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Reviews

Cuffs
(2015)

Updated version of "The Bill"; yes, indeed!
It took me a couple of episodes to get into this series. It was the great characters and corresponding acting performances which won me over. By the time the final episode arrived it had become a "must watch" series, just as "The Bill" had in the 1990s. I was both amazed and shocked to read that the BBC had axed it! One has to ask "why?" and the answer has to be adverse reactions from those above in a time when the Powers that run the BBC are living in fear of being seen to support minority groups within the upper echelons of Society. Although they like to display political correctness on the surface, in reality, they are no different to the great majority of viewers.

Burn 'Em Up Barnes
(1934)

Great action, good script, action aplenty!
This serial recently screened on Sydney TV station SBS. The cast list included Frankie Darro, who would have been about 16 years of age at the time. I wasn't expecting a lot but I was surprised at thoroughly enjoying every episode.

The action is pretty much non-stop and young Frankie is nothing short of sensational as "Bobbie Riley". The stunts he does (did he do all of his stunts?) left this viewer breathless. Up and down fire escapes, into and out of automobiles, twisting and diving while being pursued by numerous villains; the list could go on and on.

There is also a serial within the serial, with a studio employing the hero, Jack Mulhall, as "Burn'em up Barnes", to do their stunts when he's not otherwise engaged. The greater part of the serial seems to have been filmed on location which is certainly an attraction for local history buffs. As others mention, another appealing aspect are the various autos, trucks, planes and motorcycles inhabiting the landscape.

The script I thought was well written and good direction kept the story moving along at lightning pace. In fact I'd find more enjoyment watching a repeat of this serial rather than viewing any of the current dreary lineup of so-called movie blockbusters.

Bring on "The Phantom Empire"!

Eggheads
(2003)

Unmissable entertainment!
This is a show we never miss; it provides both entertainment and a degree of enlightening knowledge.

Sure, there are irritating aspects in the annoying blue set and occasional robot-like host Jeremy Vine. Currently (January 2013) we are viewing 2009 episodes in Australia and Dermot Murnaghan is a far better host. He shows far more empathy for both the challengers and the Eggheads and seems not bound to a fixed script.

The Eggheads themselves are pretty much a cross section of humanity. Chris, down to earth, shooting straight from the shoulder; Daphne, always cheerful, but with a memory like a steel trap; CJ, playing a part totally unlike his real self; Barry, a bit of a mystery with what often appears to be a forced smile; Kevin, similar to but not as forceful as Chris and finally, Judith, who also has a mighty memory but seems off her game in these 2009 episodes.

Overall, this is a show worth watching and long may it continue to grace our screens.

Bargain Hunt
(2000)

Have you all had a good time? Yes, Tim!
For those who've never seen BARGAIN HUNT, it consists of two teams, the "red" and the "blue", each of two people, each given an amount of cash, 200 pounds early on, later increased to 300 pounds, to spend at collectors' fairs, antique centres and similar markets on three items of choice, with a one-hour time limit. Each team is provided with an "expert" in the form of an antique dealer or auctioneer who can advise on possible purchases. Whether or not their advice is taken, is up to the teams. Later the items will be sold at auction and profits if any go to the teams. The two experts each buy an item, which will be offered to the two teams as "swaps", if they wish to swap. To simplify things, commissions and other auction fees aren't taken into account.

Reality shows come and go, but BARGAIN HUNT rolls on and on. This is due in no small part to the welcome presence of England's most amiable host, Tim Wonnacott.

The original host for BH was the effervescent David Dickinson who polarized viewers; they either loved or hated him. I found David both interesting and entertaining, despite what other people have written about him here and elsewhere. However, the arrival of Tim Wonnacott brought a more cheerful and learned presence. Tim's extensive knowledge of the "trade", endearing manner and ability to get along with almost everybody makes for an entertaining and informative 45 minutes. No two shows are quite the same, although the same background filler material may be apparent from multi-used locations. Several episodes will be filmed at one spot with purchased items going through the same auction.

This reviewer is currently watching 2006 episodes in Australia so the show's format may have changed in later series. Tim often visits stately homes or other interesting landmarks in the area. He introduces the viewer to choice items and talks of their history. For me, this is the highpoint of each show. Occasionally he reveals bargains he's picked up, or items he's spotted in the auction. You'll see the results of his "auction finds" when they are auctioned as well as the items from the two teams. Occasionally he puts items in the auction with any profit going to charity.

The show does well in gathering a cross section of society, with parent/child, co-workers and entire families making up the teams. Rarely do the teams consist of people with any genuine knowledge of collectables. So it may seem strange that it's not unusual for them to ignore the experts. Often they buy items without having the good manners to at least show their expert until the deed is done! This isn't to say the experts are right all the time. Often they aren't, far from it. This all goes to make each show good fun. You never know what to expect.

The experts are often more interesting and entertaining than the team contestants. With hundreds of episodes watched, these experts and auctioneers, together with Tim's expertise, have become my main reasons for watching. Originally it was to see the collectables but in reality, one tires of seeing contestants buying the same old things: blue and white plates, timber boxes, cut glass decanters, "aged" kitchenalia made last week and boxed sets of plated spoons which no one wants! It's not unusual to see experts and auctioneers playing dual roles. BARGAIN HUNT is like a real life version of MIDSOMER MURDERS on some levels. In one episode Philip Serrell or Elizabeth Talbot will be the auctioneer; five episodes later they'll pop up as an expert. Philip And Elizabeth are my favorites, both having distinctively interesting personalities.

All up, BARGAIN HUNT scores my vote as the best slice of English reality television.

Hoarders
(2009)

Compulsive and sometimes scary
Although I've one seen one episode, "Patty and Bill", this show will have me watching from now on, if I don't buy the DVDs first. Reality shows aren't my thing usually, but the situations shown here seem real enough and I really felt for the participants and more so, for their families.

There's a lot compressed into "Patty and Bill", and the crew certainly put together something both engrossing and scary. The matter of fact way the team carried out the job to clean out the properties, with interruptions from Patty and Bill, must sure have taken a lot out of them. Of all those shown, I felt the most for Bill's daughter with her beautifully clean and tidy room amid what seemed like a builder's wreckers yard.

As someone who's helped to similarly clean out properties though not to such a necessary degree of size and in such a short time, I salute all concerned. What they achieved in three days seemed amazing, despite the final results not bringing satisfactory conclusions in either case.

All Star Golf
(1957)

Trail-blazing sports series
"Top Pro Golf" aired on Australian television in the early 1960s, and introduced me to the wonderful world of golf.

From what I can remember, it was a highly polished series with excellent camera work and close interaction between the host and the players.

This was where I first saw the brilliant play of Gary Player and Arnold Palmer, as they blasted their way round a succession of US courses.

Somewhere, someone must have prints of episodes, so one day I hope to once again admire my golfing heroes in their early youth.

There were two other golf shows airing at around the same time, "Shell's Wonderful World of Golf" and "World Championship Golf", but this was for me the pick of the three.

Palmy Days
(1931)

Dynamic, timeless entertainment
The other more knowledgeable reviewers have given comprehensive overviews of this movie so I'll stick to giving reasons for why I rate this as one of my favourite American musicals of all time.

Charlotte Greenwood, she of the L O N G legs and faultless timing. This is one of three movies in which Miss Greenwood, for me anyway, made those movies worth watching time and time again, the others being "Springtime in the Rockies" and "The Gang's All Here". Her appearances are a joy to behold; she never puts a foot (or leg) wrong, and delivers lines as only she can. Wow, what a gal!

The musical numbers. Yes, there are only three of 'em, but what great numbers. The best is "Bend Down, Sister", consisting of a magical song I've whistled my way through at least a couple of times every week for the past 40 years.

Eddie Cantor. A unique talent, along the lines of Al Jolson. I remember Eddie in the early days of television; he could always deliver a song which would keep me transfixed, unlike most of the other singers appearing on television at the time. When I finally caught up with his early musicals in the 1960s, it was a revelation.

Here's to you, Eddie, Charlotte and of course, The Master, Busby Berkeley!

Em & Me
(2004)

Quirky feel-good entertainment
It's been decades since I last saw Alan Young; from "The Time Machine" and of course, Wilbur in "Mr Ed". I hope I'm as fit and healthy as he looks at 85 in this made for TV movie from 2004.

This can probably be described as a "road movie" or perhaps "coming of age" movie. If we live long enough, many of us will find ourselves in a similar situation to Ernie, who's one wish in life is to be reunited with his beloved Emily. So he sets off for her grave site, meeting people and changing lives for the better on the way.

It's been done before, of course. I thought the script was quirky and more in the European style. Instead of the tired old clichés, Ernie would often utter something completely unexpected.

I rate this a 9 for entertainment value. It's done on a shoestring budget but who cares? If a movie leaves you feeling better than when the opening credits rolled, it's done its job well. Recommended for the young at heart, but not the young and brain dead!

The Outer Limits: The Message
(1995)
Episode 17, Season 1

Profound and humbling episode
Two loners within a large medical facility, one a woman, Jennifer, with a then-revolutionary hearing implant, the other, Robert, a discredited astrophysicist working as a janitor, come together and carry out a lifesaving event no one in their time will ever hear of.

Jennifer's mundane and unimaginative husband thinks she has mental problems while Robert's downfall from his job was apparently due to others seeing him as mentally unbalanced.

It's a simple but moving story, a brilliant script, with a beautiful climax which probably brings many "Outer Limits" fans to their feet with a "Yeah, you did it!".

This is one of my favorite "Outer Limits" episodes from the more than 200 produced. It's right up there with "The Galaxy Being" from the original series.

The Lone Gunmen
(2001)

Classic for future generations
Like a lot of other viewers no doubt, I've recently finished watching the series on DVD. And like those viewers, I found the XF 'Jump the Shark' episode less than satisfactory as a way of winding up the loose ends. Sure, it was better than no attempt at a resolution, but so far as I'm concerned, our three heroes are still 'out there' protecting the rest of us from the forces of evil! What I'd like to see is an attempt made at gathering all 'Lone Gunmen' footage from 'The X-Files' and working said footage into an extra special DVD release. I have to wonder if maybe someone 'out there' has already made the attempt.

What really bugged me about the final scene was the small turnout at the graveside. At least Scully put in an appearance. It's so long since I watched 'The X-Files' that I've forgotten what Mulder was up to at the time, and Reyes and Doggett just didn't cut it for me. Surely Mulder would have been at the graveside?

Cutting back to some general observations, I go along with the common view here that the show improved as it moved into the later episodes. The cast worked well together, and the 'Jimmy' character really added something to the mix as the scripts improved.

A fine series, for those with a genuine sense of the absurd. I love it!

A Fine Romance
(1981)

Subtle, sweet, endearingly funny English comedy series
This is one of those TV series you remember fondly from earlier days, due to its two stars and the gentle humour which honestly reflects the actions of two awkward people, each looking for companionship and never expecting to find it. Mike and Laura are made for each other in the eyes of their friends; it really is that obvious, but not to themselves, of course.

Viewers of 'As Time Goes By' may find the show less fun. Perhaps that's due to the late 70s and early 80s being a strange period, especially for those of us who managed to survive it without any scars! I've seen ATGB from beginning to end a number of times and am sure it was partly done as Judi's tribute to Michael. He's one of my three favourite actors, right up there with James Bolam and Alun Armstrong.

Some people have commented on the shortness of the series, but it was and still is common practice in England to produce seasons of less than 10 episodes per year, in order to maintain quality control over the content.

First Man Into Space
(1959)

Enjoyable, but don't believe the DVD box artwork
I came across this movie and wrongly assumed it was a cobbled together compilation of three episodes of William Lundigan's classic MEN INTO SPACE TV series, the year of release (1959) being the same. I've not seen the latter since it first screened in Australia around 1960 so momentarily forgot that the hero in that series was Colonel Edward McCauley and not Commander Charles Prescott! The box art should have cured my memory as McCauley would never have faced a monster.

Much to my surprise I did enjoy the movie. Why my high rating? Considering the low budget, the result was an entertaining, generally well-acted movie. The story was good, certainly well above average for the period when so much dross was being screened. The script could have been better but the actors managed to rise above it for the most part. The photography and direction were first rate.

In one line, I'd suggest this movie was value for money.

The DVD, in Australia anyway, is a good transfer. A cheap release but with no extras.

So You Want to Be a Salesman
(1947)

30 minutes of fun crammed into a 10-minute short.
I'd not seen a Joe McDoakes short in 50 years, and when I came across this online recently, I wondered how well it would hold up. Not surprisingly, I was soon laughing out loud, just as I used to as a young boy, sitting in the Wynyard Newsreel theatre on George Street, Sydney, in the late 1950s.

George O'Hanlon as Joe bears some resemblance to Jimmy Stewart, both in looks and manner. He's someone moviegoers of the time, and indeed now, can relate to, an ordinary guy trying to make his way in the world. He'll give anything a try and whether he's successful, or not, he'll come up smiling. Maybe it's his lovely wife, played so nicely by Jane Harker. I'd certainly be happy to go home to her at the end of a typical day!

Production quality is certainly up to scratch, as befitted anything which came from Warner Bros.

Great entertainment and bring on the next "So You Want to be" short!

Seven Little Australians
(1939)

Far more enjoyable than I'd expected.
Ethel Turner's classic book, in print without a break for more than a century, is far better known via the brilliant TV mini series made by ATN 7 in 1973. This early movie has always been overshadowed by that series and only became available via Screensound Australia's limited video release in 2000.

Despite my expectations of a less than satisfactory production, the movie is actually quite enjoyable and perhaps most importantly, manages to fit the major events of the book into one hour of screen time.

The performances in general are good with the child actors especially putting in natural and believable portrayals. It's worth comparing the two actors who play the Captain, Charles McCallum in 1939 and Leonard Teale in 1973. Although the former seems stiff in the part to begin with, it's more the nature of the character rather than the actor himself. Leonard Teale played the Captain 'over the top' in the 1973 version. This reflects somewhat negatively on the earlier performance.

There is one extraneous scene in the 1939 version, at the party where the 'cad' attempts to seduce Meg. Otherwise, the events are reasonably true to the book.

The direction is good for the most part though having been filmed on a very limited budget, critical viewers will be drawn to the shortcomings in other aspects of the production.

I can recommend this film for all ages.

Great Guns
(1941)

Irrepressible Stan and Ollie!
Despite a trite script, Stan and Ollie, like two jewels, rise above all and provide some great laughs.

I wouldn't recommend this to anyone who wasn't a fan of the great duo, but seeing it for the first time was a revelation after all the negative things I'd read and heard about the Fox movies.

The direction and photography was of a high standard while the supporting cast was adequate if not in the same league as our pals.

Of all the sequences, I have to vote the 'bird down the trousers' sequence as the most memorable. No other comic team could have pulled off that gag so well!

Steve Canyon
(1958)

Puts you in the pilot seat; memorable!
It's been over forty years since I saw an episode of 'Steve Canyon' so it was with a real sense of nostalgia that I put on the special edition DVD, wondering what my initial reaction was going to be. I'm sure anyone reading this has faced a similar situation. When you're a kid, a TV series, or movie if it comes to that, can have an indelible impact on your psyche. Half a lifetime later, you can be elated, or dramatically disappointed.

The episode 'Operation Zero Launch' was my selected re-introduction to 'Steve Canyon'. I'm pleased to write that I was elated. Not only was the quality of the re-mastered image and sound outstanding, the story was entertaining. The rocket-assisted launch from the ground vehicle was really something to see and I didn't envy the real life pilot! There are 3 other episodes yet to be viewed, but I decided instead to watch the promo 'teaser' which shows clips from many other episodes. It surprised me to see many later big names listed as having appeared as supporting cast members in the series.

So far I've not mentioned Dean Fredericks in the title role. Like those other 50s TV action immortals, George Reeves, Richard Webb, Richard Crane, Marshall Thompson and Bill Lundigan, Dean comes across as a totally believable hero you feel comfortable with, a guy you can trust with your life. You no longer see such actors, and television is a poorer place for the disappearance of their type.

February 2009 update.

I've received vol.1 of the official release containing the first dozen episodes and can report that the picture quality is generally outstanding. The only exceptions, as you would expect, are the occasional stock footage inserts. The sound quality is EXCEPTIONAL, better than on any DVD release I've reviewed. I've only just begun to listen to the audio commentaries but the one for the first episode contains many gems of information from cast member Morgan Woodward regarding his other acting roles. If you're a fan of the show, and love watching those beautiful F102 jets in flight, you'll be more than happy with this volume.

In addition, the original promos for other ABC shows are included, so it's easy to sit back and imagine you're watching the show when it first aired in the late 1950s.

Lloyd & Hill
(2003)

Intricate storyline will have you guessing
I didn't expect to enjoy this crime mystery but was pleasantly surprised by the interesting story and fine script which really did disguise until the final quarter hour who did what to whom. Philip Glenister who plays DCI Danny Lloyd was great in LIFE ON MARS and he's in his element here.

On the negative side, there's little development of the other members of his team apart from ex-lover Hill, but presumably their characters would have been explored in the series which never eventuated. The supporting cast is good with plausible performances all round.

Despite my high rating for this pilot, purely for the story, I'd suggest that the last 5 minutes would be better edited out, because it spoils the possibility of a realistic relationship between the main characters and frankly killed off any possibility of this one-off going into a series.

A Kind of Loving
(1982)

More true to the books than the earlier movie.
This fine 10-part series seems unlikely to appear on DVD for two reasons. Firstly it's very long and secondly, there's a better known if inferior movie adaption available.

I discovered the final episode recently while sorting through old video tapes and found it just as enjoyable as the last time I watched it many years ago. Clive Wood is an excellent actor and is probably better known for his later work on the classic police series, THE BILL.

The script is true to the book which I've read several times and it is indeed a totally realistic portrayal of the times, now long gone. The supporting cast is solid as well. Only the static camera work, limited no doubt by budget considerations, dates the series.

Recommended for all fans of classic British drama.

The Million Dollar Duck
(1971)

Amusing 70s comedy fine for kids of all ages
In Australia this comes as a 2-pack DVD, partnered with 'Those Calloways'.

Early on I didn't think it was going to amount to much, but as the movie unfolds, the good supporting cast and above-average script kept me watching and soon had me laughing. There's a car (or should it be goose?) chase reminiscent of the fire-ladder truck sequence in an Abbott & Costello vehicle of the 1940s.

This is a fine movie for children and even adults should find a laugh or two. If you liked 'The Love Bug', you'll probably enjoy this movie as well.

Hellbender
(1996)

Best Sci Fi shoot'em up simulator of the 1990s!
You are the only surviving pilot of the Colition of Independent Planets' fighting force. The one who must save the Earth from the Bions, a race of Terminator-like warriors intent on destroying their creators. One space-fighter remains, the brand new and untested 'Hellbender'. With it you will have to destroy the Bions' weaponry and outposts on the planets they have infiltrated.

That's a brief outline of 'Hellbender', a game I've been playing regularly since 1999. Other games have come and gone but 'Hellbender' remains the one of which I never tire. There's always something different to be found on every level and in some ways the game gives the impression that it's alive. Yes, it's as if 'Hellbender' has a life of its own. Great graphics for the time, faultless operation and a wide vista of changing landscapes keep me playing it for many, many hours.

Use 'Wikipedia' to find out the history of the game and its antecedents. Unfortunately the game won't (to my limited technical knowledge) run on later platforms than Windows 98.

One Week
(1920)

A real gem!
Having read through every other comment, there's nothing much else to add as regards the plot. I came across this short on the 'college' special edition DVD which also contains 'The Blacksmith'. I'd seen both shorts previously on a cheap release. The superior quality of this release encouraged me to give a higher rating which isn't always the case.

From start to finish, 'One Week' is a scream! The viewer never quite knows what will happen next, and generally is struck with the thought that "Well, I think I know what's going to happen, but surely it won't" - and it of course DOES happen !!! So many good gags, so many touching scenes that's it's difficult to pick one. If push comes to shove, I'll vote for the final one. 'One Week' always leaves me with the feeling that once is NOT enough; I just have to watch it again ...

The Rag Trade
(1961)

Groundbreaking comedy series from the BBC
This is one series I'm looking forward to seeing again now that it's coming out on DVD.

Reg Varney, Peter Jones and Miriam Karlin are a great team but for me the best character was the unforgettable Esma Cannon as Lily. Shelia Hancock was memorable as well. Irene Handl as Reg's mum was another great actress who if memory serves me correctly, played Tony Hancock's landlady.

Ronald Chesney and partner would never write a better series than this although Chesney's Aussie comedy series "Barley Charlie" is one I still recall with fondness.

It's sad to think Chesney and Wolfe will be most-remembered for arguably the worst so-called 'comedy' in the history of British television, "On the Buses". "'Allo, 'Allo" is still entertaining but for me "The Rag Trade" was Chesney and Wolfe at their best.

The Last Detective
(2003)

The best of the best
There are so many things happening in this episode that I re-watched it within a day and found more to check out on a third viewing. Dangerous's wife, or ex-wife, has complaints about the house maintenance, to-wit a side fence which the dog supposedly leaned against and caused to fall down. Nice guy that he is, Dangerous and pal work on it throughout the episode. And there's that landlady up to something, one's never quite sure what! This series is outstanding for its script, production values, acting, everything. You won't find another show like it. Read the episode synopsis which covers the main plot strands and you'll find still other little things happening not pick up by us.

I Can Jump Puddles
(1981)

Slow moving but worth the wait!
Author Alan Marshall's 3 autobiographical books are placed onto the screen with perfection. Covering his life between the ages of 11 and 31, you will be drawn into the story as this indomitable character overcomes every obstacle put in his way.

Alan contracted polio soon after starting school. Surrounded by a loving family and friends in a small country town, it wasn't until he went out looking for work in the 'big smoke' that Alan came up against the prejudices facing anyone with a debilitating disease in the first half of the 20th century. Not that Alan regarded himself as such! Lewis Fitz-Gerald is totally believable as the devil-may-care hero of this well made ABC mini-series. Lewis IS Alan, supported by a large cast showcasing Australia's great range of fine circa-1981 actors. Sigrid Thornton appears as one of the workers in the shoe factory.

For some viewers, the story may take a while to develop but like a good wine, matured over the decades, it's well worth the wait.

Serenity
(2005)

Entertaining movie in its own right
Like most people who've put a review in, no doubt, I caught up with SERENITY after watching FIREFLY. I'd never heard of the TV series until someone shoved the DVDs in my hand and insisted that I would really enjoy the series. Several months after watching and enjoying the series, I came across the 2-DVD SERENITY pack.

Yes, I thought it was a good SF movie although changes in the characters proved a little annoying. Killing off my favourite was likewise. But I could watch it again which I guess is the real test of a good movie.

Strangely enough, the one character who doesn't work for me is Mal. He's somewhat reminiscent of Avon in the BBC classic TV series, BLAKE'S 7. But Mal lack's Avon's sense of humour and biting sarcasm. Blame it on the writing, not the actor. There's just nothing to like about Mal.

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