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The Black Cat – The Raven – tape 847

Here’s a couple of old horror films on Channel 4, starting with The Black Cat, whose theme music is a shameless pastiche of Tchaikovsky’s Romeo & Juliet overture.

It stars Bela Lugosi as the amazingly named Dr Vitus Werdegast. He meets a young couple on the train, abd proceeds to tell them of the terrible life he has led during the war, when he was believed dead, but in fact spent years in a prison camp from which he has just returned. He hasn’t seen his wife or daughter since.

The young couple and Lugosi travel in a bus, which crashes, and the young woman is injured, so they go to the house of an architect whom Lugosi was going to visit, so Lugosi can treat the woman. The architect is Hjalmar Poelzig, played by Boris Karloff (or Karloff as he’s credited here).

Karloff’s hobby is keeping a gallery of dead, embalmed women in his basement. Lugosi later learns that Karloff married his wife (who thought Lugosi was dead) but she died of the flu, and is now in his woman cave.

Even worse, unbeknownst to Lugosi, Karloff then married Lugosi’s daughter – his own stepdaughter, but he tells Lugosi that she also died. He doesn’t ask him why she’s not in the Lady showroom.

And as if we weren’t sure if Karloff was a wrong-un, this is his bedtime reading.

There’s a big satanic ritual, and by the end, the house is blown up.

After this, there’s The Raven, another production very loosely based on an Edgar Allan Poe story. In this one, Lugosi plays a doctor with a huge God complex, begged to help an injured woman by her father, a Very Important Man. He also likes quoting Poe’s “The Raven” and he’s built a torture chamber in his cellar.

Karloff turns up at his door, as a wanted murderer Edmond Bateman. Lugosi tells him that it’s no wonder you turned out to be evil, you’re so incredibly ugly. I don’t particularly see it myself, although that haircut is a little severe.

Lugosi tells him he’ll transform his face, if Karloff will agree to operate his torture chamber. But it just looks like he’s given him a shave and a squint. He’s frozen the muscles in his face, and will finish the job once Karloff has done what he wants him to do.

His descending pendulum starts from a long way up.

Neither of these films are close to the pinnacle of the Universal horror films, if I’m honest.

After this, Channel 4 closes down, and Carol Bolt wishes us a very good night.

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Notes And Queries – Joking Apart – The Dave Allen Show – tape 1500

Here’s something a bit different. It’s the first episode of the Clive Anderson TV version of Notes And Queries, based on the column in The Guardian. Amazingly, one of the jokey examples of a question he throws out in his introduction is “Whatever happened to Spangles?” which I thought was an internet cliche, but clearly it predates the general popular web.

There’s a fascinating chat to a man who was in a lift that fell down a lift shaft.

Carol Vorderman works out how much Judas’ 30 pieces of silver would be worth today.

There’s a strangely heated discussion about the best way to dispose of dead people.

BBC Genome: BBC Two – 7th January 1993 – 20:30

After this, the first episode of Joking Apart. This is the first episode of the series proper, not the original pilot, which I think I’ve got somewhere, and I think is different. It was Steven Moffat’s first sitcom for grown-ups, and his success with Press Gang. Mark and Becky meet when he turns up for a party at the wrong address, and accidentally comes to a funeral.

Whilst I do like this show, and find it funny, as time has gone on, I dislike the character of Mark (based on Moffat himself and his experience of divorce) more and more. He really is pretty awful, and Becky was quite right to leave him. Having said that, the final scene, where Becky tells him she wants a divorce, while all her friends are hiding ready for a surprise party, is masterful.

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

After this, recording switches to The Dave Allen Show, on ITV. Somehow, I miss the sketches he used to have in the BBC show. His material maybe isn’t the sharpest, but his delivery is still great.

After this, another episode of Notes And Queries which we join just as the opening credits finish. A man and a woman try to answer why is water wet, and it’s like every argument on Twitter except he doesn’t threaten to kill her.

Frank Muir talks about the most poignant passage in the English language, and also about his particular inability to pronounce the letter ‘R’. “I can’t order the book Rural Rides on the phone”

Carol Vorderman talks about the Querty keyboard.

There’s a discussion about how secret is the secret ballot.

BBC Genome: BBC Two – 14th January 1993 – 20:30

Then, episode Two of Joking Apart. I’m finding it hard to sympathise with Mark now Becky has left him for another man. But at least Tracy is there to help. I do like Tracie Bennett’s performance in this.

Also, there’s an awkward ‘gay panic’ joke.

BBC Genome: BBC Two – 14th January 1993 – 21:00

After this, another episode of The Dave Allen Show.

The tape ends after this.

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The Wonder Years – tape 814

Lots more episodes of The Wonder Years now. In Brightwing, Kevin’s sister, Olivia d’Abo,  is now a hippie.

In the past she used to cosplay as Jessie from Toy Story

Even Kevin joins in with the hippie fun.

The next episode is Square Dance. Cutlip has to teach the kids. “Square Dancing. What is it? And what can it do for you?”

Kevin is mortified to be paired with Margaret Farquar, the weird girl. School is horrible like this. I can remember people being horrible to ‘the weird kid’. And I can remember me not being brave enough to call their behaviour out, despite knowing it was wrong. Peer pressure is an appalling thing. And Kevin doesn’t do any better in this episode. Despite Margaret being a really cool kid. She has a bat and a tarantula, for God’s sake.

It’s obviously Superbowl season for the next episode.

This episode is Whose Woods Are These? The local woods are going to be bulldozed for a shopping mall. Again, this rings a few bells. When I was young, we lived on the edge of our town, and right behind our house were fields. We’d play in the local woods all the time. And then, for years, they were planning to build a bypass road through the fields, about 200 yards from our back fence. I remember when the surveyors came around with their measuring sticks. I was probably 7 or 8 when this process started.

But these things take a long time. The bypass wasn’t even started until I’d left school and was working. And I’d left home and bought my own house by the time it was opened, so even that part of it never directly affected me. I was lucky to have those fields and woods for my entire childhood.

Now, even the fields that were left between our old house and the bypass have been developed, so every time I’d visit my parents, I’d look out at the garden, and there were these large house all round. It was strange. Like the house had been transplanted into a movie set.

But I do remember when this was all fields.

So I sympathise with Kevin wanting to preserve his local woods.

Raye Birk makes a guest appearance as the assistant principal. He’s familiar as Walt Twitchell, Cliff’s occasional nemesis from the post office.

Next it’s How I’m Spending My Summer Vacation. I wonder if these home movie sections were actually just shot on super 8, rather than post-processed.

Coach Cutlip gets emotional at the end of the school year.

The next episode is Summer Song. The Arnolds are going on vacation.

Kevin meets an older girl on vacation (Winne has written that she’s going out with someone else) and they have a fun time until she has to go home. Is this a bit like the Bochco thing of schlubby men being with far more attractive women? That Kevin appears to be irresistible to girls who really wouldn’t be remotely interested with someone that young.

The next episode is Mom Wars. Kevin is playing rough football, and his mom doesn’t like it.

Next it’s Wayne on Wheels. Kevin’s brother learns to drive, and Kevin falls in love with another random girl.

Juliette Lewis has a semi-regular role as Kevin’s brother’s girlfriend Delores.

After this, recording stops. Underneath there’s a tiny bit of BBC2 testcard before that recording stops.

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Trouble at the Top – tape 2349

This tape opens with the end of The Aristocracy: Letting in the Hoi Polloi.

There’s a trailer for Correspondent. And one for The Natural World. I do like this fishy 2 logo.

Then, Trouble at the TopLive TV. It’s a rather good behind the scenes of the launch of Live TV. This is actually an updated edition of the original programme.

Mirror Group Newspapers want to get into television, so they hire Janet Street Porter to launch Live TV, in offices in Canary Wharf, and with a very small budget.

Unfortunately, they also hire Kelvin McKenzie, former editor of the Sun. Needless to say, they don’t always get on.

It’s a continual story of ‘saving money’. They wanted to buy outside broadcast trucks, but to save money, they wanted to shop around. During channel rehearsals, the presenters can’t hear the director because the truck isn’t equipped, so they have to route her voice over the shop’s PA system.

We’ve got this fantastic state of the art technology. Unfortunately it doesn’t work.

I spotted Media journalist Ray Snoddy in a press conference.

Complaining about all the technical difficulties, and there’s clearly one person mainly in charge of fixing everything, Janet’s getting annoyed. There’s a line from this that became a bit of a catchphrase among friends of mine. “And take him off the fucking Internet”. (Actually it’s ‘Internet Project’ which isn’t quite as funny.

“The Avid has crashed with all the graphics on it.”

12 weeks after launch, Janet Street Porter has quit, after Kelvin McKenzie did a deal for Rugby on the channel. I think Kelvin is the kind of person who can’t imagine something that isn’t supposed to appeal to him.

The Newsbunny appears. Is this somebody famous’s first job?

The Weather in Norwegian

And Topless Darts. It really is egregiously bad. Objectively bad. With no attempt to make something good. It’s just so pathetic. I would say it’s like a 12 year old is running things, but most 12 year olds would make something good.

Here’s the whole, sad story.

BBC Genome: BBC Two – 12th February 1997 – 21:50

After this, recording switches to Channel 4, for the end of an episode of Travelog.

Then, an episode of Fortean TV resented by the redoubtable Reverend Lionel Fanthorpe.

There’s a story about alien abductees creating art.

Flesh eating maggots.

Hybrid fruit. Here’s a cross between a Strawberry and a Tomato.

Dogs and the Afterlife.

A possible Holy Grail, not that there’s much left of it.

After this, recording switches and there’s an episode of ER – No Brain, No Gain. Wow, I didn’t remember Omar Epps being a regular.

I knew Glenne Headly was a regular, though.

They manage to misspell Jorja Fox’s name in the credits.

William Sanderson, off of Blade Runner, makes a guest appearance.

Dr Susan Lewis tells Mark Green that she’s leaving her residency.

After this, recording switches, and there’s an episode of Spin City. Woody Harrelson makes a guest appearance as a school janitor who wins an essay writing competition.

After this, another recording switch to an episode of Roseanne. called Roseambo, it’s a strange one, as Roseanne and family are travelling to Washington DC with Dr Bakshmi. In this one, Roseanne isn’t racist, but her mother is.

The train is captured by terrorists – and because this is the mid 90s and Roseanne isn’t racist yet, it’s not quite islamic terrorists, it appears to be misogynistic cowboys, from a country called Mondostan.

Although they do dress all women head to toe, and also cover their mouths.

“This time it’s personal.”

After their adventure, Roseanne meets “Hillary Clinton”.

And because this is basically a parody of Under Seige 2: Dark Territory, (for God’s sake why?) Steven Seagal turns up at the end.

There’s also a very strange bit at the end featuring Roseanne meeting Don King and Mike Tyson.

After this, recording continues with an episode of Here’s Johnny, Johnny Vaughan’s chat show. It’s not really my kind of thing. I once passed Johnny Vaughan in a corridor. I can tell you’re impressed.

He interviews Boyzone, although he doesn’t spend much time talking to the band, most of the item is a pre recorded thing about the band.

After this, recording stops, and underneath, there’s a bit of the slightly nerdy sports show Under The Moon. The tape ends during this.

I almost didn’t bother watching this segment, but I happened to leave it running, and spotted something that will mean nothing to anyone but me.

One of the presenters is wandering about in the studio – always fun in whatever show – and he goes to the room (“I like to call it a little grotto”) where they “look at your web messages”, and it’s staffed by “Mystic Jonathan”. There’s the obligatory Hackers poster on the wall, you can see, on the screen, the Channel 4 forum web page – three frame design (remember frames?) and Jonathan himself. Who I suddenly recognised as someone who worked at the BBC when I was there in the 2000s – it’s Jonathan Kingsbury, who was a senior producer in BBC New Media when I was there. Interesting to see one of his earlier jobs.

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Pink Floyd – The Wall – Tonight with Jonathan Ross – tape 839

First on this tape, from Channel 4, Pink Floyd – The Wall. I’ll confess, I’m not overly familiar with the musical ouevre of Messrs Pink and Floyd, so this is, I think, the first time I’ve watched it. It’s directed by Alan Parker, who’s made some good films.

Bob Geldof plays (I’m assuming) a rock star, bored in his hotel room.

He’s remembering his father (I’m assuming) James Laurenson, who died in the war.

Young Bob Geldof (I’m assuming) reminds me a bit of Will Poulter.

There’s scenes of troops charging intercut with scenes of young people running to get into a stadium for a concert. There’s animation about how sad war is.

Geldof also imagines himself as some kind of fascist leader. Let’s be honest, haven’t we all done that at some point?

They play the hit, “We don’t need no Education” which itself clearly demonstrates they do need some education if only to improve that appalling grammar. A joke which has probably been made a million times about this song.

Some of the animation, designed by Gerald Scarfe (as is the whole film) is frankly rude.

Bob Hoskins eats a pineapple.

Bob Geldof is the most organised drug addict I’ve ever seen.

He’s watching The Dambusters on TV. I’m not sure this is because of any thematic resonance with the themes of the film, or just so they can play two lines of dialogue at two different times, both of which refer to Wing Commander Guy Gibson’s dog’s name, which just happens also to be a racial slur. I feel like this is edgy for edgy’s sake. Or Alan Parker’s a racist. Or possibly Roger Waters, who wrote the script.

Given that it goes full Third Reich at the end, with Fascist Geldof railing against Jews and Queers, it’s not impossible. I wish I was as clever as Roger Waters so I could understand what is going on in this movie.

Nice to see Nazi Geldof likes Black Panther though. Wakanda Forever!

And the final animation, featuring a High Court Judge who’s a literal arse just eludes me,

Well, I can’t say I’ll be going out and buying the vinyl.

After this, recording continues. There’s a bizarre trailer for a political version of Star Test, Star Chamber featuring Jack Straw.

Then there’s an episode of Tonight with Jonathan Ross.

First guest is Barry White.

Stand-up from Mark Lamarr

There’s magic from The Pendragons, a brilliant magic act but rather spoiled by later events, when they split up after he fired a gun at her during an argument (the bullet hit the floor).

The final guest is Kate Kray, who married Ronnie Kray after he was sent to prison.

Finally, some comedy from Jack Douglas.

After this, Channel Four closes down with Hayden Wood wishing us a very good night.

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Omnibus – tape 168

This tape opens with the end of an episode of Call Me Mister, the Steve Bisley drama

There’s a trailer for South Pacific in London.

Then, part one of OmnibusAlfred Hitchcock. It’s a nice, in-depth look at his career, although, given he was working a long time ago, there’s a dearth of contemporary interviews, like this one from his screenwriter and collaborator Charles Bennett, who wrote Blackmail.

Rodney Ackland talks about Number Seventeen, a film where he and Hitchcock were making almost a parody of the type of film the producers wanted, and audiences and critics didn’t get it.

A longtime collaborator was the genius Matte Painter and Special Effects wizard Albert Whitlock.

Patricia Hitchcock talks about how instrumental her mother, Alma Revell, was to Hitchcock’s career, being the one voice he could trust to tell him the truth.

Joan Fontaine appeared in Rebecca.

Teresa Wright played the young Charlie in the thriller Shadow of a Doubt.

Samuel Taylor talks about Hitchcock’s method of creating a film, coming up with four or five great scenes, and tying them together.

Robert Boyle talks about Hitchcock and actors.

John Michael Hayes tells of the time when Hitchcock had a problem with Grace Kelly, saying she was too stiff, too controlled, too quiet. But Hayes found she was perfectly friendly off set, suggesting that on set, she was concentrating on being an actress. Maybe it’s because she was scared of Hitchcock.

James Stewart talks about Rear Window.

BBC Genome: BBC One – 26th September 1986 – 22:25

Before the next episode there’s an advert for Radio Times.

Then the second part of OmnibusAlfred Hitchcock.

We’re up to his golden age, the Hollywood thrillers of the 50s and 60s, including North By Northwest, and Psycho.

Saul Bass talks about the shower scene, for which he drew the storyboards. He’s claiming a lot of credit for this sequence.

Janet Leigh talks about Psycho.

Tippi Hedren talks about being discovered by Hitchcock.

She’s interviewed at her home, with big cats.

BBC Genome: BBC One – 3rd October 1986 – 22:25

After this, there’s the start of The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz, and the tape ends just as it starts.

The Media Show – tape 858

On  this tape, some episodes of The Media Show.

In the first episode, on the day that Nelson Mandela was released from prison, Emma Freud presents a report on how the South African press were covering the dramatic changes in South African society.

The work of Pulp author Jim Thompson is flavour of the month, with The Grifters in production.

Martin Scorsese reads from the novel.

As does Screenwriter Howard Rodman

And director Maggie Greenwald.

Donald Westlake is the screenwriter of The Grifters.

Then there’s a report on the ‘Off The Shelf’ movement to try and get porn off newsagent shelves. Here are to purveyors of top shelf magazines.

Professor Elizabeth Wilson, who is against censorship, says that there’s not much difference between the porn mags and the kind of thing you get in Vogue. But she doesn’t follow that up by wondering if the problem might also be with Vogue.

Clare Short was a big supporter of Off The Shelf.

The next episode looks at the effects of the fall of the Berlin Wall on the Berlin Film Festival. Look at all those Ladas.

There’s a report on Romania and the importance of Television to the revolution.

Another report is on documentaries made in East Germany covering the uprising and protests that led to the fall of the Berlin Wall.

There’s a report on campaigns from the Terence Higgins Trust and others about Aids and safety.

They’re really getting their money’s worth from this trip to Germany, as there’s another report on how the reunification of Germany will affect filmmakers.

Volker Schlondorff is interviewed.

I have to say, these aren’t the most fascinating episodes I’ve seen.

After this episode, recording continues. There’s some freaky tape noise that I can’t decide whether it’s VHS induced, or if it’s cause by broadcast issues.

After this, there’s quite a bit of a programme from Russia. I confess, after all those documentaries on East Germany, I’m not inclined to watch a studio debate from Russia. The tape ends before the programme finishes.

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