Armchair Cinema (TV)
R2 - United Kingdom - Network
Review written by and copyright: Paul Lewis (5th October 2009).
The Show

Armchair Cinema (Euston Films, 1974-5)

ITV’s chief single-play strand Armchair Theatre (ABC, 1956-68) ended in 1968, following the shake-up of the ITV franchises that took place in that year. After ABC lost its franchise to provide programming for the London area, London Weekend Television acquired the ITV weekend contract for the city, and Thames Television (formed by the merger of ABC and Associated-Rediffusion) was given the task of delivering content on ITV from Mondays to Fridays. One of Thames’ strategies was to create a subsidiary company that was dedicated to the production of television films (see Fairclough & Kenwood, 2002: 39).

Founded in 1971, Euston Films was owned by Thames; it was created by Thames’ Controller of Drama Lloyd Shirley, the Director of Programmes Brian Tesler and the Head of Film Facilities George Taylor. The aim was to produce quality filmed drama that had the potential to be marketable to international broadcasters. Where much of British television drama was still predominantly shot on videotape in a studio environment (with some filmed inserts), Euston Films’ productions were shot wholly on film: Lez Cooke (2008) states that with the creation of Euston Films, Thames aimed to create ‘a significant shift in policy, away from the production of studio-based plays towards location-based, filmed drama’ (123). The use of real locations helped to cut production costs: according to Fairclough and Kenwood in Sweeney! The Official Companion (2002), Euston’s approach ‘saved money by obviating the need for a studio, and added a new atmosphere of authenticity and realism courtesy of the 16mm medium’ (13). Euston also gave their directors as much creative freedom as possible, giving them the power of final cut over their work (ibid.: 43). (Traditionally, the power of final cut was held by the supervising editor and production manager.) Reflecting on the trust that Euston Films invested in its creative personnel, Lloyd Shirley commented that ‘It seemed to me that you just don’t get the best you can for the viewer by engaging a talented director, then putting such strictures around the way they work’ (Lloyd Shirley, quoted in ibid.).

One of Euston Films’ first projects was a rebranded version of Thames Television’s drama series Special Branch (Thames, 1969-70; Euston Films, 1973-4). Thames’ first two series of Special Branch has been shot on monochrome videotape in a studio-bound environment, but Euston Films’ reworking of the series was shot completely on 16mm film and featured a greater emphasis on action and location shooting. This revised version of Special Branch also featured a new cast: where the first two series of Special Branch starred Derren Nesbitt, Fulton MacKay and Wensley Pithey, Euston Films’ rebranded show featured George Sewell, Patrick Mower and Roger Rowland. The Euston Films era of Special Branch was an attempt at making a gritty, anti-establishment cop series in the mould of popular films like Dirty Harry (Don Siegel, 1971) and The French Connection (William Friedkin, 1971): in the words of Troy Kennedy Martin, one of Euston Films’ regular writers and the creator of Z Cars (BBC, 1962-78), the new Special Branch ‘featured Patrick Mower, gun in hand, finding missing pearls in the more exotic parts of Kensington’ (Fairclough & Kenwood, op cit.: 36-7).

Special Branch epitomised Euston Films’ output during the 1970s, which was dominated by gritty London-based crime shows like The Sweeney (1974-8), Out (1978), Fox (1980) and Minder (1979-94). Towards the end of the production of the second series of Special Branch, Euston began work on Armchair Cinema (Cooke, op cit.: 123). Through its subsidiary, Thames Television sought to revive ITV’s most famous single-play strand, Armchair Theatre. With Armchair Cinema, Thames aimed – through the endeavours of Euston Films – to produce a series of feature-length dramas that ‘would act as pilots for subsequent series’ (Hallam, 2005: 34). In truth, only one story would lead to a series: the second story broadcast as part of the Armchair Cinema strand, ‘Regan’, led to the production of Euston’s most successful drama, The Sweeney. However, Euston were so confident that ‘Regan’ would be a hit with the public that they went into production on The Sweeney before ‘Regan’ was even broadcast (Cooke, op cit.: 123).

Euston Films’ approach to the production of Armchair Cinema (principally the shot-on-film aesthetic and use of real locations) had in part been inspired by two stories that Mike Hodges had directed for Thames Television’s earlier series Playhouse (1967-83), ‘Suspect’ (1969) and ‘Rumour’ (1970) (see Davies, 2002: 23-4; Fairclough & Kenwood, op cit.: 39). Hodges’ two television films had a gritty realism that was sourced from his work as a documentary filmmaker for series such as World in Action (Granada, 1963-98) (see Davies, op cit.: 23), and which would also be evident in some of his later films, including Get Carter (1971) and I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead (2003). One of Thames’ first colour productions, ‘Suspect’ was broadcast on Thames’ ‘first night of colour television’ (Fairclough & Kenwood, op cit.: 39). ‘Rumour’ and ‘Suspect’ set the template for Euston’s approach to television drama production, with their shot-on-film aesthetic and their emphasis on real locations.

This box set contains all of the dramas produced for Euston’s Armchair Cinema strand, along with Hodges’ ‘Suspect’ and ‘Rumour’ and a couple of ‘stray’ one-off dramas produced by Euston Films and both directed by Jack Gold: the television films The Sailor’s Return (1978), adapted from David Garnett’s novel, and Charlie Muffin (1979), an adaptation of Brian Freemantle’s 1977 Cold War-era espionage novel of the same title.


Disc One:
‘Suspect’ (72:41)
‘Rumour’ (80:59)
Gallery (5:34)

Disc Two:
‘The Prison’ (81:04)
‘Regan’ (77:10)

Disc Three:
‘When Day is Done’ (81:24)
‘Sea Song’ (80:11)

Disc Four:
The Sailor’s Return’ (107:17)
‘Tully’ (81:14)

Disc Five:
‘In Sickness and in Health’ (50:55)
Charlie Muffin’ (104:53)



Disc One:
ITV Playhouse: ‘Suspect’
The first of Mike Hodges’ two contributions to ITV’s Playhouse strand, ‘Suspect’ opens with a striking montage: a shot of a motorway at night, only the cars’ headlights visible; a railway station platform on which a middle-aged woman, Mrs Segal (Rachel Kempson), waits, a sign reading ‘Waiting Room’ visible above her head; a clock that reads twenty-two minutes past eleven; a mid-shot of Mrs Segal – she looks concerned; a close-up of the ‘Waiting Room’ sign; a red telephone box that another, younger, woman enters, tears flowing down her cheeks; cut back to the train station – a train arrives, and Mrs Segal stands expectantly, but only a man with a briefcase alights. Hodges then cuts between the woman at the train station and the woman in the telephone box.

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These opening moments of ‘Suspect’ establish a connection between these two women that will be explored throughout the drama, which parallels the investigation into an eleven year old girl who has been murdered and the breakdown of Mrs Segal’s marriage.

Hodges had considerable experience directing documentaries, and this shows through in both ‘Suspect’ and the later ‘Rumour’. Many of the scenes in ‘Suspect’ have a documentary-like realism: as the tearful mother is interviewed by the police, Hodges shoots the scene with only one static camera, holding the camera in long close-up on her face whilst the policeman asks questions off-camera. The use of a single static camera in this scene is very reminiscent of the camerawork a viewer might expect from a documentary. However, the shot is held for such a length of time that it draws attention to itself, becoming intrusive and making the viewer feel s/he is intruding on the young woman’s grief – a reminder of how exploitative the conventions of documentary forms often are. Likewise, the police interviews with the teachers and other students at the missing girl’s school are also shot in a very documentary-like style: Hodges once again uses a static camera and cuts between the different interviews, allowing them to overlap.

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Later, Hodges shoots the police search for the body, through the wintry English countryside, in a bravura verité-like sequence that visually reinforces the way in which the police hunt is essentially a form of pack behaviour. Hodges’ naturalistic approach to this sequence may possibly remind viewers either of the documentary-style sequence focusing on the police search for the missing girl in Sidney Lumet’s later The Offence (1973) or the newsreel-inspired shots of zombie-hunting rednecks prowling the Pittsburgh countryside at the climax of George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead (1968). (The imagery has a direct parallel in Hodges’ later film Get Carter, in the verité-style sequence that depicts the police searching the grounds of Cyril Kinnear’s mansion.) As Steven Paul Davies notes in Get Carter and Beyond: The Cinema of Michael Hodges (2002), ‘Hodges’ earlier experience in documentaries is in evidence as he slowly charts the bleak police investigation’ into the disappearance of the girl (23). Davies also describes ‘Suspect’ as ‘Chabrol-esque’ for its negation of what could be a simple thriller narrative in favour of a focus on relationships.

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‘Suspect’ also offers a more naturalistic representation of the police force than may be expected from a late-1960s television drama. The cynical coppers in ‘Suspect’ wouldn’t look out of place in Euston Films’ later ‘Regan’ or The Sweeney. In fact, ‘Suspect’ features two of the actors who would be central to Euston Films’ 1973 reworking of Special Branch, George Sewell and Roger Rowland. As Detective Inspector Barnes, Sewell projects a world-weariness that would come to characterise his work in Special Branch. ‘Got any children?’ Barnes asks one of his subordinates. ‘A little girl’, the younger policeman replies. ‘You’re in for a few nightmares’, Barnes tells him matter-of-factly. Later, Barnes tells another policeman, ‘These are bastard cases to work on. You got a strong stomach?’ ‘Nothing’s happened yet’, the younger policeman asserts. ‘It will. There’s a predictability about them’, Barnes notes. Further to this, when Barnes’ subordinate tries to psychologise the person who abducted the girl (‘A real hatred of women, but they’re too scared to attack them. Little girls make a convenient substitute’), Barnes interrupts him with one word: ‘Rubbish’.

At the outset of the drama, we assume that there is a connection between the young girl’s disappearance and Mrs Segal’s visit to the train station. However, later we are informed that Mrs Segal was in fact waiting for her husband. As the drama progresses, Mrs Segal begins to doubt her husband and considers him to be a suspect in the murder of the little girl, telling her son Mark (Bryan Marshall) that her husband is ‘deranged’. However, the film retains an ambiguity as to the presumed guilt of Mr Segal: rather than constructing a simply mystery narrative, Hodges privileges the parallels drawn between the disappearance of the young girl and the absence of Mr Segal – and between the grief experienced by the girl’s family and the Segals’ attempts to come to terms with the loss of Mr Segal. As Hodges noted in a BBC documentary about the production of his 2003 film I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead, films about criminals are usually 'not just about criminality: you're commenting on the way society operates through these films, and because they're sort of dark films, you can look even more closely' at the tensions and social problems within British society (‘Mike Hodges and I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead’; BBC, 2003).Steven Paul Davies notes that by paralleling the police investigation into the murder of the child and the breakdown of a marriage, ‘Suspect’ offers ‘a subtle comparison between murder physical and murder psychological’ (ibid.).


ITV Playhouse: ‘Rumour’
Mike Hodges’ second film for Playhouse, ‘Rumour’ opens with a quote from T. S. Eliot, ‘I think we are in rat’s alley’, which accompanies a point-of-view shot from a car entering the Blackwell tunnel. This shot recurs throughout ‘Rumour’, often inserted seemingly non-diegetically at the end of scenes; however, the shot has a diegetic function that is only revealed at the end of the film. (Nevertheless, this isn’t to say that the shot does not have a symbolic functon.) Like much of ‘Rumour’, this shot from inside the Blackwell tunnel was improvised. This improvisational approach grew out of Hodges’ interest in French New Wave cinema, and in particular the films of Jean-Luc Godard: Hodges claims to have been inspired by Godard’s ‘intuitive’ approach to cinema, in which ‘[h]e would digress or simply decide to just repeat a shot’ (Hodges, quoted in ibid. 25). One day, whilst travelling to work, Hodges was driving through the Blackwell tunnel and made the decision to attach a camera to his Fiat as he passed through the tunnel; it was only when he ‘came to edit the film [that] I realized the importance of my intuition. The shots gave me the start and end of my film as a descent into hell’ (Hodges, quoted in ibid.).

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The man in the car is shortly revealed to be Sam Hunter, a journalist for the Sunday Chronicle. Hunter is first seen narrating into a Dictaphone; Hunter’s comments into his Dictaphone provide the narration throughout the rest of the film. (In fact, ‘Rumour’ contains the first use of voice-over narration in Hodges’ work; voice-over narration would become a defining characteristic of Hodges’ later films.)

In these early scenes, Hodges also self-consciously uses signs as a means of foreshadowing the tragic arc of the narrative: immediately following the shot of the Blackwell tunnel, Hunter’s car is shown driving along a road, a large sign in the background simply declaring ‘Goodbye’. Soon after, as Hunter ascends an elevator in a train station a sign behind him reads ‘Way Out’.

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At the train station, Hunter meets with a young woman named Liza Curtis; all the while, their meeting is discreetly documented by men with cameras. Liza, who is apparently an escort of some kind, claims that there are photographs of her with a politician named Julian Crawford; according to Liza, these photographs are being used to blackmail Crawford. Liza is offering the story to Hunter and suggests that she may be able to produce photographs as proof that what she says is true. However, she expects to be paid fifty thousand pounds. ‘I’d only pay you that if you were the Virgin Mary’, Hunter tells her.

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Later, Hunter visits Liza’s flat and finds her dead, wrapped in plastic. As he discovers her corpse, for the first time in the film Hodges cuts symbolically back to the film’s opening shot of the car travelling through the Blackwell tunnel. Filled with the desire to investigate Liza’s murder and her claims that ‘there was some kind of organisation behind’ the blackmail plot against Crawford, Hunter begins to dig further. However, some people, including his editor, try to dissuade him: his editor tells him that ‘Rumours hurt people. I mean, look at the Profumo scandal […] Rumours are a lethal weapon, unfortunately. Fleet Street and Westminster thrive on it’.

Hunter argues with his editor, complaining that unimportant people are attacked by newspapers all the time, but the proverbial bigger fish are often let off the hook. However, the editor tells Hunter, ‘Be realistic. If it’s the big ones, we have to be more careful’. Hunter’s editor also tells him, ‘But honestly, I’ve been through this hoop too many times before. There’s usually nothing behind these stories, and when there is we can’t print it’.

Hunter’s resolve to investigate the case is reinforced when the police raid his flat. Following this incident, Hunter seeks advice from a retired editor who contradicts the advice given to Hunter by his current editor: ‘The paper’s lost all its guts: it’s far too clean and moral now for Sunday reading. The poor man [the editor] doesn’t know what the public in this country want to read. They want something to vindicate their drab, dreary lives – something reactionary, selfish, small-minded’. The former editor can only think that Crawford is being blackmailed because he’s ‘anti-gambling’ and hoping to introduce some new legislation to curb gambling.

As the narrative builds towards its inescapably tragic climax, the frequency with which the symbolic shots of the Blackwell tunnel appear begins to increase; the different threads of the conspiracy seem to grow, but Hodges refuses to offer one simple explanation for the series of events, cynically suggesting that, rather than being located within a handful of individuals, corruption runs throughout the whole of the establishment. Talking with his editor in one scene, Hunter observes, ‘You know, it saddens me just a little to hear the editor of a national newspaper virtually saying that our police are incorruptible’. Later, Hunter accuses an MP, Bannon, of having a hand in turning the then-fifteen year old Liza into a life of prostitution and then, five years later, encouraging her to blackmail Bannon.

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Hunter finds himself embroiled in what seems to be a political conspiracy. At one point in the narrative, he encounters an American author who has written a book about the political power of the Mafia in the US. However, Hunter is openly sceptical about the man’s journalistic integrity, accusing the man of trading in little more than ‘a collection of spurious facts and pseudo-prophetic statements’. Nevertheless, the conspiracy within British politics that gradually reveals itself to Hunter parallels the popular myths about the Mafia’s involvement in American politics. In the closing moments of the film, the audience is reminded of Hunter’s encounter with the author via the prominent placement within the frame of a copy of the Evening Standard that bears the front-page headline ‘I will smash the Mafia’. Furthermore, during the climax of the film Hunter declares to a key character, ‘Who are you working for, then? Who is it, eh? MI5, the CIA, the KGB? Or is it the Mafia? It’s getting very difficult to tell them apart these days’.

Hodges’ later film Get Carter offered an oblique comment on the T. Dan Smith scandal in Newcastle. Like Get Carter, ‘Rumour’ contains an explicit critique of the corruption that, during the late-1960s and early-1970s, was seen as endemic within some aspects of British politics – thanks to various high-profile cases, including the T. Dan Smith scandal. Hodges’ sympathies are clearly with the powerless people who are the anonymous victims of political corruption: during a sequence depiction the funeral of Liza Curtis, Hunter’s narration notes that, ‘Instead of millionaire sheiks, influential politicians and snazzy showbiz personalities, her nearest neighbour was Herbert Smith, plumber, who died 27 years ago’. Despite moments of self-importance (‘Do you know who I am, hmmm?’ he asks the policemen who, in one scene, raid his flat), Hunter’s dogged investigation of the story is driven by his apparently selfless desire to avenge the murder of Liza. (The theme of obsessive revenge runs throughout Hodges’ work, from Get Carter to I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead.) Hunter is incorruptible (‘You can tell your client that I won’t be frightened off’, he tells a solicitor who threatens him), but ironically his investigation of the case makes him an unwitting agent of his enemies, a pawn who doesn’t fully understand the contexts in which he is working.

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As if to emphasise Hunter’s isolation within the corrupt world depicted in ‘Rumour’, Hodges frequently shoots Hunter from a distance. The film has a deliberately voyeuristic visual style, the characters often framed from behind furniture and other objects. Steven Paul Davies notes that throughout ‘Rumour’, Hodges uses long lenses to convey ‘a sense of watching from a distance’ – something Hodges would use to great effect in his film Get Carter (1971) (op cit.: 25). According to legend, producer Michael Klinger was so impressed when he watched ‘Rumour’ on its original broadcast that he offered Hodges the chance to direct Get Carter (ibid.: 28). In fact, some of the imagery in ‘Rumour’ finds its echo in Get Carter: most notably, Jack Carter’s stealthy approach to Cyril Kinnear’s mansion recalls Hunter and the press photographer prowling about in the bushes outside Crawford’s home; and the funeral of Jack Carter’s brother brings to mind Liza Curtis’ lonely burial.

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According to Davies, ‘Rumour’ is an ‘ambitious mix of 1940s’ noir and late 1960s’ psychedelia’ that is a ‘much more hard-edged piece in comparison with Suspect’ (ibid.: 24; italics in original). In their use of real locations and their documentary-style shot-on-film aesthetic, both ‘Suspect’ and ‘Rumour’ ‘were to be the prototype for the formation of Thames subsidiary Euston Films’ (ibid.: 23-4).


Disc Two:
Armchair Cinema: ‘Regan’
Predominantly shot in and around Butler’s Wharf, Tower Bridge and Richmond, ‘Regan’ opens in a pub where Detective Sergeant Alan Cowley (Del Baker) is undercover, investigating the Mallory ‘firm’. Cowley inadvisedly follows a group of criminals out of the pub and into a secluded location, where he is beaten and eventually pushed out of a high window. ‘Regan’s titles play over a shot of Cowley’s body by the Thames, reminiscent of the final shot of Get Carter. Following the credits, it is revealed that Cowley is still alive but, trying to escape from the scene of his attack, he is accidentally knocked down by a car.

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After the opening credits, we are introduced to Detective Inspector Jack Regan (John Thaw). Regan’s status as a rulebreaker is signalled from his first appearance: he is shown running into a house and hitting a suspect before telling him, in an oft-quoted line, ‘Get your trousers on: you’re nicked’. He then chauvinistically tells the woman of the house, ‘You can have a lie-in, darling’.

Regan finds out about Cowley’s accident. As Cowley was a fellow officer within the Flying Squad and a friend of Regan’s, Regan decides to trace Cowley’s movements in order to find out who attacked him. However, Cowley hasn’t recorded his activities for four days. One of Regan’s officers tells him that ‘Nobody knows what he [Cowley] was doing south of the river last night’.

Eventually, Regan discovers that Cowley has been investigating Mallory, a criminal who also owns a chain of garages. However, the Serious Crimes Squad are also investigating Mallory, and Regan’s superior Haskins (Garfield Morgan) tries to dissuade Regan from interfering with the case.

Ignoring Haskin’s demands, Regan enlists the help of Detective Sergeant George Carter (Dennis Waterman), telling him that, ‘You know more about South London than any skipper in the force, George. I need you’.

Eventually, Cowley dies. However, the doctors are unable to distinguish between the injuries sustained in the beating and those created by the accident with the car. ‘That means we can’t even do the bastards for murder’, Regan tells Carter.

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Meanwhile, Regan must contend with his ex-wife Kate (Janet Key), who tells him, ‘You look terrible. You’re thirty-five years old and you look forty-five’. Kate plans to get married again to a German man, Peter, who can’t fully afford to support her (and the Jack and Kate’s daughter Suzie). Kate asks Regan to ‘keep up the mortgage payments […] and Suzie’s school fees and expenses… just for a couple of years’. His pride wounded, Regan expresses his anger via an outburst of xenophobia directed at Peter, telling him ‘I don’t like Krauts [….] I’ve never met a German I could like’.

On the case, Regan hypothesises that Mallory is already dead and the crime was committed by another party. He and Carter continue to break rules and battle bureaucracy in their fight to bring the criminals responsible for Cowley’s death to justice.

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‘Regan’ was relatively expensive, costing £85,000 to produce (see Fairclough & Kenwood, op cit.: 43). Ian Kennedy Martin originally proposed the idea that became ‘Regan’ (and, later, The Sweeney) as a replacement series for Special Branch; his original title for what became The Sweeney was The Outcasts, although according to producer Ted Childs the show was also at one point titled McClean (Fairclough & Kenwood, op cit.: 57, 58). Kennedy Martin created the character of Detective Inspector Jack Regan based on a real ‘uncorrupted cop’ that he met whilst researching at Scotland Yard (ibid.). However, it is also clear that Regan is based on the types of anti-establishment policemen that had been popularised in American films of the early 1970s, including Dirty Harry (Don Siegel, 1971) and The French Connection (William Friedkin, 1971). In ‘Regan’, Kennedy Martin went to great lengths to depict a policeman who disagrees with the changes that were at that time being instigated within the police force, as per Harry Callahan’s disregard for the villain Scorpio’s Miranda rights in Dirty Harry.

However, according to the personnel behind the production of ‘Regan’ the drama had a realism to it that was grounded in Kennedy Martin’s research. Both ‘Regan’ and The Sweeney were produced with former Flying Squad Sergeant Jack Quarrie as their official advisor, and an unnamed friend of Kennedy Martin’s – a then-current member of the Flying Squad – as an unofficial source of information (ibid.: 63). Dennis Waterman once commented that the advice from Quarrie sometimes conflicted with the information Kennedy Martin received from his friend in the police force: ‘The official one would say, “If you want a gun you sign three pieces of paper and go and see the armourer”, and the unofficial one would say, “Fuck off, you’ve got a gun in your safe in the office, and if you need it you use it”’ (Waterman, quoted in ibid.: 64).

Throughout ‘Regan’, Jack shows disregard for authority and for regulations. His desire to catch Cowley’s killers becomes a personal vendetta. When he first approaches Carter for help, Carter almost refuses, telling Regan that ‘Quite frankly, I didn’t like your methods very much’. Regan protests: ‘Now look, Mary darling. I’m not trying to start an affair with you. Don’t life a bloody finger for me: I’m not asking for that. But you can help me put these bastards away. They’ve done one of ours’. Later, Regan tells a criminal ‘People like you can kill each other; I don’t give a damn. But when you touch one of us, that means no rules at all’.

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From the outset, Jack Regan is shown breaking rules: he drinks on the job (visiting an American singer named Miriam, he is asked ‘You don’t drink on duty?’; in response, Regan replies ‘Only Scotch’ whilst holding out a glass to be filled); he smashes a window in order to gain access to a locked premises; he threatens a prisoner by claiming that he’s going to Get Carter to hit him and claim that the prisoner has done it, unless the prisoner gives Regan the information that he wants; and immediately prior to the climax, he takes out a gun without booking it through the Superintendent (‘I’ll have it back in the morning before the Super knows I’ve got it’, Regan promises Carter).

However, Regan’s anti-authority stance earns him some grudging respect from the Detective Superintendent (Morris Perry). When Haskins asks the Superintendent if he can put Regan on disciplinary charges (‘We’ve got to do something about him, sir: he’s not listening to anyone’), the Detective Superintendent replies that ‘Twenty years ago, he’d have been the perfect cop, in the days of individualists. Now he’s out on a limb. I sometimes wonder if these new ideas are for the best’. In another scene which acknowledges how central a media-savvy image has become to the modern police force, the Detective Superintendent is seen being coached prior to a television interview. Both Regan and his seniors show a cynical attitude towards the restructuring that is taking place within the police force: in one scene, whilst driving in a car with Carter Regan reflects on the way that the force is changing: ‘You heard the latest brainwave? Flying Squad, Robbery Squad, Regional Crime Squad all amalgamating into one sprawling mess. There’ll be hundreds of little grey men, all working on top of each other, pots of tea and committees. I’m one of the best DIs in the squad, you know that. They don’t listen to me: they listen to committee men now’.

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However, despite its sympathy for the brand of individualism that its protagonist represents, ‘Regan’ also stresses the similarities between Regan and Cowley: Regan shared his methods with Cowley, and it was Cowley’s ‘lone wolf’ approach that led to his death. When Regan asks one of his officers what he would do if he had a tip about the Mallory gang but knew that they were already under investigation by the Serious Crime Squad, the officer replies that he would tell Haskins: ‘I wouldn’t go it alone. That’s what made Cowley different: reckoned he could do it all on his own’. (In response, Regan declares sarcastically, ‘Where do we get all these heroes from?’ The officer quips back, ‘Got a good teacher, haven’t they, guv?’) At the end of ‘Regan’, the Detective Superintendent reminds Regan that, like him, Cowley was ‘wandering around out there’ on his own, without filling in the proper paperwork: ‘Jack, the days of one man bands are over […] Every move you made could have been made with the necessary authority, tact and diplomacy. As it is, you’ve made us […] look like fools [….] And, what’s most important, you could have ended up dead, like Cowley [….] You’re a gambler, Jack. You made a long shot and it came up. That’s why we’re ringing the changes. No more lone rangers. From now on, you’ll be 1/200th part of any successful case, not the hero of the hour’.

During the production of ‘Regan’, there was some conflict between producer Ted Childs and Ian Kennedy Martin: Kennedy Martin resisted the production’s emphasis on location work, feeling that ‘Regan’ should be made in a more traditional manner, predominantly in a studio (Fairclough & Kenwood, op cit.: 58-9). Kennedy Martin also baulked when he realised his script had been doctored and a new scene added without his knowledge; Kennedy Martin’s reaction to this particular incident eventually led to the firing of ‘Regan’s original director Douglas Camfield (ibid.). Camfield was replaced with Tom Clegg (ibid.: 59-60).

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In ‘Regan’, Clegg established the ‘house style’ that would be used throughout The Sweeney and many of Euston Films’ other series: as Clegg notes, ‘This was the first police series to be done on film, on location’ and as a result ‘for once one could open things out [….] Dialogue didn’t have to happen in a police station or police car, it was a totally location-based’ programme (Clegg, quoted in Fairclough & Kenwood, op cit.: 60). Over thirty years after its original broadcast, ‘Regan’ is as exciting and, arguably, as vital and relevant as ever.


Armchair Cinema: ‘The Prison’
This adaptation of Maigret creator Georges Simenon’s 1968 novel La Prison was scripted by Geoffrey Glibert. It begins with a repeated offscreen question, divorced from any character: ‘How many months, how many years, before a child becomes an adolescent or an adolescent becomes a man?’ Onscreen, a woman moves freely around a lavishly-decorated room before a hand holding a pistol appears at the bottom of the frame. Watching the woman from the point-of-view of her killer, we see the gun fire and the woman fall down, dead. The title ‘The Prison’ appears onscreen overlaid over a shot of the Arc de Triomph, the words framed within its arches, visually reinforcing the theme of imprisonment and entrapment.

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We are introduced to Alain Poitaud (James Laurenson), a magazine editor who is later described by Superintendent Roumagne (Philip Madoc) as ‘the proprietor of a sex magazine’. The well-to-do Poitaud arrives at his flat to find the police waiting there. They ask if he has a gun. Poitaud tells them that he does indeed own a gun, but after searching for it he discovers can’t find it. ‘Someone’s moved it’, he tells the detective.

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Escorted to the police station, Poitaud is told by Superintendent Roumagne that his wife Jacqueline (Ann Curthoys), who Poitaud calls by her pet name ‘Kitten’, has apparently murdered her sister Adrienne. According to Roumagne, Kitten was found by the police, still holding the gun, intoning ‘At last; at last’. However, although she admits killing her sister Kitten refuses to explain why she committed the murder. Questioned by the police as to her motive (‘When did you decide to kill your sister?’ the police ask her), Kitten simply replies ‘The idea just grew’. Poitaud and, later, the police become convinced that Kitten is protecting someone. The lawyer hired to defend Kitten feels that she is protecting a man who she cares enough about to risk spending the rest of her life in jail. However, Kitten also has nothing to do with Poitaud and apparently seeks to break all ties with him.

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Later, it is revealed that the chauvinistic Poitaud was conducting an affair with Adrienne. Poitaud’s brother-in-law, Adrienne’s husband, visits Poitaud and tells him that he is aware of Poitaud’s relationship with Adrienne. Poitaud believes that this may be the motive behind Kitten’s murder of her sister. Meanwhile, Kitten’s presumed guilt is confirmed when the police discover that the couple’s nanny is, according to the Poitaud’s lawyer, ‘practically an eyewitness’ because she was in the house whilst ‘Kitten, as you call her, was watching her sister die’.

Eventually, Roumagne reveals that Kitten ‘had a lover who she shared with her sister’ and she killed her sister after a long battle with her over their shared lover. It is revealed that the lover that Kitten and Adrienne shared is the scruffy, balding, middle-aged photographer Julien Bour (Kenneth Griffith). ‘The police told me who was knocking off my wife and her sister at the same time’, Poitaud tells one of his many mistresses. ‘Does it do any good knowing?’ she asks. ‘No. A scruffy little bastard with halitosis and BO named Julien Bour’, Poitaud notes. His pride has clearly been damaged, and Poitaud’s sense of ennui is reinforced when, even with his mistress, he fails to display any sense of passion.

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Simenon’s narrative is less about a mystery plot than the sense of emptiness experienced by its protagonist, Poitaud. Like many of Claude Chabrol’s films (for example, La femme infidèle, 1969), ‘The Prison’ features an affluent middle-class protagonist whose lifestyle masks a deep sense of displacement and ennui. When asked how he feels about his wife’s arrest, Poitaud can only answer simply that it ‘[v]aries. Rather like having a leg cut off. Sometimes you can still feel the leg as if it’s there’.

Poitaud is a vain man. As his wife Kitten says, ‘Alain doesn’t need anyone […] He just wants lots of people around to watch and admire him, a gallery to play to. So I’m not much use. I’m just a captive audience of one’. He is content when he believes that Kitten killed Adrienne through sexual jealousy over him, but his masculine pride is completely undercut by the revelation that both his wife and his sister-in-law were sharing the older, scruffier and far less handsome Bour as their lover. The knowledge that both women picked Bour over him sends Poitaud into a pit of despair. The film contains an interesting avant-garde use of red-tinted still-frames whenever Poitaud imagines a traumatic event (for example, during the scene in which Roumagne tells Poitaud that Kitten has murdered Adrienne).

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In the chapter on Simenon in The Dangerous Edge: An Inquiry into the Lives of Nine Masters of Suspense (1976), Gavin Lambert notes that what is at the heart of La Prison ‘is not why Jacqueline shot her sister but why her action is going to kill Poitaud as well, stripping him naked and exposing him as a man of imaginary feelings’ (en). Poitaud is as much ‘stunned’ by Kitten’s ‘rejection’ of him ‘as by her crime’, and through the revelation of Kitten and Adrienne’s relationship with Bour at the climax of the narrative Poitaud experiences ‘a total indictment of his own life’ (ibid.). Lambert describes Poitaud as a ‘hollow man’ whose ‘freedom [is] as false as respectability’: the emptiness at the heart of his life is filled by his wife’s crime – ‘[f]or criminal or victim, violence in these novels fills an empty space’ (ibid.).


Disc Three:
Armchair Cinema: ‘When Day is Done’
‘When Day is Done’ opens in Wimbledon Common; an extreme high-angle shot shows Philip Warne (Edward Woodward) walking along a street before entering a Victorian terrace. Warne’s introduction is accompanied by 1940s-style big band music, and the visual composition of the scene recalls the track in to the new home of the Gibbons family that opens This Happy Breed (David Lean, 1944). This Happy Breed is set in the years between the First and the Second World Wars; thanks to the opening sequence of ‘When Day is Done’, a casual viewer may assume that this television film is likewise set during the interwar period. However, as Warne enters the house and talks to his son Dave (Adrian Shergold), the viewer is forced to the realisation that the narrative in fact takes place in then-contemporary Britain (ie, the mid-1970s). Early in ‘When Day is Done’, we are informed that Philip is obsessed with the 1930s and 1940s; Philip’s life is oriented around his twin fantasies of living in 1930s Britain and playing in a big band. Philip’s fantasies have overtaken his life to such an extent that he avoids any grounded responsibilities and, in essence, lives off the kindness of his wife Rosemary (Rosemary Leach).

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Philip has a mildly antagonistic relationship with his son, who lives at home with Philip and Rosemary. However, to some extent Philip and Rosemary rely on their son’s income – thanks to Philip’s refusal, or perhaps inability, to work.

Philip and Rosemary’s daughter Judy (Julia Goodman) is a single parent with a young child, Jolly (Lucienne Kershaw). Philip disapproves of his daughter’s lifestyle: in a later scene, Philip declares that Judy was ‘a silly bitch’ for getting pregnant at nineteen and having a child out of wedlock. In another scene, over lunch Philip and and Rosemary argue over Judy: Philip claims that Judy is a burden on the taxpayer, but Rosemary reminds him that he is also out of work. Due to Philip’s distrust of his daughter, Rosemary meets with Judy in secret.

Judy reveals to Rosemary that she has a new job, and Rosemary offers to take care of Jolly whilst Rosemary goes to work. Whilst meeting with Judy, Rosemary shows her daughter an offer from developers who have proposed purchasing all of the houses on the Warne’s block. However, out of a sense of pride Philip and Rosemary have so far refused to sell their house to the developers. Philip wants to stay in Wimbledon because of ‘appearances, Rose. I mean, you’ve only got to mention Wimbledon Common and the eyebrows raise. It makes them look [….] A view like ours is worth a fortune, and you know it. It impresses people’. (However, as Rosemary reminds him, ‘It hasn’t got you a job’.)

Rosemary and Judy also discuss Dave’s career. Rosemary asserts to Judy that ‘He [Dave] doesn’t care about a thing’, to which Judy asserts ‘Why should he?’ Rosemary declares that ‘It all seems such a waste [….] All that education […] He ought to have been a teacher; that’s what I would have liked’. ‘With half the money?’, Judy questions.

Meanwhile, Philip is shown enthusiastically singing big band songs alone, whilst Dave is seen working on a building site. Dave is working without wearing his hard hat, and a falling block of wood hits him and knocks him off the scaffolding.

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Philip meets a woman, Sue Flack (Patricia Maynard), in a pub. He’s been having an affair with her. However, she’s an independent woman who doesn’t want to be railroaded into a position where she is dependent on Philip: ‘I like my work, and I want to get on’, she tells him.

Later, a policeman knocks at the Warne’s door and informs Rosemary and Philip that their son Dave has died as a result of the accident on the building site. Without Dave’s income, Rosemary and Philip will struggle to make ends meet, and later the Warnes are told that they will not receive any insurance payouts or compensation because Dave was willingly working without wearing his hard hat.

Dave’s death resolves Phil’s desire not to sell the house to the developers: when Philip and Judy argue over the house and Judy tries to get Philip to agree to sell the house (claiming it’s too big for her parents), Philip tells her, ‘Now, Dave did a lot of work on this house. He’s fixed the ceiling…’ Judy interrupts, telling her father, ‘Don’t tell me you’re upset. Or are you suddenly worried about your beer money?’ Meanwhile Rosemary meets her friend Joan Scott (Beth Harris) and discusses her concerns about Dave’s death, telling Joan that ‘We shouldn’t have made him work. If he’d gone to university or something….’

Whilst Rosemary is visiting Joan and Judy is at work, Philip is left in charge of Jolly. Philip takes Jolly to Sue’s home, in an impersonal block of flats – a stark contrast with the Warnes’ comfortable terrace. ‘You’re joking’, Sue declares when Phil asks her is she would like to accompany him and Jolly on a walk to the park. Rejected by Sue, Phil takes Jolly to the park by himself. Whilst walking in the park with his granddaughter, Philip reflects, ‘I used to bring your mother down here when she was a girl’. Watching an old man (Jack Woolgar) fall over, Philip rushes to his aid and leaves his granddaughter behind. The old man that Philip helps is seventy-four, the age that Philip would like to be: ‘too young for the first war, too old for the second’. The old man lost one of his sons in Burma during the Second World War; this comment causes Phil to reflect, presumably on the loss of his son Dave. However, whilst Philip is listening to the elderly man’s stories, Jolly disappears.

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Visiting the police station in the hopes of finding his granddaughter, Philip finds that he has to fill out a missing persons report. Once more avoiding his own responsibilities, in the report Philip claims that when Jolly disappeared she was in the care of Judy. Informed by the police that Jolly has apparently been found and sent to the nearest children’s home, Philip goes to collect her; when he returns home, he pretends that nothing has happened.

The next day, whilst Philip is at Sue’s place, a woman from the children’s department visits Rosemary and asks for ‘the details’. Acting on the (false) information presented in Philip’s report to the police, the woman believes Judy to be an unfit mother and tells Rosemary that she must ‘make a full report’.

Meanwhile, Sue accuses Philip of being ‘inhibited’. Sue claims that Philip has made a rod for his own back: she states that, ‘You’ll excuse yourself out of the best opportunities in the world. That’s how you protect your delusions, my love, by never testing them’.

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Trying to impress Sue, Philip claims that he knows the famous musician Jimmy Fox (Jeremy Hawk). Philip also claims that Fox offered Philip the opportunity to play with his band. Philip takes Sue to meet Fox. However, Fox seems to have no recollection of Philip.

Dismayed by the rejection he experiences at the hands of Fox, Philip takes Sue on an all-day drinking session, during which he becomes increasingly melancholy. When Philip returns home, he finds that he has to face yet more bad news.

‘When Day is Done’ tracks the changes in British society through Philip’s obsession with the interwar years. In one scene, Judy complains that it won’t be good for Jolly ‘to have someone ranting on about Mosley, the Depression and the war’. Defending Philip, Rosemary declares ‘It’s his world, Judy’. In response, Judy asserts, ‘But it’s not mine, and it’s certainly not Jolly’s. Come to think of it, it’s not even dad’s, is it: he’s just sick’.

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Rosemary admits Philip’s tendency to fantasise. Talking to Martin Abbott, Rosemary tells him that ‘I knew in my heart when I married Phil that he’d never... [….] I just married a dream, that’s all. Dreams are what makes life worth bothering with. Well, for me anyway. Children are dreams, really. We forget the bad times’. However, she acknowledges the fragile nature of dreams, telling Abbott that ‘It wasn’t to be. Dreams never are, are they? If they happened, they wouldn’t be dreams. And what does happen isn’t up to much, is it’.

Philip ultimately confesses to Sue that his obsession with the interwar years is rooted in shame about his father’s past as a fascist sympathiser. As Philip tells Sue, ‘When I was a lad, my father used to go around chalking up slogans for Mosley. You know, I’ve never told anybody that: I’ve always been so ashamed of that’. For Philip, uncomfortable similarities existed between his father and Mosley: ‘One of the things about Mosley is that he thought he was a realist, like my dad. I mean, they weren’t, of course. I’m not a singer, not a musician. I never have been, not really. And anyway, if there ever even was a spark, it went the day I got married [….] That’s why Dave was alright. I used to go on and on at him about his hair, about his clothes. But at least he did something: he worked, he used his hands. Not like me. I always used to say the war stopped me. Of course, it didn’t. The war changed nothing. I hardly even remember the war, if you really want to know. I’m a flat note, love. That’s me: a flat note’.

A strong character study, underpinned by a great performance from Woodward, ‘When Day is Done’ makes especially effective use of crosscutting to establish all of the family members’ characters and to juxtapose them with the tragic incident that acts as a catalyst for the disintegration of their family unit. In juxtaposing Philip’s attitudes with the realities of life in the mid-1970s, ‘When Day is Done’ tracks some of the changes within British society in the post-war period.


Armchair Cinema: ‘Sea Song’
‘Sea Song’ opens with a shot of waves breaking on a beach; cross-cutting establishes the shot as part of a dream by Ray Carter (Tom Bell), who is sleeping in the passenger seat of a moving car. Carter is a wealthy man from a working-class background, although Carter’s wealth isn’t revealed until later in the narrative: with his mother Lil (Rachel Thomas) and sister Susan (June Ritchie), Carter is travelling to a seaside town in Cornwall. Although the opening moments of ‘Sea Song’ may suggest a kitchen sink-style drama focusing on the Carters during a holiday to the English coast, the town to which the family is travelling is soon revealed to be the starting point for a single-handed race across the Atlantic. Carter is taking part in the race, in his £35,000 catamaran named Gamma Ray.

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In the town, during preparations for the race, Carter is shown to the object of the attention of a mysterious woman, later revealed to be Marnie (Kika Markham). However, Carter seems to be unaware of the woman’s interest in him. In fact, Carteris positively dissociated from his environment, seemingly uninterested in interacting with the people around him (including his mother and sister) and investing almost all of his energies in preparing for the race.

As the boats set off, a television news presenter, who describes Carter as ‘a millionaire recluse’, delivers a piece to-camera and tells us that the competitors ‘will be making dummy approach runs’ in preparation for the start of the race. ‘To an outsider, the mystique of this kind of sailing is possibly baffling’, the presented intones; ‘Some people, it’s true, approach it in a spirit of almost daredevil nonchalance, but most prepare for the race with the thoroughness of astronauts going to the moon – total dedication and a real sense of shared danger also produce a rare sense of comradeship among single-handed races. And what used to be a simple pastime has rapidly become a multi-million pound industry’.

Soon after beginning the race, Carter discovers a stowaway on his catamaran, Marnie. Although she tells Carter that she is ‘just here in peace and friendship’, Marnie is attacked by Carter who is clearly enraged by her present. ‘I knew you thought you were important; I didn’t think you thought you were that bloody important. I didn’t know you were a bloody madman’, she objects as her illusions about Carter are shattered: ‘I want to go back on shore. Do you hear me? I don’t want to be stuck on this boat with a bloody madman’. Carter tells her that he’ll ‘be dropping you off at Lizard Point [.…] Meanwhile, as far as I’m concerned you don’t exist’.

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Marnie seems to increasingly spend her time getting drunk and suffering from seasickness; she accuses Carter of being ‘self-important [….] A little selfish millionaire messing about on his pathetic boat’, declaring that ‘It’s an odd thing: the more I drink, the less attractive you become’. She tells Carter that ‘I’m not stopping you doing anything [….] You’ll still win. You’ll still do it on your own. Cor, you’re pathetic’. Carter simply responds by telling her, ‘I could wring your bloody neck’. However, Marnie questions Carter’s right to his solitude: ‘What right do you think you’ve got to all this, just because you’ve got thirty-five grand? What right have you got to all this?’ ‘None. But I’ve got it’, Carter asserts. ‘You haven’t: I’m here’, Marnie retorts.

Carter increasingly seems to become attracted to Marnie, but conversely she increasingly seems to resent him. They are thrown together and cannot escape from one another, their relationship becoming increasingly antagonistic.

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One day, Carter finds the woman writing in a notebook and accuses her of being a journalist. ‘Obsessive nappy training, that’s your problem’, she tells him. Carter snidely refers to her as an ‘upper-class groupie’. ‘Does mummy know you’re here?’ he asks Marnie, affecting received pronunciation. ‘No. Daddy would be awfully upset’, she mocks. ‘Tell me about daddy. A judge is he? General?’ Carter asks her. ‘I can’t help the way I talk’, she tells him. However, Marnie reveals that he father is an entrepreneur who, a few years earlier, tried to buy Carter’s business; Carter becomes increasingly suspicious of Marnie.

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‘You’ve got a sense of humour’, Marnie notes at one point, reflecting on the bitterness and anger that Carter projects on to her: ‘You’ve got me making assumptions. Maybe all that working-class “moody” is just an act’. However, Carter also expresses the extent to which he resents Marnie’s privileged background, telling her that ‘You land on my boat like some doe-eyed albatross, and you’ve got to pay your dues, baby. Daddy owns a couple of chain stores, and mummy paints – as far as I can remember’, Carter tells her. Determined to make further digs at Marnie’s class background, Carter asks her if she went to Cambridge. ‘Oxford’, Marnie replies. ‘Same difference’, Carter asserts: ‘Rich, talented. Play the piano?’ ‘Cello’, she corrects him. Believing that he now has the measure of Marnie, Carter asserts, ‘You don’t believe in marriage: you just like trendy little parties in Hampstead’.

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When Carter finds out that Marnie is in fact a journalist, he begins to resent her even more; a seemingly unbridgeable chasm opens up between them. ‘Why do you sneer so much?’ Marnie asks Carter. Carter’s response underscores the extent to which he believes their conflict to be rooted in their differing class backgrounds: he curtly tells her ‘Only an upper-class bird would ask that question [….] I don’t know how you’ve got the bloody nerve, you spoilt little sod’.

However, despite their conflicting values Carter and Marnie begin to grow closer until, at Brittany, they go ashore for supplies. French-speaking Marnie flirts with a handsome French art gallery owner, Jean-Jacques Brialy (Phillipe Leotard), arousing the jealousy of Carter. Carter declares his love for Marnie; however, he is unsure of her sudden appearance on his catamaran and begins to suspect that she may have an ulterior motive for sneaking on board his boat.
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A fascinating drama which focuses on the sexual sparring of its two lead characters, ‘Sea Song’ contains some avant-garde visuals: during some passages, Carter and Marnie are shown in silhouette, moving about behind the sails of the ‘Manta Ray’. ‘Sea Song’ also explores the thorny relationships that exist between men and women, especially those from different class backgrounds, with Carter’s macho working-class ethic (‘Nice blokes sail because they like the sea. Bastards like me, now we sail because we hate it’, Carter asserts at one point) placed in juxtaposition with Marnie’s status as an independent woman – a status facilitated by her privileged background. Director Peter Hammond emphasises the cultural distance that exists between Carter and Marnie through using visual space to separate them within the frame: every time an intimate conversation springs up between the two characters, Hammond cuts away to a long shot to establish the distance between them, often using a table or some other object to separate the two within the frame. Thrown together in a situation in which they cannot escape from one another, Marnie and Carter are both somewhat envious of the other’s lifestyle – they are both attracted and repelled by one another.


Disc Four:
Armchair Cinema: ‘Tully’ (81:14)
Co-produced by the Australian Broadcasting Commission and Deutscher Filmdienst, ‘Tully’ stars Anthony Valentine: “Anthony Valentine is Tully’, declares the onscreen title, accompanied by dramatic music. Tully is an ‘International Insurance Adjuster’ who has been employed to investigate the robbery of a vault of safety deposit boxes in Covent Garden.

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‘Tully’ opens with a sequence depicting the robbery that is at the heart of the narrative: the opening scene takes place in a theatre where an avant-garde ballet is playing. Shortly, men dressed as the characters in the ballet are shown robbing the vault. A security guard is brutally beaten but manages to set off the alarm; later, we are told that the guard was killed.

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Investigating the crime, Tully is introduced forcing his way into his informant Frank’s home before hunting through Frank’s drawers (‘I’ll call the fuzz’, Frank grumbles: ‘This is my bedroom’). Tully is introduced as a character who is aggressive and obsessive: ‘Call yourself a respectable businessman? You’re the biggest crook of the lot’, Frank tells him. Tully is also revealed to be something of a chauvinist, showing amazement to a Detective Inspector that the police are letting women join the force and later referring to the women in his typing pool as ‘my lovelies’.

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All of the participants in the robbery have been arrested except for a man named Eastman and another man called Brandon (Kevin Miles). Brandon apparently masterminded the operation, and he has been double-crossed by Eastman, who has taken the loot for himself. Tully therefore attempts to track down Eastman and recover what remains of the stolen goods in order to get his percentage. It transpires that Frank has helped Eastman escape with the loot, which totals two million pounds. Needless to say, Brandon is less than happy, and he orders Frank killed. However, before Frank is murdered by Brandon’s heavies, Brandon discovers that Tully knows about Eastman’s involvement in the robbery and his double-crossing of Brandon. Tully is also contacted by the police who threaten to arrest him if he obstructs their investigation: a Detective Inspector (Kenneth Goodlet) tells Tully that ‘I’ll put you away with the greatest of pleasure’.

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In his quest to track down Eastman, Tully travels to Sydney, Australia. There, he liaises with Miss Hill (Barbara Nielsen), a representative of the company that, in Tully’s words, ‘stands to lose two million Sterling’; and Tully reminds her that if he doesn’t catch Eastman, he ‘stand[s] to lose ten per cent’. Tully is convinced that because ‘these items [the rare antiques in the safety deposit boxes] are hard to get rid of’, it should be easier to track them down. After scaring off a man who has been following him, Tully accuses Hill’s boyfriend Vic of hiring men to spy on him. However, it is Brandon who is spying on Tully because ‘if anyone can find Eastman in this godforsaken continent, Tully can. And when he does, I want to be there’.

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Apparently a pilot for a planned television series that was intended to bring together Australian and British financing, ‘Tully’ is a rather bland and pedestrian globe-trotting drama that is punctuated by some strong moments of action, including a particularly well-shot speedboat chase. Anthony Valentine performs well as the protagonist, and ‘Tully’ was devised as a vehicle for Valentine following his role in the popular series Colditz (BBC, 1972-4). During the 1970s, Valentine was arguably at his best playing slimy characters such as Toby Meres, Callan’s (Edward Woodward) nemesis, in the fourth series of Callan (ABC, 1967-8; Thames, 1970-2). In many ways, Tully is similar to Meres; Valentine’s Tully is probably best summed up in a scene in which, during a particularly vicious brawl against four men (involving nothing less than a bottle of caustic liquid), he stops and tries to undo his tie. Tully can handle himself in a brawl, and the character is clearly modelled on James Bond. However, Tully’s chauvinism is too broad and the character is too slick; the attempt to make the work of an insurance adjuster seem as romantic as the life of a secret agent also rings hollow. Ultimately, despite Valentine’s strong performance the character of Tully is as unsympathetic as Callan’s Toby Meres.


The Sailor’s Return
In this 1978 adaptation of David Garnett’s 1924 historical novel, Tom Bell plays William Targett. Targett is a sea captain (on the Esther Lohse) who, some time during the 1850s, returns to his home village in Dorset. Targett brings with him his wife Tulip (Shope Sodeinde), a princess he wed during his time in Dahomey, Africa. Targett and Tulip take roles as the landlords of a village in. However, after Targett comes into conflict with his bigoted sister Lucy (Paola Dionisotti), he and Tulip find that they must combat the prejudices of the people in their village.

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Co-produced by Euston Films and the National Film Corporation, The Sailor’s Return featured the first major role for a black woman in a historical drama: until The Sailor’s Return, as Stephen Bourne notes in his book Black in the British Frame: The Black Experience in British Film and Television (2005), ‘[h]ardly any British historical films [had] acknowledged the existence of black women’ (149). In fact, aside from The Sailor’s Return only one other British historical film to that date had ‘featured [an] important black character’ (Bourne, 2002: 56). In The Sailor’s Return, Shope Sodeinde’s Tulip is placed at the centre of the ‘very English tradition of doomed love story’: Bourne compares Garnett’s narrative with the types of doomed romances that, in early-Twentieth Century literature, are exemplified in the work of Thomas Hardy (Bourne, 2005: 149).

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The historical setting offers an unusual context for an analysis of the issue of racial prejudice. For the director Jack Gold, the historical setting was important inasmuch as ‘[e]very prejudice is openly stated but in a non-malicious way because there hasn’t been time for malice to grow – it is the strangeness, the “otherness” you were talking about’ (Gold, quoted in ibid.). This sense of ‘otherness’ is conveyed in the exchanges that take place at the front end of the picture, when Tulip’s ethnic background is a source of mystery (rather than an object of prejudice) for the other people in the village. When first arriving in the village, Targett and Tulip seek lodgings. When the landlady sees the young child that Tulip has brought with her, she affectionately declares ‘Who’s as black as sin then, eh?’ It is Targett’s sister Lucy who is the catalyst for the prejudice that Targett and Tulip face later in the drama. When Targett visits his sister for the first time after returning to the country, Lucy tells him ‘So you’d rather have you black woman than your good name’. ‘Well, I would if it came to a choice’, Targett quips back: ‘A good name never kept anybody warm in bed’.

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A number of attempts had been made by earlier filmmakers to bring The Sailor’s Return to the screen: during the 1930s, an adaptation of Garnett’s novella was one of the pet projects of the Austrian director Berthold Viertel; and in the 1950s, William Wyler failed to get an adaptation of the novella off the ground, largely due to prejudices within the Hollywood establishment towards a narrative that featured as its protagonist a black woman (Bourne, 2002: 59). Euston’s production of The Sailor’s Return grew out of the success of The Naked Civil Servant (Thames, 1975): eager to capitalise on the success of that particular drama, Thames signed the director of The Naked Civil Servant, Jack Gold, to a three film contract (see ibid.). Making exceptional use of its filming locations in and around the village of Upper Slaughter in the Cotswolds, The Sailor’s Return was intended for exhibition in cinemas but, despite a positive reception at a number of festivals in 1978, the film never found a distributor and was instead premiered on television in 1980 (Bourne, 2005: 149). Writing in The Daily Mirror in 1980, Hilary Kingsley stated that The Sailor’s Return was ‘destined for the cinema when it was made three years ago. But probably because it featured no rape, monsters from the deep nor a star in the Clint Eastwood league, it was demoted to the small screen’ (Kingsley, quoted in ibid.: 200).


Disc Five:
Armchair Cinema: ‘In Sickness and in Health’
‘In Sickness and in Health’ opens with aerial shots of a drab cityscape. A track towards the window of a flat ends with a cut to the interior of the flat, which belongs to Dr Ian Bell (Patrick Mower) and his wife Kate (Prunella Ransome). The Bells live in their dingy rented flat with their new son, Roger. However, Kate wants something more, and she tries to persuade Ian to buy a flat or even a house; but Ian stubbornly refuses, reminding her that on his meagre GP’s salary he cannot afford one.

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When David arrives at the surgery, the senior partner Dr David Murray (Michael Goodliffe) asks after Ian’s family, and tells Ian that the last time he saw Kate, he thought she was ‘showing signs of stress’.

At work, Bell is shown to be something of a rule breaker. Called out by a meals-on-wheels worker who can’t get access to an old lady’s flat. Bell breaks the window with an iron bar lying in the garden and then quips ‘It’s alright: I used to be a burglar’. Crosscutting between Bell’s visit to the elderly woman and Kate’s shopping trip to the market emphasises how Ian and Kate live very separate lives. Kate resents Ian’s dedication to his work: when her friend visits, Kate complains that ‘I just think there should be some compensations for being a doctor’s wife […] Like feeling needed for a start off. He’s married to his patients, not me’.

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However, Kate also clearly resents the environment in which the couple live. Kate comes from a more wealthy background than Ian: her father is a GP in a private practice in the countryside. Called in for a meeting with the bank manager, Bell discovers that his wife has been living beyond their means and the couple are now in severe debt. When David questions Kate about her purchase of a dishwasher and tells her that the bank manager is concerned about their finances, Kate blithely asserts ‘Oh, daddy will look after that’. ‘Daddy won’t look after anything: the guarantee’s lapsed’, Bell tells her; ‘In any case, I don’t want him to look after anything: it’s my problem, not his’. ‘Oh, you and your working-class pride’, Kate spits at him. ‘It’s nothing to do with working-class anything’, Bell asserts.

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Kate pushes Ian to get a mortgage to buy a flat that is selling for forty thousand pounds. However, Ian refuses, stating that he only earns six thousand pounds per year. ‘You can earn more than six thousand’, Kate tells him. ‘I can earn more than six thousand but I don’t’, Ian asserts.

Kate’s father has offered Ian a job in his private practice but Ian has refused it, and Kate increasingly resents Ian’s decision to remain in the inner-city. ‘I don’t want private patients, Kate: I want medicine’, Ian tells his wife. ‘Well, what god-given insight have you got to think that people aren’t ill simply because they can pay? [….] You seem to think that the poor and the deprived actually deserve more of your precious time than anyone else, certainly more than me’, Kate tells him spitefully. ‘Maybe they do’, Bell answers: ‘They have a greater need’.

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Ian tells his wife that of course he’d like to live in a nice big house away from the hustle and bustle. ‘The one difference between other people and us is that I have the chance to do something, something good, something useful. I have the chance to help, just a bit’, Ian tells his wife. ‘What you’re talking about has nothing to do with me’, Kate argues.

Behind Ian’s back, Kate tells Dr Murray, that Bell is taking a job as a partner in her father’s private practice. However, Murray was about to offer Ian a better position.

The shortest of Euston Films’ Armchair Cinema dramas, ‘In Sickness and in Health’ is one of the most focused episodes in this set. The title refers to both Ian’s profession (over the opening and closing credits he is heard reading the Hippocratic Oath) and to Ian and Kate’s marriage vows. The closing moments of the drama are tragic, in that despite their differences and antagonisms Kate and Ian are trapped together, doomed to bicker with one another, neither able to understand the other due to the different class backgrounds. In so stubbornly asserting her desire to live what she perceives as a better life, Kate ironically (and unknowingly) negates her and Ian’s chance at acquiring a life that would satisfy them both – allowing Ian the opportunity to go on working in the inner-city whilst also giving him the extra income to satisfy Kate’s needs.

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However, throughout the episode Kate is depicted as small-minded and even bigoted, her outlook riddled with both class-based and racial prejudice. When Ian asserts that he does not wish to enter into Kate’s father’s private practice because his work in the city is more important, Kate asks him ‘What about the kids? [….] [D]o you fancy them going to school round here?’ Kate queries. ‘Why not?’ Bell answers. ‘You’ve no idea, have you. No imagination. You just don’t think’, Kate tells him: ‘[….] The number of times that you’ve come in complaining about the lack of amenities and social services [….] And all the coloured children [….] How do you think our kids are going to fit in with them at school? […] I don’t ever remember it being like this at home’. ‘Like what?’ Bell asks her; ‘You mean daddy never got called out, and everybody was nice and clean and respectable, and there weren’t any black faces’.

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The conflict in ‘In Sickness and in Health’ is essentially grounded in Kate and Ian’s class-based differences – between Ian’s working class background and Kate’s middle class upbringing – but it is also between Ian’s idealism and belief that he can ‘make a difference’ and Kate’s simple desire for what she perceives as a ‘better’ life. As the exchange outlined above may suggest, some of the conflicts between the Bells lack subtlety and Kate’s intermittent small-mindedness is delivered a little too heavy-handedly. Of the episodes in this DVD release, ‘In Sickness and in Health’ is perhaps the one which has the feel of a failed television pilot: it’s easy to imagine the Bells’ domestic life and ideological conflicts forming the basis of a dour thirteen episode-long series.


Charlie Muffin
Adapted from Brian Freemantle’s 1977 novel (by Keith Waterhouse), Charlie Muffin opens in East Berlin. Charlie has captured the enemy agent Alexei Berenkov (Clive Revill) and must cross ‘Checkpoint Charlie’. Charlie has been working with two agents from more privileged backgrounds, Snare (Christopher Godwin) and Harrison (Tony Mathews). Snare and Harrison cross from East Berlin to West Berlin on foot, and Charlie agrees to drive through the checkpoint. However, Charlie becomes wary and hires a young German man – who wishes to defect – to take his place; whilst approaching the checkpoint in Charlie’s car, the young man is shot and killed by the East German military. Charlie watches from the shadows, clearly aggrieved. When he finally reaches West Berlin, Charlie meets with Harrison and Snare in a restaurant. ‘We thought you were dead, man’, they declare. ‘Never believe the grapevine’, Charlie tells them.

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Back in London, Charlie interviews Berenkov, while in East Germany Berenkov’s superiors hatch a plan to free their captured agent. Following his interview with Berenkov, Charlie finds himself in hot water with his superiors for apparently making ‘snide remarks about the department’ and, during the interview, revealing to Berenkov the name of the former head of department, Sir Archibald Willoughby (Ralph Richardson). (Charlie futilely attempts to remind his superiors that Willoughby’s identity as the former head of department is by no means a secret.) Charlie is demoted by the current head of department, Cuthbertson (Ian Richardson), who seems to have taken a personal dislike towards the down-at-heels Charlie. However, before he leaves the room Charlie posits a hypothesis that the Communists have a network of spies in London.

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The Communists’ plan to retried Berenkov involves sending KGB General Valery Kalenin (Pinkas Braun) to London. Once Kalenin makes his presence known at the British Embassay in Moscow, both the British Secret Service and the American CIA believe that Kalenin is ready to defect. However, Kalenin’s plan is to kidnap a British spy who can then be exchanged for Berenkov. Harrison and Snare’s negotiations with Kalenin end in failure: Harrison is killed and Snare is captured by the KGB. Desperate to achieve his goal, Cuthbertson reluctantly enlists the help of Charlie.

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Underpinned with a very strong performance by David Hemmings, ‘Charlie Muffin’ is a well-plotted espionage drama. The opening moments of the film make an interesting visual motif of shoes: the titles play over shots of shoes, and the post-titles opening sequence shows clandestine transactions through focusing on nothing more than the legs and shoes of the participants – their faces are never seen – until the camera finally pans up the legs of one of the men and reveals Charlie Muffin reading a copy of the Morning Star. From the juxtaposition of the Harrison and Snare’s shoes with Charlie’s battered Hush Puppies (familiar to readers of Brian Freemantle’s series of novels featuring Muffin as their protagonist), the viewer knows that Charlie doesn’t ‘fit in’ with the ‘old school tie’ model of espionage agent: despite his flirtatious relationship with Cuthbertson’s Moneypenny-esque secretary, Charlie is no romantic James Bond-style globetrotting spy, but rather a down-at-heels intelligence agent in the manner of Callan or Len Deighton’s Harry Palmer. (Later, when Harrison is killed, blood is shown dripping across his immaculate shoes.)

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Although Charlie is underappreciated by his own side, the enemy agents are fully aware of his capabilities. Upon their return to England, Harrison and Snare take the credit for the capture of Berenkov whilst Charlie, whose plan led to Berenkov’s capture, opts to stay out of the limelight. Late in the film, Cuthbertson begins to suspect that Charlie may have betrayed him; Kalenin, visibly disgusted by Cuthbertson’s haughty treatment of Charlie, tells Cuthbertson that ‘Charlie Muffin was one of the few real operatives in your service. His capture of Berenkov was brilliant; yet you set him up to be shot from within. You vilify him, and when he comes home unscathed you demote him. How can you expect loyalty when you treat a man like that?’ In a much earlier scene, when Charlie interviews Berenkov following their arrival in Britain Berenkov observes that ‘They [the British authorities] don’t care for professionals, do they, Charlie’. Berenkov ends their meeting, in which the roles are reversed (Charlie sits at the table in the cell-like room, his back to the window; meanwhile, Berenkov stands, walking around the room as if he owns the space through which he moves), by telling Charlie to ‘Remember what I said, Charlie: be careful’ ‘Aren’t I always?’ Charlie replies. ‘I don’t know: you’ve got a feel about you, a feel of the loser’, Berenkov tells him.

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In the words of the character’s creator, Brian Freemantle, Charlie Muffin is ‘dishevelled, cantankerous and disrespectful [… and] a survivor at any cost in the wilderness of mirrors in which the life of a professional intelligence agent is reflected’ (1997, 8). Muffin ‘mould[s] the creed to his personal comfort’, working from an ‘axiom’ that it is best to ‘screw anyone from anywhere to avoid it happening to him’; he is a character who is ‘always the outsider’ (ibid.). Although the anti-establishment aspects of the character of Charlie Muffin are perhaps softened in this screen adaptation, ‘Charlie Muffin’ is arguably the highlight of this DVD release, a very strong adaptation of Brian Freemantle’s novel and a perfect antidote to the kinds of ‘high-concept’ espionage films that would become increasingly popular on the big screen throughout the 1980s and 1990s.

Video

All of the contents of this set were shot on film, with the majority shot on 16mm. (The Sailor’s Return was shot on 35mm.) ‘Suspect’, ‘Rumour’ and the Armchair Cinema stories all feature gritty location work; the later one-off television films The Sailor’s Return and Charlie Muffin clearly have much higher production values and a far more polished aesthetic than the Armchair Cinema episodes (as noted above, The Sailor’s Return was originally produced for cinema release).

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Although all of the content on these DVDs is more than watchable, some of the material exhibits signs of deterioration which, considering the rarity of the majority of the content on these discs, is perhaps to be expected (for example, there is an intermittent green tinge at the bottom of screen in ‘When Day is Done’, presumably caused by chemical deterioration). ‘Rumour’ exhibits the most print damage, along with some occasional distortion on the audio track. Colours are also somewhat faded in ‘Rumour’, and parts of the film have a washed-out appearance. However, it is never less than watchable, and considering the rarity of the source material should not discourage anyone from buying this set. ‘Regan’ looks particularly good here and is represented via the digitally-remastered print that was showcased on its earlier standalone DVD release from Network. The Sailor’s Return and Charlie Muffin are also very well-presented here.

Audio

There are no major problems with the audio on these discs, which all contain two-channel mono tracks, aside from some deficiencies in the source material. For example, as noted above, ‘Rumour’ suffers from some occasional (and far from distracting) distortion on its audio track. Audio on ‘Sea Song’ is low in volume but not unclear, although dialogue in this particular episode is sometimes difficult to hear, especially because Tom Bell mumbles many of his lines. The rest of the content has audio that is never less than clear. However, there are no subtitles.

Extras

This release contains two episodes of ITV Playhouse directed by Mike Hodges, ‘Rumour’ and ‘Suspect’, which formed the template for Euston Films’ approach to production, together with two television films made by Euston, The Sailor’s Return and Charlie Muffin. (For comment on these extra features, please see the notes above.)

Overall

An outstanding release from Network, this set collects some very rare material (and, in the case of ‘Regan’, some not-so-rare material). Mike Hodges’ two entries into the ITV Playhouse strand, ‘Rumour’ and ‘Suspect’, are almost worth the price of this set alone. This really is a gem of a release and fans of quality television drama would be foolish to pass it by.

Sources:
Bourne, Stephen, 2002: ‘Secrets and lies: Black histories and British historical films’. In: Monk, Clair & Sergeant, Amy (eds): British Historical Cinema: The History, Heritage and Costume Film. London: Routledge

Bourne, Stephen, 2005: Black in the British Frame: The Black Experience in British Film and Television. London: Continuum

Cooke, Lez, 2008: The Television Series: Troy Kennedy Martin. Manchester University Press

Davies, Steven Paul, 2002: Get Carter and Beyond: The Cinema of Michael Hodges. London: BT Batsford

Fairclough, Robert & Kenwood, Mike, 2002: Sweeney! The Official Companion. London: Reynolds & Hearn, Ltd

Freemantle, Brian, 1997: ‘Introduction’. In: Freemantle, Brian, 1997: Charlie’s Choice: The First Charlie Muffin Omnibus. London: No Exit Press: 8-9

Hallam, Julia, 2005: The Television Series: Lynda La Plante. Manchester University Press

Lambert, Gavin, 1976: The Dangerous Edge: An Inquiry into the Lives of Nine Masters of Suspense. New York: Grossman Publishers

For more information, please visit the homepage of Network DVD.

The Show: Video: Audio: Extras: Overall:

 


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