Month: February 2016

Blazing Saddles – Film 85 – tape 50

First on the tape, Blazing Saddles, close contender (with The Producers) to the title of Mel Brooks’ best film.

If you’ve never seen it, you probably should. It’s a very funny film, but one that’s also about something – a biting parody on the racism of the old west. Although if your tolerance for the N-word is low, you might find it hard going, as they use it a lot.

Cleavon Little plays a black sheriff, assigned to the town of rock-ridge by a Harvey Korman as Hedley Lamarr (“It’s HEDLEY”) a corrupt politician who is trying to drive the citizens of the town away so he can buy the land and drive a railroad through it. The townsfolk are not happy at having a black man for mayor.

Cleavon Little

Gene Wilder is the drunk former gunslinger The Waco Kid.

Gene Wilder

The awful racism of the townspeople might be difficult to stomach, except that Little is smart and sophisticated, and Wilder also is basically an intellectual in cowboy boots, so they can bear it with a shrug. When an old woman, who had previously insulted him on the street, gives him an apple pie to thank him for getting rid of one of Korman’s goons, she says “Of course you will have the good taste not to tell anyone I spoke to you?”

Then, we’re introduced to Lilli Von Shtupp, “The Teutonic Titwillow” – when her scene starts, there’s a cheeky snatch of ‘Springtime for Hitler’ on the soundtrack. She’s played by Madeleine Khan in a performance clearly channelling Marlene Dietrich.

Madeleine Khan

The ending of the film is a bizarre piece of meta-filmmaking, as the camera pans from a huge brawl in the streets of Rock Ridge, across a studio backlot, to some studio buildings, and we’re suddenly watching the rehearsal of an old-style hollywood musical, as Dom DeLuise directs top-hatted dancers in a song called ‘The French Mistake’.

Dom DeLuise 2

There’s an awful lot of gay steroetypes in this scene. The shooting is interrupted by the western brawl bursting through the set wall, and proceeds to go all over the studio, including a food fight in the commissary.

Then, Hedley Lamarr leaves the studio and takes a cab to the Chinese Theater on Hollywood Boulevard, where they’re showing Blazing Saddles.

Chinese Theatre

And when he starts watching, he sees Cleavon Little arrive at the theatre on his horse. And after Little has dealt with him, he and Wilder go back into the cinema to watch the end of the film. So they even get to ride off into the sunset – well, ride off to their limo, which then drives off into the sunset.

BBC Genome: BBC One – 6th April 1985 – 21:00

After this, recording changes, and we have more Film 85 featuring reviews of

There’s also a look forward to films opening during the summer.

BBC Genome: BBC One – 18th June 1985 – 22:45

The tape ends just after this, just as an episode of Taxi is starting.

Dr Who And The Daleks – tape 53

I remember seeing Dr Who and the Daleks in a school hall, projected from a 16mm print. A local school advertised a film show featuring ‘a space travelling Doctor’ – I think, for licensing reasons, they didn’t want to give the actual title of the movie.

I suspect I’d already seen this on television, but it was quite exciting to see it on a bigger screen.

This TV presentation suffers greatly from pan & scan, with the picture looking very truncated.

I quite like the Cushing movies, despite them being non-canon, even if only for the colourful Daleks. This one’s story always dragged for me – and the original BBC serial drags even more, being much longer, but it’s still a lot of fun.

Although I do involuntarily shudder when Roy Castle addresses Cushing as “Dr Who”. I just can’t help it.

I like the idea that the Dalek civilisation is so astoundingly advanced that lava lamps have come back into fashion.

Dalek Lava Lamps

The film ends with a countdown (no big surprise for a Terry Nation story) but the rate of the countdown when we see it counting bears no relation to the actual time that supposedly passes before the explosion.

BBC Genome: BBC One – 20th April 1985 – 11:05

After this, recording switches to the end of a programme featuring The Chieftains.

Then, we have Film 85, with a special edition from the Cannes film festival, and including reviews of

Barry talks to Harrison Ford about Witness, blockbuster films, stardom and being a sex symbol.

He also talks to Theresa Russell about Insignificance.

Theresa Russell

Jean Luc Godard gets a custard pie in his face

Jean Luc Godard gets pied

Cher and Peter Bogdanovich take pot shots at each other in their press conferences, after Bogdanovich was excluded from the final editing process.

Alan Parker, Matthew Modine and Nicholas Cage talk about Birdy.

One of Barry’s favourite actors, Clint Eastwood, talks about Pale Rider.

BBC Genome: BBC One – 21st May 1985 – 22:45

There’s another episode next, although I’ve missed the start. There are reviews of

There’s a location report on the making of A View to a Kill.

BBC Genome: BBC One – 28th May 1985 – 22:45

In the next episode, Barry reviews the following films:

Greta Scacchi talks about The Coca Cola Kid. And there’s a look at the career of Joseph Losey.

There’s also a location report on Return to Oz

BBC Genome: BBC One – 4th June 1985 – 22:45

Then, we have the start of another episode – the tape ran out before the episode finished, though. I have reviews of:

There’s a location report on The Yellow Pages, featuring Jean Simmons.  The tape runs out during this report.

BBC Genome: BBC One – 11th June 1985 – 22:45

The Real Thing? Questions Of Authenticity – Have I Got News For You – tape 991

The tape opens with a long segment of the BBC news with subtitles for the hard of hearing. One of the stories is about banning a film about Salman Rushdie.

Drunken terrorist playboy

James Ferman doesn’t like Salman Rushdie at all.

James Ferman on Salman Rushdie

(actually he’s explaining how the character in the film doesn’t really bear comparison with the real life Rushdie)

There’s a piece about crop circles. Clearly this is early enough in the phenomenon – although the report says they’ve been appearing for 12 years – that the BBC can report with a straight face the ‘scientists’ trying desperately to prove that it’s anything other than people making them.

There’s weather from John Kettley, and a trailer for Sunday programmes.

Then, The Real Thing? Questions of Authenticity, a programme looking at the authentic performance movement that was very popular from the 90s. With contributions from Roger Norrington

Roger Norrington

Jeffrey Tate

Jeffrey Tate

Pierre Boulez

Pierre Boulez 2

Nicholas Kenyon, not yet the director of the BBC Proms

Nicholas Kenyon

Melvyn Tan

Melvyn Tan

Alfred Brendel

Alfred Brendel

John Eliot Gardener

John Eliot Gardener

This is quite an entertaining programme, presented by David Owen Norris, who asks these musicians, on both sides of the argument, to articulate their positions, and they frequently disagree directly. It’s clearly a subject which elicits a lot of emotion.

BBC Genome: BBC Two – 28th July 1990 – 20:30

After this, there’s the first in the second series of Have I Got News For You, with guests Sandi Toksvig

Sandi Toksvig 2

and David Thomas, editor of Punch.

David Thomas

This is the series where they first started using the ‘allegedly’ joke, by the way.

BBC Genome: BBC Two – 4th October 1991 – 22:00

The next episode features guest appearances from (sound the Slatterywatch klaxon) Tony Slattery

Tony Slattery on HIGNFY

and Alan Coren

Alan Coren

BBC Genome: BBC Two – 11th October 1991 – 22:00

And there’s one more episode on this tape with guests Rory McGrath

Rory McGrath 2

and Tony Banks

Tony Banks

Of interest only to me, they discussed a story about a man called Tony Finn who bought a shark from a pet shop in Hemel Hempstead. Where I live.

BBC Genome: BBC Two – 18th October 1991 – 22:00

After this, Newsnight starts, leading with the announcement of new Middle-East peace talks. The tape stops after four minutes of this.

The Jack Docherty Show – Father Ted – tape 2475

This tape starts with The Jack Docherty Show already in progress, talking to the seemingly ubiquitous Rowland Rivron.

After the break, though, the real reason for taping this episode, as Jack interviews Douglas Adams. He’s there to talk about Starship Titanic, the adventure game he created at his company The Digital Village, where I worked for a few years, until it was consumed by the dot-com bust and I fled to the BBC. I never worked on the game itself, although I was a beta tester briefly, and my name is in the ‘thanks’ section of the credits.

After this, recording switches to Father Ted for the episode Chirpy Burpy Cheap Sheep. There’s a monster menacing sheep. The fear has affected the champion sheep, and Ted has put a bet on him. And Father Jack has a brief moment of peace.

Father Jack at peace

The whole episode is available on All4.

After this, an episode of Frasier. Frasier’s dad is going to propose to his girlfriend, and the boys aren’t happy.

Next, King of the Hill. This episode is Jumpin’ Crack Bass (It’s a Gas, Gas, Gas).

Then, an episode of The Adam and Joe Show, featuring Toytrainspotting, making it the first ever episode.

Then, the recording ends during an episode of TFI Friday. Underneath, Channel 5 are showing ESPN, during which the tape finishes.

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Horizon – Tomorrow’s World – tape 658

This tape opens with the end of The Education Programme.

Then, Horizon with an episode called In My Lifetime?

Presenter Glyn Worsnip, formerly of That’s Life, suffers from Cerebellar Ataxia, a rare brain disorder. He looks into the state of research into rare neurological disorders, and whether enough money is going into the right research.

Glyn Worsnip

For 70s TV viewers, it’s nice to see that Professor Heinz Woolf is still working.

Professor Heinz Woolf

BBC Genome: BBC Two – 27th February 1989 – 20:10

There’s more from Horizon next, in an episode called Concerto.

It’s a programme that looks at a lot of aspects of music, and how science and technology affects them. Here’s the great Wendy Carlos, of Switched On Bach fame.

Wendy Carlos

Christopher Hogwood taks about the changes in the way music is performed over time.

Christopher Hogwood

BBC Genome: BBC Two – 6th March 1989 – 20:10

After this, a trailer for Duke Bluebeard’s Castle. Then the recording stops.

Underneath, an angsty looking profile of novelist Patrick Hamilton from The Late Show.

That recording switches to BBC 1 and a trailer for Tuesday 28th February programmes.

Then, much to my delight, Tomorrow’s World. Howard Stableford comes live from British Telecom’s Network Management Centre. They’re trying to have the biggest telephone vote in the world. Think about that, in these days where every morning antiques show has a telephone vote or a competition line, all computer controlled, and programmes like X Factor have millions of people voting, this was a time when a phone vote was new technology.

Judith Hann drives a container lorry into the studio.

Maggie Philbin gets her face scanned with a laser.

Howard reports the results of the phone poll – should we have British Summer Time all year round? 271,132 said yes,  86,712 said no. And that was the biggest number of calls to a single number up to that time.

Judith looks at microwaves and cold spots.

And There’s a report on a supermarket in Holland who are the first to do self-scan.

Here’s a playlist of the whole programme.

BBC Genome: BBC One – 28th February 1989 – 19:00

After this, there’s a trailer for QED.

Then, an episode of Eastenders starts.

After a bit of that, recording stops again, and underneath, an episode of Lost in Space.

Then, the start of a film in the Bombay Talkies season, Kaagaz ke Phool (Paper Flowers)

The tape finally stops during this film.

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Sean’s Show – tape 739

Once again, my low-brow preferences are underlined by the start of this tape. “Now the Thames Summer Seasons continues with the Rennaissance Theatre Co-” at which point the recording switches to Sean’s Show on Channel 4.

Sean’s Show is Sean Hughes’ sitcom, based loosely on the same gimmick as It’s Garry Shandling’s Show, but with Hughes’ loser character as the central character.

His local barman is played by Michael Troughton.

Michael Troughton

There’s a funny cameo from Windsor Davies.

Windsor Davies and some Jelly

Victor McGuire plays Tony, from upstairs.

Victor McGuire

In the first episode, Sean discovers the script to the show, written by Samuel Becket.

In the second episode, Sean sings a lot, and tries to make his girlfriend jealous.

Before the next episode there’s the end of The Golden Girls.

Oddly, the theme tune and titles is different for every show. And he sings it in a different key. Or different octave, anyway.

Tracey MacLeod from The Late Show turns up to interview Sean.

Tracey MacLeod

Also, Steve Coogan does a voice on the phone.

There’s a special announcement before the next episode: “Due to certain unforeseen production problems, some of the script used for tonight’s show has been incorrectly typed, rendering parts of the programme incomprehensible.”

Sean is on holiday in Greece. Some nice fourth wall breakage here.

Sean's Show set

Next, an unscheduled programme, with Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer in The Weekenders, part of the Bunch of Fives series.

Apart from Vic & Bob, lots of familiar faces, like Paul Whitehouse

Paul Whitehouse in The Weekenders

Simon Day (credited as Tommy Cockles)

Simon Day in The Weekenders

Human League frontman Phil Oakey

Phil Oakey

I’m not even going to try to synopsize this. It’s one of the most surreal things I’ve seen.

The Weekenders

Speaking of credits, Reeves is credited in the writing credit under his real name, Jim Moir. And his character’s name is Jim.

After this, there’s the start of a 4-Play programme, ‘Itch with Alexei Sayle. This recording stops at the end of Part One and underneath there’s a special showing of George Michael’s ‘controversial new video’ Too Funky. It’s got lots of famous models in it.

Then, the recording stops during another 4-Play presentation, Shalom Joan Collins.

And underneath, an even older recording. Gene Hackman and Anne Archer running through a train. It’s Narrow Margin. Actually, it’s a film programme with Archer discussing doing her own stunts, from Sky movies.

Then, a behind the scenes for Basic Instinct. It’s amusing that, in this hyper modern thriller, to show that Sharon Stone’s character is a writer, they show a close-up on a dot matrix printer printing something out. The recording stops during this.

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Fail Safe – tape 728

Fail Safe is a film based on the same novel which Dr Strangelove was parodying. And because Strangelove got into cinemas first, Fail Safe rather bombed at the box office.

It’s a story about the US nuclear fleet, and much of the opening is taken up with various explanations of how the system works, and how secure it is. “No one can interfere with the fail-safe box Mr Raskob. No one.” says a general confidently.

It’s shot with the same deep shadow black and white as Strangelove, but it looks strangely cheap. Not having Ken Adam to design the sets puts you at a disadvantage.

Walter Matthau runs a military briefing, discussing with a roomful of generals whether it’s possible to wage a limited war when nuclear weapons are involved. All this is taking place while an unknown aircraft is being tracked by central command. They’re relieved when it’s identified as a commercial airline, but one of the bombers, having reached its fail-safe position, can’t receive the all-clear, and has to assume it’s still supposed to deliver its missiles to Moscow.

So President Henry Fonda has to sit in an underground communications room, trying to coordinate the efforts to contact the rogue bomber.

Matthau has a rather melodramatic view of soviet psychology – he counsels that if the Russians know they are being attacked, and they will be destroyed, they would surrender, rather than doom the world to mutually assured destruction. He thinks they should let the flight through and take advantage of the first strike.

President Fonda has to try to persuade the Soviet premier that it really is a horrible mistake. It helps him, as the bombers approach, that the Soviets have to admit that the bombers are being jammed deliberately by them, so at least the situation is partially of their making.

But when the jamming ceases, the President is unable to recall the planes, because their protocol doesn’t allow override by voice command.

The President orders all of his men to help the soviets shoot down the plane – they have to answer the technical questions of the soviets, to explain all their stealth technology – something that some of the US generals have a great difficulty doing.

But in the end, despite all their efforts, one bomber gets through. And, in order to prevent a full-scale retaliation from the soviets, and to prove that this was all a mistake, President Fonda orders one of his nuclear bombers to drop two bombs on New York City.

No happy endings. Except the caption at the end:

THE PRODUCERS OF THIS FILM
WISH TO STRESS THAT IT IS
THE STATED POSITION OF
THE DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE
AND
THE UNITED STATES AIR FORCE
THAT A RIGIDLY ENFORCED
SYSTEM OF SAFEGUARDS AND
CONTROLS INSURE THAT
OCCURRENCES SUCH AS THOSE
DEPICTED IN THIS STORY
CANNOT HAPPEN

So that’s all right then.

Among the very impressive cast, I almost didn’t recognise a young Larry Hagman as the President’s interpreter.

Larry Hagman

There’s a slight continuity glitch after the movie, as they show the tape clock instead of the channel 4 logo, which usefully dates this recording as 22nd May 1989.

C4 clock

Then, there’s the start of Eleventh Hour, a documentary series, and the recording stops a minute or so into it.

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