Monday, 13 May 2019

Thriller: Killer with Two Faces

I must start this post by correcting something I said, ooh, two or three blog posts ago, which was that I thought the episodes ran on to play a bit again, on the Network DVD box set. This was completely wrong and in fact the way the shows are arranged on the DVD is to show the whole episode as originally seen in the UK, and then there are the opening and closing titles as made for the US market. Very complete indeed, but a bit confusing for a bear of little brain like myself. Personally I would have preferred the US titles put separately as an extra, because I can't find a way of watching the whole DVDS episodes through without seeing different titles over and over.
Here in the UK we got the ATV In Colour titles as seen above. What memories those titles bring back for me - one of these days I am going to get round to writing the post I keep talking about, about UK regional TV stations, not least because it will force me to get the matter finally clear in my own head. Then after the ATV thing we're straight in to Ian Hendry's hairy chest without a pause. I love the way he sucks his gut in while talking to the doctor about how his clothes would fit him!
This episode is what it is. It would be wrong to expect too much of it, since the (spoiler alert) twin device is a plot device which is genuinely ancient. This episode attracts valid criticism that it is always easy for the audience to tell which twin is which. They could have had the good twin in league with the bad twin, or had the bad one murder the good one, or whatever. The real problem is that once you know there are twins it becomes obvious how this will end.
Stellar performance, though.
I am slightly disappointed to find that the box set doesn't include some cut scenes, which are nonetheless available on t'internet:

Monday, 6 May 2019

Thriller: One Deadly Owner

A haunted car. What a twentieth century variation on the staple of ghost stories, the haunted this, that, and the other. The use of the plot device gives this episode a lift to a more established folklore milieu from its otherwise completely 1970s setting. The use of a car also has the advantage over other haunted items, because having wheels the car can seem to develop its own sentience and move on its own. A further classy touch is given by the fact that the car isn't just any old car but a Rolls. Ironic that the one in this episode was bought for seven grand which seems nothing for a car now, and I see that a 1970s Rolls can be got for two grand now. How the mighty are fallen! - however I'm sure maintaining an elderly luxury car is never cheap. Personally I prefer the MGB GT which also features in this episode, but not in the characteristic 1970s orange colour scheme.
I started watching this show while cooking - of course I was listening, not watching, and I was very surprised to find that it does not star Peter Wynegard. I was sure he played the male lead, and I was even more surprised to find I didn't recognise the actor at all. I was yet more surprised to find that the actor was Jeremy Brett, who I felt I should have recognised from Sherlock Holmes. He both sounded and looked different. I have done some poking around on the internet and found that by the time Brett made Sherlock Holmes he was already mentally and physically ill and in fact his Wikipedia page comments on his changing appearance. I didn't realise he suffered from bipolar disorder, requiring inpatient treatment several times before his death. My surprises hadn't ended, though, because I discovered he had relationships with both men and women. I would tend to put the fact I mistook his speaking for Peter Wynegard, down to a similarity of theatrical enunciation taught before this show was made. Of course part of the reason he isn't recognisable is the quite different look from Holmes, who I'm sure would never have been seen dead with an open shirt.
Visually this episode doesn't go wrong anywhere, this is despite the fact that most of it was very obviously made in a studio. Those of us who remember the seventies will find many details nostalgic. I particularly like the decoration of the flat, and the wonderfully tacky restaurant they eat at. Foreign food, probably.
Unusually for me I don't really have a criticism of this one. The plot has a wonderful twist at the end, which I won't spoil. My only wonder is that this episode doesn't get a better rating on the internet, appreciation hovering around 60 to 70%. Perhaps it's me and my liking for weird stuff...

Friday, 3 May 2019

The Famous Five, 1996

Image source
Yes, this is certainly among the more recent shows I am ever likely to blog about, but if you like the England depicted by Agatha Christie you will probably like this series. There are actually two British series of the Famous Five, the first was made in the 1970s and was made contemporary. This one was made in the 1990s and set firmly in the fifties. The first series is apparently more popular, or at least easier to come across here. This series has episodes on YouTube, and some episodes have been released on DVD. If you want the whole series you have to buy a Dutch release (called De Vijf - De complete verzameling, although the audio is in English) or there looks to be a Spanish release, but I can't speak for what that's like. 
I have an ambivalent relationship with Blyton myself, because the head mistress of my infants school thought her writing was of poor literary quality and banned her books from the school. The result was of course that reading them was an act of rebellion. One which was rewarded with the rather priggish attitudes of the four and the dog.
I suspect this show was too late for its own good, since the Famous Five were already old fashioned when I was a lady. The attitudes and life style tend to be of the period they were written, although I find this series is more reminiscent of old school stories than I remember the books. 
Where this series succeeds is in the creation of an unreal world. It's sort of the children version of the Avengers world, because I don't think it ever really existed. Was there ever really a time when children were allowed just to go off? I doubt it, even after experiencing my own mothers ridiculous fear that something terrible was about to happen at any moment. As a child I thought the kids in Sesame Street were very sophisticated because they could play in the street - that was out because our street was a short cut between two main roads so lorries would come thundering down it. My mother then made the tactical error of getting me a bike and I was off. Definitely not overnight and while I went a lot of places which would have given her a fit, I didn't have an island or a castle to explore, sadly.
One of the things I notice about this show is that it doesn't put a foot wrong. The pace is just right, the props are perfect, it depicts England as if the 1960s never happened. Apparently if you look closely the continuty tends to fall apart, but it's wonderful escapism.