Change Your Image
Upload An Image
Crop And Save
Genesis: Together and Apart (2014)
A mostly dull documentary which won't do much to change people's preconceptions about Genesis
Genesis have a very strange place in music history. They existed outside of fashion, sold an incredible number of records (particularly albums), filled some of the world's biggest venues and launched two hugely successful solo careers. And yet, as has been commented by many music critics over the years, it's hard to imagine the music business would have developed very differently without them (excepting the outstanding solo career of Peter Gabriel) and they have few outstanding songs which have become part of popular culture. This documentary merely confirmed that when it comes to rock royalty and national treasure status, Genesis are way behind bands like The Beatles, The Stones, The Who, Pink Floyd, Queen and Fleetwood Mac.
One of the most glaringly noticeable things about the documentary is the complete absence of any major musicians influenced by the band or famous music critics talking about them. There were a number of talking heads but I honestly had no idea who any of them were (with the exception of a brief appearance by the convicted sex offender Jonathan King, who discovered the band, and the comedian Al "The Pub Landlord" Murray). Even the usually ubiquitous Paul Gambaccinni couldn't be bothered to turn up for this! This led me to think that this documentary was really done on the cheap (which it did look like, to be honest) or it confirmed that few people of any note have anything interesting to say about the band. Probably both. On the plus side, one of the speakers was a quite an attractive posh young blonde woman, which was quite a surprise to see on a programme about Genesis.
The Genesis members themselves came over as they have always been caricatured: a bunch of polite but rather dull middle class men. Listening to them talk was about as interesting as listening to a bunch of old codgers from the Cheltenham Conservative Club talking about golf. What was really shocking was how rough Phil Collins both looked and sounded. I never thought I'd feel sorry for someone who's had so much bad press, is worth over £100 million and who wrote the egregious "Another Day in Paradise" before disappearing to live in the luxurious rich man's utopia of Switzerland - but I really did. He was a shadow of the man he used to be.
Serial Thrillers (2004)
One of the best Doctor Who documentaries ever made
Philip Hinchcliffe produced the three most popular seasons of Doctor Who, a period when scripts and production values hit a peak and the viewership hit an all time high, so this documentary is a welcome and revealing examination of the time when Doctor Who was at its very best.
Hinchcliffe himself takes the lead and comes over as a very intelligent man with a very good grasp of the demands of the programme. It is also good to see him pay tribute to his predecessor Barry Letts and explain in detail how he worked with his script editor, the legendary Robert Holmes, with whom he obviously had a very good working relationship.
Ed Stradling deserves credit for creating a flawless documentary and finding interviewees who all have useful contributions to make, which isn't always the case with documentaries that rely almost completely on talking heads. It is good to hear the thoughts of someone such as Robert Banks Stewart, who wrote two adventures for Hinchcliffe, and David Maloney, who directed more serials for Hinchcliffe than anyone else. We also get short but welcome contributions from designers Roger Murray-Leach and Christine Ruscoe, as well as actress Elisabeth Sladen. The documentary flows well from one contributor to another and clips from the programme are chosen well. It is also good to see that the documentary doesn't shy away from addressing the levels of horror and violence that attracted so much criticism at the time, and it's interesting to see that, in retrospect, both Banks Stewart and Maloney are prepared to admit that they think it went a bit too far.
My only regret is that the late, great Robert Holmes never lived long enough to offer his thoughts, although his huge input is certainly not forgotten. Otherwise this is an excellent look at an equally excellent period of the series and should be of interest to any fan.
The golden chat show of the golden age
The 1970s was the golden age of British television for so many reasons, not least because it was a time when television executives still assumed their viewers were intelligent enough to watch somebody sitting in a chair and speaking at length, without the need for regular interruptions and jokes from the interviewer. Michael Parkinson, unlike today's chat show hosts, was not a comedian, he was a journalist, and his talent was simply for researching his subjects and showing an interest in what they had to say. The remarkable thing about Parkinson was the variety of the guests. His abilities as an interviewer meant that he was able to successfully deal with guests as different as raconteurs (Kenneth Williams, Peter Ustinov), poets (John Betjeman), authors (Leslie Thomas), musicians (Duke Ellington) and scientists (Jacob Bronowski). Parkinson never dominated the show, he was quite happy to let the guests do that. As a result, he gave British television its greatest chat show, a standard that most subsequent chat shows didn't even bother to attempt.
In the 1970s the big stars rarely gave interviews, there were three television channels and no videos, DVDs or Internet. Parkinson had provided a rare opportunity to see these people. Clearly, things could not be the same when, in 1998, the BBC decided to resurrect the series, 16 years since it had ended. A great deal had changed in television over that period. As the 1990s progressed, the talk show increasingly became the domain of comedians as hosts: Jonathan Ross, Clive Anderson, Frank Skinner and Graham Norton. As such, chat shows became more lightweight and more about the host than the guest. Also, with the explosion of the media in the 1980s and 1990s, another effect was the decline in the meaning of celebrity. The revival of Parkinson lasted for nearly ten years but, unfortunately, the show was dying a slow death, with the man all too often having to interview celebrities so minor that you couldn't have made them up in the 1970s: Trinny & Susannah, Simon Cowell, Sharon Osbourne and Gordon Ramsay for examples. As hard as he tried, Parkinson could never convince me that he was as interested in these people as the great stars of the original series. I certainly wasn't.
In fairness, when he had a good guest he was still better than anyone else. One of his greatest abilities was to interview celebrities who are instinctively private and dislike the spotlight on themselves as subjects. He was better than anyone else at making these stars feel comfortable and able to talk, with Rowan Atkinson and Bobby Charlton being prime examples. I actually think that from what I have seen, only his contemporaries David Frost and Melvyn Bragg rival Parkinson in this regard.
Parkinson has now wrapped up his chat show. He has said himself that his show was the last survivor of the talk shows based on conversation. Now, all we have are the comedy shows based on the American format. In some ways it's a shame, in other ways it isn't. Most of the really fascinating stars are now dead or very, very old. Very few modern stars captivate the attention for very long, as Parkinson found in the last few years. Because even Parkinson couldn't make people interesting if they simply weren't.
Good documentary but only of interest to major fans
This documentary begins with Melvyn Bragg providing a very brief synopsis of Gabriel's time in Genesis and his early solo hits, before concentrating in detail on the recording sessions of his fourth solo album. We get an insight into Gabriel's attention to detail, experimentation and perfectionism, as well as contributions from his collaborators David Lord, Jerry Marrotta, Tony Levin, David Rhodes, John Ellis and Larry Fast.
This show is very factual and, by concentrating in so much depth on the recording sessions of one album, is unlikely to convert many new fans but remains a rare and interesting look at the young Gabriel and his musical ideas. He talks about how he likes to use new technology and his growing interest in world music, both of which are consistent hallmarks of his solo career. Sadly, this is the only time The South Bank Show has profiled this most innovative and diverse of songwriters. Gabriel would continue to expand his horizons in subsequent years to even greater commercial and critical success, with albums such as So and Us, moving into film soundtracks with Birdy, The Last Temptation of Christ and Rabbit-Proof Fence, a growing dedication to humanitarian causes and a pioneering role in the further popularisation of both world music and digital distribution. Surely it's time for another, more comprehensive South Bank Show on the man's career?
A Private Function (1984)
The 1980s were dark days for the British film industry and productivity was at an unprecedented low. That doesn't mean that there weren't a number of very fine films made during this time. It does mean that they tend to be rather forgotten in what is often described as a period of wilderness for British cinema. This is rather unfair, as there are a number of fine films made during this decade that don't get the attention they should. A Private Function is a case in point.
The cast assembled for the film is simply one of the best I have ever seen in one movie. Look at the cast today and you would say it was star-studded; actually, many of these actors were not especially famous at the time (only Michael Palin, Maggie Smith, Denholm Elliott and Alison Steadman were really famous actors). Most of the others (Richard Griffiths, Pete Postlethwaite, Jim Carter, Liz Smith, Bill Paterson, Tony Haygarth) have achieved more recognition since. Their obvious talent and future potential was clear to see in this movie. As the fortunes of British films have improved since, their careers have duly flourished.
If the film has a weakness, it is that it is supposed to be a star vehicle for Michael Palin, and yet his character is utterly dull and boring. Palin has proved he is a very capable actor elsewhere and might have impressed more if the kind of effort Bennett put into developing the other characters had also been afforded to Palin's role. This is a minor point though, because the rest of the characters are so well scripted it doesn't seem to matter too much. Palin would probably be the first to admit that the film works because of the script's overall quality (Alan Bennett is simply one of Britain's most incisive comic minds) and because of the wonderful supporting cast, not because of the strength of his own character.
A Private Function is a relatively low budget and uniquely British film. The writing and the acting represent the very best of British cinema. It's a shame it doesn't get more recognition but the gentle wit, eccentric characters and lack of glamour and romance, plus the state the British film industry was in at the time it was made, probably meant that it was never destined to be a blockbuster. It does remain a very funny and at times quite barbed portrait of a particular period in 20th century British history.
Rising Damp (1980)
Denholm saves the day
According to dai-tyler from Staffordshire, I am not qualified to comment on this film because I didn't see it the first time round. Well, I'm going to ignore that because I think dai is ignoring the fundamental criticism people are making of this film. We are not saying the television series wasn't brilliant, it was absolutely brilliant. We are not saying the performances of the actors are inadequate, they are certainly anything but. The fact is that this film is an almost complete rehash of the same jokes and scenes that were used in the TV series. I would rather watch the TV series any day. I can only assume from his comments that dai never saw the TV series that spawned the film, because the original vintage was so much better.
Watching the film, I feel rather sorry for the great Leonard Rossiter and Frances de la Tour, as they really deserved more from this script than the same scenes they had played in the TV series. The best thing about the film is Denholm Elliott playing the part Henry McGee played in the TV series, only Elliott gives a more credible performance than McGee. Not for the first time in his acting career, nor the last, Elliott arrives in a supporting role and becomes the best reason to watch.
Probably time to stop worshipping this man
This was a reasonable documentary that caught up with '80s pop maverick Morrissey, who now lives in the lap of luxury in America. Still worshipped by legions of fans, lauded by trendy music critics and name-dropped by lots of recent bands, Morrissey remains a controversial and rather strange character. He proved in this documentary that he is still as funny and as acerbic as ever, although the music certainly isn't as fresh, vibrant or interesting as it was in the Smiths. The problem with the documentary, though, is that it demonstrated quite clearly that he still tends to stand against much more than he stands for. His devotion to vegetarianism has remained consistent, but his status as a political artist has no substance. He criticises Tony Blair and the Royals, just as he criticised Mrs Thatcher and the Royals back in his prime, but he offers no constructive, viable political views. He just criticises for the sake of it while living in opulence. He now represents the kind of wealth, luxury and smugness that his fans detested about his '80s pop contemporaries.
A funny, entertaining figure? Certainly. But a credible spokesman on the world's problems who should be taken as seriously as he obviously is by many? This documentary did nothing to quell my doubts about that.
A nice bit of nostalgia
I haven't watched the new series of Doctor Who but I am very much a fan of the old series, and so I therefore very much enjoyed the way this short programme reminded old viewers and informed new viewers of the history of the series as well as promoted the new version.
I particularly liked the way it showed clips from each of the Doctor's previous incarnations and had contributions (albeit short ones) from each of the living Doctors from the original TV series. Russell T Davies also makes interesting comments about how each Doctor reflected the times. To highlight this point about how the series and the individual Doctors changed with the context of the time, these clips are featured with a soundtrack of contemporary pop music.
With regard to the new series, this programme went behind the scenes and featured various contributions from the people responsible for bringing the show back to BBC One.
Certainly John Nettles' finest hour
Bergerac established John Nettles as one of the most famous television actors in the 1980s, something that he has continued to this day, although more recently in the considerably more pedestrian Midsomer Murders.
Bergarac certainly benefited from some excellent input from a remarkably broad range of quality TV figures like Robert Banks Stewart, Robert Holmes, Tristan DeVere Cole, Chris Boucher, Dennis Spooner, Tony Dow, Matthew Robinson, Bob Baker and Geoffrey Sax etc, and location filming on Jersey was regarded as rather exotic at the time.
I think I ought to correct Scooby-57's comment that this show made Louise Jameson famous. She was already very famous from her regular role in Doctor Who when the show regularly attracted about 13 million viewers and also her role in Tenko.
The Story of 'Doctor Who' (2003)
The challenge for the BBC in making "The Story of Doctor Who", which celebrated the 40th anniversary of the series, was to avoid a complete repeat of "30 Years in the TARDIS" and I have to say that, although this documentary featured many of the same people as the other documentary and you occasionally get a feeling of deja vu, there is enough sufficiently different to recommend it.
What really distinguishes this documentary is that it features new contributions from all the living actors to have played the character of the Doctor ("30 Years" was notable for the absence of Peter Davison and the most popular of the all the Doctors, Tom Baker).
Affectionate tribute to a comedy great
Presented by his old friend and Two Ronnies co-star Ronnie Corbett, this was a great tribute to a man who was Britain's favourite television comedy actor throughout the 1970s and 1980s. Many other comedy greats, including John Cleese, Michael Palin, David Jason, Ben Elton and Patricia Routledge pay tribute to him, along with modern comics such as Peter Kay, Rob Brydon and Johnny Vegas. Although this programme features clips from his many comedy incarnations, the true revelation of this show for the viewer was the true extent of the popularity of Barker as a person and the number of his colleagues over the years who have a genuine affection for him. David Jason, in particular, is clearly emotional during much of the proceedings. Barker appears in person towards the end and gives a short and modest speech of thanks.
Richard & Judy (2001)
The best comedy on the box
A great many people say that British comedy has gone down the toilet. Well, these people can't have seen Richard and Judy, a show packed with humour (albeit mostly unintentional). You can guarantee that in any given episode Judy will fluff every other line she has to speak and just look bewildered about most subjects and Richard will say something incredibly embarrassing to a guest or about Judy. Also very amusing was when they recruited Abi Titmuss as a reporter, who was only famous for being John Leslie's girlfriend, and then dropped her like a brick after sordid tabloid reports about her relationship with the aforementioned Mr Leslie. Somebody should have known better.
The Prince and the Pauper (1996)
Beautifully filmed and acted
This was a beautifully filmed BBC miniseries of the famed Mark Twain story, with a terrific cast including John Bowe as the devious Earl of Hertford, Peter Jeffrey (sadly in one of the great actor's last parts) as the kind Duke of Norfolk, James Purefoy as Miles Hendon and Keith Michell reprising the role of King Henry VIII that, of course, he was celebrated for playing in the legendary 1970s series "The Six Wives of Henry VIII". Youngster Philip Sarson played both Prince Edward and Tom Canty, and although he was just a boy he made quite a good job of the roles, especially when you take into consideration some of the distinguished actors with whom he had to share scenes. Perhaps he could have become a fine actor in his own right, but I suspect he has chosen another career path since. I would certainly watch this adaptation again if it was repeated.
A successful formula
I'm not a huge fan of GMTV and I don't think it compares favourably to its BBC One rival Breakfast in terms of its presentation, coverage or guests. It is far more frivolous and tacky (it is even keeping alive the career of the appalling Keith Chegwin). However it is clearly a successful formula, evidenced by its longevity, and occasionally it does feature an interesting guest, with recent examples such as the actors Ian McShane and Tom Baker, interviews I am pleased to say that I managed to catch. I agree with a previous reviewer, though, that at over three hours every day (most of which I do not and would have no intention to suffer), a lot of it is rather trashy and it could be much better. It would benefit from more quality guests and fewer transient soap and pop stars. But of course, as we well know, the latter are cheap and would turn up to the opening of an envelope, so that's presumably why we see so much of them.
Midsomer Murders (1997)
Go back to Jersey, Bergerac
In the 1980s, John Nettles was the star of an excellent BBC detective series called Bergerac, set in Jersey. In the late 1990s, a more girthsome Nettles assumed the lead of this blatant Inspector Morse rip-off. Like Morse, Nettle's character has a naive younger deputy and investigates murders in a pretty area of the country. Sound familiar? Of course it does. If only ITV would realize they aren't going to beat the great writing and central performance of Inspector Morse with the safe choice of John Nettles and some attractive scenery.
It isn't offensive, but it isn't inspired either, and John Nettles doesn't look too interested. Neither should you be.
Used to be good but lost its way
Heartbeat began with former EastEnders star (and wooden as my front door) Nick Berry as a London police constable who relocated to the North Yorkshire Moors in the 1960s. Based on Nicholas Rhea's real experiences of police life during that era, it was a worthy and authentic series that set out to address some of the pertinent issues of the time. Nick Berry's severe limitations when it came to expressing anything were compensated by the fantastic character performances of Derek Fowlds as tyrannical Sergeant Blaketon, William Simons as lazy, ageing Constable Ventress and Bill Maynard as local rogue Greengrass.
Unfortunately, the show progressively suffered from a series of departures. The excellent Niamh Cusack, who played Berry's wife, left to be succeeded by a less capable actress as his love interest. After about five years in the series, Nick Berry left. Berry's replacement, Jason Durr, was a better actor, but the writing was deteriorating and the series appeared to have run out of ideas. Two of the best characters were also replaced with very over the top and irritating substitutes; Bill Maynard left, to be replaced by Geoffrey Hughes and Derek Fowlds was replaced as Sergeant by Philip Franks. Four long years later, Franks was gone. Somehow, Ventress remained a serving officer, when he clearly looked too old by this time. Jason Durr left in 2003, to be replaced by young actor James Carlton, who has only lasted in the show for a year. These frequent changes in the cast have not helped the series. And Ventress is still there! How old does he have to get before they pension him off?
Heartbeat was once a fine and relevant drama, but it is now just decorative fluff. I am told it still gets good viewing figures, but I can only assume that is due to the attractive countryside, smart police uniforms and classic cars. It can't be the scripts.
Inspector Morse (1987)
The epitome of quality
I think most people would agree, whether British or not, that Inspector Morse represents everything that is good about British television. In January 1987, the first television episode of Colin Dexter's intelligent series of novels was broadcast. Inspector Morse was perfect - the beautiful scenery of Oxford, the classic red Jaguar, the classical music and a superb, and at times moving, central performance by the man his co-star Kevin Whately would later describe, after his untimely death in 2002, as Britain's finest screen actor.
Until it finished in 2000, Inspector Morse captivated large audiences, intrigued by its complex plots, the towering performance of John Thaw and its amazing roll call of quality guest actors. The series oozed class from every pore, and will always be the greatest jewel in the magnificent career of the late John Thaw. I really cannot find enough words to explain just how good I think Thaw was in so many of his television and film roles, but Morse was the character in which he proved to television viewers that he was not only versatile but had a rare depth.
The early episodes are certainly my favourites, as they were adapting the existing stories. Later, as they ran out of Dexter's stories, they began writing stories to keep the popular series going. But throughout, we learn more and more about the mysterious, emotionally repressed and rather sad Inspector. Without doubt, this is the greatest modern murder mystery franchise, and the series so many have tried, and failed, to emulate since.
A Touch of Frost (1992)
The poor man's Inspector Morse
Five years into the reign of John Thaw as Inspector Morse, ITV decided to treat viewers with another detective series. Unfortunately, David Jason can't cut it as a policeman. He is just far too short to be remotely convincing as a man who must have presumably joined the force in the 1950s or 1960s. I also think that, as an actor far better known for comedy work, he tries too hard in this series to play serious (he is simply better at comedy). A Touch of Frost also lacks the attractive locations which were a staple of Inspector Morse, resulting in it being far more dreary to look at. Some may argue that makes it more realistic, but I would recommend Between the Lines or Spender if viewers want to see gritty series' of that kind.
To summarize, I would have to say that A Touch of Frost, while not being an utterly terrible series, fails to reach the standard to match the best series' in the genre of police drama. The main problem, as I have previously stated, is with the lead actor. Had they cast another actor, instead of casting the big name comedy star desperate to prove he can cut it in the drama stakes, this series might have stood a better chance.
Big Impression (1999)
Simply awful, even Dead Ringers is better.
Alistair McGowan and Ronni Ancona manage something quite spectacular with this show; they manage to be even more annoying than the vacuous celebrities they impersonate. This programme stinks of everything that has been wrong with pre-watershed BBC One comedy for years. Skeletal scripts and the fact that no amount of makeup can make Alistair McGowan look like anybody other than Alistair McGowan result in what is a genuine contender for the most woeful "comedy" of all time.
Go watch Rory Bremner instead. See how it should be done. This show doesn't deserve to be put in the dustbin of history, but the incinerator.
Breakfast Time (1983)
And now for something completely different.
In January 1983, television changed forever when the BBC launched this extremely cosy show. There had never been early morning television like it before. It was presented by consummate veteran Frank Bough (cardigan man), leggy blonde Selina Scott and Nick Ross. David Icke was the sports presenter and diminutive Russell Grant brought astrology into the mainstream. Scott left the show in 1986 and moved to "The Clothes Show", Bough left in 1987 to concentrate on presenting "Holiday". In fact, things went downhill for just about every one of them soon afterwards. Bough got embroiled in sex and drugs scandals that effectively finished his long and distinguished career, Scott crossed Donald Trump and no longer gets work on the TV, Icke became the subject of ridicule when he declared that he was the son of God during an interview and became sidelined and Russell Grant never appears on mainstream TV anymore. Only Nick Ross still works as a mainstream presenter.
Body Bags (1993)
The first segment is worth seeing.
The first segment "The Gas Station" is the only frightening story in this trilogy. Set at night, apparently in the middle of nowhere, it has a plausibilty that the others lack (similarly to Hitchcock's "Psycho", it is scary because it's not completely beyond the realms of possibility). Plenty of atmosphere, a little gore and enough sudden shocks and suspense to make it worthwhile. The second segment is at times funny, but not at all scary. The third is an improvement on the second, but more fantastical than the first and therefore not as frightening.
The scenes with the man in the morgue, between the segments, are pretty weird. Lots of jokes about corpses. Fine, if you like that sort of thing.
The Terminator (1984)
Frightening thriller that defines a genre for a new era.
I don't care much for Schwarzenegger and actors of his kind. His attempts at light comedy, for example, have been little short of embarrassing. This genre is his forte. His lines are thankfully kept to a minimum and even I have to admit that the sight of the Austrian with his gun and shades is one of the most striking images of modern cinema.
We gather right from the start that Schwarzenegger, newly arrived in LA from thin air, is a dangerous proposition when he rips the heart from a punk who dares to challenge him. However, elsewhere in the same city, another figure arrives in exactly the same way and proceeds to steal the clothes from a tramp and then gets chased by the police. If the first man is the Terminator, who is the second? And what will follow?
What does follow is one of the most exhilarating rides a cinema audience could ever wish to be taken on. A pleasantly attractive girl's very ordinary life is turned upside down. Schwarzenegger is right for the role of emotionless killer and Linda Hamilton is brilliant. A criticism that might be levelled at the film is that it is slightly sexist, but it could have been worse. Cameron could easily have fallen into the trap of casting a Bruce Willis type to play her guardian, but instead went for the little known Biehn, who hardly fits the tough guy image and in fact portrays a very human and bruised hero, armed with a police rifle only, who clearly contrasts with the enormous Terminator. A great dramatic device.
The Terminator is not the first screen cyborg but he overshadows his predecessors. His superhuman strength, mechanical advance against everything and complete lack of restraint is horrifying. He is just a programmed computer with a clear motive and does not kill everybody he encounters. There are many times in the film when he ignores people, brushes them aside or causes them damage but lets them live. Kyle and Sarah have to cope with the fact that he can turn up at any time. Perhaps the most frightening scene in a very scary movie is when they are in police custody, with Kyle in isolation because he is believed to be schizophrenic, and the Terminator turns up, systematically kills every cop in the station and it is simply a case, for the second time, of who will get to Sarah first.
The film does have a plot, which is simple and effective for a thriller, but also has a human message which it does not let you forget. The film has one of the most meaningful sex scenes in a film (how often do you see a sex scene in a film that actually, shock horror, turns out to be the conception of a child, and one that is wanted) and a great twist is that we find Kyle is the father of the man who will become such a threat to the Terminator and the machines that are set to take over the world.
A scary movie with hardly any cheap shock moments, a fantastic theme tune and soundtrack and a story less about a murderer and more about a couple of good people. A film that must really frighten Americans, who seem to think (and this movie confirms it) that bullets are the answer to problems. Well, not this one. The Terminator is not a boo-hiss pantomime villain, just a machine that has a task. He doesn't dwell on anything and when he kills does it quickly and efficiently. Just what will stop this creature? There is a little comic relief, provided mostly by Winfield, Henriksen and Boen, but it isn't the annoying comedy its sequel often is.
Viewing the film is certainly a disturbing experience, but it is difficult to tear away from. A film which must be seen by fans of the thriller or sci-fi genres.
The Night Caller (1965)
Quintessential British 60's sci-fi (possible SPOILER).
If you're familiar with the Patrick Troughton and Jon Pertwee episodes of the BBC series "Doctor Who" that were set on Earth you will almost certainly enjoy this film from 1965. In fact, The Night Caller appears to have had a substantial impact on the British series, with the opening scene of the film with the radar screen almost exactly duplicated five years later for the opening scene of Jon Pertwee's first Dr Who adventure. The film also has that fine actor Maurice Denham playing a Dr Who type and the frequent involvement of the army in that era of the TV series is mirrored by the brief involvement of the army in this movie. One of Denham's assistants, played by Patricia Haines, also reminds me of Pertwee's scientist companion Liz Shaw in Dr Who.
The theme tune at the beginning is wonderfully reminiscent of the 60's and sounds classic. The film is nearly spoilt by the terribly bland, square-jawed John Saxon playing an American whose presence in the film doesn't make much sense. The black and white picture is a major asset, helping the atmosphere superbly. There are supporting actors worthy of mention, including Warren (Till Death Us Do Part) Mitchell, Ballard Berkeley (the Major from Fawlty Towers) and the creepy character actor Aubrey Morris, all of whom are sadly underused.
The plot is satisfactory but rather thin (at least it's not convoluted) and the film proves to be fairly enjoyable sci-fi but not frightening by any means (except perhaps for the part at the end when you see a brief image of the alien's face). There is a definite lack of chemistry between the characters and not enough time to develop any (unfortunately Denham's character gets killed long before the film's conclusion). In its favour, the movie doesn't try anything too ambitious for its budget and consequently still looks good today. In short, The Night Caller is worth watching for fans of old British sci-fi.
Watch Your Stern (1960)
Great comic performances by Kenneth Connor.
I watched this film on British television quite a long time ago. I remember it as being a perfectly acceptable black and white British comedy, in the style of the better Carry On movies. Despite a cast of successful British comic actors, it is really memorable for the performances of star Kenneth Connor, whose character I seem to recall disguises himself as a woman and a Scottish scientist (there may have been other disguises that I can't remember so well). Connor was surely the most versatile and underrated actor of the Carry On ensemble, and this film showcases him at his best.
Jonathan Creek (1997)
What is it about these mystery series'?
I can't believe so many people are so crazy about a show which stars one of the most bland and dull actors ever to appear in front of a camera. It's immediately clear to even the biggest idiot that Alan Davies is not a proper actor, just a comedian who made the mistake of thinking he could extend his range further than just telling jokes. What is it with mystery series'? Why do producers of these programmes choose the most bland and lifeless actors they can possibly find to take the starring roles? In the US you had The X-Files and David Duchovny; our equivalent it would seem is Jonathan Creek and Alan Davies.