Reviews: Music Moguls; Brian Pern: 45 Years of Prog and Roll

January 29, 2016 by  
Filed under - Home, Reviews

Brian-Pern-Thotch

(Contains strong language)

With the recent passing of so many stars from the world of rock n roll, including Glen Frey, Lemmy and of course Mr Bowie (to name only a few), it is apt that the BBC has just finished broadcasting 2 series taking a look behind the curtain of the world of music and the music business.

The first, Music Moguls, is a reveal of the those mysterious jobs associated with rock and pop acts, the manager, the producer and PR, which many of us know very little about. Each episode is presented by a major name from each career path, Simon Napier Bell (Manager), Nile Rodgers (Producer) and Alan Edwards (PR).

Learning how these cats operate and how the roles have evolved from the 60’s (which is apparently when music was invented) to the present day is fascinating. The way ,anagers emerged from being little more than thugs and gangsters, to being slick businessmen but still negotiating like heavyweights, the delicate artistry of the producer and machiavellian craftiness of the PR agent, can only intrigue and illuminate any music fan.

Each presenter brings his own insights and connections to each show, and as they are top notch players, the musical acts interviewed are too The Osbournes, Pet-Shop Boys, Mark Ronson), giving the Music Moguls a lustre other documentaries do not have. All in all a fine series with each part hitting the mark, though the best is Nile Rodgers take on the producer; Rodgers is such an influential name and has produced so many top acts (Bowie, Madonna, Pharell) that his observations really sparkle and delight the viewer. It’s also amusing that after working with so many of the world’s elite pop acts that his favourite are Duran Duran.

++++

A lighter look at the industry is Brian Pern: 45 Years of Prog and Roll. The third series of Fast Show alumni, Rhys Thomas and Simon Day’s, fly on the wall comedy about that stalwart of British cultural life, the ageing rocker.

This particular triptych focuses on Pern’s (Day) 45 year anniversary as a musician but really it just continues where the last 2 series left off, Thomas as the brazenly manipulative doc’ maker following the childlike but self-centred rock star as he meanders through his life and career, making bad decision after bad decision.

Brian Pern is a member of that species of comedies, where much like Steve Coogan’s Saxondale, there is not much laughter at the characters japes and misadventures, there is however a shit tonne of smiling. It’s nice, easy to watch and well made, but not brilliant.

The best moments come from the supporting cast, particularly Lucy Montgomery as Pern’s eccentric South American girlfriend, Pepita. The absolute stand out is Michael Kitchen who bristles with boredom as the Prog stars long-time manager, John Farrow and is a genuinely brilliant comic creation.

Indeed, I think if you took Kitchen away from the show, it would fall very, very flat, which is really the fault of the scripts. They plod along nicely but a lot of it seems like filler between gags on a sketch show and much of the comedy comes from the star qualities of its guest appearances (big shout out to Peter motherfucking Bowles!) and the choices they make more than the actual comic writing.

Rhys Thomas, who wrote and directed the series has been in the comedy game for 20 years now, and is in the unique position of being part of The Fast Show gang while also being a relatively young writer with much time to develop. The fact that he is survived for so long in the cut throat world of comedy, demonstrates to this reviewer that he probably will and I expect him to be around for a very long time, like some sort of Barry Cryer 2.0, a remnant of the good old days, who comes to prominence once his more talented peers have passed away. Sorry Rhys, that’s harsh.

The Story of China

January 21, 2016 by  
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The Story of China

Ahh Michael Wood, a creator of calm, informative television and a fine exponent of Reithian values. Whether presenting a historical series about Alexander the Great or a documentary on Hitler’s search for the Holy Grail, he is a knowledgeable and engaging presenter, who guides his audience through his films with the inoffensive, confident charm of a Gentleman Gerbil leading his mother across a zebra crossing.

In his latest series, The Story of China, Mr Wood takes us on another epic journey through one of the world’s most interesting and indeed oldest cultures. And with an economy that promises (or threatens, depending on your world view) to soon take over the States as the planet’s dominant force, it is high time we had an intelligent peak into what makes this nation tick.

The first episode of this six parter takes us back 4000 years to the very birth of China, to a land divided amongst feuding Warlords and Kings before finally being united (sort of) under the mythical first dynasty of the Xia.

We learn how archaeologists discovered evidence of Xia’s actual existence and how they form a link to the first historically documented dynasty the Shang and then onto the Zhou and why this matters in light of what is known as ‘The Mandate of Heaven’.

Whether or not this evidence is real, matters little to you or me but to the people of China it is a matter of extreme significance. Following the liberalisation of the State and the new love affair with western culture, the last few years have been ones of huge change and excitement but this can sometimes be overwhelming to a society that is traditionally insular. So along with the attempts to modernise and welcome the outside world, there has also been an upsurge in how things were done in the past and the teachings of Confucius and any traceable link back to these so called-simpler times, acts as a salve to the relentless march forward into capitalism.

The subtext being that whether these discoveries prove to be true or not, the Government (a one party state, you must remember), will endorse them in order to keep a population of nearly 1.5 billion people, who after years of censorship are now being exposed to the knowledge of the internet; and thanks to the power of Virtual Private Networks there is nothing the Great Firewall can do about it. So inculcating a spirit of respect for your elders and the State is imperative to avoid the tinder box igniting.

It is going to be interesting to see how The Story of China will develop, Wood has been given some great access from the Chinese, who will have exerted some measure of control in exchange, but will he produce a complete party friendly hagiography or will he be able to slip in some subversive truths here and there? His closing line hints that maybe he will.

The Story of China airs at 21.00 on Wednesday nights on BBC Two.

The Town That Took on the Taxman

January 20, 2016 by  
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The Town That Took on the Taxman 1

How can this not be an appealing title for a show? Maybe not so much pre 2008 but in the eight years that have passed since the global depression, anyone with a social conscience or even a slight concern over current affairs has an interest in the relationship between HRMC and Big Business.

We know that companies like Google, Starbucks and Amazon pay merely nominal levels of tax (or in the case of Café Nero, nothing at all)  and how the vast sums of revenue not collected could pay off Britain’s deficit in one huge brown paper bag stuffed with lovely, lovely cash.

The majority of the general public hear terms like ‘loop hole’, ‘tax break’ and ‘scheme’ with only a vague understanding of what they mean, but economics is a tricky subject based on theory, opinion and guess work more than cold hard facts. This makes it very hard for the uninitiated to understand the esoteric maneuverers of international tax law.

The Town That Took on the Taxman, seeks to explain these arcane practices, but like a cross between The Money Programme and a Jamie Oliver style food campaign show, it also seeks to expose the legislation that allows a company like Google to pay less corporation tax in the UK than a your local independent coffee shop (if you are lucky enough to have such a thing).

Descending on the small town of Crickhowell in the Brecon Beacons, where Boots is the “only chain in the village”, Heydon Prowse (The Revolution Will Be Televised) teams up with a group of local business men and women to not only learn how the big boys do it but to also encourage them to set up their own off-shore company to reduce their tax to more multinational level of taxation.

Vexed morally and financially, the group travel the globe educating themselves with the special magic of the tax lawyer before setting up their own fully legal tax dodge.  The implication being that if they can, then really anyone can, thus forcing the Government to address the lack of parity between big and small business.

It is a simple show, formulaic in structure but striking in content, especially when we meet the (very charming) specialists and experts who advise the likes of Amazon on how not to contribute their fair share. The Crickhowell locals are all interesting and strong characters and even though the producers deemed fit to manufacture some tension between them, they give up this tired trope pretty quickly as they realise they have proper show on their hands and re focus on the amiable Mr Prowse as he guides the group in their endeavour.

I would love to see this show make an impact on our society and it really should, but the British Public can’t let go of being subjects and really embrace being citizens, so I fear we will continue to be patronised by our betters and the con of the ‘trickle-down’ effect.

Game of Thrones, the Sansa rape scene – one point of view

May 29, 2015 by  
Filed under Features

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Violence is rife in Westeros, violence against men, women and children. Violence that, as you would expect from a medieval society where might is right, is cruel, bloody and shockingly brutal.

With deplorable acts including regicide and infanticide; characters have been poisoned, stabbed, burnt and bludgeoned. It makes for visceral and disturbing viewing and is currently the planet’s preeminent drama. Which just goes to show – as if there were any doubt – that human beings love death and bloodshed, we no longer have amphitheatres to observe the bodily destruction of others, we have HBO and Netflix.

Despite this morbid adoration of murder, death and suffering, there is one form of terror that ‘Game Of Thrones’ seems to delight in, that a large proportion of the viewing public do not. Rape.

The sexual assault or attempted sexual assault on women is growing, according to one tumblr user in their statistical investigation been 16 in the series so far (including the rape of Sansa Stark and the attempted assault on Gilly, in just the last two episodes).

The recent attacks on Sansa and Queen Cersi by her brother no less, have created uproar across the internet. Commentators saying the will no longer watch the show, while others defend the repeated assaults as being necessary to story.

Being necessary to the story and advancement of plot is an interesting argument.  It is necessary to put characters through difficult experiences in order for conflict arise and without conflict there is no drama.

For sure we have seen Theon/Reek experience go through some horrendous ordeals, up to and including the aforementioned castration, though we hate the cowardly wretch we also sympathise with him, such is the level of his torment.

In comparison Sansa, Theon’s sister, has escaped physical duress but has lived through exquisite mental tests, until what has become the nightly rape at the hand of her psychotic new husband, Ramsay Bolton.

So what is the difference here?

Some commentators fear that Sansa’s rape is just another misogynistic instance of the ‘women in refrigerators’ theory, whereby the violations/murders of female characters is merely a plot device to move on the character arc of a male protagonist.  Which by the way the rape scene was filmed, with its focus on Theon/Reek’s face as he viewed the molestation of his sister, is certainly possible. I don’t think that was the intention of the scene, probably more an attempt by the show to avoid accusations of titillation and use Theon/Reek as a proxy for the audience. Yes I think the acts against his sister will affect his characterisation but I think it’s far more about Sansa.

Sansa, has long been a pawn in the ‘Game of Thrones’, her youth, naivety and innocence have made her a pliable commodity in the schemes of the big players, she has been passed as a prize or gift more times than a present in a round of pass the parcel, but every infraction against her, every disappointment and betrayal makes her stronger and harder. I believe Sansa will soon arise as a powerful mover in her own right, finding the ability to express the strength she so clearly has.

However this does lead me to another question, why rape? Why is rape used so much, not just in ‘Game of Thrones’ but in so many films and TV shows?

I think the simple reason is that rape is seen as the most terrible thing a woman can experience. An act leaves the woman terrified not just during but after the act, but leaves permanent emotional and mental scars along with the physical injury.

But, in drama must it be used so frequently? Is there no other way we can show a female character “going through hell”, no other horror that can befall our heroines and why have we not seen a male character raped.

Maybe it is a fair depiction of the truth of the world, men do rape women. Not all men obviously, but it happens a lot and not just rape. A certain type of man will display his erect penis at any given moment if the mood takes him. This is a threat, a reminder of the shear physical force a man has over a woman.

‘Game of Thrones’ is a show about nasty people doing nasty things for power, it is full of thugs and bullies, taking what they want without a care but also it is a lazy show, it uses rape as short hand to “put women through hell” and also to show how evil a male character is. Though it is just as likely in such a world, a ‘good man’ might rape too.

It might be argued that the television version is remaining faithful to the books, but it departs from the text whenever it feels it necessary, and there is no reason why an adaptation cannot become more sophisticated that its source. Have you read Mario Puzzo’s ‘Godfather’? It’s just a pulp crime novel, yet Coppola turned it into something majestic.

I love ‘Game of Thrones’ but maybe it is time for it to step up a gear, be more imaginative in its horrors and more creative in its brutality and more sensitive to it’s audience.

Please read our other article to see another point of view on this controversial scene.

Grantchester

December 2, 2014 by  
Filed under Reviews

James-Norton-Granchester

Detective Vicar is an unusual character combination. But considering the amateur sleuths who have graced our screens, including authors (Jessica Fletcher), magicians (Jonathan Creek) and even chefs (Henry Crabbe), it’s really not that odd. And, flexibly interpreted, Derek Jacobi’s portrayal of pious PI, Cadfael the Monk, back in the nineties is a reasonable replica.

It’s a formula that ITV are revisiting in their adaptation of James Runcie’s popular novels ‘The Grantchester Mysteries’, starring James Norton as spiritual sleuth, Sidney Chambers. Who, in addition to God and murder is also a World War Two veteran, jazz lover and a reluctant sex god. With his good looks, intelligent caring personality and an ability to tear it up with the lowliest of thugs, he could almost be a candidate for world’s most perfect man. If it wasn’t for all the boozing, self-loathing and brooding introspection.

Based at his parish in Grantchester, Chambers is pulled into the orbit of the local constabulary’s DI Geordie Keating, played here by the increasingly charismatic (now that he’s not handling fish on Channel 5) Robson Greene. Together they investigate a series of murders against the familiar Sunday night backdrop of post-war Britain; where the imperial decline has been more than offset with snippets of National Trust arcadia and tasteful music.
The mysteries themselves are of the seedy variety: homosexual hate crime, revenge and a touch of bigamy but the case solving plays second fiddle to the personal life of Chambers himself.

This kind of television is never the most challenging and it’s not supposed to be. It needs to be reassuring and nostalgic like most costume drama and ‘Grantchester’ very much follows in this tradition.

Yet there is also something different about the drama, something which after the first two episodes really kicks in and makes ‘Grantchester’ very watchable. That something is a black cloud of melancholy; it hangs above the show with subtle menace, lurking in the minor chords of the soundtrack and the tragic murders. But mostly in the haunted, sad gaze of Sidney Chambers.

James Norton is terrific, he has an understated yet magnetic star quality that is ideal for the reflective Rev. Chambers. He muddles his way through a love life fraught with bad timing and regret as well as struggling to cope with the psychological damage he sustained during the war. Norton’s character depth is enough to convince that this wonderful person, who acts with honour and nobility will never find peace or happiness, due to the very traits that make him the good person he is. It’s heart breaking.

The show is not all doom and gloom. There are some lighter moments provided by Tessa Peale-Jones and Al Weaver as the Chambers’ house keeper and curate respectively and some great scenes of bonhomie and friendship between the vicar and the policeman. These relieve the tension and help make the innate sadness of the main character even more bitter sweet.

ITV has produced a traditional, unchallenging Sunday night drama that also manages to be philosophical, depressing but eminently watchable. Quite an achievement.

Grantchester is available on DVD or digital download now

New Girl (Series 3)

November 20, 2014 by  
Filed under Reviews

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New Girl: the current court of actress, musician and reigning Hipster Queen Zooey Deschanel. A media phenomenon and “adorkable” progenitor that I have managed to avoid, until now.

Sitting down at the weekend, tasked with the daunting task of watching the 23 episode third series of the Fox comedy I had no preconceptions, just a vague knowledge that the show, like its star was very popular.

Set in Los Angeles, New Girl follows the not so unpleasant trials and tribulations of upbeat and bubbly Jess Davies, a kooky school teacher of perpetually wide, non-blinking eyes, shining happy smile, and killer bangs (or fringe, if like me you’re sensitive to the insidious encroachment of American English into our nation’s lexicon). As someone wary of jumping into an ongoing show without any prior plot knowledge, a quick scan of Wikipedia can be very helpful in these circumstances, but from previous experiences with other series, even after reading outlines for every episode I am generally still confused by what is going on.

Not so ‘New Girl’. After just five minutes I was introduced to a familiar set of characters, seemingly constructed from the chopped up corpses of the cast of ‘Friends’ and then stitched back together in random combinations to create “new” and “unique” personalities. This process is somewhat akin to William Burroughs’s ‘cut-up’ writing technique, but without the imagination, drugs or resulting tasty Mugwump jism.

We have, Jess of course, pretty much a straight up ‘Rachel’ archetype. Jake a perennial loveable slacker and everyman mash up of Joey and Mike (Phoebe’s eventual husband) to add a dash of bland manliness. Then there’s Schmidt, a nightmare combo of Chandler and Monica; the formerly obese but now hot, slightly effeminate man child. I could go on but I would spoil the “fun” of recognising the glaringly obvious.

Stereotypical characters, well-trodden Seinfeld-esque plot lines about feuds with restaurant owners and Frasier style farce, could all add up to be a recipe for a brilliant comedy.

But ‘New Girl’ just isn’t funny. The lack of laughs make the well served themes and characterisation appear lazy and generic. Unlike that other hipster comedy, the sadly cancelled ‘Bored to Death’ whose attempts at originality got you through the sometimes hit and miss writing.

Ultimately ‘New Girl’, is nothing more than a light hearted and cheesy soap opera, even the people I know who watch it don’t think it’s particularly good. It’s just sort of nothing. No doubt it will run and run.

New Girl is available to own on Blu-ray and DVD now

Great Continental Railway Journeys

November 10, 2014 by  
Filed under Reviews

Great British Railway Journeys with Michael Portillo

Ahh the return of Michael Portillo. A phrase that used to chill the blood back when he was a vocal proponent of the Poll Tax and hired Alexandra Palace to celebrate his first decade in politics. Now it just triggers a warm sense of cosy anticipation for the return of his rather delightful series, ‘Great Continental Railway Journeys’, on the best channel on earth, BBC4.

This is series three of the gentle travelogue and it carries on in exactly the same way as before: with Mr Portillo travelling the railways of Europe using George Bradshaw’s ‘Continental Railway Guide’ from 1913 as a template for his meanderings.

Following on from his trips to the great European cities in the first two series, it is now the turn of Moscow, Tula and St Petersburg, where our garishly jacketed host (lemon yellow is a tough look for anyone, Michael) mooches along the scopious railways networks of Russia.

First off is Tula, where the author of ‘War and Peace’, Leo Tolstoy, was birthed and buried. Britain’s former Defence Secretary visits the great writer’s house in the old town, where we are given some background into his life as the ‘aristocrat who turned’, becoming the pre-eminent voice of peasants against the cruelties of Russia’s ruling classes. Portillo then takes us into his home and shows us the very desk where he wrote great masterpieces of literature such as ‘War and Peace’ and ‘Anna Karenina’. We also got to see Portillo pay homage to a large black sofa upon which Tolstoy was born.

From Tula we accompany our agreeable guide to Moscow and St Petersburg where he tours the Kremlin, takes on some menial work at the Bolshoi and most amusingly experiences a refreshing yet brutal Russian banya, Mother Russia’s version of a spa. Here, the erstwhile Tory MP for Kensington and Chelsea receives a good old fashioned birching, all in the name of getting “clean like a Russian”, entertainment and a touch of schadenfreude, of course.

‘Great Continental Railway Journeys’ is a tremendous little programme, and Michael Portillo is an amiable and likeable host. The show’s structure is such that it doesn’t overwhelm or under inform the viewer by smashing through as many locations and destinations as it can cram in. Instead it devotes a decent amount of time to each terminus, soaking up just enough of the ambience in each cultural hotspot.

Portillo is on a journey of discovery and is genuinely enthusiastic to chug along these historical railway tracks, meeting all manner of different characters and taking in sights of bona fide interest. Another little victory for the little engine that could. Well done BBC4.

Great Continental Railway Journeys is on BBC4 on Wednesdays at 9pm

The Art of Gothic

October 27, 2014 by  
Filed under Reviews

Art of Gothic bbc

The British love the Gothic. And whether we realise it or not, our lives are steeped in this, the most foreboding and sinister of aesthetics. From Shakespeare and Dickens to William Blake and The Cure, it haunts our internal and external lives.

Cathedrals, churches and administrative buildings up and down the country are stamped with the tell-tale markings of pointed arches and ribbed vaults which describe the form. Even politics can’t escape its touch. Could there be a more fitting home for the vampiric creatures that legislate our lives than that masterpiece of Gothic construction the Palace of Westminster?

Gothic thought has sunk its fangs into our literature, art and music; bonding with our culture so completely that to remove it would change the entire landscape of the nation on a mental as well as physical level. The Gothic is such an integral part of our little corner of the world we never question its presence or even ask where it came from? In the new BBC4 series ‘The Art of Gothic’, Culture Show stalwart (amongst many other things) Andrew Graham-Dixon seeks to answer this question, and in three fascinating episodes he takes a jolly good stab (hack, slash) at it.

‘Art of Gothic’ starts with an overview of the style and the beginning of its assembly at the hand of the Georgian Gentleman. It then goes onto analyse and weave together the different strands of Gothic’s origins including Romanesque and Renaissance Art; the religious reconstruction of The Reformation and the influence of Marxism. Graham-Dixon guides us through these different movements examining works by, amongst others, Salvator Rosa, John Ruskin and of course Mary Shelley and Bram Stoker.

Graham-Dixon to my mind is one of our best arts commentators; I always enjoy his points of view even when I do not agree with him and in fact that’s when I like him most. His light hearted demeanour and cheeky assertions are designed to provoke thought in the viewer. Never truly dogmatic,

Graham-Dixon just wants you to think about what he is talking about, mull it over in your own way and actually learn something.

Thus ‘The Art of Gothic’ is that rare thing in modern television; entertaining, intelligent and challenging. There is no assumption of prior knowledge but also no presumption that the viewer is stupid and doesn’t want to learn.

This kind of show is another demonstration of the importance of BBC4. To me it is the high watermark of Television, and ‘Auntie’ could do a lot worse than give Anthony Graham-Dixon free reign, especially with his fancy new haircut.

The Art of Gothic will be broadcast on 27 October on BBC 4

Arrow

September 30, 2014 by  
Filed under Reviews

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‘Arrow’, The CW’s slice of DC Comics superhero stylings, new series is out on DVD and I am going to watch it, in one big long binge.

I watched the first series and I sort of enjoyed it, but it troubles me that a clearly mediocre production garners so much praise from critics and audiences alike. Now, there are countless numbers of things the world seems to love which I think suck, including but not limited to, ‘The Walking Dead’, bacon and the non-existent derriere of Pippa Middleton. So I am used to being in a minority.

It’s more that where ‘Arrow’ is almost globally accepted as being good, another show ‘Agents of Shield’ is enthusiastically panned. I watch both of these series, AOG because I find it genuinely exciting and surprising and ‘Arrow’ as I can’t really quite believe that I am watching such a cheese ball, formulaic and badly written piece of guff.

‘Agents of Shield’ Season One, ended with events that changed the whole set up of the show and I cannot wait for the next instalment to come round. I am sure that ‘Arrow’ ended on a cliff hanger of some sort (or knowing Arrow, maybe Oliver Queen gave someone a dirty look) but I just can’t remember what it is, so as you can imagine I am not that excited to sit down and watch the next season. I will return in 23 television hours.

Here I am, just three paragraphs but a whole day later and I am glad to say to all you ‘Arrow’ fans out there nothing has really changed.

The season opens with Oliver Queen’s cohorts, Felicity Smoak and John Diggle, helicoptering in to Skull Island determined to retrieve their employer from the turmoil created by the events of the season one finale. He doesn’t want to come back, but after some gentle persuasion about how much everyone needs him, he does. Of course he does.

Arrow returns to his weird hometown Starling City, which operates as an isolated city state completely separate from the rest of America, determined to become a better hero and not kill anyone anymore. This introduces two of the defining characteristics of the comic book version of Arrow: his social awareness and resolute defence of society’s underdogs. Which, though sort of interesting, also leads to more pubescent whining from the overly sensitive characters about whatever little thing has upset them this week.

Along the way we meet some more of DC’s un-powered super heroes such as Black Canary and the story arc from flash back Island catches up with the present day. All in all, though this series pretty much continues as the first; plot hole filled action padded out with 20 minutes of soap opera. Much like its spiritual predecessor ‘Smallville’.

I think the problem with ‘Arrow’ for me is that, as much as it clothes itself in shadow and darkness, this gloom is mere window dressing. It is like the teenager who, freshly doused in new puberty strength emotion, puts on some black clothes, applies a liberal smear of eyeliner and shuffles about being “depressed”. Unless you count the count the numerous appearances of Stephen Amell’s rippling torso, there really is no meat or substance under the hood.

Arrow: Season 2 is available on Blu-ray and DVD now

The House Across The Lake

August 12, 2014 by  
Filed under Reviews

The House Across The Lake is a Hammer Film; you may recognize Hammer as purveyor of all those wonderful horror films from the 50s, 60s and 70s. You know the ones I mean, most of them starred either Christopher Lee or Peter Cushing (often both), with many directed by the criminally underappreciated Terence Fisher. Hammer weren’t just a horror studio though. They made all types of films including comedies, dramas and many a straight up thriller.

This leads me to ‘House Across the Lake’. Back in them there olden days, film studios from the UK would often approach production houses from across the pond to help increase the budget and market of their visual wares. These films would often be dressed up to appear as American films and would be littered with American almost/has been stars.

‘House Across the Lake’ is a great example of this, aping Hollywood B movie noir so much that for the first half of the film it is only the appearance of a certain Sidney James in a rare dramatic role that gives you an inkling the film is British.

Starring Alex Nicol (who incidentally directed the woefully bad horror ‘The Screaming skull’) as Mark Kendricks, washed up pulp novelist, booze hound and incorrigible womaniser who has slunk off to Lake Windermere to get away from the bottle and the bitches to finish his novel.

Unfortunately for him, on the other side of the lake are Beverly and Carol Forest a millionaire husband and his (apparently) beautiful wife, he makes the money and drinks the booze. She spends the money, sleeps around and also drinks the booze. Before long Kendrick finds himself drinking booze with them and is slowly drawn into their twisted marriage and ‘House Across the Lake’ becomes a of tale of sex, murder jealously and…booze.

That sounds pretty cool when I write it down but unfortunately ‘House Across the Lake’ falls a little flat, its characters and premise a hodge-podge of classic films like Double Indemnity’, ‘The Third Man’ and ‘The Lady from Shanghai’ but it fails to build any of the suspense and excitement that ooze from every pore of those awesome bastards, choosing instead to dwell in the dark shadows of cliché and mediocrity. Much of this is down to the script which drips with ‘on the nose’ dialogue as the characters rush to tell you exactly what they are feeling without any subtlety or hint of a subtext, sucking all life out of the movie and leaving the viewer bored stiff.

Amusingly this lack of decent writing is actually mirrored in two scenes, first Kendrick regrettably sends of some work he knows to be substandard and a second where he is fired from his publisher for being rubbish. I’d like to think this is an admission of guilt by writer/director Ken Hughes, who did do some good stuff in his day including ‘Chitty Chitty Bang Bang’.

Personally I am glad to have seen this film but if you’re not a completest follower of film noir and black and white thrillers or even fervent Sid James fan (who for the record is pretty good in a straight role) I would give this one a miss and watch the classics.

The House Across The Lake is released on DVD on August 18

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