Saturday, 19 May 2018

Out On Blue Six: Haircut 100

....Or you'll never believe what this song's about #4

Now, normally when I do this occasional sub-series of my Out On Blue Six posts, I can waffle on about the deeper meanings of each song. However I'm really at a loss here and only have something that Nick Heywood himself said on an old episode of Never Mind The Buzzcocks I was watching earlier this week, because apparently the song was about the Falklands War!

Quite why or how this fey little love ditty was about Thatcher's lust for glory I have no idea. I mean, it's not exactly obvious from the lyrics is it? The only bit that sounds remotely political is the opening line; "I, I went off to the right" Thatcher's right wing policies anyone? As for the rest, and what really was so fear inducing about that lake I have no idea. As you can see from the Buzzcocks clip I've linked to above, it doesn't seem like Heyward knows either!

End Transmission

Frankie Boyle's New World Order

I was looking forward to the second series of Frankie Boyle's New World Order which started last night but it seems the order of the day was the usual BBC mandate to ignore the faults of the Tory government and give Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour party a good kicking instead.

The show opened now with how much better spent the £32 million that Harry and Megan's nuptials today could be; specifically cladding and sprinklers for all tower blocks in the wake of the Grenfell disaster that will surely be this generation's Hillsborough - odd considering Boyle has been quite outspoken elsewhere about this tragedy. Nor did it open with a discussion as to how the government continue to fail the victims and families of the Manchester bombing, and the police force investigating. It didn't even discuss the Windrush scandal and the Tories handling of the Skripal poisoning. No, instead it opened with a near 20 minute panel discussion on how Corbyn's Labour party is no longer fit for purpose because of anti-Semitism. That Frankie's opening monologue briefly touched upon Palestine's murderous actions earlier in the week, acknowledging that the MSM described it as little more than 'disturbances', to then go on and discuss this issue with the never popular David Baddiel without ever really addressing how being against Israel's actions does not make you a jew hater just goes to show how a once daring comedian has sold his soul to be on-message at the BBC. Incidentally Baddiel remarked that 28% of Corbyn supporters believe the world is run by a secretive elite of Jews and stated that as a fact of just how anti-Semitic we Corbynistas are. What Baddiel is actually referring to here a YouGov poll made during the Labour leadership election way back in 2015, where supporters of Corbyn, Andy Burnham Yvette Cooper and Liz Kendall were each asked the question 'do you believe the world is run by a secretive elite?' And yes, 28% of Corbyn voters said that they did. But NO WHERE AT ALL did the question specify a Jewish elite. That's an extra dimension brought to the table by Baddiel himself that has no basis in fact whatsoever. In reality, many Corbyn supporters could be thinking of the Murdoch and press baron elite, the establishment in general or the sodding Illuminati. The BBC should apologise for putting what is, at best, a foolish prejudiced assumption from Baddiel and,at worst a blatant lie that benefits the Blairite red tories within the party out there as a stone cold fact. But I very much doubt that they will.  An unusually sensitive Boyle has since taken to blocking anyone on twitter who criticised the show; I've even seen someone who simply posted the show's name followed by a poo emoji got blocked. This from a man who has made a living criticising others in far more explicit terms.

A funny closing ten minutes on the Royal Wedding entitled 'We have 12 hours to abolish the monarchy', which Frankie admitted was originally going to be titled 'Prince Philip will die tomorrow as a final act of racism' but was told that was too near the knuckle, was not enough to save this dreadfully obvious piece of Tory appeasement. Interestingly some on the panel - which included Frankie's regular guests Sara Pascoe and Katherine Ryan - chose to play devil's advocate here, yet such a role was not in the offing during the Labour piece. It took Have I Got New For You something like a decade before all its integrity was lost by sucking up to the government of the day. It took Frankie Boyle's New World Order just two series.

Thursday, 17 May 2018

Breakheart Pass (1975)

Charles Bronson, the catfish mustachioed tough guy whose career in such similar fare stretches back to the '60s and '50s, could play these kinds of roles in his sleep (indeed, you could argue that he sometimes did!) but his eyecatching, unconventional leading man looks and his natural quiet charisma really shine through here in this multi-faceted role. 

See my full review at The Geek Show

Out On Blue Six: The Smiths

The perfect antidote for this nauseating Windsor-heavy week.

End Transmission

Wednesday, 16 May 2018

Resnick (1992-'93)

British TV has always been awash with TV detectives, but they fall into two distinctive categories; there's the made-for-TV cops, and then there's those adapted from pre-existing bestselling crime and thriller literature. In the '80s and '90s it's fair to say that the BBC dominated the former category with a gold run of populist fare that featured the likes of Shoestring, Bergerac, and Spender. Whilst adaptations were principally ITV's domain, the jewels in the crown consisting of  David Suchet's Poirot, Jeremy Brett's definitive Sherlock Holmes, Inspector Morse and A Touch of Frost

The BBC's only real popular foray into adaptation was Lovejoy, but that genial, comfortable Sunday night offering was so far removed from the grubby, cutthroat violent and X rated nature of Jonathan Gash's original novels, and the programme only adapted a couple of the books in the first series anyway, so that need not detain us further.

So at some point in the '90s the BBC woke up to the sobering fact that ITV had the monopoly and thus they attempted to produce adaptations of other popular literary detective series for themselves. Perhaps the most successful (in terms of long-running at least) of these was Dalziel and Pascoe, the chalk-and-cheese sleuthing duo created by Reginald Hill. That series got off to a very strong start thanks to fabulously droll adaptations from Alan Plater and Malcolm Bradbury no less, and ran for eleven years - though they abandoned the source material provided by Hill very early on, offering us the law of diminishing returns. 

But on a par with those early Dalziel and Pascoe adaptations is a mini-series from four years earlier - the BBC's attempts to bring John Harvey's sandwich eating, multiple cat owning and jazz loving Nottingham based cop DI Charlie Resnick to the screen. The channel made just two adaptations of the Resnick novels - Lonely Hearts and Rough Treatment - starring Tom Wilkinson and, having watched them for the first time just a couple of years ago, I've been scratching my head to think why they didn't go on to adapt every single one of them because, quite simply, this would have given ITV's Morse and Frost a good run for their money.

It helps of course that the author himself, John Harvey, adapted the novels for TV. But crucially the director of Lonely Hearts, Bruce MacDonald, understands the material beautifully and gives us something unique that still stands out as a distinctive piece of drama some twenty-four years later. Crucially MacDonald's style, combined with his knowledge and understanding of Harvey occasionally somewhat fragmentary writing style, works in close harmony to deliver an deeply atmospheric piece. Like the jazz beloved of our central character, Harvey's writing often strays from the narrative through line to provide quirky and unusual flourishes or glimpses of other themes. This is best exemplified in the way that we see the team at Nottingham CID (which includes a youngish David Neilsen before he headed to the cobbles of Coronation Street, looking rather different with short hair and a military moustache, and actor/writer William Ivory as a scene-stealing leery, neanderthal cop who despite his blunt methods gets the job done in a way we cannot help but admire) involve themselves in other secondary cases or how we catch references to their home lives. All of these instances help lend a sense of multi-dimensionality and authenticity to the proceedings.

That said, MacDonald's directorial style isn't going to be to everyone's tastes and it is not without its flaws. In creating such a distinctive atmosphere it often runs the risk of being a touch too oblique, with sections of footage done, POV style, from the perspective of our protagonists, often lingering on minor details and abstract items. And there are a lot of moments set at night were everything is just so damn dark - but that might actually be down to the quality of the off-air recording from 1992 (sadly these adaptations have never been officially released and only bootlegs are available) that I watched, I don't know.

The world of Resnick as created by John Harvey is both a well-written and addictive one, and I've enjoyed reading a few novels in recent years. Tom Wilkinson inhabits the character depicted upon the page rather well (though I perhaps expected and would have liked a more native Notts accent) and accurately captures that kind of melancholic detective who seems to have a black cloud perpetually hovering above his head and feels a little too much really well. It's a cliche now I guess, the over-empathetic policeman, but I don't imagine it was at the time. 

The second adaptation, Rough Treatment, arrived a year later in 1993. It was another classy production but, with a different director (Peter Smith) at the helm it felt a little lacking with little to lift the proceedings above watchable, despite Jim Carter and Tom Georgeson as a good pair of chalk and cheese crooks and Sheila Gish having fun as the bored and frustrated wife of a TV director. However, I don't believe for a minute that this slighter offering sealed the fate of any further adaptations - ultimately I can only presume the ascent Wilkinson's career enjoyed round about the mid '90s with The Full Monty ultimately taking him to Hollywood was the real reason Resnick was so short-lived.

DI Charlie Resnick has been on my mind this week because I'm reading another novel and am tempted to revisit these adaptations this evening. In looking over my review (which originally appeared on Letterboxd) I came across John Harvey's blog and saw that the great man himself actually referenced my review here - to have a celebrated author you personally respect single out your writing and describe it as 'really interesting' has made my day!