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Public Eye: Horse and Carriage (1972)
A bit of Christmas Spirit
The recent reruns of Public Eye are turning into timepiece reminders of what a bunch of cynical sour pusses we have evolved into in the intervening 50 years or so. Back in Public Eye's era the Christmas season was a time to lighten up and have 'season's greetings to all' . Many familiar programmes would have a Christmas special if they were running near the end of the year, sometimes it was a bit silly but we were all in the joke and we went along..well!!, because it was Christmas- that is why. On this episode what a nice touch to have chintzy Christmas music playing along Frank's end walk..bah humbug to the rest of you.
The Scales of Justice (1962)
There has been much criticism about Merton Park Productions being listed as TV series proper on IMDB, but as they were very popular TV fillers anyway it's frankly the easiest way to view each series as a whole rather than sporadic films on the IMDB lists. Plus of course most of the films are now listed separately anyway in their theatrical versions.
The Scales of Justice series was perhaps initially a disappointment to those expecting old Edgar in a creepy room introducing a noir, grim, dirty raincoat murder as it's predecessor 'Scotland Yard' would do. This new series was fresh and modern in it's approach and dealt with the trials and tribulations of the less severe aspects of 'the human condition' and so nothing much has changed and all the cases featured could well happen in the present day.
Add into the mix,good production values for the tiny budget, lively location work, great court room scenes and a couple of amusing 'light' episodes and you have a series that could have ran and ran ...on television. It's a shame that an ITV company never adopted Merton Park as a subsidiary.
It was not half bad at all
From past viewings I had not rated this episode much at all. However on a recent viewing I have appreciated how well made it is and how it works well as 'television' rather than a 'movie' ...but if your expecting a traditional noir Edgar Wallace plot with heists and bang, bang then this has neither. The gentle wafer thin plot is really a study of 'what if'? (and it is indeed about 3 losers) but comes alive with some excellent acting from Michael Gough, (the sadly later underused) Mark Eden and Toby Robins who is the bar fly here .
World in Action (1963)
Slow burners that affected change
A comedian once said he had cured his friend's manic depression by stopping him watch World in Action. For there on a Monday night sandwiched between a soap opera and a jolly sitcom was our conscience, a reminder that things were not quite right in the world and somebody might be suffering. Most TV shows have a routine compilation edition at the end of the year and one of World in Action's was modestly sub titled 'Sorry,nothing doing' as if to say their years output had made no difference,but this was not so, a World in Action film lingered in the mind and did affect change. Its film on lorry drivers probably pushed through the Tachograph?,its films on mental health definitely helped sweep away the old style mental institutions and the reason furniture today has a 'flame proof' label was probably due to its eye opening film of an armchair catching fire. In today's mass media,issues blow up and shine bright for a couple of weeks and then are forgotten, but in the days when TV was 'the' window on the world a World in Action issue was a slow burner that you would not forget and did eventually make difference.
Curiosity: What Sank Titanic? (2011)
Agree with the first poster, this an underrated, but top notch film. Obviously a low budget compared to the more well known films, but I subconsciously never questioned a single shot for fake details or CGI, the boat and effects are superbly done.
I thought Lawrence Naismith was the definitive Captain Smith, but Christian Rhodska may have taken over that mantle now? and its hard to believe he once played a carefree,greasy biker in the series Follyfoot, and he was just part of a great cast of relative unknowns. We all know how its going to end, but the editing and acting keep the tension and air of impending doom going from start to finish, and something you could easily watch again and again.
Midnight in Saint Petersburg (1996)
A cure for insomnia ?
Every time I woke up during this film there seemed to be Caine jumping in a car and rushing off somewhere.If it was trying to capture the magic of the first three Palmer films then it failed miserably,not just because they were the product of a different time and atmosphere, but because its a muddle to a point I really didn't have a clue what was going on, just a lot of cars buzzing about,old factories and the usual rat-tat-tat dialogue. While Caine was hungry for the fame in the first Palmer pictures and acted accordingly, he is not hungry anymore here and is obviously just Michael Caine acting as Michael Caine, but its not all his fault as he has no foil here to bounce off due to the dull co-stars.
Tarnished Heroes (1961)
Good old adventure yarn
Could well be described in the old speak as a 'Ripping Yarn'. This was the type of story that would turn up in boy's comic magazines and perhaps for the same reason this film would turn up on TV in the morning of a school holiday. Its all very cheap but very effective.
Set in World War Two, Major Bell is given the task of blowing up a bridge that is a life line for German supplies, the only troops he can muster is a bunch of renegades and wasters who are awaiting a Court Martial, can he turn them into the team that will do the job while watching his own back? A cast of favourites from British TV this little gem rarely gets seen now but if you want an idea of the plot just watch The Dirty Dozen with Lee Marvin.
Lollipop Loves Mr Mole (1971)
In the beginning
As a comedy sitcom this had everything going for it, for a start it was written by Jimmy Perry (one half of the famous duo who wrote Dad's Army and Hi DE Hi), a super pair of leads with Peggy Mount (who could literally drag a comedy performance out of anyone in her air space) and the often hysterically funny Hugh Lloyd. So why is it not remembered today and faded away after only thirteen episodes? I think the problem lies with the first series and something that happened each week after the ATV zoom faded out. The title sequence featured Peggy and Hugh singing about their love for each other. Which might have been OK for the first episode or a special,but the same (what can be described as a) wailing dirge repeated week after week probably had many rushing for the channel change button? Shame really as those who turned over missed a good treat. In the second series the producers obviously realised the mistake and the theme tune sequence was replaced with a lively contemporary electronic number on the same lines as "George & Mildred" type theme tunes, but it came a bit too late perhaps in recovering viewers?
I'll Sleep When I'm Dead (2003)
A load of cods wallop
I had expected better things of Trevor Preston and Mike Hodges and perhaps give them the benefit of the doubt that their original vision was manipulated by the money men. But even so this really is a dreary load of clichéd cods wallop with the plot stolen from Get Carter. The wheels kept coming off the waggon as I watched, but the final one to make the film crash to floor in clichés was when he opened the garage and there was a 1960s Jaguar sitting there. It might have made a half decent 50 minute Sweeney episode in the 1970s but as a movie its a complete waste of money. The British film elite are always complaining about lack of money, well if they stopped giving it to the same old lethargic luvvies to make the same old junk all the time, they might end up with a proper 'industry' in which digestible movies are churned out week after week?.
This Is England (2006)
Not This is England
Frankly the title put me off. I thought the title was arrogant and self absorbed as if this was the definitive story of England in the 1980s which of course it was not. I next expected it to be the "1980s hell under Thatcher" cliché,whine fest from a typical northern middle class socialist writer patronising the working class. Any mention of 'The Belgrano' and I was turning it off.
However if any of that was there I didn't notice it as the stirring rites of passage story came through.It certainly jarred nerves of growing up and making sense of the people in your world and winning the great prize of getting respect and admiration from people older than yourself. Anybody studying children's behaviour and the importance of role models should watch this film.
This a universal story and its a shame that the title probably cost it international empathy and recognition?.
The 1980s were politically charged times, but if the sparks between the red and blue posts produced Shane Meadows then they could not have been all bad could they ?.
The Champions: Reply Box No. 666 (1968)
Every series has to have a duff episode
Every series has to have a lousy episode or two and Reply Box 666 does not fail to disappoint in that respect, and must rate perhaps the worst episode of the series? Sometimes the Broadley/Frankel combination can be very good, but when its bad its really bad, producing dull episodes with tatty production values, also in this case the credibility of the plot is stretched to such a point that even 1960s viewers must have felt they had been short changed?. There is however the saving grace of 'the look',style and characters of this series as well as overlooking the fact that this is over 40 years old !. So you can easily forgive the odd cheap slapped together episode.
Not A Word About its Daddy
The use of marionettes must have brought in a new set of problems of its own? Use on this scale in a movie has not been attempted since the 1960s with children's TV shows like 'Thunderbirds', obviously time has moved on and what could take ages to build and make, can now be done with CGI.Its also a credit to those early pioneers with their cantankerous lip sync mechanisms, mini explosions and the sheer good nature behind every episode. So its quite appalling really that the team behind 'Team America' could not muster one single tiny little nod to 'Thunderbirds' which obviously inspired them to make this movie and a great deal of money also?.
Who Killed Teddy Bear (1965)
New York but not Hollywood New York
When you think of movies about New York from this period in time, what comes to mind to me as a foreigner is a woodwind instrument blowing in the background while Jack Lemmon (or a lookalike) in a shiny suit neurotically babbles away something insignificant. Who killed Teddy Bear comes along and sticks its fingers up at the Hollywood system and is a break thru movie in every sense. This flawed, creaky, creepy and cranky movie is a delight. Not forgetting that you are led into the wonderful atmosphere by the wailing and unforgettable theme tune, which sounds like an old 45rpm record where the center hole has not been cut quite right.
IMHO due to Hollywood, American Independent film makers were just not taken seriously enough at this time, because of this, films like this have been unfairly over looked as great examples of low budget, gorilla technique( getting the shot before the police arrives etc). Taxi Driver was classic, but you know it was meticulously planned, every location permission was got and sums agreed, shots were retaken until they got it right. Well Who Killed Teddy Bear is wild and untamed and surely a minor classic?
Department S (1969)
A 2006 re-run and re-appraisal
The reason why there are so many men called 'Jason' and to a lesser extent 'Stewart' are about, of a certain age. This popular series was highly influential in its time. So how does it stand up in 2006? The good points are,the leads are just great! the outfits, style and look of the series are still superb and when Dennis Spooner and his writing team's wonderful imagination is allowed to strain at the leash of the budget , then we get some wacky villains and ahead of its time plots and gadgets. Here we come to the main problem of the series, the stingy, always looking for ways to cut corners budget. You can see that Spooner wanted to take the series towards fantasy, while the producer was happy with B picture style crime. The result is when the producer uses his own ensemble pals of directors. some of the dullest and tatty (plot wise) episodes are produced. While in the hands of brought in directors we see Dept S at its best.
Rosemary Nichols apparently got the humph making this series and its not hard to see why , as an intelligent actress she is terribly underused, however we get to see her legs quite a bit, which is perhaps a delightful compensation?.
Dog Soldiers (2002)
The publicity dept, should have been fired.
Never heard of this movie until 2005, so I was not expecting much as I did not particularly like the werewolf movie genre either. I have to say seeing it in 2005 I was pleasantly surprised (or horrified!). It really is rather good and certainly deserved a wider audience on its release. Its low budget yes, which perhaps causes a couple of minor production flaws ? but the script is fresh and exiting, the atmosphere is just great and the'wolves' are very believable and scary. This will probably lie unnoticed on your video store shelf, however if you want something scary & horrible you will not be disappointed if you pick this one.
Half Hour Story: Robert (1967)
Could we see in this, a hint of the Scott genius that was to come?
Morale at Rediffusion TV must have been at an all time low when this production was made?, they had lost their broadcasting franchise and would be off the air within a year of this being transmitted, and Ridley Scott would be off into the world of commercials. This did not seem to distract them from the job in hand of producing quality drama, and the ' Half Hour Story ' series was one of them. This may have also given Ridley Scott an early opportunity to escape directing (until then) his usual multi electronic camera studio set ups and work on location with the humble single camera?. Combine this with experienced script writer Jeremy Paul adapting for television consumption, a strange tale from the often unique writings of Stanley Ellin and you have the recipe for a compelling piece of television.
It was compelling and disturbing in 1967,because school pupils just did not behave like that. Obviously time and school behaviour have moved on, and this has not been seen for decades. So whether it now smells of cheese or has stood the test of time with a hint of the Scott genius to come, would be interesting to know?
White Cargo (1973)
Could still be tolerated at the right time
Forget the plot, this film has one purpose only now and that is as a record of just how lovely Imogen Hassell was. The film itself is not an exception in being tedious or embarrassing, in-fact its part of the norm of early 1970s British Comedy Films. The common factor in all these films is, it appears that the director is out to lunch or maybe even gone home all together? The result is you have various egos struggling to steal the scenes with puerile skits and maybe even adding their two pence worth to the script? That is not say it is not watchable, it is at a certain time of day and is still a reminder of perhaps more innocent times?, and therefore something you can sit and watch with all the family,while your having an argument about something else.
The Invisible Man (1958)
A very credible series for its time
This must have been a wondrous new addition to 1950s Television? Made by ITC who had acquired 'Official Films' and who always managed to produce something a little different.. Its very easy to criticize this series in the 21st century, but if you look at it in the context of the time it was made, It was pretty darn clever. The special effects still look effective and It must have been difficult trying to make a show like this in television time and budget? Certainly this show's effects stand up well against the 1975 'Invisible Man' remake series which used a lot of chroma key overlay for effects and consequently the large amount of blue fuzz, made that one unconvincing.
Journey of a Lifetime (1961)
Aimed at the God Spot
This was a semi soap opera come documentary series, originally shown on a Sunday evening. John was an engineer (and with his new bride Anne) had taken a break from suburban life in England to work and explore the Middle East. On their travels they come across various old religious sites and try and relate the stories connected with them, with their relevance in modern life. Shown just before the sixties were starting to swing, the production even then had a slightly twee and old fashion look about it. Yet from a time when at least a couple of hours of TV had to be devoted to religion it was a good attempt to make theology interesting. It was made on location.
Dead Letter Office (1998)
One of those warm, fuzzy movies
If the Australian Post Office ever needed a promotional film for recruitment then this is it.This is one of those movies who's heart is in the right place and you can watch again and again. Miranda's performance is touching as it shows an aspect of Australia unimagined by many Europeans, in that it can be cold, wet and bleak, just like anywhere else and just like anywhere else what is important is the people that surrounds you. The characters in the movie are warm and welcoming and make the prospect of a career move into a 'dead letter office' a thought to be considered. Miranda has gone on to do bigger movies, but I hope she always keeps a thought inside for this one?.
Spyder's Web (1972)
Government has secret organisation to solve bizarre cases
Government has a secret organisation to solve bizarre cases. Sounds familiar? Well this is the premise of Spyder's Web. The Spyder Co. is in a small office in the middle of any town. Run by Lotte Dean and her two assistants Wallis and Clive. The web referred to in the title is the mysterious organisation run by the government, which has cells like Spyder , to solve cases outside the remit of MI5/Scotland Yard etc. This meant that Lotte and her team were often landed in tales of curious 'cold war' goings on, in which they would have to talk or fight for their lives. The series had some very interesting stories and a nice sense of humour, if there is any criticism, it is that more care and attention appeared to be paid on the location scenes, than the studio scenes,which can look wooden.
Lou Grant (1977)
America right on the button
In the UK this series was not networked, but in the regions of the country it was shown it collected a devoted following. Ed Asner played his roll with gusto, but with help from the excellent cast, the show began to resemble more of a documentary than a drama, as it bravely tackled contemporary social issues and concerns. American import shows had never been like this, living a fantasy world of copsnrobbers, witches and talking horses, but this was perhaps the start of a new wave? which would include shows like 'Quincy' and 'Soap'. It was apparent when this was being run in the UK that the American far right did not like the show one bit! regarding it as wet liberalism . However in countries where it was shown, it possibly showed a compassionate side of America in which it did have concerns for the ' loosers ' as well as the winners in life. Theme tune must be a classic also? Don't think it could be made in the USA today?
You forget how old this movie is
The one thing about films set in the future is, that as soon as that future comes, they date and look old fashioned. Watching this film in 2004, you really are surprised how old it is. The only things that give it away is the tinny old Yamaha DX7 music and the computers appear to be connected by a fax telephone line. The other astonishing thing is that it pre dates all the new wave of future fest films that came along in the 1990s. As a low budget film it could have hitched a lift on the back of the success of 'Bladerunner' but it does not, it has its own plot, a thrilling climax and Tom Sellick and Kirstie Alley who always give good value for money.
Mr Don & Mr George (1993)
Quite, quite, quite, raving mad
The basic premise is that George lives in a abandoned warehouse trying to make his way in the world by taking on risky and rather strange jobs. His recklessness is counterbalanced by his brother Donald's caution, who is on hand to give advice, but usually ends up as a victim of George's schemes.
This could have been 'The McGoodies' as it took surreal comedy into another street, in fact to a derelict house ( with a piano) down the road. Visually it was nicely put together and certain props such as the shape of the butler's bag are quite memorable. Jack Doherty went on to be a talk show host, but he belongs back here in comedy with his pal Moray. It didn't last long, maybe a wee bit before its time and perhaps it deserves a re-appraisal?
Storm of the Century (1999)
When is Stephen King going to get back on form?
The acting, set and photography are very good. Yes its amazing what can be done with a cliché ridden, cheesy old script. For example,at one point the mysterious visitor has all the people in the hall and starts reading off their supposed sins, I almost expected him to burst into song, singing "Harper valley PTA". However there are some nice set pieces in this film, including the picking of the stones by the townsfolk, but this is acting and direction and nothing to do with the script.
Whoever this guy is, who visits the town is never really explained ,if he is the devil, why is he getting old and needs a son? A very unsatisfactory conclusion . Maybe we expect too much from Stephen King these days?