Saturday 21 July 2018

Telly roundup

Italian TV

There are two main sets of channels - RAI, akin to the BBC, and then the rivals - Silvio Berlusconi's Mediaset channels. This is just a primer, because I'll be referring them a lot here.

Uova Fatali (1977) - RAI CSO-heavy giant reptiles and toads fun with a white-bearded Gastone "Don Homer" Moschin walking in colour against B/W stock footage. Sort of like Italian Doctor Who, but visually unique Soviet setting. The red eggs hatching is an especially demonic image. And the jowelly giant lizard puppet is a lovely shite effect that even makes the Skarasen in Terror of the Zygons look like it was created by Harryhausen. Also saw the first part of La Traccia Verde - a B/W 1975 VT serial from RAI about the US space programme. Not as fun, despite a lead character called Steptoe.

The Maharaja's Daughter (1994) - Bruce Boxleitner falls in love in Canada with Indian doctor Hunter Tylo (who is not Indian, well she's not from India, but she is apparently has Cherokee blood),  massive hair and a bindi transforming her into a secretive maharani with an American accent.  Burt Young plays a thankfully phony Indian mystic (considering other Italian actors play Indians, I wasn't so sure).  A strange cross between imperialist adventure and erotic thriller.

The Seventh Scroll (1999) Silvio Berlusconi-produced Wilbur Smith adaptation. Begins with Art Malik narrating  about his Pharaoh Edmund Purdom (typecast 45 years on from The Egyptian). The Ancient Egyptian bits are very tacky.  Written by director Kevin Connor, Alan "Bullshot" Shearman, and Italian vet Sergio Donati.  There's a backwards baseball capped idiot archaeologist.  Villainous Roy Scheider and his dubbed blonde lady sidekick  joke about videogames, while a giant CGI snake eats a peasant.  Don Warrington is a mad Colonel. Eventually, something about Art Malik being an immortal wizard and lots of bad CGI allegedly done in Dublin by one Lightstream Ltd. Also features an Egyptian orphan named Hapi, played by Jeffrey Licon - star of Nickelodeon Latino dramedy The Brothers Garcia. A special kind of terrible.

Murder In The Convent (1998) - Modern day Cadfael with Mario Adorf. A twat's version of Umberto Eco via Quiet As A Nun. Includes a  badly CGIed burning nun.

Blood Ties (1986) - OTT Mafia melodrama with Brad Davis, Joe Spinell, Michael V. Gazzo and Maria Conchita Alonso. I previously tried to watch The Octopus (1984), the RAI crime opus that people rave about, but I found that staid. This isn't good, but there's a very Italian camp charm to it. Gazzo is allowed to be this huge grotesque.

L'Ombra Nera Del Vesuvio (1987) - RAI/Steno Camorra saga - cheap, lacks the gloss of later Italian miniseries. Watched half, then gave up. Gangster sagas the bread and butter of Italian TV.

Vendetta - Secrets Of A Mafia Bride (1991) - Berlusconi/Mediaset Mafia saga with Eric Roberts, Burt Young, Nick Mancuso, Victor Argo, Antonio Sabato, Billy Barty and Eli Wallach. Begins with a young girl's communion (I think, she's in the white dress - but she looks more suited to making her confirmation - she's closer to thirteen than eight) ruined when her father is killed by a bunch of gangsters firing machine guns from a yellow cab. One of these thugs is Eric Roberts, with a ponytail.  He then goes to visit a boxing trainer played by Burt Young (typecasting ahoy). Billy Barty plays a compere. Some black chanteuse sings the theme to Mondo Cane,  then there's a a massacre.    Time passes, and little Nancy is now Sports Illustrated model Carol Alt, Eric has a mullet, and it becomes somewhere between the Godfather Part III (which is really just an Italian miniseries) and a romance novel. Alt isn't a good actress. She's attractive, a bit gawky, but that adds to her charm, but she is kind of awkward. She's quite tall and lanky, and she's supposed to be this ethereal tragic victim, but she's not exactly graceful. There's a bit where she dresses up in a ginger wig, and there's something of the Barbara Knox about her. And then there's a ridiculous striptease assassination with a dog. There's a wedding party with a Busby Berkeley dance sequence, Egyptian servants serving a giant pot of pasta and then after the wedding, Nancy becomes a nun and sees her daughter.  A sequel followed in 1993. Wallach, Young and Alt returning, with shooting in Canada, Michael Ontkean joining, and Lisa Jakub from Mrs. Doubtfire as the daughter. It's unmemorable, but clearly the convent use hair dye. Alt's now ginger.

Excellent Cadavers (1999) - HBO-coproduced Italian TV movie with Andy Luotto, Pierfrancesco Favino and F. Murray Abraham - like a lot of old school Italian crime films, lots of tall men with moustaches in little cars solving not very engrossing murders.

Il Tesoro di Damasco (1998) - Franco Nero and Ben Gazzara in a Raiders-ish political thriller about a mystical black tablet found in the Middle East. Sensationalist Bullshit that doesn't excite.

Seagull Island (1981) - ITC-RAI giallo with Jeremy Brett, Prunella Ransome, Nicky Henson and Pamela Salem.  Music by Tony Hatch rather than the De Angelis Brothers. Brett plays a cad. Very mediocre.  Also featuring Eurocult regulars Peter Boom, Paul Mueller, Sherry Buchanan  and Gabriele Tinti.

Marco Polo (1982) feels rather too in thrall to capturing the mood and feel of Shogun, but it has yellowfaced Leonard Nimoy and Patrick Mower as a monk, and some dodgy dubbing. And Denholm Elliott with a topknot. From what I have seen.

Christopher Columbus (1985) -RAI-Lorimar  nonsense with Gabriel Byrne, Oliver Reed and some tribesmen who look like they come from a cannibal film (the Riz Ortolani soundtrack doesn't help). Byrne looks either like an elderly Dublin widow or a disgraced bishop. And sometimes Jim Dale. Jack Watson (who seems to have done a lot of these RAI stuff - presumably a break from HTV or Granada) plays a craggy monk.

Deserto di Fuoco (1997) - Mediaset/Titanus coproduction with Anthony "yes, my dad's Alain" Delon as an orphan found in the middle of a helicopter crash (cameo from Franco Nero as the dad), and found by sheik  Giuliano Gemma.  Peopled with other ageing Euro-stars - Claudia Cardinale, Vittorio Gassman, Jean Sorel,, Fabio Testi, Virna Lisi, and helmed by good old Enzo G. Castellari, it's preposterous - it's seemingly pre-20th century Arab world located in the present day, in a hi-tech 90s of satellite TV and sports cars. Makes no sense, and is wearing - endless cliched melodrama told so earnestly - but fascinating. The Italians seem obsessed with exotic desert landscape, Arabs and Indians - in portrayals that are romanticised and could be considered by some as dated. And yes, they are, which makes these productions even more astonishing.

Mia liebe meines lebens (1998) - Irish-Italian soaper with some bird of Fair City as an Irish supermodel, Claudia Cardinale as her mammy (less convincingly Irish than she was in Once Upon A Time in The West),  Kevin "Herman the violent butler" Flood as Daddy (named Torton),  and John Savage. Lots of lilting Oirish music.

Azzuro Profondo (1993) Franco Nero again in a mostly boring but at times melodramatic Big Blue/Free Willy cash-in.

Beyond Justice (1992) - Rutger Hauer in a Trimark cutdown of a Mediaset Arab fantasy where he is hired by Carol Alt to rescue her son who has been kidnapped by sheik grandad Omar Sharif. Full of men in fezzes, casual racism and Elliott Gould with a moustache, plus Kabir Bedi, and a Morricone soundtrack. Written by Luigi Montefiori, alias video nasty hard man George Eastman.  An American private school full of supposedly WASPy boys who look like they grew up in a pizza parlour in Naples sets the scene. Operatic wailing soundtracks every scene, regardless of tone. It's a mess going from Arab spectacle to arguing with Elliott Gould in an Italian designer's idea of an American office - a huge Bogie poster over a wall. A tonal mess.

Mysteries of the Dark Jungle (1991) - Like Sandokan and Secret of the Sahara, adapted from stories by Emilio Salgari. Featuring Gabrielle Anwar as the daughter of British military bod Stacy Keach (doing a credible RP), mechanical toys, an Indian fantasyland full of spiked helmeted soldiers, brought to you by RAI-TF1-TVE-ORF-ZDF, with John Rhys-Davies, Virna Lisi, Anthony Calf, Kabir Bedi, regular Bollywood WASP/muscular Leonard Rossiter-alike Bob Christo playing an albino thuggee, Bollywood actor Mac Mohan and Derrick "Gupte/Father Fernandez" Branche. The hero is Eldorado/Playdays star Amerjit Deu. There is adventure, but much of it is painfully slow traveloguery. Frank Middlemass and John Sharp turn up, uncredited.

Scarlett (1994) - Its credits have bad drawings of the cast, including Joanne Whalley-Kilmer and Tim Dalton as Scarlett and Rhett, Stephen "paedo" Collins, Sean Bean, Gary Raymond (of Jason and the Argonauts AND stints in series as varied as The Rat Patrol, Omega Factor and Coronation Street), Jean Smart, Tina "Sharon" Kellegher,  Rosaleen Linehan, Ronald Pickup, Dorothy Tutin, Sara Crowe, Holby City's Rakie Ayola, Peter Eyre "and Ann-Margrock" (sorry, it's a cartoon version of Ann-Margret - so it's Ann-Margrock). It's tripe, but it was filmed mostly near where I live, and Berlusconi coproduced it with Hallmark and Sky, and ORF. It's an Irish-British-American-Italian-German -Austrian-Spanish-French coproduction. Also, Tina Kellegher looks like she walked off the set of the Snapper. It's basically the Time-Travelling Adventures of Sharon Curley/Rabbitte, and the theme is Love Hurts recorded by Nazareth with the Munich Philharmonic Orchestra.  Sadly, John Fraser, Charles Gray, Mark "Majorca - one of my favourite places - Times Square, the Statue of Liberty*" Lambert (I'm referencing an Irish ad campaign), Ruth McCabe (alongside Colm Meaney and Kellegher, another member of the Curley clan), and and Donald Pickering, despite getting prominent end credits  don't get cartoon credits. And neither does David Kelly, despite having one of the most caricturable faces, with lots of spirit in there.  He is fourth-last billed in his episode, below Mick Lally, Owen Roe (now in Fair City) and Rudolph Walker, who plays a slave. I'm pretty sure they shoot at Glencree, same locations as the Manions of America.  Gielgud also appears, because the old knight would do anything by this stage of his career. Over ninety and willing to do it for free.  An expensive backlot set built in front of Kilruddery.  Anita Reeves plays a character called "Maureen O'Hara".  Bruce Boa and Garrick Hagon appear in the first part, billed over Hollywood's leading African American stuntman, Bob Minor.

La Nouvelle Malles Des Indes (1982) - A much more exciting Indian adventure, a German-French-Italian saga from Christian Jaque (the Legend of Frenchie King). Initially begins in fake England before moving through Europe and eventually to India. Bob Christo pops up again. The likes of Umberto Raho, Paul Muller, Franco Ressel and Geoffrey Copleston turn up. It takes a bit to go,   Nice soundtrack too. Has men in knotted handkerchiefs warning people, lovely location footage, and in the end our heroes find a new trade route.  The series is light hearted but isn't played too OTT.  There's a KKK-type cult, "Teenage Emanuelle" Annie Belle, escapes through Spanish snowcaps and Venice and then meetings with comedy Arabs and dragging up in burqas in Egypt. It's a big tasty Europudding.

French-German TV

Deux Ans de Vacances (1974) - Another Jules Verne-type Technisonor production. Set supposedly in New Zealand, 1882, but actually Romania. Lost Islands-type peril with deep-voiced twinky schoolboys.  Features European "that guy" Werner Pochath. Has a random trigger-happy cowboy. Some of the same cast appear in Les Galapiats (1970), which also has a cowboy character, but is set in present day. Unconvincing.

Zora un ihre Bande (1979)  - Jolly German-financed Eastern European Tripods-via-Two Ronnies period adventure serial for kids, lots of skinny dipping kds. Features a twelve year old girl in a swimsuit, shot pervily. Only stomached the first episode.

Lockruf des Goldes (1975) - German Jack London adap. Not really into Klondike stories. Unconvincing Romanian doubling. Ferdy Mayne as a whiskery prospector type. Interesting Romanian locations. Christine Kaufmann, Mrs. Tony Curtis at the time plays a "squaw".

The Adventures of David Balfour (1977) - The German version of HTV's Kidnapped - a German coproduction, hence the heavy amount of Teutonic faces amongst the likes of David McCallum, Patrick Magee, John Carson and Chris Biggins.  Resulting in a series that feels far more European despite its setting and majority of cast. And probably works better in German. From a German view of Scotland scored by Vladimir Cosma to...

Les Roses de Dublin (1981) - Finally been able to watch this, an unusual series - a French-Luxembourgish series, an RTL-FR2-Technisonor series made in association with RTE, and therefore one of the few Irish TV shows to get a DVD release, though in German. Begins with Jean-Claude Bouillon as Christoph, a French photographer who kepts beaten up at a rugby match by Irish rugby fans Pat Layde and Emmet "Dick" Bergin, clad in flat caps and shamrock scarves. He realises their sister/daughterSpring Kavanaugh (sic ) he had a one night stand with, leaving them with another child to raise. Somehow, they kept their daughter Spring, rather than sending her off to a Magdalene home. They leave Christoph with roses from Dublin, even though they're supposed to be from Kerry. On an Aer Lingus flight, Emmet and his da drink with Tom Jordan, looking the exact same as he does as Charlie in Fair City. Christoph bumbles through a fashion show, with a page boy and Dana-alike bride showing off. He recognises the bride as Spring. This is a flashback, and he meets Spring in the present day. There's a raunchy (for Ireland in 1981) sex scene, in mysterious fog. This turns out to be another flashback. John "Pa Riordan" Cowley plays a hotel worker. The Kavanaughs' home life is strange. They all play rugby, and arm wrestle each other. One of the brothers is a staggeringly young Colm Meaney. Anthony, the ten year old son of Spring and Christoph wears a big white bobble hat and sweater. The Kavanaughs' red Morris Minor falls off a cliff ITC-style, thanks to Gerry Johnston. There is lots of fog. Episode one, and this may be the worst thing I've ever seen. I'm surprised no one in Ireland remembers it. It was the Redwater of its day.  More Irish faces crop up. Johnny "Joey the Lips" Murphy shows up.

Jo Gaillard (1975) - Watched a few undynamic episodes of this TF1 naval drama. Unmemorable.

La Poupee Sanglanate (1976) - French homunculus miniseries with Edith Scob and Sacha Pitoeff. Slow. Couldn't finish.

Brigades Des Malefices (1970) - French supernatural detective  series, has a funky theme tune, and an unusual protagonist in its geriatric kaftan-wearing Inspector. It's kind of ITC-ish, but it has a strange, languid French style, even though it is sadly quite pedestrian. The mermaid one is the only one to strike as odd. Pierre "Eyes without a Face" Brasseur is a special guest baddie.

A vous de jouer Milord (1974) - Needless to say, I was excited when the first face to appear on screen was Vernon "he's everywhere" Dobtcheff, thus giving this series a link to both Doctor Who and Father Ted. But this is sadly, quite a goofy, silly French Eurospy-type thing, almost a French Lindsay Shonteff. Also by Christian-Jaque, and with La Nouvelle Malle Des Indes' Patrick Prejean.

Also watched elements of It Can't Always Be Caviar  (1977), a supposed true-life story of a German spy in WW2, played by the ubiquitous Siegfried Rauch, but rather goofy considering its roots. And also The Mohicans of Paris (1973), a French Dumas adap's first ep - very similar to the likes of the Flashing Blade, i.e. good soundtrack, little else - even the same lead, Robert Etcheverry.

La Cloche Tibetaine (1973) - A very attractive series to watch, but I can never be sure of the tone. With Wolfgang Preiss, famed French comic Coluche, and notoriously,  Roger "the Master" Delgado, who died in a car crash while making this series. For us Doctor Who fans, this series became almost mythic. Initially reported as a "comedy film called the Bell of Tibet". It's not that, I'm not sure what it is.  Delgado is billed below Robert Lee (of Mind Your Language), but over Carl Otto Alberty, scar-faced Nazi in many things.

L'Alphomega (1973) - God knows. Fascists, eejits, Howard Vernon, gypsies, Arabs, nuns, British bobbies, Salvation Army, magic wigs, French comedy. Like a secret service version of Hall's Pictorial Weekly.

Studio Telerop 2009 (1974) - A sort of odd German TV spoof, nowhere near as good as any of the Sheckley adaps. Almost like Rutland Weekend Television. ARD  seem to have used the sets from their UFO-alike from 1972, Alpha Alpha, which looks a bit too future-silly.

Fleisch (1979) - Boring, oddly erotic ZDF  Teutonic Duel knockoff.

Der Schwarze Bumerang (1982) - International coproduction, filmed in Australia, directed by George T. Miller (the other one),Featuring Allan Cuthbertson (in a rare role in his native Australia), Paul Spurrier (the wet child actor of his generation, Wild Geese, Tales of the Unexpected) and John "I killed Von Ryan/married Prince Michael of Moldavia and Amanda Carrington" Van Dreelan.  Patrik Pacard-esque espionage. Dolls buried in permafrost of Switzerland,   yellow peril, cheap videotape... Couldn't finish. German-Australian tripe that didn't even make it to Down Under.

Napoleon (2001) - Montreal plays the South Atlantic.  A flabby thing that takes too much space, which one could also say of its star - Gerard Depardieu!

Mussolini - The  Untold Story (1985)- Not Italian, but an American-Yugoslavian coproduction with a heavily British cast, but somehow feels more Italian than the rival RAI-HBO venture the same year, Mussolini and I, starring Bob Hoskins, Susan Sarandon and Anthony Hopkins, which is rather respectful, but obviously it's an Italian subject, so I suppose it has to be. Mussolini - The Untold Story has the likes of Philip Madoc, Milton Johns and Eileen Way, David Suchet with an American  accent as an Italian, George C. Scott as Il Duce, Raul Julia as the son in law, and a teenage Robert Downey Junior riding a toy biplane. It also has Michael Aldridge playing Matteoti, despite being twenty five years too old, just before he became Holmfirth's resident inventor genius Seymour Utterthwaite, also doing some kind of Mid-Atlantic twang, and a theme that sounds vaguely like the soundtrack to Star Trek II - The Wrath of Khan. Gabriel Byrne struggles to convince as Italian, and seems to be doing a Robert De Niro impression, and he is way too old for the role of the future Cinecitta/Hal Roach associate.  Downey marries Gina "Groovy Gang" Bellman, but then crashes and dies. His funeral consists of colourised stock footage. Milton Johns' German Ambassador steals the scene from Secret Army's Gunnar Moller (as Hitler). Scott spends his days merrily bonking Virginia Madsen, as she brushes his bald pate. Lee Grant does angry wife. Vernon Dobtcheff of course turns up as the secretary of state,  Kenneth Colley is the King, Madoc as Police Chief Bocchini (again doing a weird Italian-American-Welsh accent, like he's playing a gangster in a panto). Endlessly padded with newsreels and dreadful Mussolini family singalongs. Wolf Kahler appears dressed exactly as he is in Raiders.

More Italian stuff I couldn't quite finish

Orzowei (1977) - Watched an episode of this Ski-Boy ish Italian  RAI Boy Tarzan series. The last work of Stanley Baker.  Slow wanderings about a suspiciously forest-like jungle staring at intercut stock footage.  

Heidi (1993) - Watched the first hour of this, feels like the same five minutes repeated - Jason Robards as Grandfather. The product of Disney and Berlusconi together.

Quo Vadis (1985) - It's attractive but it doesn't really know what it is.

* Yes, I'm referencing an ad about hearing loss.

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