Friday, March 09, 2012

The Eighteenth Pale Descendent Of Some Old Queen Or Other

On Thursday evening yer actual Keith Telly Topping attended Scunny Steve's latest The Record Player event at the Tyneside Cinema. This was one of the LPs that yer actual Keith Telly Topping his very self had really been waiting for, yer actual The Queen Is Dead by The Smiths Group their very selves. About which, yer actual Keith Telly Topping is of the considered opinion that it sounds better and better with each passing year in exactly the way that people used to say Exile on Main Street did. Especially when, as last night, it's played on a quality bit of freshly minted vinyl on a really good sound-system. So, that's yer actual Keith Telly Topping's 33 of the Day for today, dear blog reader. I heartily recommend this work to The House.
Perfection. Next week, it's OK Computer. Not a bad LP by any stretch but a definite case of 'bring yer own razorblade' to that one, I'd've said!

Doctor Who news now and something of a round-up but with a few bits that you might not have heard before. And there may be one or two - mildish - spoilers in here so, if you don't want to know the score, look away now. The two episodes currently being shot (including one with some location filming in Almeria in Spain), directed by Saul Metzstein, have been confirmed by Doctor Who Magazine as episode two, written by Chris Chibnall, and a 'wild-west themed' episode three by Being Human creator Toby Whithouse.
The cast for Chibnall's episode included the previously announced Mark Williams (rumoured to be playing Rory's dad, Brian), Sherlock's Rupert Graves and David Bradley. Joining the also previously announced Rob Cavazos, Ben Browder and Adrian Scrborough for episode three is Dominic Kemp who is listed by his agent as playing a character called Kahler-Mas. Dominic has appeared in guest roles in a number of television dramas, including Waking the Dead, Wire in the Blood, Moses Jones (opposite Matt Smith) and most recently in the Christmas special of Downton Abbey. He's also appeared in Miss Potter, and will be seen with former Doctor Christopher Eccleston in the forthcoming Song for Marion. The second recording block which will begin later in the month and comprise two episodes written by The Lord Thy God Steven Moffat (Thou Shalt Worship No Other Gods Before He), will be directed by Nick Hurran, who filmed two of last year's most acclaimed episodes, The Girl Who Waited and The God Complex. The Spanish interlude (for an episode which might, or might not, be called The Gunslinger) kicked off on 7 March at the Oasys Parque Temático del Desierto de Tabernas. The resort is set in the only European desert, and provides a number of themed areas such as an aquatic zone, wildlife park and of more interest to Doctor Who of course, a Western theme town known as 'Mini Hollywood.' The area has played host to a number of renowned films, like Dick Lester's How I Won The War, The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly, Lawrence of Arabia and Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade. The Sun carried an item on filming in Spain, courtesy of the ubiquitous - anonymous, and probably wholly fictitious - BBC 'insider': 'It's more cost-efficient to film in Spain than recreate the set in the UK, while the weather conditions will also prove sunnier than Cardiff, where Doctor Who is usually shot. Matt and Karen are really excited about the episode. Filming on the same set as a lot of western films, together with the Spanish weather, will give it an epic feel.' The paper also suggested that the adversary up against the Doctor would be a half-human half-robot Terminator-style beast which patrols a Victorian-era western town. Hang on, that's the plot of Westworld, isn't it?

BBC local radio services facing controversial cuts have found an unlikely partial saviour – BSkyB. The satellite broadcaster is to reduce what it charges the BBC to transmit its TV channels and radio stations by more than five million smackers a year, with the corporation planning to use the windfall to reduce the previously announced local radio cuts. BSkyB charges TV and radio broadcasters annual fees to carry their channels and stations on its satellite service with ITV, Channel Four, the BBC and Channel Five currently paying about twenty four million notes between 'em each year. Sky has said that it will 'slash' those costs by over fifty per cent by 2014 – to eleven million smackers for the main broadcasters. The biggest beneficiary will be the BBC, which has almost fifty radio and TV channels on Sky, which will save five and a half million quid a year from 2014. John Tate, the director of policy and strategy at the BBC, said that most of the cash savings would go toward reducing about ten million smackers a year in cuts that the corporation is looking to make in its local radio operations. The BBC pays Sky £9.9m a year, this will drop to £4.4m in staged cuts by 2014. ITV currently pays eight million knicker but by 2014 will pay just over three million. Channel Four will see its annual fees fall from five million smackers to £2.7m, while Channel Five's will drop from £1.4m to eight hundred thousand quid. BSkyB is reducing the charges to all of the hundreds of broadcasters that pay to have channels on its platform. The public service broadcasters have been lobbying for BSkyB to pay a considerable amount to carry their channels as they are the most popular on the Sky platform. They argue that research estimates based on international comparisons indicate that BSkyB should pay as much as one hundred and twenty million smackers a year. 'The value Sky gets out of carrying BBC channels is huge, if Sky had to pay for that it would be hundreds of millions of pounds,' said Tate. 'Licence fee payers are being unfairly disadvantaged, the logic is that Sky should be paying to carry the most popular channels.' BSkyB argues that the charges, which are regulated by Ofcom, have reduced over time as the broadcaster has recouped set up costs of one billion moolah. 'We have published a new rate card which sees a reduction in platform contribution charges for more than a hundred channels on the Sky platform, including all public service broadcasters,' said a spokesman for Sky. 'Our charges have reduced as the costs of developing the platform have increasingly been recouped.' The Sky spokesman refuted the argument that it should pay PSBs for their channels. In the US, News Corporation, Sky's biggest shareholder with a thirty nine per cent stake, has successfully persuaded pay-TV operators to fork out transmission fees for its FOX free-to-air network. Historically, the four network broadcasters in the US received no money from cable and satellite operators for their channels, but the situation has changed in recent years. Mark Thompson, the BBC director general, used the News Corp transmission fees to argue that Sky should also be paying to broadcast terrestrial channels in the UK, in his MacTaggart Lecture at the Gruniad Morning Star Edinburgh International Television Festival in 2010. However, Sky argued that it was 'wrong to draw a comparison between US transmission fees and the UK TV market.'

Channel Four chief executive David Abraham has announced the launch of 4seven, a new TV channel enabling viewers to catch up on the Channel Four shows that have caused the most 'buzz' in the past seven days. 4seven, previously thought to be called 'Channel Four Shuffle' (no, that wasn't a single by 10CC), is Channel Four's first new network since More4 in 2005. The channel will launch across all major television platforms later this year. Speaking at the FT Digital Media Conference, Abraham said that with so much choice available of new programming across TV and online platforms, viewers are 'increasingly saying they sometimes just miss the best stuff. In essence this new channel format will provide viewers with another chance to see the noisiest bits of Channel Four from the last seven days,' said Abraham. 'Channel Four is very strong at reaching lighter viewers that advertisers like to reach but because these viewers are not couch potatoes and because our schedule is so varied, we also know they miss a proportion of shows we know they would enjoy - even when they own a PVR and have access to VOD.' Channel Four, which was was among the first UK broadcasters to launch a catch-up service with 4oD in 2006, said that 4seven will offer viewers another opportunity to catch up on its most discussed and commented shows of the last seven days. Content on 4seven will be scheduled according to whatever is making the most 'noise' among social media, bloggers, commentators and viewers who contact Channel Four directly. This 'buzz' will also be incorporated into the look and feel of the channel. Discussing the new catch-up TV strategy, Abraham said: 'It's a variation which we think goes with the grain of increased optionality but that combines the continued strengths of digital TV with the opportunities of social media. As such we hope that it will be an example of how the TV network will continue to adapt and evolve in order to survive in this most revolutionary of decades for media consumption.'

The largest retrospective of Rolf Harris' paintings to date will be staged at the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool this summer. The exhibition will include works from TV shows including Rolf On Saturday, OK!, Rolf Harris' Cartoon Time and Rolf On Art, ranging to his 2005 portrait of the Queen. 'To see so many of my life's endeavours together in one exhibition is hard for me to believe,' yer actual Rolf Harris said. Titled, of course, Can You Tell What It Is Yet?, the exhibition will open on 19 May. The Walker, which describes itself as 'the national gallery of the north,' has a collection that includes works by Michelangelo, Picasso, Turner, Cezanne and Degas. Curator Charlotte Keenan said Harris' 'enduring popularity is testament to a man who has entertained generations with his infectious love of art and music.' The eighty one-year-old artist, musician and entertainer has previously had paintings exhibited in the National Gallery in London and the Australian National Portrait Gallery in Sydney. The Liverpool exhibition will also feature memorabilia from Harris' life and career, including his didgeridoos, wobble-boards and paint-splashed jeans. They will be on show until 12 August.

From one of yer actual Keith Telly Topping's childhood heroes to another. Just a couple of days after he appeared on the TV for what seemed like the first time in decades, on an episode of MasterChef, it has been announced that yer actual Tim Brooke-Taylor (the second funniest one in The Goodies) is to front a new spoof news bulletin about animals. Tim - a man who once worked with Orson Welles - will act as the newsreader for the six half-hour episodes, due to go out on BBC1 at Saturday teatime. Provisionally titled, Everyone Loves Animals, it will feature funny clips from the animal world. So, it's Animals Do The Funniest Things, essentially. Only with Tim Brooke-Taylor. Has some potential! Lord Timbo will be assisted by a sidekick dog, or 'newshound.' Stand-up Charlie Baker voiced the canine quipster in a not-for-broadcast pilot made last year though it is understood that Talkback will cast someone else now that the show going to air, trade magazine Broadcast reports. Tim, of course, apart from The Goodies was also an emerging comedy star in the 1960s on At Last The 1948 Show (with Cleese, Chapman and Marty Feldman), spent the eighties in two of the - genuinely - worst sitcom conceits ever devised, Me & My Girl and You Must be The Husband and, more recently, was a semi-regular in Heartbeat. Producer Dan Baldwin said: 'As a nation of animal lovers, this series will get the whole family laughing.'

And, speaking of MasterChef, Big Jay Tinker is looking forward to a bright future owning his own restaurant after leaving MasterChef this week in fourth place. Jay had a tough time on Wednesday's episode, the pastry challenge and, ultimately, wasn't put through to the final by John Torode and Gregg Wallace. The father-of-three security firm manager and his three colleagues had to make afternoon tea for various 1970s comedy legends ... and Bill Oddie. Jay's egg custard with suve'd strawberries and salmon and broccoli tart with smoked salmon turned out okay - albeit a bit lat -, but his raspberry and chocolate tart failed to set. In the other challenge, Jay and co. had to make dishes for three of the world's top twisty-faced pastry chefs. Jay told the Lancashire Evening Post: 'I think the chocolate tart was the stumbling block for me. I knew I was in trouble because the other three, Shelina, Thomas and Andrew, were really strong with their pastry.' During his time on the show, Jay earned praise from some of Britain's top chefs including Michel Roux Jnr, who described one of his fish dishes was cooked perfectly. 'But being on MasterChef has been an amazing experience for me. My favourite part of the show was cooking for the Prince in Thailand. People go there on holiday but I went there to learn the culture and it was a fantastic culinary experience. I would like to send my congratulations to the other three for making it to the final. I am looking forward to a future in the food industry and the show has given me a focus for the future with my own restaurant. I will be using what I have learned on the show to make it a success.' Jay has reportedly taken over the former Langs Pasta Bar and Grill, on Lord Street in Southport, and hopes to open it as Tinkers in the next few weeks. He is said to be working on the menu with the renowned chef Helda Phllipe, who has opened restaurants in Essex and London.

Jeremy Piven, best-known as foul-mouthed Hollywood agent Ari Gold in the HBO comedy Entourage, is reportedly 'in talks' to take the lead role in ITV's new costume drama Mr Selfridge. ITV confirmed on Thursday that the forty six-year-old, who has picked up a Golden Globe and multiple Emmy Awards for Entourage, is 'in negotiations' to take the role of American entrepreneur Harry Gordon Selfridge, who founded the famous London department store. The broadcaster recently hired Oscar-winning US actor Shirley MacLaine for the third series of Downton Abbey, to be broadcast later this year. ITV is seeking a high profile US actor to play the lead role in Mr Selfridge, a move which might also serve to help international sales of the ITV Studios production. The broadcaster describes the character of Selfridge as 'Mile-a-Minute Harry, a man with a mission to make shopping as thrilling as sex. Pioneering and reckless, with an almost manic energy, he created a theatre of retail where any topic or trend that was new, exciting, entertaining – or sometimes just eccentric – was showcased,' the broadcaster added. A spokeswoman for ITV confirmed that the broadcaster was in talks with Piven. 'We are in negotiations but no deal has been finalised,' she said. ITV chief executive Adam Crozier unveiled plans for the ambitious ten-part drama, which will have a budget comparable to that backing ratings hit Downton Abbey, at ITV's annual results at the end of February. Mr Selfridge, a working title for the drama which will go into production in April, is being written by by the great Andrew Davies. Davies, one of the UK's most prolific TV writers, is well-known for literary adaptions including Pride and Prejudice, Bleak House and Moll Flanders. The ITV drama, set in 1909 London, is based on the book Shopping, Seduction and Mr Selfridge by author Lindy Woodhead.

James Denton's character Mike Delfino has been revealed as the character to die on the upcoming episode of Desperate Housewives. Denton, who has been a series regular since its debut in 2004, plays Teri Hatcher's husband on the show. He was approached by producer Marc Cherry in the winter of last year about killing off his character. Of Mike's demise, Denton told Entertainment Weekly: 'I was really surprised. Any other year, I would have been disappointed, but at this point I figured, well, we made it. As an actor, you just hope people care.' Denton described filming his final scene as surreal, recalling: 'I remember lying in the threshold [while filming the scene] with the blood pouring out of me looking up at the top of the porch. I've been there for over eight years, and I've done so many scenes on that porch. It was a little creepy. It was sort of fitting.' News of the actor's departure was revealed during a court hearing this week at the trial between show creator Cherry and former star Nicolette Sheridan. Sheridan has sued Cherry for wrongfully terminating her from the series, and has also accused him of physically assaulting her while she was still a member of the cast. There will be six more episodes of Desperate Housewives after Denton's departure. It was announced last year that the current eighth season of the series will be its last.

Some hilarious news now, the Press Complaints Commission has fast-tracked itself out of existence ahead of the Leveson Inquiry report. A transitional body will be created with staff and the current assets of the PCC will be transferred. It is not known yet what shape the new commission will take but it is expected that it will be self-regulatory with a choice of opting-in, just as the PCC is. The PCC faced strong criticism last year that it failed to act to prevent phone-hacking at the now defunct, disgraced and disgraceful Scum of the World.
An inquiry into whether BSkyB is a 'fit and proper' owner of a broadcasting licence has been stepped up by media regulator Ofcom, it has emerged. The Financial Times has revealed that a team was set up in January to scrutinise evidence from the Leveson inquiry, MPs' committees and police investigations. It means the UK media interests of Rupert Murdoch and his son James have come under further scrutiny. Their company News Corporation is the biggest BSkyB stakeholder, with thirty nine per cent. The news comes amid controversy over phone-hacking by News International staff. Allegations of corrupt payments to the police and other public officials have also surfaced. Ofcom began preliminary inquiries into whether BSkyB was a 'fit and proper' owner of a broadcasting licence last summer after phone-hacking revelations first became interesting to the general public. They'd been in the public domain for four years previously but nobody had been much bothered when it was just Sienna Miller and Steve Coogan that were the victims. All that changed when it was discovered that they'd also been hacking a murdered schoolgirl and the families of other crime victims. James Murdoch stepped down as chairman of News International last week but still chairs BSkyB. A Freedom of Information request by the FT revealed that in January the media regulator established a 'dedicated team' to scrutinise material emerging from the Leveson Inquiry into media conduct, parliamentary select committees, and the police investigations. Ofcom said new evidence was still emerging, which it was continuing to assess. The BBC media correspondent Torin Douglas said the watchdog was expected to take 'particular note' of a Commons Culture Media and Sport Committee report on phone-hacking, which is due out in the next few weeks.

News Group Newspapers, the publisher of the Sun and the now-defunct, disgraced and disgraceful Scum of the World, has been described by a high court judge of having 'an enthusiastic involvement' with the police and of failing to protect the sources of a story involving the prison conditions of Soham killer Ian Huntley. Judge Pearce-Higgins said in a pre-trial judgment that the publisher had 'acted at all times in a way to protect their own interests' and 'took no steps to claim the protection usually afforded to journalists in respect of their sources' during a leak enquiry handled by Durham police. The pointed comments were made in a pre-trial judgment handed down on 28 February in Birmingham where Rupert Murdoch's newspaper group is being sued for one hundred thousand notes by a 'secret' informant. Except, he's not that secret, he's John Capewell, the brother of a prison officer, who claims that the former chief lawyer of the Sun and the Scum of the World, Tom Crone, told the police that he was the source of leaked stories about the Soham killer Ian Huntley. Capewell wants the court to rule that this was in breach of an anonymity agreement between the parties. Judge Pearce-Higgins said in the judgment: 'The evidence here suggests that [News Group Newspapers] took no steps to protect the claimant notwithstanding the agreement between them. [News Group Newspapers] acted at all times in a way to protect its own interests rather than any higher motive to see justice done. It took no steps to claim the protection usually afforded to journalists in respect of their sources.' The judge said in his ruling that Capewell's claim has 'a real prospect of success' and can proceed to a full trial against the publisher. No date for the trial has been set, but the judge indicated that he expected News Group Newspapers to 'explain its enthusiastic involvement with the police.' NGN has applied to have the claim struck out, on the grounds that it cannot be sued over information provided to assist the police in an ongoing investigation. The judge said that the police had independently discovered that Capewell was the not-so-secret informant before officers had spoken to NGN. Capewell is the brother of a former prison warden at HMP Frankland in Durham, where Huntley is currently serving a life sentence for the murder in 2002 of schoolgirls Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman. He approached the Scum of the World in 2008 offering 'anonymous information' about Huntley's prison conditions in return for a sum of money. The court heard that Capewell signed an anonymity pledge after meeting with the former Scum of the World reporter Chris Tate in April 2008. He signed a further anonymity agreement on 1 May 2008 after another meeting with Tate. NGN is not believed to have paid any money to Capewell and it is not alleged that the Scum of the World published a story based on this information. However, the court heard that the Sun subsequently published an article, headed Be nice to Mr Huntley: Prison guards told to treat Soham child killer like he's part of the family, on 3 May 2008 that allegedly used quotes provided by Capewell. Capewell claims that NGN breached the anonymity agreement when he was named as the source by Crone in a phone call with officers from Durham Constabulary investigating the leaks. 'This is an area where there are competing rights which have to be balanced and the law is developing,' said Judge Pearce-Higgins in the pre-trial judgment. 'I am satisfied that [Capewell] has a real prospect of success. In any event bearing in mind the background and current concerns in relation to [NGN] and its relationship with the police (in particular the Metropolitan police), there are in any event other compelling reasons why this claim should proceed to trial.' Morgan Rees, the lawyer for Capewell, told the court at a pre-trial hearing that a judgment against his client would 'send out the chilling message that press confidentiality agreements are of no value.' And possibly, that offering stories for money to tabloid newspapers might not be the great idea it, on the surface, seems to be. The pre-trial judgment came just days after journalists at the Sun lined-up a separate human rights challenge to News Corporation's management and standards committee, which handed over information about confidential sources to the police leading to the arrest of several journalists. Journalists at the Sun complaining about how their own privacy and human rights have been infringed by somebody investigating them, for a change? Some dear blog readers might find a certain irony quality in that. This blogger couldn't possibly comment. Another News International title, The Sunday Times, came in for criticism after it disclosed e-mails between a source and The Sunday Times political editor, Isabel Oakeshott, to officers investigating the former energy secretary Chris Huhne over an alleged speeding offence. The publisher handed over the e-mails after initially putting up a legal challenge. NGN has not yet submitted a defence in the Capewell action but is expected to contest the claim shortly.

Meanwhile, a handful of journalists working for Trinity Mirra's Sunday titles have been told that they may have been victims of phone-hacking by the Scum of the World, in an apparent sign that the Murdoch title sought to eavesdrop onto news being gathered by its principal competitors. Lee Harpin, head of news at the People, is among three newsdesk executives at both that newspaper and the Sunday Mirra, who have been told by the Metropolitan police that their details appear in the notebooks kept by Glenn Mulcaire, the private investigator who undertook hacking for the Scum of the World. Trinity Mirra – the owner of the People and the Sunday and Daily Mirra – has long suspected that its employees were targeted given the intense rivalry which exists in the Sunday redtop market. But it is the first time that the company has learned that any of its journalists or other executives may have been victims. The Scum of the World was the market leading title, with average weekly sales of 2.67m at the time of its closure last July. The Sunday Mirra briefly became the redtop market leader, but with the launch of the Sun's Sunday edition, has settled back down to second place with about 1.1m in sales, according to early industry estimates. The People is currently selling an estimated four hundred and sixty five thousand.

The Apprentice's Margaret Mountford will be reunited with Nick Hewer on Channel Four's Countdown, it has been confirmed. Hewer and Mountford became cult TV figures after working together for five years as Lord Alan Sugar-Sweetie's 'eyes and ears' on The Apprentice. However, Mountford departed the show after the fifth series to focus on her PhD studies at University College London. The duo will be reunited on the daytime quiz this weekend, when Mountford films a number of episodes as a guest in Dictionary Corner. Hewer took over from Jeff Stelling as the host of Countdown earlier this year. Writing about the news on Twitter, Hewer said: 'Glad tidings! Margaret has agreed to join Susie Dent in Countdown's Dictionary Corner for a whole week.' Co-presenter Rachel Riley added: 'We're filming Countdown this weekend with Margaret Mountford. Hoping to get the insider gossip on Nick. What would you ask?' When asked by the Digital Spy website if he thought Lord Sugar-Sweetie would ever join him on Countdown, Hewer said: 'I'll ask. But I'm not going to hold my breath on that one.'

The BBC Trust is proposing changes to the complaints process which will simplify and streamline the system. One idea - which is likely to prove controversial - is to focus resource on 'serious' complaints by 'ending correspondence on trivial, misconceived, hypothetical, repetitious or otherwise vexatious' ones.' People aggrieved to learn their complaint falls into one of those categories will have the option of an appeal to the Trust. The proposals are being put out for public consultation and arise from the Trust's review of the complaints system last year. Trustee Richard Ayre told Ariel: 'We expect some praise and some criticism, but if as a result of the exercise we implement this plan, we expect people who have serious complaints to find these very positive changes because we'll be prioritising their complaints and giving them a swifter response.' The changes would mean complaints being channelled through BBC Audience Services, under the overview of a Chief Complaints Editor, rather than being handled by the editorial team of the programme being complained about. The Trust says: 'In future, the BBC cannot guarantee to answer Editorial or General complaints unless they are sent to BBC Audience Services.' The added: 'All complaints will continue to be considered, but the BBC proposes not to investigate those that do not raise substantive issues. To focus time and resources on better handling the others.' Nor will the BBC have to deal with abusive or gratuitously offensive correspondents. Such people will be given an opportunity to re-word their complaint, but if they don't, or if they repeat the abuse, the BBC 'may' not consider it. Ayre said the focus of the proposals is not on the minority of 'vexatious' complainants, explaining: 'Most people who complain to the BBC genuinely think they have an important point. Many of them do, some of them don't - but they don't always accept that. It's those people that we are going to treat courteously, properly but more briefly than we have heretofore.' As for every complainant getting an individual reply - in the age of social media the Trust considers this a waste of time and money. It points out that social media comment can lead to the BBC getting many variations of the same complaint about the same piece of output. In future they would all be considered together, with 'one consolidated response to all the complaints.' There will also be a sifting process for complaints which people want reconsidered after the initial response. In just six months last year the BBC received more than four thousand such requests, which the Trust points out 'must be referred to programmes, so the impact on staff who make content is considerable.' It also notes that 'trivial' return complaints make up a quarter of the total complaints caseload, noting, 'Dealing with these complaints takes time away from handling serious complaints.' And the time limit for complaints about website content will be thirty days, as it is for broadcasts. The Trust also announced that there will be a corrections and clarifications page on the BBC website and there will be a guide on where and how to complain.

Hammer studios has issued a public appeal to track down lost scenes that were cut from its films by censors. The film studio has identified nine missing scenes from six of its best-known films which it is hoping to find. One of the most sought-after clips is a scene in 1957's The Curse of Frankenstein, where a severed head is apparently dropped into a vat of acid. By that nice Mr Cushing, as well. Should be allowed. And, indeed, it wasn't. They are also seeking missing scenes from films including The Mummy and Rasputin: The Mad Monk. Hammer issued the public appeal, after it became apparent that it had failed to keep the excluded footage in its own archives. At the time, the censored scenes were deemed too gory or shocking for British audiences. However, uncut films often survive in film reels sent to other countries. While Hammer has evidence that the missing footage exists, some of it is only known about from still photographs taken during filming. 'We're fairly sure they exist in private collections, instead of official archives,' Peter Naish, Hammer's senior vice-president of distribution, said. 'There's a network of Hammer fans and collectors who snap these things up, so we need to scour the whole world and appeal to the fans at large to see what we can come up with.' Naish said that Hammer was particularly keen to find the lost footage from The Curse of Frankenstein, which features the 'head in acid bath' scene. 'I think that one's iconic - that would be the one people would most want to see. But if we can find any others, that would be great,' he added. The film studio plans to restore all the cut versions as part of a wider restoration project.

The oldest surviving film featuring a Charles Dickens character has been discovered, in the year of the two hundredth anniversary of the author's birth. The Death of Poor Joe, which dates to March 1901, was discovered by British Film Institute curator Bryony Dixon, in February. Until now the earliest known Dickens film was Scrooge or Marley's Ghost, released in November 1901. 'It's wonderful to have discovered such a rare and unique film,' Dixon said. 'It looks beautiful and is in excellent condition. This really is the icing on the cake of our current celebration of Dickens on Screen.' The Death of Poor Joe will be screened as part of the Dickens bicentennial celebrations on 9 and 23 March at London's BFI Southbank. The film organisation said it is also planning to release the footage on a DVD at a later date. Dixon stumbled across the find as she carried out research on early films of China. A catalogue entry referred to The Death of Poor Joe, which she recognised as a reference to the character Jo in Bleak House. After checking on the BFI's archive database, she found the film was listed as part of a collection under an alternative title of Man Meets Ragged Boy, which had been wrongly dated 1902. The film, which is just one minute long, depicts Joe dying in the freezing snow against a churchyard wall. As he falls to the ground a local watchman tries to help him and cradles him as he dies. The footage, which was directed by film pioneer George Albert Smith, was handed to the BFI in 1954, by a collector in Brighton who had known Smith personally. The BFI said it believes the director's wife, Laura Bayley, played Joe and the character of the watchman was played by Tom Green. The footage is believed to have been shot in Brighton. The BFI said that the storyline has similarities with Hans Christian Andersen's The Little Match Girl, which features a child dying in the snow and Dickens' tragic death of Jo, the homeless crossing sweeper in Bleak House.

David Walliams has revealed that Rob Brydon was 'slightly distracting' during his one hundred and forty-mile Thames swim. The Little Britain comic, who swam the epic marathon in aid of Sport Relief, was interviewed by fellow comic Brydon for a documentary which was broadcast on the BBC this week. When asked by the Radio Times whether Brydon's presence was a help or a hindrance, Walliams replied: 'Oh, definitely a help. But he was a tiny bit distracting. He was really going for it - "I'm in this documentary, so I'm gonna contribute and be funny." I could hear him saying, "David! I want to ask you a question!" "I'm trying to swim, mate!"' Meanwhile, speaking about the stomach illness - giardiasis - which he caught in London's river that lasted for months after the swim, he explained: 'Giardiasis is quite common in the Third World. Obviously I took on quite a lot of water because it's just impossible not to. When a boat comes past there's a wash. And when you turn your head to breathe, you get a mouthful. Because you're used to the taste of swimming pool water, and to a lesser extent the sea. At the river's source, in Lechlade, it was actually quite nice because the water comes from an underground spring, so it's quite pure. But by the time you get into Central London, it stank.'

A fifteen-stone man has claimed that a fox 'intimidated' him into handing over his shopping. Yeah, same thing happened to me only in my case it was an aardvark. True story. Except for most of it. Civil servant Seb Baker claims that he was 'cornered' and then 'circled' before the fox started leaping up at him in an attempt to grab his Tesco shopping bag. Well, every little helps, they reckon. 'I had expected it to run away. I thought a fox would be scared of a fifteen-stone man,' Baker told the Sun. Oh, must be true, then. 'I turned down an alley, but when I looked round I saw it running towards me. I stopped, thinking it would run off. But the fox started circling me and then jumped up, trying to grab my shopping bag.' Wildlife expert John Bryant, who believes such incidences are rare - otherwise, the Sun would be printing a story like this every day, no doubt - said: 'Foxes are getting bolder but they are not interested in humans, they are concentrated on food.' Bryant advised: 'If a fox is jumping at your shopping bag you need to shout at it and chase it off, not just give it the food. The best thing to use is a water pistol.' If, of course, you're not packing heat in the shape of a water pistol in the even of being attacked by a fox with a pointed stick, firstly, eat some fruit. Then ...

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