Network on Air (studio)
325min approx (length)
15 May 2017 (released)
05 June 2017
This London Weekend Television Series (part of Network’s recently launched ‘Forgotten TV-Drama range) hails from the early 1970's and is now available as a 2-Disc affair, featuring Brit-stars such as John Thaw, Ian Hendry, Ian Holm and the recently deceased Geoffrey Bayldon. The episodes (approx. 25min each) feature stories in which ordinary people are threatened by seemingly ordinary situations which then spin out of control.
The episodes are very variable in more ways than one: the sound quality is rather mediocre in some cases while others (the older episodes) were filmed in monochrome. This not being restored, the print condition leaves something to be desired. Written by different playwrights, these little pieces are not exactly frightening (for from it) and instead opt for quirky and weird to downright bonkers. The episodes are certainly worth a look but in truth they could or should have been better realised. That said, three episodes really do stand out (though viewers will have their own favourites). Absolute tops has got to be Douglas Livingstone's splendidly barmy THE TREAT featuring ‘Bilbo Baggins’ himself (Ian Holm, who was even at that time a top TV and stage actor) whose character takes three rather odd, retired ex-army men on an outing from the home where they live and where he works as an orderly. What begins as a pleasant enough day in the countryside ends in homophobic murder – with plenty of revelations in between! John Barratt, Liam Redmond and Leslie French are well...delightfully bananas and rest assured, it does not get much pottier than this!
BED AND BREAKFAST (starring Ian Hendry) runs at a close second in which Hendry’s character and his wife bang a notice on a tree outside a remote isolated Scottish house, stating that the place is a boarding house, then waking the unassuming occupants and insist on staying there for the night despite the old couple protesting that their home is not a boarding house. Just as we think we are entering the realms of the surreal the piece arrives at an awful and logical conclusion. Place three is MISS MOUSE, a story of a marriage breakdown which leads to accidental murder courtesy of a baby monitor and a blackmailing child minder…
Other episodes tend to be played out and are an inevitable waste of time, for example NIGHT OF THE STAG in which the Jennie Linden cannot accept the fact that her former paramour Robin Ellis has found the love of his life and a last invite to the new house turns out to be his last mistake…literally his last! The one redeeming feature is that the episode was partly filmed outside Greenwich's Cutty Sark Pub for some and we can follow in the direction of the 1963's movie The List of Adrian Messenger. The DISAPPEARING MAN starring Victor Maddern is just a depressing piece of paranoia while sadly, the episode starring the late great Geoffrey Bayldon (HAVE A NICE TIME AT THE ZOO, DARLING) - filmed in a deserted Chessington Zoo - is beyond sombre. Kenneth J.Warren and Tom Bell are nicely cast in a slightly confusing gangster-type episode called THE MINDER where certain repeated motifs are not clearly explained. Claustrophobic as it is featuring some bizarre overhead long shots by Tony Pander and filmed at some horrific council estate which would be enough to make any sensitive soul commit suicide! OLD COMRADES (although it comes across like a one-act stage play) has its moments and here John Thaw and George Innes (who always played ratty faced scamps so nicely) have a field day tormenting their ex-C.O. Robert Urquhart. But they do have a damn good reason for their behaviour which seems, as was mentioned earlier, a recurring motif with this series. Robert Urquhart as the put upon ex-C.O. runs a fair gamut with his facial responses to his 'torturers' - that said, the episode could have carried a lot more clout.
On the whole it was a series that left you WANTING more out of it. It was produced by Peter Wildeblood; a man who was certainly no stranger to controversy. A little surprising then when you look at his career but perhaps in the case of THE FRIGHTENERS, Wildeblood no longer wished to court controversy.