Olivier Twist/Bleak House/Barnaby Rudge to be released by Simply Media – 21st August 2017

Due on the 21st of August from Simply Media are another three classic Charles Dickens adaptations from the 1950’s and 1960’s.  Press release  –

Simply Media are delighted to announce the DVD release of three BBC Charles Dickens classic drama adaptations on 21st August 2017: Oliver Twist (1962), Bleak House (1959) and Barnaby Rudge (1960).

These rare and highly sought-after original BBC drama series are presented in their stunning black and white original form, and are all fondly remembered for their great production value and the fantastic acting talent in each production.

These will form a part of Simply Media’s Charles Dickens Classics Collection, with three other Charles Dickens classics already available on DVD from Simply Media: Dombey and Son (1969), Great Expectations (1967) and Our Mutual Friend (1958).

 

Oliver Twist (1962)

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The first ever BBC television adaptation of the Charles Dickens classic Oliver Twist. Adapted by Writers’ Guild of Great Britain award winner Constance Cox (The Forsyte Saga), who specialised in creating great adaptations of classic literature for screen, and featuring an atmospheric soundtrack composed by BAFTA-nominee Ron Grainer (Doctor Who).

This uncompromising adaptation of Dickens’ tale of a gang of orphan boys turned to crime changed the face of British Sunday teatime viewing. Cox’s unvarnished depiction of despair and depravity in the back alleys of 19th century London, and the cruel divide between rich and poor, shattered expectations of cosy family drama. But this is Oliver as Dickens intended, without the enforced jollity of the blockbuster Lionel Bart/Carol Reed musical.

BAFTA-nominees Max Adrian (The Devils) stars as villainous Fagin and Peter Vaughan (Game of Thrones / Our Friends in the North) an indelibly brutal Bill Sikes, Bruce Prochnik (Emergency-Ward 10) a gentle Oliver, Melvyn Hayes (It Ain’t Half Hot Mum) a spry Artful Dodger, and Carmel McSharry (Beryl’s Lot) the trapped and powerless Nancy. Interestingly, both Prochnik, who played Oliver, and Willoughby Goddard (William Tell), who played Mr. Bumble, reprised their roles in the original Broadway production of “Oliver!

This landmark BBC production was a gritty game-changer that raised the bar and stretched the boundaries of TV adaptation and serial drama.

Format: DVD / RRP: £19.99 / Certificate: PG

Catalogue Number: 169661 / Barcode: 5019322696612

Genre: TV Series – Drama / Run Time: 390 mins approx. on 2 discs

 

Bleak House 1959

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The first ever BBC television adaptation of the Charles Dickens classic Bleak House, also adapted by the prolific Constance Cox. Starring Andrew Cruickshank (Dr. Finlay’s Casebook), Diana Fairfax (Just William), Colin Jeavons (The French Lieutenant’s Woman), Timothy Bateson (Dad’s Army) and Michael Aldridge (Last of the Summer Wine).

Dickens’ elegant satire about a disputed inheritance and the self-serving workings of the legal system gripped the public’s imagination. Cruickshank stars as John Jarndyce and Fairfax as his ward Esther Summerson in this delightfully complex comic drama.

A mystery story in which Esther uncovers the truth about her birth and her lost mother Lady Dedlock (Iris Russell); a murder story featuring one of the first detectives in English fiction, Inspector Bucket (Richard Pearson); and at its heart a redemption tale about a desolate home transformed by compassionate love. A slick and satisfying examination of double-dealing and injustice.

Format: DVD / RRP: £19.99 / Certificate: U

Catalogue Number: 167536 / Barcode: 5019322675365

Genre: TV Series – Drama / Run Time: 390 mins approx. on 2 discs

 

Barnaby Rudge (1960)

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The acclaimed BBC adaptation of Dickens’ classic tale of the 1780s Gordon Riots Barnaby Rudge, adapted by Michael Voysey and directed by Z Cars’ Morris Barry, remains the only TV portrayal of Dickens’ tantalizing gothic drama.

Starring John Wood (War Games), Barbara Hicks (Brazil), Timothy Bateson (Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix) and BAFTA-nominee Joan Hickson (Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple).

On a stormy night in 1775 a ragged stranger (Nigel Arkwright) wanders into the Maypole Inn. Edward Chester (Bernard Brown – Crown Court), whose horse is lame, leaves the inn on foot to meet his beloved Emma Haredale (Eira Heath – A Man for All Seasons) at a masked ball. Joe Willet (Alan Hayward – Cash on Demand), quarrels with his father, Maypole landlord John (Arthur Brough – Are you Being Served?), and joins the army, only saying goodbye to Dolly (Jennifer Daniel – The Reptile), the pretty daughter of locksmith Gabriel Varden (Newton Blick – Morgan: A Suitable Case for Treatment). Varden’s household includes his formidable wife (Joan Hickson) and dithering maid Miss Miggs (Barbara Hicks).

Simple-minded Barnaby Rudge (John Wood) wanders in and out of the story, chattering with his pet raven Grip. Barnaby’s mother Mary (Isabel Dean) is visited by the stranger, and feels compelled to protect him.

As the stories interweave, Barnaby is caught up in the Gordon Riots, a violent demonstration against Catholics. Jailed with the ringleaders, will he hang for their actions?

Format: DVD / RRP: £19.99 / Certificate: PG

Catalogue Number: 169660 / Barcode: 5019322696605

Genre: TV Series – Drama / Run Time: 390 mins approx. on 2 discs

Out of the Blue – Series Two, Episode Three

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Terry Forrest (Thomas Craig) is the victim of a male rape. Chris Mannings (Fine Time Fontayne), a gay man who lives on Terry’s estate, becomes a suspect ….

An unusual topic to cover, the episode isn’t graphic but the aftermath of the assault resonates throughout. Unsurprisingly there’s some unreconstructed views offered by the team, notably Marty. When Temple tells him and Ron to hit the gay clubs to look for leads, he mutters “better get that frock ironed Ron”. Ron seems to find the case particularly distasteful. Becky tells him to think of it as an assault, rather than a rape, but this doesn’t seem to help.

Ron later explains his problems to Temple. “It’s just that if it’s a lass who’s been raped, then I can tell her that she’s safe, that I’m there to protect her. I looked at Terry Forrest today. What can I say to him. What can I offer him?”

When Mannings’ naked, battered body is dumped outside the police station, it’s obvious that the locals have dished out their own brand of summary justice. One of Forrest’s friends, Kevin Ryan (Karl Draper), seems to be implicated in the attack, but he denies it.

There are plenty of parallels to be found in real life with this sort of knee-jerk vigilante action, but the question here is whether Mannings is actually guilty. The wonderfully-named Fine Time Fontayne (unsurprisingly not the name he was christened with) impresses as Mannings as does Thomas Craig as Forrest.

As the story continues, there are varying degrees of empathy to be found. Lew, on hearing the news of Mannings’ beating, decides there’s little they can do to help the gay community ward off further attacks unless they “supply an armed guard for everybody on the estate with a Judy Garland album”.

It’s also an interesting wrinkle that Becky is the one who voices the opinion that Forrest might not have been raped after all – possibly it was consensual sex which then turned violent. It wouldn’t have been surprising, had this been a female rape, to hear the male officers express a similar viewpoint, so there’s an obvious irony at work here.

We eventually learn the identity of Forrest’s attacker. Given that the story had only given us a few possibilities it doesn’t come as a complete surprise, but the scene where the rapist offers his plea of self-justification is another nicely done moment.

Although the various personal traumas of the regulars – Marty’s marriage problems, Warren’s tense relationship with Lucy – are still bubbling away, for once they’re reduced to background noise as the policework dominates.

Out of the Blue – Series Two, Episode Two

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Zamwa Sidikki, owner of a minicab business, is discovered bludgeoned to death, a blood-covered baseball bat nearby. Racial or personal? That’s what Temple and the others have to discover.

Since Sadikki wasn’t the most popular of men there’s no shortage of suspects, such as his estranged son – Rafi (Raji James) – who had a falling out with his father several months ago. Gareth Chester (Neil Boorman), the only white driver employed by Sadikki, also seems to be a strong suspect. But possibly Sadikki’s daughter, Yasmin (Rina Mahoney), might hold the key.

Warren continues to let his lower regions rule his head as his relationship with Lucy continues. He thinks nothing of nipping away during the middle of the day for a moment of passion with his attractive, if flaky girlfriend. This flakiness is on show after she flashes him (and a delighted elderly passer-by) from her bedroom window.

It’s fair to say that his colleagues aren’t terribly sympathetic about Warren’s conquest. Bruce succinctly sums up their mood. “He’s been going off at us for years about respecting womankind. And then it turns out that kid Warren is just another copper who can’t keep his toolbox in his trousers”.

He’s not the only one with personal concerns though. Marty and his wife have decided to adopt (a storyline which bubbles away in the background for the remainder of the series) whilst Bruce’s father, Andy (Oscar James), suffers a paranoid attack.

James, instantly recognisable thanks to his three year stint on EastEnders, makes an immediate impact here. Andy, currently living with his daughter, comprehensively smashes up her kitchen, although it’s clear that he’s not responsible for his actions.

The tricky subject of mental health would have been a fruitful one to tackle over the course of the series, but it’s somewhat glossed over since this episode is the only time we meet Andy. But even given this, Lennie James has a couple of decent scenes as Bruce attempts to come to terms with his father’s illness.

Although Sidikki’s murder is never that engrossing a mystery, the script still clips along at a nice pace, helped no end by the dialogue. One of my favourite moments occurs when Marty, who can always be relied upon, loses his patience with a suspect. “I can always tell when you’re lying ‘cos your lips move. We are not being paid to stand around here listening to you feeding us your tripe and bollocks. Do we look like Richard and Judy?”

Out of the Blue – Series Two, Episode One

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A baby is snatched from the bus station and a major incident is launched.  But things turn out to be more complicated than they first appear ….

After a new title sequence we’re thrust straight into the action via a cold opening.  The reason for all the rushing about quickly becomes obvious, but despite the best efforts of everybody there’s no sign of the child.  It’s interesting that Jim ‘Lew’ Llewyn (David Morrissey) isn’t given a proper introduction (Lew has obviously been a member of the team for some time) but this probably works to the series’ benefit.  Showing Lew finding his feet might have worked dramatically, but it also would have slowed the main story down.

But although Lew seems to have fitted in well, bantering easily with the likes of Marty, a slightly discordant note is struck by Temple.  A brief throwaway comment from him makes it plain that he has little love for his latest recruit.  The reason will become a little clearer as we work through the second series.

Joanne Player (Keeley Forsyth) and Matt Pearson (Paul Nicholls) play the young couple who may not be telling the whole truth.  Both Forsyth and Nicholls were at the start of their careers with only a handful of credits prior to this (both of them had appeared in The Biz, for example).

When a witness later suggests that when they saw Joanne and Matt the baby wasn’t with them, the story veers off into a different direction.  Temple orders the floorboards at their flat to be lifted up, although Marty comments that if they were organised enough to concoct a fake story of abduction, it’s unlikely they’d be stupid enough to shove the child under their floorboards.

Love is in the air.  Tony is going out with a widow, a fellow member at his local church.  Since Bruce has decided that Tony may be a little out of practice with women, he decides to give him the benefit of his advice – although it seems that Bruce is more concerned with winding the anxious Tony up.

Meanwhile, Warren meets Lucy Shaw (Nicola Stephenson) for the first time.  To begin with it doesn’t appear that a relationship is on the cards, since she’s simply a witness in an investigation.  Her father, Richard Shaw (Pip Donaghy), is accused of taking bondage photographs.  Although he strenuously denies it, as time goes on his true colours are revealed.

Donaghy gives a chilling performance as a seemingly innocent family man.  But his one-on-one interview with Becky provides us with clear evidence that there’s more to him than meets the eye (although since he’s done nothing illegal he can’t be charged).  Shaw will return in the final episode, whilst his daughter features throughout.  When Warren learns that a distraught Lucy doesn’t want to return home, he takes her under his wing.  I have to say that the sight of Darrell D’Silva’s naked backside, as Warren and Lucy become intimately acquainted, was something of a surprise.

Even this early on it seems obvious that their relationship is doomed.  She seems to be vulnerable and unstable, which suggests that Warren’s simply taking advantage of her.  The sensible thing would be for both of them to walk away, but since both are flawed characters it’s not that simple.

Marty remains in fine form.  On spying a teenager defacing a Missing Persons poster with a marker-pen, he gives the young lad a taste of his own medicine by drawing a pair of glasses and a beard on his face!  Quite how Marty manages to get away with these sort of things is anybody’s guess, but I daresay a certain section of the audience would have approved of his brand of rough justice.

Although the main story is pretty bleak, there’s the odd moment of levity.  Lew stops a man, Phil Draper (Jim Millea), who’s acting suspiciously.  After Lew asks him to open the boot of his car, he reacts in horror as a sheep jumps out and beats a hasty retreat down the road.  Phil coolly suggests that the sheep must have already been there when he bought the car.

The ending might not come as too much of a surprise, but Nicholls and Forsyth are both effective.  Overall, another strong episode and  it provides a more than decent opening to the second series.

Out of the Blue – Series One, Episode Six

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The hunt for Franky’s killer begins in earnest ….

There’s a certain amount of dramatic licence at play here, since it seems more than a little unlikely that the close colleagues of a dead officer would be the ones leading the investigation to find his killer. Surely the fact they’d be emotionally involved would have ruled them out?

The opening plays as you’d expect – the team are shellshocked (Bruce is the one we follow into the station as – disorientated – he reels from the buzz and bustle of the crime scene) whilst Franky’s widow, Lorraine (Denise Stephenson), blames Temple and just about any other copper she can find for Franky’s death.

Although Temple later warns the others not to cut any corners, Marty – when questioning a suspect – spells out precisely what Franky’s death signifies. “Do you know what a dead copper means? It means the sky falls in on every little arsewipe who might know anything”.

Assistant Chief Constable Friel (Trevor Cooper) makes a small, but telling, contribtion. He informs Temple that he doesn’t want any of Franky’s dirty linen washed in public. They have to tell the truth about Franky’s activities, but anything unsavoury needs to be hidden from public consumption. The conflict between the need for truth (the truth, but not necessarily the whole truth) and police politics is clearly delineated here.

It’s hard not to feel that the unstable Victor was pushed into a corner by Franky. Temple later makes that point to the team, although most of them – especially Marty – don’t really want to hear. Even though Temple then goes on to say that he’s making the potential case of Victor’s defence laywers, there’s more than a kernel of truth in his statement.

Apart from a voice on the phone, we don’t see Victor until we’re well into the episode. The stake-out nature of the middle part of the story, as the team wait for him to surface, enables there’s a little time for various personal problems to be given an airing. Warren still hasn’t given up hope that he and Becky might become an item whilst Ron gives Marty some sage advice about children (Marty and his wife have been unable to conceive).

The tension that hangs over the episode, indeed the whole series, concerning Franky continues here. His colleagues have always been loyal and – toasting his memory in the pub – they continue to be. All except the newcomer Tony. “When everything else comes second best to your ambition. Your mates, your wife, your kids …”

Victor confesses but there’s little sense of celebration. The mood is best summed up by Marty in a short speech which could easily serve as the series’ raison d’etre. “Where’s the blame? I’ve been searching in me head for where the blame is. All day. Thinking and looking. Asking and asking. No, it’s kids going mad, but its not. Who teaches you to be stupid? Where does greedy start from? You know what I’ve decided? I can’t find it”.

The last scene – Franky entertains the others from beyond the grave via the power of VHS – proves to be something of a cathartic experience. If some questions about his character will remain unanswered for ever, at least this provides them with the opportunity of remembering his better side.  The truth then, but not the whole truth ….

Out of the Blue – Series One, Episode Five

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A woman called Anna Cornish is shot. Who did it and why was her body moved across town?

Although Mrs Cornish is a respected member of the local community (a black lawyer and a noted anti-drugs campaigner) the team can’t expect to receive much in the way of cooperation. Temple sums the mood up when he mentions that the community despises the police only slightly more than they hate each other.

The bleakness and hopelessness of mid nineties inner-city Britain is a running theme of Out of the Blue and gets developed in this episode. Mr Megson (Tony Barton) was the publican who wheeled Anna from away from his pub and he doesn’t waste any time in explaining why.  Anna was “a colonial cousin” and, according to him, a member of a race that doesn’t have a great respect for human life.

Megson believes that all of the estate’s problems can be dated to the arrival of the black community, which leaves us with the strong impression that he regarded Anna as little more than a piece of rubbish to be removed. It’s striking that Megson doesn’t seem to understand that he’s done anything wrong although when Bruce tells him that he may end up charged with manslaughter he starts to take attention.

A tip-offf leads them to three suspects, Shaun Hayley (Tim Evans), Bunny (John Muir) and Daniel Gelder (Taurean Mulholland). They’re only fifteen though. Could a group of fifteen year-olds really be responsible for this shooting? It’s a telling moment that nobody dismisses this out of hand. It clearly wouldn’t be the first time something like this has happened.

On the plus side, the episode doesn’t feature Franky whining about his epilepsy. Instead we see just how far he’ll go in order to get a result. Convinced that the shooting has a drug connection, he infiltrates a gang of low-lifes. First he shares their drugs and then he asks to buy a gun (because, he says, he wants to shoot a copper). By acting alone and without backup he’s taking an incredible risk – this seems to demonstrate he’s got something of a death-wish.  He’s remarkably convincing as an unstable psychopath ….

Nobody wins in this one since the shooters can be said to have been just as much victims as Anna was. Moments of levity are therefore few, although the spat between Marty and Ron is good fun (Ron’s aggrieved that Marty let slip about his philandering ways to the others).

The episode ends with Franky being confronted by Victor (Gary Sefton). Victor’s a drug dealer as well as Franky’s informant. Although Victor seems upset and a little unstable, Franky’s the sort of person you always imagine will win through, so when he’s stabbed and collapses in a large pool of his own blood on the office floor it’s a considerable jolt.

That the action then switches to the pub, where we see the others unwinding after another long day.  We’ve seen during the course of the first series how Franky has isolated himself from the others – declining to join them in the pub or for bowling nights on previous occasions – so the fact he dies alone whilst the others are together is clearly an intentional bitter irony.

Out of the Blue – Series One, Episode Four

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A women is found dead in a bus shelter located just outside her house. It looks as if she was sleeping there, but why? A baker, Mr Flood (Kenneth Cope), is once again sweeping up broken glass from his shattered shop windows. Convinced that no-one is taking him seriously he resorts to drastic action to make himself heard. Meanwhile, Franky has disappeared. He had been working unofficially on a cold case, so the team follow it up ….

Dave Norman, playing Ray Chaplin, has an easy time of it. Ray, a pimp, previously had his tongue cut out, so Norman didn’t have to go to the trouble of learning any lines. All he had to do was look moody and scribble down his answers to Becky and Warren.

This was the cold case Franky was working on, so it serves a dual purpose in the narrative – not only is there a mystery to be solved, but finding the answer might allow the team to discover Franky’s location.

Ron’s dalliances with his ex-wife become public knowledge around the office (although his curent wife remains in the dark). He’s yet to discover that Marty let this secret slip though, but I’ve a feeling he’s going to find out soon …

Bruce and Tony visit Mr Flood. Their different reactions speak volumes about their characters. Bruce wants to be out looking for Franky, so dealing with a case of broken windows seems completely trivial (he caustically refers to Mr Flood as Mr Pastry).  But Tony instantly emphasises with the victim – he can see that Mr Flood is living a life of quiet desperation (his life made a misery due to abuse and vandalism) and wants to help. So Tony is idealistic, Bruce realistic.

Tony later confides that as a uniformed officer he felt part of the community, but now he’s in plain clothes there’s more of a sense of isolation. The fact that we never actually see any of the tearaways who abuse Mr Flood is an interesting touch – as making the threat abstract means it becomes more problematic and insoluble.

Kenneth Cope nicely underplays as a man driven to the edge by antisocial behaviour.  The way he finally gets a little attention is a wrong-footing moment (although due to the way the camera coyly doesn’t focus on the action, it’s possibly not as impactful as it could have been).  No matter though, Cope still deftly sketches the character of Mr Flood – a man who doesn’t want to be labelled a victim, but urgently needs help.

The dead woman at the bus stop, Angela Grainger, was also a victim of antisocial behaviour.  In her case, she was driven to distraction by pounding music played at all hours by her next door neighbours. But did one of them attack her in the days before she died of a heart attack?

It can’t be a coincidence that Kenneth Cope’s daughter, Martha, appears as Marilyn Jowett, Angela Grainger’s neighbour. Another familiar face, Sheila Ruskin, pops up as Margot Gillespie, the doctor who tells Franky that his epilepsy isn’t operable.

Alternating between these two storylines as well as the search for Ray’s attacker and Franky’s continuing tantrums, it’s a packed episode. At one point, Ron confides that there’s no justice and by the time the credits roll it’s hard to disagree with him.