Saturday, 10 March 2012

Paul Temple : Games People Play

Paul Temple was a character created by Francis Durbridge for BBC radio in 1938. A huge hit, this crime writer cum sleuth and his young wife Steve, became a radio, film, comic strip, novel and TV series phenomenon. The latter of which was a BBC and German TV co-production that ran from 1969 to 1971 starring Francis Matthews as Paul and Ros Drinkwater as Steve.

The 19th April 1970 episode Games People Play is one of the highlights of the series (at least in terms of the episodes that weren't wiped)  It benefits greatly from being filmed on location in Malta and Gozo, a place I spent a lot of my childhood in the 80s in, and shot entirely on film rather than the traditional combination of exterior filming and interior studio work that was prevalent in the rest of the series, and in TV in general up until the mid 80s. As such it looks not unlike a film and has a genuine decadent unsettling atmosphere to the plot from the pen of John Gould.

In Malta, Paul is researching his next book when he and Steve meet up with fading film star Mark Hall (George Baker) Steve is a fan of his and is quickly taken into his rather sycophantic circle and ventures across to Gozo whilst Paul does some work on the mainland. 

It soon becomes clear however that Mark and his friends are bored and idle and find amusement in playing cruel mind games on the new people they meet, designing forfeits to scare away their guests. 
Paul, realising Steve is in some danger, arrives on Gozo just in time and, ensconcing himself in the set up with a supposed glee decides to teach Mark a lesson and play him at his own game. 

His aim is to scare Mark and sets about removing his friends and the mod cons like the record player and radio from Mark's hill top hideaway mansion to completely isolate him from what he needs the most; people and distractions. One by one he talks with each in Mark's circle; his wife, his young girlfriend, his stunt man, his agent and the young hip actor who is on the up getting the roles he used to get and finds that each one really hate Mark and project their own worst fears onto him, claiming they are what he is really scared of; getting old, being unloved, not getting work etc. Eventually, Paul arranges for Mark to arrive at some cliffy ruins whereby he informs him that each of his so called friends actually despise him and one is up there now with a shotgun, intending to take a pot shot at him. Paul has actually arranged Steve to be up there to fire a blank at Mark, but a real shot rings out, narrowly missing him. 

The episode ends with Paul stating one of his circle has indeed meant to hurt him, but he'll never know who. Realising the error of his ways, Mark decides to get away from the life he has led and bags a lift back to the mainland with Paul and Steve, leaving his associates alone on the island.

The episode as I say benefits greatly from its location. There's a genuine travelogue air about the filming, despite it being off season and clearly very very windy! It boasts a great cast including George Baker, superb as the insecure bullying rapidly going over the hill actor Mark Hall, Michael Gothard (The Devils) Moray Watson, Tony Vogel (Year Of The Sex Olympics) Penny Spencer (Please Sir!) and Francis Matthews real life wife Angela Browne. It's got some really suggestive dialogue that adds to the decadent, curious air; Steve, usually so devoted to Paul, initially seems quite flirty with Mark before the game is afoot, and there's an entire scene of him discussing just how big his boat is - the inference being so clear that we're really in single entendre waters rather than anything more subtle. His wife, played by Angela Browne, also informs Paul that Mark only married her to quell certain rumours about his private life, which makes the scenes in which he lounges about with both her and his girlfriend rather compelling and certainly makes you wonder why he insists on having his strapping stuntman (Vogel) good looking actor colleague (Gothard) and rather camp agent (Watson) constantly around if she was inferring a homosexuality.
The fashions, as they always were in Paul Temple, are eye catching, a bit naff and still rather groovy all at the same time! It was definitely a cravat chaps show (with Matthews, Baker and Watson donning them, Gothard opting for the 70s low hanging medallion and unforgivable tight white jeans) and the beautiful slender Ros Drinkwater (who reminds me of a girl I used to work with, except she was blonde) wears a wonderful midriff revealing top with a large Maltese Cross chain, just to remind us of where we are!

Mark's hilltop home is also pleasing on the eye for retro design lovers. It's a genuinely groovy pad with ethnic textiles, white bubble chairs and paper mache pop art figures as well as airy hallways and corridors and a stunning sea view. 
The whole thing is nicely directed by Philip Dudley and has, as was the norm with the series, a unique stand alone soundtrack for each episode provided by Doctor Who musician Dudley Simpson. The Paul Temple theme tune was also written by the Who theme tune composer, Ron Grainer. 

The remaining episodes of Paul Temple are available to buy on DVD in a nice box set. They're a good little watch (immensely popular in Germany where they would gain 25 million viewers per week!) The kind of TV show we used to be very good at making, and ideal for a nostalgic wallow on a Saturday night if you ask me.

***Just a reminder the poll to find The Queen Of Dollybirds ends today, in 5 hours to be exact! If yoyu haven't voted yet, please do so, the results are looking very very close, unsurprisingly***


  1. My brother was at school with Francis Matthews's son, and he once turned up on our doorstep in his pyjamas to bring my brother back from a sleepover he no longer wanted to be at!

    And apparently Angela used to coo at me when I was in my pram.

    There's my claim to fame for you! ;)

    1. Oooh get you! How excellent!

      I do love Francis Matthews, I love how away from TV his Cary Grant accent becomes distinctly Yorkshire!