Thursday 17 May 2012

Jolly Old England

Now, this is going to be one of the new things about New Eccentrica. Basically, one of my key obessions is the way Americans portray Britain and Ireland in film/Tv. There are too many old Hollywood stuff like Dial M for Murder, How Green was My Valley, Mrs. Miniver, Random Harvest, so I'm focusing on sixties stuff to nineties stuff like Doris Day in Midnight Lace, and Disney things like Bedknobs and Broomsticks and Mary Poppins

. One of my favourite uses of the Universal backlot (also a regular) is the sadly failed Sherlock Holmes pilot, Hound of the Baskervilles (1972) with Stewart Granger as Holmes and Bernard Fox (a regular in things like this, the partly-Britishmade ep of Columbo, doing a Watson-esque turn, Munster Go Home, too many things, but a lot of false England) as a Nigel Brucian Watson. It's hokey, reusing Western sets and papier mache moors that make William Shatner seem right at home in his no-attempt-at-the accent role as Stapleton/dubbed Baskerville, as they look like a Trek Planet. It's so bad it's an opera of hillarious proportions. It is a Victorian London full of 20th century fishing hats, G an Ts, hot chestnut salesman and lots of fog, like in that London-set episode of Get Smart, House of Max.

 Many of the actors, Arthur Malet, the late Ian Abercrombie and Fox reappeared in the 1972 Columbo Dagger of the Mind, which has an odd juxtopisition of real footage of London with Peter Falk, Fox and Honor Blackman running about rainy London with Morrises and Cortinas, John Fraser AND Richard Pearson, two stalwarts of British TV, and then at the UNi backlot with US-based tax exiles like Malet and John Williams (who also appeared in the Baskervilles pilot and even two rather good Brit-set episodes of Rod Serling's Night Gallery) as well as Fox and Blackman and fellow exile Wilfred Hyde-White.
Many Universal cop shows had Brit-set eps like Ironside: Shadow Soldiers and The Visiting Fireman, both starring Hedley Mattingly (also in Dagger of the Mind and Get Smart: House of Max) , the latter written by British horror and Hammer legend Jimmy Sangster, and McCloud, London Bridges with Jack Cassidy as an English lord/cat burglar involved in the IRA, and Adam Faith as a ScotlandYard man. Hart to Hart and Magnum both filmed their episodes entirely in Blighty, with the likes of Peter Davison and Gordon Jackson appearing, rather than ex-pats. Most of the above actors appeared in Man from Uncle, which had many British-set episodes, all clearly done at MGM, and Baskervilles stars jane Merrow and John Williams appeared in an odd unusually realistic (ie non-fictional place-set) episode of Mission: Impossible, Lover's Knot set in London.
Tv Movies such as the Shane Briant-Nigel Davenport-Hedley Mattingly Dorian Gray (1973) by Dan Curtis and the Shatner-Merrow reunion Horror at 70,000 feet (1973) both had British settings, as did Arnold! and Terror of the Wax Museum, featuring actors such as John Carradine, Ray Milland, Elsa Lanchester, Bernard Fox, among others. What are your suggestions?  And I haven't mentioned the spoofery of Austin Powers.

Let's start this with Mrs. O'Brien

Here, welcome to the blog. It's basically continuing from Matthew Coniam's sadly defunct blog, Eccentrica Britannica. I'm Irish, I'm sixteen and I'll be reviewing British pop culture and some Irish culture.

Does anyone remember Leave it to Mrs. O’Brien?

It’s Ironic I start this blog about British culture with an article on Irish TV! I live in Ireland, but through my good friend Matthew Coniam, he told me of his childhood recollections of a show on Channel 4, lunchtime filler from Ireland, a sitcom called Leave It to Mrs. O’Brien starring Anna Manahan (My Mammy, Clash of the Titans) as a Dublin housekeeper looking after some priests. Although it may sound like Father Ted, trust me, it ain’t. Written by a Dublin housewife, it is extremely rare and has never been released on DVD or video. It was shown on RTE Two from 1984 to 1986 at primetime, and was heavily criticised. I have never seen it, apart from a few clips that show why it hasn’t been repeated. It’s not very good. It is barely a comedy. RTE are much criticised in Ireland for comedy. Even Manahan, a stage legend and marvellous actress has trouble with the amateurish scripts. In the clips that I have seen, she can convey the eccentricities of the character in a big coat, but is clearly not helped by the ‘talents’ of fellow actors Pat Daly and Philip O’Sullivan. Humour seems to derive from someone singing badly or people sitting about, going mad. It at times resembles a Play for Today, a serious, tough ultra-dramatic thing about the doubts of Dublin priests in hiring an incompetent housekeeper. RTE did other series like Upwardly Mobile and the ridiculous Extra, Extra Read All About It (marketed as a drama, but with silly wigs and dancing in a newspaper office to the Sailor’s Hornpipe, not even the addition of acclaimed actor Norman Rodway from Orson Welles’ Chimes at Midnight could not save it), all of which were rubbish. Now, there are more comedies on RTE, but I shall speak of them later.