Month: September 2014

Animation Now – The Incredibly Strange Film Show – tape 557

A black and white film ends just as the recording starts. I don’t recognise it. It might be part of the Screen Sleuths season, as there’s a trail for Charlie Chan at the Circus tomorrow. Funny, you don’t see Charlie Chan much any more. Surely it’s time for a modern reboot.

Talking of things you don’t see any more, there’s a trailer for Cool It – Phil Cool’s ‘impressions’ programme where he does that face of his and they turn the lights green.

Then, it’s Animation Week on DEF II with Magenta De Vine talking to animator Alison De Vere. On this programme is:

  • Cafe Bar – Alsion De Vere
  • The Tempest – George Dunning
  • Felix Woos Whoopee – Pat Sullivan
  • Foxhunt – Anthony Cross and Hector Hoppin
  • Musical Poster – Len Lye
  • Jeux Des Anges – Walerian Borowczyk
  • The Cabinet of Jan Swankmajer – The Brothers Quay
  • Sledgehammer – Stephen Johnson

But leading off the show is part 3 of Yellow Submarine.

This programme has the annoying habit of squashing up the animation when it starts so it can run some pointless trivia underneath. This is quite insulting to the filmmakers, I think.

BBC Genome: BBC Two – 8th September 1988 – 18:40

Before the next programme, some more RKO comedy. Then a look at later programmes.

On the next Animation Week programme, Magenta’s guest is pop video director Steve Barron. The films on show are:

  • Take On Me – Steve Barron
  • Criminal Tango – Solweig von Kleist
  • Underground (David Bowie) – Solwieg von Kleist. Here’s Solweig’s drawings for this video.
  • The Grandmother – David Lynch (yes, that David Lynch)
  • The Wizard of Speed and Time – Mike Jittlov
  • Boomtown – Bill Plympton
  • Red’s Dream – John Lasseter
  • Who Framed Roger Rabbit – Robert Zemeckis
  • Street of Crocodiles – The Brothers Quay
  • Going Underground – Solweig von Kleist
  • Dimensions of Dialogue – Jan Svankmajer

When they come to talk about John Lasseter, she asks Barron what he knows about him, and Barron says ‘I don’t know a lot’ – this was long before Toy Story, of course.

The last item in the programme is a joint winner of the Frst Bite competition, Dominic Sykes, whose film Berserk is about ‘the evils of television and its effects on children in particular. It’s a montage of images, some violent, hopefully to scare people into thinking twice, perhaps.’

What a pompous prig.

BBC Genome: BBC Two – 9th September 1988 – 19:00

After the programme, there’s a trail for next week on DEF II where they do that really annoying thing they did in the 80s or squashing up the picture to fit in their graphics, leading to horribly stretched images.

DEF II trails

There’s a quick plug for The Listener, and a trail for Sport Aid.

Then, The Friday Report has a programme on how we can build a million new houses without ruining the countryside.

There’s about five minutes of this programme, before the recording switches to a screaming Tom Hanks.

Screaming Tom Hanks

It’s a trailer for a TV movie called Mazes and Monsters which, if I recall it correctly, was illustrating the dangers of games like Dungeons and Dragons. I bet Dominic Sykes liked it.

Update: There’s an interesting New York Times article and video about the moral panic around D&D, including a reference to the Tom Hanks film.

There’s also a Prince-heavy trailer for Wired, the C4 pop show.

Then, an episode of The Incredibly Strange Film Show on Russ Meyer.

Russ Meyer

There’s unsurprising contributions from the brilliant Roger Ebert, who was a close friend of Meyer’s and wrote the screenplay for Beyond the Valley of the Dolls.

Roger Ebert

After this, there’s a trailer for the new series of The Last Resort with an Olympic theme.

There’s also a trailer for American Football

Then, the start of a special edition of Wired, via satellite, with a live concert by Prince.


  • Swissair
  • No 7
  • Daily Mirror
  • Honeywell Bull
  • Miller Lite
  • Holiday Ireland
  • Federal Express
  • The Daily Telegraph – a Hitchhiker rip-off

  • Amplex
  • Prudential Holborn
  • Buf Puf
  • Exchange & Mart
  • Travelcard

The Adventures of Superman – Colin’s Sandwich – tape 553

This tape opens with a curious piece, seemingly entitled Five to Eleven, a poetry piece performed by the Children of the Damned.

Sorry, that should be performed by pupils from the Arts Educational Schools.

This is part of the BBC’s school holiday broadcasting, But First, This, presented by Andy Crane.

There’s a news report about a huge fire in Lisbon, and a report about the results of the first year of GCSEs – unsurprisingly, saying “it has raised standards for pupils of all abilities.” Funny how the people responsible for setting the papers, marking the papers and deciding the grades are able to demonstrate that results have improved.

Then, an episode of the old George Reeves Adventures of Superman, The Magic Necklace. I think it’s astonishing just how much like the comics Superman George Reeves didn’t look.

George Reeves

I mean, he didn’t even have black hair, let alone the kiss curl.

BBC Genome: BBC One – 25th August 1988 – 11:00

Before the next episode, there’s the end of an old black & white Republic serial (remember them from Beauty and the Beast?) Leon Trotsky and Darth Vader are flying around in an airship menacing people. I think.

A Republic Serial

Next, there’s a very embarrassed girl called Anita who gets to meet ‘the man of her dreams’, fleeting pop sensation Glenn Medeiros. This is a deeply awkward bit of TV, with Andy Crane seemingly channeling a darker side of Light Entertainment presenter.

Another episode of Superman follows, The Bully of Dry Gulch.

BBC Genome: BBC One – 26th August 1988 – 11:25

There’s an interview with Wet Wet Wet before the next episode of Superman, which is Flight to the North. It features Chuck Connors reading out the lonely  hearts to his donkey. I don’t even want to know.

Chuck Connors

BBC Genome: BBC One – 30th August 1988 – 11:30

The next episode is The Unlucky Number.  Where Superman meets The Fonz.

Superman and The Fonz

BBC Genome: BBC One – 31st August 1988 – 11:30

After a brief compilation of very dull bloopers from But First This, the next episode is The Seven Souvenirs.

BBC Genome: BBC One – 2nd September 1988 – 11:30

The last thing on this tape is a bonus episode of the Mel Smith sitcom Colin’s Sandwich. It’s the episode Back from Bengal. Colin has submitted a short story to a publisher and is waiting for him to phone about it.

BBC Genome: BBC Two – 15th November 1988 – 21:00

After this, recording stops, and underneath we find floppy-haired Scottish clothes horse Richard Jobson talking about his favourite subject, Richard Jobson. Well, it appears to be a clip show of some kind from his interview show, featuring appearances from Yazz, Tanita Tikaram, Status Quo, Julia Fordham, Eddy Reader and lots, lots more.

Then, Jobson has a bit of banter with the musical guests, Hue and Cry.

And finally, Eamonn Holmes talks to ‘Bride of the Year’ Sharon Blazier (sp?). The recording stops during this interview, and I still don’t know which programme this is, but I’d presume it’s a BBC daytime chat show. Edit: Chris H has kindly identified this programme as The Garden Party, a BBC Scotland lunchtime magazine show.

Flash Gordon – tape 552

There’s the end of an episode of Ever Decreasing Circles, a show I never really took to. I think it was just a bit too melancholy for me at the time.

Then, there’s a trailer for the Ronnie Corbett sit-com Sorry! along with the less well known Kathy Staff comedy No Frills.

Then, our movie presentation. Flash Gordon, the 1980 Mike Hodges version of the Alex Raymond comic strip, better known in this country for the 1930s serials starring Larry “Buster” Crabbe.

I have to confess that I’m more of a fan of the Buster Crabbe version than this one. This might be a function of the age I first saw them. I first saw the older version very young, in a cinema on a Saturday morning, shown amongst cartoons and a production from the Children’s Film Foundation. At that time I didn’t see all of the story, so I caught up in later years, when they were shown in the mornings on BBC1 during the school holidays.

By the time Hodges’ version came out, we’d already had two instalments of the Star Wars trilogy, and frankly, this effort, produced by the infamous Dino De Laurentiis, looked terrible by comparison. Terribly shoddy visual effects, a production design locked in the sixties, and a lead actor with all the charm of a kitchen table really hamstring the positive aspects of the film – a superb cast, a now-iconic score from Queen and… well, that’s about it.

I think it’s symptomatic of the problems with the film that the very first scene appears to show the Emperor Ming wreaking devastation on the Universal Studios logo.

I like to play with things awhile


(Where does that kick light on the right come from?)

I sometimes think the nostalgic glow that often accompanies memories of the film are probably from people who listened to the album over and over again, but never watched the film itself.

Hodges seems to have a blind spot for Science Fiction, as his Mel Smith and Griff Rhys Jones comedy Morons from Outer Space was even worse than this.

After the movie, there’s a trailer for programmes on Saturday that really feels of its time – graphics and music both point to a very specific time.

There’s a BBC news bulletin, the main story being the crash of an aircraft at an air show in Germany.

Then there’s a trailer for the forthcoming Seoul Olympics, And a TV movie called Murder One: Chase.

Next, an episode of Miami Vice entitled Walk Alone. Guest starring Ron Perlman and ‘Larry’ Fishburne, and Martin Ferrero off of Jurassic Park as a performer in a male strip club.

Martin Ferrero in Miami Vice

I never watched Miami Vice. I might have seen one episode once, but it never really appealed to me.

After Miami Vice, there’s a trailer for Across the Lake, a film about the Water Speed Record attempt by Donald Campbell, starring Anthony Hopkins as Campbell.

Anthony Hopkins as Donald Campbell

Then, there’s the start of the Edinburgh Military Tattoo, before the tape ends.

Thunderbirds – tape 480

It’s my 50th Birthday today. Well, as I type this, it’s actually a couple of weeks before my 50th, but this entry is scheduled for my birthday, so I thought it was worth mentioning.

I bought my first VCR in December 1984, one of my first large purchases after starting full time work. Our family had never had one – I don’t think my parents were big TV fans, it was just something that was on in the corner sometimes.

But I loved TV. When I was 12, and we had got a new colour television, I persuaded my dad to let me have our old black and white TV in my bedroom, and to his credit, he let me.

I’d watch things that wouldn’t normally be family viewing downstairs – The Sweeney was one I particularly remember watching on it – and I would always watch when the BBC showed the old Universal monster movies.

I saw Citizen Kane for the first time on that old B&W screen.

When I was about 18, we had a family holiday in Galway, visiting the Irish side of the family. We stayed at our Uncle’s house – and they owned a VCR. This was huge for me. I signed up at the local video rental shop in town, and would rent two or three films a day. It was a huge shop, and had a big Betamax section as well as the usual VHS films. But, more importantly, this was Ireland which had not, recently, passed the Video Recordings Act, which, in the UK, led to the banning of an awful lot of horror films on video. This didn’t affect Ireland, so, for this particular summer, I was able to rent films like The Evil DeadThe Burning (pretty bad), Cat PeopleVideodrome and other, safer fare like Poltergeist. 

My family couldn’t understand why I’d rather stay indoors all day and watch films on video. But it was one of the best holidays I’d ever had.

When I bought my VCR, I’d imagined I’d keep overwriting the same three or four tapes.

This notion lasted maybe a week.

I found that if I was interested in recording something, chances are, I’d probably want to watch it again. Thus starting my inexorable slide towards the current state of affairs, which is a garage half full of boxes of videotapes.

So, on this arbitrarily even birthday, let’s see what I’m writing about.

It’s Thunderbirds.

You can’t beat Thunderbirds. Peerless miniatures, huge explosions, ludicrous countdowns and one of the greatest theme tunes in the history of television, courtesy of the highly underrated Barry Gray. Yes, you could see the strings, but that doesn’t matter. It has one of the greatest premises of any TV drama – a concept that never requires a villain. Oh sure, it does sometimes feature a villain in its stories, and is no worse for that, but the core concept of the show doesn’t require one, and a whole show can run where the worst thing anyone does is act carelessly (to cause whatever the disaster is).

And those craft. Just beautiful. Gerry Anderson shows always had fantastic vehicles – hell, Thunderbirds is even named after the vehicles. But UFO had loads, as did Captain Scarlet, and Space 1999 had the Eagle Transporter, one of the greatest ship designs in TV.

When Thunderbirds was shown at lunchtime on Sundays, I’d take my Sunday lunch into the living room so I could still watch it. I remember the thrill of seeing an episode in colour, when we visiting our rich cousins.

So it’s nice that Thunderbirds happens to be the tape I’m talking about today. Which episode do we have?

This tape was obviously one that I did overtape, as I spot two different recordings before Thunderbirds – one of them an adaptation of a Muriel Sparks novel. Memento Mori, possibly, or maybe The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie. We shall see.

But it’s soon obliterated by Thunderbirds – and an episode already in progress. I hate it when that happens.

Here’s the first thing we see. Quick! Which episode?

First Thunderbirds scene

Might be hard to tell from this angle, but that’s the Crablogger, an automated deforestation machine, that naturally gets out of control. The episode is Path of Destruction. It’s typical of the series that the machine goes out of control not because of malice but because the men running it succumb to food poisoning.

This episode is particularly memorable for me, mainly because of the score – there’s a very specific theme for the Crablogger which I don’t remember being reused in other episodes.

BBC Genome: BBC Two England, 24 April 1992 18.00

The next episode on the tape is Alias Mr Hackenbacker. I don’t feel I can improve over the precis from Wikipedia for this episode:

The aircraft Skythrust, conceived by Brains, falls into the hands of fashion criminals who hi-jack the plane to steal a new French design from the renowned François Lemaire.

That’s right. Fashion criminals. After the secret new fibre, Pennelon, named after Lady Penelope. Can you see now why I love this programme.

BBC Genome: BBC Two England, 1 May 1992 18.00

After the second episode, there’s a trailer for The Comic Strip Presents: The Crying Game. And there’s a strange, SF-inflected teaser for the BBC One World season.

This recording stops just after this, and underneath we get an older recording. Michael Hordern and Maggie Smith, Thora Hird, John Wood. The credits reveal the answer to the question we had earlier – it’s the BBC adaptaion of Memento Mori.

Following this a trailer for Bertrand Tavernier’s Life and Nothing But. I think someone in the graphics department got a new set of fonts for Easter and has gone a bit mad.


There’s a trailer for Mr Wakefield’s Crusade, featuring Doctor Who himself Peter Capaldi.

Next, a real treat.

Only joking, it’s Snooker, introduced by David Vine. Apologies to all you Sporters out there, but that’s a blind spot for me. It’s the World Snooker Championship.

There’s quite a lot of this snooker programme before that recording also ends, and underneath is an old film.

Greta Garbo in Ninotchka

I don’t think I’ve ever seen it, but that’s Greta Garbo, so my immediate guess was Ninotchka, and an image search confirms it – that hat is unmistakable.

There’s quite a bit of this film before the tape finally ends.

Beauty and the Beast – tape 611

No songs here, this is the 90s TV incarnation of Beauty and the Beast, created by Ron Koslow and produced by a pre-Game of Thrones George R R Martin.

It starred Ron Perlman as ‘Vincent’, the titular Beast, and Linda Hamilton as Catherine, the Beauty, and posited un underworld beneath the city where Vincent and his people lived, and occasionally intersected with the world above.

Perlman’s Beast makeup was created by the great Rick Baker.

Beast Designed by Rick Baker

Another interesting credit is that this show was executive produced by Paul Junger Witt and Tony Thomas, who were the co-producers of Susan Harris’s seminal sit-com Soap, as well as Benson and The Golden Girls. The production company was Republic Pictures, which used to produce serial cliffhangers in the 40s.

Republic Pictures

The episodes on this tape are:

  • Fever
  • Everything is Everything
  • Promises of Someday

After the third episode, there’s a trailer for Murder She Wrote. Then the recording ends.


  • McEwan’s Export
  • Rapport
  • British Telecom
  • Stowell’s of Chelsea

Showreel 87 – tape 422

The tape opens with the end of a Ballet performance from the Bolshoi Ballet. This is followed by a trailer for An Evening With Kiri Te Kanawa.

Then, we have Showreel 87. Sue Robbie looks at some of the semi-finalists in the BBC’s amateur film competition.

Such is the slightly random nature of the way I do this blog, that we’ve already looked at the final programme, in which the winners were announced. And you might remember that the judges controversially decided not to award any prizes to the over 25s, because they felt the standard didn’t measure up. So we’ll get to see some of the over 25s films to see if they really were that bad.

Simon Howard’s Sincerely, Harold Washington looks a bit bonkers. All scary nuns and turtlenecks, with a lead character who has a whiff of John Shuttleworth about him.

On a VHS-produced entry from a youth group, the guest judge, Angela Pope, declared “I really believed those girls, they could be from any comprehensive down the road”.  Sue Robbie adds “it wasn’t overly scripted”.

In fact, Pope is quite critical of the general quality of submissions, with many films not having solved the narrative problems of the stories they were telling.

“We received a number of entries about steam engines, and steam railway lines, it’s a favourite subject amongst some of the older amateur movie makers.”

The steam opus selected for show was Geoffrey Wright’s Dolbadarn and the Lake.

The Star, by Daniel Chase and John Stevens, was one of the shorter entries, and was therefore shown in full. It’s very kinetic, and set to the theme from Midnight Cowboy. Sue Robbie’s comment: “I love the music on that one.” Not really surprising, then.

The protest group Cruisewatch entered a polemic called Melting Into the Countryside. It’s all a bit Duncan Cambell.

There’s a nice little spoof of Great River Journeys, called Little River Journeys – Part 16 – The Torrentz from Anthony Hull in which a plastic adventurer sails his plastic boat down a small river.

Then, Caroline Hawkins’ film Lipstick and Old Spice, which was one of the winners, following “a day in the life of a transvestite” that’s a bit more sensitive than that introduction makes it sound.

Word on a Wing, by Oliver Curtis, is “set at some indeterminate time in the future when people are able to communicate with each other by videophone.” “Are you being traced? You shouldn’t be transmitting, it’s too dangerous.” goes the dialogue, a chilling glimpse into our present dystopia of choppy sound quality and badly lit webcams. I’m not sure I like the way the actress in the film switches from talking to the character on screen to narrating the story to the audience. A poorly judged device for a film, I think.

The use of Rachmaninov on the soundtrack tips their hat to really wanting to be a modern Brief Encounter.

The show rounds off with The Bishop’s Cleave Songsters, a group of pensioners who look uncannily like Monty Python’s pepperpots.

Bishop's Cleave Songsters


Here’s part one in full (YouTube permitting).

The next episode features guest judge Chris Menges. It opens with a wildlife film, Sea Lion Island by Brian Paul. Despite the title, the clip shown was all about penguins.

Greta Jensen and Tony Pitts made a documentary about Bhuddist monks, Three Great Monasteries, Ganden, Drepung & Sera.

There’s a look back at the winners of the previous year’s competition (which I might have recorded somewhere, but I haven’t unearthed yet). One name stands out.

Daniel Cannon

Yes, that’s a young Danny Cannon, several years before he made his breakthrough feature film The Young Americans, and almost derailed his career following it up with the woeful Sylvester Stallone Judge Dredd, before hitting it really big as the director of the first episode of the original CSI.

Next film is Shredni Vashtar by Ashish Kotak, a very austere looking black and white film.

Casey Dobie is next, whose Prject 1-796 was a winner in his category.

There’s a comedy from Jackie Glass, The Bingo Beast.

Next, a spoof on The Professionals from Anthony Gunson, called The Amateurs Part II – do you see what he did there?

There’s a film about an early example of a hipster next, with Justin Sykes’ film Charles Normandale, Designer Blacksmith.

Another documentary next, with Mr Garden’s Blooms by Mavis Spence.

This programme finishes off with an animation from Ainslie Park school.

Before the third episode, there’s a news bulletin from Richard Whitmore. There’s also weather from a very casual Bill Giles.

Bill Giles

Guest judge on the third programme is animation legend Bob Godfrey.

Bob Godfrey

naturally, this episode concentrates on animation, opening with Concert by Mark Krycki, a plasticine animation of Z Z Top.

Fast Forward Leith came from Bonnington Primary School.

The next film comes from three schools for the mentally handicapped, called Barrow’s Town Hall Birthday Surprise.

There’s a spoof of The Prisoner’s title sequence, P’Nuts The Movie, from Steven Ricks.

Rockit, from David Sethi, uses Herbie Hancock as an inspiration. It’s interesting how many of these films use source music – I wonder if they all bought the necessary licences, or if the BBC dealt with it in those days.

Nicola Dennis’ entry was The Adventures of Sam the Sandwich, a brave attempt to do an animation on VHS.

Then, there’s Michele Smith’s Pith Off to Paris, and The Last Chance Film Crew’s Special Arts Show Animation.

David Coleman’s The Tailor features a traditional folk song, and seems to spend an inordinate amount of time on a man spanking a woman.

The show ends with Kitty Pursey’s The Shirt.

For the fourth episode, Sue Robbie is joined by Michael Apted.

The first film on show is from Halvdan Wettre, called Bightstalker, looking at bit like Polanski’s Repulsion.

El Glinoer’s Fall Out boasts “a multitude of writers” – I don’t know if that was meant to be a good thing.

Fiona Adams’ She Collects Junk looks like a prototype for Britain’s Worst Hoarders.

Emma Whitlock’s Images of Nurses looks like it could happily sit on BBC2 at the time.

Stand By Me by Stoke Newington School looked exactly like a school-produced video drama should.

The Lost Youth Theatre’s Why was a little more interesting, though.

Sidney Stringer School’s TV Love is well shot, and feels a bit like a PG version of Videodrome.

Philip Marshman made Learning the Newspaper Business and confesses that he still hasn’t cracked the problem of recording good sound. All much easier today, of course, but he was shooting on Super 8.

The final film, Dream Lover, was from Julian Morson and Francis O’Connor.


Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf – tape 415

In movie terms, this is a great movie, Burton and Taylor screaming blue murder at each other in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf. It won five Oscars, including Best Actress for Elizabeth Taylor. Burton was nominated, but he famously never won an Oscar.

But for the purposes of this blog, there’s almost nothing to talk about. It’s a BBC presentation, so there’s no adverts, and the only thing at the end is a look ahead at programmes for Saturday Night.

BBC1 Saturday Night

After this, BBC1 closes down with the National Anthem. And that’s the end of this recording.