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chrismartonuk-1

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0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Middle class angst., 15 December 2009
6/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I recall reading the original novel in English class at Huddersfield Polytechnic along with D H Lawrence and Jane Austen. It had a lot in common with Deborah Moggach's CLOSE RELATIONS - with a family unit splintered into diverse directions, undergoing marital and romantic woes - only to be reunited together at the end. As expected for a series of its type and time, there was copious nudity - though most of it involved Anton Rodgers' middle-aged willie - he married Elizabeth Garvie shortly afterwards so it impressed somebody! Clare Clifford's character suffers a boring marriage to Barry Stanton's oafish builder. But the truly shocking section involved Ursula Howell's marriage to Richard Vernon. Howell's suffers a debilitating illness for which there seemed no cure or cause until one fateful night....I remember it to this day. She finds that Vernon has suffered a fatal heart attack closing a window while preparing her nightly glass of warm milk. But the shocking moment is when she discovers her pet cat dead after lapping up the dropped milk. The old codger was secretly poisoning her!! The melodramatic punch of this stayed with me for years. A girl I knew at Huddersfield commented on it to me the next day. The reunion of the family at the end seems to indicate that hell is other people and the birth family unit is best.

Bizarre, grotesque thrills, 23 August 2009
7/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I remember this well. It was one of the most bizarre things the beeb ever did. Cavan Kendall played a hard-case mercenary (a truly unsympathetic character) who is recruited by millionaire Nelson to track down those responsible for a terrorist bomb going off in London that killed his daughter. Tallon has reason to believe that the culprit was his own wastrel brother who has joined a semi-Nazi community in rural Scotland. Going undercover at the commune, he learns that it practises free-love (or at least sex - cue a full frontal Carole Mowlam) but has a few inmates who are just social misfits trying a new life. Bernard Horsfall is a devious police detective also trying to track down the man responsible - the Nazi cult leader named Hugo Darbley. His son is undercover at the commune and ends up decapitated and on his Father's fireplace. Horsfall has Kendall brutally beaten up by the local copper until superior Andrew Kier intervenes. In a last minute twist, it transpires that it was Darbley who perished in the explosion - not the wastrel brother. The true baddies of the piece trick Tallon into falling into a fatal ambush but the title hints at the gruesome way his life is saved. Horsfall's character had been killed and buried earlier, but over a badger's set. The annoyed animal digs it up which caused Horsfall's corpse to rise horrifically from its grave - startling the villains and giving Tallon time to get the drop on them. As I said, truly bizarre but oddly compelling.

2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Good times all round., 14 July 2009
6/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I remember this one well - for personal reasons too. This tale of two married women painting the town red in the absence of their hubbies working months on a North Sea oil rig had a particular resonance as I had a brief fling with one such woman herself - she went one better than the women here in having kids! We follow the two women as they doll themselves up for a night out and pick up men at the local night club - the "baldy man" credited in the cast tries his luck but fails. The older woman, Anne Kirsten, can barely restrain herself as she starts unzipping her blokes' jeans while Phyllis Logan is more demure. But it is Anne Kirsten's character who suffers agonies of remorse the morning after. Phyllis Logan's character had gained a taste for it however - the fact that her husband spends much of his time at home sleeping off drunken hangovers helps - and she starts seeing her lover regularly. She attends an extremely amusing party where her boyfriends' offer of "do ye want a drink" results in him gulping down a drink and passing it onto her when he kisses her. She reveals a very tasty pair of boobs in a love scene as she proceeds to get more serious - much to her ex-friends' astonishment. But the bleak, almost puritanically punishing ending has her walking out on her husband only to catch a glimpse of lover-boy with a new paramour. The last shot of her standing alone on a windswept beach seems unduly harsh since all she wanted was a little affection. It's the sort of story that would be dealt with in a few episodes of a soap opera these days. I often wonder what became of mine.

3 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
Dead End Street, 2 July 2009
5/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

That the BBC wasn't above gimmick casting is highlighted by the fact that the Head Kink was heavily advertised as the lead of the first episode of one of the Beeb's flagship programmes of the 70's. The Kinks' career was at a peculiar place around this time (although thaty has tended to be the norm) - post-Arthur and pre-Lola. The band had resumed touring the States for the first time in 5 years and were struggling to re-establish their audience there - one gig had them as support to the Who, ironically Townsend and co had supported Ray and the boys back in the mid-60's. Ray had spent the past 3 years at an artistic peak and a commercial decline. The future of the band was in doubt and Ray had been touting his songwriting abilities around such varied clients as WHERE WAS SPRING, THE VIRGIN SOLDIERS and the film of TIL DEATH US DO PART. One can't help but wonder if he was hedging his bets for a Kinks-free future. He was already starting to see his songwriting lying in a more theatrical environment.

Alan Sharp would go on to write for Hollywood - Sam Peckinpah in particular. His script is fairly straightforward and very much THEY SHOOT HORSES DON'T THEY writ small. Ray breaks no new ground and his performance is competent if unexceptional. His character is mostly passive however. Ray convinces when he suffers a breakdown at the climax and one can only wonder if he based this on his own collapse back in the 60's when he ran a considerable distance to batter his publicist with a sockful of coins. Norman Rossington impresses as a yank-accented vulgarian manager who is obviously straining to conceal his native Scouse accent (Lennon, Davies and Elvis, quite a collection of co-stars). Lois Dane (who I recall from many productions from this time) comes across stronger than Davies as she plays his wife who battles for his soul. Why the piano player is aiming for the record is never satisfactorily explained - apart from one local journalist, there is little press interest. There is even less local interest apart from some abusive yobboes and some indifferent local pensioners. I can see how it would appeal to Davies with his penchant for low key character observations about the mass of humanity living lives of quiet desperation. But the success of Lola a few months later rendered further theatrical endeavours superfluous - unless Davies had devised the scenario himself. He would leave the ranks of naff actors to rock stars like Bowie, Sting and Bon Jovi.

2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Forgotten., 27 June 2009
6/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Shame that so many of these well-written and acted one-off TV plays are - unless the author's name is Dennis Potter - virtually forgotten. This one could easily be adapted for a stage play. I remember it well. Richard Pasco and his wife and teenage daughter hold a weekend dinner party for a circle of up-market friends. Among them is nerdy best friend Bill Wallis who hopes to reconcile with his wife. Also present if T P Mckenna as some high-ranking government official with his cold and ruthless bodyguard played by Patrick Malahide. Tensions erupt when a sniper starts taking potshots at the house and armed police are called in to protect Mckenna. The party attempts to carry on as normal while action is going on around them. Finally, Mckenna - the sniper's obvious target - is transported to safety, but not after Malahide had brutally beaten one of the house guests for breaching security. The following morning, there is a sting in the tail. The sniper shoots Pasco - after having already shot the other departing guests. The play ends on Bill Wallis and reconciled wife tucked up snugly in bed and the family's teenage daughter sleeping blissfully unaware.

11 out of 15 people found the following review useful:
Not so meek and mild., 20 June 2009
9/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

At last! Nick Moran's labour of love finally reaches the big screen and it's well worth the wait. It's basically the stage play transferred to the screen but, considering how claustrophobic Joe's life at 304 Holloway Road was, it's no bad thing. When he ventures outside into a pre-summer of love 60's London, the culture clash between his dated be-suited appearance and the bright colours of the kids speaks volumes as to what an anachronism he's become. All the regular support cast in the Joe Meek story are present and correct. Kevin Spacey is the tragically unheeded voice of reason as business partner Major Wilfred Banks. Far from being an insensitive hard-headed businessman, he gave Joe the finances to indulge his talent but found, as Dennis Preston had done before, that Joe was an ungrateful employee. Banks role has been expanded to incorporate Spacey and give him more screen time and - apart from the odd lapse - his British tones are maintained throughout.

Con O'Neill must surely be up for a BAFTA. He truly inhabits the part and one can only hope it doesn't have an adverse mental effect in the long run a la Heath Ledger. One telling scene has Meek at his lowest ebb as the Beatles - whom he could have signed - receive their MBE's on a TV in the background. J J Field is the unworthy object of his affections as Golden Boy Heinz. His part is also expanded from the play as we see him grappling with Jess Conrad backstage and witness his unbelievable arrogance to his backing band. Actually, Heinz got on well with his support band in spite of their low opinion of his musical abilities. Of the rest of the cast, Pam Ferris provides sympathy for the luckless Mrs Shenton who cheerfully fails to grasp the increasingly dangerous madhouse she has given shelter to. Still, I can't imagine her family members sitting through her violent end - which is depicted as more of an accident than on stage. The actor playing Ritchie Blackmore could have provided a Brummie accent as the stage version did. But these are minor quibbles. Nick Moran and Simon Jordan deserve credit for getting this on screen. In wake of Phil Spector's recent conviction, it is more timely than ever.

9 out of 9 people found the following review useful:
Bela Lugosi - an insurance broker you can trust., 28 May 2009
6/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Routine Edgar Wallace caper with some gruesome touches but is enlivened by a memorable performance by Bela. The film was made shortly after Bela's career recovered (temporarily) with Ygor and the revival of the horror genre after the doldrums of the late 30's. Paid a princely sum (by his usual standard) of $7,500 for 2 weeks work, Bela rises to the occasion in a role that owed more to Tod Slaughter - an outwardly-respectable pillar of the community with links to the underworld and a grisly secret or two in his closet. He is generosity personified as he is introduced in a meeting with client Dr Stuart. But, after all, he is Bela Lugosi. The scene where Stuart is lured by Bela to the room at the Blind Institute to be drowned by Jake is very creepy, especially when Lugosi slams the door shut as realisation dawns.

You may spot that Bela plays both Orloff and Mr Dearborn complete with white wig, moustache, pipe and dubbed Felix Aylmer-like tones of O B Clarance. But it is not immediately obvious. The rest of the cast is competent, if unexceptional. Greta Gynt is a very attractive heroine and would have made in ideal Mina for Lugosi's Count. Wilfred Walter steals the film as Blind Jake complete with grunts straight out of Karloff's Monster. Just as THE GHOUL was a typical pre-war English country house mystery with Boris Karloff plonked down in the middle to enliven it and make it saleable as a horror film, DARK EYES OF London is a typical Edgar Wallace police procedural with Bela doing his mad genius shtick. The opening titles display Bela's eyes over a vista of London similar to WHITE ZOMBIE and his scenes operating on Dumb Lew recall his mad scientist roles - only much more sadistic. VAMPIRE OVER London reveals that Lugosi could have made more films for Argyle only for the advent of World War 2 to put the mockers on that. Once again, a British film studio paid Lugosi better than Universal. Might Bela have been better advised to emigrate to the UK instead of the USA?

3 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
The Guiltiest of Pleasures., 24 May 2009
6/10

Michael Carreras often attempted to broaden Hammer's repertoire during his terms there and most of the company's artistic triumphs, and interesting misfires, can be laid at his feet. THE TWO FACES OF DR JEKYLL was a serious attempt to move the Gothics beyond the traditional limits expected of Hammer that failed due to the gap between intention and execution. Having pioneered SHE and ONE MILLIONS YEARS BC and put Hammer into the Summer family crowd pleaser market - and anticipating the modern Hollywood blockbuster - Carreras took advantage of hammer's relationship with Dennis Wheatley not to churn out another Black magic Chiller but a curious mish-mash of soap-opera, disaster movie, nautical adventure and sci-fantasy.

Eric Porter was hotter than a murder weapon at the time with his portrayal of the tormented, cuckolded Soames Forsyth on the BBC (and had become something of a sex symbol in the process - despite, or because of, his rough treatment of his capricious wife, Irene) so Hammer thought it worth taking a chance on him as leading man material - as they had Peter Cushing - instead of Christopher Lee or a fading American star. Porter was a top drawer classical actor - I had the good fortune to see his Malvolio in TWELFTH NIGHT at Stratford - and he has a convincingly craggy sea-faring face and a natural authority, and ain't half-bad as a man of action at the climax. His captain could give Cushing's Baron Frankenstein a few lessons in monomania - he fails to tell his crew (including, inevitably, Michael Ripper) about the dangerous cargo of Phophor B they carry. Having been beaten to the punch by Benito Carruther's sleazy character to sleep with Hildegard Knef, he cares very little when the man is carried off by an octopus. I doubt whether Porter lingered too long over the film on his CV but he's a first-rate lead and although he made an excellent Moriarity in the Granada series, might have been an intriguing Holmes. The women characters are unusually complex for Hammer. Hildegard Knef looked every inch a MILF and conveys the weary melancholy of a beaten-down woman who's had to compromise herself in the name of survival. Suzanne Leigh is one of Hammer's finest and most underrated bitches - look at the smirk she gives her hated father Nigel Stock when Porter berates him - and opens her thighs for anything with a pulse including the Sparks, Benito, and on-the-wagon Harry. Sadly, both fade from centre-stage at the climax - but there is compensation in the form of Dana Gillespie. We've suffered enough childish double-entendres with those gas balloons she wears for now, but she is a striking beauty and, as Hammer weren't overly concerned with the thespian ability of their ladies, it seems strange she never made another one for them - Christopher Lee could have sunk his fangs into her certainly. I suspect she's dubbed, but she certainly takes Harry's mind off the booze.

The plot structure is oddly similar to FROM DUSK TIL DAWN with the plot starting off as one genre and taking an unexpected detour in fantasy-land. Nonetheless, it remains a curio in Hammer's output (and an indication of what ZEPPELINS VS PTEROCATYLS might have looked like had it been made) and remains the guiltiest of pleasures.

sing for me., 21 May 2009
6/10

Hammer's inevitable take on the classic Leroux tale has taken a critical pasting in recent times and did little to enhance Terence Fisher's career at the time. But it has aged nicely and stands revealed today as an interesting attempt to try something new in the Gothic genre before the clichés were set in stone by the decade's end. Nowawdays, its notorious for the fact that Cary Grant was reportedly lined up for the film. Whether he was to play the Phantom or the hero is left vague. I can see him as Harry Hunter charmingly wooing Christine in the cab, but Grant - accustomed to the sophisticatedly sexy banter of his Hitchcock films - might have baulked at Elder's generic on-the-nose dialogue. Edward De Souza acquits himself well in the role of the young hero - traditionally the most thankless role in any horror - and is a strong, charming central screen presence to hold your attention during the lengthy expository scenes. Heather Sears - accustomed to playing abused ingenues in films like ROOM AT THE TOP and SONS AND LOVERS makes an appealing Christine - she had to be more than the cleavage on legs of most Hammer starlets - and ideally cast as Joan of Arc in the opera.

Herbert Lom's voice is an instrument of dramatic beauty and is shown off to its best advantage when the actor is masked. The concept of the Phantom is flawed by having his as a disfigured composer out for revenge instead of Lon Chaney's deformed freak from birth. Chaney's Erik had a crazed, monomaniacal stalkerish quality with his Christine whereas Petrie sees her only as the ideal vehicle for his artistic ambitions. At times, he acts like a protective Father-figure for the heroine. Christopher Lee would have been interesting in the role - being able to mime-act behind a mask and sing opera - but Lom brings gravity and presence to the part. Of the rest of the cast, Michael Gough has his best Hammer performance as the lecehrous, opportunistic Lord D'arcey whose type can clearly be seen in the singing and theatrical profession to this day - as well as certain further education establishments. It has received some criticism for its alleged cheapness but, actually, to these eyes, it looks more lavish than many Hammers with location filming at Wimbledon theatre giving a grand sense of scale and the bustling London Streets outside full of convincingly rendered extras.

Its ironic that hammer's regular composer James Bernard never got to score this one film where music is so important. I wonder if Edwin Astley ever considered mounting "THE TRAGEDY OF JOAN OF ARC" professionally outside the confines of this film. The ending with Joan alone on stage before submitting herself to the flames is truly moving and we understand why Lom's Phantom sheds a tear.

36 out of 43 people found the following review useful:
Not bad, young man., 28 March 2009
9/10

The life of the egocentric one gets the big screen treatment - another feather in his cap, and one to put over Shanks, Busby, Mercer, Allison, Paisley etc. The fact he shares the spotlight with Don Revie would be his only disappointment. One may find the numerous anachronisms and inaccuracies distracting, i.e. Dave Mackay had left Derby before Clough and Taylor's resignation, and that 5-0 Leeds triumph came the year after County's championship triumph (or robbery as devout Geldard Enders would maintain) - I know, I was there that great day wallowing in revenge for the previous year's injustices.

Without resorting to caricature, Sheen effortlessly conveys Clough's rampant narcissism and hubris. His obsession with Revie is portrayed as something he needs to work out of his system before getting his life back on keel. Revie is depicted as such a cartoon villain that one is almost disappointed that he doesn't appear clad in top hat and black cloak, chuckling evilly as he twirls his moustache and ties Cloughs' two sons to the railway line. Colm Meaney is uncanny in his depiction of the Elland Road supremo and his face captures the haunted look of the man who must have felt the fates were against him at times. Spall seems physically miscast as Taylor but puts across the fact that Pete was Clough's often unheeded moral conscience - a fact illustrated by how Clough went to the bad in his later years at Forest when Taylor wasn't around. Jim Broadbent is every provincial businessman made good as Sam Longson who must have needed the patience of a saint in his latter years at Derby.

Occasionally, the script's pace works against it. Clough and Taylor have barely signed the contract with Mike Bamber when they're off to Majorca. It might have been better to have a scene or two showing their tribulations at Brighton which increased Clough's desire to snatch at the first decent offer that came his way. I still remember hearing the humiliating defeat they suffered at home to Bristol Rovers on the coach back from Elland Road on the radio - and the ensuing hysterical laughter. To think, one year later, we were laughing the other side of our faces.


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