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Circumstantial Evidence

Not bad drama
Rona Anderson is great as the feisty heroine. So the film's a study of middle-class manners? That's it's whole point - people still cared about being respectable and divorce was shocking to some. Doctors (and judges) had to be above suspicion. As well as the plot, we get some great cameo roles - the fast-knitting hotel proprietor glued to the radio, the balding and rather pathetic permanent resident, the girlfriend of the other blackmailer. While Linda poses as a reporter, she and Rita look at Rita's old cuttings from her days on the stage, and Linda tries to persuade her that publicity might revive her career. This scene takes place in a shabby basement flat.

Unfortunately the scene outside with Rita and the landlady is very badly dubbed - nobody's lips synch and that probably isn't the landlady's voice.

Identity Unknown

A bit limp, but you keep watching
It's one of those portmanteau movies, with stories linked by two young reporters. The girl has a miniature tape recorder in her handbag, though she never asks her subjects' permission to record - and never seems to transcribe the tape, either. (Movie reporters never take notes.)

The "human stories" of those waiting to see who has survived an air crash in the alps are variable. Some are crudely tear-jerking - the blind mother, and her daughter in law pretending "Susan's flight has been delayed". The young couple whose child awaits an operation that can only be performed by the surgeon who was on the plane.

But some are lifted by the actors - Nyree Dawn Porter as the pilot's wife who's just had her first baby, for example. Though would she be able to get up and fly to Switzerland the next day? (Note how babies are not left with their mothers but taken to a nursery - when did that change?) The displaced children waiting for their foster mother avoid mawkishness, and the matron of the (huge) children's institution convinces. (Didn't she run a women's hostel in Millions Like Us?)

The best "back story" is the ageing star of stage and screen whose faithful agent awaits her return. He boosts her to anyone who inquires. And think of the publicity! He is obviously in love with her, though he has a cosy relationship with his secretary which has gone on for years. Both of them are convincing and likeable.

The young reporters are somewhat drippy, and as for that ending - oh dear, oh dear! Never mind, Women's Lib would be along in about eight years.

Doctor Who: Warriors of the Deep: Part One
Episode 1, Season 21

Catching up with 80s episodes
This one is a bit of a let-down. Yes, the base is too brightly lit. I like the way all the crew wear 80s makeup. Ingrid Pitt in purple eye-shadow as a devious doctor is a plus. Preston, another female crew member, looks like a knitting pattern model with a faux 40s hairstyle. She also wears a flying suit and looks permanently surprised.

The foe - the Sea Devils and Silurians - are impressive when in their own undersea quarters, but once on the attack they plod ver-eee slow-lee around and the plasticity of their costumes is all too apparent. Their lethargy is transmitted to the base's crew, who respond with a strange lack of enthusiasm, excitement or efficiency. No commands are executed "at the double". There's a lot of sitting at consoles and going plinkety plonk on multicoloured keyboards.

The Doctor gives his usual speech about the need for nations to respect each other and live together in peace. If only the people who complain that Jodie Whittaker has made the show too politically correct had a sense of history! The Doc was always a lefty snowflake. Thank goodness.

He, Turlough and Tegan do their utmost to bring the story to life.

The Voice of Merrill

Dull and stodgy
There is a lot of unbearable soppy love stuff between Alicia and Hugh. Alicia wears a rather strained air of arch amusement whether she is flirting with a man she's only just met or exchanging barbs with her husband, Jonathan. Playwright Jonathan Roach is foul and obnoxious to everybody he meets, but he just may have some self-awareness. The only person he's on friendly terms with is his butler, Pearce. Perhaps this gleam of humanity is due to James Robertson Justice's skill as an actor.

Of course the couple should split up - but look at the decor, and Alicia's jewellery. Roach obviously has money, and if she can just hang on until his last heart attack it will all be hers. She's not likely to leave her big house (and butler) for the unsuccessful Hugh Allen. And she can be pretty shrewish herself.

She is a literary agent - her husband's - and she takes Hugh's career in hand too. Someone likened her to the heartless Estella, but isn't she more of a Lady Macbeth? Give me the daggers - or rather, the digitalis. Unfortunately it's Jonathan, not Hugh, who has the talent.

But with all that money, couldn't she have bought some more attractive clothes? That hat like a helmet secured by multiple plaits - aaargh!

Murder Most Foul

We loved these when they first came out...
We loved these when they first came out - and I'm happy to say this film is as funny as ever. Miss Rutherford is a comic genius. I don't care if she did insist her husband was in all her films, he's great too.

This is a beautifully photographed, noirish Christie tribute. It bears about as much relation to the original stories as the Rathbone/Bruce Holmes series - and succeeds in the same way. The plot is a decent mystery on its own.

The supporting cast are great, especially the posh girl who's insisting on marrying a poor actor.

I wonder where the wardrobe department found Miss Marple's beautiful antique jewellery. I suspect the pieces were the actress's own!

Take My Life

Good noir touches
Especially in the second half, when Philippa the somewhat spoiled and beautiful opera singer goes on the trail of a murderer.

Her husband is on trial for killing a former girlfriend (the magnificent Rosalie Crutchley), and with Francis L Sullivan as the prosecutor, his chances look slim. He (Hugo Williams) tries to keep up his spirits, but underneath a light manner he is desperately worried.

So Philippa sets off to follow a musical clue, wearing the kind of hat the royal family are fond of (in her case, it protects her 40s pompadour hairstyle). It leads her to a sinister gothic school in the far north, where she is shown round by Marius Goring.

There are lots of good scenes in trains and railway stations, filmed on location. When they pull into York, we fleetingly see a traveller who looks uncannily like the murdered girl. But when we recognise one of the fellow-passengers as stalwart actor Ronald Adam, we are prepared for more drama...

I'd love to read the original book by Winston Graham. Writers of historical sagas (Poldark) often do their best work when young and writing about the contemporary scene.

It's a shame that Sullivan fades out of the story early, and Philippa's modern opera seems to consist of one scene. Obviously her singing voice is dubbed, but what about her speaking voice? It is very unlike the sarcastic, seductively nasal tones of her performance in Dear Murderer. Perhaps she just adopted a different voice for this character who, though flawed, is basically a good egg.

Bergerac: The Lohans
Episode 10, Season 9

And it's goodbye from Jim
I never understand substitution scams...

Jim is hired to protect a set of figures of Chinese immortals, but various shady types are after them. Charlie and Danielle pose as buyers, while the "owner", the would-be buyer and a hired thug circle each other - in the cloisters of Salisbury Cathedral while the choir sings Sheep May Safely Graze. The thing is, you see, the "owner" has swapped one of the figures for a fake in order to - in order to - and then an expert who knows who really owns the set is...

The Jersey team are somehow involved, and we see some lovely interiors full of bibelots. Why do these people always have fragile French windows to the garden? Not to mention gauzy curtains that flap in the breeze when the French windows are shattered.

The plot, if there was one, was completely baffling - but goodbye Jim, and good luck wherever you are!

Miss Marple: 4.50 from Paddington

Good in parts
There are some very good moments in this adaptation: Lucy tidying the kitchen, the sinister barn full of "Egyptian" sculpture and sarcophagi, wonderful performances from Joan Hickson, Jean Boht (as a northern ballet impresario) and David Horowitz. It follows the story through from beginning to end, sticking fairly faithfully to the book, with excellent costumes and a fabulous setting in a Victorian country house. (The garden has some fairly sinister statuary, too.)

Some reviewers have called this version "stiff" and "plodding". It does seem a bit slow, looking back from 2020. Some of acting is /literally/ stiff. Does Lucy have to be so literally unbending? (Likewise Joanna David.) Perhaps they were trying to be convincingly "ladylike" in a 50s mould.

There is no dramatic underscoring, there are no flashbacks, no close-ups of dripping blood or spiderwebs. And tho it takes us through the plot, the story is a little hard to follow and must be a bit baffling for those who haven't read the book. Miss M could have used Lucy as a Watson, with updates and recaps! (Christie often includes these.)

Christie thought that Lucy would run away with Cedric - John Hallam is convincingly horrible in the role! Her other suitor, Brian the ex-RAF man, is far preferable and nearer her age. There is a little confected "drama" over her choice, which doesn't quite come off. The strong woman who "moulds" a weaker husband is a Christie trope. (Neither of her husbands fit the description.)

Have I just watched an abridged version on cable, though? Wasn't there a poisoning episode in which we lost the affable Alfred and the "tontine" plot becomes more obvious? And they all seem rather unconcerned by the disappearance of Harold.

Rumpole of the Bailey: Rumpole on Trial
Episode 6, Season 7

End of series episode
Rumpole annoys Judge Oliphant while defending a boring man who claims his wife fell and hit her head on the fender. Claude thinks that Rumpole is talking to his client in the lunch break, when he's been told not to. Liz and Hilda stand by Rumpole.

And the gang's all here: Phillida Trant, now a judge. Judge Graves (who is rather suave), and one of the Timsons. That's at the usual party at the end.

But what happens to Mr Tong, beautifully played by Peter Sallis? All we hear is that he has run off with Mrs Grabowitz from next door.

Rumpole of the Bailey: Rumpole at Sea
Episode 4, Season 6

A Rumpole I've never seen before?
It's like finding the tomb of Tutankhamun! And it's a particularly good one. Hilda persuades Rumpole to come on a "second honeymoon" on a cruise to the Greek islands. (They'd had to come home early from their first honeymoon as they ran out of money.) Rumpole just wants a holiday from judge Graves. Whaddaya know? Judge Graves is on board, taking a holiday from Rumpole.

Rumpole lurks out of site, while Hilda dresses in her best and mingles at the cocktail parties. She quickly chums up with a mystery writer and his irritating personal assistant, and an insurance man turned vicar who has just got married.

They are all serenaded by a (surprisingly good) singer who belts out the golden oldies. Rumpole's cover is blown, and he comes out of hiding, but the newly wed Mrs Britwell develops a mysterious sickness and disappears from view. The mystery writer suspects the Rev of making away with her. He, Rumpole and Graves form an unlikely investigation committee.

Eventually Rumpole solves the mystery in an effective and somewhat surreal denouement, and the Rumpoles set off to shop in Mykonos.

PS Hilda looks stunning in fancy dress as Britannia, while Rumpole wears an eyepatch as a pirate.

Rumpole of the Bailey: Rumpole and the Bubble Reputation
Episode 1, Season 5

Tabloid attacks romantic novelist
Hilda is addicted to the works of Amelia Nettleship, a romantic historical novelist clearly based on Barbara Cartland (though younger). A mud-slinging tabloid accuses her of torrid affairs, despite her support for virginity before marriage, and she sues. Rumpole is retained for the defence - of the tabloid and its editor. John Mortimer's stepdaughter, Caroline Mortimer, plays one of the journalists. Meanwhile Claude attends a strip club purely to examine the "locus in quo" of an affray with Coca Cola bottles, and is snapped by the tabloid's paparazzi. Phyllida takes a dim view and he moves in with the Rumpoles, singing Mozart at breakfast (he has a really nice voice), and forcing poor Hilda to sit through recordings of Die Meistersinger.

Rumpole of the Bailey: Rumpole and the Quality of Life
Episode 6, Season 5

Excellent episode
Rumpole is led by Sam Ballard in a murder case - Lady Derwent is accused of despatching her husband, a much older and distinguished artist. They share a large house with the artist's old mother and his daughter, who's five years younger than the wife. The artist is terminally ill and is given a diamorphine injection every day by a nurse. There are nods to Agatha Christie (carelessly leaving a medical bag in the hall) and Dorothy Sayers (omelettes). As Sam Ballard makes blunder after blunder, Rumpole tells him what to say. Fortunately Ballard knocks himself out with a chest expander and ends up in hospital being visited by "Matey", the law courts' nurse. Rumpole pulls off another win, and "Matey" becomes Mrs Ballard, giving an excuse for a final party in a marquee with all the cast. There are sub-plots about slimming, and Ms Probert's boyfriend. (Watch out for Mortimer himself - he often turns up in these party scenes.)

The New Avengers: The Midas Touch
Episode 4, Season 1

Flawed but fun
Midas is a fallen angel with a deadly gift. He is in the pay - or under the control - of Professor Turner, ex of "Pilton Down", a man obsessed with gold. Robert Feust directed this episode, with nods to Roger Corman's Masque of the Red Death, and also the fancy dress party in his own Dr Phibes. Much of the action takes place in Prof Turner's secret hangout in a deserted factory complex. Purdey interviews a major as he runs over an assault course. Sadly Steed is reduced to making suggestive remarks to very young women, and a Chinese character is played by an English actor in... blue eye makeup?

The Blue Lamp

Vanished London
London just post-war was still a Victorian city. As the police cars chase the villains along mainly traffic-free roads there is a strange void in the sky - the council estates with their tower blocks are ten years or so in the future. I'd like a closer look at Gladys Henson's kitchen. She's got rid of the old range and cooks on a gas stove in the scullery, but still has a mantelpiece stuffed with nicknacks. Her scenes at home are so touching. At first she can't bear the thought of a lodger in "Bert's old room", but she quickly comes round to Jimmy Hanley as a guest. Another sign that we are in a vanished world: everybody is so THIN! Rationing was still going in 1950.

The House of Fear

Excellent entry in the series
Notable for the spooky old mansion with its carved panelling, suits of armour and bronze statuary. I was also mesmerised by Mrs Monteith's large wardrobe of frumpy Victorian crocheted waistcoats. If only I could ask her for the patterns! Meanwhile Paul Cavanagh is as good as usual as the elegant Dr Merivale, and the permanently smiling Mr Alistair must surely be part of the plot, which involves sending each member of a tontine an envelope containing orange pips. Dr Watson may be played as a buffoon, but he spots a vital clue, and also uses his training to treat a coshing victim and sniff a toxin. He steps in as a doctor frequently in this series.

There Is Another Sun

Better than I remembered
No film with Maxwell Reed can be all bad. The director even used his height as a plot point - how can he hide in a crowd? Racer (Wall of Death) and Maguire (boxer) pick up Lilian (Susan Shaw) in a dodgy nightclub where they gamble away their savings. Racer wants to get back on the Speedway track, while Maguire wants to make it as a boxer. Meanwhile he falls in love with Lilian, but fears she has a thing for racer. The gruff trainer meanwhile is in love with the fortune teller - played to great effect by the wonderful Hermione Baddeley. "Your kabbalistic number is 69 and your lucky colour is blue - you're a Scorpio, I can tell!" The real star is the seedy background of the fair, the vans, and the grubby boarding house where Lilian is staying with a girlfriend - their show has closed and they're on their uppers. They still existed, with their Victorian furniture, in the 60s and 70s.

Public Eye: How About It, Frank?
Episode 3, Season 7

Who's on the take?
Frank is offered a job by his wannabe partner, Ron Gash, an ex-copper. While checking up on a possible employee for an American computer firm, Frank bumps into Tarrant the man who may have beaten him up. Guess who else turns up in the office? The young criminal who got him into trouble. Together the try to get their money out of Tarrant. Frank is also being pursued by Tyson, a tough Irish cop (Ray McAnally). Lurking in the background is a Mr Big called Cope. But who among this lot is in his employ?

Public Eye: Egg and Cress Sandwiches
Episode 12, Season 6

More dysfunctional families
Well done to whoever wrote this one. A rural churchwarden receives anonymous letters accusing the vicar of rumpy-pumpy. The vicar is Brian Blessed! Being fairly restrained. Frank is called in to investigate. Scandal, you know! Must avoid. He takes his rumpled self to some more intoxicatingly drab interiors, a draughty vicarage, a stately-ish home - inhabited by the churchwarden and his eccentric brother, who wants to raise money for his zoo and folk museum. As usual, nothing is quite what it seems, a lot of biscuits get eaten, there's a bit of motorway blight, a Rubens goes missing, and nothing quite gets resolved.

Public Eye: Home and Away
Episode 11, Season 6

"My husband's seeing someone else!"
"Tell me the old, old story," says Frank. But the lady keeps making him shlep out to her dingy house in a drab suburb when she really has nothing to tell him. Her husband spends all his time organising a works football team. He hardly listens to her any more. Frank turns on the blokiness and chums up with the husband in the pub. He turns out to be a nice fellow, uninterested in women. It can't be that simple - can it? Who's telling the truth? Who left the lipstick on the collar?

Public Eye: A Family Affair
Episode 7, Season 6

Elderly brothers discover family secrets
On the death of their father, two eccentric, elderly brothers hire a solicitor (who hires Frank) to stop their dad's long-time housekeeper getting more than her fair share of the loot. Family secrets are revealed one by one, the brothers exhibit neuroses while their wives snip frantically at the geraniums, or smile unwearyingly. Frank eventually meets the housekeeper, who seems like a decent sort, but has another angle on the story, and it's not the one you expect. Wonderfully drab interiors, and an untouched 30s Arts and Crafts house - but who does it belong to? The story is unresolved, and we sense it will continue to unfold.

Public Eye: Mrs. Podmore's Cat
Episode 4, Season 6

Lame attempt at humour
The writer's attempt at humour consists mainly of humiliating Frank. A merry widow hires him to cat sit, but her current boyfriend (20 years younger) and ex prove to be a distraction. There's some shenanigans with some missing miniatures. Top "jokes": mentions of smelly cat food and cat poo. Ha, ha, ha.

But it has one redeeming feature - the widow is played by Jean Kent, the original Woman in Question, flashing the same old manipulative charm.

Public Eye: Horse and Carriage
Episode 6, Season 6

Christmas special
I turned off half-way through. Like Mrs Podmore's Cat, a misguided attempt to inject some humour into the bleak life of Frank Marker. Mainly concerns a couple with an unusual marriage. The writer isn't sure if he wants to be Samuel Beckett, Harold Pinter or NF Simpson. Maybe he IS NF Simpson. Not funny at all.

Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased): All Work and No Pay
Episode 3, Season 1

Jeannie dabbles with some spiritualists
Jeannie is chilling out at home when her flat is attacked by a poltergeist, operated by two gaunt, smiling men in a car with an electrical/radio device. She calls Jeff for help and he rushes round in his lemon yellow karate pyjamas and a leather jacket. She worries that the business isn't making money, and wonders whether to accept a job from two strange, smiling men.... Yes, the ones from the car, who claim to be spiritualists. Impossible to cut a long story short. Jeff pawns his bedding to persuade an alcoholic friend to pretend to be a bereaved mother so that Jeannie can pass her on to the spook-raising Foster brothers and get some commission. I think.

The brothers, played wonderfully by Alfred Burke and Dudley Foster, explain to the actress, posing as "Mrs Wilson", that they have never succeeded in raising anybody. They plan to send her to the beyond to act as their emissary. She flees, but finds that their Gothic mansion is bordered by a moat...

More shenanigans ensue, and it all ends happily. Oh, weren't the 60s lovely?

Twice Round the Daffodils

Poignant tale, but with dated humour and attitudes
An early not-quite Carry On, set in a TB sanatorium where a motley group of men are taking the cure (free on the newly formed NHS, long may it reign). The time is the early 60s, but the story must have been written before effective drug treatment for this serious disease. The crew have X rays and "oscopies" but no treatment apart from "bed rest" and fresh air is mentioned.

Despite the grim premise, it's an excuse to mix the classes, and a Welsh miner is forced to share his quarters with a lower-middle-class encyclopedia compiler (Kenneth Williams) and a West Country farmer (Lance Percival), not to mention an RAF "type" who looks a bit young to have fought in the war.

I have a fondness for this film. The crude innuendos don't make me laugh (how DID they get away with some of them). But on a recent viewing I was struck by how much attitudes have changed - for the better.

The RAF type (Donald Sinden) is frustrated, and pursues the nurses (we only see three of them - apart from the matron). But he assaults them after barely saying "Good morning" - are supposed to find this funny, or salacious?

Censorship was still in force (hence the double entendres), but seaside postcard humour was in vogue - one nurse loses half her clothes while climbing in through the window.

Just as disturbing is the way the Welsh miner bullies the youngest patient - a gentle soul who's studying to be a chef. He calls him "Christine" and reads out his poetry sarcastically. The other men object, but it is quite painful to watch. Chris fights back, squashing the RAF type: "I know the facts of life - they told us in the orphanage."

The rest of this plotless saga is filled in with the patients' and staffs' relationships which of course all come right in the end. Kenneth Williams reconciles with his dowdy sister (Joan Sims), and the miner is impressed that his wife is now forelady of the mine's canteen and even asks if she can get him a job as a dishwasher.

Wikipedia reveals that the original play was a hit in 1956, and that one of the authors had been in a TV sanatorium. That explains the anachronisms.

A period gem - which isn't quite sure of its period.

Public Eye: Transatlantic Cousins
Episode 11, Season 5

American visitors
Sporting the least American accents I've ever heard, visit Windsor hoping to find some British cousins. Then they find some old silver with the family crest in an antique shop. Frank is on the spot, and offers to help look up the family. While the "brash American" couple go to Stratford, the daughter stays behind to do some detecting and meets a real smoothiechops who claims to have busked round Ibiza...

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