Thursday, 18 January 2018

RIP Peter Wyngarde

Jason King star Peter Wyngarde has died at the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital at the age of 90 following a short illness.


A unique talent, Wyngarde shot to fame in the 1960s with his role as the campy flamboyant author turned sleuth Jason King in the ITC drama Department S. So popular was Wyngarde in the role that, when it came to a second series, ITC decided to relaunch it solely around his character, and Jason King was born, making Wyngarde an international star. Australia was so besotted with the actor and the Jason King character that, following his being voted 'The man most Australian women would like to have an affair with', Wyngarde was mobbed at Syndey airport and was so roughly manhandled by the lust crazed ladies of Oz that he was hospitalised for three days. At the height of his fame, Wyngarde even released an album; When Sex Leers Its Inquisitive Head is a psychedelic offering that has to be heard to be believed. My favourite track from the album is his version of The Attack's Neville Thumbcatch



Despite his ladies man pin up status, in reality Wyngarde was homosexual and had, for some time during the 60s it is alleged, enjoyed a relationship with fellow actor and flatmate Alan Bates. One of his first major roles was in the controversial 1959 ITV drama South, which saw him cast as a Polish army lieutenant during the American Civil War torn between the love of a plantation owner's niece and a fellow officer. Broadcast live, this groundbreaking drama was said to be the first to tackle homosexuality on British television just two years after the Wolfenden Report. The Daily Sketch critic at the time remarked "I do NOT see anything attractive in the agonies and ecstasies of a pervert, especially in close up in my living room" Wyngarde's sexuality became public knowledge in 1975 when he was fined £75 and convicted of an act of gross indecency when caught cottaging with a lorry driver. The revelation put an end to his career as a leading man, but he did memorably go on to star as Klytus in Mike Hodges' Flash Gordon five years later. 

Wyngarde was presumed to have been born in France in 1927 (he offered various contrasting accounts of his birth over the years) and grew up in the Far East. During WWII he was interned alongside other European and US citizens (including the young JG Ballard) in Lunghua, Shanghai. Upon ceasefire, Wyngarde came to the UK and initially studied law at Oxford for three months before taking a job in advertising. He made his theatrical debut in 1946 and his first television appearance was in Dick Barton Strikes Back just three years later. In 1961 he starred alongside Deborah Kerr in The Innocents, Jack Clayton's acclaimed adaptation of the Henry James story The Turn of the Screw. Wyngarde went on to guest star in a number of ITC dramas including The Saint and as Number 2 in The Prisoner, as well as starring as John Cleverley Cartney in the infamous A Touch of Brimstone episode of The Avengers. Other roles include that of Timanov in the 1984 Doctor Who serial The Planet of Fire and Langdale Pike in The Three Gables from the 1994 series The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes.

RIP

Wednesday, 17 January 2018

Girls With Guns


Michele Winstanley as Louise, one of the McMahon gang molls in Alex Cox's 1986 fucked up punk Peckinpah pastiche, Straight to Hell - a story of blood, money, guns, coffee and sexual tension! Stick that in yer pipe and smoke it Tarantino! 

Smoking Hot


Lee & Herring

Tuesday, 16 January 2018

Out On Blue Six: The Fall

A bit safe and predictable I know, but this is my favourite track from The Fall. I remember a long journey on a National Express coach from *shudders* down south; once I'd left Birmingham I ramped this up and finally relaxed.



End Transmission


With or Without You (1999)




As a filmmaker Michael Winterbottom's had a very interesting career. He's still really hard to pin down even now, but to consider he made something as banal and as undemanding as this in the same year he made Wonderland, when he already had Jude, Butterfly Kiss and Welcome to Sarajevo under his belt, and was about to unleash 24 Hour Party People (my favourite) onto the world, is really strange.



With or Without You starts out as the story of a seemingly happily married Northern Irish couple, former RUC officer Vincent (Christopher Eccleston) and Rosie (Dervla Kirwan) who have something missing in their life: a baby. Try as they might they find it hard to conceive and achieve their dreams of being a family. Into this delicate situation comes Rosie's teenage penpal, Frenchman Benoît (Yvan Attal) who arrives in Belfast, homeless, loveless and jobless. Taking pity on him, Rosie invites him to stay and a difficult romantic triangle develops which threatens to become a quadrangle when Vincent's ex, flirty hairdresser Cathy (Julie Graham) starts to show signs of wanting to reignite the spark they once had. 



The best thing about With or Without You is that it is a film made and set in Northern Ireland in the late 1990s that doesn't have all that much to say about the Troubles. Certainly it's touched upon - Eccleston plays a former RUC man and Kirwan's father, played by Alun Armstrong, is a proud protestant in that 'I'm no bigot, but...' kind of tradition familiar to anyone who has a somewhat embarrassing older relative - but Winterbottom and his screenwriter John Forte keep it in the background rather than placing it front and centre. The problem with it is that as a romcom it's not all that funny or indeed that romantic: in fact, despite the best efforts of the cast involved, it's hard to really care about the characters or their relationship problems and I couldn't help but think that the issues surrounding infertility and how it impacts on the male ego in particular are largely ignored in favour of the rather easy love rival storyline. Eccleston is always good value, and his Belfast accent isn't too shabby either, even though he appears to be coasting a little here in a production that is obviously beneath his talent. Kirwan is someone I've never been a huge fan of but, with her late '90s pixie cut, I can certainly see the aesthetic appeal here. Attal is another performer I've never really warmed to, and nothing he contributes here has changed that. 



Winterbottom may indulge in some distinctive visuals (the camera often fades to white rather than black and shows scenes in 'windows' in a rather arty way) but they seem at odds with the otherwise documentarian approach of the film, and there's just no escaping the fact that this is really a rather light TV drama entertainment that has somehow made its way to the big screen. Despite taking its name from the eponymous hit from Irish rockers U2, the film's score is some rather out of place classical music, though old Bonio's classic does eventually rear his head for an in-car sing-a-long, as indeed does Joy Division's Love Will Tear Us Apart - a signpost of what was to come from Winterbottom. Thankfully something significantly better.

Monday, 15 January 2018

Out On Blue Six: The Cranberries, RIP Dolores O'Riordan

Absolutely reeling to hear the news that Cranberries frontwoman Dolores O'Riordan has passed away aged just 46. Apparently she was in London recording when it happened, but there's been no cause of death released as yet. She had been ill last year, cancelling gigs due to a back problem.


It's a real punch to the soul. I loved her voice.




RIP

End Transmission


Sunday, 14 January 2018

Out On Blue Six: New Order

FAC 321, directed by Jonathan Demme


I always think Gillian looks lovely here



End Transmission


The Man With The Iron Heart (2017)


The story of the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich, the architect of The Final Solution, by Jozef Gabčík and Jan Kubiš, two British trained Czech paratroopers in Prague in 1942, is one that is absolutely right for the cinema, as has been proven by some ten films that have been produced since the event (including Anthropoid which, rather damagingly, beat this version to the screen in 2016). 

Laurent Binet's book entitled HHhH recounts these very same events but, it is a novel that is most emphatically not right for the cinema, as this film adaptation from Cédric Jimenez proves.

Having long since been interested in the assassination, I read Binet's book a couple of years ago and was blown away by its refusal to comply to standard literary conventions. HHhH (the title stems from a joke said to have been circulated through Nazi Germany during the war: Himmlers Hirn heißt Heydrich, or in English "Himmler's brain is called Heydrich") was part historical account, part novel and part journal of an author's experience of researching and writing a story. The book was essentially split into three points of view: the life of Heydrich and his rise to prominence in Hitler's Third Reich, the lives of Gabčík and Kubiš and their accomplices in the Czech resistance movement, and lastly the life of the author himself, Binet. It is, as I have said and as you may imagine, pretty unfilmable, and The Man With The Iron Heart utterly proves that. 



Jimenez realises how unfilmable Binet's POV - the journal of the perils and pitfalls of researching and writing up the events of 1942 - would be and excises it completely, to focus instead firstly on Heydrich and his rise to power, and on Kubiš and Gabčík's mission to assassinate him and, in doing so, he essentially removes the very thing that would make this stand out from all other tellings of the story. The Man With The Iron Heart effectively approaches the history it details in two parts: the first is essentially a biopic of Heydrich as played by Australian actor Jason Clarke, focusing on both his professional and personal life, the latter including his marriage to Lina, played by Rosamund Pike, whilst the latter half is given over to Jack O'Connell and Jack Reynor as Kubiš and Gabčík. 



Unfortunately, neither focus is wholly successful. Heydrich's POV may feel original in terms of previous adaptations of this story, but it stinks of the usual preoccupation that many other films have when focusing on the Nazis, namely the depiction of ruthless violence and tyranny shown immediately alongside scenes of sexual intercourse and titillation. As such, it reminded me of the 2007 film Eichmann which also left an unsavoury taste in the mouth. The subsequent focus on the Czech resistance and the mission itself is less original; essentially a retread of previous adaptations, including Anthropoid and Operation Daybreak (this film borrows the poetic licence of the latter when handling the fates of the courageous assassins), but lacking the depth of character those films enjoyed. 



Indeed, characterisation (or the lack of it) is a frustrating issue in the film overall: it's hard to understand what made Heydrich tick - to be honest there's an argument for whether we really want to see such a monster depicted in human terms anyway, but the way the film basically depicts him as a weird, humourless and lonely man (and borderline sexual deviant: almost the first thing we see of the character is him fucking a girl whilst facing a mirror) who meets Lina, a Nazi party member, who aids his rise to power, is sketchy at best - and Gabčík and Kubiš, along with the former's romance of Anna Novak (played by Mia Wasikowska), is something that leaves us feeling particularly shortchanged too, with no attempt made to convey the devil-may-care attitude these two courageous British-trained, Czech soldiers possessed when knowing full well that what they were undertaking was almost certainly a suicide mission - which was not a complaint that you could level at Binet's book. This flaw is especially galling when you consider the talents of the actors assembled for the film, who are all completely wasted I'm sorry to say. Still, Stephen Graham's depiction of Himmler is up there with Donald Pleasance's chilling recreation for The Eagle Has Landed



Overall, I'm aware that familiarity may well have marred my appreciation of this overall, but I cannot shake the sense that this would be a disappointment even to someone who has no prior knowledge of the events it depicts. I'd recommend you watch Anthropoid instead, and that you read HHhH. Yes, definitely read that I'd say.

Saturday, 13 January 2018

RIP Bella Emberg

Another bit of my childhood is chipped away by the news that Bella Emberg who, as Blunderwoman was Russ Abbott's stooge on the Saturday nights of my youth, has passed away at the age of 80.


Blessed with funny bones, all Bella ever wanted to do was entertain people and, after making her debut at the age of 25 in a summer season with the Isle of Wight rep company, she certainly did just that. She picked up a succession of small roles in TV from the early 60s onwards, including several series of The Benny Hill Show, first in 1966 and again from 1972 to 1982, before ultimately finding fame in a TV partnership with Russ Abbott which stretched for twelve years from 1982 to 1994. Prior to this her TV credits (which throughout her life would incorporate both comedy and drama) included roles in  Z Cars, Softly, Softly, Callan, Doomwatch, Take Three Girls, Sykes, Within These Walls and Dennis Potter's Pennies From Heaven, along with a role in the Mel Brooks film History of the World, Part 1. In 1970 and 1974 she appeared in small, uncredited roles in the Doctor Who serials, The Silurians and The Time Warrior, before returning to the show in the 2006 episode Love & Monsters as Mrs Croot, a role she subsequently reprised in that year's Christmas special, The Runaway Bride, but her scenes were ultimately cut from the episode. Other credits at this time include roles in Casualty 1906, Trial & Retribution, The Basil Brush Show, Bear Behaving Badly and Pompidou. Prior to her death this week she had completed filming a recurring role in Idris Elba's comedy series In The Long Run, due to be broadcast by Sky later this year. 

RIP

Out On Blue Six: Smiley Culture

BBC4 launched their 1985 series of Top of the Pops repeats last night, which afforded me a real blast from the past in the shape of cheeky fast chat reggae artist Smiley Culture and his number 12 hit, Police Officer.


I had completely forgotten all about this song and Smiley himself, so it was quite the Proustian rush to see it on TV last night, taking me all the way back to my five year old self, who was - perhaps strangely - really rather keen on this track. I say perhaps strangely because, let's face it, a little white five year old boy wasn't really Smiley Culture's audience now was he? The song, allegedly based on a real-life incident for Smiley which saw him evade an arrest for cannabis possession when the arresting officer recognised him as the singer of Cockney Translation (his previous hit) and requested his autograph. It's a song whose subject matter was completely beyond my ken: the SUS laws which allowed police victimisation of the black community, and  cannabis (or 'ganga' and 'sinsemilla' as the song refers to the drug, terms that perhaps flew over the head of not only my infant self, but presumably the radio station bosses and DJ's who inadvertently pushed the song into the top 20) was definitely too mature a concept for a child to comprehend - I think I just liked the obvious humourous spirit of the song, how quickly Smiley spoke/sang and how he effortlessly dropped in and out of the Jamaican Patois and Estuary accents to play both himself and the song's titular police officer. I probably also liked the song because it gave me the opportunity on TOTP to see women dressed in police uniforms dancing around and looking like they were having fun as they played (or perhaps more correctly mimed) the song's brass section. I think there's something, perhaps unique to a child's enjoyment, in seeing grown ups and figures of authority behave in a way you might not expect to see them behave. 



Unfortunately fame was rather brief for Smiley Culture, real name David Emmanuel, and his story does not have a happy ending. Future releases never scaled the same heights of Police Officer and his last mainstream success was in the shape of fronting an advertising campaign for NatWest and a cameo in Julien Temple's Absolute Beginners, both in 1986. Away from the music scene, Emmanuel invested in diamond mining with concessions in several African countries, but he was arrested in July 2010 with conspiracy to supply cocaine and was set to appear for trial in March the following year. However, just one week before this court appearance, police raided Emmanuel's home and began conducting a search for class A drugs when 90 minutes into the search, Emmanuel stabbed himself in the heart. The Independent Police Complaints Commission and a subsequent inquest returned a verdict of suicide with no criminal culpability found against any of the officers conducting the search. Nevertheless a stink surrounding how Emmanuel met his death remains and, as a prominent case of potential police abuse, contributed to the riots that swept across the country in the summer of 2011.

End Transmission


Friday, 12 January 2018

Hampstead (2017)

I really must stop watching films for the cast and start to pay attention to that little voice in my head that warns me about films with soppy, half hearted narratives that barely get a release here in the UK.



As suspected, Hampstead is a terrible middle class wet fart of a movie, designed to lure some of that grey pound from the Marigold Hotel market and to charm American audiences who believe we all live in leafy London suburbs and quaint picture book cottages.  I hate that people think of guff like this when they think of the British film industry. This isn't British, this is pandering to a US market with a vision of England that doesn't exist, and that probably never even existed. The British film industry should be about Clio Barnard, Andrea Arnold, Mike Leigh, Ken Loach, Lynne Ramsay, Danny Boyle, Alan Clarke...I could go on.


What's truly galling about this whole Weinstein backed enterprise (anyone else get the creeps when his name appears on the credits these days? I mean, I always did...but now we know what we know, even more so) is that somewhere in its twee, chocolate box meanderings it genuinely thinks its addressing the very present housing crisis in this country. The film is inspired by one Harry Hallowes, a homeless man who, in 2007, claimed squatters rights and saw off property developers who wished to build on the hectare of abandoned land he called home. There's no understanding or real empathy here about the housing crisis; Diane Keaton (essentially transplanting her Annie Hall shtick to London) feels a kinship with the harassment Brendan Gleeson's rugged man of the heath gets because *shock horror* she's struggling to pay the service charge on her des res apartment block which comes complete with the services of an attentive porter/receptionist. It goes without saying that this kinship in the face of devious land developers who are so thinly drawn that the film can scarcely give them screen time, soon turns to romance but not before a last minute spanner in the works when whiny Keaton becomes very needy and demanding, asking the man she has fallen for to completely give everything away (y'know, the thing they were actually fighting for just minutes earlier) for her because she wants to be swept off her feet. Yes, she actually phrases it like that.


Within five minutes of this tosh it's clear that the real inspiration for Hampstead was not Hallowes, but was in fact Richard Curtis' Notting Hill and, just like that movie's offensive obliteration of the black community who live in the real district of Notting Hill, this film (directed by Joel Hopkins who gave us Last Chance Harvey, which was a nice watch, and The Love Punch, which was fucking awful - a similar waste of talent) resolutely fails to acknowledge that the heath is an infamous cruising spot. It's equally clear that the film attempts to get by solely on its cast (which includes a collection of Mike Leigh players: Lesley Manville as Keaton's snobby, patronising neighbour, Jason Watkins as a deeply embarrassing suitor, and lastly - and best of all - Phil Davis in a short but sparky cameo) but when a film can turn Keaton, an actress I've long admired, into an irritant you want to violently shake, there really is no hope. In fact the only thing going for this was the fact that Keaton, as a woman in her 70s, was allowed to fight off a man twenty years her junior (Watkins) and fall for one ten years younger than her (Gleeson). Now how often do we see that?


Oh and £124 quid for a beret? Fuck off you poncey southern twats.

Thursday, 11 January 2018

Smoking Hot

My Smoking Hot thread has routinely appeared for some years now on this blog, but I realised with some embarrassment, that I only ever posted images of women smoking - largely because as a straight male it is women that I find attractive. I intend to rectify that now, new year and new start and all, so here's that great young actor Jack O'Connell enjoying a smoke in a rather lovely jacket. As someone who used to wear a flying jacket in his twenties, I wholeheartedly approve.


Out On Blue Six: Amber Leigh Irish

Once again an advert for home furniture and bedroom furnishings (of all things!) has delivered us some really nice music


Dreams has been running an advert for much of Christmas and the new year with this delicious cover of Paolo Nutini's Last Request from Amber Leigh Irish. Here it is in all its glory



End Transmission


Wednesday, 10 January 2018

40 Minutes: The Outcasts (1985)

40 Minutes was a documentary strand broadcast on BBC2 from 1981 to 1994. Several of the films made for the series are currently available via the archive section of the BBC iPlayer, including this one from 1985 about the Norfolk based biker gang known as The Outcasts.



And it's quite an apposite name. Tucked away on the coast of Great Yarmouth in what would become Alan Partridge country, The Outcasts are a gang who just want to be left alone to do their own thing. They're not interested in waging war with rival clubs or wreaking havoc in the town - indeed their leader, Tramp, has a hotline to the local constabulary and notifies them of a party they're holding one evening and their honourable intentions; it's a wake for a fallen comrade known as Wulfe - they just want to enjoy their bikes and the camaraderie of club life. One of the protagonists is Bobby, a young man who, as we learn from his mother, arguably parted company with conventional society as a result of his beloved father's death when he was just ten years old. Bobby inherited a considerable sum from his late father and, when he came of age, he purchased a still cherished leather jacket and a bike and has never looked back. "All young men like bikes, but they mostly grow out of it," his mother rather affectionately bemoans. "It’s running around with knives and all these medals that I don’t like". Those who have grown out of it, include a rather eloquent and beatnicky looking funeral director who, as a former Outcast, was the first person the club went to to take care of Wulfe's funeral and who takes great pride in his embalming abilities, especially as Wulfe was, as he relates, missing part of his head.



Bobby's mum needn't worry too much, as I've said The Outcasts are, for all their foul language and equally foul, grubby appearance, are more like 'The Mild Bunch', than The Wild Bunch. Indeed the barman of their local is on hand to testify to their hygiene being impeccable, citing that they only smell of petrol and oil and can bathe up to two times per day. The biggest crime the documentary relates is some fraudulent unemployment benefit claims made by some of their number. This being Thatcher's Britain, the documentary explores the hand-to-mouth existence of 'prospects' (apprentice bikers, earning their stripes - or patches - within the motorcycle club) who openly reveal that they're left with just £7 of benefit to last all week following the rent on their flats, along with any fines and dues taken by the club. At times, this relative mildness displayed by The Outcasts is unintentionally hilarious; watch one biker crush his beer can against a fence before tossing it into the lake and stomping back to his steel horse and you instantly think of The Comic Strip's Bad News, a memory that is further exacerbated by the programme's unexpected emulation of (extremely) soft porn;  heavy metal soundtracked footage  appears over of a girl sat atop a shuddering motorbike. She is naked save only for a fluorescent yellow helmet, and these images are then intercut with one biker's gleeful recounting of their appeal to the ladies. As our Outcast testifies that once you've gone biker, you never go back, the girl peers out from her visor and pouts in a manner that intends sexual aggression, but look more like she's finding the saddle uncomfortable and/or cold, before smearing her bare thigh with grease.



Ultimately, The Outcasts is an interesting study of a sub sect who, one suspects, are just like everyone else in society -  seeking a purpose to their lives and and their own place in the world.

Tuesday, 9 January 2018

Fighting Back: Petitions to Sign

We may have been victorious in getting the odious Toby Young to resign from his role of 'Uni Tsar' this week (and oh, how the wailing and gnashing of teeth has begun from his supporters within the party), but Theresa May's ridiculous reshuffle reminds us that scum rises to the top.




Remember Esther McVey? This failed TV presenter and heartless woman was an atrociously callous former Disability Minister and Employment Minister under IDS, and booted out of government in the 2015 election because of her actions and attitudes in parliament: her consistent voting against an increase in welfare benefit spending, and her £170,000+ expenses claims whilst arguing that 'it is right that people are going to food banks because as times are tough, we are all having to pay back this £1.5 trillion debt personally". Unfortunately, since 2015 she's been working her way back into the heart of government, first by securing the safe Tory seat of Tatton when George 'Pencils' Osborne resigned, and then by bagging the Tory whip job, promising to bring 'a feminine touch' to the role - whatever the hell that means. Now the Maybot has returned her back to the DWP, hiring her as DWP Secretary, a wholly unsuitable job for someone without empathy. This is a death knell for the most vulnerable and disadvantaged in society and we need to voice our disapproval by signing this petition.


An while we are at it, if you haven't signed the petition to reject the proposal made by Simon Dudley, the leader of Windsor's Tory run council (pictured above with his glorious leader), to remove the homeless in the area by May 19th, the date Prince Harry is to marry Meghan Markle. Homelessness is NOT a "security risk" as this heartless snob claims, it is a symptom of this government's ruthless austerity measures. Dudley may feel the homeless population in his "beautiful town" puts it in an "unfavourable light", but the real spotlight should be put upon the policies of a government which has resided over an increase in homelessness since coming to power in 2010 as a direct result of their austerity programme. Please sign it here

Sunday, 7 January 2018

Out On Blue Six: France Gall, RIP

I'm saddened to hear the death of France Gall today, following a two year battle with cancer.





The beautiful French songbird was perhaps best known on these shores thanks to her victory at the 1965 Eurovision Song Contest with the Serge Gainsbourg penned Poupee de cire, Poupee de son




RIP

End Transmission


Six Years of Blogging

Six years ago today I started blogging



I can't believe it's been that long. It seems to have gone by so quick in some respects, less so in others. A lot of things have happened in those six years, both to me and to the world at large. 

As I look back at those early posts I'm struck by how much I'm keen to make a record of something of my life. I'd definitely reached a point where I felt the need to do something else with my online life and I was clearly missing the days of Myspace. Those early posts are a hotchpotch of a diary-like account of what was going on in my life and a statement of the things I liked and enjoyed at that time. There's also a near adolescent obsession with picspamming; I think I'd seen tumblr and loved the idea of posting photos that struck me as beautiful, and especially photos of girls who struck me as beautiful. Quite why I didn't just started a tumblr I do not know!

In more recent times the blog has become much more streamlined to focus specifically on film reviews, music (Out On Blue Six is the only surviving theme I've really carried across in the whole six years) and politics. I like that blogging allows you the opportunity to give voice to something you want people to hear, whether that's a film or song you love and want to be better known, or the policies of Jeremy Corbyn's Labour in contrast to the horrible Tory regime we're currently enduring. I may not be posting so much about my daily life these days but what I am posting remains personal to me. 

It's not always been easy to continue with the blog and I think this past twelve months has been the closest I've come to knocking it on the head. It's hard sometimes just to find the opportunity to sit down and write something and even when you do sometimes the muse has left you. The fact that film reviews have become such a strong component of the blog, and that these reviews already exist on my Letterboxd page has sometimes led me to question whether I ought to continue. But I was forgetting the sheer enjoyment and solidarity of the blogging community and its the comments so many of you leave on what I write, and the posts some of you compose yourselves on vastly superior blogs that keeps me here.

So thank you and and here's to another year of blogging.

Mark

Thursday, 4 January 2018

RIP Peggy Cummins and Doreen Keogh, Plus Those Missed In 2017

Sad news to hear that Peggy Cummins passed away on December 29th, at the age of 92.


Born in Prestatyn, North Wales on 18th December, 1925 to Irish parents visiting the area, Cummins grew up in Dublin and made her stage debut at the Gate Theatre as the juvenile lead on her 13th birthday. On the strength of this, she became a child actress and was cast in her first movie, Dr O'Dowd in 1940. Five years later she was brought to Hollywood by Darryl F. Zanuck, the head of 20th Century Fox, and starred in several films, the most notable being the 1949 noir Gun Crazy, in which she played the trigger-happy moll of John Dall's bank robber. She returned to England the following year and continued her career making such classic films as Night of the Demon and Hell Drivers, as well comedies like Dentist In The Chair and Carry On Admiral. She retired from screen acting in the early 1960s following the birth of her second child and daughter. In the 1970s she became highly active in charity work, fundraising and chairing Stars Organisation for Spastics (SOS) which later became known as Stars Action for Cerebral Palsy. Cummins remained a trustee of the charity until her death.

RIP.

31st December saw the passing of another Irish actress, Doreen Keogh, at the age of 91. 


The Dublin born Keogh became a household name in the 1960s for her role as Concepta Riley, the first barmaid of the Rovers Return in Coronation Street. She made her debut in the soap on the fifth episode in 1960 and stayed there until 1964, returning in 1967 and again for another stint from 1972 to 1975. Away from the cobbles, Keogh's other famous roles included Mary Carroll, the twinkly Irish neighbour of The Royle Family, and Mrs Dineen in Father Ted. She also appeared in Ballykissangel and was an original cast member in Irish soap opera Fair City from the late '80s to the early '90s.

RIP.


2017 also saw some notable passings that I have only just heard about and I'd like to take a moment to list some of them here. 

Suzanna Leigh

Born Sandra Eileen Anne Smith in 1945, Suzanna Leigh changed her name on the advice of her godmother, who was none other than Vivien Leigh. She started out as a child actress and appeared in many classic ITC productions of the 1960s, such as The Saint and The Persuaders! She was perhaps best known though for her role as Elvis Presley's love interest in the King's 1966 film Paradise, Hawaiian Style. Other film roles included Boeing Boeing, The Pleasure Seekers and the horror films The Deadly Bees, The Lost Continent, Lust For a Vampire and The Fiend. Leigh died in Florida on the 11th December following a year long battle with liver cancer. RIP.

Heathcote Williams

It's easier to say what Heathcote Williams wasn't than it is to say what he was, but here goes: actor, playwright and dramatist, songwriter, poet, journalist and editor, magician, artist and sculptor, political activist and naturalist, Williams was a fascinating figure. Born in Helsby, Cheshire in 1941, the old Etonian wrote his first book The Speakers, an account of the lives of public orators at Speakers' Corner, Hyde Park, when he was just 22 years old. His first full length play AC/DC made its debut at London's Royal Court in 1970. Around this time he was taught fire eating by Bob Hoskins and was keen to show off this new talent to his then girlfriend, Jean Shrimpton. Unfortunately, he set himself on fire on her doorstep! Other stunts include a series of agit graffiti both in Notting Hill and on Buckingham Palace - a protest against the Queen's stance towards Malcolm X. This activism continued in the '70s with Williams at the fore of the squatting movement, running the 'squatting agency' Ruff Tuff Cream Puff and, with a couple of hundred other squatters, establishing the free state of Frestonia in the aforementioned Notting Hill in 1977, an independence it enjoyed for a decade exasperating the authorities, with Williams serving as UK ambassador. He wrote the lyrics for Why D'Ya Do It? a track that appeared on Marianne Faithfull's 1979 album Broken English, which proved so sexually explicit that the female staff at EMI's production line staged a walk out. That same year Williams proved a memorable Prospero in Derek Jarman's big screen adaptation of Shakespeare's The Tempest, and a career in film continued into the 00s with appearances in Stormy Monday, Wish You Were Here, Orlando, The Browning Version, The Steal, Blue Juice, Bring Me The Head of Mavis Davis, Basic Instinct 2 and City of Ember. He even appeared in the Friends episode, The One with Ross' Wedding. He discovered a new species of honey producing wasp in the Amazon, which inspired him to write the poetry anthology Forbidden Fruit. Other book-length volumes of poetry Williams penned were Autogedden, Falling For a Dolphin, and 1988's Whale Nation, an argument calling for the worldwide ban on whaling. Some of his last works include American Porn, a critique on Trump and the US political establishment published on Trump's inauguration, and The Blond Beast of Brexit, a similar attack on Boris Johnson. He died of kidney failure on July 1st in Oxford, following a long stay in hospital with a chest infection. RIP.

Ray Lovelock

Born in Rome, 1950 to an Italian mother and an English father (a former British soldier who met his wife at the close of the war and elected to set up home there) Ray Lovelock was a stalwart of Italian genre cinema, appearing in the likes of celebrated cult classics such as The Living Dead At The Manchester Morgue, Live Like a Cop, Die Like a Man, and Oasis of Fear. He also appeared in Fiddler on the Roof and The Cassandra Crossing. He died in Trevi, on November 10th at the age of 67. RIP.


Trevor Byfield, aka Ziggy Byfield, 
aka Zig Byfield 

Byfield first came to prominence in the early '70s using the name Ziggy as a star of musical theatre. He took over from Oliver Tobias in Hair on London's West End in 1970 and was an original cast member of Richard O'Brien's The Rocky Horror Picture Show in 1973, playing the dual role of Eddie and Dr Everett Scott initially, before undertaking the lead role of Dr Frank N Furter. Born in Redditch to parents serving in the Salvation Army, one cannot help but wonder what they made of these taboo breaking ventures. In 1980 he was the lead singer of Ziggy Byfield and the Blackheart Band, releasing an album entitled Running, before penning the 1986 rock opera Virgin Warrior, based on the life of Joan of Arc. But it was as a character actor that Byfield established himself, specialising in craggy faced, rasping villains and diamond geezers. He memorably played a nemesis of Lewis Collins' Bodie, gleeful at the taciturn hardman's uncharacteristic seeming cowardice in an episode of The Professionals, starred as a former pop star in the sitcom So Haunt Me from 1992 to '93, and appeared in The Bill in 14 different roles from 1989 to 2008. He's perhaps best remembered for playing the hapless manager of the Starlight Rooms in the classic Only Fools and Horses episode which saw Del hire Tony Ferrino (Philip Pope) a singer with the unfortunate problem of being unable to pronounce his 'R's'. A tractor accident on the set of Heartbeat in 2009 led to a broken hip, ribs and a collapsed lung, events he never fully recovered from. He died of pneumonia on October 11th at the age of 73. RIP.


Molly Peters

Voluptuous blonde beauty Molly Peters could easily have become a forgotten dollybird of the 1960s where it not for one break out appearance in the 1965 James Bond film Thunderball. Here, Peters played health spa nurse Patrica Fearing whose duty it was to tend to Bond's needs...before he rather typically decided to tend to hers instead. It was a role which secured her place in Bond history: she was the first Bond girl to be seen removing her clothes in the film franchise. Nudity continued with a Bond themed Playboy photoshoot that year and The Naked World of Harrison Marks in 1967. Her short career came to a close towards the end of the decade with Don't Raise the Bride, Lower The River, the US comedian Jerry Lewis' foray into swinging London. In 2011, Peters suffered a mild stroke and she passed away on 30th May at the age of 75. RIP.

Christopher Morahan CBE

Veteran British director Christopher Morahan initially commenced his career in the theatre, working as a stage manager on Orson Welles' tour of Othello. It was not a happy experience; Morahan and Welles clashed and he found the theatre dispiriting. He subsequently moved into television and soon made his mark on the medium, helming the legendary Wednesday Play, Fable in 1965, which he followed up the following year with Talking to a Stranger, starring a young Judi Dench. From 1972 to 1976, Morahan served as Head of Plays at the BBC, responsible for the commissioning of Play for Today and Play of the Month. This was a purple patch for stand alone plays on TV and Morahan, as the man who gave the green light to some of the nation's best writers and directors, must take much of the credit for that. He famously stood up to MI5 appointing blacklisted Roy Battersby to direct Colin Welland's play Leeds United!  After leaving the BBC, Morahan served as Deputy Director at the National Theatre in 1977 and co-directed and produced ITV's prestigious and award winning period drama The Jewel in the Crown in 1984. He also directed the films Diamonds For Breakfast (1968), All Neat In Black Stockings (1969), Clockwise (1986), Paper Mask (1990) and Element of Doubt (1996). He was married to Juliet Bravo actress Anna Carteret and fathered five children, one of whom is the actress Hattie Morahan. He died on the 7th April at the age of 87. RIP.

Monday, 1 January 2018

2017: Screen by Screen


According to my Letterboxd stats for the year, I made 749 diary entries in 2017, which means I watched over 700 films. Here is a list of those films/TV movies and miniseries/shorts/stand ups/documentaries etc which I watched for the first time and which I consider to be the very best, scoring 5 - 4 stars 

1. I, Daniel Blake (2016) 
2. Dunkirk (2017)
3. England Is Mine (2017)
4. Adult Life Skills (2016)
5. Nights of Cabiria (1957)
6. The Wages of Fear (1953)
7. Frances Ha (2012)
8. Breaking the Waves (1996)
9. The Long Day Closes (1992)
10. Someday My Prince Will Come (2005)
11. The Alcohol Years (2000)
12. La La Land (2016)
13. Two Days, One Night (2014)
14. Three Girls (2017)
15. Their Finest (2016)
16. A Month In The Country (1987)
17. Cluub Zarathustra (1996)
18. The Happy Lands (2012)
19. Umberto D. (1952)
20. The 400 Blows (1959)
21. Gone Girl (2014)
22. Interiors (1978)
23. Room (2015)
24. Alive and Kicking (1996)
25. Orphans (1998)
26. Hillsborough (2014)
27. The Roaring Twenties (1939)
28. When Angels Fall (1959)
29. Camera Buff (1979)
30. Journey to Italy (1954)
31. Guerrilla (2017)
32. Blood Simple (1984)
33. Dawn French: 30 Million Minutes (2016)
34. All My Good Countrymen (1969)
35. The Forgotten Faces (1961)
36. Rillington Place (2016)
37. Liam (2000)
38. Stacey on the Front Line: Girls, Guns and Isis (2017)
39. Adelheid (1970)
40. Madonna and Child (1980)
41. Death and Transfiguration (1983)
42. Philip and His Seven Wives (2005)
43. Brothers and Sisters (1980)
44. The Moorside (2017)
45. The Girl With All The Gifts (2016)
46. T2 Trainspotting (2017)
47. The Olive Tree (2016)
48. The Cult Next Door (2017)
49. The Low Down (2000)
50. Fridge (1995)
51. Under the Skin (1997)
52. Ida (2013)
53. The Trip to Spain (2017)
54. Bright Lights: Starring Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds (2016)
55. A Street Cat Named Bob (2016)
56. Snow (1963)
57. Gasping (2014)
58. Emotional Fusebox (2014)
59. Ivan's Childhood (1962)
60. Manic Street Preachers: Escape from History (2017)
61. The Miners' Campaign Video Tapes: Not Just Tea and Sandwiches (1984)
63. The Miners' Campaign Video Tapes: The Coal Board's Butchery (1984)
64. The Miners' Campaign Video Tapes: Solidarity (1984)
65. The Miners' Campaign Video Tapes: Straight Speaking (1984)
66. The Miners' Campaign Video Tapes: The Lie Machine (1984)
67. The Miners' Campaign Video Tapes: Only Doing Their Job? The Police and  the Miners (1984)
68. Home (2016)
69. A Few Short Journeys of the Heart (1994)
70. Little Boy Blue (2017)
71. Flesh and Blood (2002)
72. Garage (2007)
73. Adam and Paul (2004)
74. Caravaggio (1986)
75. Red Army (2014)
76. The Tenant (1976)
77. Orlando (1992)
78. Stardust Memories (1980)
79. Away (2016)
80. Rembrandt's J'Accuse (2008)
81. Edward II (1991)
82. Toni Erdmann (2016)
83. Blue (1993)
84. Jordan's Dance (1977)
85. The Tempest (1979)
86. The Last of England (1987)
87. Sebastiane (1976)
88. A Bigger Splash (2015)
89. Against The Law (2017)
90. The Levelling (2016)
91. The Lobster (2015)
92. Marriage, Italian Style (1964)
93. Holiday (1957)
94. Queers (2017)
95. Free Fire (2016)
96. Queerama (2017)
97. The Big Risk (1960)
98. Daises (1966)
99. Far From The Madding Crowd (2015)
100. Top of the Lake: China Girl (2017)
101. Robot & Frank (2012)
102. Moonrise Kingdom (2012)
103. Saboteur (1942)
104. The Great Silence (1968)
105. A Special Day (1977)
106. Night Train (1959)
107. Hail, Caesar! (2016)
108. Allied (2016)
109. Jackie (2016)
110. Christine (2016)
111. Rome, Open City (1945)
112. During One Night (1960)
113. The Ghoul (2016)
114. Woman in a Dressing Gown (1957)
115. Camp on Blood Island (1958)
116. The Bedford Incident (1965)
117. Taxi (2015)
118. A Dark Song (2016)
119. The End of the F***ing World (2017)
120. No Man's Land (2001)
121. Doctor Who: Twice Upon a Time (2017)
122. Standby (2016)
123. 2017: A Year in the Life of a Year (2017)

And as well as the good, there was also the bad. Here are the very worst first watches that earned between a half star and one and a half stars.

1. Cosmopolis (2012)
2. We Are The Freaks (2014)
3. Tina and Bobby (2017)
4. Donald Mohammed Trump (2016)
5. Straightheads (2007)
6. The Life of Stuff (1997)
7. Kniephofstrasse (1973)
8. The Chairman (1969)
9. Retreat (2011)
10. Woman in Gold (2015)
11. The Windmill Massacre (2016)
12. The Woman In Black 2: Angel of Death (2014)
13. Live Like a Cop, Die Like a Man (1976)
14. Tank 432 (2015)
15. Churchill's Leopards (1970)
16. My Old Lady (2014)
17. Zombies Have Fallen (2017)
18. The Cry (2002)
19. Papadopolous & Sons (2012)
20. Inseparable (2007)
21. Johnny Was (2006)
22. The Last Days On Mars (2013)
23. The Girl On The Train (2016)
24. 22 Jump Street (2014)
25. Anzio (1968)
26. The Gunman (2015)
27. Peacock Season (2010)
28. The Good Night (2007) 


Happy New Year


Happy 2018 Comrades! 
Wishing You All The Very Best For The New Year!