Thursday 2 March 2017

What I've been watching. - 1(4 refs, 5 inc. Savage Islands) mainly TV

Watching Night Gallery knock-off William Castle's Ghost Story. Sebastian Cabot's intros as a sinister hotel owner called Winston Essex are nice, but they're dropped once the series becomes "Circle of Fear" and gets more boring. Apart from the one with Martin Sheen and the fairground horse, it's dull. It's all 70s-set stories, all the same "family move into new house", like the lesser Night Galleries, but it doesn't have the weird mix of period stories and adaptations of Basil Copper and Dulcie Gray. The John Astin one where he plays a former B-movie actor turned security guard has a few interesting ghoulish effects and a slight atmosphere but it gets bogged in sentiment. And some attempt atmosphere but are kind of silly, i.e. Rip Torn badly done up as a creepy singing pensioner, which is perhaps more disturbing unintentionally. Jimmy Sangster rips off the Night Gallery Eyes story, for an episode, which features the reliable Mancunian Don Knight, always worth it for being really, the only Northern English accent in US TV in the 70s. But otherwise, disappointing.

I like to look for weirder things. I was expecting something slightly more off the wall for a William Castle TV series, but it is 70s TV...

Also been watching Clochemerle, the Galton and Simpson BBC series. I find it pleasing but not particularly funny. It's got great performers, Cyril Cusack, Kenneth Griffith, Roy Dotrice, but it feels slightly too mannered, and slightly  twee. Peter Ustinov's narration is lovely, but it just doesn't really click with me.

I've also been watching V: the original Miniseries and the 1984 sequel The Final Battle, which were in the UK/Ireland, shown as one on ITV against the Olympics in 1984. Really enjoyable, I haven't watched the "Dynasty meets Red Dawn" sequel weekly series because although it was the most expensive TV series of its era, it looks dreadful.

I found it interesting for a 80s miniseries, especially one so expensive, as it doesn't really have any star actors used for TVQ, a lot of familiar faces appear e.g. Michael Ironside being awesome as a mercenary named Ham Tyler and a pre-Freddy Robert Englund, but no one apart from I guess who was a top ratings magnet, possibly Marc Singer, but even the Beastmaster had done only adequately, and was on the cusp of being a cable regular.  The notorious lizard-baby looks like a post-Garbage Pail Kid deliberately gross kid's toy. The balloon scenes are interesting, although I wish that they focused more on the international side, which the spin-off books do (including one amazing-sounding one set in Britain and Ireland, where the Visitor Commander is called Ian, the Visitors infiltrate the Royal Family, characters are called Lord Fotheringay and Nigel Smythe-Walmsley, Visitors take over TVC, and the Resistance are headed by Patrick Seamus Kelly and the Provisional IRA, aided by Muslim terrorists based in Kerry, who use stolen Skyfighters to attack the Mothership over London).

The Ice Pirates (1984) I found fun. Ron Perlman, Anjelica Huston, Robert Urich, John "Sloth in the Goonies" Matuszak and others are literally space pirates searching for water in a weird future full of mock-medieval touches e.g. space templars in chainmal, US-based British actors, John Carradine so old that he spends all his scenes on a stretcher, and Mary "I shot J.R." Crosby (co-star of TV's Dick Turpin, fact-fans!) as a space princess with a nanny. Interesting post-Star Wars riff, with interesting segues into post-apocalyptic desert races and an interesting twist. Great soundtrack that begins as sort of sub-swashbuckly John Morris-in-Yellowbeard fare, but goes more synthy and 80s sci-fi, as it goes along. One of the  piratesploitation flop boom, eg the likes of unofficial Robert Shaw ITC swashbuckler spinoff Scarlet Buccaneer (1976), The Pirate Movie (1982), Savage Islands (1983), Yellowbeard (1983), and Cutthroat Island (1995)...

I've also been tasting bits of drama from the BBC, and realised  those too stylised post-Dennis Potter TV series eg She-Devil, Dead Head, etc. are not for me. But The Old Men At The Zoo (1983) is almost good. It is interesting, not quite as annoyingly pleased itself as the likes of A Very Peculiar Practice or any Tom Sharpe adap, got a fab cast and it is a very British dystopia/apocalypse, and it's set in a zoo for extra quirkiness. And it's prescient of Trump, to boot, with a fake USA with Bruce Boa and Robert "the Ambassador in the Final Conflict" Arden hosting NBC,  plusTVC in all its glory for Maurice Denham's country music themed Attenborough Lecture.  Seeing someone as distinguished as Robert Morley in something shot on cheap BBC VT is disconcerting. And then the bomb goes off, and Troy Kennedy Martin goes into brilliantly bleak Edge Of Darkness mode and Stuart Wilson is aged by the blast. Marius Goring becomes a Yeti-insignia-waving fascist leader using people in zoos, due to the shortage of animals, an idea not unlike the apes-as-dogs in Conquest Of The Planet Of The Apes, before the zoo becomes a concentration camp.

I've also realised I've watched possibly enough Quincy, Bergerac, Lovejoy, Hart To Hart, The Incredible Hunk, any of the Bionic series, Lois and Clark, Hercules/Xena, A Touch of Frost, Inspector Morse, Midsomer Murders,The A-Team, Dempsey And Makepeace, Knight Rider, Airwolf, etc.

Tried watching Max Headroom but found it annoying in its cyberpunk posturing. Slightly too late 80s for my liking.

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