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One of the pleasures of viewing episodes of "Morse" years after their
first release, is seeing actors and actresses who are now world-famous,
in roles sometimes very different from those for which they are now
In this episode, the first two suspects in the murder of their former business partner (played by Tony Steedman) are played by Richard Wilson (who was famous as grumpy Victor Meldrew in "One Foot in the Grave") and Sean Bean. In prison alongside them is a wrongfully convicted former schoolteacher played by Jim Broadbent. Sue Johnston played Sean Bean's screen wife.
This particular episode is perhaps frustrating for viewers interested in the intellectual development of an investigation, as the true murderer is revealed only in the last minutes by a flash of information only fleetingly revealed to the viewer beforehand. Nevertheless, it is interesting to watch Morse and Lewis each doggedly pursuing their own lines of enquiry. At the same time they are dealing with a brash, high-flying Detective Sergeant, and eventually bring him to earth with a bump, each in their own fashion.
Over the years, several actresses have played Agatha Christie's
creation, Miss Jane Marple, spinster of the parish of St. Mary Meade.
Their portrayals have generally ranged from understudied to vapid.
Margaret Rutherford's performance was unquestionably the most forceful
and feisty, though perhaps not very close to Agatha Christie's
character as intended. Likewise, "Murder at the Gallop" is rather a
pastiche of scenes from a Hercule Poirot novel, "After the Funeral",
rather than being a single Miss Marple novel.
Also featuring were Robert Morley, playing, well, Robert Morley, and Duncan Lamont in his usual role as a surly underling.
The film is a departure from most films, even for the period, in being shot in sharp-focus black-and-white.
Plotwise, in "Murder at the Gallop", Miss Marple first witnesses the apparently natural death of a wealthy man while trying to rattle a charity collection box at his home. Her suspicions aroused, she subsequently investigates in blunt fashion, and discovers the dead man's sister, also murdered. Even though the police are now involved, she continues to poke and pry; and it turns out that Miss J. T. V. Marple was a champion horsewoman in her youth.
The final uncovering of the murderer lacks the usual drama, and is arrived at through a literal process of elimination, the other suspects having themselves been murdered.
Still, "Murder at the Gallop" is generally an enjoyable, fast-paced romp.
This was one of the most successful Carry-on films. Although the
setting (the late days of British rule in India) might have been
thought provocative, the sheer unreality of events and deliberately
self-deprecatory humour would be guaranteed to defuse any arguments
over the subject.
One of the secrets of success of the Carry-on films was their mixing of "straight" acting and quotes with absurd situations. The formal dinner scene at the Residency as it is reduced to rubble by the Khasi of Kalabar's artillery is perhaps the longest and most memorable of these sequences.
The straight-acting "farcical" scenes are probably funnier than some of the more contrived comedy sequences, although the film has its share of memorably quotable one-liners.
There were remarkable performances by British comedians Roy Castle in his only Carry-on appearance, and Terry Scott, who had previously had only a cameo appearance in "Carry on Sergeant".
It is perhaps a shame that Britain does not have something like the
American Congress's official list of historically significant works of
art. If there were, this show deserves framing as an iconic series of
"The Secret Policeman's Ball" was the second benefit performance for the charity, Amnesty International. It followed the earlier "Pleasure at her Majesty's" in 1976. The Ball featured a most effective mix of old and new blood; from the old stable, several of the Pythons, Peter Cook at the height of his comic and satirical powers; from the new stable, Billy Connolly and Rowan Atkinson.
There were some old favourites among the acts (the "Four Yorkshiremen" and Python's "Cheese Shop"), but some of the new acts and sketches were inspired. In particular, Rowan Atkinson's sardonic "Schoolmaster", and Peter Cook's "Entirely a Matter for you", written specially for the occasion.
There is a minor musical landmark, with Pete Townsend (of the Who) reportedly forced to play acoustic rather than amplified for the first time in his life, alongside classical guitarist John Williams.
In later years, the subsequent Policeman's Balls were seen as a showcase for new talent with the result that several acts became over-the-top and hammed.
"Wycliffe" is a windswept and rain-sodden Police drama. It is set in
Cornwall, the most westerly county in England. Standard dress for
plain-clothes detectives appears to be a scruffy grey polo-neck sweater
The series centres around Detective-Superintendent Wycliffe, whose family life occasionally intrudes into the plots, and two subordinates: a woman Detective Inspector who has been pushed too fast into a senior rank, and a disillusioned male colleague.
Even looking piratical, the Police appear to be intruders into a comparatively isolated community. Some of the office politics which occasionally feature, deal with Wycliffe's aversion to the latest fashionable management trends from London being foisted onto his force.
"Wycliffe" is well worth watching the series for the scenery alone, and hearing the slow local accents.
It is hard to know who deserves the most credit for this courtroom
series; author John Mortimer QC (a noted barrister himself), or actor
Obviously, the series was written with the benefit of intimate knowledge of the English legal system, but almost every branch of it is portrayed very unflatteringly. Most Barristers are shown as smug and pompous, fencing with each other in Latin phrases while the defendant and jury look baffled; policemen are bent, solicitors are shady and judges are either more concerned with barristers' correct dress rather than the evidence, or sadistic and bigoted.
The seamier side of the profession is also shown; with prestigious barristers having to work from poky "chambers", at the mercy of clerks for their work ("briefs") and undervalued secretaries for their paperwork.
In such a world, a weary and introspective character such as Rumpole dominates the scene. McKern's booming delivery and range of facial expressions make this all too easy. The language is a delight, as Rumpole quotes Browning, Tennyson, Shakespeare at will. Some of the most hilarious scenes occur as lawyers take on their clients' personas and start arguing their cases with each other in the first person, in bars or restaurants.
Rumpole's home life with wife Hilda, "She who must be obeyed", is also shown as quite a caricature, as Hilda Rumpole is portrayed as having few interests beyond her husband's lowly position in the pecking order, and household cleaning agents.
Any one of the episodes makes good viewing.
There have been two series so far of this programme. It seems
deliberately to set out to contradict the impression of the British
legal system portrayed by the excellent "Rumpole of the Bailey", of
senile judges and smug arch-conservative barristers.
Here, the main character has radical leanings, a messy private life and a very active libido. Much of the sub-plot is involved with side-swipes at the (Labour) government of the day, although the implication is that power corrupts; the political complexion of the office holders doesn't affect their greed or ambition.
The one common factor with other screen portrayals of the British legal system is the very precise diction and grammar used by barristers and judges. The courtroom scenes are well worth watching.
Some elements of the plot rather strain belief, but the series is quite enjoyable.
"The Long Riders" is a Western which lacks many of the directors'
clichés associated with the genre.
The casting is of course impeccable; with four sets of brothers playing the real-life Jameses, Youngers, Millers and Fords. The women too are quite believable. The homely foot-tapping score by Ry Cooder, played on no more than half a dozen assorted instruments, is both authentic and memorable.
Finally, the stunts are far better than in most films. They are made more spectacular and believable by being few and far between, and quite unexpected.
As regards the plot; the true history of the Jesse James gang is fairly closely followed, but lacks the development which explains how they came to combine together and embark on their lawbreaking career. Historically, several of the leading gang members fought in guerilla bands against the Union armies in their native state of Missouri during the American Civil War and presumably learned their contempt for the law there, but in this film they spring onto the screen already established as outlaws in a staid and sober society.
To a non-US audience, this also makes some of the references to music popular with the Union and Confederate causes in the Civil War, and some of the attitudes and insults, rather puzzling.
However, the plot does develop through the film, and does show how some of the gang become better characters through marriage, the influence of families and changing fortunes, while others degenerate over time.
Overall, this is one of the most likable Westerns I have watched.
At the lowest level, this is about people surviving the worst that war
and nature can throw at them. At the end of the film, the Greeks of
Cephalonia can still celebrate traditional festivals, even after all
the tragedy of the seven years which this film covers.
The true victims of the war are the unmilitary Italian army who occupy Cephalonia after Greece surrenders to Hitler. Captain Corelli, played by Nicholas Cage, exemplifies them; he hasn't seen action, and would rather not. He and his men would rather be a choir or a musical ensemble than a fighting unit. When they must fight the ruthless Germans, they are exterminated.
As might be expected from a film made on a holiday destination, the scenery is mouth-watering. The music (Greek traditional and liturgical, and Italian opera, and the theme tune) is equally delightful.
There are very few things which I found less than satisfactory. Cage's Italian accent seems a little laboured. (I must applaud his musical skills here, though). John Hurt's rasping delivery has perhaps been a little over-used in recent years, so his portrayal of an irascible Greek doctor also struck me as slightly contrived. Christian Bale's embittered resistance fighter seems equally unreal. Penelope Cruz on the other hand, does fit very well with her looks and accent.
Overall, this is a lovely film, well worth seeing.
One of my fondest memories of TV viewing in the late 60's and 70's, was
the weekly hour of tension which Mission Impossible provided. There was
the initial bewilderment of trying to work out how on earth the brief
flashes of peculiar devices and tension-ridden confrontations could
possibly be woven into a coherent plot. Next, there were the
wonderfully mundane locations in which Peter Graves would retrieve the
briefing materials and the tape which invariably dissolved in a cloud
After all the introduction, the remaining fifty minutes was sometimes an anti-climax. More often, it was very satisfying to see the initial vignettes fitted jigsaw-pattern into the plot. Perhaps towards the very end of the series, the plots became a little stilted or physically impossible; but invariably entertaining.
Like most fans of the original series, I found the over-hyped film of the same name to be an facile and shallow work with no redeeming features. I would die happy seeing a film in which Martin Landau, Peter Graves, Greg Morris et al. emerge creaking from retirement to save the day, and as they so often did, drive off leaving thwarted villains to turn on each other.
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