Clockwise – Ball Trap On The Cote Sauvage – tape 864

Sometimes, when digitising these tapes, the tape is in a bit of a state. This is an example, with sync problems so bad that I ended up stopping the recording, rewinding and trying again, which fixed it.

I’m glad I did, as this Christmas BBC 1 ident is just smashing.

And so to the first film on here, Clockwise. I love this movie. So well constructed.

John Cleese stars as the pathologically punctual headmaster of a comprehensive school who has been appointed chairman of the Headmaster’s Conference, and has to travel to Norwich to give his speech.

It’s nice to see that he uses a BBC Micro for his timetabling.

I like the fact that, although he is insufferably strict about timekeeping, he does seem to have a slight rapport with the children at school, judging by the laughter he can elicit at assembly.

He certainly doesn’t approve of the music teacher slinking in to assembly late, just in time to play ‘He Who Would Valiant Be’. The louch music teacher is played by Stephen Moore, with the amusing tic that I don’t think he ever finishes a sentence. He’s even called Mr Jolly

His obviously long-suffering wife is played by Alison Steadman, upset that he doesn’t want to take her to the conference.

She drives him to the station, where he gets on the wrong train because he has a habit of saying ‘right’ all the time and doesn’t listen carefully enough to the station staff telling him the train is on the left.

His wife stayed long enough to make sure the train left on time, then went to take three old ladies for a drive in the country. These ladies are lovely, one of them (Joan Hickson) won’t shut up about a relative and the various keepsakes and pieces of family property they’ve ‘taken’ from various family members.

After looking in vain for his wife at home, he almost literally runs in to a car driven by one of his pupils, played by Sharon Maiden. and in desperation asks her to drive him to Norwich.

Steadman sees them at the petrol station, and assumes that Cleese is having an affair with Maiden. She decides to drive to Norwich and confront him.

Maiden’s parents, Pat Keen and Geoffrey Hutchings,  believe that he has kidnapped her, and are also in hot pursuit.

Keen talks ten to the dozen, telling the police that her husband is absolutely livid, like a coiled spring, but Hutchings never says a word, just stands there clutching his helmet.

Maiden, we learn, has just broken up with her boyfriend, which is why she’s initially happy to take him to Norwich. And, because this is a farce, her boyfriend is music teacher Stephen Moore.

Stopping to try (and fail) to call the Headmaster’s Conference to tell them he’d be late, he meets Penelope Wilton, an old acquaintance from Teacher Training college, who knew him when he was always perpetually late. She ends up reluctantly driving them to Norwich, until they get lost and stuck in a field.

The cast in this is quite remarkable. Tony Haygarth plays a farmer who’s sitting on a tractor (which is hidden behind a hedge) and has an amused conversation with Cleese as he asks where he might find a tractor.

Michael Aldridge plays the Prior of a monastery where Cleese searches for a tractor.

Farmer Haygarth tows the car there anyway, but Wilton, still angry at having been co-opted, takes the car to drive home, leaving Cleese and Maiden to hitchhike. At this point, Cleese has resigned himself to missing the conference, but now it’s Maiden who seems to want him to get there, even going to the extreme of luring a car salesman into woods to steal his suit and his porsche.

Meanwhile, at the Headmaster’s Conference, everyone in pursuit of Cleese is arriving, to the confusion and consternation of the assembled headmasters – not a woman in sight, I see. Even here, the cast is quite starry (for me, anyway). Including, I’m devastated to say, Benjamin Whitrow, who sadly died only a week ago as I write this. Another victim of the blog’s Death Watch, I’m afraid.

(That’s Nicholas LeProvost next to him).

Geoffrey Palmer is another headmaster.

A familiar character actor Peter Cellier is another.

Cleese does manage to get to the conference, and gives his speech, slightly deviating from his prepared text, as he treats the conference like a school assembly. It’s a lovely piece of writing, by Michael Frayn.

And then, when Cleese leaves, to be greeted by multiple police cars wanting to arrest him, the headmasters all rush to the windows like schoolboys to see the scenes.

And I should also mention that the final scenes of the police cars leaving was filmed at the University of Birmingham, like Nice Work recently.

BBC Genome: BBC One – 25th December 1989 – 22:20

After this, recording switches to Ball-Trap on the Cote Sauvage. A comedy by Andrew Davies about some British families camping in France. Among the cast is Zoe Wanamaker and Jack Shepherd.

Michael Kitchen and Miranda Richardson

Shepherd has a bookshelf in his tent – with a Doctor Who book to boot.

Peter Howitt is creepily interested in the hard-to-reach nudist beach.

Terry Sue Patt (Benny Green from Grange Hill) appears as ‘Young Fitness’.

It’s whimsically entertaining when it’s in Nuts in May territory, with eccentric British holidaymakers. Less entertaining when the men seem to think about nothing but sex. But thankfully there’s not too much of that.

BBC Genome: BBC One – 27th December 1989 – 21:30

The tape ends right after this programme.

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The Wonder Years – tape 913

More of Kevin’s angsty underage lusting. He’s back with Winnie Cooper for this episode at least.

They’re invited to a party where making out is, apparently, compulsory. If this programme is representative of actual experience, it’s no wonder so many Americans are messed up, with such huge social pressure to conform to the norms of teen behaviour.

When I was a lot younger, I used to find this charming. As a parent of children close to Kevin’s age, I’m starting to find it creepier and creepier.

The next episode sees the kids tasked with writing their own obituaries, which seems a bit dark.

The parents are worrying about their tax return, as they’ve misplaced their tax receipts.

And on TV, the Apollo 13 astronauts are in trouble. That alone is enough to make me cry.

Next, sports.

In the next episode, Kevin is still having problems with maths, and when his maths teacher dies, he still manages to make it all about him.

After this, recording continues with the start of a documentary called Declaration of a Heretic, about a man campaigning against genetic modification in people. I think. I didn’t watch it. The tape ends during this programme.

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Monty Python’s Flying Circus – CinemAttractions – tape 910

Back to the repeats of Monty Python. The first episode here is the sixth in the first series, and the very beginning has been missed by the recording.

Sketches include the Gangsters who don’t do anything illegal.

Eric Idle blacks up to play a native American.

Who’s the chap on the right? He has lines and everything.

Here he is again, next to a rare in-sketch Terry Gilliam.

Ah – the credits reveal he’s Ian Davidson, better known as a writer – he wrote the Ronnie Corbett sitcom Sorry, and he appears in a few episodes of Monty Python, not just this one.

BBC Genome: BBC Two – 4th January 1990 – 21:00

Before the next episode there’s the end of an episode of Wideworld.

There’s a trailer for Colin’s Sandwich.

Then, another Monty Python, featuring scotsmen and a blancmange.

BBC Genome: BBC Two – 11th January 1990 – 21:00

The next episode is, apparently, different to the listing in Radio Times, which will make locating its genome tricky. I’m just going to assume this was the next week.

The main sketch here is the Lumberjack sketch.

BBC Genome (probably): BBC Two – 18th January 1990 – 21:00

I think the next episode is also not as billed, as it appears to be the tenth episode.

BBC Genome: BBC Two – 25th January 1990 – 21:00

After this, recording switches, and there’s an ITN news bulletin, including a report about an eclipse of the moon.

Then, an episode of Cinemattractions. It’s like a youtube trailer channel, but on TV.

Among the films covered here are:

There’s a behind the scenes of Harlem Nights. It featured director Eddie Murphy, and co-stars Redd Foxx and Richard Pryor.

After this, recording continues, with the start of a concert for Rainforest and Elephant conservation. Including an earnest contribution from Thomas Dolby.

The tape ends during this.

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Sleuth – tape 885

On this tape, the movie version of Anthony Shaffer’s famous play, starring Michael Caine and Lawrence Olivier.

It has a lovely score by John Addison, really evocative of the gameplaying that goes on in the film.

Michael Caine plays Milo, a young hairdresser who calls on Andrew Wyke (Lawrence Olivier), writer and creator of the upper class amateur detective Lord Meridew. Milo has been having an affair with Wyke’s wife and wants to marry her, Wyke tells him he doesn’t care about that, that his marriage was long over, and suggests to him a plan to fake a robbery, take her jewels and sell them for a large sum of money.

But Olivier is playing an elaborate game with Caine, games being a dominant theme of the film, along with the British obsession with class, and the casual racism of the upper classes.

After getting Caine to dress up as a clown, supposedly as a disguise while cracking the safe, Olivier pulls out a gun, and tells Caine he intended to kill him, and claim self defence over a burglary, and the first act of the film ends with Olivier shooting Caine in the head.

A couple of days later, Olivier is unexpectedly visited by a policeman, Inspector Doppler (Alec Cawthorne) investigating the suspected murder of Caine. Olivier pleads ignorance, but when Doppler lays out the numerous clues, Olivier tells him that yes, Caine was at the house, but says that the bullet in the gun was a blank, and it was all a game to frighten Caine, and that Caine had left unscathed. But Doppler presses on, suggesting that in fact Olivier had mixed up the bullets, and shot Caine accidentally.

I’m not sure how successful the central conceit of the film really is. I genuinely can’t remember if I spotted it when I first watched it, probably on this broadcast. But the film works very hard to maintain the secret, even to the extent of being slightly dishonest with the credits. In a rare break from tradition, I won’t spoil it, but even when it’s revealed, the film is only two thirds over, and there’s a third act where the games keep being played until an almost inevitable conclusion.

It’s very stagy, not particularly opened up from its stage origins, but that just concentrates us on the performances. Olivier is typically perfect as the class obsessed writer, sneering at Caine’s Italian origins, but Caine more than holds his own, in a role that’s a lot more showy than Olivier’s.

There’s a remake, where Caine switches and plays the Olivier role, with Jude Law playing Caine’s original role. I wonder if it’s any good.

BBC Genome: BBC Two – 4th January 1990 – 23:20

Clive Anderson Talks Back – The Manageress – The Bullshitters – Single Voices – tape 916

This tape opens with the end of an episode of Roseanne. Here’s a credit I wondered if I’d see:

This was one of Joss Whedon’s earlier jobs in TV. I’m not sure it was his most satisfying.

There’s an episode of Clive Anderson Talks Back, with some comedy from Chris Langham

Helen Atkinson Wood talks about KYTV and Style Trial

There’s some bovine comedy, relating to Mad Cow Disease, featuring the voice of Paul Merton.

Some sex talk with Dr Ruth Westheimer

Then, Ben Elton, in an interview which we’ve partly seen on a recent tape, where he’s talking about his play Gasping.

He also talks about the recent appearance on Aspel and Company which makes me wish I’d recorded the whole show, as apparently he and Robin Day had some tricky moments.

Next, more from the Manageress, where we skip over a couple of season two episodes to arrive at A Match for Anyone.

Warren Clarke is patronising a group of women.

There’s a really familiar looking face, playing a hard man on the football pitch, and I was struggling to think who it was. A cross between Tim McInnerny and Keith Allen. Then I realised it was a young Ross Kemp.

Eddie (Tom Georgeson) gets married.

It’s clearly the season for weddings, as Gabriella’s father is getting remarried too.

The next episode is the final one in the series, At The End of the Day.

Club Sponsor Mark Sadler is thinking of pulling out if the club don’t gain promotion, or at least demanding a change of manager.

Gabriella might be contemplating a career change herself when she discovers she’s pregnant.

Everything is riding on the last match of the season. And (I discover) it’s the team managed by Eddie (Tom Georgeson) who I presume has left the club in one of the episodes we’ve missed.

On the eve of the match, Chairman Warren Clarke meets Georgeson, and over polite banter, asks if he might throw the match. Georgeson isn’t happy about that.

It ends on a slightly down note, and there were no other episodes made, but overall, I enjoyed rewatching this.

Next, The Comic Strip Presents: The Bullshitters. I think I liked the idea of this a bit more than the execution. Few actual laughs, and a couple of wry smiles.

Finally on this tape, an episode of the Single Voices series with Barry Humphries in Sandy Comes Home. Sandy is the ghost of an old Australian who has died, as he sits in his old house, reminiscing about how his neighbourhood has changed over the years. Contains old-person racism.

BBC Genome: BBC One – 3rd June 1990 – 22:00

The tape ends after this.

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The Shining – tape 880

On this tape, the first TV showing of Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining.

It opens with long helicopter shots of vast landscapes, following a small yellow Beetle. As I’m sure most people reading this know, outtakes of these aerial shots were used (with Kubrick’s permission) by Ridley Scott, when he put together the generally disliked ‘happy ending’ for the first version of Blade Runner.

This is one of those films that’s just famous, way above those people who have seen it. Although it was successful, aspects of the film have become so iconic that people who have never seen it recognise the references.

I’ve never read the Stephen King novel it was based on, and most accounts say King didn’t like Kubrick’s adaptation.

I’m not a massive fan of the film. It’s one of those films that impresses people who don’t normally watch horror films, but if you’re a horror fan, it can feel a bit anemic. Despite scenes involving literally gallons of blood.

That scene, by the way, is one of the biggest non sequiturs in the whole movie. It’s repeated a few times, always as part of one of the visions the pepper the movie, and there’s literally no payoff whatsoever. I’m sure Kubrick knew what he meant by it, but I’m at a loss.

The plot of the movie is straightforward enough. Jack Nicholson takes his wife and daughter to work over the winter as caretaker of the huge Overlook hotel. The hotel has some murder in its history, and Nicholson is ‘taken over’ by the evil of the hotel, and turns into an axe wielding maniac.

Shelley Duvall plays his wife, a perpetually nervous soul, whose back story is told in a single scene, after a doctor has examined her young son for collapsing in the bathroom. She explains how her son had a dislocated shoulder after Nicholson grabbed him by the arm too roughly. She says it was because he was drinking, and that he hasn’t drunk for six months so everything’s OK, but everything about her performance says she’s terrified of something like that happening again.

Sure enough, even before they move to the hotel, you get the feeling there’s no affection from him to her, and almost as soon as they move there, he’s berating her cruelly for interrupting him when he’s working on his great American novel.

Their son, meanwhile, is having strange visions, and the hotel’s head chef, played by Scatman Crothers, recognises that he has some kind of mental gift – the ‘Shining’ of the title.

Young Danny himself, played by Danny Lloyd, gives a pretty good performance for such a young actor.

My biggest problem with this movie, and with ‘haunting’ movies in general is that there’s a lack of definite threat to ghosts. You’re never clear whether they’re seeing visions, or whether things are really there, so it’s hard to know whether you should feel scare by them. There’s plenty of creepy imagery on show here, but most of it is just that – creepy pictures. None of it seems to actually threaten anyone.

Creepy twins, though. Always a winner.

For me, the film is best, and most scary, when Nicholson, apparently egged on by the ghosts of the former caretaker and the barman, becomes truly murderous. This, at least, is real, and is the most successfully scary part of the movie.

Another thing I like is the pitch-black joke Kubrick pulls with Scatman Crothers’ character. Because he too has ‘the shining’ he can tell that Duvall and son are in danger, so he flies from Florida, where he’s wintering, to Denver, drives to the town near the hotel, gets a snowcat, and drives the rest of the way through otherwise impassable snow, to the hotel to rescue them, only to get immediately killed by Nicholson. I think this is genuinely funny, as it pulls the carpet from under us, because we expected him to come to their rescue.

By the way, talking about jokes, I have no idea what this is, that Duvall sees in one of the rooms as she’s escaping from Nicholson. I’m sure there’s a theory about this.

The scariest part of the movie is when Duvall and Lloyd are trying to get out of a bathroom they’re trapped in by Nicholson, through a tiny window. I think I must be slightly claustrophobic, or perhaps it’s just because I’m fat, but people trying to squeeze through tiny gaps is something that will reliably terrify me.

Even the very last shot of the movie, the slow dolly into an old photograph from 1921 showing Nicholson in the crowd, doesn’t really answer anything, and is just another question mark.

I think this lack of answers is why a lot of people love the movie, though. You can see this in the excellent documentary Room 237, which features a number of really big fans of the film, and hears all their many and varied theories about the meaning of the film. It’s well worth seeking out of you’re a fan of the movie, and even if you’re not it’s fun seeing how many different things people can read into the same thing.

After the film, the recording stops, and there’s nothing else on the tape.

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The Wonder Years – The Manageress – tape 937

First on this tape, more from the annoying young Kevin in The Wonder Years. Imagine Arrested Development with no sense of irony.

Kevin is obsessing over asking a blond girl to the dance. His lab partner, who’s smart and just as cute, gives him advice on asking her out.

So obviously, he’d rather go to the dance with a girl he’s barely spoken to than someone who’s already a good friend. Kevin is the worst.

After this, there’s the start of a documentary from Fragile Earth.

Then recording switches and there’s the first episode in the second series of The Manageress. It’s a new season, and the lads are at the seaside for pre-season training.

Gabriella (Cherie Lunghi) is after some more investment, because she’s going for promotion this year.

Chairman Warren Clarke always looks like a startled terrier when she asks for more money.

There’s psychos in the nightclub looking to make trouble with the footballers.

Gabrielle’s relationship with head coach Tom Georgeson has improved since the start of the first season.

Gabrielle’s choice for captain is egged on by the other players to make a move on Gabrielle, who rebuffs him strongly, but he lets the rumour spread that he did sleep with her, which rumour spreads among the team, and to Georgeson, who is very disapproving, but the captain does the right thing and admits it’s nonsense.

The programme ends on a downer, though, as, during a friendly with a local team, the nightclub psycho, who is a player on the opposing team, hacks one of the younger players, and might potentially have ended his career. He asks that he be able to appear in that year’s team photo, as he was in the youth team last year, and if he never plays again, he’ll never be in one again.

The next episode is called Pingvin Lakrids. The team has a rare TV appearance in those days before satellite and cable, when only a handful of games were televised each week. Their star player attracts attention, but the club sponsor gets annoyed when one of his billboards is partially obscured by a Scandinavian advert for Pingvin Lakrids.

There’s an appearance by Jim Rosenthal.

This episode mostly focuses on the star player, Tony Morris (Robbie Gee) who’s acquired a sports agent, and is the subject of an offer from the club’s former manager.

After this, there’s the start of The Philadelphia Story, and the tape ends during it.

There’s a couple of adverts here which ran back to back. First, an incredibly pompous Gillette advert announcing the introduction of Gillette Sensor – so not advertising the product, but advertising the introduction of the product.

Immediately after this, a Daily Mail advert, featuring Robert Bathurst, which is supposed to position Mail readers as a cut above the rest of us, but notice that he does actually smash into the other car, in his ridiculous big car that’s never seen anything big a tarmacked street, and that his first instinct is to drive off. Quite a distance, given that he’s in the middle of the country before he decides to turn around. And this is what the Daily Mail thinks of as aspirational.

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