Tag Archives: ITV

The Wind in the Willows (1983, Mark Hall and Chris Taylor)

The Wind in the Willows has an undeniable charm about it. Directors Hall and Taylor send the first act of the film focusing on lovely details. Wind is stop motion, with a lot of intricate “set” decoration. And they do occasionally utilize their control over performers and location to get some excellent shots. Unfortunately, none of that ingenuity carries over to dealing with the characters and their storylines.

Some of the problem is Rosemary Anne Sisson’s teleplay. Sisson meanders from event to event. Most events involve Toad (voiced by David Jason), which is great. Toad’s ostensibly a lot of fun. Only most of his interactions with other characters are long shots in profile. Hall and Taylor are perfectly comfortable revealing the stop motion models’ lack of, well, fur, in close-ups, but they never bother to shoot anything from an angle. While some may be constraints of the sets, it’s not all.

Wind in the Willows is the story of four friends and there’s zero character relationship between any of them. Sisson’s script rushes the introduction of “leads” Mole (Richard Pearson) and Rat (Ian Carmichael) in a hurry to get to Jason. And Jason doesn’t really start paying off for a while. Eventually, Jason–and his musical numbers–hold Willows afloat, but not at the start. Sisson, Hall, and Taylor still need to get Pearson and Carmichael established.

They never really do. Sisson’s script is purely functional. All the sublime charm about riverfront life for adorable anthropomorphized British animals is from the stop motion. Outside the songs, nothing in the writing brings any of the charm. It’s sometimes so craven it does the exact opposite. As a result, Pearson and Carmichael aren’t the leads, they aren’t even friends. They don’t have enough time together.

And Michael Hordern, as wise old Badger, is a three dimensional pothole. Hordern’s characterization lacks warmth, Sisson’s writing lacks thought, and the character design is awkward. Badger doesn’t fit anywhere in Willows, not outside, not inside. Not even when he’s inside of his own house.

The Wind in the Willows coasts most of the way (and almost entirely downhill), it gets tedious when it should be exciting, it smacks of missed opportunity, but it does get through all right. Hall and Taylor end up having no idea what to do with the various constraints, though they do seem to understand Jason’s Toad songs are the best part.

Keith Hopwood and Malcolm Rowe’s music, however, is way too much. It tries so hard to be tranquil and just ends up being intrusive.

1/4

CREDITS

Directed by Mark Hall and Chris Taylor; teleplay by Rosemary Anne Sisson, based on the novel by Kenneth Grahame; edited by John McManus; music by Keith Hopwood and Malcolm Rowe; produced by Brian Cosgrove and Hall; aired by Independent Television.

Starring Richard Pearson (Mole), Ian Carmichael (Rat), David Jason (Toad), Michael Hordern (Badger), Una Stubbs (Jailer’s Daughter), and Beryl Reid (The Magistrate).


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The Indian Spirit Guide (1968, Roy Ward Baker)

The Indian Spirit Guide is an odd amalgam of two plot lines; at least by the end of the episode. Until the end, Robert Bloch’s teleplay juxtaposes them perfectly with just the right amount of interweaving.

Julie Harris plays a wealthy widow romanced by her “paranormal investigator,” played by Tom Adams (who’s a delightful sleaze). He’s dating Harris’s secretary (Tracy Reed) and charged with rooting out the fakes among the mediums Harris visits. Harris wants to contact her dead husband.

Reed’s in on it with Adams–alone with Marne Maitland, who’s great as another coconspirator–and she gets upset when Adams starts romancing Harris.

Director Baker does a solid job, especially with the talking heads; Kenneth Talbot’s photography is great. Guide looks good. It sounds good. Harris gives an excellent performance. Catherine Lacey’s awesome.

The episode needs a proper ending. Bloch (and Ward) try to get away without. They fail.

1/3Not Recommended

CREDITS

Directed by Roy Ward Baker; written by Robert Bloch; director of photography, Kenneth Talbot; music by Basil Kirchin; produced by Anthony Hinds; released by Independent Television.

Starring Julie Harris (Leona Gillings), Tom Adams (Jerry Crown), Tracy Reed (Joyce), Catherine Lacey (Miss Sarah Prinn), Marne Maitland (Edward Chardur) and Julian Sherrier (Bright Arrow).


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Jane Brown’s Body (1968, Alan Gibson)

Jane Brown’s Body uses resurrection science to explore a melodrama. Anthony Skene’s teleplay isn’t bad, it’s just a little obvious in its plotting. But there’s a definite, subconscious patriarchy thing playing out and it makes for an interesting time.

Stefanie Powers has lost her memory (after being brought back from the dead). The doctor–Alan MacNaughton–isn’t a mad scientist, but a busy doctor who cares for Powers even though he isn’t good at it. Jane is strange because of MacNaughton and wife Sarah Lawson’s sincerity. Even though Lawson isn’t in it enough.

But then Powers has a suitor–David Buck as her tutor. And he’s more a stalker, something Skene doesn’t take any responsibility for.

Powers is great in the lead. Her performance is calculated but very well-calculated. Buck’s a good creep, MacNaughton’s got a nice complex role.

Jane has many problems, but its qualities mostly outweigh them.

2/3Recommended

CREDITS

Directed by Alan Gibson; teleplay by Anthony Skene, based on a story by Cornell Woolwich; director of photography, Arthur Lavis; music by Bob Leaper; produced by Anthony Hinds; released by Independent Television.

Starring Stefanie Powers (Jane Brown), David Buck (Paul Amory), Alan MacNaughton (Dr. Ian Denholt) and Sarah Lawson (Pamela Denholt).


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Eve (1968, Robert Stevens)

For all of its problems, Eve rarely feels stagy. Director Stevens makes the most of his location shooting, whether it’s town or country, and there are enough scenes out doors to make up for the utter lack of establishing shots. It’s for television, it’s on a budget.

It’s also got a rather poorly conceived narrative. Writers Michael Ashe and Paul Wheeler seem like they’re trying to keep Eve interesting–it’s about listless young man Dennis Waterman falling in love with a mannequin. Murder and madness ensue. Carol Lynley plays the mannequin in his imagination and Ashe, Wheeler and possibly Stevens make the odd choice of keeping her quiet.

Waterman’s in need of an imaginary friend due to the Swinging Sixties going on around him; he just wants classy romance. And Lynley is fully capable of the performance, she just doesn’t get the chance.

At least Michael Gough has some fun.

1/3Not Recommended

CREDITS

Directed by Robert Stevens; teleplay by Michael Ashe and Paul Wheeler, based on a story by John Collier; director of photography, Arthur Lavis; edited by Inman Hunter; music by Harry Robertson; produced by Anthony Hinds; aired by Independent Television.

Starring Carol Lynley (Eve), Dennis Waterman (Albert Baker), Michael Gough (Royal), Angela Lovell (Jennifer), Hermione Baddeley (Mrs. Kass), Peter Howell (Mr. Miller), Errol John (George Esmond), Barry Fantoni (Kim) and Barry Linehan (The Detective).


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