TV Review – BERGERAC: RETIREMENT PLAN (1988)

Image result for bergerac retirement planBERGERAC: RETIREMENT PLAN (UK, 1988) ***
      Distributor: British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC); Production Company: British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) / Seven Network; Release Date: 27 December 1988; Running Time: 94m; Colour: Colour; Sound Mix: Dolby; Film Format: 16mm; Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1; BBFC Cert: 12.
      Director: Edward Bennett; Writer: Edmund Ward; Producer: George Gallaccio; Director of Photography: John Walker; Music Composer: Ray Russell; Theme Music: George Fenton; Film Editor: Bernard Ashby; Production Designer: Phil Roberson; Costumes: Barrie Sedwell; Make-up: Benita Barrell; Sound: Malcolm Campbell; Stunt Arranger: Gareth Milne.
      Cast: John Nettles (Jim Bergerac), Terence Alexander (Hungerford), Louise Jameson (Susan Young), Nicholas Ball (Gravel Beresford), James Laurenson (Raoul Fuegas), Sylvester Morand (Harry Lubeck), Constantine Gregory (Diego Ferrera), Sean Arnold (Crozier), Barrie Houghton (Reno), Danny Webb (Joe Grantham), Micha Bergese (Costello), Sue Lloyd (Eva Southurst), Carmen Du Sautoy (Marie Chantel), Anthony Calf (Simon Lorrilard), Matyelok Gibbs (Alice Thorwell), Bill Stewart (Gully), Paul Angelis (Jack Thorwell), John Telfer (Willy Pettit), David Kershaw (Ben Lomas), Nancy Mansfield (Peggy Masters), Hilary Mason (Miss Amberton), Robert McBain (George Beck), Dave Atkins (Wesley), Jonathan Oliver (Pathologist), Catherine Livesey (Woman House Buyer).
      Synopsis: Jim is summoned from Jersey to spend Christmas on the Costa Del Sol where a pair of small-time British crooks have tried to muscle in on Charlie’s latest business venture. When Jim gets involved he finds himself in the middle of a local gang war whilst back on Jersey a group of French thieves are causing havoc and Susan’s life is put in danger.
      Comment: The third of six feature-length Bergerac specials, this one broadcast at Christmas 1988 ahead of series 7. Series 6 had seen a new producer on board in George Gallaccio, who added a harder edge and more complex plots to the series. His desired style is fully evident in this episode which includes two separate plot threads. However, there is no connection between them, which gives the impression the special has been cobbled together from two distinct stories with characters disappearing without an explanation. The end result is a disjointed affair, despite the excellent supporting cast – notably Houghton’s piano-playing assassin and Du Sautoy’s high class thief – and the use of exotic Spanish locations.

Title agreed for my forthcoming Genesis book

I have had confirmation from my publisher, McFarland & Co., that the suggestion of title for my forthcoming Genesis book has been agreed and is The Songs of Genesis: A Complete Guide to the Studio Recordings.  I’ll post further updates as the book progresses toward publication.

Image result for genesis 1975
Genesis in February 1975. L to R: Steve Hackett, Mike Rutherford, Tony Banks, Peter Gabriel and Phil Collins. Photo by Chris Walter.

Sticking it to the Man publication date and launch event

Sticking It to the Man: Revolution and Counterculture in Pulp and Popular Fiction, 1950 to 1980, Andrew Nette and Iain McIntyre’s collection of essays and articles on how pulp fiction mirrored the changing politics and culture of the 1950s, ’60s, and ’70s, is published on 15 November. I have contributed one of two pieces on Shaft, with Michael A. Gonzales contributing the other. The book is a follow-up to their 2017 publication Girl Gangs, Biker Boys, and Real Cool Cats: Pulp Fiction and Youth Culture, 1950 to 1980.

The full list of contributors is: Gary Phillips, Woody Haut, Emory Holmes II, Michael Bronski, David Whish-Wilson, Susie Thomas, Bill Osgerby, Kinohi Nishikawa, Jenny Pausacker, Linda S. Watts, Scott Adlerberg, Maitland McDonagh, Devin McKinney, Andrew Nette, Danae Bosler, Michael A. Gonzales, Iain McIntyre, Nicolas Tredell, Brian Coffey, Molly Grattan, Brian Greene, Eric Beaumont, Bill Mohr, J. Kingston Pierce, Steve Aldous, David Image result for The Old Bar, 74- 76 Johnston St, Fitzroy,James Foster, and Alley Hector.

There will be a launch event held at The Old Bar, 74- 76 Johnson St, Fitzroy, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia on 3 December at 6.30 p.m. where they’ll be joined by literary historian and pulp fiction fan Stuart Kellis.

TV Review – BERGERAC: TREASURE HUNT (1987)

Image result for bergerac treasure huntBERGERAC: TREASURE HUNT (UK, 1987) ***
      Distributor: British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC); Production Company: British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) / Seven Network; Release Date: 26 December 1987; Running Time: 90m; Colour: Colour; Sound Mix: Dolby; Film Format: 16mm; Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1; BBFC Cert: 12.
      Director: Robert Tronson; Writer: Rod Beacham; Producer: Jonathan Alwyn; Director of Photography: Kevin Rowley; Music Composer: Ray Russell; Theme Music: George Fenton; Film Editor: Bernard Ashby; Production Designer: Phil Roberson; Costumes: Barrie Sedwell; Make-up: Di Roberts; Sound: Simon Wilson; Visual Effects: Robert Thomas; Stunt Arranger: Gareth Milne.
      Cast: John Nettles (Jim Bergerac), Terence Alexander (Hungerford), Liza Goddard (Philippa Vale), James Maxwell (Raymond Charteris), Peter Jeffrey (Rockwell), Lynette Davies (Miranda Bassett), David Horovitch (Simeon Fox), John Grillo (Cyril Clavering), Sean Arnold (Crozier), Louise Jameson (Susan Young), Greg Hicks (Gregory Ormond), Carol Harrison (Tina Bragg), Michael Melia (Inspector Petch), Rosemary Frankau (Museum Curator), Nancy Mansfield (Peggy Masters), Geoffrey Leesley (DC Terry Wilson), Jolyon Baker (DC Barry Goddard), Steve Paget (Sgt. Grieve), David Beckett (Vincent), Chris Donat (Security Assistant), Stuart Saunders (Sir Roger Carfax), John Cassady (Leao), John Crocker (Shop Keeper), Marilyn Le Conte (Desk Clerk), Penny Smith (Waitress at Garden Party), Theresa Fresson (Waitress at Cafe), Christopher Dunne (Chaplain), Dorothea Alexander (Lady with Dog), Gareth Milne (Tony Bragg).
      Synopsis: Tony Bragg, suspected fence in a huge diamond heist is pushed to his death from his London flat. Bragg had visited Jersey some while earlier and Scotland Yard asks for Jim’s help. Then Philippa Vale arrives on the island with Bragg’s associate Ormond, who is also killed.
      Comment: The second of six feature-length Bergerac specials (this one broadcast on Boxing Day 1987 just ahead of series 6). Unlike “Fires in the Fall” this episode sticks to the series formula and notably that which makes the Bergerac/Philippa Vale episodes so popular. Whilst the story is not as strong as the three previous standard episodes (“Ice Maiden”, “Return of the Ice Maiden” and “SPARTA”), this does at least progress the relationship between Nettles’ dedicated detective and Goddard’s charming and witty jewel thief. Their chemistry and Goddard’s note-perfect delivery shines through. The plot is convoluted, but not especially engaging and Jeffrey is wasted in a role that gives him little to do until the finale. Some of the humour is also a little laboured, despite the writer/director team having reunited from the previous episodes. The denouement is poor, but there is a neat coda, which suggests we’ll see Goddard’s Philippa again.

Film Review – THE FOG (1980)

THE FOG (USA, 1980) ****
PRODUCTION: Distributor: AVCO Embassy Pictures; Production Company: AVCO Embassy Pictures / EDI / Debra Hill Productions; Release Date: 1 February 1980 (USA), 6 November 1980 (UK); Filming Dates: May 1979; Running Time: 90m; Colour: Metrocolor; Sound Mix: Mono; Film Format: 35mm; Film Process: Panavision; Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1; BBFC Cert: 15 – strong horror.
CREW: Director: John Carpenter; Writer: John Carpenter, Debra Hill; Executive Producer: Charles B. Bloch; Producer: Debra Hill; Associate Producer: Barry Bernardi, Pegi Brotman; Director of Photography: Dean Cundey; Music Composer: John Carpenter; Film Editor: Charles Bornstein, Tommy Lee Wallace; Production Designer: Tommy Lee Wallace; Art Director: Craig Stearns; Set Decorator: ; Costumes: Stephen Loomis, Bill Whitten; Make-up: Rob Bottin; Sound: Ron Horwitz; Special Effects: Richard Albain Jr.; Visual Effects: James F. Liles.
CAST: Adrienne Barbeau (Stevie Wayne), Jamie Lee Curtis (Elizabeth Solley), Janet Leigh (Kathy Williams), John Houseman (Mr. Machen), Tom Atkins (Nick Castle), James Canning (Dick Baxter), Charles Cyphers (Dan O’Bannon), Nancy Kyes (Sandy Fadel), Ty Mitchell (Andy Wayne), Hal Holbrook (Father Malone), John F. Goff (Al Williams), George ‘Buck’ Flower (Tommy Wallace), Regina Waldon (Mrs. Kobritz), Jim Haynie (Dockmaster), Darrow Igus (Mel), John Vick (Sheriff Simms), Jim Jacobus (Mayor), Fred Franklyn (Ashcroft), Ric Moreno (Ghost), Lee Socks (Ghost), Tommy Lee Wallace (Ghost), Bill Taylor (Bartender), Rob Bottin (Blake), Charles Nicklin (Blake), Darwin Joston (Dr. Phibes), Laurie Arent (Child), Lindsey Arent (Child), Shari Jacoby (Child), Christopher Cundey (Child), John Strobel (Grocery Clerk).
SYNOPSIS: A Northern California fishing town, built 100 years ago over an old leper colony, is the target for revenge by a killer fog containing zombie-like ghosts seeking revenge for their deaths.
COMMENT: A fine example of economic filmmaking, this is a creepy and atmospheric ghost story with more than its fair share of thrills. Carpenter nicely ratchets up the tension and a game cast keep the viewer engaged. Holbrook gives the standout performance as the guilt-laden priest who is a descendant of a clergyman instrumental in creating the events that come back toi haunt the community. Curtis and Atkins make strong everyday characters and Leigh enjoys herself as a community leader. The unsettling mood is enhanced Carpenter’s eerie electronic score, which heklps to ratchet up the fear factor.
NOTES: Remade in 2005.

News on my latest book covering the songs of Genesis

The manuscript for my latest book is now with the publishers. The provisional title is: The Songs of Genesis: A Complete Guide to the Studio Recordings. It does what it says on the tin. It’s been twenty years in the making. I wrote an early version of the book way back at the start of the Millenium, not having written anything before. Having struggled to get interest from publishers back then, partly because the music scene had moved on from Genesis and probably largely because my book could have been better, I parked it.
 
Over the last three years, I have sharpened it up, expanded it and got it to a finished state that I am happy with. McFarland, who published my first book The World of Shaft, were keen and are now going about formating and preparing the manuscript for publication. I’m hoping it will be out early next year.
 
In the meantime, Sticking It to the Man: Revolution and Counterculture in Pulp and Popular Fiction, 1950 to 1980 (edited by Andrew Nette and Iain McIntyre, published by PM Press), to which I have contributed a chapter on the Shaft books, is now due out in November.

Film Review – NIGHT MOVES (1975)

Related imageNIGHT MOVES (USA, 1975) ****
PRODUCTION: Distributor: Warner Bros. (USA), Columbia-EMI-Warner (UK); Production Company: Warner Bros. / Hiller Productions / Layton Productions / Major Studio Partners; Release Date: 18 March 1975 (USA); Filming Dates: fall/winter 1973; Running Time: 100m; Colour: Technicolor; Sound Mix: Mono; Film Format: 35mm; Film Process: Spherical; Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1; BBFC Cert: 18 – child abuse theme.
CREW: Director: Arthur Penn; Writer: Alan Sharp; Producer: Robert M. Sherman; Associate Producer: Gene Lasko; Director of Photography: Bruce Surtees; Music Composer: Michael Small; Film Editor: Dede Allen; Casting Director: Nessa Hyams; Production Designer: George Jenkins; Set Decorator: Ned Parsons; Costumes: Rita Riggs; Make-up: Bob Stein; Sound: Richard P. Cirincione, Craig McKay, Robert M. Reitano; Special Effects: Joe Day, Marcel Vercoutere.
CAST: Gene Hackman (Harry Moseby), Jennifer Warren (Paula), Susan Clark (Ellen), Edward Binns (Ziegler), Harris Yulin (Marty Heller), Kenneth Mars (Nick), Janet Ward (Arlene Iverson), James Woods (Quentin), Anthony Costello (Marv Ellman), John Crawford (Tom Iverson), Melanie Griffith (Delly Grastner), Ben Archibek (Charles), Dennis Dugan (Boy), C.J. Hincks (Girl), Max Gail (Stud), Susan Barrister (Ticket Clerk), Larry Mitchell (Ticket Clerk).
SYNOPSIS: In LA, a private detective is hired by a retired obscure Hollywood actress to find her 16 year-old missing daughter.
COMMENT: Extremely well-acted detective mystery with Hackman delivering a performance of depth as the private eye with things to prove to himself. The complex script focuses as much on character as plot progression and gives the actors plenty to work with and Warren and Clark are notable standouts. The finale contains a neat final twist. The only misstep is Small’s weak score, which fails to build on the tension evident in Sharp’s script and drawn out through Penn’s expert direction and Surtees’ moody photography.

TV Review – BERGERAC: FIRES IN THE FALL (1986)

BERGERAC: FIRES IN THE FALL (UK, 1986) ***½
      Distributor: British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC); Production Company: British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) / Seven Network; Release Date: 26 December 1986; Running Time: 89m; Colour: Colour; Sound Mix: Dolby; Film Format: 16mm; Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1; BBFC Cert: 12.
      Director: Tom Clegg; Writer: Chris Boucher; Producer: Jonathan Alwyn; Director of Photography: Alec Curtis, Adrian Smith; Music Composer: Ray Russell; Theme Music: George Fenton; Film Editor: Bernard Ashby, Paul Garrick; Production Designer: Ken Ledsham; Costumes: Andrew MacKenzie; Make-up: Marilyn MacDonald; Sound: Bill Chesneau; Visual Effects: Simon Tayler.
      Cast: John Nettles (Jim Bergerac), Terence Alexander (Hungerford), Amanda Redman (Pauline Taylor), Barrie Ingham (Raoul Barnaby), Margaretta Scott (Roberta Jardine), Sean Arnold (Crozier), Louise Jameson (Susan Young), Donald Churchill (David MacKenzie), Paul Brooke (Malcolm Croxted), Ron Pember (Jack Plemont), Deborah Grant (Deborah Bergerac), Lindsay Heath (Kim Bergerac), Geoffrey Leesley (DC Terry Wilson), Jolyon Baker (DC Barry Goddard), Mela White (Diamante Lil), Nancy Mansfield (Peggy Masters), Jim McManus (Filing Clerk), Tony Westrope (Jeavans), Nicholas McArdle (Doctor), Guy Standeven (Vicar), Salomi Oxberry (Maria).
      Synopsis: When an elderly millionairess puts her trust in a psychic who claims to speak to the dead, Jim is asked to debunk some supernatural myths.
      Comment: The first of six feature-length Bergerac specials (broadcast at Christmas just ahead of series 5) builds on the approach tested in the earlier fourth series episode “What Dreams May Come?” by delving into the supernatural thriller genre. Like the earlier episode “Fires in the Fall” looks to explain these supernatural elements through a gradual reveal of its mystery. That it is both relatively successful, sometimes scary and often entertaining is testament to the directorial skills of Tom Clegg and the scripting of Chris Boucher. Ingham also adds greatly to the story with a creepy guest turn as a medium seemingly in contact with the dead. There’s also an early role for Redman as the put-upon niece of Scott’s wealthy retiree. All the series regulars are involved, with some lighter moments built around heating problems at the bureau. Whilst not totally satisfying, largely because it tries to introduce one twist too many during the finale, it remains a strong episode in a consistently entertaining series.

Book Review – RESURRECTION MEN (2001) by Ian Rankin

RESURRECTION MEN (1995) ****
by Ian Rankin
First published by Orion 2001
This edition published by Orion, 2011, 512pp (484pp)
ISBN: 978-0-7528-8365-6
includes an introduction by Ian Rankin and Reading Group Notes.
      Blurb: Rebus is off the case – literally. A few days into the murder inquiry of an Edinburgh art dealer, Rebus blows up at a colleague. He is sent to the Scottish Police College for ‘retraining’ – in other words, he’s in the Last Chance Saloon. Rebus is assigned to an old, unsolved case, but there are those in his team who have their own secrets – and they’ll stop at nothing to protect them. Rebus is also asked to act as a go-between for gangster ‘Big Ger’ Cafferty. And as newly promoted DS Siobhan Clarke works the case of the murdered art dealer, she is brought closer to Cafferty than she could ever have anticipated…
      Comment: Ian Rankin leaves Rebus out in the cold and takes him into darker territory than ever before in this long, but expertly written crime mystery thriller. Rankin weaves two distinct investigations together with great skill giving a much more prominent role for DS Siobhan Clark, enabling him to draw parallels between the two detectives. Rebus, working undercover for the Chief Constable to expose a group of corrupt cops, is as dogged and avuncular as ever. The separate cases become connected as Rankin gradually unveils the hidden secrets of the so-called “Wild Bunch” of detectives in the last-chance saloon. The story only really falters during its finale, where a plot twist feels a little too convenient but otherwise, this is a very satisfying and first-class example of crime fiction writing.
This completes my reading of Ian Rankin’s Rebus series and it is one of my favourites. Rankin relly hit his straps with Let if Bleed and then Black & Blue and from there the series reamined of a consistently high standard up until Rebus’ retirement in 2007’s Exit Music. That he returnede again five years later as a retired cop working cold cases was very welcome, but those books, whilst all well-written,  lack the bite of the core series. I still hope there is more to come and look forward to seeing where Rankin takes Rebus next.

The Rebus Series:

Knots and Crosses (1987) ***
Hide and Seek (1991) ***
Tooth and Nail (original title Wolfman) (1992) ***
Strip Jack (1992) ***½
The Black Book (1993) ***
Mortal Causes (1994) ***
Let it Bleed (1996) ****
Black and Blue (1997) ****½
The Hanging Garden (1998) ****
Dead Souls (1999) ****
Set in Darkness (2000) ****
The Falls (2001) ****
Resurrection Men (2002) ****
A Question of Blood (2003) ****
Fleshmarket Close (2004) ****
The Naming of the Dead (2006)  ****½
Exit Music (2007) ****
Standing in Another Man’s Grave (2012) ***½
Saints of the Shadow Bible (2013) ***
Even Dogs in the Wild (2015) ****
Rather Be the Devil (2016) ***½
In a House of Lies (2018) ***½

Film Review – QUATERMASS AND THE PIT (1967)

QUATERMASS AND THE PIT (UK, 1967) ****
PRODUCTION: Distributor: Warner-Pathé Distributors (UK), Twentieth Century Fox (USA); Production Company: Hammer Film Productions; Release Date: 29 September 1967 (UK), 7 February 1968 (USA); Filming Dates: 27 February 1967 – 25 April 1967; Running Time: 97m; Colour: Technicolor; Sound Mix: Mono (RCA Sound Recording); Film Format: 35mm; Film Process: Spherical; Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1; BBFC Cert: 12.
CREW: Director: Roy Ward Baker; Writer: Nigel Kneale (based on an original story by Nigel Kneale); Producer: Anthony Nelson Keys; Director of Photography: Arthur Grant; Music Composer: Tristram Cary; Music Supervisor: Philip Martell; Film Editor: James Needs; Casting Director: Irene Lamb; Art Director: Kenneth Ryan; Costumes: Rosemary Burrows; Make-up: Michael Morris; Sound: Sash Fisher, Roy Hyde; Special Effects: Les Bowie, Sydney Pearson.
CAST: James Donald (Doctor Roney), Andrew Keir (Quatermass), Barbara Shelley (Barbara Judd), Julian Glover (Colonel Breen), Duncan Lamont (Sladden), Bryan Marshall (Captain Potter), Peter Copley (Howell), Edwin Richfield (Minister), Grant Taylor (Police Sergeant Ellis), Maurice Good (Sergeant Cleghorn), Robert Morris (Watson), Sheila Steafel (Journalist), Hugh Futcher (Sapper West), Hugh Morton (Elderly Journalist), Thomas Heathcote (Vicar), Noel Howlett (Abbey Librarian), Hugh Manning (Pub Customer), June Ellis (Blonde), Keith Marsh (Johnson), James Culliford (Corporal Gibson), Bee Duffell (Miss Dobson), Roger Avon (Electrician), Brian Peck (Technical Officer), John Graham (Inspector), Charles Lamb (Newsvendor).
SYNOPSIS: An ancient Martian spaceship is unearthed in London and proves to have powerful psychic effects on the people around.
COMMENT: Splendid feature film adaptation of Nigel Kneale’s 1958 6-part BBC TV serial with, despite budget constraints, impressive visual and special effects work. Baker directs with flair and with inventive use of the camera. Keir adds gravitas in a strong performance as Quatermass, whilst Glover plays the typically closed-minded army captain. Donald and Shelley are the scientists who work alongside Keir to prevent the alien threat from being released. The thrilling final act makes for an exciting conclusion.
NOTES: Originally released in the USA as FIVE MILLION YEARS TO EARTH. Followed by THE QUATERMASS CONCLUSION (1979).