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Talking Pictures TV at the Stockport Plaza

Uncategorised Posted on Tue, October 08, 2019 22:54:27
Downstairs in the stalls at the Stockport Plaza

Sunday 6th October 2019 saw the 6th Renown Pictures and Talking Pictures TV Festival of Film held at the Stockport Plaza. The Grade II* listed cinema, opened in 1932, was an appropriate venue for the Freeview TV Channel which preserves British film heritage.

Sarah Cronin-Stanley, Noel Cronin, Rita Tushingham & Robert Ross on stage

Talking Pictures TV was founded by Noel Cronin and his daughter Sarah Cronin-Stanley after Cronin met increasing resistance from the main TV channels selling the vintage films distributed by his company Renown Pictures. Interviewed onstage by hosts Robert Ross and Rita Tushingham, he recalled that one company told him no-one would watch black-and-white films after 5pm. Convinced there was an audience, he set up Talking Pictures TV to broadcast 24 hours a day, screening not just old movies, but also selected TV shows from the 1960’s and ’70’s.

Robert Ross recalled that in the 1960’s and 1970’s, Britain’s three TV channels screened a lot of old British movies, and that was how most of us came to know them. However, Talking Pictures TV has opened up a much wider range – not just ‘classic’ movies and the output of revered outfits like Ealing – but films you’ve never heard of, or films you never dreamed you’d see like Ivan Barnett’s The Fall of the House of Usher (1950) which for many years was just a half-remembered photo in Denis Gifford’s History of the Horror Movies.

Part of Talking Pictures TV’s appeal is the vast range of product you can dip into at any time of the day. Sunday’s event quickly sold out its 1000 seat limit, attracting just a fraction of the audience who regularly tune in.

I was intrigued to see how an event organised to promote a heritage TV station would differ from events run by fans of cult TV shows. It’s probably fair to say that the audience skewed older at this event – I’d guess there were more over-60’s and less under ’30s – not surprising that free issues of The Oldie were being given away here!

This event was also about the wide world of entertainment. So although we had on-stage interviews with Ray Brooks (Cathy Come Home), Rita Tushingham (A Taste of Honey), Stephanie Beacham (Tenko) and Jenny Hanley (Scars of Dracula) there were also two sessions on the glass-panelled Compton Organ by Paul Greenwood (rising out of the floor in true cinema style). There were also songs by Lola Lamour, who also interviewed Terry Dene – the ‘British Elvis’ – whose career was controversially cut short after being drafted into the Army. The Talking Pictures TV connection comes from his 1958 movie The Golden Disc directed by Don Sharp, which is available on DVD from Renown Pictures. Terry Dene performed his 1957 hit A White Sports Coat as well as some of his more recent compositions.

Jack MacGowran & Harry Locke in The Stable Door

A number of short films were screened during the day, including a loaded 1958 Pathe Newsreel campaigning against excise duty on cinema tickets. The event closed with The Stable Door (1966) a promotional short for the British insurance industry direct by Pat Jackson (What A Carve Up, The Prisoner). The film has been screened on Talking Pictures TV recently (and is also available on Renown’s new Crime Collection Volume 5 DVD) but it was good to see it play to a packed audience. Some of Derry Quinn’s lines, which seem wryly amusing in the privacy of your own home, suddenly generate big laughs in a proper cinema. In one of those odd coincidences, the young criminal is played by Frank Jarvis, who would go on to play Michael Caine’s sidekick in The Italian Job. Some of the briefing scenes, where Jarvis uses a slide-show to plan a burglary are very similar in tone to those in The Italian Job.

Ray Brooks (centre, yellow t-shirt) talks to fans in the merchandise room

If there was any drawback, it was probably that the event was too popular. The art deco cafeteria, where the merchandise and autograph stalls were based, was very busy at times – especially as it was the main route out of the upstairs auditorium. While there were refreshments on offer, there wasn’t really any room to eat and drink (although there were plenty of cafes five minutes walk away from the building). In addition, the very steep 1930’s layout of the cinema did seem constricting a times – although no more than the average London theatre. While I found myself wondering how the event might have played out somewhere like the Quad in Derby, the sheer size of the crowd attracted by the event would have challenged many of the modern film theatres (built to cater for today’s small audiences).

Sgt Bilko’s Emporium & Phil Silvers’ Archival Museum had a stall
From Sgt Bilko to Frank Marker

Everyone’s experience of a day like this is different – partly based on their expectations. On the whole, it seemed to go down pretty well with the audience.

Operation Capon: Richard Johnson and Murder She Wrote

Uncategorised Posted on Sat, October 05, 2019 18:40:02

As far as I know, Patrick Wymark never worked with Angela Lansbury. But, I thought it might be fun to take part in the Murder She Wrote Cookalong, organised by Silver Screen Suppers, and noticed that one of the recipes was associated with Richard Johnson.

Johnson had, of course played Andrew Aguecheek to Wymark’s Toby Belch at the Royal Shakespeare Company, and they’d also co-starred on TV (A Question About Hell 1964) and film (Operation Crossbow 1965). It also turned out that Johnson’s episode of Murder She Wrote It Runs in the Family – had co-starred John Standing from The Psychopath (1966). So it seemed all the stars were aligned – just maybe not in the right direction!

Richard Johnson as Duncan Sandys in Operation Crossbow

The recipe, Four Time Chicken , gets the most out of its ingredients – I believe Richard Johnson set up a hotel/restaurant at one time, so that might explain the utilitarianism. Having recently read Eggs or Anarchy , the biography of Lord Woolton – who ran the Ministry of Food during World War 2 – it certainly fits in with Johnson’s role as Duncan Sandys in Operation Crossbow . And Operation Capon has the appropriate Shakespearean ring – I can just imagine Richard Johnson doing a power stance in the kitchen – “A Capon – fetch me a fine Capon!”

The recipe is written in a leisurely style  (I believe by Albert Roux) and gets four meals out of one chicken. I tried to follow it over a weekend, adopting the laid-back style of the recipe but also adopting the inquiring scientific approach of Richard Johnson as Dr Markway in The Haunting. I had two aims: to get something edible out of it, and to see how achievable the recipe was.

Meal One: Chicken Casseroled with Sweetcorn and Peas: Although the recipe recommended a free range chicken, I started out with a Co-Op Medium Chicken at £4.50. I launched with what I thought was full Shakespearean gusto at 5pm on Saturday, and quickly realised that dissecting a raw chicken is more time consuming and bewildering than cutting apart a cooked chicken (serial killers take note!). I probably left more flesh on the carcass than the urbane recipe intended, and this affected the relative productivity of the following three recipes.

About an hour later (!) I was finally browning the chicken pieces in butter and olive oil. It all seemed to be going well as I got the chicken stock, onions and garlic brew together, and set the chicken simmering in a casserole. But then I had a crisis of confidence: thought I’d misread the recipe, when I hadn’t, threw in some ingredients at the wrong time and then concentrated on making the mashed potato rather than checking the pot.

If I’d lifted the lid, I’d have noticed that that the liquid was boiling dry and I’d have been able to put some water in. So for my first attempt – although the chicken was moist, there was no gravy left. If I had adopted the style of Dr Markway in ‘The Haunting’ this was the point where I let Julie Harris drive into the tree.

Whatever walks there…walks alone!”

The chicken was tasty enough – but not as expected. In the spirit of experimentation, I bought two free range, corn fed chicken breasts and four thighs from Tesco for £8.84 and tried again. This time I got the timings right and kept a careful eye on proceedings. This delivered – not just a tasty tea – but the prescribed encroachment of gravy.

These are the leftovers,….

And that’s important because the recipe says that on Sunday morning you should, “Look into the casserole. You will see that the chicken pieces you didn’t eat last night are embedded in a rich, jellified sauce. Resist eating the whole lot for breakfast!”

Meal 2: Chicken salad with sweet curried sauce. I was a bit dubious about this, as I can’t abide curry. However, I used Tesco Mild Curry Powder and followed the recipe to mix it into yoghurt etc. Together with the chopped up meat from last night’s casserole, it produced a salad that surprised me. “If you are like me you might want a long cool glass of bitter beer too,” the recipe said, so I had a bottle of Larkin’s Bitter from Bricknell’s Brewery (Larkin was, of course, a friend of Kingsley Amis, who wrote A Matter about Hell in which Wymark and Johnson played brothers – only connect).

Chicken Salad with sweet, curried sauce
Larkin’s Bitter….No he’s not, he’s just a very naughty boy!

To cut a long story short, I’d underproduced the casserole gravy on my first attempt, and probably left more on the carcass than I should. The recipe directed the meat should be cut from the leftovers, and the bones, skin and carcass be simmered in a pot with carrot, onion, celery and a stock cube. After I’d strained all this, I was left with much less broth than the “several pints” the recipe predicted, and much more meat! The recipe suggests you should use this meat and vegetable remains for pet food, but that didn’t happen here! This was really a Five Time Chicken!

Meal 3: Hearty Lentil Soup with Cheese Croutons.

I started this at 5.28PM, channelling Richard Johnson as Bulldog Drummond in Deadlier Than The Male. “OK, we went off-course earlier, and now we have less than a litre of  stock. So keep your head, top it up with water and then drop in the lentils”. Another surprise! The lentils became mushy sooner than scheduled! I checked the packet and it gave a shorter cooking time than in the recipe. But that was a good surprise! Not only was the soup ready early, there was enough left over for Monday lunch! Make that Six Time Chicken!

Meal 4: Chicken Soup with Baked Potatoes and Salad.

I launched this one at 5:30, Monday teatime. Due to the earlier mishaps, I had more meat and less stock than the recipe indicated, so had to top it up with a chicken cube. But, to be honest this was pretty straightforward and I spent longer waiting for the potatoes to bake. It was a pretty satisfying evening meal.

So, in the end Operation Capon was a success. It fulfilled the dramatic arc – exposition, secondary conflict, climax and resolution – and it got a hell of a use out of one chicken.

The System on Blu Ray

Uncategorised Posted on Sat, September 28, 2019 16:45:23

Indicator has just released a new Blu Ray of Peter Draper’s The System (1964). This is the movie Peter Draper wrote for Michael Winner at the same time as scripting early episodes of The Plane Makers.

Set in a West Country seaside resort, it follows beach photographer Oliver Reed and a gang of local boys, who try to make the most of the summer season by chasing girls according to ‘the system’.

With sharp cinematography by Nicolas Roeg and a characteristically witty script by Draper, The System might easily have been called The Takers and the Taken (to quote a line used early in the film). Jeremy Burnham (who appears as a hapless junior executive in two episodes of The Plane Makers) plays an upper class character midway through the film who says with disbelief, “You mean you actually live here all year round?” Oliver Reed replies, “Yes, that’s what all the houses are for.” Harry Andrews, as Reed’s employer at the photo shop, gloats that he spends his winters in Los Palmas. Early in the film, Winner intercuts footage of holidaymakers with old film of South Sea Islanders as Reed describes the habits of the tourists (or Grockles as Draper dubs them) underlining that they are all trapped in a form of economic ritual.

Indicator’s region free Blu Ray comes along with an informative commentary by Melanie Williams and Thirza Wakefield, revealing interviews with surviving cast members including Jane Merrow, an entertaining documentary short by Winner called Haunted England and a 32 page booklet.

When the Boat Comes In: The Hungry Years

Uncategorised Posted on Sun, September 22, 2019 21:02:56
Jamie Brown as Jack Ford at the Customs House, South Shields

When the Boat Comes In: The Hungry Years by Peter Mitchell, is the second in a projected trilogy based on the 1970’s BBC TV series. Premiering at the Customs House, South Shields until September 28th, the play introduces a new generation to the vivid characters and situations created by James Mitchell.

Despite the setting in a depressed 1920’s Tyneside, we regard the character of Jack Ford as one of the few true rivals to John Wilder ; a calculating pragmatist who takes the world on his own terms and offers reward to those who follow him. Jamie Brown succeeds in winning over the audience without betraying the ambiguity of the character. His interpretation is distinctly different from the TV original (to coin a phrase, it’s as if someone said, “Get me a young George Costigan”) but still has the ring of truth.

Alice Stokoe as Jessie Seaton and Jamie Brown as Jack Ford

The play takes aspects of the TV episodes, Paddy Boyle’s Discharge, King For A Day, and Kind Hearted Rat With A Lifebelt but Peter Mitchell and director Katy Weir have tightened the strands into a fully theatrical experience. The Jack Ford of the play is much more on edge – whether through conscience or the after-effects of trench warfare – leading to a nightmarish pre-interval explosion. The action takes place against an expressionistic, sliding set that opens in darkness with clanging, grinding noises (shipbuilding or coal hoists?) before the cast gradually appear holding candlelights and singing ‘The Internationale’ as Jack Ford sorts through the treasures in his kitbox, finally pulling out and spinning the chambers of his service revolver.

The rapid scene changes are turned into an event by having the actors shift the scenery in choreographed moves, sometimes accompanied by contemporary songs. This probably sounds more twee than it actually is . The overall effect keeps the mood of the show consistent and also allows for some shock effects such as (what we’ve presumed to be) the walls of a house to slide apart to reveal Tom Seaton (Matthew Howden) standing beside the coffin of his wife Mary.

Matt Headley (Charlie Richmond), Dolly Ford (Anna Bolton) & Jack Ford (Jamie Brown)

While this is a fresh interpretation, there is also much that remains faithful to the TV show. From the moment Steve Byron yells, “tell that fornicating bastard to go to hell,” it’s clear that he’ll be playing wheelchair-bound Bill Seaton in the irascible manner of James Garbutt. Byron doubles as Ford’s mentor, Sir Horatio Manners (played by Basil Henson in the TV show) nailing the upper-class character’s foxy charm (sometimes with an extremely quick change). Similarly, Charlie Richmond plays Matt Headley, the straight-as-a-die but hero-worshipping sidekick of Ford like a reincarnation of Malcolm Terris, but also plays Lord Calderbeck, prospective victim of a sting by Manners and Ford.

Anna Bolton makes a sympathetic, three-dimensional Dolly Ford, with some humorous body language and pouting when Jessie Seaton comes to call on Jack. It’s Dolly who first alerts Jack to the starving conditions of widow Sarah Balfour (Carrie Downey) and her sons. The plight of the Balfour family, with not enough money coming in to feed the children, is one of those situations which seemed to be part of the dead past in the TV show, and yet now seems frighteningly relevant for the stage show.

Bella Seaton (Janine Birkett) & Jessie Seaton (Alice Stokoe)

The play opens with Jack unemployed due to shipyard layoffs. Sir Horatio Manners offers Jack a chance to make some quick money by posing as a rich businessman at a country house weekend. Later on, union organiser Les Mallow (Adam Donaldson) offers Jack the chance to be his paid assistant if he will use his skills to get Les elected as union secretary.

At the heart of When The Boat Comes In is the tension between Jack’s ruthless self-interest, the intellectual socialism of Jessie and union organiser Mallow, and the practical charity of Bella Seaton. Bella is played with great charm by Janine Birkett (who recently appeared as war correspondent Marie Colvin in the drama-documentary Under the Wire). Throughout the play, Bella tries to do what is right, shouting down her opinionated husband or gently coaxing a shattered Jack Ford away from self-pity. Ironically, Alice Stokoe doubles both the principled Jessie and the extremely unprincipled Lady Jessica Croner.

It’s great to see these characters live again. The story is entertaining, down-to-earth and salted with wry humour (unexpected bits like the union strike vote where brother Poskett (Luke Maddison) suddenly points at the audience shouting, “You, get your hand up!”)

If I had to criticise the play, I’d question why Jack Ford was robbed of his big speech against inequality towards the end. And to see a play about Jack Ford without him trotting out his story about the death of Captain Manners and “Dining at the Saville” seems like Hamlet without “To Be or Not To Be”. But those are minor quibbles – and for a play that has the hair standing on the back of my neck more than once, not really relevant. When the Boat Comes In continues at the Custom House until Saturday 28th September.

Eggs or Anarchy: The Brexit No Deal Breakfast

Uncategorised Posted on Sat, August 17, 2019 11:57:19

Now that we are assured that Britain will exit the EU in October, deal-or-no-deal, I have been reading what will surely become essential reading. Eggs or Anarchy by William Sitwell is the story of Lord Woolton, World War Two Minister of Food, who ensured that Britain kept eating as supply chains seized up and resources dwindled.

Frederick James Marquis was joint managing director of the Lewis department store chain. It was a little known fact that Marquis had grown up in a poor terraced street in Salford. As Sitwell notes, modern politicians would, “barely let an interview pass without eulogising on their near poverty-stricken roots (but) Woolton never mentioned his very real, unassuming origins, indeed he rather buried them.”

Educated at Manchester Grammar School and Manchester College of Technology, Marquis’ career took a path through social work, teaching and journalism before being invited by Sir Rex Cohen to join the Lewis firm. One of Marquis’ personal goals was to achieve success in business while respecting his social conscience.

Such was the reputation Fred Marquis achieved in business that, on the outbreak of war, he was appointed Minister of Food. Marquis had already achieved success in cutting through red tape as a technical advisor to the War Office, ensuring that sufficient uniforms were produced to clothe the influx of servicemen.

Ennobled as Lord Woolton, his task was a stiff one. Britain had been a net importer of food: “half of all meat, three-quarters of all cheese, cereals, fats and sugars and four-fifths of fruit came from overseas.” With enemy submarines sinking shipping and former exporters over-run, those supply chains were at threat. On 29 September 1939, the Ministry of Food began a registration scheme to record the details of every civilian in the land – men, women and children. This provided the basis of a rationing scheme, which would ensure that food was evenly distributed. At the same time Woolton set his civil servants to studying the nutritional requirements set by the League of Nations to determine how calories the country needed to keep going. Behind the cold science, Fred Marquis never forgot his experience growing up in Salford – his knowledge of just what the working classes really ate.

Lord Woolton , publicising the mission of the Ministry of Food

Woolton had many critics – members of the House of Lords were particularly fond in quoting anecdotal tales of how his food distribution lines were failing while the press eagerly reported how Black Marketers were getting around the rules. Woolton also had to contend with the strong farmers lobby which was dissatisfied with the prices set for their produce.

But Woolton prevailed with a gift for plain-speaking and determination. “Here was a man not pleading for their support so he could keep his job. And here was a man who talked to them with an honesty they did not expect from politicians.”

Woolton was also a tough but canny negotiator with suppliers. Argentina tried to push an above-market price for its beef, perceiving Britain to have no alternatives. “The British could moralise and talk about principles all they liked, but they had no choice but to pay up.” Woolton informed the Ambassador that he accepted their decision, but since they could no longer trade, he would order British supply ships to stop calling at Argentinian ports. Since Argentina’s cold stores were stacked with produce, and British ships were part of the country’s import-export supply chain, this would cost Argentina millions. The Ambassador conceded, but then Woolton told him to raise his price by a small margin. “Woolton wanted final recognition of the negotiation to belong to the Ambassador, so that he could claim to his government that Britain was a reasonable country to deal with: a satisfied supplier meant that they would continue to sell to him as a customer.”

Sitwell concludes that, “Britain, at the end of the war, was not just in good physical shape, it had – and has never been – so healthy….child mortality had never been so low and far fewer mothers died in childbirth. Fewer babies had been stillborn and children were both taller and studier. There was also a markedly lower rate of tooth decay. All…achieved with fewer doctors, dentists, nurses and health visitors. While the rich ate less, the poorer ate more adequately.”

While the British have never forgotten the ordeal of food-rationing and how ‘we’ all came through it together, the man who won the commitment of civil servants and tradesmen and ensured that the nation came through it healthier than before is unjustly forgotten. Even the ‘Lord Woolton Pie’, created by a Savoy Chef to popularise the use of root vegetables and wholemeal flour is little celebrated. But with the prospect of crashing out on World Trade Organisation rules looms, perhaps a copy of Eggs or Anarchy should be delivered to every member of Boris Johnson’s ‘war cabinet’.

Eggs or Anarchy by William Sitwell Simon and Shuster 2016 ISBN 978-1-4711-5107-1

See how to make and eat Lord Woolton Pie here

Ransom (1975)

Uncategorised Posted on Fri, August 09, 2019 22:11:42

Looking forward to Ransom (1975) the film that brought Sean Connery and Ian McShane together with director Caspar Wrede


Ransom (1975)
Jeffrey Wickham and Sean Connery in Ransom (1975)

Superman – The Movie Phantom Zone

Rant Posted on Sun, July 21, 2019 19:02:11

There are so many superhero movies out there now that it’s sometimes hard to recall how sparse superhero movies used to be – and how inevitably disappointing most of them turned out. Even Superman – The Movie (1978) seemed off register at the time.
The film represented a Superman at least 10 years out of date – Clark Kent working for the Daily Planet, Lois Lane trying to uncover his identity and Lex Luthor as the main villain. Not just Luthor, but a humorous Luthor seemingly influenced by the Batman TV show. In the comics, Superman had moved forward. The Daily Planet was now owned by the Galaxy Broadcasting System whose duplicitous CEO, Morgan Edge conscripted Clark and Lois into reporting for his TV news shows. Scripts had become more ingenious.
Even when Superman – The Movie and its sequel Superman II related old-established lore such as the Phantom Zone villains, they seemed to do it in an odd mixed-up way. In the comic books, Kryptonian criminals were condemned to the Phantom Zone by a ray projector . Once inside the misty realm, the criminals became ghost-like and insubstantial, needing no food or mortal comforts. In the movies, the Phantom Zone was a whirling mirror that swooped down out of the skies and somehow absorbed the villains. It didn’t seem to make much sense. However, having recently got hold of a collection of Tales from the Phantom Zone – I’ve finally understood where the movie makers were coming from.
Superman – The Movie opens with General Zod (Terence Stamp), Non (Jack O’Halloran) and Ursa (Sarah Douglas) being condemned to the Phantom Zone at a trial in which their prosecutor Jor-El (Marlon Brando) has the casting vote. Superman II shows the Phantom Zone being shattered by an exploding bomb (or a missile in the Richard Donner cut). The Kryptonian villains realise that Earth’s yellow sun gives them super powers and quickly proceed to take over the Earth. Again, none of this seemed to make sense because in the comics the Phantom Zone wasn’t a physical prison that could be broken open.

The Phantom Zone first appeared in a Superboy story written in 1960 by Robert Bernstein. A sealed container falls to Earth and Superboy decodes the warning, signed by his own father Jor-El that they contain Krypton’s deadliest weapons. Despite the warning, Superboy opens the casket and finds a “thought helmet” which instructs him on the use of the Phantom Zone projector.

Superboy is accidentally projected into the Phantom Zone when a pesky lizard touches the ‘on’ button and spends the rest of the story as a living ghost until he figures a way to reverse the process. Superboy doesn’t encounter the rest of the Phantom Zone villains although the helmet does introduce the character of General Zod who is condemned to the Phantom Zone for trying to use an army of clones to take over Krypton.
However, the main inspiration for the Phantom Zone villains of the 1970’s movie, comes from a 1963 Superboy strip scripted by veteran science fiction writer Edmond Hamilton. The Untold Story of the Phantom Zone .
The story opens on Krypton with a crazed scientist called Gra-Mo trying to seize control of the planet using the robot police. His rival Jor-El foils the coup by using a magnetised weather satellite to capture the robot police. Because the Phantom Zone projector has been damaged by the magnetism, Gra-Mo and his associates are placed in suspended animation and exiled in a rocket ship.
Decades later, the prison ship has drifted towards Earth and a glancing blow from a meteor sends it crashing onto the planet’s surface. This is effectively the inspiration for the “Phantom Zone” being smashed open in the movies.
Gra-Mo tells his colleagues that they’re on Earth. “We monitored this world a thousand times from Krypton with our space telescopes and radios. Why we can even speak the English language.” This contrasts with Superman II where Zod and Ursa think they are on the planet “Houston” and know nothing of Earth (although they too speak very good English).
Gra-Mo also anticipates the deductions General Zod makes in Superman II “According to our scientists, if Kryptonians went to a world energised by a yellow sun, instead of our red sun, they’d have super powers!”

In the comic, Superboy arrives and is duped by the super villains. Ironically, when Gra-Mo tells Superboy he was an old friend of Jor-El’s, the Boy of Steel believes him because he knows “all Krypton’s villains are in the Phantom Zone”. When Gra-Mo invents a telepathic helmet to contact the Phantom Zone prisoners, they advise him how to attack Superboy. Eventually Superboy realises the Kryptonians are villains but is powerless to stop them as they embark on a campaign of vandalism similar to that of Zod and his cohorts.
In Superman II Lex Luthor leads Zod and his comrades to the Fortress of Solitude where they confront Superman. In the comic book story, Gra-Mo outwits every move Superboy makes. When he sends a lump of Kryptonite towards them, Gra-Mo jeers that the Phantom Zone villains have told him how to create a serum which gives him temporary immunity to Kryptonite.

In the movie, Superman is also in an impossible position. When Zod tells Non they will kill Luthor, Superman seizes his chance, whispering to Luthor that they must trick Zod into entering a chamber which will rob him of his super powers. Luthor immediately tells Zod what Superman is planning, and they force the Man of Steel to enter the chamber. What they don’t realise is that Superman has reversed the polarity (or whatever) and every Kryptonian outside the chamber is robbed of their super powers. Superman knocks the villains off the ice terraces of the Fortress of Solitude and as the fall towards the snow they fade away!
Back in the comic-book, Superboy has hidden the Phantom Zone projector inside Gra-Mo’s prison ship. The Phantom Zone villains, desperate to escape, tell Gra-Mo what Superboy has done. But when they enter the ship, they find out that the Phantom Zone projector is a cardboard model. Superboy seals up the ship and covers it in paint which blocks the rays of Earth’s yellow sun.
Robbed of their powers, Gra-Mo and his comrades are helpless as Superboy fires the Phantom Zone projector, which sends them into the misty realm inhabited by the other Kryptonian villains.

Superman II is a more entertaining film than Superman – The Movie but the plot flaws hanging over from the first movie were always annoying. Reading the comic book stories that formed the background for Zod, Ursa and Non, makes the apparent illogicality easier to accept.

I hadn’t realised, until I started researching this article, that there is now a controversy about whether Superman and Lois killed Zod and Ursa and that some viewers insist Zod died at the end of Superman II. I have to admit is never occurred to me that Superman had killed Zod. That strange fade before Zod hits the ice or snow or whatever it is at the bottom of the Fortress of Solitude suggests they didn’t want to show that. But again, having seen the comic book story which inspired that sequence, it’s pretty clear that Superman (or Superboy) would have sent them back to the Phantom Zone.
The ‘Richard Donner Cut’ DVD (2006) includes deleted scenes from the end of the movie which show a ‘US Arctic Patrol’ taking Zod, Non and Ursa into custody. This is all in long-shot because it’s the background to Gene Hackman’s final scene but the implication seems pretty clear.
If Richard Donner had returned to shoot the remaining scenes for Superman II it’s probable that he would have shot some close-ups of the Kryptonian villains to make it clear. But Donner was replaced by Richard Lester and the ending was re-written. Perhaps Lester thought the villains ‘fading away’ into the snow was the sort of thing that happened in comic books. After all, we’d just seen Superman deploy the incomprehensible tactic of throwing the ‘S’ symbol from his chest at Non.

Moonshot Memories: 18 July 1969 – The Gold Robbers

Rant Posted on Wed, July 17, 2019 08:24:54

As the Apollo 11 crew continued their journey to Moon orbit , ITV screened the seventh episode of London Weekend Television’s serial The Gold Robbers at 9pm on Friday 18th July 1969.
Continuing the ongoing format of the show, An Oddly Honest Man by former Plane Makers script associate David Weir, opened with the standard sequence of the armed attack on a plane delivering gold bullion to an airport. It then branched off to show the van full of gold being loaded onto a Bristol air freighter piloted by this week’s guest star Ian Hendry.
Picking up the trail, Inspector Craddock (Peter Vaughan) checks a list of every Bristol airfreighter in the country on the day of the robbery and narrows their whereabouts down to one plane which was supposedly sitting in an airfield in Beek, Holland, waiting for a contract to be signed by the Nigerian owners. Craddock establishes that the plane was in the air on the day of the robbery and the broker (Christopher Benjamin) tells him he let a friend, Tom Goodwin (Hendry), take the plane for a test flight as the plane had not been officially sold at that point.
Goodwin, a former mercenary pilot, has been imprisoned in South America on unspecified charges. Records show that when he returned to England, a month before the robbery, he declared £30,000 cash to Customs. Since he was not required to show the cash, Craddock suspects he was establishing an alibi for his payment from the robbery. Goodwin has married his girlfriend Dee (Wanda Ventham – two years before their pairing in the BBC’s The Lotus Eaters)and bought a riverside hotel to give them a solid future.

A series of point of view shots of the broker, Goodwin and Goodwin’s accountant shows them answering Craddock’s questions, proving he is unable to break down Goodwin’s alibi. The relentless Craddock gambles that, as a pilot Goodwin has always been up in the air, divorced from the consequences of whatever he’s been involved with. He goes to the hotel and confronts Tom and Dee with the face mask used by one of the robbers when they squirted ammonia in the faces of the guards and coshed them. “Look – you can still see the policeman’s blood there…he’s blind in one eye..”

Craddock tells Dee that he likes Goodwin, but eventually he’ll nail him. And he’ll no longer be the man he was. “After ten years in jail – courage, dignity, personality. Everything goes.” His only chance is to confess for a lighter sentence.

With Goodwin determined to stick to his alibi, Dee packs her bags and leaves. She can’t face a life looking over her shoulder waiting for Craddock to strike. “I don’t want it like this. I still love you..but I can’t live without hope. With nothing to look forward to.”

As Craddock returns to the hotel, he sees Dee stood at the bus stop with her suitcases. He finds Goodwin sitting at the bar. Director Bill Bain allows 23 seconds to elapse before Craddock says, “Hello Tom”. Hendry walks to the bar, gets a bottle and pours Craddock a drink. Another 1 minute 40 seconds elapses before Hendry says, “Must be a frustrating business, being a copper.” Craddock agrees: “I’ll get that pilot in the end, though.”

The titles roll as Craddock and Hendry sit drinking in silence. Another tightly scripted episode by David Weir balancing the procedural detail as Craddock zeroes in on his man, with Goodwin’s doomed attempts to make Dee’s dream of a riverside hotel into a reality. Director Bill Bain makes good use of point of view shots to heighten the atmosphere – when Craddock first goes to interview Goodwin, for instance, the idyllic shot of Hendry and Ventham looking over the river is overlaid with the crunch of Craddock’s footsteps on the gravel. They turn to look towards the camera, and the apprehension grows on Hendry’s face as the camera lurches towards him.

Read about The Yo Yo Life of Ian Hendry by Gabriel Hershman

Official Ian Hendry Tribute Site

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