Friday 10 February 2017

Non-British Rubbish - 2

I was going to write a review of Frank Sinatra heist movie "Assault On A Queen" (1964), a doomed Hollywood effort for Black British actor Errol John (Rudolph Walker's mentor), but nah, I'm not really into heist movies bar The Italian Job. They are formulaic and similar (even look at the posters for the attractive and rather more likeable Gambit (1966) and the style-no substance How To Steal a Million and Arabesque) and this case the difference is it is set on the Queen Mary, filled with Hollywood-based Brits.

The Worzel book has come out and I get thanked for contributing research -

I've been watching bits and bobs of US soaps for influence. I had an idea for a sort of spoof serial, a sort of Two Ronnies-ish soap opera.
I was watching Dark Shadows, only bits. The idea of watching a thousand episodes of cheap 1960s shot on video TV is slightly intimidating, because it's a series that spends fifty episodes on one very crazy plotline. Shot on videotape TV is odd. I grew up in Ireland on British/Irish TV, which was mostly shot on video until the late 1980s. But Dark Shadows is American, and it is NTSC videotape, which looks cheaper and shoddier, and hence why all late 1980s TV shows now look ropey as string because they were edited on NTSC tape, hence why Victory at Entebbe despite its colossal cast looks even worse than a Play for Today, and looks like... well an episode of Dark Shadows.
But Dark Shadows in the brief form I have seen it has sort of enthralled me. People have called it a sort of US equivalent of Doctor Who in its shoddy ambitiousness, though like Who, people started on it, e.g. Dick Smith before his job on The Exorcist. Barnabas sort of leaves me cold. Jonathan Frid's style is slightly too mannered (although I recently discovered he was in the 1961 US TVM of Dorian Gray with John Fraser's Dick Smith makeup, George C. Scott, Star Trek green girl Susan Oliver, Louis Hayward, Robert Walker Jr, Paxton Whitehead and future Emmerdale's Frank Tate, Norman Bowler)). Thayer David, though I find entrancing in all his Charles Gray-esque glory. David I knew from his roles in The Eiger Sanction as albino Nazi "Dragon" and as Sacknussem in the 50s Journey To The Centre Of The Earth. He's quite Doctorish as Prof. Stokes (he in real life shared a wife with Jon's brother Michael Pertwee) and pantorific magnificence as Count Petofi whose hand gets revived by mad gypsy Magda played by Grayson Hall (alias regular Dr. Julia Hoffman). If I ever get into Irish soap writing, I'll try to make it more ridiculous and introduce the supernatural slowly. Dan Curtis is a god, not just for DS but for the commitment that he placed on the transatlantic bonkbusting destruction-porn of The Winds of War/War and Remembrance.
Here's a good beginner's guide.

And Yes, I did see the Tim Burton film. It was enjoyable but I resented its snotty-nosed tone, looking down on the series. Yes, the original series was a soap opera that could at times be torture, but there was an invention to it,  a nuttiness that few US TV shows have. Dan Curtis was a maverick visionary, in other words a mad genius of television. The Burton film was also quite boastful, especially in the "Nights in White Satin" train shot. And tonally, I felt Depp-Barnabas was at odds with the rest of the cast, which probably was intentional to show his outsider position, but it just didn't work. I feel that a more Frid-ish performance would have worked better to offset it.

I was also watching Falcon Crest, which like DS features David Selby. Unlike DS, FC is a primetime serial drama not a daytime soap, and unlike DS, was shown in Britain and Ireland. Some of my earliest memories involve FC, watching the titles in delight, and the music, but not much else. Created by Earl Hamner as a modern equivalent to his The Waltons, production company Lorimar changed it to something like their Dallas but with wine not oil and then became a parade of faded Hollywood stars coming and going and occasionally marrying leading lady/then Presidential ex Jane Wyman, the proto-Nancy Reagan whose casting suggested some kind of Reaganite undercurrent that I'm not fit to elaborate upon. I gave up after a while, as though some of the stories were ridiculous, e.g. Paul "Belloq" Freeman as a wine-making member of a Nazi dynasty obsessed with finding gold, and the whole "dressing up as a nun to kill your mum" storyline, it didn't go batty enough.

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