The Dobermann Always Rings Twice

The Dobermann Always Rings Twice

Flipside: The Bodies Beneath

RantPosted by Dobermann Sat, May 25, 2019 18:16:25
The Bodies Beneath: The Flipside of British Film & Television by William Fowler and Vic Pratt. Strange Attractor Press.

Written by the originators of the British Film Institute's Flipside Initiative, later immortalised as a series of DVD/BluRay sets, this 400 page book reviews the more obscureBritish cult movies and TV.

In their introduction, William Fowler and Vic Pratt question whether, "the original 'cult' films, as first celebrated by such pioneering film-writers as Danny Peary back in the 1980's (have) more recently become art of the mainstream canon?" They go on to admit that The Bodies Beneath is, "part of our own personal mission to figure it all out in an enjoyable way, rather than allowing traditional cultural guardians or marketing departments to decide for us."

Although segregated into thematic chapters, The Bodies Beneath is probably best read by starting at the index, to see what will catch your eye. Peter Falk: Page 42 - reflecting, "I have never played a scene with an actor who commanded my attention the way Pat(rick McGoohan) did." Terry & June: Page 311 - Nigel Kneale's Kinvig "more like a cross between Terry and June and Steptoe and Son" than( Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy)".

Perhaps predictably, the subject's range from exploitation film-maker Andy Milligan to forgotten sex comedies like Under the Doctor (Barry Evans, who had left the Doctor in the House TV series allegedly made this film to finance a theatre company) ("the sex factor diminishes as the film goes on, like a drunkard's member"). But unexpectedly, there's a penetrating article on Sooty and the difference between the psychological depth of the Harry Corbett episodes, and the more corporate productions after son Matthew was forced to take over the family business. We're told that musician Steve Race heard Harry, along with Sooty in an adjoining hotel room in 1953, howling with laughter when he first thought of Sooty hitting him on the head with a hammer. Watching a 1957 episode we're told that "the humour escalates to even more absurd, dreamlike and childish extremes with seemingly no limitations on what is a 'good influence' on the kiddies."

Among the other delights are John Bowen's Robin Readbreast, Wendy Toye's The Stranger Left No Calling Card, and a fascinating examination of Cooking Price-Wise the legendary 1971 Thames TV series in which horror king Vincent Price instructed UK housewives how to cook for a gourmet and make a chess set out of cheese. In the interests of full commercial disclosure it's worth pointing out that the book also includes articles on Colin Baker's ill-fated reign as Dr Who and Patrick McGoohan's outing as Danger Man (including the claustrophobic Don't Nail Him Yet in which Drake impersonates a socially-awkward schoolteacher to shadow reserved defector John Fraser - "Danger meant earning someone's confidence through a shared shyness.").

So what's 'The Bodies Beneath' like? It's like a big pie - a big Christmas Pie that you buy at a pub. You don't know what the hell a Christmas pie is but you figure you'll give it a try. And once you've prised the crust away and run your fork through it, you say what about that? A bit of Will Hay and 'The War Game', 'All The Right Noises' and 'Electric Dreams' and that BBC documentary Dan Farson made about his Uncle Bram Stoker and vampires. That's what I call a Christmas Pie!


The Bodies Beneath - Strange Attractor £15.99













Reckless Opportunists

RantPosted by Dobermann Sat, May 25, 2019 14:52:27
With Brexit unfulfilled, a party leader to elect and another election possible, there has never been a better time to read Aeron Davis' Reckless Opportunists: Elites at the end of the Establishment (Manchester University Press).

Written after 20 years of talking to individuals in power, it seeks to explain our new generation of leaders, "plugged into power, money or both: someone who knows where their interests lie." But not really in charge. Neither expert nor visionary, nor really in control. "Too many are just reckless opportunists making the best of what they have amid the chaos they have helped create."

Davis explores the way in which neoliberalism, preaching a smaller state, poorer employees, and untaxed capital, has undermined the Establishment which relies on security, law and social stability. Both Blair and Cameron refashioned their parties as "election winners rather than representative parties," leading to a fall in membership and the 2016 election in which the political elite, "were given a good kicking."

At the same time, ambitious civil servants learned the only path to advancement was cutting their own departments and company directors came under pressure from investors to take decisions which would create short term gain and long term pain.

According to Davis, politicians with expertise or experience of the outside world have gradually been replaced by PPE graduates, most of whom work in think-tanks or other political organisations before standing for Parliament. Once elected, the ambitious MP is moved from post-to-post relying on briefs from Civil Servants and party advisors to plug the gaps. The same principle applies to company executives and journalists. "Being a leader means subcontracting out judgement to others who may, or may not, have hidden agenda. It means confidently speaking lines that others have written for you."

Cynics will take comfort in the chapter exploring public consultations, which quotes a former permanent secretary saying, "..many a consultation has already decided the outcome by the time you get to the formal public stage." The same chapter observes that, "in public, elites of all kinds refer to economist opinions as almost scientific facts. But in private, personal experience shows that too much of economics is too abstract for personal application."

Yet despite this, everyone sticks to the party line. Davis quotes the story of Tony Dye, one of the few fund managers who saw through the dot-com boom but spoke too soon. "Those people who had done the wrong thing - in finance - in politics - had not only survived, they had flourished."

Davis concludes that the people who run our Government, Business and Finances may be highly educated, but they are far less in control than we think. "They follow more than they lead."

Davis ends by suggesting "Systems and Principles for reigning in the Elite" in order to produce more appropriate leaders. Although, as he says elsewhere, turkey's rarely vote for Christmas.

Reckless Opportunists by Aeron Davis - £9.99 Manchester University Press







Maggie Smith - A German Life

RantPosted by Dobermann Sun, May 05, 2019 12:54:37
Eine Kleine Nacht Musing - Dr Terror on A German Life at the Bridge Theatre


A universal standing ovation for Maggie Smith was thoroughly deserved. For an uninterrupted period of over an hour and a half, she had sat and talked, bringing to life the enigmatic and unassuming figure of Brunhilde Pomsel who had been a typist for Josef Geobbels, an ordinary cog in the Nazi machine.

It made for deeply uncomfortable viewing (do you laugh at some of the evident ironies that hindsight affords, including her assertion that, of course, nothing like that could happen now? Some did, but it was more a release of stress than anything else). Thoughts about the 'banality of evil' and Edmund Burke's assertion that for it to triumph, it is only necessary that the good do nothing dominated your thoughts.

Based on a 2016 Austrian documentary film interviewing Pomsel herself, aged over a century, Maggie Smith's performance was utterly convincing and, talking directly to the audience, seductively understated. Suggesting she was merely caught up in events of the time, every stutter, every pause seems to carry meaning. There is regret but nothing you could really call remorse - even a sense of having been mistreated. There is the evident fascination with the rallies, the propaganda and with Goebbels himself. How much blame should attach to her and others like her?

The script initially called for filmed excerpts but these did not feature in the finished staging. Instead sound was used at various times to suggest the atmosphere of the times and subtly so. It was the right decision - it did not distract from the intimacy of the staging as her lone figure sat in a room and talked and talked. Gradually, the light outside grew thinner until darkness came. It matched completely the mood of the revelations.

It was an astonishing portrayal, all the more disturbing for its understatement.





The Geordie in When The Boat Comes In

RantPosted by Dobermann Sun, April 21, 2019 06:29:10
Recent controversy about M.P.'s drinking habits reminded me of 'Friends, Romans, Countrymen' the 24 March 1981 episode of When The Boat Comes In, and Geordie Watson MP, another vivid creation of James Mitchell played by former Z Cars star Ian Cullen. Mitchell uses Watson to explore the differences between members of the Labour party and the expectations we have of Labour politicians.
We first meet Geordie Watson (centre above) in the 21 Jan 1977 episode The Way It Was In Murmansk . In Gallowshield 1921, the local Labour movement ask Jack Ford (James Bolam, above right) to speak at an election rally. Geordie's agent Stan Liddle (Roger Avon, above left) doesn't trust fitters union secretary Ford and refuses to enter into deals. The more astute, if lugubrious Geordie recognises that Jack has the skills he needs to win over voters. And he convinces Stan to agree to Jack's terms.

Jack makes an impassioned speech ("a vote is a weapon, as strong as any hammer...it's a weapon some of you are too daft to use") and also packs the crowd with stooges to get the right reaction. We later learn in the 20 October 1977 episode Debts Owed, Debts Paid that Geordie has been elected to parliament but Stan has not followed through on their deal. Jack ensures that the debt is paid.
Stan and Geordie return in the final series episode Friends, Romans, Countrymen (24 March 1981). Now set in London, 1936, Stan (above centre) has walked 300 miles to London from Gallowshield as part of a March for Jobs. At a drill hall, Geordie discusses tactics with Labour Party candidate Mrs Lawrence (Louie Ramsey, above left). Mrs Lawrence is one of the new breed of upper class intellectual socialists. Geordie tells her to stop calling him "Comrade". He tells her, "I'm a Democratic Socialist, Mrs Lawrence, not a Marxist, and I'm not one to sail under false colours." There is strong debate about whether the marchers should walk back to Tyneside or accept train travel paid for by Mrs Lawrence's fundraising. "Just imagine what the newspapers would make of the marchers travelling back by train!"
The script must have under-run on this episode as the scenes of the entitled rich dancing and drinking at Mrs Lawrence's fundraising 'Roman Orgy' go on far too long. But the sequence does re-unite Jack Ford with his lost love Jessie (Susan Jameson) last seen in the 22 Sep 1977 episode My Bonnie Lass, Goodbye.

It also shows Geordie worrying over privileged information he's given Jack about an oil company wanting to build a Refinery at Gallowshield (allowing Jack to buy up the land they need to build on). Jack tries to keep him from worrying that he's betrayed his class. "Only politicians use words like betrayal." Jack tops up his glass of champagne and Geordie tells him, "I like champagne so I drink it. Back home I drink Bitter. I don't like it, but I drink it."

The sub-text of the episode is all about appearances. No-one would raise an eyebrow at a Conservative or Liberal candidate drinking champagne, but Labour MP's are always supposed to stick to Bitter. James Mitchell's script quotes from Julius Caesar and the sub-text of this episode may well be that some men are born to champagne, some achieve champagne and others have champagne thrust upon them.

Read more about When The Boat Comes In here





The Brave & The Bold: Callan & Captain Scarlet

RantPosted by Dobermann Thu, April 04, 2019 10:17:06
Watching Callan - "If He Can, So Could I" on Talking Pictures TV recently reminded me of the comic strip sequel young Harry Dobermann penned back in 1972. In the interests of brevity, I will recreate this lost piece of TV merchandising history in the style of the "Mission Reports" from the 1990's Fleetway Captain Scarlet Comic.

1972: as agent James Cross lay dying in a College courtyard, the power of the Mysterons pierced time and space to create his exact likeness under their control.
2070: "We the Mysterons will ensure Colonel White is never born, by assassinating his Great Grandfather!" On Cloudbase Colonel White responded to the latest Mysteron threat, "Although I have a vested interest, I hope you will agree Captain Scarlet, that the fate of mankind depends on your actions!". Doctor Fawn had reconstructed the time belt of Professor Blishen (*See 'Lost in Time' TV21 Annual 1970). Colonel White ordered Scarlet to journey back in time to thwart the Mysterons!

1972: Lonely steered his cab through the London streets. As Cross sat impassively in the back seat, Lonely radioed Control that he was bringing "Mr Poncey Pants back to base!". In the Section, Callan exploded, "Cross? But he's dead!"


Lonely hit the brakes. Standing in the middle of the street was Captain Black, pointing his futuristic gun at the cab's windscreen. Cross stepped out of the cab, to meet his Mysteron commander.
Lonely edged out of the driver's seat, but Cross grabbed his collar in a steely grip! At that moment Captain Scarlet materialised out of the future, locating Black through his strange sixth sense!
As Scarlet and Black exchanged gunshots, Callan and Meres arrived on the scene. Callan was astounded to see Cross standing next to Lonely. As Captain Black turned his gun on the newcomers, Scarlet moved to intercede. Meres and Callan instinctively drew their pistols, dropping both Black and Scarlet!

Cross smugly raised his hands in surrender as Callan ordered Meres to load the two bodies in Lonely's cab and take them back to Section headquarters. Lonely climbed back into his cab muttering, "I wish someone would tell me what was going on!"

At the Section, Doctor Snell reported to Callan. Although Scarlet and Black were dead, their bullet wounds appeared to be healing. As for the live prisoner, every test showed that the man in their custody was Cross. "So who the hell was shot at Cambridge?" Callan demanded.

Before Snell could answer, Meres' voice crackled over the intercom. "David! The Man in Black's come back to life! He's freed Cross! I've got them covered but I need help!" "Stay here!" Callan snapped to Snell, grabbing his pistol and diving into the corridor.
Callan and Meres opened fire, but Captain Black and Cross were unstoppable.

Suddenly, Captain Scarlet burst out of the morgue. He opened fire with his anti-Mysteron gun, electrocuting Cross. "Only this can kill a Mysteron" he told Callan.

As Meres covered the lifeless body of Cross, the Mysterons dematerialised Captain Black. Scarlet's strange sixth sense alerted him to a futuristic device left behind by Black. A micro-bomb! Scarlet swiftly deactivated the device before it could explode!
"Everything's safe now," Captain Scarlet told Callan as Dr Snell entered the corridor. Scarlet turned to Snell and said, "I can't explain, but if the Mysterons had killed you, the whole future of Earth would have been threatened!"
Captain Scarlet triggered his time-belt and returned to the 21st Century. Meres and Snell exchanged bewildered glances with Callan who sank behind his desk saying, "I hate to think how I'll write this one up!"



The Macra Terror

RantPosted by Dobermann Sun, March 31, 2019 10:03:39
The "wiped" 1967 Patrick Troughton Dr Who serial, The Macra Terror is now out as a cartoon recreation on BBC DVD. As someone who watched Dr Who from its earliest days, I'm extremely pleased to have had a chance to finally watch this story.

I remember coming across a photo of The Macra in the 1970's (I think it was a Countdown Dr Who Summer Special) and thinking "what the hell is that?" No memory of the story at all! And another mystery is solved - the buildings in the background looked oddly utilitarian. I now know (thanks to the DVD special features) that this wasn't part of the TV show. The photo was taken at the industrial unit of Shawcraft Models, the firm to which the BBC contracted its early special effects such as the Daleks.

Doing a bit more detective work, I've also deduced that it was screened during the period in 1967 when ABC (the ITV contractor for the North and Midlands) screened Batman opposite Dr Who. So it was always a bit of a gamble - you could watch the first part of a Dr Who story on Saturday, miss the first part of Batman and catch up with the second part of Batman ("Same Bat-Time, Same Bat-Channel.") on Sunday. And if the Dr Who didn't look too promising, you could stick with Batman for the next three Saturdays and then dip back in to Dr Who when a new story began.

So, I imagine The Macra Terror must have come across as pretty unpromising back in 1967. It comes across as the kind of story that might have been dramatized on Out of the Unknown - a colony on an alien planet descended from a generation ship sent out of Earth (the leader is called 'The Pilot'). 'Brainwashing' of various degrees is carried out in the colony - from cheerleaders and sloganizing to 'deep sleep' suggestions. And at the heart of the story is a big dollop of Quatermass II. No wonder Nigel Kneale hated Dr Who.

The Macra Terror has two connections with The Plane Makers. John Harvey, who played the Aviation Minister, features here as Officia (above), who maintains the gas pumping system at the heart of the story (anticipating Alien the colonists have been sent out to mine gas - a hot topic back in 1967 with the first North Sea Gas coming on-line). The Pilot is played by Peter Jeffrey, who was James Cameron-Grant MP in The Plane Makers.

Jeffrey is pretty good in a very ambiguous role. How much does he know? How much is he under control? The mind flips back to Cameron-Grant struggling with the demands of the Whip's office, and deciding whether to throw his fortunes in with John Wilder.

Another big surprise is Gertan Klauber, as Ola the security chief. Usually cast in small ethnic roles, Klauber is excellent here. Again, how much is brainwashing? How much of a career zealot is he?

Probably the saddest part of the story is seeing Michael Craze as Ben betraying his companions. From a dramatic viewpoint it's good to see a leading character fall under the mind control. But you can't help feeling that poor Michael Craze is being lined up for a fall, with Frazer Hines' Jamie going four-square as the heroic lead, and the audience being encouraged to boo and hiss craze. This is just before Ben and Polly would leave the series in 'The Faceless Ones' and the writing is on the wall.

One factor which may have led to the wiping of the original tapes was that the production team were unhappy with the limited nature of the Macra model. Director John Davies had to do a lot of creative camera-work to bring the monsters to life. The producers of the animated version took the view that they would be faithful to the original while also reimagining it. Thunderbirds merchandising artist Graham Bleathman contributed background paintings far more ambitious than anything the limited budgets of the BBC set designers could have achieved, while the Macra in the animated version actually walk as intended by scriptwriter Ian Stuart Black.

The DVD contains a pile of interesting Special Features, including a Super 8mm Film of the Shawcraft Models workshop. I love the opening sequence (above) of the Dalek trundling along the street towards the workshop, as much for that view of the houses with their rickety wooden fences and timber-frame windows.

Since Shawcraft come in for some stick for the Macra monster, it's also good to get a balanced view of the other work they were doing at the time, such as the gradual assembly of the flying car model from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. That was out in the cinemas December 1968 so this really was all coming together at the same time.

The animated film is a wonderful achievement. The extras include a few surviving shots from the original TV show, and comparing them side-by-side you know there's no way a cartoon can compare with Anneke Wills screaming in the flesh. But accepting we don't have the original, the cartoon really brings the soundtrack to life. Some gains, some losses, but on the whole I view this as a brand new Dr Who adventure I've never seen before.






Murder She Wrote: it Runs In The Family

RantPosted by Dobermann Mon, March 25, 2019 05:36:16
As part of the Silver Screen Suppers, Murder She Wrote Cookalong (http://www.silverscreensuppers.com/the-murder-she-wrote-cookalong ) I've been watching It Runs In The Family , the episode which inspired my choice of recipe.

There are two Patrick Wymark connections - it stars Richard Johnson who was a founding member of Peter Hall's Royal Shakespeare Company along with Wymark. Johnson and Wymark played brothers in A Question of Hell , Kingsley Amis' 1964 update of The Duchess of Malfi , and later starred as Duncan Sandys in Operation Crossbow where Wymark played his father-in-law, Winston Churchill. The episode also stars John Standing, who played opposite Wymark in The Psychopath (and plays Quive Smith in the recent DVD release of Rogue Male ).


It Runs In The Family is an odd episode. There were several 'deadline doom' episodes of Murder She Wrote where Jessica Fletcher comes on at the start to introduce a story about a guest detective like Jerry Orbach or Keith Michell. It Runs In The Family is a story about Jessica's English cousin, Emma MacGill, a 'music hall' performer. But Emma is played by Angela Lansbury! Jessica Fletcher doesn't appear at all! There's just a passing mention at the end when Emma says solving murders must run in the family!

Written by producer Peter S Fisher, the episode opens in the Dick Van Dyke Arms, where Emma is drinking a pint of beer with fellow Cockernees. Christopher Hewitt (Roger DeBris in The Producers ) plays a solicitor who offers her £1000 to visit the dying Viscount Blackraven, who she used to know as Geoffrey Constable (Richard Johnson). They were once in love, but didn't marry for reasons to do with class. Emma turns down the £1000 but agrees to visit Geoffrey who tells her that he's always regretted not marrying her ("I left my heart in a music hall in Newberry"). It may sound cliched, but Johnson and Lansbury are genuinely affecting as reunited lovers, struggling with past regrets. This may well be the moment when Angela Lansbury told Johnson, "You're an actor, Laddy. What are you doing wasting your time as a film producer?"


Unfortunately, Geoffrey is ill with a heart complaint. He doesn't have long to live. He tells Emma he's leaving her, "a little house in Tuxford on the River Trent", which turns out to be a country house with income. This doesn't impress the delectable Carolyn Seymour playing Pauline, the ambitious wife of his cousin Arthur Constable (John Standing). Her husband is next in line to the title, and she doesn't want to see any of the family fortune diluted this close to jackpot time.

Johnson and Lansbury go out for an idyllic picnic, where he tells her he's starting to feel a little better, just before he keels over from what is later revealed to be strychnine in his favourite pickled herring. Anthony Newley as Inspector Frost (not that one, although he seems to have been watching David Jason's chippy performance) soon deduces that Emma could have been set up as the killer. She packed the picnic basket but left it in the hall while she went to change. Someone could have poisoned the herring knowing only Geoffrey would eat it. since she made it plain the evening before that she couldn't stand pickled herring! Emma and Frost conspire to unmask the real killer.

With a packed house full of hungry relatives and hangers on (including Jane Leeves from Frasier ) the episode is a passable pastiche of an Agatha Christie mystery (and without The Mirror Crack'd would we have had Murder She Wrote ?). Although the episode is credited to producer Fischer, it's possible that script editor Philip Gerson may also have had a hand in this. John Standing is his usual affable self. Once he's inherited the Lordship he tries to downplay his wife's ambition, telling the twittery vicar, "Do drop all this titles business" (ironically, Wikipedia tells us that Standing is the 4th Baronet, whose family used to own Bletchley Park, although he never uses the title). Carolyn Seymour is appropriately haughty but clearly not as well-bred as she likes to make out. We know who we want the murderer to be. But who is it?






A Host of Hunters ?

RantPosted by Dobermann Mon, March 18, 2019 21:36:56
The February 1976 episode of When the Boat Comes In is 'Paddy Boyle's Discharge' by James Mitchell. Set in Tyneside 1920, unemployed shipfitter Jack Ford (James Bolam) is invited to a meeting by former WW1 comrade Sid Hepburn (George Irving). Hepburn and Bartram (Patrick Durkin) are serving in the 'Black and Tans', the para-military force assisting the Royal Irish Constabulary at a princely ten shillings a day.


At the station hotel, Jack Ford meets Captain Leslie (Terrence Hardiman) who says Ford's war record showed he worked as an interrogator for intelligence in Murmansk. Leslie tries to recruit Ford to the new Auxiliary Division as an interrogator against the Irish nationalists. "I can get all the thugs and prizefighters I need. I want brains!"

Coincidentally or not, the Callan episode, 'The Worst Soldier I Ever Saw' by James Mitchell featured Ronald Radd as Colonel Leslie. The story had been held over from the first series of Callan in which Radd had played "Hunter", Callan's controller. When the decision was taken to incorporate the episode in the second series, new scenes were filmed to show Radd agreeing to stand-in for his replacement as "Hunter" - Derek Bond.

In 'The Worst Soldier I Ever Saw' , to distinguish him from the existing "Hunter", Radd's character was named as Colonel Leslie. Was this just a coincidence? Or was Terrence Hardiman playing the father of Callan's controller?





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