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Wednesday, 21 July 2010

How does it all end?

I'll admit it, I have been watching season 6 of Lost, via the computer screen, courtesy of Megavideo. Yes, I am aware that I'm probably committing all sorts of terrible online piracy crimes and yes, maybe even a netiquette faux pas for admitting it but the fact is, I have every intention of purchasing the box set when it comes out. I'm too much of a fanboy not to. I look at these streaming viewings, not downloads you'll note, nothing permanent, as advance screenings, if you will.

You have to look at it from my point of view. I don't have Sky, and since Lost is now exclusive to said network I have no chance to see the shows in any kind of timely fashion. It wasn't so bad when they just bought first run rights and let the terrestrials have a go afterwards but these days even that concession is denied us. So I watch online. Most shows I don't. Most shows I do my civic duty and wait for the discs, or the inevitable Sky 3 early morning wallpaper repeats that I can get through the freeview box, or I just don't watch at all until years down the line when everyone has moved on and no-one cares about the exclusive rights anymore and it starts to appear here there and everywhere in all sorts of obscure corners of the schedules.

Evangeline Lily - Kate, Kate, Kate
You can't do that with Lost though can you? I mean you can, of course you can, but you'd be a muppet. The show thrived on unanswered questions. It encouraged the kind of fan debate that is second only to Doctor Who or the X-Files at it's peak. Which means that unless you stick your head in the sand, preferably whilst hiding under a big rock, in a cave, you have zero chance of avoiding spoilers. And this is one show where you really, really, don't want to have stuff spoiled. Already I know that Jack dies in the closing moments of the show. Okay, not too bad, since I don't know the manner of his death or the circumstances leading up to it but still...

Lost spoilers are no longer even considered spoilers anymore, are they? It's been long enough now that people are talking about the show quite freely, secure in the knowledge that anyone interested will have already seen the episodes. Go on the web now and spoilerific discussion abounds in forum threads that are not spoiler tagged and in many cases have nothing to do with Lost. It's almost like references to the show have become part of the geek vocabulary. To be honest, I reckon I've been pretty lucky to get away with staying relatively unspoiled for as long as I have.

Emilie de Ravin - Claire, Claire, Claire
So I decided to head to the web and get it out of the way as quickly as possible. Which I have been doing at a nice old clip. The episodes have rolled by, questions have been answered, characters have been culled and now, today, I get to the point that I have only one episode left to watch. The End II. The last chapter in a truly epic story and my final hurdle in finally being able to embrace the conversation.

"This video has been removed due to infringement issues"

Fuck. Just the finale mind, none of the previous episodes. Are they just toying with people now? "Let them see the buildup then leave the fuckers hanging, that'll teach them."

Terry O'Quinn - Locke, Locke, Locke
Someone definitely has it in for me when it comes to this show.

Next : ????

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

An oldie, but a goodie.

From the beginning of time, many men have sought the unknown, delving into dark regions where live lie those truths which are destined to destroy.

Of all the eerie adventurers in the darkness, none was more driven by insatiable curiosity, nor went further into the unknown, than the unforgettable Baron Frankenstein.

So infamous were his exploits that his name stands forever as a symbol of all that is shocking, unspeakable, forbidden. Thus, in our day, any story that chills the soul and freezes the blood is truly a Tale of Frankenstein.

Now join us in the mystery, the excitement and the stimulation that comes when we tell a story so weird, so dark, so harrowing, that it deserves to be called one of the many TALES OF FRANKENSTEIN.

So says a floating disembodied head in a jar in the title sequence to this Hammer produced, 1958 pilot episode for a proposed Frankenstein TV series. Sadly, while the Baron would go on to notch up many appearances in Hammer movies and elsewhere, he wouldn't here. The show was not picked up, nor indeed was the pilot even aired at the time, although it has surfaced since in various graveyard slots.

I'll confess, I'd never actually heard of this show until I read a wonderful tome called 'The Hammer Story' by Alan Barnes and Marcus Hearne, which chronicles the Hammer studios somewhat bumpy history. It seems I'm the only person who hadn't though, because for half an hour of un-aired TV that's over half a century old it's doing pretty bloody well for itself in terms of recognition on the web, as I discovered when doing a little picture sourcing for this post. It seems that not only has everyone heard of it, they've seen it. Sadly, they don't seem to have much in the way of love for it.Which is something of a shame because to my untrained eye it was, if not an instant classic, then certainly a solid enough piece of horror fiction that kept me entertained for the duration.

It is, of course, nothing spectacularly original, but if we're honest, what else were they going to do in a Frankenstein pilot than some variation of the classic Frankenstein story? And that is indeed what we get here. Baron Frankenstein, played here by Anton Diffring - who's no Peter Cushing, but then who is? - dismayed to find that his creature is violent, blames the killers brain he used. He decides that he needs the brain of a good man to give the creation a conscience. Enter the Halperts, Paul and Christina, who need the Barons help to cure Paul of a never fully explained illness that threatens to kill him. Long story short, Paul (Richard Bull) dies and the Baron digs him up to steal his brain. Christina (Helen Westcott) confronting the Baron, is menaced by the creature who - because he's now 'powered' by her husbands brain - eventually recognises her and becomes gentler. She does get knocked unconscious though. There is a huge fight/chase sequence between the Baron and the Creature, which culminates in the graveyard and after Christina, now awake and seemingly none the worse for having been knocked unconscious minutes earlier, arrives on the scene the Creature ends up in Pauls open grave.

The episode ends with the Baron in police custody and Christina pleading his case, apparently believing that he did what he did out of compassion for her husband and guilt over not saving him, rather than a selfish desire to bring his experiments to fruition. Who knows, perhaps she was half right. Nevertheless, he is to be imprisoned. Have no fear though because as the Baron says "Time is of no matter.You see, there is always tomorrow".

That's quite a lot to fit into 27mins but they still find time for some of the old classics, like the carriage ride on a dark and stormy night, or the arrival of the Halperts at the local inn, prompting everything to go deathly quiet as the locals give them the evil eye, complete with many a lingering close-up on a raggedy looking yokel. These cliches aside though, it's a solidly staged production, deserving, in my humble opinion, of far more praise than it seems to receive.

The cast all acquit themselves well. In the thankless role of the Creature, Don Megowan doesn't really have a lot to work with but he manages to engender a fair degree of sympathy towards the end, when playing 'Paul'. The script, by Catherine and Henry Kuttner, from a story by Curt Siodmak, who also directed, is by necessity a pacy, fast moving affair but never skimps on the necessary character moments, giving Westcott and Bull ample opportunity, in a relatively short time, to craft a married couple who really feel like such, with genuine affection. Westcott particularly, although this may just be my much documented love of the pretty ladies coming out again, pretty much steals the show in what could have been a pretty shrewish role in lesser hands.

All in all, an entertaining slice of "might have been" that more than deserved a series. Especially when you get a look at some of the potential episodes they were planning. Could have been a classic. Never mind.

I am left with one question though, that I am far to lazy to look up the answer to. Why the Hell do the credits show Richard Bull playing someone by the name of MAX Halpert?

Next : Final thoughts on Lost (finally) or possibly first thoughts on The Net. Or maybe, just maybe, a list of things that are wrong with Tennant Who and why Matt Smith is so much better. Or something else entirely, I'm making it up as I go along.

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Decisions decisions

Well, as promised, here's a nice short entry with a picture of a good looking woman. 2 of them in fact. I'm nothing if not a man of my word.

My viewing has been dominated lately by Lost, as I attempt to get through Season 6 as quickly as possible before I lose the moral high ground re: spoilers. Not doing too badly either. I'm as far as 'Everybody Loves Hugo' so not long now.

I'm debating what to focus on next. It's gonna either be a complete run of Battlestar Galactica, which I recently acquired on DVD, or the complete run of the TV version of The Net, with Brooke Langton playing the Sandra Bullock role, which I not-so-recently acquired on DVD.

I have vague recollections of seeing a few episodes of The Net when it first aired here about 10 years ago and not being massively impressed so it's probably an idea to get that out of the way before apathy shoves it any further down the pile. It's a constant problem with the Quest that if I only watch stuff I think is gonna be great (the natural thing to do) some of the duffers fall by the wayside which isn't really in the spirit of the exercise.

Anyway, here's the second picture. The best looking woman in Galactica. Tricia who?

Saturday, 3 July 2010

Ashes To Ashes

Ah, Ashes to Ashes, what a disappointment you turned out to be. After two years of deep fried awesomeness with Life on Mars, you trundle into view, with your Quattros and your machine guns and your unfunny Gene and histrionic Alex, forever screaming like a lunatic and being all, you know, slappable. You even committed the cardinal sin, for which I did not think I could ever forgive you, of making Keeley Hawes look, whisper it, something less than the eye meltingly gorgeous Goddess we all know she is. Yes, it was the end of an era. A shining beacon of hope for British telefantasy had been extinguished.

But whats this? A second season that radically improves on the first and while not exactly being a Life... calibre classic still up their with the best of the rest. Gene back to being the iconic figure we know and love. Hawes, freed from the worst excesses of the writing team finally being allowed to craft a likable and, more to the point, relatable character in Alex.

Liz White

Montseratt Lombard, though still no Liz White, becoming less of an irritant.

Not Liz White
To top it all off, a cliffhanger ending that manages, in a stroke, to reinstate all the ambiguity, mystery and just plain wtfness that the concept seemed to have lost in this new guise. In fact, it's probably true to say that what was started with this cliffhanger was far more out there than anything they ever did with Sam Tyler on Life...

So we come to Season 3. The big finish. The finale to 5 years of work by Mathew Graham et al. And what a finish it was. Looking back at what a damp squib that 1st year was, and how blah my response to it, it seemed unbelievable to me that the same show could be the biggest thing in my life (TV wise of course) 2 scant years later. I was obsessed, theorising and debating and making all sorts of wild predictions. Miraculously, a lot of my predictions were actually correct, which surprised me no end I can tell you. I must confess, I didn't suss Alex' fate but the rest of that finale I got just about spot on.

There has been some speculation, some of it quite snide, about how the writers were making it up as they went along and never really had a plan for the conclusion, or even any kind of idea as to where they were going or what any of the mysteries meant. To this I say "so what?" Regardless of whether all the answers were in the writers heads from the get go or not, what we got at the last was a finale that worked on it's own as a piece of drama while at the same time answering a lot of long standing questions in a way that respected the concepts past without pandering to it. A perfect example (and an obvious one because I don't do subtle) was the appearance of Nelson as a kind of gatekeeper character. Do we believe for one second that this was his intended role from day one? Of course not, but it could have been. It certainly doesn't contradict anything from Life On Mars and actually makes a lot of sense when you consider how that character was heavily hinted to be a kind of 'spirit guide' for Sam on that show.

So Ashes is finished for good and so is that whole world. I'm sorry to see it go but I'd be even sorrier to see it come back, because what we have is a near perfect end to a very bumpy but nevertheless exhilarating ride.

And that's the end of my look at three shows that all ended at roughly the same time. Which was bloody ages ago. Seriously, I couldn't be any less topical if I was cracking jokes about Eddie Murphys paternity woes. Blame my laptop troubles, I've been online at home maybe 5 days in the last month.

Next : No clue. We'll see.