Month: February 2019

Film 89 – Films Of The 80s – tape 867

As always, it’s a pleasure to have another tape of Barry Norman’s film reviews to watch, this time from 1989. In the first episode here, her reviews the following films:

Tom Brook talks to Donald Sutherland about his anti-apartheid movie A Dry White Season. There’s also a look at a celebration of Ealing Studios.

BBC Genome: BBC One – 21st November 1989 – 22:20

In the next episode, Barry looks at these films:

And the kind of feature that pushes all of my buttons, a feature looking at widescreen presentation, aspect ratios and film formats.

BBC Genome: BBC One – 27th November 1989 – 22:10

The next episode is missing the very start, and I think we’ve skipped a week too (it might be on another tape). This one has reviews of:

There’s also a really interesting look at how films in cinemas get their subtitles.

BBC Genome: BBC One – 11th December 1989 – 22:10

The next episode is a Christmas episode. Yes, another Christmas tape. The films under review this week are:

Tom Brook spoke to Michael Douglas and Ridley Scott about Black Rain.

There’s also a nice segment where various interviewees are asked about their best films of all time.

BBC Genome: BBC One – 19th December 1989 – 23:20

Lastly, Films of the 80s in which barry Norman looks back not only to his favourite films of the year, but also what he thinks are the best films of the decade.

His films of the year are:

His films of the decade are:

In a look back at the decade’s movie news, it was nice to see the Milton Keynes Point cinema, where I spent quite a bit of time when it first opened.

BBC Genome: BBC One – 27th December 1989 – 22:55

After this, there’s a trailer for Out of Africa. Then, the tape ends just as a film starts. It’s Singin in the Rain. Of course it is because, as I write this, it’s just been reported that Stanley Donen has just died. I read the news earlier in the day, and thought, well, I bet he’s mentioned in one of the film programmes. But no, we got through all those episodes and a retrospective without a single mention. So of course, the BBC would schedule Singin in the Rain after the last episode. I mean, there’s literally only a second of the film on this tape before the recording stops, not even enough time for the MGM lion to complete his roar, yet that’s enough for the blog’s death curse to strike.

I’m so very, very sorry.

Traffik – Chelmsford 123 – tape 853

This tape opens with part 6 of Traffik. I haven’t watched all of the rest of the series, but I think I’m getting the sense that heroin is quite a bad thing for you. Bill Paterson plays the drugs minister whose daughter is a heroin addict, and for whom he’s searching.

Lindsay Duncan is the wife of a drug trafficker who’s trying to set up a huge import.

It’s telling that, at the end, when he’s found his daughter and she’s in rehab, Paterson gives a speech about how to deal with the problem, he says it’s to build a better world that people don’t want to escape from. Nice idea, and I think there’s a lot of truth in that, but I notice the programme doesn’t even hint at the idea of decriminalisation, which is almost as radical an idea as building a happy society.

After this, an episode of Chelmsford 123, the roman era sitcom from  Rory McGrath and Jimmy Mulville.

I spotted Zaphod Beeblebrox himself, Mark Wing Davey.

And another Hitchhiker’s Guide alumnus Bill Wallis, as the Emperor.

It gets a bit saucy.

Oh look, it’s Trevor Cooper.

After this, recording continues, and Channel 4 is quite excited about its new music show, Rock Steady. It’s presented by Nicky Horne, who I only vaguely remember. I think he might have been a Capital DJ.

The first act is Mary Coughlan.

The presenter at the gig, Dave Fanning, has to explain about his head mounted microphone. Clearly he was embarrassed to have to wear such a huge thing, and felt he had to justify it to the audience. I can imagine the pre-show conversation that led to this explanation.

Next it’s an album review, because albums are far more important than singles, obviously. And because they’re a hip and happening show, they do the album reviews from Tower Records. I used to spend a lot of time in Tower Records in Piccadilly. Mostly in the soundtracks and classical sections, mind you.

He’s joined by Ray Davies of the Kinks to talk about some of the albums in the chart.

There’s a segment where they put together two artists of ‘different musical persuasions’. This week, it’s Belinda Carlisle and Pat DiNizio of the Smithereens. It’s telling that they sing a Smithereens song, rather than one of Carlisle’s hits. Might have been nice to see a grungy indie type trying to do Heaven is a Place on Earth.

Next is their big headliner, Eric Clapton, filmed during his 18 night residence at the Royal Albert Hall.

After this programme, there’s the start of a programme featuring four short films by women filmmakers. The tape ends during this.

Hang on – is this another advert with Mark Elliot? It’s an ad for Plax.


  • Bupa
  • Alpen – Lenny Henry
  • The Blues Brothers on Video – Our Price Video Shop
  • Tetley
  • Australia
  • Argos
  • trail: Talking Takes Two
  • Royal Mail
  • Carmen 1500 Professional
  • St Ivel Gold Lowest
  • Ireland – Jack Charlton
  • Persil Automatic
  • Knorr Mince Mates
  • Continental Airlines
  • Red Mountain
  • Pizza Hut
  • Dolmio
  • Carling Black Label
  • Mitsubishi
  • Ruby Turner – Paradise
  • Batchelor’s Cup a Soup
  • Lea & Perrins Worcestershire Sauce
  • Lea & Perrins Worcestershire Sauce
  • Ireland – Jack Charlton
  • Plax
  • First Direct
  • Simple
  • Mitsubishi
  • Dimension
  • Knorr Mince Mates
  • trail: One Hour with Jonathan Ross
  • Phil Collins – …But Seriously
  • Swimming Pool and Fitness Show
  • Levi 501
  • Bradford & Bingley
  • Simplicity
  • Nicobrevin
  • Woman’s Own – Julie Walters
  • Dionne Warwick – The Love Songs
  • trail: The Crystal Maze
  • Ford Granada
  • Fine Young Cannibals – The Raw & The Cooked
  • Radion Automatic
  • Mars
  • trail: The Dead
  • Galaxy Gold
  • Thomas Cook
  • Andrex
  • Jacob’s Choice Grain – Bill Oddie Tim Brooke Taylor
  • Chat Back
  • Dutch Bacon
  • Phil Collins – …But Seriously
  • She
  • Spudulike
  • Clearasil Gel
  • Ireland
  • Red Mountain
  • Sunday Times

The Godfather Part 2 – tape 70

This tape opens with a trail for Eurovision Young Dancer of the Year, featuring Peter Schaufuss.

Then, The Godfather Part II. Oh joy, we get prequel material. That’s always great.

It’s not a good start for Don Vito, as after his father is killed, so is his brother. Then his mother goes to the mafia boss Don Ciccio and begs for Vito to be spared. He says no, the mother is killed and Vito escapes, eventually making it to America.

The film flips between ‘present day’ Michael (that’s still in the 50s, I think) and young Vito. The present day stuff starts with another family party. Lack of ideas much?

Young Vito grows up a bit and now he’s Robert De Niro.

One of his friends is Bruno Kirby.

In the present day, one of Michael’s enemies, Hyman Roth, is played by legendary acting teacher Lee Strasberg. Is it because I know this that he doesn’t seem like a very good actor?

Michael’s brother Fredo has a bigger role in this film. He turns out to be the one who’s been betraying the family, and he’s eventually bumped off in a boat. John Cazale died very young, he only appeared in five films before he died, and every one of those films was nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars.

I know it’s heresy, but I really don’t like these films. I lose track of which identical looking tough guy is bumping off which other identical tough guy. To be fair, I have a similar problem sometimes with Game of Thrones, but at least they have dragons occasionally. And at least there’s a couple of characters in that I can actually like. The only person I like in this movie is Diane Keaton as Kay, Michael’s wife, who tells him she had an abortion rather than bring another of his sons into the world.

BBC Genome: BBC Two – 15th June 1985 – 21:00

The tape ends right after the movie.

Planet Of The Apes – St Elsewhere – tape 319

This tape opens with the film already running, although it’s still the pre-titles sequence, so not much has been missed.

Charlton Heston is taylor, an astronaut, part of a four person crew on a spaceship. Since I missed the beginning I’ve no idea where they were travelling.

The crew are three men and one woman, although once the credits have rolled, and Taylor wakes up, the one woman on the crew is already dead. Nice work, the patriarchy.

Their ship lands in water, and then sinks, which isn’t what they planned for. One of the astronauts doesn’t believe that 2000 years has passed, because of time dilation. Doesn’t seem like a fact that an astronaut on this particular mission should have doubts about. And Taylor seems to be a bit of a misanthrope, as another of them tells him “You thought life on Earth was meaningless, you despised people.” Good God, what kind of astronaut selection was going on when these bozos got picked?

It’s not long before they’ve found some vegetation, and go swimming, have their clothes nicked by unseen humans, and then get attacked by a lot of Apes on horseback. After killing the woman, Jeff Burton, the only black astronaut is the next to go.

Taylor gets captured and taken to the Apes’ village. He’s been shot in the throat, but luckily not dead. But it means he can’t talk, like all the other humans, so at first they don’t know he’s different. It’s not until he steals a notepad and pencil that he can let them know he’s not like the others.

Zira (Kim Hunter) and Cornelius (Roddy McDowall) ask him about how he learned to write, where he came from, etc. It’s all very new to them. But Dr Zaius doesn’t approve of them doing this, and orders Taylor to be gelded.

Taylor escapes, and there’s a lot of running around. There’s a truly chilling moment when he’s in a museum, with displays of humans, and he finds his colleague, presumably stuffed.

Once his back in captivity, he’s talking to his female cohabitee, whom he has dubbed Nova. There’s a really revolting speech here, as he says he’s never needed anyone on Earth. “Oh there were women, lots of women, lots of… lovemaking” just in case we think he might have been gay, I suppose. But it gets worse, as he talks about the woman astronaut who died. “Now there was a lovely girl. The most precious cargo we brought along. She was to be the new Eve, with our hot and eager help, of course. Probably just as well she didn’t make it this far.” Nauseating.

Taylor regains his voice, and has to stand trial, although for what isn’t made clear. He finds his remaining colleague, Landon, but the Apes have already seen to it he can’t speak.

The story then becomes about how Zaius is trying to keep the Apes ignorant of their possible origins, and the possibility that humans were once advanced. It does get a bit boring at this stage, and really only picks up with the very end, where Taylor goes further into the Forbidden Zone, and discovers that the planet he’s on is actually future Earth.

After this, recording switches to an episode of St Elsewhere. It’s a bit of a nothing episode, notable only for the first appearance of Cindy Pickett as Dr Carol Noveno.

After this, recording stops and underneath there’s a bit of CNN news. God, US News was a joke. There’s a section about Nuclear arms talks that’s basically whining about all the jargon involved with the talks, as if that’s the reason there’s no agreement on arms limitations. It’s almost infantile.

Then, Thames TV hands over to TV-AM, at which point the tape stops.

In the ads, an advert for the Atari ST, a computer I never professionally programmed for, but our company did several products for it/


  • Sanyo
  • Lyons Original Coffee
  • Bran Flakes
  • Eat The Rich in cinemas
  • Ford
  • Castlemaine XXXX
  • Fosters – Paul Hogan
  • The Hit Factory
  • Crunchy Nut Cornflakes
  • Atari 520 ST
  • Viennetta
  • Stork Special Blend – Roy Hudd
  • Tia Maria
  • Michael Jackson/Diana Ross – Love Songs
  • Job Training Scheme
  • Planters Peanuts
  • Castlemaine XXXX
  • Sanyo
  • Ford
  • trail: Send Me No Flowers
  • trail: Splash
  • Lyons Original Coffee
  • Job Training Scheme
  • Bols

Cheers – tape 311

Here’s a few episodes of Cheers, from towards the end of Season Five, Shelley Long’s final season. The first episode is Dog Bites Cliff. A dog bites cliff on his rounds, and he’s going to sue the owner, but she’s an attractive woman, and they start a relationship, except she’s only doing that to get him to drop the lawsuit. She’s played by Anita Morris of Ruthless People fame.

The next episode is brilliantly written. Frasier and Lilith have moved in together, so to celebrate, they invite Sam and Diane over. But even before they arrive, Lilith gets upset and hides in the bathroom. What follows is some perfectly timed comedy, as, for example, Lilith learns for the first time that Frasier was engaged to Diane, something you’d think he might have mentioned before. The way the revelations and upset keeps escalating is just sublime. The dip is amazing, too.

The next episode is Simon Says which features a guest appearance by John Cleese as a marriage counsellor. Diane asks him to assess her and Sam’s suitability, and won’t accept it when he says they should break up immediately and never see each other again. This is another episode with some great timing, and Cleese is very in character as the sardonic brit.

The next episode is The Godfather Part III. Sam is asked by Coach’s brother to look after his daughter, who’s in Boston to go to college, so Sam gets Woody to look after her. But they start dating, and she’s going to quit college and marry Woody. Sam has to beg her not to do that, because it would devastate her father.

The next episode is actually from earlier in the season. It’s Spellbound, in which Loretta has left Carla’s ex, Nick Tortelli. It’s always great to see Jean Kasem as Loretta, and there’s some brilliant comedy with a violin duo at the end. I love repeated gags like that.

After this, recording continues with most of an episode of Chateauvallon: Fortune and Power, a French drama series with some seriously dodgy dubbing and ludicrously melodramatic plotting. It’s quite bad. I wonder if it would seem deep and meaningful if it was subtitled instead of being dubbed.

The tape ends during this programme.

In the adverts, what was it about Mark Elliot, the one from the Wow Show that wasn’t Lee Cornes, Mark arden or Stephen Frost? He keeps turning up in adverts, like this one for Eisberg.

Then, a couple of ad breaks along, and here he is again in a Pizza Hut advert that’s more than a little inspired by Peter Gabriel’s Sledgehammer video. I wonder if it was animated by Aardman as well?


  • Honeywell Bull
  • Friends and Lovers
  • Cristal
  • Lamot
  • Specialeyes
  • Turtle Extra
  • Stanley
  • Golden Churn
  • Eisberg
  • trail: Porterhouse Blue
  • Tandem Computers
  • Gillette Blue II
  • Legal & General
  • Stanley
  • Pepsi – Tina Turner
  • Royal Doulton
  • Tandem Computers
  • Barclays Connect
  • Kattomeat
  • Pizza Hut – Mark Elliot
  • Appletise
  • Times Furnishing
  • Capitalcard
  • trail: Hill Street Blues
  • Honeywell Bull
  • Renault 21
  • Loulou
  • Lamot
  • Sodastream
  • Daily Express
  • Right Guard
  • Times Furnishing
  • Drakkar Noir
  • Esso
  • Continental Airlines
  • trail: Kate and Allie/Hill Street Blues
  • Reebok
  • Cream Silk
  • Orangina
  • Exchange & Mart
  • Royal Doulton
  • Mail on Sunday
  • Holsten Pils – Griff Rhys Jones – High Noon
  • Sealink
  • Eisberg
  • Yamaha Sports
  • Diet Pepsi
  • Fiat
  • trail: The Spice of Wickedness
  • Hits Revival
  • Cristal
  • Diet Pepsi
  • Gillette Blue II
  • Evil Dead II in cinemas – Jonathan Ross
  • Holsten Pils – Griff Rhys Jones
  • Harrods Sale
  • Miller Lite
  • Janet Jackson – Control
  • Braun
  • Brook Street
  • Coca Cola
  • trail: Who’s Our Little Jenny Lind?
  • Hits Revival
  • American Express Travellers Cheques
  • Schweppes orange
  • Cadbury’s Double Decker
  • Fosters – Paul Hogan
  • British Gas
  • The People – David Hamilton
  • Cream Silk
  • Martini
  • Oracle

It’s A Wonderful Life – tape 69

Talking of Christmas, as we seem to be doing permanently on this blog, here’s a Christmas staple.

But before that, some Pages from Ceefax.

One story I noticed, about Neil Kinnock wanting to throw out members of Liverpool Militant, the group that Derek Hatton was part of. He’s in the news at the moment because he was recently readmitted into the Labour party.

Then, even though this isn’t a Christmas tape (it’s March) here’s a Christmas staple, Frank Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life. I love this film. It’s presses so many of my buttons it’s ridiculous, and I genuinely cannot watch it without being in tears for much of the time, even near the start.

I’m sure you’re all familiar with it, so I’ll just call out a few of the things I like about it. First, who doesn’t like James Stewart? And my love for him grew ever so slightly when I was digitising a lot of my dad’s old Kodachrome slides, and I realised that when he was a young man, he looked an awful lot like James Stewart. Now he’s older, I keep thinking he looks like David Attenborough, although that’s mostly the white hair. But I don’t idolise my dad, of course not.

And Donna Reed. The moment, in the school gym, at the dance, where Stewart sees her across the room, obviously the first time he’s seen her since she was a little girl (and he a little boy) and her face lights up in surprise. As does his, but he’s a lot more offhand about it.

The strange idea of having a swimming pool under the gym, I wonder if that was a common thing, or if it was just invented for the film.

Lionel Barrymore is perfect as the despotic rich man Mr Potter, who’s desperate to get his hands on the Building and Loan, so he can shut it down and force all the people in town to rent his slums.

I love the episodic way George’s life is shown. We’re shown him at several pivotal moments, but the shared subtext is that it’s all about George’s self sacrifice and taking responsibility, putting aside his dreams to look after everyone else. That kind of theme is catnip to me. “But George, they’ll vote with Potter otherwise”

When George learns his younger brother is married and has a good job offer from his father in law, meaning he won’t want to take over at the Building and Loan so George can go travelling, he goes walking. I love it when he meets Violet, who’s always had a soft spot for him, and she’s happy when he suggests they do something, but when he suggests going walking up by the falls, and swimming in the moonlight, she’s suddenly not keen. She’s not adventurous in that way.

So he ends up back with Mary. It’s a bit strained, as he’s  distracted and disappointed by his news, while she tries to remind him of their romantic evening of a few years ago. Their entrepreneur friend Sam Wainright calls – clearly Mary’s mother has her eye on him as a husband for Mary, rather than the far less successful George, and even though George isn’t really interested in Harry’s exhortation to invest in plastics, he still takes the opportunity to suggest Harry build his new factory in one of the unused factories in Bedford Falls, something that’s never mentioned again, but which is clearly another of the ways in which George has helped other people.

Then the phone call ends, and George is still adamant that he doesn’t want plastics, or ground floors, and he definitely doesn’t want to get married, he wants to do what he wants to do and… (I’m crying again, just writing this and finding the screengrabs.)

More time passes, and George and Mary get married, and prepare to head off on their honeymoon, when they see the bank with a crowd of people around it. It’s a run on the bank. This film taught me what a run on the bank was. The Building and Loan also has a crowd, and when George opens up, he finds that the bank has already called in their loan, so they have no cash on hand, and their members are scared and want their money. George tries to reassure them, and explain that their money isn’t sitting in a vault, it’s been invested in people’s houses. George could almost make me believe in capitalism. But when the people demand money, Mary pulls out their honeymoon stash, and they’re able to give their members what small amount of cash they need just for the weekend.

The Baileys welcome another new family into their new house.

There’s a montage to cover the war years, and we come up to the present day, Christmas Eve, as George is looking forward to welcoming his brother Harry home, having just been awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for heroism in the war, shooting down two planes before they could crash into a transport full of soldiers.

Everything’s looking happy for George, even though the Bank Examiner is in to look at their books, but then his uncle Billy, who’s at the bank to pay in $8,000, can’t help but gloat about his war hero nephew to Mr Potter, and then accidentally gives the envelope of cash to Mr Potter in the newspaper he was reading, without realising it.

As he can’t remember what he could have done with the money, George gets more and more anxious. He gets snappy with his kids, and shouts at their teacher, who let young Zuzu walk home with her coat unbuttoned and catch a cold. For a film that has such a saccharine reputation, it gets to a very dark place here, and it’s another aspect that always gets to me. I can really identify with the man worrying that he can’t look after his family.

He does the only thing he can do, he goes to Mr Potter to ask for a loan. Potter has already found the envelope of cash, and takes the opportunity to exact revenge on George, telling him he’s going to have him arrested for fraud.

Even trying to drown his sorrows at the bar doesn’t help, as the husband of the teacher he shouted at punches him for making his wife cry. It’s the last straw, and he ends up on the bridge out of town, looking down at the water, almost going to end his life, when another man jumps in before him. And naturally, George pulls off his coat and dives in to save the man, because that’s who he is.

The man is Clarence, and he’s a trainee angel. He jumped in to save George from killing himself. He wants to help George, but George tells him “I’m worth more dead than alive”. “I suppose it’d have been better if I’d never been born” he says, and we reach the film’s core conceit, as Clarence is able to show George what the world would be like if he’d never been born.

This aspect of the film reminds me of later time travel stories. Ray Bradbury’s A Sound of Thunder, when stepping on a butterfly in prehistoric times means the present world becomes a nastier, more fascistic place. Even Back to the Future Part 2, when Biff gets the Almanac and becomes the most powerful man in Hill Valley. This film shows the effects so clearly and starkly. The bar is no longer welcoming, run by the Italian Mr Martini, it’s now a dive bar for heavy drinkers. And Old Mr Gower, the town pharmacist, is now an old drunk, because George wasn’t there as a boy to stop him accidentally poisoning someone when he was grief stricken at the death of his own son.

It’s not even called Bedford Falls any more.

Even his mother doesn’t recognise him.

When he goes to Bailey Park to find Martini, the last person he spoke to before this started happening, he finds it’s still the old cemetery, and finds the most shocking thing, the grave of his brother, who died falling through ice when he was 8, because George wasn’t there to save him. “That’s a lie, Harry Bailey went to war. He saved the lives of every man on that transport.” “Every man on that transport died. Harry wasn’t there to save them because you weren’t there to save Harry.”

The final shock is meeting Mary, who, in the absence of George, never married. I get why the film went this way, but it’s the only part I don’t really like. But it tracks with the story of George’s importance to people.

George ends up back on the road bridge, but this time he wants to live. “Let me live again” he asks, and with that, the snow starts falling again, and the policeman, who had just been chasing him because he’d frightened Mary and made a scene in a bar, is now looking for him because everyone is worried about him.

He’s overjoyed, running back into town to see it all back the way it should be. “Merry Christmas Movie House, Merry Christmas Emporium.”

He gets back home to find the bank examiner waiting for him, with the sheriff. “Isn’t it wonderful, I’m going to jail.” And his kids are there. By this time I’m basically a wet puddle on the floor for the remainder of the movie.

Mary returns, shortly followed by virtually the whole town, as everyone rallys to help George in his time of trouble. Even the sheriff and the Bank Examiner throw in some cash. And George’s rich friend Sam Wainright cables that he’s authorised his office to transfer funds up to $25,000 to help George.

Even his brother comes home, having been contacted by Mary. “To my big brother George, the richest man in town.”

A perfect movie.

BBC Genome: BBC Two – 27th March 1986 – 14:30

After this, recording continues, with a trailer for Requiem for a Railway.

Then, the start of an episode of The Paper Chase. I remember this being on, but I’m not sure I saw much more than a single episode. It’s always interesting to see the cast in shows like this. In this one, there’s Michael Tucci from It’s Garry Shandling’s Show.

And here’s a face from another Garry Shandling show, The Larry Sanders Show, Penny Johnson Jerald (here as Penny Johnson).

I have to say, watching what there is of this episode, I’m not massively impressed. The story is about the conflict between the engineering students and the law students, and every character seems to be the biggest cliche imaginable, the dialogue’s fairly bad, and the performances aren’t much better. It’s very strange, given that other dramas of the same era can be really good, this seems shockingly bad. It’s like they’re trying to do Revenge of the Nerds.

The tape ends during this episode.

Citizen Kane – tape 102

Here’s a ‘greatest film of all time’ candidate that I can get behind. Citizen Kane was Orson Welles’ first film as director (after a fairly successful career as actor and stage director) and his greatest achievement by some way.

It’s another of those films that I learned about by reputation long before I ever saw it (which would have been this exact broadcast). The meaning of ‘Rosebud’ had been spoiled for me years before, in a Peanuts cartoon of all places. I didn’t even know what the cartoon was referring to – I might have been nine or ten at the time. I understood all the words in the cartoon but I couldn’t work out what they might have meant. Linus is watching Citizen Kane. Lucy says she’s watched it ten times. Linus says it’s his first time. Lucy then tells him what Rosebud was and he collapses on the floor with “AAUGH!”. At the time I read it, I might not even have known that Citizen Kane was a film, let alone a classic. But Lucy’s line had always stuck with me, probably because I didn’t understand it, so that when I watched the movie, I understood pretty quickly what she was referring to, as it’s the central ‘mystery’ of the film.

It probably helps to understand a little about how much innovation went into the film. There were things in there that were usually never done in movies. Even something like a set with a visible ceiling was new and daring.

Right from the opening, it looks like a film that’s trying hard to impress. There’s a montage of matte paintings and models taking us towards the remote palace of Xanadu, where, inside, reclusive millionaire Charles Foster Kane is dying. Inside, it’s all huge rooms, distant figures and deep focus shadows, and a snowglobe which falls to the floor and smashes as he utters his final word, “Rosebud”. Look at this shot, of his nurse entering the room, shot as a reflection in the shattered globe.

After this, there’s a long section of fake newsreel telling the story of Kane’s life. He was clearly a complex man.

But after the newsreel, the reporters putting it together wonder if there’s a deeper story to be found. Perhaps the meaning behind his last word. And one of them is despatched to talk to as many people from Kane’s life as he can, to find out the truth. Each person he talks to shows us a little more of Kane’s life. The first section looks at where he got his fortune. His mother was running a boarding house, and a tenant couldn’t pay her, so he gave her the deeds to an abandoned mine, which turned out to be one of the most productive gold mines in America. We meet her (played by Agnes Moorhead) as she’s signing the papers that give banker Walter Thatcher financial responsibility for the mine. In return, she and her husband get an annual income, but also, their son, Charles Foster Kane, will be taken by Mr Thatcher and educated at the best schools in the country. The father is complaining, saying how by rights the goldmine is his too, but Thatcher is clear that the deeds are in his wife’s name only, and he has no say in the matter. You might wonder why a mother would give her son away to effectively a stranger, especially when there’s no financial reason. When young Kane pushes Thatcher over in the snow, we find out why. His father says “I’m sorry Mr Thatcher. What that kid needs is a good thrashing.” “That’s what you think is it Jim?” asks his mother. “That’s why he’s going to be brought up where you can’t get at him.”

Flash forward to an adult Kane, now running newspapers. He’s a strange mixture. Sometimes he’s exposing corruption in government and big business, claiming to stand up for the working man, other times he’s confecting a war with Spain, and maliciously doorstepping a man whose wife has disappeared, accusing him of murder (however likely that might be).

Then, in the next scene, he writes a ‘statement of principles’ saying the newspaper stands for truth, and standing up for the working man. It’s all very trumpy. I don’t know enough about William Randolph Hearst, the newpaper magnate on whom Kane was modelled, to know if these were the kinds of positions he espoused, but it wouldn’t surprise me.

Simpsons viewers might find the scene where he’s poached all the reporters from a rival newspaper, and has a bunch of dancers and singers come in to sing a song about him somewhat familiar.

In this scene, I love that, for the reverse angle on Joseph Cotten and Everett Sloane, they make sure that you can see the dancing still happening in the window in the background.

The story of Kane’s first marriage is mostly told in a series of short scenes with the two of them at either end of the breakfast table, as time passes and their relationship gets frostier.

Kane starts running for Governor, running against the incumbent, ‘Boss’ Jim Gettys, condemning his competitor as a crook, and threatening to have him arrested. Again, the Trump parallels are stark. But in his case, his campaign is derailed when his wife (thanks to a tip from Gettys) finds out that Kane has been seeing a young woman in her flat, an aspiring singer.

The resulting scandal loses him the election. His response to losing is yet another Trumpy moment.

He marries Susan Alexander, then determines to make her an Opera star, something she doesn’t seem to be as interested in as he is. On her Broadway Debut, his closest friend, Jed Leland (Joseph Cotten), is their dramatic critic, and he falls asleep halfway through writing a bad review, which Kane then finishes in the same vein before firing him.

Incidentally, talking about his second wife, Susan Alexander, in the March of Time sequence at the start there’s a couple of posters of her performances, the first of which spells her name with a Z. The next poster shown is correct, so I’m not sure what’s going on there.

So the story winds to its end, and we learn what Rosebud meant, and as the characters even say in the dialogue, it doesn’t really tell us anything about his character. It’s just a gimmick, a hook to hang the narrative on.

But it remains an astonishing film for what it represents at the time. And, although some people criticise it as an ego trip for the director, how many directors do you know who share their end title credit with their cinematographer?

BBC Genome: BBC Two – 25th December 1985 – 16:30

After this, there’s a look ahead at programmes for the rest of this Christmas Day (yes, again) on BBC2.

Then, there’s the very start of A Prize Performance, a comedy show starring Hinge & Bracket.