Saturday, December 16, 2006
As a special present from me to you, here is a complete cartoon that will be available throughout the holiday season - the Little Audrey short Santa's Surprise, complete with original Paramount titles!
Monday, December 11, 2006
This series was produced by Granada Television, and was broadcast on ITV in 1968 to critical acclaim. It has been compared in recent times to I Claudius and even the BBC/HBO’s Rome, but this is still an immensely enjoyable drama in its own right. The sets, although studio bound, are very impressive. A fine repertoire of actors grace the small screen, but there are three actors who really stands out: Andre Morrell (Quatermass & The Pit) gives a dependable performance as the weary Tiberius, Ralph Bates (Dear John) is frightfully chilling as the cold-blooded Caligula, and Freddie Jones (The Ghosts of Motley Hall) fully merited his Golden Nymph award (Monte Carlo Television Festival, 1969) as the rather-intelligent Claudius.
The series was shot originally on video, but it now exists as 16mm telerecordings made for the international market (the original Granada front and endcaps have been replaced by a Granada International equivalent), and Network has been supplied with a mix of old and recent transfers. The quality of the material does show that making telerecordings was not one of Granada’s main strengths. Generally, they zoomed in too close to the video monitor, which results in a cropped picture and a grainy look. There is also burnt-in video damage evident on the recordings. The first episode is the worst affected, as shown on the screenshot below. Because of the over-zooming, you can only just make out the title (Augustus).
There is one extra that Network has somehow forgot to mention on its cover – a five-minute photo gallery, showing some behind-the-scenes images and those taken on the set. I was really amazed to see what the sets actually looked like in colour, it is just a shame that they never filmed it this way. If only they waited one more year until ITV colour transmissions became a reality. Because of the rarity of this series, it is unrealistic to expect commentaries or interviews, so the photo gallery is an unexpected bonus. Pity about the lack of subtitles, though.
Despite the quality of the film material, this is an excellent watch, and huge thanks to Network for allowing this series to get a deserved DVD release. However, the RRP of £19:99 is maybe on a high side for people who aren’t too familiar with this series and/or are rather unsure of 1960’s drama, so my advice is to wait until the sales. But whenever you buy this now or later, is it well worth what you paid for it. Recommended.
NOTE: DD Home Entertainment has released their own version of The Caesars (only available through their mail-order service, while Network's version is a general release) with the same RRP. However, given DDHE's track record, it is likely that these episodes will have their adcaps removed (Network has left these alone), and there is no mention of any subtitles or other extras on their catalogue and website.
Saturday, November 25, 2006
In the meantime, I will attempt to make some new posts, including more rare cartoon titles and DVD reviews.
Talking about DVDs, I did plan to post a review of At Last The 1948 Show and Do Not Adjust Your Set a few months back, but due to recent problems and the passing of time, I have decided to abandon it. But look out for a DVD review of an award-winning 1968 ITV drama that looks at the lives of an imperial Roman family.
Sunday, October 08, 2006
Below are the opening and closing titles from the cartoon Football (released October 18th 1935), made towards the end of the Frank Moser era.
And finally, here are the title cards from When Knights Were Bold (released March 21st 1941).
Coming soon: rare original Screen Gems titles.
Tuesday, October 03, 2006
But it is very rare to come across a B&W Terrytoon with its original titles. If you're fortunate enough to watch at least a few of them, you're more likely to see this 1950's opening title:
Or, you might have seen a Terrytoon with Castle Films titles, or even one with a Barker Bill title, but trying to find one with its original opening and closing titles is like trying to find an iron in a male student's house!
I do have a huge number of B&W Terrytoons in my collection (mainly thanks to Jerry Beck's DVDs), but I only have five cartoons with their original titles intact. But as they're such good finds, I feel they are worthy of display. So, I am proud to present the title cards of four cartoons, two cartoons in each post. I would have included all four, but for some strange reason, Blogger wouldn't allow me to upload more than nine images, so I'm splitting this post into two.
The first set of title cards is from the earliest complete cartoon in my collection, Salt Water Taffy (released November 30th 1930).
I do have another cartoon with the same style title cards, The Lorelei (released November 29th 1931). But as the only difference is the cartoon's title, I decided it's not necessary to make any screenshots from this cartoon.
Below are the opening and closing titles from Farmer Al Falfa's Ape Girl (released August 7th 1932).
Sunday, September 17, 2006
But the time-off has given me a chance to think about changing aspects of my blog. Not only have I decided to give it a new look, but I decided to change the name too (IMHO "Classic Toons & UK TV" was too bland a title). But I bet you guys are wondering why I came up with the strange new title "Mice Laugh Softly Charlotte"? To answer your question, it is taken from an hilarious sketch from the pre-Monty Python shetch show "At Last The 1948 Show". "Mice Laugh Softly Charlotte" is a badly-staged thriller with some Ed Wood-style acting and naff, cliche-ridden dialogue. Below are some images taken from this near-forgotten gem.
Watch out for a review of the "1948" DVD very soon, along with its sister show "Do Not Adjust Your Set".
Friday, August 04, 2006
I remember watching the first episode of Dempsey & Makepeace when it was first broadcast on the ITV network in January 1985. I was only 7 years old, but I was immediately hooked onto this series, and I subsequently watched the entire three series and had both the tie-in annuals. Now, over 21 years later since the “pilot” was shown, Network has released the entire first series on DVD earlier this year. I was a bit worried that this might not be as good as I remembered it. Having been re-acquainted with this series, yes it is a bit silly and far-fetched, and yes it has dated quite badly (Makepeace’s hairstyle is a big factor), but these only adds to the charm, and it has a lot of good humour throughout. In fact, I find the series to be even more enjoyable than what I thought earlier. Jim Dempsey (Michael Brandon) is a NYPD cop who gets caught up in a corruption scandal within the police force. As a result, he is sent to England until things cool down. Working in a police division, he is partnered with graduate (and daughter of an English lord) Harriet “Harry” Makepeace (played by South-African Glynis Barber). Makepeace’s conscientious, strictly-by-the-book methods clashes with Dempsey’s brash, chauvinistic, gun-happy approach, but together they seem to click.
Their boss is the irascible Gordon Spikings (Ray Smith), who takes an almost-instant dislike of Dempsey. He needn’t have to shout his head off (or even speak) to show how angry he can get, as was demonstrated in the third part of the opening film. In this scene, Dempsey (along with Makepeace) is released from a military prison, only to be met by Spikings who, having learned that he shot five policemen, gives him an absolutely mad stare before giving the mis-matched pair a completely-calm explanation of the apparent operation that they were trying to foil.
This was made with the American market in mind, as it was a co-production between London Weekend Television (LWT) and US company Tribune (the latter company was not credited in the UK). But it is also true to say that LWT made this as a logical replacement of a similar (but more memorable) action show, The Professionals (Glynis Barber has suggested that some episodes were derived from rejected Professionals –and even The Sweeney – scripts). For what I heard, the show wasn’t a success in the US, but it was a ratings smash for the UK’s ITV network, and it ensured that a further two series were made.
There was an obvious chemistry between Brandon and Barber, so much so, that they eventually got married together soon after the last series! Brandon enjoyed working on this series, and was so fond of England, that he has now obtained dual-citizenship, and has appeared in numerous UK shows, most recently in a regular role in the abysmal ITV comedy Dead Man Weds. However, he still appears on US television, including providing the US narration of Thomas the Tank Engine.
But it has to be said, the late Ray Smith is a very underrated actor. His portrayal of Spikings is a joy to watch, portraying his grumpy demeanour without going over the top and without too much effort. Both Brandon and Barber have nothing but huge praise for his acting ability.
The picture quality is very grainy and washed-out, but considering this was shot on 16mm film it is understandable. However, it is disappointing that there was no digital clean-up, but I suppose that luxury can only be afforded on Network’s more-popular titles. Surprisingly (for a Network release), none of these programmes have the opening LWT idents and endcaps (it could be that these are new transfers from the original prints, and that the old transfers have the LWT idents added on, but that’s only my theory). There is some good news though: the adcaps are present and correct.
Bonuses include a new interview with the duo (now happily married together and living in the UK), in which they gave an insight of its production (including an account of their time being almost-crushed inside a car-crushing machine in the second episode). Further info can be found on the two commentaries featured. Brandon certainly has a lot to say in the first commentary, but both had run out of the steam by the second, with some pauses throughout. Nevertheless, a fine effort by Network on the extras front.
Overall, this is a fine DVD set that will satisfy nearly every D&M fan, and is an essential purchase. Here’s hoping that the second set is just as good, if not better (available now, but I’m going to wait until it hits the sales – I’m such a tight-wad!).
Images (C) Granada and Network
Text (C) Lee Glover. Not to be copied without permission.
Monday, July 31, 2006
Tuesday, July 11, 2006
This one contains the rare opening titles and break bumpers from the 1950's Terrytoons series Mighty Mouse Playhouse - in colour! These were taken from a couple of British 1980's Mighty Mouse tapes released by Channel 5 (not to be confused with the UK TV channel). It's a shame these tapes don't contain the closing titles (which I have in B&W, but are not included in this clip).
Tuesday, July 04, 2006
The first two are covers from a trio of 4-hour cartoon compilation videos released by Braveworld (later released by Polygram/Universial) in the early 90's. Some of you Brits may remember seeing some of the other "artist"'s covers on NTV's and Virgin Vision's own PD videos:
Ugly cartoon artwork has started to creep in on our DVD covers too. Here are two that are released by a German company called Planet Media Entertainment (under the name Planet Song):
Going back to VHS, perhaps the most famous PD cartoon video company here in Blighty was "Screen Originals". Each title had two different covers, one released by both Movie Makers and Diamond Films, and one by an unknown company (probably Screen Originals themseves). The latter had quite tasteful covers, but the MM/DF editions had some fairly awful artwork. Here is one example:
And if you think that one was quite bad, wait till you see the next one. In my view, this is the most scariest cartoon video cover ever (in the UK, at least)! No wonder I never see this title fly off the shelves: