Let’s start off with a complaint. Easter Monday, BBC2 2235, “Repo Man”. “A special version”, said the announcer. “Footage never before seen in Britain”. That wasn’t the only thing special about it – with all the finesse of a rhinoceros, the powers that be overdubbed it, to replace all the naughty F-words with “flip” or “screw”. The results were at best unpleasant and at worst unintelligible. Example (and I’m about to use THAT word, in case you’re of a nervous disposition) : “I know lots of guys who like to watch their buddies fuck” mutated to “I know lots of guys who like to watch their buddies play”; scarcely the same thing!
This annoys me for several reasons. At Xmas, “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” was shown, without such treatment. What makes it OK for Jack Nicholson to say, but wrong for Harry Dean Stanton? Two, why is only ‘that word’ dubbed? “Repo Man” also had (more naughty words!) “pussy”, “cocksucker” and “wanker” – I can’t see anyone who is immune to these being offended by “fuck”. If they can’t show films as intended by the director, they shouldn’t buy them at all.
Still, I had to smile when they finally had to allow one to slip through. Let’s face it, “motherflipper” would just have sounded plain dumb…
Going back to January, the TV year started off promisingly enough. First week after New Year, Grampian TV region (I was on holiday!) showed the mini-series of “V”, which I’d missed seeing when it was first on, in the summer of 1980 (because my sister wanted to watch the Olympics, boo!). It was surprisingly good, better FX than I expected and reasonable acting (especially from Freddie Krueger, sorry Robert Englund). Pity they spoiled it with a crass last episode. The other highlight was “The Dark Angel”, a BBC adaption of a novel by J. Sheridan Le Fanu (best known for “Carmilla”, which was adapted three times, with varying degrees of accuracy and success, by Hammer as “The Vampire Lovers”, “Lust for a Vampire” and “Twins of Evil”). It was the sort of period drama the Beeb excels at, and the direction was excellent, especially in the first episode, which included a superb dream sequence combining incest, sadism and necrophilia in about 45 seconds. The best thing I’ve seen on TV for a while.
Otherwise, between Xmas and Easter was the pits – I can’t ever remember watching as little television. Things have perked up recently, with the American series of “Max Headroom” finally getting on – it’s based on the pilot show rather than the mix of pop videos/computer heads we got. “Trick or Treat” has provided me with many happy half-hours of amusement, trying hard to believe it really is a subtle joke and not as incredibly bad as it appears, and “Out of Order”, ITV’s new consumer show, is also worth watching, if only for Brian Hayes. He’s the host of a phone-in on LBC, which is superb to listen to, thanks to his habit of shutting up callers with “You don’t know what you’re talking about” or “You’re talking a load of rubbish” – his style is scarcely less abrasive on TV.
The films have improved too. I was especially delighted to see “Excalibur” – I’d bought a copy of it in HMV’s sale, but it was faulty. I went to get a new one and they refused to do so because it was now a higher price! I took a cash refund – two days later, I see it’s on Channel 4. Hahaha!!
Easter wasn’t bad either, with the aforementioned “Repo Man”, though there’s no prizes for guessing the highlight. “Tess”, of course – long unavailable on video, finally the BBC get round to showing it again. Superbly acted, Polanski at his best, NK in her prime, I can’t really fault this film in any way.
As I write (April 5th), things are looking good; they are showing Paul Schrader films (“Cat People”? Nah, surely not…) and Channel 4 are doing a SF series. All this and Annabel Croft on “Treasure Hunt” – the video shop might not be as busy…