Month: June 2019

Miller’s Crossing – The Late Show – tape 765

There’s a brief BBC 1 logo, and the promise of a Susan Sarandon film by Susan Isaacs – I’m assuming Compromising Positions.

Then, that’s overwritten by a recording from the Movie Channel, Miller’s Crossing. I remember liking this, but I haven’t watched it since it came out.

I really like Jon Polito in this. He usually plays weaselly characters like this, but he’s so good to watch. In the opening scene he’s walking a fine line between deference and anger very well.

Albert Finney plays the mob boss Leo.

Gabriel Byrne plays Tom Regan, his advisor. We learn he’s got some gambling debts.

The real star of the film, of course, is the hat. It’s a thread that runs through the movie. I sometimes wonder if the Coens put in things like this not because it’s representative of deep psychological themes, but because critics love stuff like that. I’m very cynical.

Marcia Gay Harden plays Verna, who wins Tom’s hat during a drunken poker game that Tom can’t even remember.

Steve Buscemi is unsurprisingly great as a fast-talker.

John Turturro plays Verna’s brother Bernie, who’s in trouble, but Leo is protecting him for Verna. This is the main driver for the plot.

Leo is attacked in his home, but he deals robustly with the intruders. It’s a surprisingly violent scene – almost comic at some points.

Tom falls out of Leo’s favour when he tells him he’s been sleeping with Verna – who’s Leo’s girlfriend. So Johnny Caspar (Polito) who’s power is rising, gets him to bump off Bernie. But Tom lets Bernie go, pretending he’s killed him.

Longtime Coen Brothers associate Sam Raimi makes a brief appearance.

As does Frances McDormand, star of their first movie, and also married to Joel Coen.

This is an excellent movie, but it does fall into that category of movies about bad people that I can’t entirely love. But it’s really worth watching, and it’s one of the Coens’ best. Although that category is also quite large.

I should make a special mention of Carter Burwell’s score for this, which would be pastiched mercilessly by the advertising industry for years after to sell us various brands of Irish beer.

After this, The Late Show with a special episode looking at the work of Michael Powell to coincide with his book, Million Dollar Movie. Weirdly, when I looked up the publication date for the book, it’s listed as 1995, but this is definitely from 1992.

There’s a nice clip from This Is Your Life, with Powell and Robert Helpmann, where Powell describes J Arthur Rank’s reaction to The Red Shoes. “He thought he’d lost all his money.”

Christopher Challis says “He didn’t suffer fools gladly” – a phrase which always makes me nervous.

Nice to see Kathleen Byron, who was so striking in Black Narcissus.

Cyril Cusack talks about how Powell worked with actors.

There’s some great 8mm footage from Powell’s French home featuring various actors of the time, like Alec Guinness and Jack Hawkins.

Martin Scorsese talks about the things Powell was doing in his films, here he’s looking at Tales of Hoffmann.

Noreen Ackland talks about the arguments Powell had with producer Alexander Korda over Tales of Hoffmann.

Thelma Schoonmaker talks about the problems Powell had raising money after he split from Korda.

Leo Marks, writer of Peeping Tom, talks about reading the script of the film to Powell.

Powell used his own son, Columba, in the scenes of the young Mark in the movie.

More 8mm footage, this time of Powell and Schoonmaker’s wedding.

(Incidentally, I’ve already looked at this film

BBC Genome: BBC Two – 24th September 1992 – 23:15

After this, there’s a trailer for a repeat of this programme, followed by a Michael Powell double bill.

There’s weather from Peter Cockroft. He’s telling us all about Hurricane Charlie.

Then, there’s a look ahead to the weekend on the Open University.

There’s a whole OU programme, Lessons from Kerala, narrated by Lesley Judd. BBC Two – 25th September 1992 – 00:00

Then, BBC2 closes down with Reg Sanders wishing us a very good night. The tape stops right here.

 

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Cheers – tape 706

Here’s a tape packed with episodes of Cheers. These are from Season 7.

First, it’s Golden Boyd. Rebecca is running the bar for Mr Gaines, of the corporation bigwigs, who’s throwing a party for his daughter, Kelly.

Her boyfriend Nash, played by Tyrone Power Jr, is the epitome of entitled arseholes. Such an arsehole that he makes good his threat to beat up Woody next day at Cheers.

Kelly is mortified at Nash’s behaviour and comes to the bar to apologise. So Woody asks her out. It’s a lovely episode, and well done for the writing team to realise what a great new character they had in Kelly.

The next episode is I Kid You Not. Carla’s youngest, Ludlow, whose father was Frasier’s mentor, Bennett Ludlow, comes to the bar after a baseball game. Frasier and Lilith take him to the opera, and want to show him more ‘enlightening’ things, as a way of exploring whether they should have children.

Carla feels that they are taking him away from her, but when she joins them at a posh restaurant, Ludlow’s genes from Carla’s side start asserting themselves. Frasier decides, on balance, he’s not cut out for Fatherhood. Then Lilith tells him she’s pregnant.

The next episode is Don’t Paint Your Chickens.

Sam meets a sporty young girl named Erin. He takes up a lot of sport, but it’s harder for him at his age.

Rebecca wants to drum up business for Norm’s business, and comes up with a mascot, Carl the Chameleon.

Thinking that the business is taking off, and passed over for promotion again, Rebecca goes to headquarters, intending to quit, but Norm has to warn her that the job fell through.

But Rebecca impresses the boss, and he offers her a huge raise and a place on his team. Seconds later, the FBI burst in to arrest him for insider trading.

In the next episode, The Cranemakers, Lilith is going over the top with all the “I am the bringer of life” motherhood feelings.

They decide to eschew modern life and live in a wooden shack, away from everything. It doesn’t last long.

Next is an episode called Hot Rocks. It features a guest appearance from William Crowe, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

In What’s Up, Doc? Sam hits on another woman in the bar, but she’s not interested, and to complicate matters, she’s a clinical psychologist, and a colleague of Frasier and Lilith.

Lastly, in The Gift of the Woodi, Woody is invited to Kelly’s birthday. His first choice of gift isn’t a good idea – The Really Big Book of Dutch Humor.

But in the event, he sings her a song – the ‘Kelly’ song, a classic moment in the series.

After this episode, recording continues with the start of Roseanne. The tape ends during this episode.

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Star Trek – The Motion Picture – tape 722

So it’s a Robert Wise double bill, with The Andromeda Strain yesterday and today Star Trek The Motion Picture. Broadcast on New Year’s Day. Probably 1989, although it could be 1990.

I saw this film when it was first released (yes I am that old) and my memory is that I loved it, and desperately wanted to watch it again immediately – in those days cinemas did ‘continuous performances’ with no assigned seating, so if you go to an early show, you could just stay put for the next showing. I don’t think I actually did stay, because my dad would have been waiting outside to drive me home (yes I’m not quite that old) but I do know that I really, really enjoyed it.

Time has not been kind to it, though. Perhaps I should call it the ‘Space 1999 effect’ – films and TV you adored in your youth don’t always hold up well when you revisit them.

First, though, can we just admit that Jerry Goldsmith’s score for this movie is probably the best Star Trek score ever? And according to interviews, he had to write it in a couple of weeks, because the deadlines and the post production were so tight.

In the opening sequence, when Klingon ships approach a spatial anomaly, and are destroyed, the Klingon captain is played by Mark Lenard, much more well known for playing Spock’s father Sarek. His role as a Klingon here meant he was the first actor to play all three major Star Trek aliens – Vulcan, Klingon and Romulan. This was also the first appearance of the bumpy-headed Klingon design, a design which has persisted through most subsequent incarnations.

One of the humans who are monitoring the Klingon attack is David Gatreaux, an actor who was cast in an aborted attempt to reboot Star Trek a couple of years previously. He was supposed to play the Vulcan officers Xon. This role doesn’t seem like a fair reward.

Spock is on Vulcan, studying to be super logical, but he senses the big scary cloud, so he fails the final exam. They really tried hard with the massive Matte Painting, but on TV you really can’t make out the details of the tiny figures standing at the base of the statue. Also, whilst I applaud the decision to invent a Vulcan language, it’s painfully obvious that the language was invented to fit the lip movements of the obviously English dialog spoken by the actors on set.

I know a lot of people think the sequence where Scotty takes Kirk to the Enterprise on a shuttle is overlong and self-indulgent. They are wrong. It’s a love scene. Even the main theme has been arranged as a love theme. And it’s a deliberate tease for the audience, as we approach the ship as it’s in spacedock. We can see parts of the ship behind the dock structure, and we see Kirk’s reactions, the music builds and builds, until there’s a glorious crescendo and a cut to the unmistakable front view of the ship. Even with bits missing from the saucer section – the model work here is glorious – it’s a beautiful thing. This is the best version of the Enterprise, and this whole scene is there for the fans. I love it.

In retrospect, it’s probably lucky that Stephen Collins only appeared in this film, and didn’t become a recurring character, given the yewtree-like revelations about him.

The new transporter effect is really shiny, although they didn’t keep it in subsequent outings. In this scene, the transporters are malfunctioning, though, and scrambling two soon-to-be late crewmembers. This was a rather gruesome bit of body horror only really hinted at

Transporter Chief Rand is played by Grace Lee Whitney. She’s a very familiar face to viewers of the original series, as she was a Yeoman in the first season. It’s nice to see career progression is a real thing in Starfleet.

For the scene where Kirk addresses the crew, most of the extras in the scene were recruited from Star Trek fandom. Susan Sackett, Gene Roddenberry’s assistant, used to write a column for Starlog magazine, and she wrote one about the filming of this scene.

Another new crew member is Lieutenant Ilia, played by Persis Khambatta. She’s very much an example of how SF in the early days was often the domain of pervy men. “My oath of celibacy is on record” is a line she says more than once. She “wouldn’t take advantage of a sexually immature species”. It’s a typical example of a trope that was all over early SF – that our attitudes to sex were primitive, and that more enlightened lifeforms would not have any taboos about sex. You can see this repeated in the character of Deanna Troi in The Next Generation, and their nudist weddings. To me, it always seemed a bit like dirty old men fantasising about having free and guiltless access to women’s bodies at any time.

DeForest Kelley returns as Dr McCoy, and is always a delight, complaining about having been drafted, and reluctant to use the transporter, especially after the earlier accident.

The first attempt at Warp Drive isn’t successful. This doesn’t inspire confidence in the engineering practices at Starfleet – you’d think a warp engine was a fairly well understood thing at this point. But I liked the swirly computer graphics used for the wormhole effect that they fall into.

The weird slow motion effects maybe aren’t that successful. I can’t tell if they were shot in slow motion, and the dialog was re-recorded at the correct speed, or whether the actors were acting as if in slow motion.

Spock arrives at the Enterprise in a shuttle. I’m sure I had a plastic model of this, but I can’t be absolutely sure.

Spock himself is still a bit distant, not really registering anything at meeting his friends after a long gap.

The next part of the film is definitely the main source of its nickname, ‘The Motionless Picture’. Seemingly hours of endless shots of moving through the space cloud. Maybe if the images weren’t so murky and dull, this might be better.

A probe from the cloud enters the bridge. This was a fairly good scene in terms of the effects, mainly because they did shoot it with a really bright vertical tube of light being pushed around the stage by stagehands, so all the light in the scene is really there, and they didn’t have to fake it somehow by doctoring the footage. The probe downloads the computer, then zaps Ilia. So she’s fridged already.

But fear not, because she’s resurrected by the cloud as a probe to communicate with the crew. Why the cloud chose to bring her back in her shower is anyone’s guess. Because the writers were pervy old men?

Decker has to try to get through to Ilia. He plays a game they used to play together. 23rd Century games are a bit shit, aren’t they? Even Ker-Plunk looks more fun than this.

Spock flies out of the ship in order to mind meld with the cloud, to discover what it wants. And because this version os the extended TV version, and there’s extra scenes, we get this shot of Kirk preparing to go out to follow him. I think it’s supposed to be the bottom of the saucer section, but the bits at the top, and on the right, are just the stage scaffolding. They haven’t even bothered to matte in a painting to hide those bits.

Eventually, they have to leave the ship to find whatever is at the heart of the cloud, and try to communicate with it. I do like this shot, which establishes something of the scale of the Enterprise.

What they find at the heart of the cloud is this.

Ilia has been calling it ‘Vejur’ (that’s the spelling they used in the novelisation, so as not to tip off the reveal) but Kirk rubs off a bit of dirt to find its full name: Voyager 6 (hence V’Ger). What this demonstrates is that the machine intelligences which found the satellite, built a colossally powerful ship to return it on, don’t understand the concept of dirt.

In the end, Decker somehow joins with V’Ger (and robot Ilia). I guess it’s a happy ending for him.

So there we are. it is, undoubtedly, a very slow moving story, but there’s still plenty of stuff I like about it. Most of that is the visual stuff, admittedly, but I was young, and those things are important.

After this, there’s a programme that looks at the success of the Australian soaps like Neighbours and Home and Away. What’s slightly odd is that it’s presented by Barry Norman. Well, I guess he got an Australian holiday out of it.

One of the fascinating things about Australian soaps is that they are full of young actors who would eventually become huge stars in Hollywood. Here’s a very young Guy Pearce doing a promo for the show’s move to Channel 10.

The tape ends during this programme.

In the ads, I noticed one featuring Royce Mills, who died a month ago, so I thought I should mention it.

Adverts:

  • National Power
  • The New You
  • Direct Line
  • Vanish
  • Hogg Robinson Travel
  • Rennie
  • Gale’s Honey
  • Buxton Spring
  • Sony Discman – Emo Phillips
  • Listerine
  • The Very Best of Elton John
  • Tilda
  • Harrods Sale
  • Thomas Cook
  • Sofa Sleepas
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  • Radion
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  • Yellow Pages – Happy New Year compilation
  • Royal Caribbean Cruises
  • trail: Soap Down Under
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  • MFI
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  • Nationwide
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  • ELS
  • trail: EL C.I.D.

 

The Andromeda Strain – tape 653

This tape ends with the end of an ITN news bulletin.

Then, we have a movie I’ve already talked about a bit on hereThe Andromeda Strain. That was from a Moviedrome presentation, which was in widescreen, but this one is from Thames, and full Pan&Scan (except the titles which are squashed up). Not the best way to watch this otherwise excellent movie.

After this movie, there’s an edition of America’s Top Ten, with Kasey Casem counting down the top singles of 1988.

It always surprises me to see bands I don’t remember. Take Breathe and their hit Hands to Heaven. No recollection at all, although they were an English band, and got to number 4 in the UK. Nothing else of their really troubled the charts, though.

The show also runs down the top ten singles from 1978, in which the Gibb brothers had 4 singles, with number one being younger brother Andy Gibb with Shadow Dancing.

After this, there’s the start of an ITN news bulletin. The lead story is about a dogfight between US aircraft and Libyan aircraft. It feels very much like a foretaste of the Gulf War, a war which existed primarily to showcase US Arms companies, with loads of videos of grainy footage of things exploding. As long as they are foreign things exploding, that’s fine. I was also briefly confused by President Reagan commenting on it, since this was from 1989, and George Bush Sr was elected in 1988, but of course this report was from on or around 6th January, a couple of weeks before Bush’s inauguration.

The tape ends during this bulletin.

In the ad breaks, look at the state of this trailer for the New Year on Thames. The pinnacle of 80s TV graphics.

Adverts:

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  • Halls
  • Quest
  • Nescafe – Diane Keen, Ed Bishop
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  • Tennent’s Pilsner
  • Happy Talk
  • National Savings
  • Happy Talk
  • Findus Dinner Supreme
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  • Indesit – Angus Deayton
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  • MFI
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  • TV Times
  • trail: Minder
  • Kwik Fit
  • Happy Talk
  • The Greatest Love 2
  • Payless DIY
  • trail: Thames 89
  • Indesit – Angus Deayton
  • The Legendary Roy Orbison
  • TV Times
  • trail: Wish You Were Here

Hot Air And Fantasy – Film 89 – tape 690

First on this tape, Hot Air And FantasyThe Making of Baron Munchausen. Terry Gilliam’s films always seem to have an interesting story behind the scenes, and this one is no different.

BBC Genome: BBC One – 13th March 1989 – 23:00

After this, recording switches, and there’s the end of an episode of One In Four, a programme about disability.

There’s a trailer for Wideworld.

Then, an episode of Film 89 in which Barry reviews the following movies.

I love that, reviewing The Prince of Pennsylvania, he pronounces Keanu Reeves’ first name ‘Keenoo’.

There’s a report on the spiralling budget of The Adventures of Baron Munchausen.

BBC Genome: BBC Two – 15th March 1989 – 17:30

The next episode sees Barry give his verdict on the following movies:

There’s a look back at some of the films that have been selected for the Royal Film Performance. There’s also a report on the making of The Tall Guy.

BBC Genome: BBC One – 21st March 1989 – 22:45

In the next episode, there are reviews of:

On the Eve of the Oscars, Barry makes his prediction of who will win this year.

BBC Genome: BBC One – 28th March 1989 – 22:45

The next episode features Barry’s reviews of:

I’m sad to note that one of the actors in Crossing Delancey was Sylvia Miles, who died a couple of weeks ago. I’m so very, very sorry.

There’s also a look at the opening of The January Man.

BBC Genome: BBC One – 4th April 1989 – 23:25

The last episode on this tape has Barry’s reviews of these films:

There’s a look at how Lenny Henry transformed himself into Steve Martin for his Stand-up show Lenny Live and Unleashed.

BBC Genome: BBC One – 11th April 1989 – 22:45

After this, there’s a trailer for Crimewatch UK, and the start of The UK Dance Championships, during which the tape ends.

Max Headroom – tape 710

On this tape, three episodes from the US series Max Headroom, a spin-off/remake of the original single-episode UK version that launched the character as a host of a Pop Video show.

In the first episode here, Deities, Edison has moral qualms about exposing a sham religion channel. Gregory Itzin makes a brief appearance working for the Religion channel.

Next it’s Grossberg’s Return. Former Network 23 executive Ned Grossberg returns working for Network 66. There’s an election going on, and in this world, politicians are elected by viewing figures of the networks that support  them. A bit like America, really.

An early appearance from Rosalind Chao off of Star Trek, as a rookie reporter who gets footage of a rival politician having an illicit affair.

And representing Babylon 5 in the green corner, Andreas Katsulas plays one of the Network 66 executives.

The next episode is Dream Thieves. An old reporter rival of Edison’s is selling his dreams to a small TV start-up, and dies in the process. He’s called Paddy Ashton, which I always hear as Paddy Ashdown, so that’s a bit odd.

It’s nice to see semi-regular character Blank Reg return in this episode, played by W Morgan Sheppard.

I quite enjoy these episodes, but they really are crying out for a remaster, as the NTSC post production on this is as murky as hell. That’s assuming they shot it all on film, and that anyone bothered to keep the negatives. For such a heavily designed show, it’s a realy shame that the picture quality lets it down.

After the last episode, Channel 4 closes down.

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  • trail: The Story of Merseybeat

It! The Terror From Beyond Space – Roseanne – The Groovy Fellers – tape 656

Today, something a little less highbrow. It’s It! The Terror From Beyond Space.

It starts with a landscape – it’s Mars, where a space mission crashed, and there was only one survivor.

There’s a strange scene right at the start, where reporters are briefed with much the same information as the initial voiceover gave us, and when he announces that the sole survivor is being brought back to face trial for the murders of the rest of his crew, all the reporters leap out of their seats and rush out of the room, so I hope he’d finished.

On the ship, the survivor, Carruthers, is grilled about what happened. He’s told them that creatures of some kind murdered the rest of the crew, but they’re convinced he murdered the crew to maximise his chances of survival until rescue.

But there’s definitely something nasty lurking on the ship.

It’s not long before it starts bumping off the crew. A couple go missing, and they go looking in the ship’s vents – you can see the inspiration this film was on Dan O’Bannon’s script for Alien.

It makes short work of their weapons.

I’m confident in saying that HR Giger had no part in the design of It!

This is the second tape in a row where somebody uses a blowtorch as a weapon. If that isn’t a massive coincidence, I don’t know what is.

In the end they also have to open the airlocks to solve the problem.

And, perhaps because the makers had no faith in the viewers understanding the story, we’re back with the boring guy explaining the plot to reporters again. These really feel like stupid studio additions.

After this, recording switches, and it’s the pilot episode of Roseanne. I didn’t even know I had this.

Look how young they were.

So, so young, even Sara Gilbert

In fact, so young that DJ is played by a completely different actor, Sal Barone,

Talking of young, it also features a very young George Clooney, who clearly hasn’t realised how good looking he would be with sensible hair.

Next, it’s The Groovy Fellers. A programme that exists only because Jools Holland swore on live TV. It’s gimmick is that Rowland Rivron plays a Martian. Not a homicidal Martian like in It! which is sad, because that might have made it more interesting.

In pace of being interesting, they have a Rolls Royce with a cut down roof. I don’t know why this is supposed to be interesting, but this is something they went on about a lot in publicity.

They meet an old photographer, but we’re given no context to his background. We’re apparently supposed to know him because he was on The Tube.

They visit a couple who live near a power station.

Then they travel to a castle in Scotland and attend a party full of posh people.

This really is tiresome in the extreme. A show that’s not interested in anything or anyone.

After this, the very start of It’s Showtime at the Apollo and the tape ends.

In the ad breaks, there’s a Greene King IPA advert featuring (I think) Neil Innes.

Adverts:

  • Canada
  • Comet
  • Centerparcs
  • Anchor Butter
  • Brook Street – Lois Maxwell
  • Greene King IPA – Neil Innes
  • Diet Pepsi – Michael J Fox
  • Sellotape Double Glazing Film
  • Penguin
  • Bic Microglide
  • Sanatogen
  • Mr Kipling
  • Lamot
  • Mail on Sunday
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  • Brook Street – Lois Maxwell
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  • Greene King IPA – Neil Innes
  • Cadbury’s Dairy Milk
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  • trail: The Harp in the South