Monty Python Live At The Hollywood Bowl – Frost in the Air – tape 1488

Over to Sky Movies Gold, for Monty Python Live at the Hollywood Bowl.

It’s slightly shocking to hear the N-word in ‘Never Be Rude to an Arab’ even in context.

Also “Are they too Jewish? I made Judas the most Jewish.” in the Michelangelo sketch

Nice to see Neil Innes doing ‘Urban Spaceman’

With some choreography from Carol Cleveland

Did they use some of the stuff made for the German Python programmes as the film sequences? Here’s footballing philosophers.

After this, recording switches to a programme in progress, Frost On Air, which has clips of David Frost interviewing the great and good, like John Lennon and Yoko Ono.

Thatcher defends the sinking of the Belgrano.

He interviews Heart Transplant pioneer Christiaan Barnard about transplants in general, worrying about going in to hospital for a minor ailment and having organs harvested. It shows, I guess, that the idea of transplants was new once. Frost is surprised that Barnard doesn’t know the name of a donor, or how the heart came to be available.

Truman Capote. “Have you ever been in love?”

Stephen Fry talks about celibacy.

Billy Graham defines success.

Inevitably, the show can’t ignore Frost’s greatest coup, the Nixon interview.

With Lucille Ball and Carol Burnett, he really does start with “Is there a problem with women being funny?”

BBC Genome: BBC Two – 4th September 1993 – 20:55

After this, recording continues briefly with a trailer for Video Nation. Then, a trailer for 10×10.

The recording stops after this.

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Star Trek – Deep Space Nine – tape 1483

Here’s some very early episodes of Deep Space Nine starting with Past Prologue. Bashir meets Garak, the Cardassian tailor with a dark past, played by the wonderful Andrew Robinson.

A member of a Bajoran terrorist group is rescued while pursued by Cardassians, and they demand him back. But Kira knows the man.

Two Klingons arrive, the Duras sisters. They’re there to sell the terrorist part of a weapon which he wants to use to collapse the entrance to the wormhole and therefore make Bajor of no interest to the Federation and Cardassia.

This is mostly a Kira episode, as she fights against her former resistance ways to try to be a good Bajoran officer.

Before the next episode, I should mention the Sky One idents. The first episode had the classic Sky One ident.

But this episode, presumably a week after, had the brand new ident. I presume this is when their rebranding happened.

The next episode is A Man Alone. Dax is going Yoga with a big bubble.

Now here’s an interesting thing. I’m watching these episodes on Netflix (slightly better picture quality than my recordings, and no adverts) and I noticed Aron Eisenberg’s name was misspelled in the opening credits (as Aron Eisenerg). It’s also noted in iMDb. So why, on this recording, is it spelled correctly? Perhaps they caught the error on first broadcast and fixed it for the UK PAL version. And the Netflix one is taken from the NTSC masters. Weird.

Bashir is being really creepy, and hitting on Dax relentlessly, absolutely not taking no to mean no.

A Bajoran gets killed in a holosuite. Odo goes through his logs. Apparently he came from Alderaan spaceport. Also, that computer uses the default Macos font from the 90s.

Odo thinks he’s being framed for the murder.

Keiko is unhappy with life on the station, especially for the children, so she proposes setting up a school.

In the end, it’s discovered that the murdered man was actually a clone, and the man himself had murdered it. That’s a solution that never came up in Jonathan Creek.

The next episode is Babel. O’Brien is having trouble keeping up the the station’s maintenance, as the systems are frequently failing. I feel for him, having to maintain a legacy system created by someone else.

Dax is still getting used to her female host body. “I forgot how different it was, being female. All this attention.” “I imagine it takes some getting used to.” “Actually I find it quite enjoyable.” I wonder if that line was written by a man.

O’Brien starts talking gibberish, and is followed by several others, as a virus seems to be producing effects similar to brain aphasia.

It’s traced to a sabotage device that was left on the station years ago by a Bajoran terrorist, so they have to track him down to engineer a cure.

Finally on this tape, Captive Pursuit. It opens with a Dabo girl making a complaint of sexual harrassment against Quark. This was the episode where Quark lost his job and was ostracised from polite society, and never seen again on the series. No, wait, that’s not what happened.

An alien accidentally pilots his ship through the wormhole and emerges near the station. Chief O’Brien helps him stabilise his vessel and brings it in to dock, despite the alien being very nervous about something.

He pals around a bit with O’Brien, with lots of “You Humans are so strange” stuff, then he tries to get some weapons and gets arrested.

Then these blokes turn up.

Gerrit Graham plays one of them, a hunter, after the other alien, as part of a formal hunt.

Then it slightly descends into some bollocks about honour. The alien doesn’t want to claim asylum, as it wouldn’t be honourable. I do think the word Honour is one of the most debased in the English language, used to justify so much cruelty and nonsense.

However, the episode gets an extra point when O’Brien punches out the chief hunter. “Glass jaw. No wonder you wear a helmet.”

There’s a really nice coda with O’Brien and Sisko, though, where Sisko lays down the law about O’Brien violating the Prime Directive. O’Brien accepts the reprimand, but says “I was surprised by one thing, sir. I knew I couldn’t override all the security seals in the station, and I figured that once you and the constable located us, well, it’d be over. We’d find ourself locked behind some forcefield somewhere.” “I guess that one got by us.” Sisko was a good commander, wasn’t he?

By the way, in case you were wondering, Quark’s harassment complaint was never referred to again. Icky.

After this episode, recording continues, with the start of an episode of the western series The Adventures of Ned Blessing. Isn’t this a character from Westworld?

The tape ends during this episode.

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Thirty Years In The TARDIS – Moving Pictures – The Trial – tape 1633

It’s November 1993, and somebody at the BBC remembered that they hadn’t made Doctor Who for four years, but maybe they should acknowledge its 30th anniversary. So, along with a few repeats of old stories, they produced this documentary, 30 Years in the Tardis.

It’s not quite as insulting as the one they’d produced the previous year (Resistance is Useless) where the programme was fronted by an actual anorak. This one is a traditional talking heads documentary, lots of clips, lots of people talking about the show and their memories of it, and a few little filmed elements. I suspect the difference is that this one is directed by Kevin Davies, who was a fan as well as being a director.

It opens with a short specially filmed sequence featuring a little boy running from various monsters.

The list of interview subjects is impressive, starting with one of the greatest producers the show ever had, Barry Letts.

Terrance Dicks was a key writer and script editor, particularly during Pertwee’s era, and is loved by many fans for his many novelisations of stories, for a long time the only way to relive the stories, in the days before VCRs.

The 6th Doctor, Colin Baker, always a great ambassador for the show. Is it technically correct to call him the 6th regeneration? If we assume Hartnell was the first Doctor, surely Troughton was the first regeneration. But I’m splitting hairs.

Verity Lambert was the very first producer of the show, and became one of the most influential producers in British Television.

William Hartnell’s Granddaughter Jessica Carney tells us what it was like to have Doctor Who as her Grandfather.

Toyah Willcox is one of the ‘fan’ talking heads. She had a PVC Dalek costume as a child.

I’m assuming the programme couldn’t persuade Tom Baker to participate, as this interview is from a very old documentary, made when he was still making the show.

Fashion writer Lowri Turner talks about the style of the Doctor over time.

Script Editor during the Davison and Colin Baker years Eric Saward talks about Pertwee and why he was influenced by James Bond.

Pertwee himself is reunited with his beloved Whomobile, outside the South Bank Centre.

Cricketer Mike Gatting talks about being away on tour while the Doctor was on TV, so his wife would tape the series.

The programme likes to recreate some famous scenes from the show, like Daleks in London.

That’s Carole Ann Ford there with the Daleks, the Doctor’s Granddaughter.

Dalek creator Terry Nation talks about the parallels between the Daleks and the Nazis.

Ben Aaronovitch, who wrote the final Dalek story of the classic era, laughs at the idea that the Daleks being Nazis was some kind of subtext. “It was right there on the surface.”

Even the Cushing movies are represented by Jennie Linden and Roberta Tovey.

There’s a nice scene with Colin Baker and Nicola Bryant, being followed by a troop of Cybermen in front of St Paul’s Cathedral.

Ken Livingstone opines that in the 60s, the women in Doctor Who were just there to be decorative (accompanied by a famous clip of Zoe in a skintight spangly catsuit lying on the Tardis console). Not a particularly good opinion in that it’s never really been true, and women have been strong characters right from the start. You can hardly call Barbara Wright ‘just decorative’. Still, it could have been worse. They could have asked him about the Daleks. I bet there’s some B-Roll somewhere with that bit of the interview where he likens Davros to Hitler. You know it exists.

Deborah Watling (here with Frazer Hines) also complains about the screaming she had to do.

Elisabeth Sladen was the greatest of all companions. Don’t @ me.

Stephen Bayley has opinions about the various designs of the Cybermen.

I’m surprised it took as long as it did to get around to talking to John Nathan-Turner, at the time the last producer of the show, who produced it throughout the 80s. He talks about violence in the show.

Perhaps he was reluctant to talk to them because one of the consultants on the show was Ian Levine, a ‘superfan’ who rescued many old episodes from destruction, and was himself a consultant on the show during Colin Baker’s era, but who fell out rather spectacularly with Nathan-Turner in the late 80s. Ian is no longer a fan of the show, since he cannot countenance the idea of watching the show with a woman playing The Doctor.

Also concerned with violence on the show was Mary Whitehouse.

Dr David Deutsch talks about the actual theoretical possibility of time travel.

Steve Jones (back by a Vervoid) talks about the science in the show.

There’s a really lovely shot of the young boy from the start opening the Tardis (which is standing on the South Bank) and walking into the control room within, in one shot. I bet that was fun.

The whole programme is narrated by the Brigadier himself, Nicholas Courtney, who is set upon by Autons.

And after the credits, BBC1 Controller Alan Yentob is asked about the rumours that the BBC is talking to Steven Spielberg about the future of Doctor Who. He’s understandably cagey. “You know what these things are like. There are no promises.”

BBC Genome: BBC One – 29th November 1993 – 20:00

After this, recording switches to BBC2 and Moving Pictures, a special edition about the rise and fall of Palace Pictures, one of the big UK film companies of the 80s.

This is a rather good look back at the ups and downs of Palace Pictures, and it isn’t afraid to be critical of some of the participants.

Alan Parker talks about Stephen Woolley’s beginnings, as a cinema usher.

Nik Powell talks about the founding of Palace, after he left the Virgin group.

Richard Branson says nice things about Powell’s skills as a manager.

Stephen Woolley is the other co-founder of Palace, which came out of his running of the Scala Cinema in London, where I saw several hard to find films in the 80s.

Robert Jones talks about the company’s beginnings in video distribution.

Check out the X Certificate on The Evil Dead. I miss X Films.

Neil Jordan was the first director to make a film for Palace, The Company of Wolves.

The screenwriter for the next Palace production, Absolute Beginners was Don Macpherson.

The director on that film was Julien Temple. I once sort of met Julien Temple. Well, he was scouting locations at the house where I worked, so I walked past him, but I never talked to him. I can’t remember if it was for a film, so I’m guessing it was a pop video, quite a few of which were filmed at the house.

The set they built for Soho in Absolute Beginners was definitely impressive.

Michael Caton-Jones made a behind the scenes documentary about the production (and would later make Scandal for Palace) and he was fairly scathing about how out of control the production was. “Completely a ramshackle production.”

As well as Palace, Goldcrest films had invested heavily in Absolute Beginners. At the same time, another Goldcrest production was The Mission, and producer David Puttnam says they were “getting very cross at the idea that there may have been another film in another softer and more comfortable part of the world that was drawing funds away from us.” I’m not sure this was directed specifically at Absolute Beginners, as Hugh Hudson’s Revolution was also shooting.

Longtime Alan Parker collaborator, producer and editor Alan Marshall was brought in to reign in the film, but even he admits he didn’t really manage it. Woolley says “I’m sure, if you’ve interviewed Alan, you would have seen the introspective Alan Marshall. We never saw the introspective Alan Marshall.”

After the failure of Absolute Beginners, Palace recovered with the surprise success of their much smaller film, Mona Lisa. This success led Palace to join forces with Miramax and Harvey Weinstein for their next film, Caton-Jones’s Scandal. In retrospect, the stories about Weinstein turning up on set for the filming of the sex scenes (to “ensure” the Brits didn’t wimp out on the sex) take on a much more sinister tone.

Michael Thomas, screenwriter of Scandal, talks about the negotiations over how much nudity an actress would be prepared to allow.

There’s a glimpse of Chris Evans as presenter of a Palace-produced satellite station which died when Sky bought BSB.

Christopher Fowler, as well as being a great writer (read Roofworld) also ran an advertising agency that designed many of Palace’s campaigns, including the brilliant Evil Dead posters and video designs.

Another big flop for Palace was the Liam Neeson punching movie The Big Man, directed by David Leland. The writer on that was Don Macpherson again. He didn’t have the best record. One of his later projects was the Uma Thurman Avengers movie, another notorious flop.

I hope this doesn’t get taken down, as there’s quite a few film clips in it.

BBC Genome: BBC Two – 19th December 1993 – 20:30

After this, there’s a trailer for White Palace. And a look at programmes for Christmas Night on BBC2

After this, recording continues with a Screen 2 production of Franz Kafka’s The Trial, written by Harold Pinter, with an all star cast. Kyle Maclachlan makes a fine stab at a sort-of British accent as Joseph K, the man caught up in an inexplicable legal process for no reason he can fathom.

He’s woken by two men claiming they’ve been sent to make sure he doesn;t leave his room, as he’s under arrest. One of the men is played by David Thewlis.

The other is Tony Haygarth

Juliet Stevenson plays his neighbour.

Paul Brooke plays a colleague

Roger Lloyd Pack sports a serious moustache

Don Henderson plays a flogger

Look, it’s Jason Robards, last seen in Quick Change.

Alfred Molina plays an artist.

Michael Kitchen is a fellow sufferer of the justice system.

John Woodvine plays a Bank official

Anthony Hopkins plays a priest

BBC Genome: BBC Two – 19th December 1993 – 21:30

After this, there’s a trailer for The Railway Station Man

Then there’s a short film called Feelings.

BBC Genome: BBC Two – 19th December 1993 – 23:30

There’s a trailer for Kiri Te Kanawa in The Sorceress

Then, the tape ends with the beginning of The Company of Wolves.

Memoirs of An Invisible Man – Filmworks – The Terminator – tape 1636

It says something about me that I’m immediately turned off a film by the font used for the titles.

Memoirs of an Invisible Man is directed by John Carpenter, who tends to use the font Albertus (also the typeface used in the Village in The Prisoner) for his titles, but this film uses something different, so immediately you feel like you’re not getting full Carpenter. It’s made worse in this pan and scanned version because the font is horizontally compressed too.

Chevy Chase plays a lazy rich white man who does one of those jobs where he has to look at folders of pages and say things. In a film like this it doesn’t matter what he actually does. It has something to do with companies, and he doesn’t spend much of his time actually thinking about stuff, because that’s not what you want from Chevy Chase. He’s cool, he doesn’t care.

He’s the kind of man whose assistant (in this case, it’s Rosalind Chao from Star Trek) has to do everything for him.

At his club he meets his friend Michael McKean

And falls for Daryl Hannah.

Things kick off when he visits a company for a presentation, but because he’s a lightweight with a hangover, he sleeps it off in a back room, so when a science experiment goes wrong (a scientist knocks coffee over his keyboard, something guaranteed to cause a massive critical failure in any large enterprise) Chase is rendered invisible, along with large parts of the building he’s in. Some of the effects here are really quite nice.

The film chooses to play a lot of Chase’s scenes with him visible to us. Not a stupid choice when you’re paying for a famous comic actor who otherwise would be off screen for 80% of the film’s running time. But it does lead to some Quantum Leap style mirror shots, so we see Chase, but the mirror shows what the world sees.

Sam Neill is our villain, a shady government fixer who wants to snag Chase as the best spy in the world.

Chase tries to contact the head of the company that vanished him, so he has to wear clothes that can be seen.

Chase gets into Neill’s office to find out what he can about him and there’s a nice scene where Chase has to hold him captive to escape the office. Some nice acting by Sam Neill here who has a rubber gun glued to his temple and has to mime being strongarmed by Chase.

I should say something here about how great Sam Neill is. He’s one of those actors who can easily play good guys or bad guys, so you’re never immediately tipped off as to how his character is going to go. Although the way his character is introduced here doesn’t give us much doubt. I like Sam Neill.

Also on the bad guys side is Stephen Tobolowsky as Neill’s slightly ineffectual boss. Always nice to see him, although I don’t think he’s given enough to do here.

Chase escapes to the coast, and goes to Michael McKean’s holiday home, where he starts to sort himself out a bit, even taking up jogging. It’s unclear why this doesn’t attract more attention.

It gets crowded when McKean comes to stay with his wife, and guests Daryl Hannah and another friend, played by Gregory Paul Martin, who’s an overbearing Englishman with clear designs on Hannah. He tries to make a move on Hannah, which turns into something much more unpleasant. “Just forget it ever happened” he says after Chase invisibly pulls him off her.

So Chase reveals himself to Hannah, starting off dressed exactly like Claude Rains in the classic James Whale Invisible Man.

She helps him with some makeup. There’s some nice effects work here, possibly some CGI.

Should we get upset at Chase blacking up in one scene? I think this is one occasion where it’s acceptable, since any skin colour he has is a fake, so if he’s trying to evade capture, it makes perfect sense. I’ll let this one go.

During a chase scene, I spotted the film’s director, John Carpenter, playing a SWAT marksman.

After a few close scrapes, there’s a climax atop a high building, and Neill takes the obligatory fall off a great height (although he fails to get impaled on anything sharp, as this was a PG rated film, I think. And in a coda we see Chase and Hannah living happily in the mountains, enjoying the skiing.

After this, recording switches to BBC2 and Filmworks, a season of films introduced by Robert McKee. This time It’s The Terminator. Here’s his intro.

I think I should point out another of the weird coincidences that this blog so regularly manifests. Yesterday I was looking at The Silence of the Lambs and I started watching it on DVD since I have it. But the DVD started skipping during one scene, so I took it out to see if it was dirty, and it was actually sticky. The surface of the DVD was cloudy, and felt sticky to the touch. I looked it up, and this was a known fault with a number of discs pressed by the same manufacturer.

The strange coincidence is that I’d experienced this before, with another of my DVDs. That was my special edition DVD of The Terminator, which I discovered was similarly dirty in the same way. Online reports say it was a combination of disc manufacture and the type of case they used. But it seems like a massive coincidence that both of the faulty films I happen to have in my collection come up one day after the other in my VHS rewatch.

But enough about the way my life resembles a very dull conspiracy theory and back to the movie. The Terminator is pretty good, isn’t it? Pretty much James Cameron’s first film (he was fired as director from his actual first, Piranha II) it really is a great debut.

Cameron regular Bill Paxton makes an early appearance, and an early exit.

Sarah Connor has a cool scooter. It’s a shame she didn’t have a chase scene with it later.

This blog would be remiss to skip over any appearance by the great Dick Miller. “Phased plasma rifle in a forty watt range.” “Hey, just what you see, pal.” He too doesn’t last long.

Future Kyle Reese somehow manages to look more 80s than 80s Sarah Connor with that headband.

Rick Rossovich played Sarah’s roommate’s boyfriend. He was around a lot in the 80s.

I love the police in this. Paul Winfield (recently seen here with Garry Shandling)

and Lance Henriksen. I like the way Henriksen never gets to finish any of his anecdotes.

“Come with me if you want to live.” Michael Biehn is really good as Reese. He should have had a bigger career. Another coincidence having this film come so soon after his role in The Abyss.

The code in the Terminator POV is 6502 assembly language, quite familiar to me in the 80s, as my first job was programming binary load lifters the BBC Micro in 6502. Other online sleuths have identified it as Apple II code. I guessed it might be filesystem code, as other displays had references to a VTOC or visual table of contents.

Stan Winston’s prosthetic and animatronic work is very good. Here’s the Terminator fixing his arm.

Earl Boen’s Dr Silberman is brilliant, and I love the way he explains Kyle’s explanation of how the time travel worked. “You see how clever this part is, how it doesn’t require a shred of proof.”

Cameron does his homage to Luis Bunuel as the Terminator removes his damaged eye.

How’s my hair?

I love the way Silberman is going out just as the Terminator arrives, and completely misses him. It’s a small moment, but Cameron remembered and wisely brought Boen back for the sequel.

The scene where the Terminator shoots up the Police precinct is pretty brutal.

One of the best jokes in the film. “Fuck You, Asshole”

I love that when Sarah and Kyle get intimate, there’s a special, plinky plonky romantic piano version of the Terminator theme.

I like the way the Terminator is getting more beaten up each time.

I hope it doesn’t ruin the film for you if I point out how it’s impossible to outrun a truck. Even a big one like this can get up enough speed to run down anyone who’s running directly away from it. No matter how much Cameron cuts the chase, it’s still enormously unrealistic.

Cameron really makes the Terminator’s first apparent death highly convincing. It’s a huge explosion and fireball, so there’s plenty of reason to assume he’s definitely dead, making his rising from the flames all the more effective.

It’s a shame that we no longer get Arnold Schwarzenegger playing the Terminator, but in return we do get some stop motion, which is always fun.

The climax takes place in a factory filled with robots. This stuff isn’t just thrown together, you know.

I’d like to know exactly how Sarah is able to reach around a corner, and find the right button to activate the press, not to mention knowing what the machine actually does.

As my wife commented, this movie has the bleakest happy ending you can imagine. It’ll all work out in the end, but in the meantime there’s a global apocalypse to live through. I do like that fact that, if you ignore the sequels, this is a rare example of closed-loop time travel storytelling, one of my favourite things. Harry Harrison used to do it well in stories like The Technicolor Time Machine.

This is possibly the most begrudging credit you can imagine. Harlan Ellison sued the producers because of some fairly strong similarities between the film and Ellison’s story Soldier, also filmed for The Outer Limits. The producers settled, and this notice was added to subsequent prints of the film.

I should mention the music, by Brad Fiedel. He does a great job here, and I although he never became as well known as others working at the time, like John Williams, James Horner or Alan Silvestri, I like that Cameron had him back for T2 when he could just as easily spent the money on a much bigger name.

BBC Genome: BBC Two – 17th October 1993 – 21:50

After this, recording continues with a trailer for Not Even God Is Wise Enough. Then there’s the start of some golf, and the tape ends shortly into that.

 

 

The Silence Of The Lambs – Pretty Woman – tape 1499

I’m not quite sure if there’s a thematic link between today’s two films. One’s about a charismatic, amoral man who uses his not inconsiderable charms to win over a young woman, just starting out in her chosen profession. The other is Silence of the Lambs. Hmm. Not quite sure that joke really works as well as I’d like.

First up, it’s The Silence of the Lambs, one of the very few films to win all five top Oscars – Best Film, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress and Best Screenplay. It’s even more remarkable in that it’s just about the only horror film to win Best Film. Don’t @ me, this is definitely a horror film, despite all the Police Procedural trappings.

And it’s a truly great film, a fine example of how to adapt a book for film.

It starts with young Clarice Starling running through the woods at the FBI training centre at Quantico. Clarice (Jodie Foster) is called to Jack Crawford’s office. Crawford runs the behavioural science office, and is a returning character from Thomas Harris’s previous Lecter novel, played here by Scott Glenn.. He’s working on a current serial killer case – the Buffalo Bill case. Five women have been killed, and skin removed from their bodies.

This is the first time that we notice a particular pattern in the style of filmmaking. Director Jonathan Demme films these scenes in a way that’s quite unusual. Usually, such scenes are shot over-the-shoulder, with the camera shooting as if it’s standing to the sides of the actors. But here, they are shot with the actors facing directly into the camera, something that almost never happens. It’s a deliberately odd choice, and it serves to root us firmly in Clarice’s point of view.

There’s a few shots like this in the film, placing Starling in large groups of much taller men.

The FBI have no leads. So Crawford asks Starling to take a profiling questionnaire to captured serial killer Hannibal Lecter. Before she meets Lecter, she has to get past his slimy doctor, Dr Chilton, a great performance from Anthony Heald.

After a very long build-up, while Chilton explains exactly how dangerous Lecter is, we finally meet him, kept in a strangely gothic underground passage. It’s a very different choice from the previous Hannibal Lecter movie, Manhunter, starring Brian Cox as Lecter, which had him in a completely white, spotless facility, but that film definitely had a modernist design ethic, and here, Demme is embracing the basic gothic roots of this (let’s not forget) horror film.

After some unpleasantness with another of the inmates, Lecter offers Clarice a clue to something he knows, which she follows up, finding an old lock-up garage full of some of Lecter’s old stuff, including the head of one of Lecter’s patients. Lecter claims this patient was killed by Buffalo Bill, and offers Clarice his insight, a psychological profile of Buffalo Bill.

Another body is found, suspected to be from Bill, and Clarice accompanies Crawford to the small town funeral home where the victim’s body is taken for examination, to help with the examination of the body. There’s another of those shots surrounding Clarice with lots of taller men. There’s a common thread in this film about how women are viewed in this area of work.

In the examination, one of the doctors is played by one of the producers of the film, Kenneth Utt.

The local funeral director is played by veteran character actor Tracey Walter.

An insect chrysalis is found lodged in the girl’s throat, so Clarice takes it to the Natural History Museum to get some insight into where it might have come from. The two insect nerds are lovely, even when one of them asks Clarice out on a date.

The case gets a lot more urgent when another woman is taken by Bill, especially because she’s the daughter of a politician. Clarice comes to Lecter with a deal from the senator, that he’ll be moved to a different facility, and allowed one week a year on an uninhabited island. But Dr Chilton, keen not to have his star patient taken away, contacts the Senator and discovers that the FBI had no such deal with her, and makes his own deal. So Lecter gets taken to Memphis to meet with the Senator.

Clarice is now in Lecter’s bad books, but she hears the information he gives to the Senator, and is sceptical. “Your anagrams are showing” she says, about the name Louis Friend. She says it’s an anagram of Iron Sulfide, which it is, and says that’s another name for fool’s gold. Which it sort of is, but the more common name is Iron Pyrite, which is an iron sufilde. I’m fairly sure the anagrams in the book were a bit cleverer.

Again, the scenes between Clarice and Lecter are shot facing camera, and they start outside the bars, but as the scene continues, the camera gets closer to the bars until they disappear from the view altogether, removing the separation between the two characters. And at the end of the scene, when Lecter passes her the case file and their fingers touch, it’s a very dramatic moment.

Also, a quick shout out to a blink and you’ll miss him cameo from zombie supremo George A Romero as an FBI agent.

And to another great horror director, Jonathan Demme’s former mentor Roger Corman as the head of the FBI.

Lecter takes full advantage of the break in routine, and his removal from Chilton’s hospital to a makeshift cell in an office building to pull off a violent and gruesome escape. This was straight out of the book, and I was impressed they used the escape pretty much as written. Because I’d read the book, I couldn’t tell how obvious the escape was, since I was looking for it. If anyone remembers watching it and being taken by surprise by Lecter’s reveal at the end of the sequence, I’d be interested to know.

Special mention for the great Charles Napier as one of the unlucky cops, who was strung up. I can’t help feeling that the makers of the Hannibal TV series were more than a little fixated on this image, as they used a lot of very similar tableaux.

Now Lecter is on the lam, Clarice concentrates on the case file. Lecter told her everything she needed to know was there, so she concentrates on the first victim, the one most likely to have been known personally by the killer. She’s following up leads in the victim’s home town when Crawford tells her that they’ve found the killer and are heading there now. They cross-checked customs files, and found an attempt to illegally import live caterpillars and traced them to a Jame Gumb, who fitted all the descriptions of the man Lecter described.

This sequence is one of my favourites, as we keep cutting from Gumb in his home to the SWAT teams moving in to surround the location, one of them carrying a long thin parcel to the door and ringing the bell. I particularly like his doorbell, a really old. huge one that like something out of Frankenstein’s lab, complete with sparks as it rings. You tell me this isn’t a horror film.

Then, just as the SWAT team are about to break the door down, we see Gumb coming to the door and answering it, and there, instead of an armed officer, is Clarice, looking for a former friend of the first victim.

The SWAT team are in completely the wrong place, an address that had been vacant for a while. Gumb had been living at the house that used to belong to the seamstress who taught Frederica, his first victim. And Clarice is there, in the house with the killer. Will she realise it’s him in time? It’s a really tense chase, some of it in the dark with Gumb in infra red goggles.

This is a film that totally stands up, and it’s a very worthy Oscar winner.

Following straight on, a total change of mood. It’s Pretty Woman. You know how one of the themes of this blog is watching stuff we loved when we were younger, and the world was different, and seeing the elements in them that are problematic now? Well here’s a case of a film which was always a bit problematic. Richard Gere plays an asset-stripping businessman who hires Julia Roberts, a young prostitute, to be at his beck and call for a week while he dismantles a family-run business. A recipe for romance and laughs, amirite?

First surprise, Jason Alexander is in this. This predated me watching Seinfeld so I didn’t remember him here, as Richard Gere’s lawyer.

Also Hank Azaria pops up in a tiny role as a detective dealing with a dead body on Hollywood Boulevard.

Gere and Roberts meet when he takes Alexander’s car back to the hotel he’s staying at, gets lost and can’t really drive a stick shift. He stops for directions, and Roberts offers to show him the way, even driving the car. I had remembered him as going to specifically pick up a woman, so it’s nice their meeting was a little more innocent.

But I’ll be honest with you, I don’t really give a stuff about Richard Gere here. Although I would posit that Richard Gere in Pretty Woman is absolutely how Donald Trump sees himself in his mind’s eye.

For me, this whole film is basically about Hector Elizondo as the hotel manager. He turns up, and you immediately know everything he’s going to do – he’s Tim Curry in Home Alone 2, the sneery manager who makes life difficult for Roberts.

Except he’s not. OK, so when she first appears, he ‘has a word’ with her. “The things that happen at other hotels don’t happen at the Regent Beverley Wilshire” he says. He has his “I know what you do, but I’m too polite to say it out loud, but we understand each other” speech, and that’s almost that.

Except this speech comes just after Roberts has been to Rodeo Drive trying to buy nice clothes for her dinner date in the evening, and was practically thrown out of the shop by the sneery shop assistants. So she explains, on the point of tears, that she has to buy a dress, and nobody will help her, so he gives her his handkerchief, then picks up the phone. “Oh man, if you’re calling the cops…” But he calls a local store and tells them he’s sending Roberts down to them and asks them to look after her. And for the rest of the movie, he’s looking out for her, making sure she’s OK. He even makes sure the film gets a happy ending. “It’s been a pleasure knowing you. Come and visit us again some time.”

Yes, for me this film is all about Elizondo.

There’s other things happening, of course. The company Gere wants to asset strip is owned by Ralph Bellamy and his son Alex Hyde White (off of Biggles, of course). They’re a decent pair, wanting to keep the company under family control, and definitely not wanting to see it broken up, at the expense of many of their workers. Again, in this story, I might have expected Hyde White to have designs on Roberts, but, apart from some cordial conversations at social events (Polo, anyone?) he’s entirely polite and gentlemanly.

The role of the slimeball who assumes Roberts is merely a commodity to be used indisciminately falls more naturally to Gere’s Lawyer, Jason Alexander, and he’s the one who, after Gere decides not to destroy Bellamy’s company, but to help him keep it in the family, thinks it’s OK to come and treat Roberts like garbage, so it’s very satisfying when Gere comes in and punches him out.

So, the general verdict from me is that this still does what it’s supposed to do. I’m still fairly conflicted over the fact that this heartwarming tale of female empowerment features has to be about a sex worker, but, sex workers are people too, so I guess it’s me who shouldn’t be so uptight.

But it’s still Elizondo’s film.

After this, recording continues for a short time with the start of a horror film called The Bite. “It’s time once again to descend into the depths of terror, as a nest of mutate into nothing less than a maelstrom of mewling monsters.” But at least it’s got special effects by Screaming Mad George

The film claims to be directed by ‘Fred Goodwin’ but that’s a pseudonym for Federico Prosperi. iMDb also says this film is also called Curse II: The Bite, but there’s no sign in the credits here that this might be a sequel to something.

The tape ends after fifteen minutes of this masterpiece.

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Dead Again – tape 1485

Dead Again was Kenneth Branagh’s first ‘American’ film. Made while he and Emma Thompson were still married.

The titles set up the story – or part of it, anyway, as, in between the actors’ names, we see old newspaper headlines about a Murder case. Famous pianist Margaret Strauss was murdered with a pair of scissors, and her husband, conductor Roman Strauss, was the prime suspect. Mrs Strauss is played by Emma Thompson.

The film opens in moody black and white as Strauss (Kenneth Branagh) is in prison, having his hair cut ready for the electric chair.

Reporter Gray Baker (Andy Garcia) visits him in the cell. Strauss tells him he still loves his wife.

But then the scene ends with Strauss walking down a corridor and it turns nightmarish as Strauss comes up to a woman, lifts some scissors, and says “These are for you”

Then Emma Thompson wakes up from her nightmare in the present, and in colour. She’s sleeping in the old house of Roman and Margaret Strauss, which is now owned by the church. She arrived there two days ago, climbing the gate, and she doesn’t speak, and appears to be amnesiac.

The priest in charge hires an investigator to find out who the mystery woman is. He calls Mike Church, also played by Kenneth Branagh.

He’s on his way to another case, finding a psychiatrist who has inherited money from a former client. The psychiatrist is played by Robin Williams, who I had completely forgotten was in this film.

He takes Thompson’s case, and puts her picture in the paper, aided by friend Wayne Knight.

Along with all the cranks claiming they know who Thompson is, they are visited by Derek Jacobi, an antique dealer with a side business in hypnotism and repressed memories.

When they next visit Jacobi, he’s working with Miriam Margolyes.

I don’t trust Jacobi, but so far his most evil action is to get his subjects, who are examining old memories, to mention any ‘objects d’art’ they might see along the way.

With Thompson, rather than regressing a couple of years, her memory is from 1948, and she’s talking about when Roman met Margaret.

It’s interesting to watch this film knowing how it ends. The flashbacks have to be staged a certain way, and I’m watching to see if it all narratively makes sense.

We meet the Strauss’ housekeeper on the day Roman and Margaret get married, played by Hanna Schygulla. Margaret asks her to move out of her room and move downstairs, and I detect some resentment there. Her son has a pronounced stammer. I’m sure that’s not important.

Branagh and Thompson start getting romantically involved, which becomes awkward when Campbell Scott turns up as Doug, Thompson’s fiancee.

Except he’s another fraud, who almost fools Branagh, then gets away by shimmying down a palm tree.

We get more flashbacks, showing the disintegration of the Strauss marriage, as Roman is not being as successful as he’d hoped, and Margaret is being chatted up by Andy Garcia’s journalist Gray Baker.

Margaret catches Schygulla’s son with his hand in her jewellery drawer, and she thinks he’s stealing. She wants Roman to fire Schygulla, but he won’t because they helped him escape Europe. She’s also now suspicious of him because Baker tells her that all his money came from his first wife.

Then, at the end of the vision, she sees Roman with the scissors again, except it’s not Roman, it’s Mike.

Thompson is now terrified of Mike, thinking that he must be the reincarnation of Roman, back to murder her again. So Mike gets regressed by Jacobi, and in a rather neat twist, when he tells him to look around and look at himself in a mirror, this is what we see.

So Mike is Margaret, and presumably Thompson is Roman.

Wayne Knight arrives with the truth about Thompson’s identity. She’s an artist, with an obsession with scissors.

Jacobi, all of a sudden, counsels against letting Mike see her again, even offering her a gun to protect her.

Meanwhile, Mike is getting equally bad advice from discount shrink Williams, who says he should kill Thompson first or she’ll kill him. I don’t have much faith in the professional ethics of either of these people.

Then, an actual real face from the past, as Mike gets a message that Gray Baker wants to talk to him. He’s had a tracheotomy. He believes that Roman didn’t kill his wife, and says Mike should talk to the Housekeeper, Inga. The last he knew, she and her son had opened an antique shop. OH NO!

Mike talks to Inga and accuses her of killing Margaret.

And we learn the truth of who killed Margaret. It was Frankie, Inga’s son.

To be honest, when I first saw this, I should have connected Frankie’s stammer with the casting of Jacobi from the start, because he’s famous for playing roles with stammers.

Mike goes to see Thompson, but she’s still convinced he’s going to kill her, and ends up shooting him, just before Jacobi arrives to stage it like a murder suicide. But no, Mike’s still alive and the climax is a glorious slow motion epic clearly inspired by De Palma, with Patrick Doyle’s score working overtime sounding a lot like Pino Donnagio and Bernard Herrmann. Even Wayne Knight is there, stumbling into the scene with pizza and making things worse. It’s gloriously silly, but exactly what the film should be doing.

And because there are some immutable laws of the universe, Derek Jacobi’s villain, after one brief deployment of his stammer, does end up falling onto something sharp and pointy, namely one of Thompson’s many scissor-based sculptures. Textbook villain ending.

That was a lot of fun. Of course, any film featuring Emma Thompson (now Dame Emma Thompson) is already well worth watching, but this is truly bonkers, in a good way.

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Star Trek – The Next Generation – tape 1480

Here’s some episodes from Season 4 of Star Trek The Next Generation on Sky One. I was clearly watching as I recorded these, as all the ad breaks have been taken out. I’ll be watching the episode on Netflix, because HD, but all the screenshots will come from my tape, because posterity.

The first episode is Identity Crisis, a Geordi episode. Years ago, Geordi was part of an away team investigating the disappearance of an entire colony on Tarchannen III. His colleague on the team, Susanna Leijten (Maryann Plunkett) has come to the Enterprise because the rest of the away team who investigated the colony have all disappeared under unusual circumstances.

On reaching the planetary system, the Enterprise watch as a shuttle stolen by one of the away team approaches the planet, but too fast, so it explodes in the atmosphere.

On the surface, the Enterprise away team find two more shuttles, presumably the other away team members returning to the planet. And Commander Leijten has some kind of reaction to something on the planet, acting very strangely.

Pretty Soon, she starts changing, developing a sensitivity to light and growing blue veins over her skin. She’s transforming into something.

It’s down to Geordi to try to find out what’s affecting her, and might be affecting him. He does some analysis of the visual logs of the original away team, and finds an anomalous shadow, which he analyses on the holodeck. It’s a nice variation on the old ‘enhance sections 23 to 41’ trope.

But Geordi also succumbs to whatever it is that’s changing Leijten.

Whatever is changing him, he’s becoming a sort of chameleon, and transports down to the surface, looking like he’s borrowed the Predator’s visual effects.

Leitjen is recovering, because Crusher was able to identify the organism that was causing the changes. She tells Crusher that it’s this species way of reproducing, and Geordi doesn’t have much time left before he’s completely changed into one of them. So they beam down to the planet, and using Ultra Violet lights, which apparently are outside the visual range of the aliens, and therefore don’t frighten them, they’re able to see them. I’m not sure that’s quite how all this works, but it does give us a nice, freaky alien effect on Geordi, before Leijten is able to persuade him to return to the ship with them.

It’s nice to see a story in which Geordi is able to actually be friends with a woman instead of just mooning after her all the time, and for this to be a plot point.

The Next episode is The Nth Degree and it features one of the best recurring characters of the series, Lt Barclay, played by Dwight Schulz. He’s performing as Cyrano de Bergerac as part of his therapy to overcome his holodeck addiction.

There’s a space array that’s been damaged, and Barclay and Geordi take a look, but while investigating, Barclay gets zapped, and starts exhibiting massive increases in intelligence and confidence. He even asks out Deanna. “He did make a pass at me last night. A good one.”

Pretty soon, Barclay has wired himself into the ship’s computer, and is reconfiguring the ship to make a trip over a massive distance.

When there, he’s release from the computer, as the beings who were controlling him make themselves known. They only want to meet other species, but they’re so massively advanced from us that they don’t even bother going out of the house, they just bring the species to them. I endorse this behaviour.

The next episode here is QPid. It’s a bit of a romp. Jennifer Hetrick returns as Vash, the woman with whom Picard spent a pleasant vacation in Captain’s Holiday.

She’s there supposedly to attend Picard’s symposium on Archaeology that he’s giving. Picard is embarrassed when Beverley pops round for breakfast, finding Vash already there. Vash is upset when she learns that Picard has never mentioned her to his crew.

There’s a great moment when Riker tries to hit on Vash and she completely shuts him down.

Things take a turn when Q turns up. He feels he owes Picard a favour, so he’s going to help him with his love life.

So, during Picard’s presentation, Q transports most of the bridge crew to a recreation of Sherwood Forest, with Picard playing Robin Hood, Riker as Little John, Data as Friar Tuck and Work as Will Scarlet. Leading to one of the greatest lines in all of Star Trek from Worf. “Sir, I protest. I am not a merry man!”

In the end, Picard saves Vash (as Maid Marion) but then she decides to join Q and see the universe, which helpfully gets her out of Picard’s life. Although from this still it looks like they’re going into the jungle on I’m A Celebrity.

The next episode is The Drumhead. A Klingon lieutenant is accused of setting off an explosion within the Enterprise dilithium chamber. He’s also accused of passing information to the Romulans. The Klingon tells Worf his name is no longer spoken on the Klingon homeworld, and says he can help him get his honour back if Worf lets him escape. But Worf isn’t having any of it.

Retired Admiral Satie arrives to lead the investigation. She’s played by veteran Hollywood star Jean Simmons.

As the investigation gets going, Satie says there must be a larger conspiracy on board the ship. The Klingon denies having had anything to do with the explosion, although he admits having transmitted information about the engines to the Romulans.

A medical crewman, Simon Tarses, is interviewed about giving the Klingon injections. Satie’s aide, played by Bruce French, is a betazoid, and he says Tarses is lying and should be considered a suspect. But Picard pushes back, unwilling to treat a man as a criminal based only on betazoid intuition.

But Data and Geordi conclude that the explosion was simply an accident, caused by a faulty bulkhead. Satie and her aide seem unhappy with this, They’re looking for a conspiracy, and they’re not going away empty handed. They’re starting the process of monstering young Tarses who, we discover, might have a Romulan grandfather.

Picard is unhappy with the way the investigation is going. “The road from suspicion to rampant paranoia is a very short one.”

Is that an Excelsior class starship next to the Enterprise? It should the relative size of the Enterprise D.

Picard gets served on the bridge and has to testify.

Picard’s record is examined in his testimony – we get reminded of past stories. When Satie brings up Picard’s assimilation by the Borg, my wife said “she is Umbridge, isnt’ she?” And when Picard quotes her father’s words, a warning against trampling on freedom, she rather loses it, vowing to expose his treachery. At which point the other Admiral, brought in to observe, stands and walks out.

We almost get a Picard facepalm.

The episode ends with Picard talking to Worf about how quickly suspicion and tyranny can take hold.

“But she, or someone like her, will always be with us, waiting for the right climate in which to flourish, spreading fear in the name of righteousness. Vigilance, Mister Worf, that is the price we have to continually pay.”

I love this show.

And that’s the end of this episode, and the tape.