Author: VHiStory

Dead Again – tape 1485

Dead Again was Kenneth Branagh’s first ‘American’ film. Made while he and Emma Thompson were still married.

The titles set up the story – or part of it, anyway, as, in between the actors’ names, we see old newspaper headlines about a Murder case. Famous pianist Margaret Strauss was murdered with a pair of scissors, and her husband, conductor Roman Strauss, was the prime suspect. Mrs Strauss is played by Emma Thompson.

The film opens in moody black and white as Strauss (Kenneth Branagh) is in prison, having his hair cut ready for the electric chair.

Reporter Gray Baker (Andy Garcia) visits him in the cell. Strauss tells him he still loves his wife.

But then the scene ends with Strauss walking down a corridor and it turns nightmarish as Strauss comes up to a woman, lifts some scissors, and says “These are for you”

Then Emma Thompson wakes up from her nightmare in the present, and in colour. She’s sleeping in the old house of Roman and Margaret Strauss, which is now owned by the church. She arrived there two days ago, climbing the gate, and she doesn’t speak, and appears to be amnesiac.

The priest in charge hires an investigator to find out who the mystery woman is. He calls Mike Church, also played by Kenneth Branagh.

He’s on his way to another case, finding a psychiatrist who has inherited money from a former client. The psychiatrist is played by Robin Williams, who I had completely forgotten was in this film.

He takes Thompson’s case, and puts her picture in the paper, aided by friend Wayne Knight.

Along with all the cranks claiming they know who Thompson is, they are visited by Derek Jacobi, an antique dealer with a side business in hypnotism and repressed memories.

When they next visit Jacobi, he’s working with Miriam Margolyes.

I don’t trust Jacobi, but so far his most evil action is to get his subjects, who are examining old memories, to mention any ‘objects d’art’ they might see along the way.

With Thompson, rather than regressing a couple of years, her memory is from 1948, and she’s talking about when Roman met Margaret.

It’s interesting to watch this film knowing how it ends. The flashbacks have to be staged a certain way, and I’m watching to see if it all narratively makes sense.

We meet the Strauss’ housekeeper on the day Roman and Margaret get married, played by Hanna Schygulla. Margaret asks her to move out of her room and move downstairs, and I detect some resentment there. Her son has a pronounced stammer. I’m sure that’s not important.

Branagh and Thompson start getting romantically involved, which becomes awkward when Campbell Scott turns up as Doug, Thompson’s fiancee.

Except he’s another fraud, who almost fools Branagh, then gets away by shimmying down a palm tree.

We get more flashbacks, showing the disintegration of the Strauss marriage, as Roman is not being as successful as he’d hoped, and Margaret is being chatted up by Andy Garcia’s journalist Gray Baker.

Margaret catches Schygulla’s son with his hand in her jewellery drawer, and she thinks he’s stealing. She wants Roman to fire Schygulla, but he won’t because they helped him escape Europe. She’s also now suspicious of him because Baker tells her that all his money came from his first wife.

Then, at the end of the vision, she sees Roman with the scissors again, except it’s not Roman, it’s Mike.

Thompson is now terrified of Mike, thinking that he must be the reincarnation of Roman, back to murder her again. So Mike gets regressed by Jacobi, and in a rather neat twist, when he tells him to look around and look at himself in a mirror, this is what we see.

So Mike is Margaret, and presumably Thompson is Roman.

Wayne Knight arrives with the truth about Thompson’s identity. She’s an artist, with an obsession with scissors.

Jacobi, all of a sudden, counsels against letting Mike see her again, even offering her a gun to protect her.

Meanwhile, Mike is getting equally bad advice from discount shrink Williams, who says he should kill Thompson first or she’ll kill him. I don’t have much faith in the professional ethics of either of these people.

Then, an actual real face from the past, as Mike gets a message that Gray Baker wants to talk to him. He’s had a tracheotomy. He believes that Roman didn’t kill his wife, and says Mike should talk to the Housekeeper, Inga. The last he knew, she and her son had opened an antique shop. OH NO!

Mike talks to Inga and accuses her of killing Margaret.

And we learn the truth of who killed Margaret. It was Frankie, Inga’s son.

To be honest, when I first saw this, I should have connected Frankie’s stammer with the casting of Jacobi from the start, because he’s famous for playing roles with stammers.

Mike goes to see Thompson, but she’s still convinced he’s going to kill her, and ends up shooting him, just before Jacobi arrives to stage it like a murder suicide. But no, Mike’s still alive and the climax is a glorious slow motion epic clearly inspired by De Palma, with Patrick Doyle’s score working overtime sounding a lot like Pino Donnagio and Bernard Herrmann. Even Wayne Knight is there, stumbling into the scene with pizza and making things worse. It’s gloriously silly, but exactly what the film should be doing.

And because there are some immutable laws of the universe, Derek Jacobi’s villain, after one brief deployment of his stammer, does end up falling onto something sharp and pointy, namely one of Thompson’s many scissor-based sculptures. Textbook villain ending.

That was a lot of fun. Of course, any film featuring Emma Thompson (now Dame Emma Thompson) is already well worth watching, but this is truly bonkers, in a good way.

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Star Trek – The Next Generation – tape 1480

Here’s some episodes from Season 4 of Star Trek The Next Generation on Sky One. I was clearly watching as I recorded these, as all the ad breaks have been taken out. I’ll be watching the episode on Netflix, because HD, but all the screenshots will come from my tape, because posterity.

The first episode is Identity Crisis, a Geordi episode. Years ago, Geordi was part of an away team investigating the disappearance of an entire colony on Tarchannen III. His colleague on the team, Susanna Leijten (Maryann Plunkett) has come to the Enterprise because the rest of the away team who investigated the colony have all disappeared under unusual circumstances.

On reaching the planetary system, the Enterprise watch as a shuttle stolen by one of the away team approaches the planet, but too fast, so it explodes in the atmosphere.

On the surface, the Enterprise away team find two more shuttles, presumably the other away team members returning to the planet. And Commander Leijten has some kind of reaction to something on the planet, acting very strangely.

Pretty Soon, she starts changing, developing a sensitivity to light and growing blue veins over her skin. She’s transforming into something.

It’s down to Geordi to try to find out what’s affecting her, and might be affecting him. He does some analysis of the visual logs of the original away team, and finds an anomalous shadow, which he analyses on the holodeck. It’s a nice variation on the old ‘enhance sections 23 to 41’ trope.

But Geordi also succumbs to whatever it is that’s changing Leijten.

Whatever is changing him, he’s becoming a sort of chameleon, and transports down to the surface, looking like he’s borrowed the Predator’s visual effects.

Leitjen is recovering, because Crusher was able to identify the organism that was causing the changes. She tells Crusher that it’s this species way of reproducing, and Geordi doesn’t have much time left before he’s completely changed into one of them. So they beam down to the planet, and using Ultra Violet lights, which apparently are outside the visual range of the aliens, and therefore don’t frighten them, they’re able to see them. I’m not sure that’s quite how all this works, but it does give us a nice, freaky alien effect on Geordi, before Leijten is able to persuade him to return to the ship with them.

It’s nice to see a story in which Geordi is able to actually be friends with a woman instead of just mooning after her all the time, and for this to be a plot point.

The Next episode is The Nth Degree and it features one of the best recurring characters of the series, Lt Barclay, played by Dwight Schulz. He’s performing as Cyrano de Bergerac as part of his therapy to overcome his holodeck addiction.

There’s a space array that’s been damaged, and Barclay and Geordi take a look, but while investigating, Barclay gets zapped, and starts exhibiting massive increases in intelligence and confidence. He even asks out Deanna. “He did make a pass at me last night. A good one.”

Pretty soon, Barclay has wired himself into the ship’s computer, and is reconfiguring the ship to make a trip over a massive distance.

When there, he’s release from the computer, as the beings who were controlling him make themselves known. They only want to meet other species, but they’re so massively advanced from us that they don’t even bother going out of the house, they just bring the species to them. I endorse this behaviour.

The next episode here is QPid. It’s a bit of a romp. Jennifer Hetrick returns as Vash, the woman with whom Picard spent a pleasant vacation in Captain’s Holiday.

She’s there supposedly to attend Picard’s symposium on Archaeology that he’s giving. Picard is embarrassed when Beverley pops round for breakfast, finding Vash already there. Vash is upset when she learns that Picard has never mentioned her to his crew.

There’s a great moment when Riker tries to hit on Vash and she completely shuts him down.

Things take a turn when Q turns up. He feels he owes Picard a favour, so he’s going to help him with his love life.

So, during Picard’s presentation, Q transports most of the bridge crew to a recreation of Sherwood Forest, with Picard playing Robin Hood, Riker as Little John, Data as Friar Tuck and Work as Will Scarlet. Leading to one of the greatest lines in all of Star Trek from Worf. “Sir, I protest. I am not a merry man!”

In the end, Picard saves Vash (as Maid Marion) but then she decides to join Q and see the universe, which helpfully gets her out of Picard’s life. Although from this still it looks like they’re going into the jungle on I’m A Celebrity.

The next episode is The Drumhead. A Klingon lieutenant is accused of setting off an explosion within the Enterprise dilithium chamber. He’s also accused of passing information to the Romulans. The Klingon tells Worf his name is no longer spoken on the Klingon homeworld, and says he can help him get his honour back if Worf lets him escape. But Worf isn’t having any of it.

Retired Admiral Satie arrives to lead the investigation. She’s played by veteran Hollywood star Jean Simmons.

As the investigation gets going, Satie says there must be a larger conspiracy on board the ship. The Klingon denies having had anything to do with the explosion, although he admits having transmitted information about the engines to the Romulans.

A medical crewman, Simon Tarses, is interviewed about giving the Klingon injections. Satie’s aide, played by Bruce French, is a betazoid, and he says Tarses is lying and should be considered a suspect. But Picard pushes back, unwilling to treat a man as a criminal based only on betazoid intuition.

But Data and Geordi conclude that the explosion was simply an accident, caused by a faulty bulkhead. Satie and her aide seem unhappy with this, They’re looking for a conspiracy, and they’re not going away empty handed. They’re starting the process of monstering young Tarses who, we discover, might have a Romulan grandfather.

Picard is unhappy with the way the investigation is going. “The road from suspicion to rampant paranoia is a very short one.”

Is that an Excelsior class starship next to the Enterprise? It should the relative size of the Enterprise D.

Picard gets served on the bridge and has to testify.

Picard’s record is examined in his testimony – we get reminded of past stories. When Satie brings up Picard’s assimilation by the Borg, my wife said “she is Umbridge, isnt’ she?” And when Picard quotes her father’s words, a warning against trampling on freedom, she rather loses it, vowing to expose his treachery. At which point the other Admiral, brought in to observe, stands and walks out.

We almost get a Picard facepalm.

The episode ends with Picard talking to Worf about how quickly suspicion and tyranny can take hold.

“But she, or someone like her, will always be with us, waiting for the right climate in which to flourish, spreading fear in the name of righteousness. Vigilance, Mister Worf, that is the price we have to continually pay.”

I love this show.

And that’s the end of this episode, and the tape.

Film 86 – tape 137

Well, here’s a nice diversion, away from the early 90s and back to 1986 and the early part of my collection.

It’s Film 86 and this is one that’s presented by Michael Parkinson. He seems to be a lot grumpier than Barry Norman right from the off, as he reviews the following films:

There’s also a report on Super 8 film collectors.

BBC Genome: BBC One – 1st April 1986 – 22:30

In the next episode, Parky has reviews of the following films:

His review of Creepers (a Dario Argento movie also known as Phenomena) is not a good one, even referring to Argento as ‘the dingbat responsible for this film.’

There’s a report on Clint Eastwood’s mayoral campaign in his hometown of Carmel.

BBC Genome: BBC One – 8th April 1986 – 22:50

The next episode, still hosted by Michael Parkinson, has the reviews of:

There’s a look behind the scenes of Jewel of the Nile.

In the movie news, there’s a story about Dustin Hoffman pulling out of a movie for Cannon Films because he wasn’t happy about the use of his name to promote the company. Sounds like Cannon films through and through.

BBC Genome: BBC One – 15th April 1986 – 22:50

In the next episode, the films under review are:

There’s a location report on Mona Lisa featuring cameo appearances from George Harrison and Ringo Starr.

There’s also a report on the US release of Absolute Beginners, a film which seems to embody everything about the dire state of the UK film industry at the time. Director Julien Temple says “I made this film to get up people’s noses”. I suggest treating filmmaking like cocaine distribution might not be a way to get a large audience.

BBC Genome: BBC One – 22nd April 1986 – 22:50

The next episode sees Parky cast his hypercritical eye over the following films:

He also tells us why he’s not reviewing Flesh and Blood.

There’s a report on the market for films on Video. It’s remarkably sniffy about an industry that in reality sustained the movie business through a time when cinema attendance was falling sharply because cinemas were a bit rubbish at the time.

BBC Genome: BBC One – 29th April 1986 – 23:15

After this episode, there’s a look at programmes for Wednesday, then the tape ends.

A Night At The Opera – tape 1501

Here’s the classic Marx Brothers comedy A Night at the Opera. I say ‘classic’ but I’ve never watched it. I hear good things, though.

“That’s in every contract. It’s the sanity clause.” “You can’t fool me, there is no sanity clause.”

“Do you want your nails long or short?” “Better make them short it’s getting crowded around here.”

I’m so ignorant, I didn’t even know Harpo actually played the Harp.

Triple Hipsters

After this, recording continues. There’s a look at tomorrow’s programmes on UK Gold.

Then, UK Gold closes down, and there’s some informercials which, presumably because of the way my Sky box was tuned, have two soundtracks, one channel in German, and one in French. It’s a bit freaky. The first one is for Stair Climber Plus.

The next one has German and English, and is for Auri, a cleaning product, and is presented by the king of infomercials, Mike Levy.

The person demonstrating the product is John Parkin. I’ve never quite understood why so many of these infomercials have English accented ‘experts’. I like to think they’re all part of the same family, a troupe of roaming hucksters, drifting from show to show demonstrating another household product.

Mike’s back for the next one, but this time his English expert is Ian Long. He’s selling the Europainter.

The next product even has British branding.

I can’t tell if Estelle Walsh is English or not, because she’s being simultaneously dubbed into German and French.

There’s a couple more, before the tape ends.

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Wild Palms – The South Bank Show – tape 1631

So here’s the final part of Wild PalmsHello, I Must Be Going. After Harry released the tape of his mother in law murdering his wife, the conspirators have to fight back with a fabricated video which shows Harry doing it. Although the performance of Belushi in this scene is so bad it’s hard to see anyone being fooled.

But it appears they are. Harry might have to give the Go chip to Senator Robert Loggia, who will them become some kind of magical machine ghost able to control the world’s minds.

Looks like one of the side effects of the drug mimosine is a blue Hitler moustache.

Loggia’s chip is malfunctioning.

Belushi’s fake son is still horrible.

It’s all apparently resolved by a rather dull shootout, and then Belushi, Catrall and Belushi’s two real children go to the beach to watch the sunset. It’s all a lot of nonsense, really.

BBC Genome: BBC Two – 7th December 1993 – 21:00

After this, recording switches to MTV and another (unbilled) episode of Saturday Night Live, this one hosted by the star of Quick Change, Bill Murray.

Music from Percy Sledge

After this, recording switches to The South Bank Show sees Lenny Henry looking at Black American Comedy.

He talks to Keenan Ivory Wayans

Thea Vidal and Robin Montagu

George Frier demonstrates the process of blackface/minstrel makeup.

David Alan Grier, seen here a while back in Amazon Women on the Moon.

Hollywood Shuffle’s Robert Townsend.

After this, over to BBC2 for a Late Show special, The Bestseller Brief, on thriller writers John Grisham and Scott Turow, and the rise of the literary lawyer. It’s presented by Mark Lawson.

This is what John Grisham looks like.

Legal rentamouth and general awful person Alan Dershowitz.

Presumed Innocent author Scott Turow

BBC Genome: BBC Two – 7th February 1994 – 23:15

Recording continues with a trailer for Picasso Week.

Weather from Michael Fish.

There’s a trailer for the Winter Olympics.

Then, some Open University programming.

This looks like a generally useful programme.

But, rather shockingly, it makes a lurching left turn into promoting acupuncture. Completely unchallenged and presented as an equally useful medical system. Here’s the woman talking about ‘meridians’ and chi energy.

This is one of the worst programmes I’ve ever seen. I have no idea what it’s supposed to be teaching. But at least he shows a Lorenz water wheel, a physical demonstration of a Lorenzian chaotic system. But even the presenter admits that it doesn’t have much to do with the theme of the programme.

The tape ends before the programme finishes.

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Saturday Night Live – tape 1497

The Gulf War is clearly in full swing, and Kevin Nealon plays a US General who keeps getting asked questions about troop deployments, weaknesses in the US plans, secret passwords and other stuff he can’t answer.

Playing one of the reporters, staff writer Conan O’Brien, before he got his talk show.

The show is hosted by Kevin Bacon.

I’ve looked at this one before, but this might be a different edit.

I do like the Sarcastic Clapping Family.

Kevin Bacon also sings, and he’s OK.

For the next episode, the Gulf War is already over. Dan Quayle looked familiar in the opening sketch.

I thought it was Mike Myers, but it’s the host, Michael J Fox.

The opening monologue does a Back to the Future riff, with Dana Carvey playing Michael J Fox from 90 minutes in the future.

They spared no expense with the special effects.

It gets more confusing when they go back to earlier in the week, now with David Spade playing another Michael J Fox.

There’s a sketch about former child stars. In the sketch, Fox plays Danny Bonaduce from the Partridge family.

I was wondering why they didn’t have Fox play his actual character from Family Ties, until David Spade comes in playing Alex, and that’s much, much funnier.

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The next episode is presented by Alec Baldwin.

Music from Whitney Houston

There’s another small appearance from Conan O’Brien

The tape ends after this episode.

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Bill And Ted’s Bogus Journey – Quick Change – tape 1482

Here’s Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey, the sequel to Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure.

It’s amazing how you can accurately date stuff that’s supposed to be in the far future. This could not be more 1990s.

Joss Ackland is the big villain, Nomolos De Nomolos.

His plan is to kill Bill and Ted using two robot duplicates.

Pam Grier plays Mrs Wardroe, in charge of the battle of the bands.

For no particular reason, Bill and Ted watch an old episode of Star Trek (Arena).

Well, not for no reason, as the film visits the same location, where Robot Bill & Ted kill the real Bill & Ted.

So they have to face Death, played by William Sadler.

Awesome early 90s digital effects.

Hal Landon Jr’s performance as Ted’s dad when he’s possessed by Ted is excellent.

“We’ve been totally lied to by our album covers”

While the process effects in this movie are fairly woeful, the makeup is good. Here’s Alex Winter as his own grandmother.

There’s a brief glimpse of a non-death William Sadler playing part of an English family watching TV.

There’s even a preview of the forthcoming third film in the Bill & Ted series.

I’m not quite sure how I feel about Bill & Ted. I did chuckle a fair amount, and I do love Death, but it does feel colossally insubstantial. But I guess that’s kind of the point.

After this, recording switches to another movie, on Sky Movies. It’s Quick Change. The one with Bill Murray as a clown who robs a bank. “What kind of a clown are you?” “The crying on the inside kind I guess.” I wonder if the dynamite vest would play in a movie made today?

Jason Robards plays the gruff Chief of Police.

Murray’s two accomplices are the always wonderful Geena Davis

And Randy Quaid

They have a perfect plan, keeping the police busy at the bank, while the three of them get away in the guise of three released hostages. But everything conspires to derail their plan. It’s a well plotted farce, as simple things escalate into high drama.

Some nice guest appearances, from Phil Hartman

Tony Shalhoub plays the worst cab driver ever.

There are loads of little touches. When they’re lost in an unfamiliar area of New York, they witness two men jousting on bicycles.

At one point, when he gets a good lead on where the robbers might be, Robards drags his assistant along by the hand.

Even Stanley Tucci pops up, as a mobster.

Philip Bosco plays a jobsworth bus driver.

“Is that our plane?” “No, if it was our plane it would be crashing.”

Kurtwood Smith plays the most obnoxious passenger on the plane who turns out to be a mob kingpin.

I think this is one of Bill Murray’s best films. The plot works well, with a Midnight Run vibe to it. And Geena Davis is always good.

After this, recording continues, and there’s a Making Of feature on Freddy’s Dead – The Final Nightmare featuring contributions from Robert Englund and director Rachel Talalay.

There’s also a Making Of In The Line of Fire.

After this, there’s the start of a rather sad looking sex comedy, Party Favors. The tape ends after a few minutes of this.

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