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End of series episode
Rumpole annoys Judge Oliphant while defending a boring man who claims his wife fell and hit her head on the fender. Claude thinks that Rumpole is talking to his client in the lunch break, when he's been told not to. Liz and Hilda stand by Rumpole.
And the gang's all here: Phillida Trant, now a judge. Judge Graves (who is rather suave), and one of the Timsons. That's at the usual party at the end.
But what happens to Mr Tong, beautifully played by Peter Sallis? All we hear is that he has run off with Mrs Grabowitz from next door.
A Rumpole I've never seen before?
It's like finding the tomb of Tutankhamun! And it's a particularly good one. Hilda persuades Rumpole to come on a "second honeymoon" on a cruise to the Greek islands. (They'd had to come home early from their first honeymoon as they ran out of money.) Rumpole just wants a holiday from judge Graves. Whaddaya know? Judge Graves is on board, taking a holiday from Rumpole.
Rumpole lurks out of site, while Hilda dresses in her best and mingles at the cocktail parties. She quickly chums up with a mystery writer and his irritating personal assistant, and an insurance man turned vicar who has just got married.
They are all serenaded by a (surprisingly good) singer who belts out the golden oldies. Rumpole's cover is blown, and he comes out of hiding, but the newly wed Mrs Britwell develops a mysterious sickness and disappears from view. The mystery writer suspects the Rev of making away with her. He, Rumpole and Graves form an unlikely investigation committee.
Eventually Rumpole solves the mystery in an effective and somewhat surreal denouement, and the Rumpoles set off to shop in Mykonos.
PS Hilda looks stunning in fancy dress as Britannia, while Rumpole wears an eyepatch as a pirate.
Tabloid attacks romantic novelist
Hilda is addicted to the works of Amelia Nettleship, a romantic historical novelist clearly based on Barbara Cartland (though younger). A mud-slinging tabloid accuses her of torrid affairs, despite her support for virginity before marriage, and she sues. Rumpole is retained for the defence - of the tabloid and its editor. John Mortimer's stepdaughter, Caroline Mortimer, plays one of the journalists. Meanwhile Claude attends a strip club purely to examine the "locus in quo" of an affray with Coca Cola bottles, and is snapped by the tabloid's paparazzi. Phyllida takes a dim view and he moves in with the Rumpoles, singing Mozart at breakfast (he has a really nice voice), and forcing poor Hilda to sit through recordings of Die Meistersinger.
Rumpole is led by Sam Ballard in a murder case - Lady Derwent is accused of despatching her husband, a much older and distinguished artist. They share a large house with the artist's old mother and his daughter, who's five years younger than the wife. The artist is terminally ill and is given a diamorphine injection every day by a nurse. There are nods to Agatha Christie (carelessly leaving a medical bag in the hall) and Dorothy Sayers (omelettes). As Sam Ballard makes blunder after blunder, Rumpole tells him what to say. Fortunately Ballard knocks himself out with a chest expander and ends up in hospital being visited by "Matey", the law courts' nurse. Rumpole pulls off another win, and "Matey" becomes Mrs Ballard, giving an excuse for a final party in a marquee with all the cast. There are sub-plots about slimming, and Ms Probert's boyfriend. (Watch out for Mortimer himself - he often turns up in these party scenes.)
The New Avengers: The Midas Touch (1976)
Flawed but fun
Midas is a fallen angel with a deadly gift. He is in the pay - or under the control - of Professor Turner, ex of "Pilton Down", a man obsessed with gold. Robert Feust directed this episode, with nods to Roger Corman's Masque of the Red Death, and also the fancy dress party in his own Dr Phibes. Much of the action takes place in Prof Turner's secret hangout in a deserted factory complex. Purdey interviews a major as he runs over an assault course. Sadly Steed is reduced to making suggestive remarks to very young women, and a Chinese character is played by an English actor in... blue eye makeup?
The Blue Lamp (1950)
London just post-war was still a Victorian city. As the police cars chase the villains along mainly traffic-free roads there is a strange void in the sky - the council estates with their tower blocks are ten years or so in the future. I'd like a closer look at Gladys Henson's kitchen. She's got rid of the old range and cooks on a gas stove in the scullery, but still has a mantelpiece stuffed with nicknacks. Her scenes at home are so touching. At first she can't bear the thought of a lodger in "Bert's old room", but she quickly comes round to Jimmy Hanley as a guest. Another sign that we are in a vanished world: everybody is so THIN! Rationing was still going in 1950.
The House of Fear (1945)
Excellent entry in the series
Notable for the spooky old mansion with its carved panelling, suits of armour and bronze statuary. I was also mesmerised by Mrs Monteith's large wardrobe of frumpy Victorian crocheted waistcoats. If only I could ask her for the patterns! Meanwhile Paul Cavanagh is as good as usual as the elegant Dr Merivale, and the permanently smiling Mr Alistair must surely be part of the plot, which involves sending each member of a tontine an envelope containing orange pips. Dr Watson may be played as a buffoon, but he spots a vital clue, and also uses his training to treat a coshing victim and sniff a toxin. He steps in as a doctor frequently in this series.
There Is Another Sun (1951)
Better than I remembered
No film with Maxwell Reed can be all bad. The director even used his height as a plot point - how can he hide in a crowd? Racer (Wall of Death) and Maguire (boxer) pick up Lilian (Susan Shaw) in a dodgy nightclub where they gamble away their savings. Racer wants to get back on the Speedway track, while Maguire wants to make it as a boxer. Meanwhile he falls in love with Lilian, but fears she has a thing for racer. The gruff trainer meanwhile is in love with the fortune teller - played to great effect by the wonderful Hermione Baddeley. "Your kabbalistic number is 69 and your lucky colour is blue - you're a Scorpio, I can tell!" The real star is the seedy background of the fair, the vans, and the grubby boarding house where Lilian is staying with a girlfriend - their show has closed and they're on their uppers. They still existed, with their Victorian furniture, in the 60s and 70s.
Public Eye: How About It, Frank? (1975)
Who's on the take?
Frank is offered a job by his wannabe partner, Ron Gash, an ex-copper. While checking up on a possible employee for an American computer firm, Frank bumps into Tarrant the man who may have beaten him up. Guess who else turns up in the office? The young criminal who got him into trouble. Together the try to get their money out of Tarrant. Frank is also being pursued by Tyson, a tough Irish cop (Ray McAnally). Lurking in the background is a Mr Big called Cope. But who among this lot is in his employ?
More dysfunctional families
Well done to whoever wrote this one. A rural churchwarden receives anonymous letters accusing the vicar of rumpy-pumpy. The vicar is Brian Blessed! Being fairly restrained. Frank is called in to investigate. Scandal, you know! Must avoid. He takes his rumpled self to some more intoxicatingly drab interiors, a draughty vicarage, a stately-ish home - inhabited by the churchwarden and his eccentric brother, who wants to raise money for his zoo and folk museum. As usual, nothing is quite what it seems, a lot of biscuits get eaten, there's a bit of motorway blight, a Rubens goes missing, and nothing quite gets resolved.
Public Eye: Home and Away (1973)
"My husband's seeing someone else!"
"Tell me the old, old story," says Frank. But the lady keeps making him shlep out to her dingy house in a drab suburb when she really has nothing to tell him. Her husband spends all his time organising a works football team. He hardly listens to her any more. Frank turns on the blokiness and chums up with the husband in the pub. He turns out to be a nice fellow, uninterested in women. It can't be that simple - can it? Who's telling the truth? Who left the lipstick on the collar?
Public Eye: A Family Affair (1973)
Elderly brothers discover family secrets
On the death of their father, two eccentric, elderly brothers hire a solicitor (who hires Frank) to stop their dad's long-time housekeeper getting more than her fair share of the loot. Family secrets are revealed one by one, the brothers exhibit neuroses while their wives snip frantically at the geraniums, or smile unwearyingly. Frank eventually meets the housekeeper, who seems like a decent sort, but has another angle on the story, and it's not the one you expect. Wonderfully drab interiors, and an untouched 30s Arts and Crafts house - but who does it belong to? The story is unresolved, and we sense it will continue to unfold.
Public Eye: Mrs. Podmore's Cat (1972)
Lame attempt at humour
The writer's attempt at humour consists mainly of humiliating Frank. A merry widow hires him to cat sit, but her current boyfriend (20 years younger) and ex prove to be a distraction. There's some shenanigans with some missing miniatures. Top "jokes": mentions of smelly cat food and cat poo. Ha, ha, ha.
But it has one redeeming feature - the widow is played by Jean Kent, the original Woman in Question, flashing the same old manipulative charm.
Public Eye: Horse and Carriage (1972)
I turned off half-way through. Like Mrs Podmore's Cat, a misguided attempt to inject some humour into the bleak life of Frank Marker. Mainly concerns a couple with an unusual marriage. The writer isn't sure if he wants to be Samuel Beckett, Harold Pinter or NF Simpson. Maybe he IS NF Simpson. Not funny at all.
Jeannie dabbles with some spiritualists
Jeannie is chilling out at home when her flat is attacked by a poltergeist, operated by two gaunt, smiling men in a car with an electrical/radio device. She calls Jeff for help and he rushes round in his lemon yellow karate pyjamas and a leather jacket. She worries that the business isn't making money, and wonders whether to accept a job from two strange, smiling men.... Yes, the ones from the car, who claim to be spiritualists. Impossible to cut a long story short. Jeff pawns his bedding to persuade an alcoholic friend to pretend to be a bereaved mother so that Jeannie can pass her on to the spook-raising Foster brothers and get some commission. I think.
The brothers, played wonderfully by Alfred Burke and Dudley Foster, explain to the actress, posing as "Mrs Wilson", that they have never succeeded in raising anybody. They plan to send her to the beyond to act as their emissary. She flees, but finds that their Gothic mansion is bordered by a moat...
More shenanigans ensue, and it all ends happily. Oh, weren't the 60s lovely?
Twice Round the Daffodils (1962)
Poignant tale, but with dated humour and attitudes
An early not-quite Carry On, set in a TB sanatorium where a motley group of men are taking the cure (free on the newly formed NHS, long may it reign). The time is the early 60s, but the story must have been written before effective drug treatment for this serious disease. The crew have X rays and "oscopies" but no treatment apart from "bed rest" and fresh air is mentioned.
Despite the grim premise, it's an excuse to mix the classes, and a Welsh miner is forced to share his quarters with a lower-middle-class encyclopedia compiler (Kenneth Williams) and a West Country farmer (Lance Percival), not to mention an RAF "type" who looks a bit young to have fought in the war.
I have a fondness for this film. The crude innuendos don't make me laugh (how DID they get away with some of them). But on a recent viewing I was struck by how much attitudes have changed - for the better.
The RAF type (Donald Sinden) is frustrated, and pursues the nurses (we only see three of them - apart from the matron). But he assaults them after barely saying "Good morning" - are supposed to find this funny, or salacious?
Censorship was still in force (hence the double entendres), but seaside postcard humour was in vogue - one nurse loses half her clothes while climbing in through the window.
Just as disturbing is the way the Welsh miner bullies the youngest patient - a gentle soul who's studying to be a chef. He calls him "Christine" and reads out his poetry sarcastically. The other men object, but it is quite painful to watch. Chris fights back, squashing the RAF type: "I know the facts of life - they told us in the orphanage."
The rest of this plotless saga is filled in with the patients' and staffs' relationships which of course all come right in the end. Kenneth Williams reconciles with his dowdy sister (Joan Sims), and the miner is impressed that his wife is now forelady of the mine's canteen and even asks if she can get him a job as a dishwasher.
Wikipedia reveals that the original play was a hit in 1956, and that one of the authors had been in a TV sanatorium. That explains the anachronisms.
A period gem - which isn't quite sure of its period.
Public Eye: Transatlantic Cousins (1971)
Sporting the least American accents I've ever heard, visit Windsor hoping to find some British cousins. Then they find some old silver with the family crest in an antique shop. Frank is on the spot, and offers to help look up the family. While the "brash American" couple go to Stratford, the daughter stays behind to do some detecting and meets a real smoothiechops who claims to have busked round Ibiza...
Why did a young man kill himself?
Peter Kulman has everything to live for, but he jumps off a tall building. His family hire Frank to find out why he did it. Frank does some psychological and criminal detective work. Peter's mother is a psychologist with a careful manner, perhaps the detached stance she adopts with patients. How would this affect her son? She dresses frumpily and looks older than her age, with Mary Whitehouse glasses and a frightful bouffant. She becomes warmer and more vulnerable as the investigation goes on. Peter's brother and uncle run the family building business - his brother is played by a young, handsome David Suchet. They don't want the death looked into, but they have their reasons.
Frank finds a landlady who is packing up Peter's things - she tells him that Peter's passion was nature and bird-watching, and directs him to Peter's girlfriend. The girl is sensitively played, and is clearly meant by the writers to be a hippy (a bit out of date, but they didn't go away), an alternative Bohemian, an arty type of the kind that has always existed. She and Peter had high ideals, and despised the past, the present and the future.
The writers clearly don't know much about this type of person, and have created her from various sources. She has painted her living room black and has black net curtains. Not in the early 70s! She has got rid of chairs (we did in the late 60s but quickly brought them back as sitting on the ground is so uncomfortable). She has long hair, but it's /backcombed/. No post-hippy in the 70s would have backcombed her hair! And she's wearing an off-the-peg "hippy" dress - turquoise and flowery, with ruffled sleeves. A girl like this would make her own clothes, or wear army surplus or fancy dress to Stick It to the Man.
Despite all this, it's a good episode, and the girlfriend and family have a couple more revelations for Frank. (And at least I could work out what was going on!)
A search for an errant husband ends up in murkier waters
An impassive Irish woman asks Marker to find her wandering husband. The woman is staying at an expensive hotel with a large Irishman played by Terence Rigby. The two befriend an elderly American couple. Accents waver, especially Rigby's - he is supposed to be involved in the mob in the States, and comes on like a movie gangster with a black trilby and trench coat. He is undeniably menacing, however. (And didn't he play a biker/conman in an early Brighton episode?) The elderly American lady is played by Bessie Love, a star of the silent era once memorably photographed sitting in front of a tortoise stove wearing nothing but high heels and an Eton crop.
Parallel stories echo each other
John Savident is wonderful as a Swedish art collector who thinks he's been scammed, while Avril Elgar suspects her husband isn't always "selling encyclopedias" when he goes out. The posh girl in the antique shop acts as badly as usual.
Public Eye: Slip Home in the Dark (1971)
A young wife gets sinister phone calls
Barbara Pitt tells her friend Polly about the silent phone calls that escalated to blackmail threats. The background is an evening class on English literature, Barbara's only escape from a lonely life waiting for husband to return - from work? The settings are superb - a newly built estate of soulless flats, the brutal school where the tutor works. It's 1971 and Polly tries to persuade Barbara to get a job, but "my husband wouldn't like it". Estelle Kohler as Barbara does a good job of falling apart, the handsome teacher's life is not all it seems, Susan Engel is excellent as the slightly feminist friend, and as usual I am baffled by the ending! What a superb series. Could Hazell, Shoestring and Bergerac have existed without it?
Public Eye: My Life's My Own (1969)
All the Lonely People
Mrs Mortimer is away and Frank's in charge. A young girl comes to the door and persuades Frank to let her a room. She turns up her tinny transistor radio and keeps phoning someone called "Chris" and begging him to talk to her. Frank wakes up in front of the TV and 2.30 am. Still hearing the radio, he takes Shirley up a glass of milk. She's taken sleeping pills and is unconscious. He applies rough first aid and brings her round. He finds Chris's address on the suicide note and visits. Chris (Nourse) is a doctor with a beautiful, 50-ish wife. Chis doesn't want to know, but the wife seems concerned. Shirley was looking after her as a private nurse. Frank leaves, leaving the phone number. Mrs Nourse rings it, but Chris takes it out of her hand and tells Shirley in harsh terms to get lost. Frank returns home to find Shirley gone. Mrs M returns home and he tells her the story. Fearing that Shirley will make another attempt he decides to go and look for her - but meets Mrs Nourse on the doorstep. She explains that her husband threw Shirley out because the two women had become too close. She leaves, and Shirley rings from the station to say everything is all right.
The usual kitchen-sink realism, with the probation officer still spouting well-meaning platitudes and giving ill-judged advice.
Panic in the Streets (1950)
Worth a watch
The settings and the dialogue are great, once we have prized Richard Widmark away from his sickly all-American family. Barbara Bel Geddes - pretty, but not too sexy. The obligatory small boy. The white picket fence... except that their little house is a bit near docks and main roads to be cute.
You know the plot by now: an illegal immigrant, a stowaway, leaves a card game having won too much. The other card players track him down, stalking him crouched over like animals. He ends up in the morgue, where they discover he's suffering from pneumonic plague.
Most of the rest of the film is taken up with the hunt for his killers, and the drive to contain the disease.
The style is naturalistic, even "method". I liked all the scenes with ordinary blokes eating sandwiches, hanging out in cafes, discussing spaghetti while dissecting a corpse. Apart from Barbara's scenes, it's a very blokey film. There are lots of extras toting sacks and queueing for work. There are some other female characters - a feisty middle-aged nurse, a Greek cook, a tiny bent grandmother.
The method acting and blokiness result in the main characters constantly pawing and manhandling each other, which is unconvincing, and gets boring. Blackie, the villain played by Jack Palance, has a superficial charm. When trying to get the "secret" out of the dying Poldi, he alternately cradles him, slaps him and half strangles him.
An important role is played by the warehouses and machinery of the harbour. Blackie and Fitch (Zero Mostel) go on a prolonged run through a coffee warehouse and under some decking, constantly running up against the cops.
I could have done with out Barbara's "understanding" role ("You lash out at me when you feel frustrated blah blah").
Strangler's Web (1965)
Enjoyable entry in the series
The 60s were beginning to "swing" and young people eschewed ballroom dancing to jig about on the spot in "discotheques". The best character in this story is the alcoholic solicitor, first encountered passed on the office couch. His wife flounces in to tell him she's going to her sister's. He still has work, though - preparing the defence for what looks like an obvious faithless-wife strangler.
Preston the solicitor goes abruptly on the wagon and sets out to investigate - that's how he ends up in the disco. He is picked up by a manic pixie dream girl (they were called "kooks" in those days). She is wide-eyed and doesn't make much sense and she is played by Pauline Boty. Yes, THAT Pauline Boty - she studied stained-glass at the Royal College of Art. She was one of the original Pop Artists - the only woman among them. She died in 1966.
The baby-faced Preston, though terrified of her driving, continues to deliver the witty dialogue the scriptwriters have given them. He ends up at an Old Dark House inhabited by a scarred matinee idol and his "niece", who turns out to be his daughter. Most of the people we have met so far are related. The plot is quickly wound up and the actor looks forward to meeting his public once more in the courtroom.
Sophisticated, suave, sixties
I was mesmerised by Christine's (Tracy Reed) catlike eye makeup, bouffant hairdo and enigmatic manner. She is secretary to "Mr Potter" who is a dodgy geezers. But some other dodgy geezers aim to get their hands on his loot. Michael Burke (Edward de Souza) sets up a character in the underworld as a poker-playing ex-pilot who owes a lot to his bookie. (Have you noticed that in the 60s, in any nightclub, there was always a single woman sitting at the bar?) Potter employs Burke to pick up some "stuff", drop it at a disused airfield, and come back blamelessly via customs. But others have other ideas. However, Mr Potter has an underground lair full of bleeping electronics... A fine entry in the series.