet after this show, although he doesn't use the title. His family owned Bletchley Park, where so much intelligence work was done in World War II, until 1937. It takes a real quality actor to play a minor part without you continually thinking it's him: here I feel Standing's quality stands out - he comes across as a different sort of actor from the others, with an economy of technique where some of the others overact at times in this one.
Best bit: Steed making a blooper look like it was intended.
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Saturday, 5 April 2014

The Avengers: Box of Tricks (Venus Smith was an Avengers Girl)

It was only after my last post in this series attempting to rehabilitate Venus Smith as an Avengers girls was up on the blog, I realised that I had totally omitted to make any attempt to rehabilitate her reputation in that post! I have decided to leave it as it is because my omission may point towards why she is usually *not* included in the list of Avengers girls: she is largely ornamental & a pawn for Steed in that episode. She just fits in with other nondescript characters, in complete contrast to, say, Mrs Peel, who you couldn't conceivably miss under any circumstances. My hypothesis therefore is that Venus's disappearance from the roll call of Avengers girls is partly caused by her relatively paltry parts in the scripts. I also think Julie Stevens has a quite dfferent presence from Diana Rigg, Honor Blackman, & even Joanna Lumley - they all have a presence that it is impossible to miss. There's nothing wrong with it, but Stevens's presence in the introductions by her on my boxed set feels more nurturing & comfortable. Even at pushing ninety Honor Blackman can still be extremely challenging - in an interview on youtube with her on Loose Women she still projects in a way that fills the field of attention. I don't know how Stevens's acting education would compare to Blackman's, Rigg's, or Lumley's, but she seems less theatrical, somehow.
As an episode of The Avengers, I don't really have anything to add to the frequent criticisms that the little box of tricks & the disappearing box are a dead giveaway. I'm also not keen on the interchangeable blondes: it actually becomes difficult to tell them apart.
As a development of Venus's character, it's superb, despite her remaining essentially a pawn used by the still-dodgy Steed. I feel she actually becomes a character in this one: even the different hair makes her look like Venus Smith rather than a young woman trying to look like a forty-year-old. The clothes also begin to look like Venus Smith's wardrobe: I particularly like the jumper she has on when she opens the box - the androgynous boyish sixties look suits her so well. In the last act there is a continuation of the rather acerbic character she showed in The Decapod. This episode makes me wonder *why* she's still having anything to do with Steed, I mean, honestly, she nearly got killed in their last encounter! There is a subtle theme of naivety in these episodes, not confined to Venus in this one but it also comes up in the remarkable faith shown in Dr Gallan's little healing boxes. This aspect of Venus's character & the society that surrounds the Avengers makes me reflect on how different society was at this time from now. Larkin wrote that sex began in 1963, & the obvious explanation to me at this distance of time for Venus's continued involvement with Steed would be an affair, crush, passion, what have you. I actually find it far more likely that Venus would be sexually or romantically involved with Steed than I do any of the other female Avengers characters. Given the seedy nightclub setting of these episodes & Steed as lounge lizard, my cynical mind would also tend to interpret him as a man who hangs around nightclubs, involved in shady deals, who would have several 'businesses' on the go, & may at the extreme even be a pimp. People don't tend to like the more child-like aspects of Venus's character: here in true child fashion she is inquisitive enough to open up one of Dr Gallam's boxes. The curiosity & excitement at opening what she thinks is a present are palpable, & endearing beyond anything.
An extremely strong point of this episode is how it looks. The sets are effective, don't really come across as sets, there is always good contrast in the tones on the screen. Visually this episode really is excellent.
The good news is I've finally found someone else, Ron Geddes, who likes Venus & writes:
'Venus's songs are enjoyable; it was a good idea to have a singer in the show for a while. She's very agreeable and helpful to Steed in his assignment even looking to him to give her the nod to take over in the show. Of course she would be inquisitive of the box he gets delivered to her address. I like his reaction on hearing that she's opened it. He's really done all the intelligence work this time however so her enthusiasm at the very end is quite adorable in telling him all they've achieved. She gets everything right but still needs some reassurance. He doesn't even mind getting a kick on the dance floor from another blonde acquaintance because of her. Venus obviously believes they make a great team and for the few episodes she was Steed's Avengers girl�they did.' (http://theavengers.tv/forever/gale1-17vr.htm Thank you, Ron, I was beginning to think I was crying in the wilderness!)
My favourite bits: Steed being a masseur on call to NATO. This cover is so hilarious. Also he's wonderful when he's dramatically telling his symptoms to Dr Gallan. Why he wants to know, I can't think, since all he does is give people a box.
Nonethless this episode is a superb vehicle for Steed, showcasing Patrick Macnee's acting (with an opportunity to over-act) ability to perfection. The reason Venus Smith doesn't stick in people's memories is clear: she's treated as a minor character, despite improvements in characterisation.
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Friday, 4 April 2014

The Avengers: The Removal Men (Venus Smith was an Avengers Girl)

I'm a bit nonplussed how to start with this one, if I'm honest. I can rave about The Decapod until the cows come home, but this episode begins to confirm the commonly-negative opinions of the Venus Smith episodes for me.
In terms of character development, this episode has lots of meat to chew over. For a start, assuming the events of The Decapod are not that far behind her, what the hell is Venus doing having anything to do with Steed? - she actually says 'Oh no, (with the impication of not you),' at one point, but then proceeds to let him put her in mortal danger instead of having nothing to do with him for life, which would be the natural thing to do. Venus - despite a blond wig better suited to a forty year old - comes across as so sweet & naïve in this episode.  Unfortunately her naivety also puts Steed in danger: the irony is that their interaction means it is actually Steed's character that is most elaborated in this episode. Leaving his colossal misjudgement in relying on Venus aside, he perfectly plays a lounge lizard. I love how smooth, suave & sophisticated his character is in these series 2 episodes. The dodgy nightclub & spiv scene remains the perfect one for him. In contrast to the way he is an almost fatherly figure to Tara King, here he is incredibly dodgy, apparently having no regard for what could happen to Venus as a result of his criminal involvements: far different from the solid establishment figure he later becomes. He smokes cigarettes (minus holder this time) & once again visibly smokes in the way a pipe- or cigar-smoker smokes, taking the smoke into his mouth & blowing it out again, rather than into the lungs. As far as I know Patrick Macnee's own smoking history hasn't been elaborated, whether it was only something he did for a part, or whether he actually smoked himself.
I can't put my finger on what goes terribly wrong in this episode: certainly some of the common criticisms don't grate on me personally. I don't object to the songs & the whole jazz piece in the middle, myself. I maintain that The Avengers was trying to find a way forward after Ian Hendry in this series, & presumably that was one conceivable way forward. Edwin Richfield is one of several familiar faces in this episode, but unfortunately the only one that irritates me by not being Australian but being an Australian character. Additionally I feel it is possible for the actor to overshadow his character, & going by his filmography (http://radiosoundsfamiliar.com/familiar-faces-edwin-richfield.php#!) he appeared in pretty well *everything*! But for me what brings this one down is the plot, which somehow manages not to draw one in, & doesn't have the oddity attraction of The Decapod.
I do feel there is a disparity in how we would view this show now from how it would have been seen when first broadcast. Britain was very different: the second world war & rationing weren't that far away, people were looking forward to a bright new future of prosperity, including foreign travel. Elizabeth David's books had already brought sophisticated foreign food to the bookshelf, but this episode may be slightly before the masses got cheap package tours. When this episode was first shown it was therefore when the idea of Abroad was both suspect & incredibly sophisticated, since unattainable, at the same time. I do feel it is important to remember that that is how the original audience would have viewed the setting of this one: it is in a sense escapist viewing rather than a more straightforward mystery. The escapism of this one is into the world of those who can just afford to go to the South of France. I think the correct viewing setting would be in a nearly-new flat in Park Hill in Sheffield. I do think that if this episode is seen at the cusp of a brave new world of foreign travel (while drawing on the traditional British suspicion of anything vaguely Foreign) some of its shortcomings wither away.
My favourite bits: the scene where we see a burglar who turns out to be Steed, the very visually-effective (in contrast to the other studio-based scenes) staircase scene, and Steed putting suntan lotion on One-Ten's back.
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Wednesday, 2 April 2014

The Avengers: The Decapod (Venus Smith was an Avengers Girl)

I have projected for some time a series of posts based on the character of Venus Smith, who appears in six episode in the second series only. I've entitled this series Venus Smith was an Avengers Girl to make my approach to the subject about as obvious as it can get. Who knows, I may even next do some posts on Jon Rollason was an Avengers Girl! Joking apart - the existence of other partners to Steed in the second series gives the lie to the common perception that The Avengers can be divided into Gale, Peel, & King eras, & that's it. In fact there is a far more complex relationship between the protagonists of this show. Of course Steed was only ever a rather shadowy, louche figure to start off with, appearing out of nowhere to push Dr Keel in the right direction. A similar dynamic pertains with Jon Rollason - interesting how the doctor theme was continued. I like the series 2 episodes before Mrs Gale became a fixture in series 3, where Steed has several different partners & the partners often have more screen time than him. I think the reason is that I feel it would be so much more true to the shadowy Steed's character to duck & dive a bit, to have friends & contacts everywhere. In the nature of his work he *should* have contacts in all sorts of places - in some ways I find the toff he later became a bit of a disappointment.
Yet the Venus Smith episodes are not a favourite with the fans at all. *Nobody* seems to like her, to the extent that I've wondered at times whether there's something wrong with me because I do. She is often criticised because she increasingly turns into a teenager as her episodes progress - that's obviously a mistake of production to my mind. In the introduction to the episode on my boxed set Stevens says she hadn't done much acting before landing this role. This may be some false modesty, it is plain that she had worked extensively in television before this role; acting apart she even went on to be Harry Secombe's personal manager for many years (a biography is at http://theavengers.tv/forever/bio-stevens.htm). In this episode her modesty is belied by the surprising maturity of the role she plays , to my mind, when allowed by the script, despite only being in her mid-twenties. Her lines really suit her - I like the repartee about whether it would be cheaper to get a dog than the bodyguards. I don't even object to the songs - her voice also sounds mature, I wonder whether in the manner of the time she smoked (incidentally we get to see Steed smoking a cigarette in a holder in this episode, although he looks to me to be smoking more like a cigar or pipe man than the deep intake of a true cigarette smoker, & yes he's in his nineties now). I'm forced to the conclusion that series 2 was a time when The Avengers lost its direction somewhat following the loss of Hendry, & tried different things as possible ways forward.
And what an episode this is, it's quite one of my favourites: once again I seem to be on my own in this estimation & Avengers Forever, for example, calls it uneven & only gives it two bowlers (http://theavengers.tv/forever/gale1-3.htm). I'm actually going to find it difficult not to forget my stated aim of rehabilitating Venus Smith in my admiration for this episode. I think the reason for my appreciation of this episode is that there is something so right about it: it takes place in exactly the milieu I would expect Steed to inhabit: essentially seedy, but one also frequented by the great & the good. Surely every city has its dodgy nightclubs & seedy boxing clubs - I can certainly think of the sort of places Steed would frequent locally (cough - more Digbeth than Jewellery Quarter). Steed is a shadowy figure who may or may not be on the 'right' side - here he produces more of the dirty old man persona that only appears fleetingly later in the series. To me the earlier Steed is *supposed* the be a loung lizard & somewhat louche. Here I find the light cast on both his & Venus's personalities interesting. Steed thinks nothing of deceiving her, it's all in a day's work & his apology to her is blatantly insincere. Smith is astoundingly forgiving - & also naïve - since she also falls for the president. Many mothers may not think to warn their daughters against presidents of Balkan states who can forge passports at the drop of a hat, so this Avengers episode may stand as a salutary warning. In this Venus is even more young & naïve than Tara King, who is frequently criticised because she was too young a character for Steed & looked up to him too much. Miss King was less naïve than Miss Smith, yet Miss Smith is this strange mixture also incorporating a fully-fledged woman perfectly capable of tearing a strip off a foreign president, let alone Steed. There is an interesting parity between dodgy Steed & dodgy President. The ambassador is quite plainly the power behind the throne.
Needless to say there are some sixties standard actors in this one, Philip Madoc & Paul Stassino, but the quality of the script means the actors' own presence does not distract from the characters. I like the way a relatively small number of people are used to create the wrestling scenes: if you listen to the wrestling scene without looking, it sounds as if it's in a much bigger arena. My one criticism of this episode - I'm not sure it is really - is in the character of the decapod: he looks ridiculous. In this, though, I can detect a foretaste of the future of The Avengers - even at this early stage there are characters who are so heavily caricatured they're not real. This is also where I feel the criticism of Venus Smith falls on its face: the Jon Rollason episodes of this era are much more realistic, even the Cathy Gale ones are. The Venus Smith episodes are not real, despite the apparently gritty setting of this one. In this Miss Smith is a more accurate prediction of what was to come than, say, Mrs Gale. This, in my eyes, makes her an Avengers girl with the others.
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Friday, 28 March 2014

The Man From UNCLE: The King of Diamonds Affair

This is an episode of TMFU that so badly tries to be The Avengers & misses the target in some subtle, yet dramatic ways. It begins with a woman in a hotel in London breaking a tooth on a rough diamond found in a tin of Pogue's Pudding.
Needless to say, no amount of putting red telephone boxes on the corners of a standard American street set won't turn it into a London street scene, & much of the charm of this one for me is the near-caricature of Britishness it presents. The accent of the woman who bites into the Pogue's pudding is good but not quite right to a British ear (it's overdone), there's a fire hydrant in one scene that is definitely more New York than London, & so on.
That said, I don't think the unreality of this show is really a shortcoming. It almost feels in season 2 of TMFU that they's picking up on something in the zeitgeist that The Avengers also picked up on, by attempting to create a world where you can really imagine someone recreating the Indian Mutiny in the potting shed. Where I think TMFU fails is that the unreality is a) overdone & b) becomes the point. This episode is only slightly unbelievable until the introduction of Raphael Delgardo: it is a mistake to attempt to merge reality & unreality: it shows up the unreality for what it is. Where the Avengers would have done this episode differently is that Mr Delgardo would not have appeared: the episode would have focused on the Pogue family probably. The crime plot would come from one of Steed's aunts who happened to write a story, rather than a real criminal. There are attempts to parody the mafia family (the use of umbrellas) but that element fails by introducing a different genre.
Nice Avengers-esque touches include the bone china teapot & cup in a prison cell, & the use of a manhole cover by the men from UNCLE. I love that Delgardo is smuggled out of Dartmoor prison in a laundry van!
Visually this show is also a mixed bag: the gangsters in the mist scene is very effective, the car chase with the identical blue cars is good. They're Hillman Imps, one of those cars with the engine at the back & always considered eccentric, thus a good choice for that scene in comparison to the more staid British cars of the time. The production is very evidently completely studio-bound, which I don't have a problem with. What idoes raise a question for me is the muddy colour palette chosen for the scenes, & even the clothes. Greys & browns predominate, creating an atmosphere of, well, chewing gum. The rare touches of colour come as a relief. I don't remember a TMFU striking me like this before, even the unrestored ones I saw repeated on the telly in the eighties. It gives an effect of sameness. I wonder frankly whether it was an attempt to ape the sets of The Avengers that failed abjectly.
So overall, I don't think I would object to this one if I didn't have The Avengers to compare it to! It tries to be several things so badly. It's probably also one of the few episodes that
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Saturday, 22 March 2014

Public Eye: Works with Chess, Not with Life

I told myself I would resist blogging about the Birmingham-based episodes of Public Eye, so as not to get annoyed by fake Birmingham accents & the sixties scenery, so of course here I am blogging about one of those self-same episodes.
I like Miss O'Hara (Valerie Bell) enormously, she has none of the drama school melodramatics & clearly comes across as the floozy in search of a quick buck. As a prelude to the main part of this episode it offers the wonderful cameo of Marker wining & dining her, all in the name of duty, of course. The morals of this part of the episode are very clear-cut in comparison to the very complicated relationships of the rest of the episode. I like the structure of two stories related by their characters in a single episode: if the episode had been built solely on the adulterous doctor it would have lost some human interest & been a much more sui-generis private investigator story. Here, however, Marker's character really gets stretched & able to show different aspects of his personality.
I have one major criticism of this show, although I'm not actually sure that it is one. Some of the scenes seem to me over-acted - an example is when Mrs Skerrett dramatically collapses back in the bed yet is fine to talk to her husband one beat later. The reason I'm not sure this is really a criticism is that I'm also not sure whether it is a dramatic convention of the time - the scenes I'm thinking of definitely reek of set pieces in drama school - I mean the convention of treating television as if it were a theatre & the camera the audience. Against this is that there is none of this feeling in the earlier food-poisoning part of the show. I simply cannot decide on whether I'm misjudging this, but must come down on thinking that the sign of a good actor must be that the character they are playing takes over from the actor himself.
A further question I have about this show is to wonder just how racy it would have been in the 1960s - the adulterous doctor would be bad enough, but carrying on their dalliance in a church! I wonder whether it is for this reason that the church is plainly not real. The rest of the episode, while very clearly studio-based, gets the location right (try getting to Knowle, even today). The St Alban's church is a generic church, bearing no relationship to the Anglo-Catholic extravagance of St Alban's in Highgate. This episode also benefits from not having any 'locals' - at least none of the characters have Brummy accents for the actors to get subtly wrong.
I'm also undecided about the character of Skerrett. He is such an ambivalent & failed character that he almost constitutes a plot weakness at points for me. As a doctor he makes a terrible mistake at the point where he writes the prescription: I can only agree with Marker's frustration with this particular idiocy. In fact he's already messed it up before that by using a patient visit as his cover for seeing his mistress, already blurring a boundary which should have been left alone. He forms a weakness because he just makes you want to slap him - he is clearly the sort of man all women warn their daughters about because he's quite happy to go through life expecting everyone to pick up the pieces for him. I do like also the way most of the protagonists in this tangled story end up crying on Marker's shoulder at one time or another!
Surely I can be allowed one distraction from the plot to talk about how much I love the scenes of sixties Birmingham used in the titles? The scenes are so of their time: the joke is that the city council capitalised on the Luftwaffe's destruction to finish the job by bulldozing endless irreplaceable historical buildings to create the inner ring road (http://www.birminghammail.co.uk/lifestyle/nostalgia/carl-chinn-change-came-fast-3904203): you can see part of it in the Bull Ring in the titles. This is the best stroke of planning luck Birmingham ever had: it was placed too close to the city centre, but fortunately its out-of-fashion construction allows demolition & repeated redevelopment, impossible if the former buildings had been listed (yes, I even think Central Library should go: that bit of the city is permanently b*llsed up by that development). I never felt unsafe in the notorious underpasses, & they actually did what they were supposed to, creating one city for the pedestrian & another for the car. I liked the old Bull Ring. The modernist architectural agenda has completely failed, but all of these things were done with the genuine intent to improve people's lives. Within fifty years the new Bullring will be demolished (Selfridges will possibly be listed) & the new plan for the central library site is the same mistake again. People have this habit of repeating history. Anyway the point here is that the titles scenes encapsulate a previous Birmingham & I love them. Visually - particularly in black & white - the brutalist architecture, concrete textures & tile patterns of the underpasses are simply so effective. I especially love the scrolling 'Public Eye' on the side of the Bull Ring.
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