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Pee Wee’s Big Adventure – tape 1067

I wonder if the main reason I still have a fondness for Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure is because of Danny Elfman’s magnificently bonkers score. I still miss this era of Elfman’s scores. Recently, it’s become hard to tell an Elfman score from any of the numerous soundalikes who all seem to have been grown in a vat by Hans Zimmer. The joyousness of the music here really makes the film come alive.

As a film, it’s hard to talk about it in terms of plot or character, as it’s not really about any of that. It’s really just an excuse for whimsy, and for Tim Burton, in his first movie, to show us what he does. Things like the window that’s a fishtank.

For those of us unused to Pee Wee’s character, since his show never aired over here before the film came out, it does take a while to get used to the character. He’s off-putting, definitely, and the whole man-child schtick can grate very easily.

But as the film goes on, he does win me over, mainly because the film is mostly good-hearted. He even wins over a bar full of the Satan’s Helpers motorcycle gang by doing a stupid dance.

That, plus the frequent, almost random Tim Burtonisms.

Jason Hervey, off of The Wonder Years, plays a child film star who has acquired Pee Wee’s beloved bike.

I’ve no idea why they’re making a Godzilla movie, complete with a Japanese crew, on the Warner Brothers lot.

There’s another great music cue when Pee Wee is escaping through the movie studio on his bike, and I’m sure Elfman is quoting the flying monkeys music from The Wizard of Oz.

I do love the scene where he’s rescuing all the animals from the burning pet shop, and he Comes out screaming with handfuls of snakes.

After his heroism saving the animals, he’s given his bike back for real, and hollywood makes a movie of his adventures, starring James Brolin and Morgan Fairchild as Pee Wee and Dottie.

Pee Wee even gets a cameo, although they did have to dub his voice.

So yes, it’s all very silly, but I do find it charming.

BBC Genome: BBC Two – 28th December 1990 – 18:00 – notice yet another Christmas tape.

After this, there’s a trailer for documentaries on BBC 2. Then the tape ends just as a programme about Joyce Grenfell starts. Shame, that would have been nice to see.

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Monty Python’s Flying Circus – The New Statesman – The Janitor – tape 322

This tape opens with the end of the evening news, including a warning that British Summertime ends tonight.

There’s a trailer for This Week Next Week. And Ian McCaskill with the weather. Then a trailer for Sunday’s programmes.

Then, an episode of Monty Python’s Flying Circus. A mention of the Common Market in the first sketch.

I always like an appearance from TV Centre.

Sometimes I think this would be an improvement. These days it seems like Today in Parliament has become a Marx Brothers sketch.

They often made a special effort with sketches, didn’t they?

BBC Genome: BBC One – 24th October 1987 – 21:00

Recording switches to ITV and the end of The Charmer. I couldn’t remember the title of this without looking it up, as I confused it with The Bounder. There doesn’t appear to be an 80s ITV serial called The Cad but I bet it was pitched.

In the ad break, there’s another appearance from the Green Lady.

Two different variations – is that Jim Dunk?

Then, an episode of The New Statesman. Now there’s a show that, were Rik Mayall still with us, they would surely have brought back. This episode is Baa Baa Black Sheep. Alan’s father in law wants to remove him as the local MP because he’s ignoring his constituency.

Rowena Cooper is still called Norman, and is uncomfortable when Alan gets her to try to seduce a Welsh MP.

William Hootkins plays a Fast Food entrepreneur.

Another unconvincing newspaper headline.

Diana Weston plays Hootkins’ wife.

One thing I find interesting about this show is how much Alan wins. He wins almost all the time. And yet he’s the most hateful character imaginable. But then, most of the people he’s winning against are just as awful. This isn’t a criticism of the show, by the way, I just think it’s a good counterexample of how, often, awful characters are always brought low.

During the end titles there’s a strange transmission glitch – the picture freezes, then starts to smear, as if there’s feedback, and the sound stutters. It recovers, but it’s definitely transmission, not my recording.

After this, recording switches. There’s at least two other recordings underneath this one – a glimpse of the Central TV logo, then a picture of the Food and Drink book, then it switches to BBC Two. There’s a trailer for Campaign.

Then, a movie. Here, it’s titled The Janitor. In the US it was called Eyewitness. It’s written by Steve Tesich and directed by Peter Yates, the same team who made the excellent cycling movie Breaking Away. And I’ve already said much the same thing when I looked at this movie (under its US title) on another tape.

BBC Genome: BBC Two – 26th January 1988 – 21:00

After this, there’s the start of an episode of Newsnight, leading with the government’s derisory low offer to the victims of the Kings Cross fire.

Lord Hailsham turns up, but sadly doesn’t mention the Belgians at all.

The tape ends here.

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The Sword And The Sorceror – tape 112

Here’s a film you might have come across if you frequented video shops in the 80s. It got some coverage in Fangoria, and possibly Starburst, but it’s not nearly as remembered as Krull, or even Hawk The Slayer.

This tape isn’t one of the best in my collection. The film is plagued with vertical hold issues which makes it a bit annoying to watch.

So, if I can understand the incredibly long prologue, that sets up the story, there’s an evil king, Cromwell, who wakes up a sorceror to give him power.

But when he’s got the power he wanted, Cromwell kills the sorceror.

There’s a good king too, but he gets killed by Cromwell. Not before he gives a massive sword to his young son.

It’s such a cool sword that it can shoot one of its blades at an enemy.

Then, after almost 20 minutes, we’re up to the ‘present day’ in the story. We meet Lee Horsley as the now grown up Talon. He’s the leader of a group of mercenaries.

Simon MacCorkindale is ‘Prince Micah’ the last ‘legitimate’ heir to the kingdom.

He makes the mistake of getting help from Machelli, Cromwell’s adviser. But he’s double crossed by him.

His sister Alana is attacked by some rapey creeps, and is rescued by Talon. She asks for his help rescuing her brother, and he blows his chivalrous cred by only agreeing to do it for one night with her. I’m hoping the movie will end with a wild night of charades and scrabble, just to subvert my expectations.

Not that it necessarily matters, as she’s kidnapped herself just minutes after Talon has left to do his rescuing.

While rescuing, the first doddery old prisoner he talks to just happens to be the architect of the castle. That’s handy.

Talon’s a bit rubbish, if truth be told. For a film with the word ‘sword’ in the title, he does an awful lot of fighting without using a sword. And he keeps getting caught off guard. The fight choreography in this isn’t very good, but that might be a few decades of improvements making these efforts look a little paltry.

I can’t believe they wait until the big fight is almost over before Talon gets his stupid big sword back. Even then, the first time he uses it in a fight it gets knocked from his hand as three blokes jump on top of him.

Micah’s sister Alana is almost married to Cromwell – this film follows many of the same beats as The Princess Bride except for having engaging characters, good fight choreography, funny dialog, a decent score, good locations and good actors. But then she’s taken by his adviser Machelli who, in a twist everybody must have seen coming, reveals himself to be the sorceror. Nice, icky effects here, to give it its due. This was literally the only thing I could remember from when I first saw this film.

In the end, Talon manages to dispatch both the Sorceror and Cromwell, then he hands the crown to Micah – well, I suppose he really wanted it – and he does go off with Alana for his night of passion. To be fair, it’s she who reminds him of their deal, which in a film like this is as close to consent as they get.

After this, the recording stops. There’s a tiny fragment of another recording underneath, if anybody recognises this chap, but then that recording stops and the tape ends.

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Nightingales – Film 93 – tape 1437

Jumping a bit ahead in tape number for this tape, but blow me down if it isn’t Christmas again. This clustering is really strange, as they’re not all from the same year, which wouldn’t be unusual. This time it’s Christmas on Channel 4.

Not only is it Christmas, it’s a Christmas episode of Nightingales, a sitcom that’s fondly remembered by those who watch it, and virtually unknown by anybody else.

In Silent Night the three security guards are visited on Christmas Eve by a young woman called Mary, who’s pregnant.

This show defies description. And logic. It’s pure absurdism, but I think I like it. “It was an allegory all along, and you fell for it.”

The next episode is Trouble in Mind. I’m not sure horse-rape is a suitable subject for comedy.

The next episode is Crime and Punishment. Head Office have been sending stuff. Nice to see the Green Lady painting.

I thought I’d look that painting up, to see what it’s actually called. It’s called ‘Chinese Girl’ but often referred to as ‘Green Lady’. But what’s really interesting is that this one is not a print of the original – the pose is different and so are the colours of the dress. And I also found out that the model for the painting is still around, as it was painted in 1950, by Vladimir Tretchikoff. There was an interview with her in 2013.

Also in the box is a little dog.

There’s a burglar, who looked vaguely familiar. It’s Jake Wood, off of Eastenders, which explains why I didn’t recognise him immediately, as I don’t watch Eastenders. Plus, he’s so young!

There’s a Duelling Banjos reference

The next episode is All at Sea. There’s a new supervisor, played by Peter Vaughan.

It all gets a bit nautical.

The next episode is Reach for the Sky. The boys do some dry stone walling.

And some AmDram

Next is an episode called King Lear II. The reception on this episode looks a lot worse than previous episodes.

There’s a guest appearance by Ian Sears as a werewolf who can’t stand the sight of blood.

Next, the last episode of this series, it’s Someone To Watch Over Me. There’s some swashbuckling going on.

Also some doppelganging.

After this, recording switches to The Big Breakfast. For some reason I’ve recorded Zig and Zag interviewing Michael Winner. Not quite sure why.

After this, recording switches again, to the end of an episode of Panorama about the International Maritime Organisation.

There’s a trailer for Clive James: Fame in the 20th Century.

Then, a nice bonus, it’s an episode of Film 93. This week, Barry Norman looks at the following films:

Here’s his review of Hellraiser III – a lot more positive than he was about the far better original.

Barry makes some predictions about Oscar nominations, and Tom Brook looks at the chances of British nominations.

BBC Genome: BBC One – 15th February 1993 – 22:10

After this, there’s a trailer for The Detectives featuring Anthony Head as a guest star.

Then there’s the start of an episode of Cagney and Lacey. It looks like a good episode, featuring a deaf woman found with a gun over the body of a dead drug dealer. Looks like they used a deaf actress for the role, which is good. The tape ends during this programme.

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Life Story – Saturday Night Clive – tape 234

This tape opens with the end of an episode of Rockliffe’s Babies.

There’s a very long advert for the Radio Times – remember when the BBC was allowed to advertise?

Then, a programme that’s suddenly a bit topical. It’s a repeat showing of the award winning Horizon dramatised documentary Life Story, the story of the search for the structure of DNA. It’s topical because it’s based heavily on James Watson’s account of the discovery, The Double Helix. Watson has been notorious for many years now for his incredibly racist opinions about science, genetics and race. He’s also a massive misogynist, but this fact was fairly obvious from his own accounts of his life. So it’s jolly smart of director Mick Jackson to cast Jeff Goldblum in the role of Watson, just so the sexism on show is offset by Goldblum’s colossal charm. It helps that there’s a vague resemblance, too.

His partner in the discovery, Francis Crick, is played by Tim Pigott-Smith.

They are working in Cambridge, but mostly just guessing about the structure. Meanwhile, In London, Rosalind Franklin, a brilliant X-Ray Crystallographer has moved there from Paris to work on taking X-Ray photographs of DNA. She’s played by Juliet Stevenson. We see her first with her colleagues in Paris, where she’s treated as an equal. When she arrives in London, she’s oppressed by the weather, and uncomfortable in a carriage packed with men.

She’s working alongside Maurice Wilkins, played by Alan Howard, who feels proprietorial over the project, and who really can’t make her out. She believes they are on an equal footing, he seems to think he has seniority.

I love this programme so much. It’s beautifully written by William Nicholson, who expertly takes a story that spans several years, and distills it into a series of events, also nicely tying into events in the news. And Mick Jackson’s direction is fast-paced and dynamic.

Although this film was based on Watson’s memoir of the events, I can’t say that he and Crick come out of it best. They really do come across as fame-hungry chancers throwing out guesses to see what sticks. Their first attempt at a model for DNA was hilariously wrong, because Watson didn’t bother to take notes when attending a lecture by Franklin on her work. Rosalind Franklin demolishes it with her first question. “Where’s the water?”

Franklin comes out of this better than the men, to be honest. Yes, she’s protective of her work, and unwilling to hand over unfinished work so the chaps can make some guesses, but she was thorough and methodical, and it was her skill that generated the data the was eventually needed to arrive at the structure of DNA. She even jokes with her Parisian colleague Vittorio Luzzati about the archaic sexism of the college men.

I should also give a special mention for Peter Howell’s score, an electronic score that riffs on classical themes. It’s really effective. Some of the scenes showing the final DNA model are quite beautiful.

I wish the BBC would put this programme up permanently on iPlayer. It deserves to be there.

BBC Genome: BBC One – 22nd January 1988 – 22:20

After this, recording switches to an episode of Saturday Night Clive. This recording is plagued with Hi-Fi noise, as if the tracking was slightly out. It’s a bit annoying.

After a look at the popularity of Kung Fu programmes in Hong Kong, there’s a look at a popular new US game show, Supermarket Sweep.

Willie Nelson talks to Clive about the new Cowboy Channel.

The Studio guest is John Waters.

The show closes with a clip from the Osmonds. No Jimmy here, so I hope that means he’s going to get better.

BBC Genome: BBC Two – 13th August 1990 – 21:00

There’s an advert featuring Derek Jameson explaining how to tune your radio to find Radio 2 on FM, because the Long Wave broadcasts were stopping. Who thought Derek Jameson was a suitable voice for radio?

Then there’s the start of an episode of Hit & Run which is a repeat of an episode I’ve looked at previously. This last for about six minutes, then that recording stops.

Underneath, an older recording, with the end of a Scottish Television programme. I’m guessing Taggart just from the director credit, which is all I have here.

Then there’s a party political broadcast by the Labour Party in which they take credit for Torvill and Dean.

Then, the start of News At Ten which leads with the news that the security services investigated the security services, and they definitely didn’t plot against the 1974 Harold Wilson government. There’s also news about tomorrow’s local elections, which dates this at 6th May 1987.

The tape ends during this bulletin.

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Comic Relief Behind The Nose – Victoria Wood – Sold Out – tape 300

First on this tape, Comic Relief Behind The Nose, a recap of some of the best bits from last year’s Comic Relief, along with some reports on how the money is being spent, and on why Africa seems to be so poor in the first place. Spoiler: It’s all capitalism’s fault.

There’s a good Thunderbirds spoof with the hosts and some guest stars like Geoffrey Palmer as Parker

And Anneka Rice, who’s frankly brilliant as Lady Penelope.

Here’s the spoof.

Tony Robinson goes to Tanzania to find out why coffee growers don’t make enough money to live on.

There’s a sketch with Peter Sissons and Richard Wilson who plays a politician explaining why the terms of trade with Africa are so awful.

Jim Broadbent plays a 1973 bank manager, growing into a 1992 bank manager now dreadfully regretful that they ever lent money to Africa at such punishing interest rates.

There’s an A-Z of Comedy, featuring a lot of clips from previous nights of comic relief, including plenty I’ve looked at on previous tapes.

BBC Genome: BBC One – 17th April 1992 – 21:20

Then, recording switches to Victoria Wood live on stage, presented in Nicam Digital Stereo.

My sister went to see Victoria Wood at the Old Town Hall in Hemel Hempstead. I’m very jealous. That would have been quite a few years before this. It’s stand-up and songs, just her on stage, and it’s a delight from beginning to end. I’m still upset that she died so young.

After this. there’s the start of some boxing. Chris Eubank vs John Jarvis. There’s a few minutes of this before the tape ends.

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Star Trek – tape 105

First on this tape is The Immunity Syndrome. Spock senses the deaths of an entire crew of Vulcans on a ship.

Pretty soon, an entire planet has been reported dead. There’s something bad out there. And the Enterprise finds it. A big black void.

As the Enterprise approaches and enters the void, it starts losing power, and members of the crew start reporting illness, as if they’re all slowly dying. At the centre of the void is a huge single celled creature.

There’s some good interaction between Spock and McCoy as they argue over which of them should take a shuttlecraft into the organism to run tests. Spock wins, but it seems he is lost when they lose contact with him.

But they destroy the creature with an antimatter bomb, and manage to rescue Spock when escaping so it’s a happy ending, and Kirk can do some leching over a young lieutenant. I’m really finding the casual sexism quite unpleasant.

BBC Genome: BBC Two – 19th December 1985 – 18:00

The next episode is A Private Little War. Kirk and the team beam down to a planet where Kirk, as a young officer, had visited 13 years ago. It’s another idyllic paradise with completely peaceful people. Except they spot some locals with flintlocks, something that’s way beyond what their technology would have produced.

Spock gets shot in the chest, and spends the rest of the episode in sickbay, hovering between life and death. It was the 60s, so a near-fatal chest wound is represented by a tasteful green stain (remembering that Spock’s blood as green because it’s based on Copper).

Kirk and McCoy dress up in local garb to meet with the locals that Kirk knew years ago. I’m not quite sure, if they’re now worried about the Prime Directive, why they didn’t dress up in the first place.

Kirk is attacked by a monster wearing an unconvincing white costume, and whose bite is poisonous.

He’s helped by the locals, one of whom, Tyree, he got to know on his previous visit. It’s yet another stupid blonde wig.

His wife is Nona, who can cure Kirk of the monster bite, but because of the cure, he will have to do what she says. She’s played throughout as scheming and power hungry. Like all women, right Gene?

The reason the opposing village has flintlocks is because there’s a Klingon there supplying weapons. So this becomes a weird parable about maintaining equality in destructive capabilities because that’s where peace comes from.

Nona tries to deal with the opposing villagers by offering McCoy’s phaser to them, but they decide they’d rather molest her, and the only reason it doesn’t descend into rape is a) it’s 60s TV and b) Kirk, McCoy and Tyree turn up. At which point the opposing villagers just stab her dead, because obviously that’s what she deserves.

Meanwhile on the ship, Spock is trying to come out of his coma, but because of how Vulcan physiology works, the doctor has to slap him around the face repeatedly. Was Roddenberry or the writer really into S&M or something?

BBC Genome: BBC Two – 9th January 1986 – 18:00

Lastly, Return to Tomorrow. Sometimes Trek titles are so generic I can’t remember which story they are. I thought this one was a time travel story, but no. The crew travel the furthest they have ever travelled, and find a planet with no atmosphere, and in a chamber deep beneath the surface, the last surviving inhabitants, surviving as minds in spheres.

The show guest-stars Diana Muldaur as a young officer, chosen by the mindballs to come to the surface. She was obviously a particular favourite of the show, since we also saw her recently in another role in Is There In Truth No Beauty, and, of course, she was dropped into season two of The Next Generation as Doctor Pulaski.

The mindballs ask if they can swap minds with Kirk, Spock and Muldaur so they can travel off the planet and build robot bodies for themselves. Trouble is, the mind that uses Spock’s body doesn’t want to give it up, and who can blame him. Nimoy has a lot of fun letting loose for once.

Kirk and Muldaur’s guest minds enjoy being in bodies again.

I enjoyed this episode, particularly the resolution, which had both jeopardy and a clever reveal.

BBC Genome: BBC Two – 16th January 1986 – 18:00

After this, a trailer for Pot Black with David Icke.

Then the recording stops, and underneath there’s the end of Bookmark, with a profile of Roald Dahl.

Of particular interest is his working setup. I was having a conversation about his little ad-hoc writing desk with my wife a few weeks back, so naturally it pops up on one of my tapes.

There’s also an interview with Janni Howker, and I’m rather sad that I missed the Shirley Hughes interview at the start, as I loved reading her books to the children.

BBC Genome: BBC Two – 19th December 1985 – 20:10

There’s a trailer for Christmas programmes on BBC2, yes, it’s still Christmas here.

Then, the very start of an episode of My Music. Even in 1985 this seems like a document from a bygone era, as the panel of, let’s be honest, older gentlemen wittily answer questions about music that’s never newer than 50 years old. Nothing against that, I love a bit of opera, but it definitely feels like the end of something.

The quizmaster is Steve Race

The panellists are Frank Muir and John Amis

And Ian Wallace and Denis Nordern.

I really wish I had more than a few minutes of this, not least because who doesn’t love watching Muir and Nordern be clever a lot? But the tape ends here.