Sunday, December 4, 2011

They Might Be Giants (Film - 1971)


We watched this superb movie last night. They Might Be Giants is about a delusional paranoid called Justin Playfair who thinks he is Sherlock Holmes - or is he? You certainly want him to be. It's just this type fantasy that propels the film and it's easy to understand why many of the other characters get swept up in the fun charade.

Released in 1971 and way ahead of its time TMBG has an excellent quotable script, great use of New York City locations and cast of oddballs just the right side of crazy; apart from the core players, look out for Munster Al Lewis and Golden Girl Rue McClanahan.

Dr Mildred Watson: You're just like Don Quixote. You think that everything is always something else. 

Justin Playfair (Holmes?): Well, he had a point. 'Course he carried it a bit too far. He thought that every windmill was a giant. That's insane. But, thinking that they might be, well... All the best minds used to think the world was flat. But what if it isn't? It might be round. And bread mold might be medicine. If we never looked at things and thought of what might be, why we'd all still be out there in the tall grass with the apes. 

Sunday, September 18, 2011

The Corridor People

Another one from Network DVD, this is super-odd. Filmed on video in 1966. It's a high-concept and super-stylish Detective series starring Elizabeth Shepherd (the almost-Emma Peel).

On the back cover of the DVD it's described as "the Twin Peaks of its day" which is a reasonable comparison, despite the obvious budgetary differences. The Corridor People appears to have been filmed on the cheap, it certainly looks like it, and possibly all done in one take, maybe even live - but these limitations are also a great asset, as what results is very creative. Boom microphones often appear in shot and even if they're not visible, their shadow often is. However, it doesn't really detract from the goings-on as the production is already so bizarre, in a strange way it just fits in. The actors perform in a way that's part interpretive dance, part acting and about 75% camp. It's great.

Anyway - this blogger has already written about it in great depth, enjoy.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

DVD - Dim Dam Dom

The grey market DVD companies often turn up some fine oddities. I recently purchased Dim Dam Dom from modcinema* - which features 4 episodes of a late '60s French pop programme.

Apart from the roster of great French stars including Jacques Dutronc, Claude François, Marie Laforêt, Sylvie Vartan, Françoise Hardy, France Gall and Serge Gainsbourg there's also performances from The Easybeats, Manfred Mann and "Les Bee Gees."

Most clips also feature the Dim Dam Dom dancers and the whole thing is a pretty incredible showcase of what can be done with some creativity - most songs are simply filmed against a white or static studio background and some in a single shot, or with only a few edits. The cavalcade of mod fashion and fun choreography is wild, and the picture quality is pretty decent, generally better than I was expecting with some clips showing signs of age or deterioration, but ultimately it really doesn't matter. The only down side is the 'Melody Variete' bug that remains constant throughout the disc, but even that is eclipsed by the on screen fun.

If you're after a bit of '60s pop escapism, this is a good place to go. And a sideline - I was also pleased to learn how to pronounce France Gall's name correctly (it's Fronce Garl apparently, not Fronce Gawl as I had thought).

Sunday, February 20, 2011


Shadows is a TV program from ITV in the UK that I saw, at most, a few times as a kid around 1975-1976 (so I was age 9 or 10). I loved, and still love, shows dealing with supernatural themes, although it's different seeing them as a child as your world view and experience is, well, different. I can really only recall 1 episode of Shadows, and actually only 1 moment of it, a black and white image of a school and some schoolchildren and some spookiness going on. I know, it's not much, but sometimes even a small memory like that can hold a strong resonance. I also recall the quivering letters used to title the show. And my memory of it is all in black and white and grainy, which would have been the TV set we had at the time, but appropriate for this show.

I was thrilled to learn that the great Network DVD company from the UK has released a volume of Shadows. I'm also a little relieved to find it still exists as so many of the programs from that time were sadly wiped. Anyone interested in cult TV shows from the UK should check out the ever expanding Network catalogue  - this link is to the "Cult Kids" page, but there's plenty more to check out including many of my favourite spy shows from the '60s & '70s.

I ordered a copy of Shadows which arrived recently. The first thing I noticed is that the series was made in colour, which was a surprise, and I also found the episode I had hazy memories of. It concerns two Welsh schoolboys who are waiting alone in the school careers room for their Sportsmaster/Careers teacher (played by Blake from Blakes 7 - Gareth Thomas) after their detention. Their teacher doesn't turn up, but something else does (no spoilers now).

I've since watched 2 more episodes, one about a nurse in Victorian times being haunted by a ghost - from the future - and the an odd one about a haunted tree and a young girl possesed by witchcraft. I'm pleased to say that Shadows more than lived up to my expectations; better than really. Interesting story, good child actors and quite spooky in its way, production values are also much better than you might expect for a '70s made for TV and made for kids show.The production is largely filmed on sets, but the sets are often quite elaborate.

These type of kids supernatural shows - The Tomorrow People, Doctor Who, Children Of The Stones, The Owl Service, Sky etc...  - are probably a little too low-key in style to be made for contemporary audiences, and that's a shame. Some of the current day versions do a good job at updating the same feeling - The Sarah Jane Adventures comes to mind, but I haven't seen any recent kids shows that have a comparable eerie atmosphere as this; an indefinable otherworldy-ness. Being scared by afternoon TV programs was always such fun to me as as child, I'm not sure today's children get to experience that.