Much Ado About Nothing – Tricks on Two – Eyewitness – tape 2113

First on this tape, Kenneth Branagh’s adaptation of Much Ado about Nothing. It’s great fun, all lusty maidens, swashbuckling men, masked balls, surreptitious matchmaking, scurrilous accusations and, above all else, Emma Thompson.

Emma Thompson

The cast is wonderful. Denzel Washington

Denzel Washington

Branagh himself

Kenneth Branagh

Robert Sean Leonard

Robert Sean Leonard

Kate Beckinsale

Kate Beckinsale

Keanu Reeves as the villainous Don Juan

Keanu Reeves

Michael Keaton

Michael Keaton

Ben Elton

Ben Elton

Richard Briers

Richard Briers

Brian Blessed

Brian Blessed

Phyllida Law

Phyllida Law

Set in sunny Tuscany, it’s like a Shakespearean Mamma Mia, with the whole cast clearly having the time of their lives. Combine that with Patrick Doyle’s utterly ravishing score, it’s an entirely joyful pleasure.

BBC Genome: BBC Two – 28th December 1995 – 21:00

Next, there’s a trailer for The Player. Then a trailer for Christmas Shooting Stars and Knowing Me Knowing Yule (see blogs passim).

After this a short programme collecting a lot of the Tricks on Two that were appearing throughout the schedule this Christmas.

BBC Genome: BBC Two – 28th December 1995 – 22:50

After this, recording switches to Channel 4, and a film called Eyewitness, but which was also known as The Janitor. Indeed, I believe I have another recording of it under its other title elsewhere in my collection, from earlier than this one. It’s directed by Peter Yates (who also made Bullitt and Krull) and written by Steve Tesich, who wrote the Kevin Costner cycling move Breaking Away, which was also directed by Yates.

My memory of this is a decent thriller, William Hurt and Sigourney Weaver, so let’s see how it stands up.

Hurt is a Janitor. We don’t know much about him to start with as he’s emptying the bins in an office building. He tries to talk to the Vietnamese manager of one of the firms, Mr Long, about someone called Alan Mercer. The manager tells him Mercer ‘gave an insult, and that we do not tolerate’. That’s all the information we’re given. He goes home, and is immediately attacked but a large dog. But this is his dog, and it would seem this happens all the time. Now, I’m not a dog person, but I think if a dog physically attacks you in this way every time you enter your house – it was biting his arms at one point – that’s not a safe dog to be keeping. I’m sure, though, this behaviour will be significant later in the story.

He watches TV, having recorded the news on his VCR, but the only thing he watches is the theatre review by Sigourney Weaver. She didn’t like the show.

We then meet Weaver in her own environment, playing at a piano recital.

Sigourney Weaver

The event is a fundraiser for Christopher Plummer, for an organisation that works to free Jewish people from imprisonment across the world. I like Christopher Plummer, as he’s an actor that you can cast in both good and evil roles, so you can’t be sure just on seeing him whether he can be trusted.

Christopher Plummer

Weaver drives Plummer to the Airport, where he’s returning to Israel. Plummer seems reluctant to go. They have a relationship, but there’s another woman who meets him at the airport when Weaver leaves.

Back to Hurt, and we meet his friend Alan Mercer, played by James Woods. He’s still mad that Mr Long had him fired. And that night, Hurt hears noise from Mr Long’s office, finds him murdered. Morgan Freeman is Detective Black, working the case.

Morgan Freeman

Hurt sees Weaver outside the building, reporting the case, so he approaches her, as a witness. He doesn’t know anything, but pretends he does so she’ll talk to him. He’s had a crush on her for ages, so he wants an excuse to talk to her. That’s not at all creepy, is it?

But she suspects he might know more, so she ‘accidentally’ meets him again. They start seeing each other a little. But others are also interested in the information he might have, specifically the other people in Mr Long’s office.

Sigourney Weaver has the most enormous answering machine I’ve ever seen.

Answering Machine

Things really kick off when Weaver is almost abducted by Long’s partners (or are they?). She gets away, and she and Hurt escape on his motorbike and go to his apartment. James Woods is outside watching. We’re still not sure about him because Hurt’s girlfriend, Pamela Reed, has told Hurt that she lied about being Woods’ alibi on the night of the murder (she’s his sister).

What’s interesting is that, while he lurks outside the apartment, Plummer is there with him (having returned from Israel a little earlier). So he’s somehow involved – although it’s possible he’s only there as Weaver’s boyfriend.

Hurt and Woods have an argument/fight. Hurt goes to see girlfriend Reed where they both confess that they’re not in love with each other, and it’s a surprisingly happy conversation. Pamela Reed is always great.

Pamela Reed

Then Hurt is attacked in his apartment after someone has poisoned his dog. It’s Plummer. Weaver sees him, but doesn’t tell Hurt she knows who it is.

Plummer killed Long because he was helping to channel money into Russia to secure the freedom of escaping Jews, but Long had started demanding more and more. Plummer confesses all to Weaver’s parents, two of his important donors, and tells them he has to kill Hurt, but they balk at that, and go to Weaver to ask to talk to Hurt.

But Plummer has other ideas, and we get a climax where Hurt is evading Plummer and his female non-speaking cohort in a stable in the middle of New York. Weaver finds out where they’ve gone, sends the police, and Plummer chooses to let the police shoot him rather than be arrested.

It’s not a bad thriller.

After this, recording continues for a short time with the start of The Spider Woman, a Basil Rathbone Sherlock Holmes movie. The tape ends during this.

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3 comments

  1. I used to have the novelization of “The Janitor”/” Eyewitness. ” I still haven’t seen the actual movie.

  2. Have you seen the Joss Whedon version of Much Ado? It’s not bad at all, even if the decision to film it at his house looks like showing off what a nice place he lives in. Clark Gregg is really good at Shakespeare!

    Eyewitness just doesn’t make any sense, apparently because it was made from two different scripts stuck together. There’s bits like the berserk dog that genuinely does go berserk (why?!) to the plot where Sigourney falls in love with her celebrity stalker, a terrible message to send out. I know it has its fans, but its a complete mess to me.

    1. I enjoyed Whedon’s Much Ado. It lacked Emma Thompson, but otherwise was good.

      I didn’t know that about Eyewitness’ script(s). The mad dog thing just seemed like a badly set up scenario that was never properly worked out. And I totally agree about Weaver and her stalker. But men were often stalkers in movies in those days, and it was seen as charming, usually because they’re played by someone like William Hurt. Weaver also had to put up with Bill Murray in Ghostbusters, and everyone loved him.

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