The Italian Job – Comic Strip Presents… – Lost – Ross Noble – Live in Regent’s Park – Reach for the Stars: Days That Shook the World – 28 Dec 2005

Today’s collection of recordings is a varied mix.

First, another edited film, it’s The Italian Job. I’m quite surprised I didn’t have this on any of my tapes, as it feels like the kind of film I would have taped, but there’s no sign of it.

It starts off like an episode of Top Gear, with a swanky sports car hurtling around some Alps while the titles roll, only to speed into a tunnel, and collide with a bulldozer that’s blocking the exit, put there by (I’m assuming) the mafia.

We meet Michael Caine as Charlie Croker, being released from prison, saying goodbye to everyone.

One of the other inmates is Mr Bridger, played by Noel Coward which always seemed surprising to me, as Coward was mostly a writer, and always felt like someone from a bygone age, not someone appearing in movies in 1969. It felt as if Oscar Wilde had guest starred in The Likely Lads.

He’s picked up from prison by a girlfriend. “This car belongs to the Pakistani Ambassador. I’ve been out of jail five minutes and already I’m in a hot car.”

The car’s numberplate is NAN 404D which amused me, since NAN is a computing term for Not A Number – for when you do a mathematical operation that doesn’t have a proper answer, like division by zero. And 404 is the HTTP status code for Not Found. It feels like it’s a deliberate joke, even though it isn’t.

Charlie visits the tailor, played by Henry McGee.

Another tiny cameo, from Simon Dee as a shirtmaker. I’ve always been curious about Simon Dee, whose career was absolutely huge for a really short time, and then he just disappeared entirely. I was born in 1964, as his broadcasting career was just starting, and by 1970 it was over, and I don’t remember seeing him at all during that time. My only knowledge of him was as references in other programmes. It seems amazing that he didn’t have any kind of post-fame TV career. iMDb has a Blankety Blank appearance, and a Wogan appearance, both in 1988, but most of his post-1970 credits are for documentaries. We might even see one of those in a future blog.

He picks up his car from a man who calls him Captain Croker, and thinks he’s been in India for two years shooting tigers. He’s played by John Clive, who I will always remember as Robert from Robert’s Robots, one of those shows that you watch once when you’re 10, but remember for the rest of your life, despite it probably being a bit rubbish.

A blink and you’ll miss it appearance from Valerie Leon.

At the Lancaster Hotel, he goes up to a room, where his girlfriend (?) Lorna has either organised an Ann Summers party or an orgy. Or maybe both. It’s left unclear. But this is the tail end of the swinging sixties. If this film had been made a year later, it would be a Tupperware party.

After his party, he goes to another room where he’s met by the widow of the man killed at the start of the film. The man was supposed to be setting up a job for Charlie – the Italian Job of the title. Charlie assumes that’s it for the job, but she gives him the man’s plans, and then, it’s implied, they shag. I know he’s been in prison for two years, but Charlie must have some amazing stamina.

The plans are incredibly extensive, including a film where the dead man explains everything. It’s a heist, in Turin, to steal $4m, and escape while the city is gridlocked by breaking into the Turin traffic control computer centre and switching the control tapes. In this part of the film it’s like he’s saying “This is the Internet.” It’s an electronic box that disables traffic cameras.

He needs a banker, and an organisation, so he breaks back into the prison and talks to Mr Bridger, who’s outraged that Charlie has broken into his private lavatory.

He complains about it to the prison governor, played by John Le Mesurier. He also has Charlie beaten up, but then agrees to help with the heist, because it will bring foreign money into the UK. This is basically a Brexit: The Heist.

Croker needs to find the top computer expert in the country. His sister, Irene Handl, tells Croker that he’s currently ‘in a home’ basically because he’s a rapist.

He’s Professor Peach, and he’s played by Benny Hill.

They have to practice some of the driving, so they write off a few cars. And they have to test the explosives which will get into the armoured car, leading to one of the most famous lines in cinema history: “You were only supposed to blow the bloody doors off.” I wonder why this line in particular became so famous. Is it totally down to people doing Michael Caine impressions?

There’s another tiny appearance from a well known (to me) actor – David Kelly plays a vicar at a fake funeral, arranged by Bridger so he can meet with Croker.

When they approach Turin, they’re met by the Mafia, who warn them off, and destroy their cars. When I was younger, I couldn’t believe that films would destroy real cars. I assumed that they would have to be destroying fake cars or scrap cars. I don’t think I quite understood how much money was spent making a film.

I’m at a loss why they need the pervy professor Peach for the computer stuff since all he seems to be there for is to swap some tapes. And even then he seems confused as to how to do this, trying to use a screwdriver before realizing he can just take the tape off.

No really, why is he here? It’s established that he likes to molest large women, so the next day he harasses a woman on the tram, and is then arrested. Maybe this plot strand will have an effect later (spoiler, it doesn’t), otherwise it’s just “ho ho he’s a pervert, how funny.”

Fred Emney is another cameo, dressed up as an English football supporter as cover, while he drops those electrical devices next to traffic cameras to disable them. Fred Emney is another person I’ve heard of, but I couldn’t say I’ve ever seen or heard any of his comedy.

The actual robbery seems to go OK. Some of the gang are also disguised as English football supporters (and one of them seems to be disguised as Boris Johnson) but my daughter asked if this was a “Where’s Wally” film.

The Mini Chase really is a lot of fun, although I don’t quite believe all the planning and preparation that would have been necessary to pull it all off, like having three free spaces at a Mini dealership that they can duck into so their pursuer drives past.

But it’s a huge amount of fun, and of course, the whole thing ends on possibly the most famous cliffhanger in cinema. “Hang on a minute, lads. I’ve got a great idea.

Media Centre Description: Classic comedy crime caper. Newly released from jail, Charlie Croker discovers that he has ‘inherited’ a brilliant plan for a bullion robbery in Italy. Aided and abetted by an imprisoned mastermind, the scheme calls for him to engineer the biggest traffic jam in history in order to steal the gold. All he has to do is overcome a few obstacles – such as a lack of money, not having a gang, and the wrath of the local Mafia.

BBC Genome: BBC One London – Wednesday 28th December 2005 – 15:25

The next recording is our first non-BBC show for a while, and starts with the end of Supernanny.

Then, back on Channel Four after a time on the BBC, Comic Strip Presents…Sex Actually.

It starts with the traditional title, the bomb dropping on a small village, but this time the bomb doesn’t explode, and the camera tracks in, as people are playing cricket on the green.

Then it cuts to an actual village, with people watching a cricket match. They watch as an unknown red car drives around the green. “Who are they? They don’t belong here.” “Maybe they’re lost.” That’s director Peter Richardson and executive producer Cleo Rocos.

The newcomers are Angie and Luccio (Sheridan Smith and Tamer Hassan). She’s very self-involved, he’s from Colombia. She’s just lost her husband, who left her a large amount of money, and she’s looking at a house in the area.

Estate Agent Roy (Phil Cornwell) is happy to show them around she she shows him the case full of cash she has.

Some of the rooms have a bit of a sex dungeon feel. “He used it as a darkroom I expect.”

Luccio asks “Tell me, this plant, what is it? I notice it’s growing in all the gardens here.” “That’s the old pampas grass. It’s not to everyone’s taste. Do you like it?” Angie says “I like it. Plumes are very phallic, ain’t they?”

Neighbours Charles and Carol (Robert Bathurst and Rebecca Front) invite them for drinks. It’s an awkward evening as he hates her, she’s drunk, and they argue all the time.

Next day they accept another invite to a neighbour’s house. It has a lot of art and designer things, all with pricetags. Angie likes this one. “I want that in our house! Then everyone will know how much we paid for it.”

Their hosts are Bilbo and Diana (Rik Mayall and Doon Mackichan). He a conceptual artist, she’s very rich. He’s obviously perving over Angie. “Why don’t you show Lurkio here your office while I show little Angie my studio?” which is an Up Pompeii reference for all us older viewers.

When they go home, they find a gift on the doorstep from their next door neighbours Roy and Jane. Roy was the estate agent who sold them the house. “I didn’t want to tell you in case it put you off the sale.”

Luccio becomes very popular doing the gardens for all his neighbours.

While cooking, he finds some burned underpants in the oven. I’m not sure of the timeline here, since it seems like they’ve been there for a while – long enough to redecorate a bedroom, have a couple of evenings out, and do several gardening jobs. Is this the first time they’ve looked at the oven?

They visit Roy and Jane. Roy advises Luccio on where the local dogging sites are. Luccio isn’t interested. “My friend, you’ve got big problems, you know.” Roy is undeterred and shows them his porn collection.

Bilbo wants to paint Angie.

Graham (Nigel Planer) who seems to be the only single man on the street, turns up at Luccio’s door, looking for a wife swapping party. “The first Thursday of the month. […] Well, Ron and Helen used to have a bit of a do. […] Wife-swapping. Only I don’t have a wife to swap, so they wouldn’t let me in.” Luccio asks what happened to Ron and Helen. “Oh, they died suddenly.”

The wife swapping is actually happening at Charles and Carol’s, although they all seem to think it’s not the same since Ron and Helen died.

Angie overhears their discussions, and goes back to Luccio. “We could make thousands. And if we had pictures, we could make even more.” “Yes, but you’d be ruining so many lives. Their careers would be finished. They would lose everything.” “Yeah, because I’d have it all!” Luccio seems to think this is a bad idea.

Luccio does some googling. He’s finding out about Pampas Grass. The story goes that having Pampas Grass outside your house meant you were ‘swingers’. I only heard this fairly recently, and was skeptical, because loads of people (including my parents) had Pampas Grass in their gardens in the 70s. It was just one of those fads. So I googled it, and I’ve found references to this being an urban myth, which triggered my confirmation bias, so I’m saying it’s bullshit.

Charles and Carol get a note through the door. “Dear pervert, Meet me at number three, or else… A friend.” When they get there, they find they’re not the first to arrive. Nobody knows what it’s about – even Angie who arrives moments later.

Charles and Carol start kicking off, and almost come to blows again, before Luccio comes in, wearing a strangely bulky dressing gown. “It was not Angie who summoned you to this gathering. It was I.” At first I thought he was doing a Hercule Poirot – and in a way, he was. He tells them that he knows they were all in the house when Ron and Helen died, but it was not a tragic accident, it was a murder, “A murder that was committed by one of you here tonight?”

He describes the scenario – someone came in, another rubber hooded figure wouldn’t attract attention – went upstairs and murdered Ron and Helen, in a way that looked like a sex game gone wrong. “Who the hell do you think you are, making these accusations? You’re just a gardener.” “Perhaps it’s time I introduced myself. Gardening is merely a hobby. My name is Inspector Lucio Alfonso Marquese Ricardo Jose De La Marco, of the Columbia Investigations Force in Bogota.” And we see why the dressing gown was so bulky.

He sent the burnt underpants back to Bogota for “carbon testing”. Somehow, this carbon testing revealed that none of the pants belonged to Ron, because he bought his at George from Asda.

He tells them that they all had motives to kill them, but then reveals that Ron, a solicitor, had Angie as a client. He then produces a projector and screen, and starts showing a lot of Angie’s selfies. “Angie in bed. Angie with a little kitten. Angie in the bathroom. Angie listening to music. And look what we have here. Angie killing Ron and Helen.”

Angie protests that Ron was charging her far too much. “he even charged me when he was asleep, because he said he dreamt about my case.” The neighbours’ sympathy is with her. Luccio takes his leave. “I’ve seen more corruption in my life then you can imagine. From drug trafficking and kidnapping to extortion. But you people from Great Wittering are more disloyal and dishonest than a simple death squad. Very well, I will return to the jungle, where pampas grass is a harmless weed. Buenos nachos, foul gringos.”

After an awkward silence, carol singers arrive. “Merry Christmas, everybody. Would you please give to the donkey charity.” This is the show’s feelgood “Love Actually” ending, as all the couples realise things about themselves, and resolve to be better people. This is only spoiled when I watched the credits, which reveal that one of the carol singers is Jeff Beck, who died a couple of weeks ago as I write this. So I think the blog’s curse counts. I’m so very, very sorry.

There’s a mid-credits sting with Nigel Planer’s character. “My name’s Graham. I live alone. My wife left me for another woman. Oh. But I got the last laugh, because three weeks later, I won two million on the lottery.” To which Angie gives him a big smile.

This is available on Britbox, but as I was checking the subtitles (I have to tweak their positions to match my recordings) I noticed that there was quite a bit cut from the BritBox version compared to this version. Some dialogue when they first meet Bilbo and Diana, some of it a bit rude, but a lot of it plot-related, but after that a whole missing scene with Roy the estate agent. I can only conclude that this underwent a wholesale tightening up, possibly for a shorter timeslot later, and that’s the version on BritBox.

Media Centre Description: Cult comedy with the Comic Strip team in a film that delves deep into middle class suburbia. Attractive young couple Angie and Luccio move into a quiet close. But they soon discover that the previous occupants met a mysterious death involving a waterbed, and the mystery unravels when their furtive neighbours are revealed to be part of a wife-swapping circle. Just who is guilty of murder?

Recorded from Channel 4 on Wednesday 28 December 2005 20:58

The next recording is LostBorn to Run. This felt like a filler episode. I assume it was a big revelation that Kate was actually in custody on the plane flight, as we see her doing various crimey things in the flashbacks.

On the island, not much new happens. A survivor I’ve never seen before tells Michael and the rest of them building the boat that they need to leave ASAP otherwise the trade winds will change, and blow the boat south, towards Antarctica, which pushes the schedule up a bit.

Locke finally shows Jack the hatch. Sayid thinks the hatch should be buried and forgotten. Jack thinks they should try to open it.

Sawyer finds out Kate is trying to persuade Michael to give Sawyer’s place on the boat to her. He finds out, and he also knows that she was in custody on the flight.

Michael becomes unwell after drinking from his water bottle. We eventually find out it was Sun who spiked the water, intending Jin to drink it so he wouldn’t be able to leave the island on the boat.

Flashback Kate reunites with a childhood friend, who’s a doctor. He helps her get to see her mother, who is dying of cancer. Her mother is not pleased to see her and will only call for help, so Kate has to run (as she’s presumably wanted for something).

The police are blocking the exit. She’s in the car with her old friend. He tries to tell her to give herself up, but she decides to gun the engine and ram a police car, whose office shoots at the car as she does so. She gets some way away but ends up crashing the car. Then sees her friend was shot by the police officer.

Walt tells Michael that it was him who burned the raft.

Media Centre Description: Drama series following the survivors of a plane crash who are forced to live together on a remote island, a dangerous world with many new threats. As Michael makes the final preparations to launch the raft, he is struck down by a mysterious illness.

Recorded from Channel 4 on Wednesday 28 December 2005 22:00

The next recording is Ross Noble – Live in Regent’s Park.

Media Centre Description: Geordie comedian Ross Noble’s July 2003 performance in Regent’s Park’s open-air theatre. Known for his skill in improvisation, no two shows are ever the same.

Recorded from E4 on Wednesday 28 December 2005 23:58

After this, the recording ends with what looks like the very start of a Big Brother related show, featuring Leigh Francis judging by the mask.

The next recording should strictly be in tomorrow’s entry, because the actual programme starts at 6am, but my recording started a couple of minutes earlier, so my calculation of which day it was says it’s for today.

It starts with a short burst of Ceefax.

There’s a trailer for Return of the Goodies, and Who Do You Think You Are?

Then, a documentary, Reach for the Stars: Days That Shook the World.

It’s about Yuri Gagarin becoming the first man in space, by going all the way back to Galileo’s trial for heresy. It looks like it’s trying to be 24: The End of Geocentrism.

Desktop Publishing was more of a faff in those days.

Pope Urban is very angry about Galileo’s book, despite having given him permission to write it “as long as it doesn’t prove Copernicus”.

Faced with a trial, and threat of torture, Galileo has to sign a statement saying he did not believe that the Earth moved around the Sun.

The second half of the documentary follows Yuri Gagarin’s flight into space. The Soviet authorities always seem to come out of this looking bad. The chief designer Sergei Korolev had to monitor the flight from deep inside a bomb-proof bunker. But the rest of the mission control technicians stayed on the surface because they were expendable (and in fact over a hundred technicians died when an earlier test flight blew up).

Another fact I didn’t know was that they knew the parachutes on the capsule weren’t enough to slow it down to make a safe landing on land – they didn’t do landings at sea – so Gagarin had to eject from the capsule before it landed otherwise he’d die in the impact. When he lands, he’s met by a farmer and his family, which is a nice scene.

Media Centre Description: Series recalling history’s defining moments. On April 12 1961, Yuri Gagarin became the first man in space. Exactly 328 years previously, Galileo was put on trial for heresy, his crime being to suggest that the earth, far from being the centre of the universe, orbited the sun like any other planet.

BBC Genome: BBC Two England – Thursday 29th December 2005 – 06:00

After this, there’s an ad for the Red Button. Then CBeebies starts with some birthdays, and the start of The Tweenies.


  • Calpol
  • trail: Derren Brown: The Heist
  • Film Four
  • Just Friends in cinemas
  • PC World
  • Movie Musicals
  • trail: My Name is Earl
  • trail: Shameless
  • Virgin Mobile
  • Reader’s Digest Prize Draw
  • Nicorette
  • MFI
  • trail: Invasion
  • Vauxhall
  • Hong Kong Legends
  • B&Q
  • Magners
  • Vauxhall Corsa
  • trail: My Name is Earl
  • King Kong in cinemas
  • esure
  • DFS
  • Argos
  • trail: The Magic of Jesus
  • trail: Derren Brown: The Heist
  • trail: Desperate Housewives
  • Smirnoff Ice
  • Comet
  • Head & Shoulders
  • LG U880
  • Movie Musicals
  • The Devil’s Rejects on DVD
  • trail: Iraq: The Bloody Circus
  • trail: The Magic of Jesus
  • Wedding Crashers on DVD
  • B&Q
  • Post Office Credit Card
  • DFS
  • Memoirs of a Geisha in cinemas
  • XBox 360
  • Stoves
  • VW Commercial Vehicles
  • trail: Shameless
  • B&Q
  • Thomson Holidays
  • Renault Clio
  • Smirnoff Ice
  • Argos
  • Land of the Dead on DVD
  • Green Street on DVD
  • Carphone Warehouse
  • Oxfam
  • trail: 50 Greatest Comedy Films
  • Audi RS4 Quattro
  • Malibu
  • Canon EOS 350D
  • Gaviscon
  • Sony Centre
  • JJB
  • Charlie and the Chocolate Factory on DVD
  • Halfords
  • Running Scared in cinemas
  • trail: The Family Man/Faking It Special
  • trail: Invasion
  • trail: Desperate Housewives
  • trail: Iraq: The Bloody Circus
  • Pringles
  • Comet
  • L’Oreal Infallible
  • Hong Kong Legends
  • Virgin Trains
  • MFI
  • Nicorette
  • LG U880
  • Baileys
  • Film Four
  • trail: E4 Music
  • trail: Lost in Lost
  • Running Scared in cinemas
  • – James Nesbitt
  • Sky gamestar
  • PC World
  • Harveys Sale
  • Centerparcs
  • Mint
  • Renault Clio
  • trail: ER
  • Currys
  • Boots Opticians
  • Yell – James Nesbitt
  • Harveys Sale
  • Seat Leon
  • Abbey
  • Lemsip Cold & Flu Capsules
  • Virgin Mobile
  • Running Scared in cinemas
  • trail: My Name is Earl
  • Comet
  • Canon EOS 350D
  • Norwich Union DIrect
  • Toyota Yaris
  • – James Nesbitt
  • MFI
  • Virgin Trains
  • Halfords
  • Mind Body Spirit
  • MFI
  • Green Street on DVD
  • Special K Drop a Jeans Size Challenge
  • PC World
  • trail: Four Weddings and a Funeral


  1. Simon Dee is fascinating for his rapid rise and fall, but as you say that’s better discussed if you see specific docs on him.
    The Italian Job I felt was just about worth the watch when I finally got around to it, but there’s more star-spotting than plot-admiring.

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