Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Magical Mystery Cleared Up!

A big thanks to Steve Weet who replied to a blog entry regular readers may recall from last month in which I asked whatever happened to Mandy Weet aka Miss Wendy Winters from The Beatles film Magical Mystery Tour

Steve, her second cousin, confirmed that Mandy in no way disappeared, she merely changed her name to Miranda Forbes and continued working in small roles across numerous TV programmes in the 70s right through to the late 90s such as Coronation Street, Minder, Lovejoy, The Bill, Ab Fab and Yes Prime Minister, often playing secretaries or nurses.

On checking this on IMDB (who lost Miranda and Mandy as two separate people-I've sent this info to them to combine the credits) I saw that Mandy also appeared in an episode of Casualty in 1991 that I have in my rare collection, and I've taken a couple of screencaps of her in her role as a GP's receptionist. Here she is opposite Edna Dore

Sadly this discovery is tempered by the news that Mandy tragically and prematurely died in 2001 aged just 55.

My condolences and thanks once again to Steve and a belated RIP to the wonderful Miss Weet.

RIP Davey Jones

Sad breaking news, the Mancunian Monkee has died of a heart attack in his sleep at his home in Florida aged 66.


Out On Blue Six : David Dundas (and other news)

Today's rather a big day for me and I need something with a bit of cheek and a confident beat to instil within me, because I've got an interview today for a rather nice job as a Psychological Wellbeing Practitioner with the place I volunteer at, and I've got to do a bit of an anxious trek across Manchester to be seen. So, I've chosen David Dundas (who later composed the Channel 4 ident music in the 80s and the soundtrack to my favourite film Withnail and I) and Blue Jeans

As you can see from that video, cheek was also provided by one of Ruby Flipper...her arse was practically hanging out there! Niiiice ;)

I also must mention that Matthew Coniam has, spurred on by my own little blog entry last month, done some excellent research on Mike Raven and conducted some interviews with the great man's family as well. The first part of this is found here

End Transmission

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Story Time - Ashes To Ashes : Marriages and Deaths Part 3

Ashes To Ashes : Marriages and Deaths Part 3

Paint Me Down plays over the soundtrack

Gene entered the interview room and stoically surveyed the surroundings. By now he had taken off his overcoat and gloves and was wearing a dark grey suit, black shirt and grey tie with white and red stripes. He breathed in deeply and took a seat opposite Palmer, just as Alex came through.

Paint Me Down fades out 

"Look" Palmer began "Before you say anything, our Joe has always been a hothead. I ain't apologising for him, but I ain't saying he's done wrong either"
Gene snorted "Big of you"
Alex pulled her chair in a little closer to the desk and placed her hands within touching distance in a subconcious effort to suggest they wanted to meet halfway; police and criminal family to resolve the situation as safely and succesfully as possible. She could almost hear Gene sneer inside her head at her body language, knowing full well that the only connection he wanted to make was with his fists and Nick Palmer's face several times over.
"Um, look Nick...perhaps you might be able to think of somewhere Joe may have taken himself and our officer of to? Was there a place he likes to frequent or hide things? Perhaps it's a special place from your childhood? Somewhere secret that only you and he shared?"
"Bloody hell Bolls" Gene huffed, crossing his legs to suggest he was growing weary "We're looking for a viscious little toerag who has one of our finest kidnapped, we're not gonna find him looking behind the wardrobe for bloody Narnia!" 
Palmer sighed and ran a hand over his face "If I knew, if I had any clue as to where he might be now, I'd tell you....honest, on my eyes....I want this resolved as much as you, I'm supposed to be getting married today"
"What about your guests today?" Alex persisted "Might anyone of them know?"
Just then there was a swift knock on the door and Viv's head poked around it. "Guv, uniform are just back from Temple Street. They've found the limo abandoned and Chris's radio on the backseat. We've also got a report of a stolen Mini Metro in that street too"
"A Mini Metro?" Gene scoffed, pushing away from the desk with the heel of his boot and folding his arms "Well, little Joe's hardly riding off into the sunset in style"
"I've just put an all car alert out for it Guv" Viv nodded.
"Thanks Skip...oh and bring in the reception guests" Gene asked "DI Drake here thinks we might find a clue to the whereabouts from them"
Alex smiled softly "Thank you Guv"
"I'm not doing it for you Bollykecks. A Palmer wedding? Probably filled to the bloomin' rafters with southern cockney scumbags...chances are we can nail half a dozen unsolved crimes out of them by tea time without the need for a warrant" and with that he strolled out of the interview room to follow Viv.

Geno by Dexy's Midnight Runners fades in

Alex placed her head in her hands "Of course" and smiling apologetically to Palmer she said "Don't worry, it's nothing personal about your guests, he's like that about anyone south of Crewe" and got up to leave. 

"Guv! Guv!" Ray called chasing down the corridor after Gene and Alex, who both turned to see what could have excited the DS so.
"That was the local rag on the phone....Little Joe Palmer has rang them"
Gene and Alex shared a look. "Well come on Raymondo spit it out!" Gene demanded.
"He says he wants Nick out of here by midnight tonight, only then will he let Chris go free. Oh and he wants a free and uninterrupted flight to the Irish Republic and £5k in cash"
Gene blew out his cheeks and snorted "Well I want Janet Ellis to tuck me up at night, but it's not going to happen"
"It seems we've underestimated this 'Little' Joe" Alex observed "He's clever enough to inform his demands via an intermediary"
"A what?" Gene snapped "Talk English woman"
Alex sighed "An intermediary Guv, he's using the local newspaper as a go between to communicate his demands. Perhaps he's cleverer than you've given him credit for?"
"Little Joe Palmer is about as clever as a flid trying to use a pocket calculator. If you ask me, he may as well have told his demands to Jim'll Fix It for all the good it'll do"
"But Guv" Alex persisted "We have to keep a clear line of communication open"
"A no is a no from The Gene Genie, DI Drake, that clear enough?" and with that he stalked off down the corridor.
"How's about that then" Ray said imitating Jimmy Saville with a lairy smile aimed at Alex.
Alex took a step closer to Ray "It's not your fault you know, about Chris" she whispered "But the sooner you realise that and stop the bravado act the better"
Ray tutted, creasing his eyes at Drake's suggestion with disgust as he turned on his heel "Shut up"

Geno fades out

Joe Palmer stepped back into the car and placed the key in the ignition but decided against turning it. He needed time to think. In the back seat, Chris shuffled a little closer and cleared his throat "What, um what just happened?"
"I'm trying to think!" Joe snapped, staring straight ahead"
Joe sighed and relented "I've just rang in with my demands, I'll let you go if they release Nick before midnight, give us five grand and a plane out of here ok?"
"Oh...anywhere nice?" Chris asked dumbly
"The plane, off to the Costa Fortune eh?" he said, trying to remain cheery
Joe turned sharply in his seat to face Chris "You think I should have demanded Spain instead?"
"Well" Chris shrugged "Not for me to say, I mean, it's the same as Ireland, no extradition, but well, like, better weather"
Joe sweared softly but pasionately "I always get it wrong" he said finally.
"Yeah, don't worry mate...I'm like that too"
"I just wanna do right by my brother see?" Joe explained
Chris nodded "Like me, I wanna do right by the Guv, make him proud like...and Shaz...of course....Ray too I suppose....oh and DI Drake"
But Joe was no longer listening "We need to get out of here" he looked up and down the street and then started the car.
"Um...where we going?" Chris asked
"Somewhere we can sit tight until your mates see sense and release Nick" Joe explained.
"And um, what...what if they don't?"
Joe braked at the junction waiting to turn left out of the street. He glanced at Chris in the mirror, a tight smile on his features "Well there'll be one less copper in the world won't there?"
Chris's face turned ashen and his stomach turned upside down "Roger that" he managed to say finally, hoping against hope the Guv would save him.

Back in Fenchurch East, Gene and Alex were heading uop the corridor back to the office to interview the wedding guests or as Gene put it as he hungrily rubbed his hands together;
"Right, let's go and get some truth out of some southern scum shall we?"

Heaven 17's Let's All Make a Bomb fades in

They walked into the office and immediately faced down in excess of over twenty wedding guests, all shouting, arguing, and above all pleading innocence and ignorance as the DC's and uniforms interviewed them. In the corner, the bride continued to weep uncontrollably and one look from the father and motther of the bride who desperately tried to console her suggested to Alex  that she had not had a dry eye since Gene stormed into the church that day.
"My God Bolls" Gene said surveying the chaos "You know it's bad when the criminal classes have become yuppified"
Although it was no laughing matter, if Alex were being honest she found it hard to stifle a small chuckle, for he was right; the entire office was wall to wall with pinstripe suits, red braces, sloane ranger outfits and Princess Di hairdo's. 
"If this really is my sub conscious" Alex murmured to herself as Gene stepped into the fray "Then I'm a lot more satirical than I give myself credit for"

Heaven 17's Let's All Make a Bomb fades out

Gene was heading straight for a particularly loud pony tailed guest with an Estuary accent and overly large bright blue framed glasses who was shouting at a bravely struggling Shaz "And I've already told you sweetheart...look let me explain it again yeah? I-Don't-Know-Where-He-Might-Be-comprende? Sorry and all that but I don't speak pig!"

The man was about to laugh, his mouth was open and ready, but the laugh stifled in the throat and wouldn't budge, for it was immeditaly replaced by a wail and whimper, for Gene had come up behind him and grabbed at his short little pony tail, stretching his head back far over the chair where he could stare down at him.
"Now you listen to me blondie" Gene snarled, and the man could feel the DCI's hot whisky breath all over his face, "This WPC here is worth ten of you, in fact you're not fit to shine her shoes. So when she asks you a question you bloody well answer it with a civil tongue, because that scum Joe Palmer has her boyfriend hostage somewhere out there. Now do you comprende that sunshine?"
The man wincing with pain under Gene's grasp of his hair managed to say "You'"
Gene breathed in deep, flaring his nostrils "Not the answer to my question!" and with force slammed the man's head into the desk.
"Guv!" Alex gasped, taking steps towards him. All around several cops including Viv and Ray halted their questions and winced, whilst horrified guests stared on open mouthed.
Just then a voice called out from the door "DCI Hunt!"
Gene turned "Ah Chief Super" he said, trying to compose himself.
"I would be grateful if you could give me a progress report on the situation at hand?" The Chief Super asked politely but with a hint of steel to his tones.
"With repect sir," Gene replied looking around the room "I'm a little bit busy right now"
"How busy?" The Super snapped
"Busier than a one armed juggler with crabs sir..I am trying to save the life of my officer so can't it wait?!"
The Super's face turned puce "Now, DCI Hunt!"
Gene sighed and gazed round the room one final time, before his eyes set on Alex "Find something out for me Bolls" he said firmly but quietly as he left.

To Be Continued...

(C) Mark Cunliffe 2010

It's Tuesday Night

And that, for me, means Holby City and the wonderful Jac Naylor played by Rosie Marcel

John Byrne and Gerry Rafferty

Watching and thoroughly enjoying the Gerry Rafferty night on BBC4 Friday (the documentary, Right Down The Line, being the highlight) I was reminded of the great album artwork that fellow Scot, the artist and playwright John Byrne provided for him and his outfit, Stealers Wheel.

I've long been an admirer of Bryne's work; they're so beautiful, with a truly distinctive style, that I thought I should give some of them 'a blog shout out' if you like...

And a self portrait of the great artist from the 70s....

Books Books Books

What's your favourite books? This was a question posed to me and others on a forum I frequent by my friend Fiona. She asked for our ten favourite books. And let me tell you it's damn hard to do! I finally posted my ten, but was left wondering if I'd made the right decision for a long time after.

Here's my 10. In rough order.

1. Engleby by Sebastian Faulks
2. 1984 - George Orwell
3. The Rotters Club - Jonathan Coe
4. Cider With Roadies - Stuart Maconie
5. Money - Martin Amis
6. A Perfect Execution - Tim Binding
7. Fleshmarket Close - Ian Rankin
8. Collected Poems - Philip Larkin
9. The Human Factor - Graham Greene
10. The Fire Engine That Disappeared - Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo

What's yours? Why not blog about them and reply here with a link to your list :)

Out On Blue Six : Sleigh Bells

New(ish) band whom I love....

Other business-tomorrow, I've a job interview for the place I volunteer with at their Manchester HQ. I am both scared and happy! First interview in a looooong time.

Oh and dentists, Thursday. This is one time I'm actually wishing for Thursday and that appointment to come around. I think that's less stressful than a job interview!

End Transmission

Story Time - Ashes To Ashes : Marriages and Deaths Part 2

Ashes To Ashes : Marriages and Deaths Part 2

The ominous opening bars of New Dawn Fades by Joy Division starts up....

The limo sped down the streets, kicking up litter as it did. Behind the wheel, Joe Palmer, rubbed a hand over his dry mouth and tried to calm himself down.

In the rear of the car, Chris Skelton sat equally nervously, unable to exit as Joe had put the child locks on. He was a prisoner, a hostage, and it was all he could do to not be sick right now, such was the extent of his fear.

Suddenly the limo entered a residential street and stopped sharply. Joe knew he had to ditch the limo, the entire Metropolitan Police Force would be after him by now, and the car was just too noticeable. He surveyed the view outside his windscreen for a suitable replacement before turning around to face his captive "Stay here pig or I'll blow your head off!" he warned, waving the gun for good measure, before jumping out of the car and heading for a mini metro further up the road.

Chris cursed to himself and rubbed his hand over his forehead, already clammy with sweat. He breathed deeply through his nostrils in an attempt to calm himself down. Suddenly, an idea struck within him. His radio! His shaking hands grabbed deep inside his denim jacket and pulled the chunky transmittor out. Offering a silent prayer of thanks up to the heavens, with eyes closed, Chris then hit the transmit button;
"This is DC Skelton is anyone receiving? Over"
"Repeat this is DC Chris Skelton, anyone receiving? Over"

Over in Fenchurch East police station, Shaz Grainger was perched on the edge of her desk watching Multi Coloured Swapshop on the TV in the corner of the room. She was giggling along to some silly stunt Noel Edmonds and Maggie Philbin were undertaking on John Craven, when suddenly the crackle of her radio distracted her. She ran to her desk to hear Chris's SOS and immediately hit 'receive'

"Chris baby, it's Shaz...what's happening?" she replied, confused and already a little fearful.

In the back of the limo, Chris breathed a sigh of relief "Shaz, it's alright, I'm ok, but I've been taken hostage...I'm in a wedding car on...." he leant up in his seat to survey the street, looking for a sign, any clue to say where he was "On...Temple Street, that's it. Temple Street. Get all cars available down here now!"

"Hostage? What? Baby what's happened?" Shaz said, panic rising in her voice, she looked around for help but none was forthcoming, suddenly she felt very alone and helpless in the deserted station.

Chris was about to speak again, when a meaty hand lunged into the back of the car and dragged him by the collar out into the open. Joe Palmer, fresh from securing a new car, snatched the radio from his grip "Very bad move" he snarled and he hit Chris across the back of his head with the butt of his gun, slinging the radio in the back of the abandoned limo, where it crackled with Shaz' pleas. Pleas that could not be answered.

Joy Division fades out....

"Baby?" Shaz cried desperately "Chris?"  Just as she did, Gene, Alex and Ray entered the office, with the handcuffed and weary looking Nick Palmer between them. Helplessly and hoping against hope, Shaz looked to Gene, but there was little comfort to be found in his creased granite like features.

Gene explained what had happened to an increasingly teary Shaz. Ray stood slightly alone, shaking his head and staring into space, his cigarette, ignored between his fingers, fading to ash fast "It's all my fault" he said, but only Alex heard. She placed a hand on his shoulder, but he instantly shrugged it off "Where do you want this creep Guv?" he said loudly, roughly grabbing hold of Nick and ignoring his protestations of "Now just a minute!"
Gene looked over his shoulder "Check with Viv which one of our penthouses are currently free Raymondo"
"Right Guv" Ray nodded and dragged the prisoner out.
"Chris is gonna be alright isn't he?" Shaz asked, her voice cracking and her hand to her neck.
Gene glanced between her and the floor, desperate for something to save him from answering. He found his saviour in the unlikely cheery form of the tigger-like Keith Chegwin, gabbling enthusiastically from some home counties municipal pool on the television.
"Bolly, switch that bloody tele off!" he snapped, his gloved fingers clicking with agitation in its general direction "I don't think Cheggers is going to be able to arrange a swap for us between Palmer and our Chris!"
"Alright!" Alex complained; annoyed that Gene seemed to be taking his frustrations out on her. As she stepped towards the TV, finger extended to switch it off, she noticed a familiar figure that keith Chegwin had his arm around. It was a little girl, shy in demeanour, almost sad it would seem, with mousy hair and a mole on her cheek.
It was Molly!
"Molly" Alex gasped, falling to her knees in front of the TV.
"Now then Molly" the 1982 Keith Chegwin was asking the present day Molly "What would you like to have?"
"I want my Mum" Molly said, lip trembling and eyes downcast.
"Ey!" Cheggers chuckled "We can't swap Mum's on here!" and he looked around to the laughing group of children waving their homemade 'Hello Mum' placards.
"I haven't got a Mum to swap" Molly said, fighting back tears now, "I want my Mum back" Her face filled the screen now, Cheggers looking round for someone in the production with concern, eager to wrap proceedings up "I want you back Mum...please...come back to me"
"Oh Molly!" Alex said, her fingers clawing at the screen, tears now filling her eyes "I will...I will come back to you....I promise" but then Molly disappared and the screen went black for a moment. "Molly....Molly?"
Suddenly Noel Edmonds appeared back in the studio "Erm, we're sorry for that Swapshop technical breakdown, clearly one child has lost her Mum down there in the crowd and I'm sure Keith will locate her any moment....but for now here's Spandau Ballet performing their new single, Paint Me Down, live!"
"Bolly switch that bloody TV off!" Gene screamed out, whilst comforting Shaz in his arms, and Alex jabbed hurriedly at the button, sending the New Romantics into darkness. "Finally" he snapped "Now make yourself useful...let's go and have a word with that pillock Palmer" and he pulled himself away from Shaz, patting her arm as he did, his eyes accusingly, never leaving Drake as he exited.
Alex gathered herself together, mouthed an apology to Shaz and hurried on after him.

Paint Me Down fades in and takes us out....

To Be Continued....

(c) Mark Cunliffe 2010

Monday, 27 February 2012


Just makes me chuckle!

Careless Love (1976)

Careless Love is a short film, running to just ten minutes, from 1976. It is directed and written by Francine Winham (essentially a student project) and stars Jane Asher and Richard Heffer of Colditz fame.

I like short films, and short stories in fact (In print I thoroughly recommend Bruce Robinson's Paranoia In The Launderette) They have to get to the point very quickly so it often seems like not a word or a shot is wasted. They also tend to have stings in the tail which invariably satisfies the audience in a way that longer works simply do not. Careless Love has just such a sting, as it swiftly spins off into a blackly comic tale.

It opens to the strains of the jazz standard that the title lends from. As the song plays we see Jane Asher's character Lucy receiving her beau, Heffer's Mark, and his gift of a bunch of red roses. The ultimate in romance you might say. She positively glows in accepting them and hurries into the kitchen to find a suitable place for them. However, none seem available and with a shrug, and a mild expression of frustration, she simply deposits them in the peddle bin!

So far, so BBC sitcom/hidden gem Love Soup, which would much later also amuse us of the peculiarities of the mating rituals to a jazz standard score a'la Woody Allen. It's an amusing opening scene but more; it tells the viewer something key about Lucy's character, something that will make sense of the events to follow, because for Lucy, if something doesn't fit-however much you invest in it-you simply have to dispose of it.

The next scene starts the film proper as the soundtrack fades out and we find ourselves, clearly sometime later, in a suitably 1970s living room. The TV flickers snowy in the corner and the room seems vacant...until hands appear from the sofa, stretching contentedly. The camera finds our lovers, lying blissfully in each others arms. Heffer's Mark looks the epitome of open necked middle class cultured machismo whilst Jane Asher's Lucy seems, at first, to predate the actresses own serene homemaker future in a high belted russet outfit that appears practical yet fashionable and indicative of the era.

In the possibly post coital cosiness, Lucy and Mark discuss how well things are between them and how happy they are with one another. Lucy then dreamily asks Mark to marry her.

Wrong move.

Mark is horrified. He pulls away from the embrace, rises up and proceeds to tell Lucy just why it would not be possible for him to marry her, much to her shocked expression; Asher's natural alabaster skin becoming, well, ashen!

Lucy has been married before it seems, to a man called Gerald who passed away and who Mark had known. Mark explains quite vociferously that he could never marry someone who had been married previously, and more, he could never marry someone who has children. Lucy has two you see, babies, and right on cue, thanks to Mark's appalled reaction and raised voice they begin to stir upstairs. Lucy scurries off to deal with them, suitably shell shocked, leaving Mark to settle down with his newspaper, but he cannot because of the noise. Mark is clearly a spineless demanding git who is too boneheaded to realise his loud voice has woken the babies and therefore it is his fault in the first place that he can't get that moment's peace.

Oh yeah, Mark's a charmer.

Finally the children quieten down as quickly as they were roused and with a smug smile of relief, Mark returns to his paper. Lucy returns, and Mark compliments on her swiftness in getting the kids back off. He asks her how she did it, and Lucy replies matter of factly "I put them to sleep" standing before him like a child waiting for a kind word or praise.

It doesn't take long for Lucy to clarify just what she means; she has killed her babies.

For Lucy, it's a straightforward solution; Mark didn't want to be with her long term because she had children, ergo get rid of the children and Lucy's perfect future with the man she loves will become true.

Naturally, this appals Mark and he challenges her, querying her mental stability. How could a mother kill her own babies? It's clearly repulsive. Shaken, he's lost for words, before ultimately saying "I need a drink"

Jane's acting, indeed her whole physicality her as a performer is brilliant. From the confused and surprised expression on her face when she realises that what she has done is not what Mark wanted right through to her slumping, defeated, on the sofa they had previously canoodled on, to the brilliant moment in which she uses arguably her greatest asset; her vibrant flowing red hair, as she tosses her head up, revealing her face once more-and the idea within her-upon Mark's request for something to drink.


The final few shots play out in silence once more, before Careless Love strikes up again. Lucy, ever obedient and eager to please dashes off to fulfil her beau's request. Meanwhile Mark, clearly struggling with her murderous actions, shuffles round the room, shivering. He eventually fetches his coat. His intentions are clear to us, he's leaving and for good.

Lucy returns and hands Mark his drink which he swallows quickly, eager to get out of there. He makes to move, but as we've already surmised, whatever was in it is clearly quick acting, and he convulses before slumping over the chair, Lucy watching his death throes perfectly calmly. Clearly Mark's intentions were equally clear to Lucy, indeed they have been ever since she shot her head up from the sofa, and in another example of her philosophy regarding something no longer working or fitting right, she disposes of him.

A kind of 'if I can't have him, no one can', which is in keeping with the eventual theme of the title song. And, of course, I find myself now wondering, admittedly a few hours after viewing, if first husband Gerald suffered a similar fate? ;)

But it's up to the audience, who are either smiling wickedly or staring shocked. The blackly comic tale fades to a suitable black.

Story Time - Ashes To Ashes : Marriages and Deaths

It'll probably come as no surprise that Ashes To Ashes and Life On Mars are two of my favourite ever shows. To this end in 2010 I started some fanfics based on A2A which were published and warmly received on a forum I frequent. I thought I'd share them here to keep the fiction side of this blog bargain up. And so here's part 1 of my first offering, entitled Marriages and Deaths.
All feedback and comments are gratefully received.

Ashes To Ashes : Marriages and Deaths

It was a Saturday morning and Fenchurch East's CID room was barely filled with its barely enthused team, unhappy spending their weekend at work.
The watery January sun perforating through the blinds was the only light in the office. DS Ray Carling was busy yawning and sulking as he sat on the edge of his desk, one hand scratching at his groin whilst the other tipped ash from his cigarette on the floor below.
"It's not right is this. Working on a Saturday. We're here, so where's Drake?"
WPC Shaz Grainger walked past with a tray full of teas and coffees she had just prepared in the kitchenette. Ray helped himself to a mug as she explained "She had an appointment at the hairdressers remember? She'll be here in a minute"
"Hairdressers?" Ray scoffed, and then cast a sly glance to his oppo, DC Chris Skelton, who was sat facing him at his desk, unnaturally busy concentrating on the 2HB pencil in his hand, for he knew what was coming next. "She's not the only one who's been to the hairdressers!"
"Ray!" Shaz scolded, leaping to her Chris' defence "This is 1982. It's quite fashionable for young men to highlight their hair"
Chris dropped the pencil and touched at his newly blonde locks defensively "Thanks Shazza"
"It's alright babes" Shaz turned and smiled at Chris, touching his arm and placing down Chris' drink tenderly "I think it really suits you"
"Poof!" Ray sneered and took a big gulp of his coffee.
Just then the door to the Guv's office burst open and a mildly hungover DCI Gene Hunt strode into the outer office, eyes downcast but voice addressing everyone with force "DI BollyKnickers had better get her bony arse in here toot bloody suit. I told her not to be late today of all days!"
"It's a wedding Guv" Ray replied "A bird's perogative to be late"
Gene swivelled across to face his DS "Not on my bloody watch it's not!"
"She's at the hairdressers Guv" Chris explained from his desk.
"Oh you been giving her advice have you Christopher?!"
Ray laughed at this whilst Chris merely blushed and hurriedly concentrated on his pencil once more mumbling a quick "No Guv" whilst Shaz taking to her seat merely rolled her eyes at the neanderthals she found herself working with.
Just then the outer office doors burst open and DI Alex Drake entered the room, smiling broadly. "Ta da!" she explained and did a little twirl in her dark blue denims and white leather bikers jacket. Much to the bemusement of the males in attendance.
"I think it really suits you ma'am" Shaz said smiling equally as broad from over her mug.
"Thank you Shaz" Alex nodded.
"What does?" Ray asked bitterly.
"Oh come on?!" Alex sighed, placing her hands to her new shoulder length hair "None of you notice any difference?" and she looked from one to one at the blank impassive faces of Ray, Chris and Gene.
"She's straightened her hair" Shaz voiced an explanation as if se were talking to a nursery group, and rolled her eyes once more.
"That's right" Alex said "I've ditched the perm!" adding "It was so 1981!" and laughing at a joke only she, given her circumstances, could really understand.
Gene shuffled on his snakesin cowboy boots "Oh good" he said, eyes downcast once more "'cos if you ask me there's only one place a girl should have tight curly hair"
Ray began to cackle at his Guv's dirty joke, but Chris merely looked on dumbly as his brain whirred into life trying to comprehend. Finally he spoke; "You mean Africa Guv?"
"Shut up Christopher!" Gene spat staring at the door ahead and snapping on his driving gloves. "Now, if we're all quite ready, we've a wedding to go to. Raymondo, fire up The Quattro, and let it get me to the church on time!"
And with that, the men stalked out of the office, leaving Alex to look briefly at Shaz "Give me strength" she said in exasperation, before turning on her heels and following them out. Shaz smiled sadly, checked her radio frequency was correct, and began to read her copy of Smash Hits in peace.

Fades to Billy Idol's White Wedding

The Quattro raced and skidded its way through the back streets of London, a vibrant red blur to the rare passers by in that area. Gene grappled manfully at the wheel, controlling the snarling horse power like a veteran rodeo rider. Next to him in the passenger seat sat Alex, who drummed her freshly painted fingernails against the car door's interior and wondered once more why they always had to be in such a rush.
In the back seat sat Ray and Chris. Both with their hands clinging to the grips above each window to save them sliding about, for neither wore a seat belt. 
"Guv" Chris asked loudly above the roar of the car "It being a Saturday and us working like, I was wondering, do we get any perks?"
"Yes Chris" Gene said as he expertly turned the car at the last moment down another side street, sending its rear sliding out dramatically "You get the perk of not having my boot up your arse ok?!"
Chris gulped and turned to Ray who shook his head with a mixture of sadness and disappointment in his friend asking such a foolish question.
Finally the Quattro braked to a halt and all four officers shifted backwards into their seats from the slamming force of the stop. Only Gene handled this with composure and no sooner had he took the key from the ignation that he was kerb side, slamming his door shut (and ending Billy Idol as abruptly as ending the Quattro's drive)
"Bugger" Gene grumbled almost to himself as he surveyed the empty pavement outside the church "We're late...they're already in there"
Alex climbed out of the passenger side and looked to Gene who was still staring impassively at the church beyond them.
"You're seriously going to do this?" she asked, her eyebrow raised.
"I said I'd do it, and I will Bolls. The Gene Genie is a man of his word" he sniffed gruffly and made his way around the car just as Ray and Chris clambered out of the rear.
"He's seriously going in there now?" Alex asked the pair as Gene breezed past her. Both Ray and Chris shrugged. Alex threw her hands in the air and let them land with a slap on her hips "Unbelievable" she said "Oi Hunt!" she called after her superior " can't do this!" she was following his wake now "Hunt!" she called again, but her pleas were falling on deaf ears, the Guv had made his mind up.
Ray leant his arms on the roof of the Quattro and lit a cigarette. Exhaling the smoke he said; "Say one thing about the Guv, he's a determined sod. That Drake needs to realise that"
Chris nodded "A man's gotta do what a man's gotta do"
Ray threw his head back and looked down at his partner with creased, cynical features "And what would you know about what a man's gotta do?"
Chris sighed "They're just highlights Ray"
Ray snorted a laugh and breathed his cigarette smoke deeply as he began to follow Drake and Gene "And I suppose if Shaz said put your finger in the fire you'd do it"
"Hey!" Chris shouted, chasing after Ray "Shazza didn't tell me to do me hair"
"That makes it worse!" Ray said over his shoulder "Time you acted like a man...bein' down south's made you soft!"

By now, Alex had caught up with Gene, whose leather driving gloved hand was on the door of the porch to the church. Alex threw her hand over his and they both stared into eachother's eyes. Alex's first instict was to criticise Gene, but something unspoken occured between them and inside she suddenly felt like melting. Catching herself, she looked down to the floor, removed her hand and cleared her throat, before attempting eye contact with the nonplussed gruff Manc Lion once more "Guv, I can't let you do this...this is someone's wedding day"
"Correction DI Drake" Gene countered, back stiffening to ram rod straightness "This is some scrote's wedding day"
"Ok" Alex said "but thing of the poor girl, the bride Gene think of the bride"
Gene sniffed and stuck out his chin in a show of stubborness "Probably some slapper Bolls, don't waste your sympathy" and with that he pulled open the door and entered the church, walking in purposeful strides up the aisle, his long black overcoat's tails and belt flapping behind him as he did so with Alex Ray and Chris now at his heel. The former looking suitably embarrased whilst the latter two looked to be positively enjoying it.

Up ahead was the vicar addressing the congregation, the bride with her head bashfully pointed down at her groom, resplendant in his morning suit.
"Therefore, if there's anyone here can show any just cause as to why they may not be lawfully joined together, let them speak now or forever hold their peace"

"Yes cock!" Gene's voice boomed across the church.

Heads gasped and turned to view the uninvited guests. Up at the alter, the bride looked startled, but the groom and his best man looked downright angered.
The vicar, a quiet and civil middle aged man, rubbed a hand to his head "I'm sorry" he said unsure that what was going on before him was actually happeneing "but do you have just cause?"
"I most certainly bloody well do" Gene replied just as the father of the bride began to rise up from his pew. Gene thrust his hand down on the man's shoulder sending him crashing back down again. "The groom, Nicholas Palmer is one vicious evil little bastard and I am hereby nicking him"
More gasps echoed around the church. Ray chuckling, nudged Chris in the ribs. Alex rolled her eyes heavenwards and apologised to everyone and no one in particular.
The groom met Gene's eyes with ice cold hardness "Mr Hunt" he said as calmly as he could "Are you serious?"
"Oh yes Nick" Gene said, looking round the congregation before turning his gaze to him with equal frostiness "I'm as serious as a night in with Melvyn bloody Bragg. You're nicked"
"You're making a big mistake Hunt" snarled the best man.
"Keep your kid brother on a leash Nick" Gene retorted "he's too young to be playin' with the big boys yet"
Nick Palmer placed a hand on his brother, the best man's shoulder "Leave it Joe"
"Listen to your brother" Gene said and moving forward he grabbed Nick's arm.
Suddenly the bride wailed "But it's my wedding day!"
"Oh my baby!" a voice cried out, and the owner of it, a plump middle aged woman raced from her pew. It was the bride's mother.
"Sit down woman!" Gene ordered and pushed her backwards with one hand.
"Right!" the man next to her yelled. He was he rhusband, the man Gene had swatted down before "I've had enough of this!"
"Raymondo" Gene ordered swiftly as he frogmarched Palmer out down the aisle and Ray obediently jabbed the bride's father in the kidneys, sending him dropping to the floor with a groan.
"And I thought Four Weddings and a Funeral was funny?!" Alex muttered under her breath before jogging along to catch up with her departing colleagues and their prisoner.

Outside in the crisp morning air, Gene opened the Quattro's rear door "Get in Palmer, and mind my bloody upholstery"
"I expected more from you Mr Hunt, this, well this is just a cheap shot"
"You could of at least waited til after they were wed" Joe, the brother said venomously.
"Oh shut up you southern fairies" Gene said and was about to throw Nick into the car when he heard a click behind him. Slowly he turned, just as Nick said "Joe don't" and found himself staring down the barrel of a gun.
"You got a new toy Joe is that it?" Gene said, barely showing any emotion for his situation.
"Just let him go" Joe demanded as levelly as his voice could possibly manage.
"Guv!" Ray shouted as they stepped outside and saw the situation, he was about to run forward but Alex grabbed him. "No Ray, it's too dangerous"
Chris, a little way to Alex's right, saw an opportunity. "Not for me it's not" he said "This man's gotta do what a man's gotta do" and he raced along the church grounds aiming to come out alongside Joe, Nick and his Guv.
"Chris no!" Alex called out, just as some members of the congregation stepped out, and gasped at the fresh set of events once more.
"Joe" Nick was saying "There's no need for this, I'll be out in time for the reception you see"
"Let...him...go" Joe repeated.
Gene's eyes narrowed. The tension filled out the second before he replied like a yawning chasm "Ok" he said and side stepped to allow Nick to move.
"Guv!" Chris yelled as he reached the scene.
"Chris no!" Gene called out. But it was all over in seconds. Chris pushed Nick back into the Quattro, but in getting between Gene and Joe, Joe saw and opportunity to grab him. Now the gun was pointing hard into Chris's neck and his arms were up behind his back in a tight grip from the muscular Joe.
"Let my brother go" Joe said.
"No" Gene replied folding his arms and resting his bum against the rear door of the Quattro, closing Nick inside. "Let my DC go"
Joe laughed, an evil excited laugh and bared his teeth before running with Chris down the street and into the wedding limo, Gene, Alex and Ray gave chase, Gene with gun raised, but it was too late and the limo sped off in a cloud of dust and a hail of bullets from Gene's gun.
"You idiot!" Alex yelled at Gene's back.
"Guv, what do we do now?" Ray pleaded. Hoping Gene would have an answer.
"Bugger" was the only answer Gene could provide right now.

To Be Continued....

(C)Mark Cunliffe 2010

Sunday, 26 February 2012

Lazy Sunday Afternoon

Nothing much on today and little energy so I've spent the afternoon watching some of my DVD of Bouquet Of Barbed Wire

Trouble is, after watching this I always feel like going out and getting a bottle of Blue Nun and a Vesta curry - It's so 70s!

That said though, it is still a relevant, sophisticated and sexy brew treading the fine line between superior incestuous mature drama and the sort of thing Howards Way and Jackie Collins would gleefully do!

Despite the feeling of being fully immersed in the 70s middle class milieu I don't actually feel it's dated all that much. The pacing is fairly strong and quite speedy for that era, the acting is by and large first rate; Frank Finlay is impeccable as always as the father with seemingly impure thoughts and Susan Penhaligon as the cause of them, is perfect as the spoilt little daddy's girl. 

Lastly, if anything, it still shits all over the tepid and pointlessly melodramatic Trevor Eve version of last year.

So, pass the Blue Nun I say!

The Legend Of The 7 Golden Vampires

The Legend Of The 7 Golden Vampires was Hammer's last ditch attempt to bring fresh blood (pun intended or not? You decide) into their ever popular (certainly Stateside who routinely insisted on including The Count-and if possible Christopher Lee-in their vampire films) yet running on empty Dracula series.

To be honest, I'm not sure quite why they stopped going down the path of present day Dracula as they had done with Dracula AD 1972 and The Satanic Rites Of Dracula (previously reviewed here) but they did and just one year after, 1974, they did the time warp again, taking us a little bit further in their vampire chronology to the early 1900s and further still, to Hong Kong and an unusual collaboration with Chinese martial arts film makers, The Shaw Brothers. Taking the ever reliable Peter Cushing along for the ride as Van Helsing once more.

Peter Cushing

However, they proved unable to secure the increasingly sniffy Christopher Lee, either because his disdain for the role was now obvious or because the role was so minimal anyway; with The Prince Of Darkness woken from his slumber to take on the appearance of a Chinese counterpart keen for his help in restoring his native countries blood suckers to their former glory. He remains in this guise right up until the film's climax (whether this was part of the original script or a ploy taken up once Lee proved unavailable or to keep the US happy I'm not entirely sure) Hammer and The Shaw Brothers instead had to make do with John Forbes Robertson

John Forbes Robertson

He's not bad as such, it's just that the role is so slight, he has little chance to make his mark upon it. To be honest the film would have been much better without Van Helsing's arch nemesis any way, especially because he is completely surplus to the plot and has a very weak send off, they should have concentrated on the Oriental vampires more I feel.

The plot is as always simple enough (and just as well for a film that runs to just 85 minutes and licks along at a fair old rate too) Van Helsing, on the University lecture circuit, takes in China where his help is requested by Hsi Ching, played by David Chiang, to rid a village of the resurrected Seven Golden Vampires. They travel to the village,a ragtag bunch made up of Ching's brothers and his rather comely sister played by Shih Szu, Van Helsing's son Leland (and if we disregard the iffy continuity then we're meant to accept that this is Lorimar's father-Lorimar the vampire hunting grandson of the original Van Helsing that Cushing played in the previous two modern day movies) who is played by Robin Stewart of Haunted House Of Horror and Bless This House fame (clearly making his big break away from productions with 'house' in the title! Ooh imagine the Haunted Bless This House Of Horror? Sid James drinking the blood of virgins and cackling?!) and Julie Ege (and her chest) playing a bored emancipated Swedish socialite on a round the world journey.

David Chiang

Shih Szu

Robin Stewart and Julie Ege

Julie Ege and her chest

It's hard not to like this film, for pure kitsch value alone; witnessing the mishmash of kung fu and vampires, and more than a nod to The Seven Samurai  too. I'm sure that with the mania for kung fu films at the time here in the west it was equally engaging when it came out for the cinema goers and horror fans of 1974. But it wasn't enough to save the vampire series, nor Hammer itself which continued to trudge on aimlessly for a handful of films until the end of the decade. 

It was co-directed by Hammer veteran Roy Ward Baker and Shaw Brothers' Chang Cheh, though Baker is the only one credited and the production was somewhat troubled, with Hammer viewing the partnership ill advised and the studios provided in Hong Kong unsatisfactory. The characters, other than the previously established Van Helsing, are paper thin. Certainly the brothers fail to make any impact because their sole characteristics are based on what weaponry or fighting skill they have. They have no lines and only brief close ups and the most cursory of introductions, so when it comes to their brave demises in battle it's hard to care. Of the Chinese actors only Chiang and Szu impress on any level because they're the only ones the script have time for and ultimately attempts to pair them off with Ege and Stewart respectively in bland and unconvincing romantic subplots, made all the more unconvincing given that Stewart is clearly gunning for Ege until he spots Szu, and her admirer lost, Ege just seems to plump for Chiang!

Preparing for battle; the stakes are high!

Where the film impresses is in it's decidedly creepy and distinctively unique and alien depiction of Oriental vampire lore. The slo mo scenes of them bursting forth from the ground is especially eyecatching as is the shuffling, hopping gait they have as they rush to battle, seemingly accompanied by the soundtrack of electronic wasps or, that scourge of last year's World Cup, the vuvuzela (something which always sounded to me like a euphemism a middle class  mother would adopt for her daughter's genitals! 'Imogen, don't play with your vuvuzela, there's a good girl' Haha)

And of course, if you're a martial arts fan you'll love the balletic dance of death that the brothers and their sister undertake when battling the vampires, the undead and numerous mountain bandits throughout. 

As ever though, it's the peerless Peter Cushing who impresses; rising above the poor lines and substandard material with a gentlemanly professional air. He even manges to convince us in one scene where he details that the vampires of Europe are subdued by the sign of the crucifix, whereas here in the Orient, it will be the image of The Lord Buddha...just as well he didn't have to knock together one of those impromptu as he did so many times with the crucifix in previous films! It's also interesting to note the costume he wears here, as I'm fairly certain it's the same one he wore in the Doctor Who films some ten years prior

Which given that Cushing would occasionally buy the costumes he wore for films would not surprise me in the least. I fear this outfit was ruined for this film however, as there's a rather distressing and possibly accidental moment where Cushing, repelling the vampires, falls into the campfire. It's cut away from very quickly, leaving the audience to wonder and fear for him, and the jacket is charred and torn in later scenes. 

An odd, but enjoyable and cultish swansong to Hammer's interpretation of Dracula.