Tuesday, March 21, 2006


Went The Day Well? with Lady Chatterley

Still distinctly under the weather, but thanks to Jonathan Calder for noticing that the superb Went The Day Well? is on Channel 4 this afternoon. Still briskly made and quite gripping, it’s the original ‘What if the Nazis secretly invaded Britain?’ turn, done many times since – for fun in The Avengers, with great length and self-conscious worthiness in The Eagle Has Landed – but never bettered. Parts of it can shock me more than 60 years after it was made; I’m always aghast at the businesslike way one character deals with a hand grenade. The violence is more shocking for being dealt with so curtly and rarely fully shown, as if suddenly being killed or having to kill is just a fact of life and people have no time to dwell on it – Jonathan’s description of it as “Dad's Army reshot by Sam Peckinpah” catches the ethos rather than the directorial style, which is quietly intense rather than ostentatious. It’s a clear piece of propaganda, but with surprisingly little direct tub-thumping (compare it with, say, the Churchillian soliloquies that close half the Basil Rathbone Sherlock Holmes movies). Though, as in The Most Dangerous Game, Leslie Banks is a fabulously hissable villain, most of it’s far more down-to-earth than you’d expect in a film of the period. The style is naturalistic, every character rings true, and there are good parts for all ‘classes’; not quite ‘kitchen sink’ a couple of decades early, but if you think every British film of the forties was nothing but frightfully posh people being frightfully stiff-upper-lipped to each other, you’re in for a shock.

If you miss it, there was a DVD out in a box set along with the extraordinary horror stories of Dead of Night; it looks like it might have been deleted, as only one site lists it as still available, but try rooting about in the sales at the likes of HMV.

Meanwhile, last night we watched the first episode of Blackpool on DVD, which I’ll return to in a later post but was terrific on first impressions – David Tennant and David Morrissey were both spellbinding, particularly together, though as I first saw Mr Morrissey in The Deal, part of my brain is deeply disturbed at Gordon Brown doing a big dance number. Anyway, we followed it with The Chatterley Affair on BBC4, which was much better than we'd been expecting, and far more uplifting than last week’s Fantabulosa! – despite an impressive lead performance (from the actor who played Tony Blair in The Deal and has also played the author of Funland, a series showing an even darker side of Blackpool and co-starring yet another member of the League of Gentlemen, for readers who like daytime TV-style links), that was consistently depressing, and the Kenneth Williams Jackanory they showed afterwards was much better value, though sadly it wasn’t an Agaton Sax. The conceit of the piece was to intertwine a dramatisation of the trial with a naked intertwining of two remarkably attractive jurors, which informed and entertained in a satisfying way but not one of which Lord Reith would have approved. It was also a prime cast for squealing ‘Ooh, it's her / him!’, though we were still surprised by the sudden appearance of David Tennant. Always ever so good (and always intriguing to find which accent he’s wearing this week), but, goodness, when he’s filming Doctor Who for most of the year, where does he find the time to do all these roles? Does he not sleep?

Next week it’s A for Andromeda, which we’re really looking forward to. An early BBC sci-fi drama long since chucked on the bonfire, they’ve remade it as they did Quatermass, though this time not ‘live’. Opinion seems to have been mixed about The Quatermass Experiment last April, though we thought it was terrific, particularly the TV-shy David Tennant and the climactic scene where Jason Flemyng’s Professor Quatermass appeals to the shades of his lost crew, which was as gripping a piece of TV as any I saw last year. It seems to be the last in BBC4’s Monday night drama mini-season, and I hope they’ll do more of them. All have been conspicuously ‘1960s’; Richard has a theory that they’ve built the channel’s entire identity around The Avengers, which – though admittedly they’ve had The Prisoner and Sixties weeks in previous years – seems strangely persuasive. I’d love to know if their ratings are improving. Hope so.

Switching to Newsnight straight afterwards, we were, as usual, annoyed. Well, I say ‘we’. Richard was comparatively mild, so it was my turn to be Mr Shouty at Michael Crick. They do a number on Labour and the Tories for their borrowed millions, but fail to mention the Liberal Democrats at all – presumably because, er, we declared all of ours and even declared the interest as gifts. We’ve had a few scandals recently (though, as Millennium says, if they have to bring up Lloyd George we’re probably pretty clean) that got plenty of reportage, so what’s the problem with reporting an absence of scandal when they’ve looked for it? Political parties acting dodgily has done a huge amount to damage public confidence. But deliberately omitting any evidence where parties have acted honestly – and more so than the law requires – in order to keep sneering that ‘they’re all the same’ is just as poisonous to political culture.

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