This tape opens with Wake Up With Libby and Jonathan. Nigel Planer, Susie Blake, Stephen Moore, written by Andrew Nickolds – how could it fail? It’s a comedy obviously inspired by Richard and Judy – a couple who present a morning TV show, but can’t stand each other in real life.
It’s OK, but the lead characters are so awful that there’s nothing really to like about the show.
After this, we switch to the Movie Channel for a movie. Michael Caine and Sean Young star in Blue Ice. Michael Caine is 26 years older than Sean Young. So obviously, their relationship in the movie is bound to be platonic or paternal. They can’t possibly have a romance, can they?
I think I might have watched this before, but I have no real memory of it. I suspect I recorded it because it was directed by Russell Mulcahy, director of Highlander, a movie which engenders way more nostalgia than it truly deserves. Mulcahy is a director we all wanted to see succeed. He will always have a soft spot in my heart, even if only for the pop video for Bonnie Tyler’s Total Eclipse of the Heart. But he’s never made a genuine classic, although I suspect there are plenty of people who would put Highlander into that category.
He also directed Highlander II: The Quickening.
The writer is Ron Hutchinson, a name which rang a bell. He wrote the BBC techno-thriller series Bird of Prey starring Richard Griffiths.
So how does Blue Ice measure up? Here’s the opening shot.
I think that’s almost the same opening shot as A Fish Called Wanda. He’s got the London Travelogue Shotlist and he’s playing it step by step.
After a brief scene of a man photgraphing some barges, and an ominous shot of a Royal Mail van, the scene changes to a funeral. Patricia Hayes is watching, and asks the man next to her how old the dead person was. Michael Caine (for it is he) tells her he was 43, and died of ‘Blue Ice’. “He was sitting in his car outside a warehouse at Heathrow Airport when this great big chunk of ice the size of a regfrigerator broke off a jumbo jet toilet compartment and crashed straight through the roof of his Jaguar. Stone dead.”
After the funeral we’re treated to some more travelogue, as Caine drives around Piccadilly Circus in his own Jaguar listing to a Jazz CD. Piccadilly Circus looks suspiciously deserted – they probably had to shoot really early on a Sunday morning.
Caine and Young meet when she rear-ends him while she’s trying to take notes for a phone call while driving. Caine is his usual enlightened self. “I might have known – a woman driver talking on a bloody carphone.”
Pretty soon though, they hit it off, despite Young fleeing the scene and Caine in hot pursuit. We’re not really given any motivation for Caine’s change of heart, except, perhaps,that it’s Sean Young. Pretty soon he’s taking her to his bar and they’re listening to his piano player.
Caine’s bar is a jumping joint come the evening, and his band is impressive – the drummer appears to be Charlie Watts from the Rolling Stones.
I know nothing about Jazz, so for all I know, the whole band could be famous Jazz musicians – I wouldn’t recognise their names.
“Do you like all music harry?”
“Some of it.”
“Everything except Schoenberg. Schoenberg always struck me as being a bit of a wanker.”
She takes him to the opera, he takes her home and cooks her crayfish, and before you know it, they’re down to the rumpy pumpy. Thankfully, Caine keeps his shirt on.
We learn that Young is actually married to the US Ambassador (another man much older than she is) and she’s particularly interested in Caine’s past as some sort of spy. She asks him to find someone for her so she can talk to him – we’d seen him at the start of the film on the phone to her – but when he finds the man and passes the information on to Young, he decides to check him out himself along with his policeman friend Alun Armstrong who provided the tip-off. But the man is killed by an unknown assailant, Armstrong is murdered and Caine gives chase across some railway tracks – there are a couple of scenes of near misses with trains that look genuinely hair-raising – even with still frame I can’t tell if they were live stunts or composite shots.
Caine is in the frame for Armstrong’s murder, and when he tells the police that Young had asked for the information, they tell him that the Ambassador’s wife has been in Paris for several days.
But Caine has contacts in high places, so he gets out (on bail presumably).
And then there’s the most amazing scene change – suddenly, here’s Bob Hoskins, in full-on Long Good Friday mode, striding out of a building, only to be set upon by a gang of balaclava-wearing, machine-gun-toting bad guys, and we’re suddenly in a completely different movie – huge car chase, heavy weapons, and Hoskins kicking terrorist butt.
But it turns out Hoskins is a security consultant who teaches nervous businessmen how to handle themselves in kidnap situations. Caine tells him about the situation, and asks him if he can find out who the murdered man was.
Caine is visited in his club by a stranger who starts talking in some kind of jazz code. He sounds like he has information, so Caine leaves with him, just as Hoskins tries to get in touch. (Aside: Yet another plot point which just wouldn’t arise in these days of mobile phones). Hoskins is agitated, so clearly the information is disturbing. As Hoskins leaves the pub he was in, the red Royal Mail van we’ve seen earlier lurks in the background.
Meanwhile, Caine has gone with the man from the club, and he makes the mistake of accepting a mug of hot chocolate from him. Suddenly, the film lurches into a surreal nightmare scene – multiple Michael Caines, Sean Young screaming, Caine interrogating himself. It’s totally bonkers.
Cut to the next day. All signs of the interrogation are gone, and there’s a car waiting outside to ferry Caine to Heathrow Airport where we find Ian Holm waiting for him.
He’s Caine’s old boss, and he warns Caine to stay out of whatever it is he’s into. He also breaks the news that Bob Hoskins has been killed, and the Americans aren’t happy.
So Harry goes back to his club, and finds Young there. She seems to know almost as little as Caine. The murdered man was her ex-boyfriend, who worked for US intelligence. She tells him about the message he relayed to her on the phone, the time she ran into the back of Caine’s car. But she doesn’t know what it means. Caine swears revenge for Armstrong and Hoskins.
He tracks his interrogator to his home (we’re not privy as to how), and tortures him in the most middle-class way possible – he smashes the records in his priceless jazz collection. I’m assuming they must be really old shellac 78s because Vinyl LPs are much harder to smash in that way.
The interrogator then goes to Ian Holm for help, but Holm stabs him and dumps him in the river. So he’s not to be trusted.
Cut to Caine’s flat. Caine is in the shower. There’s a mysterious figure in a trenchcoat and hat skulking around his flat. The music is ominous. But surprise! It’s Sean Young again. She swiftly ditches the trenchcoat and hat, and joins Caine in the shower for a watery grope. I really hope she turns out to be the criminal mastermind behind all this, because otherwise she’s done absolutely nothing in this story so far. Not that Caine has done much more.
Then we immediately cut to Young at her home, asking for her husband’s help. Then she’s back to Caine’s club telling him what she knows. Then the club blows up.
Caine goes to Holm and gives him the coded message, telling him that if anything happens to Caine, Holm should make sure the code gets to the right people. As we now know, but Caine doesn’t, this is a bad move. At least Holm doesn’t ask him “Who else knows about this?”
It’s all leading to the Port of London, and something stored in a refrigerated container. Sean Young is on her way somewhere in a car, not driver by her usual driver, and Caine is looking around the port, trying to avoid being run over by the fabulous vehicles they have to move the containers – they’re literally like something out of Thunderbirds.
Caine confronts Holm at the dock, and Holm tells him it was just a regular, illicit arms deal, and he was getting £5m for it. He was bitter at having been retired from the service.
Cue a lot of running about and shooting on the cargo ship, ending with Holm suspended on a hook above the deck, spraying the ship with machine gun fire before Caine finally takes him out.
That’s not something you see every day.
And that’s that. Caine and Young don’t even end up together, because she has to go back to Washington to help her husband sort out some financial matters.
After this, recording switches to BBC1 for Pat and Margaret. It’s a comedy drama written by and starring Victoria Wood. Naturally, Wood’s favourite actors make an appearance, including the lovely Duncan Preston.
Victoria Wood is Margaret, who works in a motorway service station, and takes a special trip to London to watch the filming of Magic Moments, a Surprise Surprise type show. Julie Walters is Pat, ‘the most famous soap star on American television’ although she hails from England. She’s not a nice person. “Life is very tough for these northern women. I did a cameo in a Barbara Taylor Bradford, it’s heartbreaking.”
Victoria Wood has a very cosy, homespun image, so it’s a little shocking just how awful Pat is. Also not very nice is Thora Hird as the domineering mother of Margaret’s boyfriend, the afore-mentioned Duncan Preston. She does everything she can to ruin their relationship, and the media doesn’t help, trying to dig up dirt on their childhood, and publishing stories saying Margaret is happy to get away from her awful job.
But Pat has a secret from the past that she doesn’t want the press to find out, so she and Margaret head up North together. And it all ends more or less happily, but rarely how you expect. It’s a lovely film.
BBC Genome: BBC One London, 11 September 1994 20.55
Following this, there’s a trailer for Two Golden Balls (featuring my old school friend Claire Skinner) and more from Sean Young in a trailer for A Kiss Before Dying (which was partly filmed in the house where I worked).
Then the recording stops with the start of the news.