Tuesday, November 09, 2021

"By The Pricking Of My Thumbs, Something Wicked This Way Comes"

Welcome, dearest bloggerisationism readers, to a somewhat shorter-than-usual From The North update. This blogger has been rather busy of late with a number of 'real-world'-type scenarios including a series of annual medical appointments (all of which were fine, if you're interested), a cracked tooth (which isn't fine but, hopefully, will be in a couple of weeks once this blogger has managed to get a dental appointment) and various other assorted shenanigans, malarkey and snarly-hoojar. Keith Telly Topping's life, dear blog reader, is a never-ending fiasco of stuff and, you know, more stuff. Anyway, on with the show. On Tuesday of this week, as threatened in a previous bloggerisationism update, this blogger - together with his beast fiend Young Malcolm - went to The Gate to see Edgar Wright's long-anticipated flick, Last Night In Soho. This blogger, as if there would be any doubt in such matters, though it was bloody great. 'This is London. Someone has died in every room and every building and on every street corner in the city.'
A proper, full-on horror movie which could only have been improved in that department if it'd had a Hammer logo at the end of it! Edgar has produced what is, probably, his most personal and easily identifiable movie (and, considering how much this blogger adores The Cornetto Trilogy, especially, Hot Fuzz, that's the highest of high praise). It's a film which is full of astonishing imagery and moments that will stay with you for days afterwards. Genre lovers will also have a lot of fun playing a game of 'spot the reference' - some obvious like Night Of The Living Dead - others more oblique but beautifully staged (Cabaret, Repulsion, A Matter Of Life & Death). There are magnificent performances from Thomasin McKenzie, Anya-Taylor Joy, Matt Smith, Terence Stamp, Pauline McLynn, Rita Tushingham and one, final, outstanding on-screen turn from the late, great Diana Rigg. And - one rather brilliant moment with a Siouxsie & The Banshees tune aside - a stunning Sixties soundtrack ('World Without Love', 'You're My World', 'There's A Ghost In My House', 'Downtown', 'Heatwave', 'Land Of A Thousand Dances' et cetera), plus Steven Price's original score which is equal parts John Barry and James Bernard.
As From The North favourite, the BBC's Mark Kermode noted it was 'maximum Edgar Wright ... it taps into some many things that I love, the idea of walking the streets of a town that have the past living in them. I loved the way it starts out as The Amazing Mister Blunden and ends up as a giallo slasher.' Edgar Wright has, reportedly, said that Chris Nolan saw the trailer for Last Night In Soho and told Edgar: 'Wow, it's like you've made Peeping Tom-Meets-Tom's Midnight Garden!' And, Peeping Tom's Midnight Garden is a perfect description of this incredible movie experience. (Sadly, Mark was on holiday from Radio 5's film review show the week Last Night In Soho came out, but he did get to review it on the BBC News channel and in the Observer, whilst his stand-in Anna Bogutskaya also gave it a rave review.) Just to repeat, this blogger thought it was bloody great.
'If we all of us waited to be sent for, we would none of us find our purpose.' Moving swiftly on to the second episode of the current series of From The North favourite, Doctor Who, this blogger also thought that War Of The Sontarans was great. No major surprise there but, after the shocking - and stunning - surprise of The Halloween Apocalypse being 'really rather terrific with no prior expectations', it's nice to see that the series is maintaining a quality of punchable menace mixed with some fabulous comedy (the use of a wok as a Sontaran-disabling weapon, for a kick-off!)
This blogger loved the fact that Dan's parents were introduced, got two really good (and very funny) scenes and then pissed off; which was such a refreshing change from all the companion relatives we've met since Jackie Tyler who just hang around and, occasionally, get given something to do to justify their existence. And, not only was the episode great but then there was the trailer for next Sunday's third installment featuring a spoilerific-but-fantastically-awesome appearance by ... someone (or, actually, several someones). So, it looks like Flux is shaping up to be a kind-of 'Doctor Who's Greatest Hits'-type affair with the added bonus of a sinister atmosphere and a central villain who seems to know more about The Doctor than The Doctor her very self does. 'Time is evil and it will seek its own.' Good grief, even the Gruniad Morning Star liked it.
Next, how excellent it was that this blogger's usual record of watching an episode of From The North favourite Only Connect and guessing the answer to at least one question correct before either of the two teams did was maintained. And, as usual, this week, it was the movie-related question.
A sad note, now: One of this blogger's favourite actors, Clifford Rose, has died at the age of ninety two. Many From The North dear blog readers will know Clifford best from his appearance in Doctor Who in the acclaimed 1981 Tom Baker serial Warriors' Gate (written by Steve Gallagher) where he played Rorvik the captain of the privateer ship that transported the time-sensitive Tharils between dimensions. He was most famous to the wider public for his powerful portrayal of Standartenführer Ludwig Kessler, the ruthless Gestapo officer, in three series of the BBC's Secret Army and then in its less-succssful-but-actually-much-better-than-its-lowly-reputation-suggests sequel, Kessler
    Clifford was born in Herefordshire in October 1929. After studying at King's College London he sought a career as an actor appearing in repertory theatre and later as a founding member of the Royal Shakespeare Company. His first TV appearance was in 1959, in an adaptation of Arnold Bennett's Hilda Lessways. Many character roles followed including appearances in series such as Roads To Freedom, Elizabeth R, Callan, Justice, The Pallisers, How Green Was My Valley, Inspector Morse, One By One, Hammer House Of Mystery & Suspense, Reilly: Ace Of Spies, Rooms, Dixon Of Dock Green, Follyfoot, The Troubleshooters, Woodstock and The Devil's Crown. And also in movies like Marat/Sade, Tell Me Lies, Work Is A Four-Letter Word, The Good Father and The Girl. In 1977 he was cast as Sturmbannführer Kessler in Secret Army, the series detailing the work of the prisoner evasion lines which helped Allied pilots escape from occupied Belgium during World War II. It was a powerful multi-layered performance which explored the ruthlessness of the Nazi commander as well as his personal qualities as he fell in love with a Belgium woman. His performance saw the character return in his own spin-off, Kessler, exploring the fate of the character who had reinvented himself as an industrialist in post-war Germany. He later played SS General Kammler in the mini-series War & Remembrance, appeared in Fortunes Of War and played Judge Critchley in Alan Bleasdale's memorable Channel Four drama GBH. Later film appearances included roles in Pirates Of The Caribbean: On Stranger Tides and The Iron Lady and he played the Dean of Windsor in The Crown, his final screen role. He also played King George V in the TV movie Wallis & Edward (2005). In 2008, he appeared in the ITV historical drama Foyle's War. Rose also played The Judge in Enid Bagnold's The Chalk Garden in a production at The Donmar Warehouse for which won The Clarence Derwent Award. A radio adaptation of the staging was broadcast on Radio 3 in 2011. Clifford was married to Celia Ryder from 1957 until her death in 2012. They had two children - Jonathan and Rosalind - and lived in Stratford-upon-Avon.
The actor Dean Stockwell, who has died aged eight five, enjoyed periods of acclaim punctuated by bouts of sometimes self-inflicted obscurity, but found his widest audience in a recurring role on television in Quantum Leap (1989 to 1993). The series followed a physicist, Doctor Sam Beckett (Scott Bakula), on time-travelling expeditions to correct historical injustices. Stockwell played Admiral Al Calavicci, Beckett's cigar-smoking and womanising best friend who appears to him in hologram form to offer guidance as the experiments unfold. While the series used Sam's endeavours to facilitate social commentary, the cigar-chomping Al served as a comic pick-me-up: world-weary, witty and charismatic. Bakula said: 'I loved him dearly and was honoured to know him. He made me a better human being.' In 1990 Stockwell won a Golden Globe for his performance. In a 1994 interview, Stockwell said: 'I have a particular fondness for [Al]. I guess people say that actors take a little bit of the part away with them, but if I really was as streetwise and cocky as Al, I'd probably have been a bigger star.' His acting career began when he was seven. As a child, he was praised for performances including the title role in Joseph Losey's anti-war allegory The Boy With Green Hair (1948). As a young adult, he received awards for work such as the thriller Compulsion (1959), based on the Leopold and Loeb case. During his late-period comeback, he was used by film-makers such as Robert Altman (The Player, 1992), David Lynch (Dune, 1984 and Blue Velvet, 1986) and Wim Wenders (Paris, Texas, 1984). But throughout his working life, he regarded his profession with ambivalence; this contributed to his unpredictable quality. 'He's such a chameleon,' said Jonathan Demme, who cast Stockwell as a flamboyant mafia kingpin in the 1988 comedy Married To The Mob, a performance for which the actor received his only Oscar nomination. 'That's what makes him special - he has such mercurial presence.' Stockwell called it 'the favourite part I've ever had in a film.' He said' "I just felt that that part was just perfect for me and I had a way to approach it that I thought was just right and it turned out that way.' Stockwell recognised his own off-kilter appeal: 'In my work, I'm dealing with something that is essentially mysterious and I prefer and am inclined to deal with it in a mysterious way.' 
     He was born in Los Angeles to Harry Stockwell, an actor who provided the voice of Prince Charming in Disney's Snow White & The Seven Dwarfs and Nina Olivette, an Italian-American vaudeville entertainer sometimes known as Betty Veronica. They separated when Dean was six; he and his elder brother, Guy (also an actor), remained with their mother. Both siblings were appearing on Broadway in the play The Innocent Voyage when the seven-year-old Stockwell was spotted by a talent scout. He was put under contract by MGM and schooled on the studio lot in between making several films a year, including Anchors Aweigh and Abbott & Costello In Hollywood (both in 1945). At fourteen, he played the lead in an adaptation of Kipling's novel Kim and was befriended by his co-star Errol Flynn who, according to Stockwell, asked in front of his mother 'Have you had your first fuck yet?' Stockwell spoke frequently of the 'extreme psychological and emotional pressure' to which he was subjected as a child star. 'A lot of demands were placed on me that should not be placed on a child, at all, ever ... I resented the whole thing.' Celebrity brought Stockwell no pleasure. 'I was under siege, under attack. At the end of the day, when I left MGM, there were hundreds of people waiting for me. It was a dreadful experience.' After graduating from high school, he travelled and took menial jobs for five years, but returned to acting in 1957 because 'there was nothing else I could do.' He landed one of the leads in the Broadway production of Compulsion and reprised the role two years later on film. He starred in adaptations of DH Lawrence's Sons & Lovers (1960) and Eugene O'Neill's Long Day's Journey Into Night (1962); the latter, directed by Sidney Lumet, won Stockwell his second Cannes film festival acting prize. (The festival had already honoured him with an award for Compulsion.) But his behaviour became self-destructive. He split from his wife, the actor Millie Perkins, after two years of marriage; she alleged mental cruelty. He destroyed his Cannes awards in a drunken rage. He quit acting again for three years and embraced the hedonistic culture of 1960s Los Angeles, fraternising with like-minded friends including Dennis Hopper, Jack Nicholson and Neil Young (with whom he would co-write and co-direct the ramshackle 1982 comedy Human Highway). 'The flower children and the love-ins ... were the childhood I didn't have,' he said, later. 'I did some drugs and went to some love-ins. The experience of those days provided me with a huge, panoramic view of my existence that I didn't have before. I have no regrets.' When he returned to acting in the late 1960s, he was more of an outsider than ever. After several films for Roger Corman's AIP and a part in Hopper's The Last Movie (1971), film work grew scarce. During the 1970s, when not appearing in curiosities (The Werewolf Of Washington or Henry Jaglom's post-Vietnam drama Tracks), Stockwell could be found performing on the dinner-theatre circuit. His financial situation became so dire that he decamped to Santa Fe with the intention of making a living in property. (An advert placed in 1983 read: 'Dean Stockwell will help you with all your real estate needs.') But in 1984 a role in Lynch's science-fiction extravaganza Dune distracted him from that path. In the same year, his friend Harry Dean Stanton, who was about to play the lead in Wenders's Paris, Texas, suggested Stockwell to the director for a supporting part. The film won the Palme d'Or at Cannes and helped to revive Stockwell's career. His fortunes changed dramatically. He starred in three films for Francis Ford Coppola, Gardens Of Stone, Tucker: The Man & His Dream (in which he played Howard Hughes) and The Rainmaker. He was also a sinister, enigmatic presence in Lynch's Blue Velvet, for which he devised his character Ben's drugged, dandyish look. 'To me it was the high point of the film,' said his co-star Hopper. 'The white make-up, the batting eyelashes - Dean has ways no other actor can touch.' These movies and others including William Friedkin's To Live & Die In LA and Altman's The Player, made definitive Stockwell's return to cinema. Though he continued to work in that medium, his most noteworthy latter-day appearances came in science-fiction television: following Quantum Leap he had guest roles in Star Trek: Enterprise and Stargate SG-1 and was a regular on the highly regarded Battlestar Galactica (2006 to 2009). He also enjoyed a career as an artist, using the name Robert Dean Stockwell. Away from the screen, Stockwell was also a keen photographer and a picture he took of the Californian artist Wallace Berman was used in the collage on The Be-Atles' Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band cover. His representatives told the BBC he died peacefully at home on Sunday. A statement said: 'Dean spent a lifetime yo-yoing back and forth between fame and anonymity. Because of that, when he had a job, he was grateful. He never took the business for granted. He was a rebel, wildly talented and always a breath of fresh air. He loved to act, to laugh, smoke cigars and play golf.' He is survived by two children, Austin and Sophia, from a second marriage, to Joy Marchenko, which also ended in divorce.
Former television commentator Gerald Sinstadt has died at the age of ninety one. Sinstadt's work for the BBC and ITV made him one of football broadcasting's most recognisable voices in the 1970s after starting at Granada Television. From 1970 to 1982, he covered four World Cups for ITV and later worked on coverage of the Olympics for the BBC. 'He was a craftsman, a very good commentator and just a lovely man,' said Andrew Clement, who worked with Sinstadt at the BBC for about thirty years. While racist taunts from the terraces during the 1970s were often overlooked by football commentators, Sinstadt was one of the first to call out the abuse during his commentary, such as during West Bromwich Albion's five-three win at Manchester United in 1978. He commentated on many other iconic games of that period, including Denis Law's back-heeled goal for Manchester City against United in 1974 which sent United down to the Second Division and Liverpool's European Cup Quarter-Final second-leg win against St Etienne in 1977 at a rocking Anfield. He also covered West Germany's victory against France in their controversial 1982 World Cup semi-final and Diego Maradona's goal at the 1994 World Cup prior to his expulsion from the tournament for sniffing up half the gross national product of Columbia pre-match. After rejoining the BBC in the 1980s, Sinstadt was the pitchside reporter on the day of the Hillsborough disaster in 1989 and appeared in Jimmy McGovern's 1996 TV docu-drama about the tragedy. He also covered rower Sir Steve Redgrave winning the first four of his five Olympic gold medals and the Boat Race for the BBC. Sinstadt was a regular on Football Focus, Match Of The Day and Final Score until his retirement. Towards the end of his career he was often called on to write and voice obituaries. 'He taught me a lot,' said BBC Sport executive producer Clement. 'He was very generous with his time and was a wonderful mentor to a lot of us as we started off in television. He was a fantastic wordsmith, particularly when paying tribute to some of the greats of the game in obituaries. is use of language was second to none and he was brilliant at putting words to pictures. He used to sit in on the edit, which was rare in those days. If I produced a shot for him, he would bring it to life with a perfectly chosen phrase or image. He crafted his pieces.' His path to broadcasting might not have happened but for a cruel twist of fate involving his parents. Sinstadt, born in 1930, was the only child of shopkeepers in Folkestone and was evacuated during the Second World War. Later, reflecting on the tragic death of the pair in a German air raid, he said: 'I can still remember my teacher taking me out of class to tell me the news. I have wondered what might have been if my parents had survived. Who knows, I may have followed my dad and become a shopkeeper.' Sinstadt started his career in 1949 on the British Forces Broadcasting Service, where he met Barry Davies. Upon their return to the UK, Sinstadt helped Davies join him on BBC Radio, where the former worked in the 1950s and 1960s and both became two of the most recognisable voices in sports broadcasting in the 1970s. Davies said: 'He gave me my first job in broadcasting. That was his one big mistake! We went on to cover many games together and he was a very good commentator, for radio and television.' The young Sinstadt made his first live commentary in 1949 for Forces Radio after his conscription into national service and was rewarded with a seven-six cup game between an English and Scottish regiment. 'The game made my job easy and I thought: "Hang on, I can do this,"' he recalled. 'Unfortunately, I soon realised you couldn't just turn up on the day and hope for the best. If you don't do your proper research the listener will soon catch you out.' After time on BBC radio and Anglia Television, Sinstadt's informed but distinctively dry style became a feature of Granada TV's Kick Off preview and of highlights shows on ITV from 1969 to 1981 when he became the station's full-time football commentator. Sinstadt also commentated on golf for Channel Four and in 1987 was the first to voice the long-running Trans World Sport show. Away from sport he also produced TV programmes on his other big passion, opera. Having settled in the Potteries, after his retirement Sinstadt continued to write a weekly column for the Stoke Sentinel until 2019.
A previously unheard song featuring two of The Be-Atles at the height of their fame has been given its world premiere after being rediscovered in a loft. The Be-Atles were a popular beat combo of the 1960s, you might've heard of them. The song, 'Radhe Shaam', was written and produced by the broadcaster Suresh Joshi in 1968 and features yer actual Ringo Starr on drums and the very George Harrison on guitar. It was unearthed at the seventy five-year-old's Birmingham home by a friend who was checking on him during lockdown. The song was played to one hundred people at Liverpool Beatles Museum this week. Joshi, who was friends with George Harrison, was working on the music for a documentary film, called East Meets West, at the Trident Studios in Soho, when Harrison and Beatles bandmate Ringo Starr turned up and offered to play. The pair were taking a break from recording 'Hey Jude' at the studios at the time. The song also featured renowned Indian classical musician Aashish Khan but Joshi said they never got round to releasing it. 'Time had gone on, [then] The Beatles were breaking up and had various problems so no-one wanted to [release it],' he said. However he said the coronavirus lockdown was 'a blessing in disguise as we had nothing to do.' He said he had been telling his friend, Deepak Pathak, about his musical past and - as a Beatles fan - he insisted they look for the tape. Having unearthed it, Pathak sent it to music producer Suraj Shinh, who restored the tape and mixed the song. Joshi said his song was still relevant today. 'The song itself revolves around the concept that we are all one and that the world is our oyster,' he said. '[That is] something that we have all realised during this pandemic.' Liverpool Beatles Museum manager Paul Parry said the invited audience who heard the song had 'loved it.' He said the song was 'absolutely amazing', adding that George and Ringo's contributions were 'unmistakeably' the work of the pair. The song has also been given its first radio play on BBC Merseyside.
And finally, dear blog reader, one of the - several - reasons for the shortness of this bloggerisationism update and for this blogger's general lack of online activity of late has been that he's been busy compiling From The North's fourteenth annual Best and Worst TV of the year blog which he is now in the process of putting the finishing touches to. The next From The North bloggerisationism update will, as a consequence, be longer than this. Much longer. Keep your mincers peeled for that one in approximately a week's time.