Wednesday, 30 May 2018

Crossing the Atlantic with the X-Files, The Avengers and Some Other Region 1 Matters

I have passed up writing about the X-Files episode where all the animals get pregnant without having had intercourse and Mulder explains to the zoo keeper that obviously they have been abducted by aliens. For some reason she is doubtful about this explanation so they ask the gorilla who conveniently knows 100 words in American Sign Language, which it turns out are enough to give a convincing description of being abducted. Oh, and perhaps I should say that the zoo keeper seems to have left professional boundaries far enough behind to become really quite enmeshed with the gorilla in question. Nonetheless this post is about several transatlantic matters.
Some time ago I bought a nearly new laptop. It's a Dell which flips over  to make  a  tablet, and the only thing I don't like about it is the sticky keyboard but I won't be using that. For someone with joint problems it actually turns out to be perfect because obviously I can type using the onscreen keyboard. It has windows 10, which a friend tried to warn me off, but I quite like. I just didn't realise that it wouldn't have software which would play DVDs so I've installed VLC media player for free. The upshot is, with an external DVD player I already had, is I can now play region 1 DVDs.
The one I experimented with was an odd disc from a box set of Flipper that I found in a charity shop. I may still post about this show but I am not sure it's really something I like. Wild animals and me have never really got on. I also thought I'd seen it, so was surprised to find it was new to me. It was some time before I realised that the theme tune I had in my head went, 'Flipper the bush kangaroo', so I was confusing a different show and a different part of the world!
Now that I can play region 1 I have bought a film starring Jon Pertwee called Murder at the Windmill (released in the US as Murder at the Burlesque). I suspect it would have been very racy when first released but is no doubt tame now. Incidentally amazon UK have the monumental cheek to be charging £34 for it, so I have bought the same disc from US Amazon and even with postage it translated to less than £11.
I was interested to read on Grant Goggins's blog that apparently the reason some of the series 5 Avengers episodes are rather less fantastic than others is because US TV asked them to be made that way. He also references Mitchell Hadley posting about a critic of the time bemoaning. the unreality of these shows. I think Mitchell has it bang on, that the Avengers always take it seriously. Batman never did and the men from UNCLE took it seriously to start with and then wobbled.
Another American Avengers thing I have only just discovered is a collection of pirated VHS coversfrom the eighties. Yes they're right that some of them are bloody terrible but you can't criticise the pirates' salesmanship because the covers are clearly designed to loud pedal the sexiness of the show! I don't remember seeing Honor Blackman in bra and pants in Death of a Great Dane!

Sunday, 27 May 2018

The X-Files: Die Hand Die Verletzt

It wasn't intended but this series of posts seems to be becoming a series of posts on religion in the X-Files. This episode is as confused as the one in my last post however I feel that confusion serves a plot purpose here in preventing the viewer knowing what's going on and drawing on the common fears and confusion of the time to press buttons in the viewer.
For a start, what's not to love about the school in this episode? Merely to be able to say that you went to a school where the PTA were Satanists would be enough reward and guarantee that your school reminiscences would beat everyone else's for life.
The question it raises is how to respond to this situation. And the essential difference between the situation in this school and the Imagined situation in many a school at the time, is that it's really happening. The strength of this episode is that it draws upon the Satanic panic of the time, and its weakness is that Mulder will believe any old rubbish he is told.
Scully is of course right that there is no evidence that the sort of Satanism depicted here actually happens. It is a very interesting example of how a belief spreads and people believe it. In the 1980s for example there were bursts of the panic here, on the other side of the world, which social workers believed in. I have read that the damage done to communities by tearing families apart on the basis of no evidence is still being felt today. I would personally expect Mulder to know this, and while it is obviously for the sake of the narrative his belief in this nonsense is not convincing.
The show also draws on the common distaste in English speakers for anything German, although that may only be in English speakers on this side of the Atlantic.
The episode also cleverly muddies the water by making heavy use of words like 'witch' which tend to mean different things to different people, for example to a Wiccan from New York and to a person with a cultural belief in witchcraft in Africa. This is a very difficult subject to deal with at the best of times, and there are points at which the episode feels like it is either skirting around predicted complaints from Wiccans or is actually an apologia for Wicca. Probably the former in my opinion since I can't really see a plot reason even to mention Wicca.
Otherwise the show is on safe ground here - magic is a classic plot device for a show like this and also provides a convenient resolution to the episodes ending. I feel the resolution makes the ending rather weak, myself, but it may have been deliberately inconclusively ended to leave the viewer with the feeling that it is still out there and the magic of Mrs Paddick could appear anywhere.

Saturday, 26 May 2018

The X-Files: Red Museum

I feel the show doesn't really get into its stride until series 2, when it really ramps up the weird and layers the elements of the shoe's mythology to confuse the viewer.
This episode manages to include many of the popular fears of the nineties - dodgy inoculations, new age stuff, paedophilia and so on - which can make the episode seem rather dated.
I have mentioned the role of religion in the X-Files before and in fact commented that it is frequently contextualised within American society and often used as an element in what I like to think of as the 'American dream' episodes. Of course in the X-Files the point is either to use the American dream as the bedrock of stability within which religion is enshrined or else the religion portrayed is seen as kooky and a dangerous intrusion (as is the case in this episode). The irony is that in a country with guaranteed freedom of religion you can only expect to get some colourful new religious movements. So the members of the church of the Red Museum better enshrine the American dream than do the frankly rather scary inhabitants of Delta Glen.
I do like this episode enormously and my criticisms are basically the ones everyone makes, that the episode is way too complicated and there are way too many themes incorporated. It is so confusing that I had to read the plot summary on Wikipedia and remain convinced that at one point Scully tells Mulder the kids are being injected with alien DNA, which really made me sit up and pay attention!
However this episode does have some gaping holes. The wandering around in pants with s/he is one carved on their back is spectacularly unlikely. If you're doing something that bad you try not to draw attention to it - to be honest I'm still not sure whether that was explained I'm afraid. The actor Bob Frazer who played Gary, was 22 or 23 at the time this was made, and looks too old to be at school.
Perhaps it is best to watch this episode with disbelief suspended, because despite its failings this episode does a very important thing. It implants the whole mythology of the X-Files firmly into American society, bringing home to the (American) viewer the possibility that this could be happening in their town, and that is the real power of the X-Files. There are people who believe the stranger things which happen in the show and it merges 'fact' and fiction to suggest it could really happen.

Friday, 25 May 2018

The X-Files: Duane Barry and Ascension

Back to bulletpoint blogging! I haven't veered off from the X-Files yet and have just watched the episodes Duane Barry and Ascension - the latter being the continuation of the first.
I found them profoundly dissatisfying on this viewing - primarily because I feel that it's as if too much material has been used in one go.
1. The alien abductee who goes off on one would be enough.
2. I do like very much that Mulder believes him, and of course it's typical that the sceptical Scully is the one who gets abducted!
3. I love the introduction of the mountain which reappears in the series.
4. What the hell was Mulder playing at when interrogating Barry? Rewatching this show at this length of time brings out the sheer unprofessionalism of much of what happens, which rather lets it down.
5. I do love that Barry was also FBI.
6. I can't remember whether he is actually mentioned in the episode but the name of Phineas Gage is often mentioned in connection with this episode. It is interesting that Gage's case was the first to suggest that brain injury would cause personality change. It may seem obvious to us now. To me what it means is that it reinforces that the empirical scientific method which the X-Files places in opposition to belief in little green men, is incredibly recent.
7. The scenes of alien experimentation on Barry and Scully are incredibly effective and reminiscent of A Clockwork Orange.
Nonetheless of course, despite my criticism I continue to love the X-Files and am greatly enjoying my rewatch of the series.

Sunday, 20 May 2018

The X-Files :Miracle Man

While I have been off work I have watched a lot of my boxed sets right through. The exception was The X-Files, simply because I didn't get round to it. So now I am back at work I have started a mammoth viewing of the series. The other thing I have been doing is reading some blogs, among them David Stimpson's always excellent blog about The Prisoner. I see he has a book coming out and I'm sure I will get it when it does. I think in future I might try to emulate the format of his blog with much shorter posts: you will notice that I haven't been writing the longer posts I normally write at all.
I am noticing the ambivalence of the X-Files towards religion on this viewing. I suspect this is because it is part of the American dream which is such a significant background to the show. It is part of the stability of society and yet for the most part its adherents tend to be seen as naive if not frauds. The healing ministry here is a rather obvious target and yet Samuel tells both Mulder and Scully things about themselves. At the same time it is apparent that everything going on in the episode is not divine.
My absolute favourite bit is where Samuel appears to the murderer after his death - I do like a deceased with a sense of a mission. And what's not to love about walking out of the morgue when you've had enough? Quite apart from the obvious religious reference.
Elsewhere in the series credence is given to the neo-Pagan religion of Wicca and it is differentiated from the Satanism so feared through the eighties and nineties. But the religion which dominates tends naturally to be Scully's ambivalent Catholicism.
So religion is seen in a number of different ways in the show and isn't merely a support for the mythology. In this episode however the religion is seen as apparently a fraud but which prompts Mulder and Scully towards a deeper consideration of their own losses.

Sunday, 6 May 2018

Spike Milligan, Boobs and Custard Pies

Mitchell Hadley kindly mentioned me once more in his last weekly review of the cult TV blogosphere. Thank you. I doubt that he will feature this post because it is mostly about boobs and custard pies!
I have been watching some comedy programmes while unwell recently. The Golden Girls make me roar with laughter. I have also been watching the BBC comedy classics DVDs that I have. Personally I think their one - disc selection of Milligan superior to the boxed set of his series Q.
Milligan's humour is truly anarchic. You won't like him if you can't ignore the fact that some of his jokes would now not be considered suitable for polite society. Oh, and if you don't like gags about boobs you won't like it either.
My absolute favourite sketch on the disc is a spoof game show in which the contestant, a housewife, is overjoyed to lose everything in her house as a result of being unable to answer the questions, ultimately being evicted. We see the furniture and even the bath (with our only glimpse of a topless woman) being taken out by removal men.

 What I love next best is what he does to Michael Parkinson, in this sketch and the following one, in this one by getting Parky to use the word boobs. I love that one of the characters wears his boobs at the back. I did say this post would be rather low brow! In fact boobs continue to feature highly!

I think there is a strong slapstick element to the humour - as it is often manifested in people doing embarrassing things. The topless waiter has his trousers pulled down to prove by his leg hair that he's a man! Taking clothes off for comedic value is a frequent feature of slapstick.

Another one is the custard pie and the target of this pieing does a great job of taking it.

Even better is the pieing Parkinson gets in another sketch. And it's a good one as well - the pies are big ones created to mess him up and humiliate him as much as possible!

Thursday, 3 May 2018

The Omega Factor: Second Impressions

I have watched through the whole series in a day while I have unwell and have some impressions.
1. When you watch the show like that its different authors and abrupt cancellation really do show.
2. This isn't a bad thing - it goes with the plot of an occult conspiracy.
3. The theme music and visuals give exactly the right impression.
4. My original impression that in places it's a gallery of 1970s pyjamas, remains.
5. Bizarrely for the age, while there is obviously a sexual relationship going on, Anne remains fully dressed.
6. Also bizarrely, Tom wears progressively less as the series goes on, and not just to a bare chest, but has a conversation with his brother wearing only his underpants, when elsewhere in the show we see he owns a dressing gown.
7. I feel a certain bleakness about the show is deliberate.
8. How did the writers know the plot of the X-Files, twenty years later?
I quite like this format of post, actually, I know I tend to be a bit verbose.