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The Dobermann Always Rings Twice

Flipside: The Bodies Beneath

Rant Posted on Sat, May 25, 2019 18:16:25

The Bodies Beneath: The Flipside of British Film & Television by William Fowler and Vic Pratt. Strange Attractor Press.

Written by the originators of the British Film Institute’s Flipside Initiative, later immortalised as a series of DVD/BluRay sets, this 400 page book reviews the more obscureBritish cult movies and TV.

In their introduction, William Fowler and Vic Pratt question whether, “the original ‘cult’ films, as first celebrated by such pioneering film-writers as Danny Peary back in the 1980’s (have) more recently become art of the mainstream canon?” They go on to admit that The Bodies Beneath is, “part of our own personal mission to figure it all out in an enjoyable way, rather than allowing traditional cultural guardians or marketing departments to decide for us.”

Although segregated into thematic chapters, The Bodies Beneath is probably best read by starting at the index, to see what will catch your eye. Peter Falk: Page 42 – reflecting, “I have never played a scene with an actor who commanded my attention the way Pat(rick McGoohan) did.” Terry & June: Page 311 – Nigel Kneale’s Kinvig “more like a cross between Terry and June and Steptoe and Son” than( Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy)“.

Perhaps predictably, the subject’s range from exploitation film-maker Andy Milligan to forgotten sex comedies like Under the Doctor (Barry Evans, who had left the Doctor in the House TV series allegedly made this film to finance a theatre company) (“the sex factor diminishes as the film goes on, like a drunkard’s member”). But unexpectedly, there’s a penetrating article on Sooty and the difference between the psychological depth of the Harry Corbett episodes, and the more corporate productions after son Matthew was forced to take over the family business. We’re told that musician Steve Race heard Harry, along with Sooty in an adjoining hotel room in 1953, howling with laughter when he first thought of Sooty hitting him on the head with a hammer. Watching a 1957 episode we’re told that “the humour escalates to even more absurd, dreamlike and childish extremes with seemingly no limitations on what is a ‘good influence’ on the kiddies.”

Among the other delights are John Bowen’s Robin Readbreast, Wendy Toye’s The Stranger Left No Calling Card, and a fascinating examination of Cooking Price-Wise the legendary 1971 Thames TV series in which horror king Vincent Price instructed UK housewives how to cook for a gourmet and make a chess set out of cheese. In the interests of full commercial disclosure it’s worth pointing out that the book also includes articles on Colin Baker’s ill-fated reign as Dr Who and Patrick McGoohan’s outing as Danger Man (including the claustrophobic Don’t Nail Him Yet in which Drake impersonates a socially-awkward schoolteacher to shadow reserved defector John Fraser – “Danger meant earning someone’s confidence through a shared shyness.”).

So what’s ‘The Bodies Beneath’ like? It’s like a big pie – a big Christmas Pie that you buy at a pub. You don’t know what the hell a Christmas pie is but you figure you’ll give it a try. And once you’ve prised the crust away and run your fork through it, you say what about that? A bit of Will Hay and ‘The War Game’, ‘All The Right Noises’ and ‘Electric Dreams’ and that BBC documentary Dan Farson made about his Uncle Bram Stoker and vampires. That’s what I call a Christmas Pie!

The Bodies Beneath – Strange Attractor £15.99

Reckless Opportunists

Rant Posted on Sat, May 25, 2019 14:52:27

With Brexit unfulfilled, a party leader to elect and another election possible, there has never been a better time to read Aeron Davis’ Reckless Opportunists: Elites at the end of the Establishment (Manchester University Press).

Written after 20 years of talking to individuals in power, it seeks to explain our new generation of leaders, “plugged into power, money or both: someone who knows where their interests lie.” But not really in charge. Neither expert nor visionary, nor really in control. “Too many are just reckless opportunists making the best of what they have amid the chaos they have helped create.”

Davis explores the way in which neoliberalism, preaching a smaller state, poorer employees, and untaxed capital, has undermined the Establishment which relies on security, law and social stability. Both Blair and Cameron refashioned their parties as “election winners rather than representative parties,” leading to a fall in membership and the 2016 election in which the political elite, “were given a good kicking.”

At the same time, ambitious civil servants learned the only path to advancement was cutting their own departments and company directors came under pressure from investors to take decisions which would create short term gain and long term pain.

According to Davis, politicians with expertise or experience of the outside world have gradually been replaced by PPE graduates, most of whom work in think-tanks or other political organisations before standing for Parliament. Once elected, the ambitious MP is moved from post-to-post relying on briefs from Civil Servants and party advisors to plug the gaps. The same principle applies to company executives and journalists. “Being a leader means subcontracting out judgement to others who may, or may not, have hidden agenda. It means confidently speaking lines that others have written for you.

Cynics will take comfort in the chapter exploring public consultations, which quotes a former permanent secretary saying, “..many a consultation has already decided the outcome by the time you get to the formal public stage.” The same chapter observes that, “in public, elites of all kinds refer to economist opinions as almost scientific facts. But in private, personal experience shows that too much of economics is too abstract for personal application.

Yet despite this, everyone sticks to the party line. Davis quotes the story of Tony Dye, one of the few fund managers who saw through the dot-com boom but spoke too soon. “Those people who had done the wrong thing – in finance – in politics – had not only survived, they had flourished.”

Davis concludes that the people who run our Government, Business and Finances may be highly educated, but they are far less in control than we think. “They follow more than they lead.”

Davis ends by suggesting “Systems and Principles for reigning in the Elite” in order to produce more appropriate leaders. Although, as he says elsewhere, turkey’s rarely vote for Christmas.

Reckless Opportunists by Aeron Davis – £9.99 Manchester University Press