Tales of Unease: The Old Banger

I have promised myself that I will save the rest of Max Headroom to return to at my leisure in the future. You all understand that this isn't at all because my grasshopper mind has already moved on, don't you?

In fact where it's moved to is my Christmas present to myself, which is the Network release of the 1970 anthology series Tales of Unease. This is a series I have long wanted to see in its entirety, even though I don't tend to get on very well with the rather changeable nature of anthology series, because I loved the orphaned episodes I have written about here in the past (click on the Tales of Unease label in the menu to see those posts) and also because I have been struck by the unconditional, yet intelligent, adulation I have seen this show receive in the cult TV blogosphere. Well done, Network for releasing it,

First up we have The Old Banger, the final episode broadcast in the original run, and which I was particularly keen to see because I have never seen a review online which didn't describe it as utterly horrifying and un-easing.

The plot is relatively simple: what happens after a couple dump their old car somewhere in the street and yet keep on seeing it afterwards. 

Cleverly, the movement of the car is echoed by the fact the couple own a carrier pigeon. Or rather, the pigeon is in counterpoint because it refuses to come back and yet they can't get rid of the car. At one point it's quite funny because they can see the bird but not get it back, but their neighbour, who wanted to steal something from the car, now can't find it! 

So obviously we have a morality tale on one level. It's quite striking how the young couple make real efforts to fly tip it, including taking the registration off, and this is very very naughty indeed of course.

But on another level this feels like a much more ancient story, involving curses and ownership and magical obligations. It's what is called in old Irish and modern paganism. a geas, meaning something you have to do. This isn't like a vow or oath, that you might do or not, this is something that will do you if you don't do it. If this tale was being told in 1269 rather than 1969 it would probably involve a witch and a curse, and definitely a spirit of some sort. One of those one who are always looking to take someone out.

That is exactly what the car starts doing. You may, of course, in the fashion of 1969, interpret the car as being haunted or possessed in some way. I'm not going to go into too much detail about what happens because I don't want to let the resolution out. 

You can tell, can't you, by the way I'm writing about this show that I think it's magnificent, can't you? It's quite short, and the length perfectly fits the story so there's no waiting, no boredom, and it builds up the suspense excellently.

It's also a magnificent collection of 1960s London street scenes and interiors - realistic ones, not the expensive designer sets of recollection.

Incidentally I've rung up the neighbourhood witch to ask her what you should do with scrap metal which nobody, not even the totters, will take, to avoid any magical obligation. She told me that there is an ancient spell for this: you leave the item in the street outside your house, ideally on a waning moon, and attach a sign to it saying 'For Sale - £50'. You must walk away without looking back and you will find your item has gone when you look in the morning. She did say, though, that you're mad if you do that with a car because they've got a scrap value, which just shows Birmingham witches take no nonsense. You don't get all this extra stuff in normal TV blogs. 

So I suppose that is one valid criticism of this show that it's slightly unrealistic, because cars had a scrap value in 1969 as they do now. However given that it's about a car with attachment issues which refuses to be abandoned and then starts attacking people, it's slightly unrealistic to expect it to reflect reality too closely.

However I definitely think you should get this single disc release and watch it through.

Proud to be a member of the Guardian-reading, tofu-eating wokerati and the anti-growth coalition. wesayenough.co.uk - electoralcommission.org.uk - tactical.vote - tacticalvote.co.uk - rejoinandreform.co.uk - makevotesmatter.co.uk

This blog is mirrored at culttvblog.blogspot.com and culttvblog.substack.com (where you can still subscribe by email if you want). If you want to support me and this blog, you can buy me a coffee or a box set at ko-fi.com/culttvblog.