Saturday, 8 June 2019

The Sweeney: Jackpot

Apologies for the hiatus in posting. I have temporarily been watching some films and some less cult TV. Regular readers will know that I don't shy away from difficult subjects but even I find it difficult to know how to write about the Charlie Chan films in the twenty first century! Similarly I have been watching the Confessions films starring Robin Askwith and frankly while I am not embarrassed to reveal my liking for 1970s sex comedies, writing about them here could get rather wearing for you. Nonetheless we remain in the seventies because my manager has developed a habit of saying 'Shut it' ... referring to whatever the staff member thus addressed is working on. She is also pregnant and actually commented that she hadn't got any dinner because she'd eaten it by 11 o'clock. There is no point telling her about a TV show made well before she was born so here I am to ramble on about an episode of The Sweeney.
Jackpot begins with extended footage of the delicate treatment of suspects for which our constabulary were so famed in seventies, and since. The opening scene feels both ridiculously old fashioned (because of the vehicles, clothes and the way the suspects are told to take off their braces when they arrive at the nick) and incredibly postmodern at the same time because the scene is being filmed by a copper. We see the scene through the lens and Regan breaks the fourth wall when he tells the camera to get out of his way. I particularly love the bit where Regan is hauled over the coals for managing to lose a bag of money. The actor Morris Perry could have been born for those sort of boss roles, and I don't mind that he appears in so many shows because he turns into a sort of symbol for the establishment.
Regan of course represents all that is maverick, and much of the point of this episode is the conflict between the maverick and the establishment. This conflict largely underpins this episode: as long as he captures all the crooks Regan doesn't mind how he gets there. His bosses want him to play by the rules. Ironically I have a feeling that the establishment couldn't cope without characters like Regan, but don't know how to deal with him. My own opinion is that the only way to deal with Regan is to keep him inside pissing out, because who would want Regan against them? Ironically it is of course Regan who is the person who cracks the problem of where the missing money has gone.
The visual equivalent of this disagreement about ways of seeing is that this episode also revolves around what is seen, particularly in the form of the film of the action. For the sake of the story I think the viewer should ignore the rather strange situation that one police officer with, presumably, a cine camera has somehow managed to film the raid from multiple angles and the film has managed to be edited into a smooth record of events, which looks exactly as if it was made for television! The different ways of seeing things show fault lines in the flying squad which begin to widen under the strain of this case.
In common with all Sweeney episodes this one is superb because of the seventies milieu alone. I have been surprised to find mixed reviews on the internet, with people describing it as strange and finding it flawed because of the camera plot element. Perhaps I just like TV to be unreal because I can fully see that this episode wouldn't hang together in reality but if TV was strictly real it wouldn't be an escape would it?

4 comments:

Mike Doran said...

Chicago Calling (on a sideline matter):

You mentioned at the start of this post that you were considering writing about Charlie Chan movies, but were uncertain about how to do the subject in the 21st Century.

Welcome to The Club.

I was in High School (mid 1960s) when I became a Chan Fan.
Channel 9, an independent station here in Chicago, began running the Fox Chans from the '30s and early '40s, with Warner Oland and later Sidney Toler in the lead role.
These were Old Whodunit Movies, which I loved in any variation you can think of (my favorite TV show of the period was Perry Mason, which was basically a new version of the same old thing).
The various racial/ethnic/social considerations were years away from cropping up; all I knew was I liked the mysteries, the detectives, the comic relief, the whole package - these movies were FUN!
If that's your attitude, consider me a kindred spirit.
I strongly suspect that most of your patrons here share that feeling, so if you were to write something here, there would be sympathy, or at least empathy thereto.
Anyway, it's your blog - so roll your own and see what happens!

John said...

Well yes that is basically my attitude - I do like them and in fact lovef them as a child. I can also see that the world has moved on and they are likely to be unacceptable to many audiences. Ironically how they do Chan himself isn't half as bad as the portrayal of the black servant. It adds a little frisson that I sit here in the Chinese Quarter watching them!

Jack Seabrook said...

If I were you, I would just go ahead and write about Charlie Chan and make any comments you think appropriate based on the view from today. Your readers can add any comments they like, but there's no reason to ignore the films.

By the way, where can I, in the US, get access to The Sweeney? I looked at a DVD set awhile back and it was prohibitively expensive. I'm a big fan of John Thaw and would love to see the series.

John said...

Well I may do, although of course they don't really come under the remit of the blog, which admittedly I bend from time to time. I am actually more embarrassed that I watched the films with great enjoyment as a child and was thus brought up with their attitude to Chinese and black people!
Rumour has it that there are complete episodes of The Sweeney on YouTube. I hope they work in your area. Perhaps somebody will have a better and less costly solution than getting a Region 2 DVD player...