01/08/2011. Contributed by Geoff Willmetts
region 2 DVD: pub: Network 7953388. 1 DVD 150 minutes 6 * 26 minute black and white episodes. Price GBP14.99 (UK). stars: Anthony Newley.
check out website: www.networkdvd.co.uk
The opening of the first episode looks like any early 60s sit-com and predictably dull. It’s male lead, Gurney Slade (actor Anthony Newley) agrees and walks off the set and examines what his life has come to, aided by anything that will speak, including a rock and a dog and even brings a poster girl cleaner (actress Una Stubbs) to life for a dance. This is totally surreal and you really have to pay attention to the screen for a variety of sight gags and places around London, assuming you are familiar with the place. You might even recognise a few places as used in films from that era.
The second episode examines romance of that time period, even if bizarrely it starts on a disused airfield. It becomes spot the actors on occasion and for those with an interest in ‘Doctor Who’ will see Anneke Wills. Indeed, a lot of minor role parts are actors who go on to more recognisable parts later. The fourth episode has a number of cast members who later appeared in ‘UFO’ although you’d be hard pressed to spot all of them without reading the credits list.
The scenes change for each of the six episodes, with the third in the countryside and the fourth in court debating whether or not Gurney Slade’s jokes about countersunk screws were effective or not. By the way, did you realise that of all the crimes you could commit on a bus back in the 60s, only spitting was the one you could be fined for?
The fifth episode becomes very surreal, starting off with Gurney telling a bunch of kids about a symbolic tinker who can give wishes who then appears played by Charles Lloyd-Pack (if the surname sounds familiar then so it should as his son, Roger, was in ‘Only Fools And Horses). The late comedian Bernie Winters cameos in this and the sixth episode. They all disappear into his mind where nothing is really a closed door and also gives a chance for Newley to sing his song, ‘Strawberry Fair’.
The sixth and final episode gives a rare, at least in the 60s, chance to look around a TV studio where Gurney Slade is revealed to be the model on the stage. It is also revealing how all the characters that have appeared in the series are figments of his imagination who demand that he creates more of a back story for them. Gurney Slade almost wishes he was no dummy. You’ll see what I mean if you watch the end of the episode.
Although Newley came up with the idea for the series it is the writers, Sid Green and Dick Hills who went onto write for ‘Morecombe And Wise’ during the 60s on ITV and watching this you can see why they got that particular gig, who wrote the series. The Max Harris musical score sounds familiar but in 1961, I was only four so I doubt if I’d have been up late enough for it. You can listen to it on UTube by the way. Someone really must release a CD of all the theme tracks he composed including ‘Porridge’ and ‘Doomwatch’.
I wasn’t quite sure what to make of this series when it arrived but I love its quaintness and dry humour. Anthony Newley makes being down-trodden look like a way of life.
There are numerous extras for such an old show even if they are stills. Of particular interest are the five minutes of promos. Not the thirty second type we have today but anything up to ninety seconds each that would look like a complete scene today.
Looking this show up, it failed back in the 60s, mostly I suspect because it was ahead of its time and no one really got it. Today, we’re used to such things.
Simply spooldelcreme or splangwick. Don’t be confused by the DVD main menu. You just have to open each door to find what’s inside. I was surprised by how much fun this was to watch and its surreal aspects might not make it Science Fiction but definitely a form of fantasy.
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