Friday, November 27, 2015

The Trygon Factor (1966)

God knows what made me think of The Trygon Factor, but I've just found myself fruitlessly searching for to see if it is available on DVD or as a download.  There isn't even a bootleg copy up on You Tube - although I did find a German trailer and some excerpts (including the one above).  The Trygon Factor is one of those half-remembered films that ITV would show on a Sunday afternoon when I was a kid - they were a welcome relief from the usual seventies Sunday TV regime of religion, classic serials and general worthiness.  I haven't seen it decades and, as I said before, I can only vaguely remember it as being a very bizarre crime movie in which Stewart Granger investigated a bunch of dodgy nuns who were carrying out robberies.  Interestingly, the sequence above is one of the few I remember in detail. Even as a child, it seems, it was the kinky bits that caught my attention.  Actually, I think it was the fact that a film being shown in the daytime schedules (on a Sunday) contained what I recognise now as being effectively a BDSM sequence (as we'd call it today), which is what made it stick in my memory long after other details had faded away.  To make it even kinkier, it turns out that the shadowy figure with the Giallo-killer type leather gloves on who gropes the tied up girl, is eventually unmasked as a woman.  Bondage and implied lesbianism together on a Sunday afternoon!

You've probably noticed that everyone is speaking German in the clip, even true blue silver fox Stewart Granger.  The Trygon Factor was an Anglo-German production featuring an international cast and both English and German versions exist.  It was effectively part of the 1960s cycle of German 'Krimis' based on the works of Edgar Wallace, (this one was apparently loosely based on Wallace's Kate Plus Ten).  In stark contrast to the low-key Wallace adaptations produced in the UK by Merton Park Studios, the German films emphasised the bizarre, otlandish and grotesque aspects of Wallace's novels, setting them in a strange version of England which seemed to be made up of equals parts of Agatha Christie country house murder mysteries, foggy Jack-the-Ripper London and sleazy Soho clubland.  The Trygon Factor, as I recall, adds in various swinging sixties tropes as glamourous fashion photographers and lots of girls in their underwear, (something else you tended not to see on a Sunday afternoon).  There's also a slight science fiction angle, as I seem to remember the gang of robber nuns using some kind of fantastical multi-barrelled gun to break into bank vaults.  I think it is clear by now that the whole thing was barking mad.  My abiding memory of seeing it for the first time was astonishment as what started out as a typical British crime movie of the type that was frequently to be found in the daytime schedules (It even starred Stweart Granger, a staple of such movies), took bizarre turn after bizarre turn.  Mind you, I also remember thinking even then that Granger looked a bit old to be racing around in a sports car and trying it on with scantily clad young women.  Nowadays, of course, I see him as a role model, giving hope to middle aged men everywhere.

Anyway, I'd dearly love to see this film again and can only hope that it might trn up on Talking Pictures TV or Movies4Men - they've turned up several other movies I'd vaguely remembered seeing and enjoying on TV in my childhood, so hope springs eternal.     

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Thursday, November 26, 2015

Life Trolls

Internet trolls and online abuse - it's a subject I just keep coming back to, I find the phenomena endlessly fascinating.  Particularly fascinating is the way in which every new type of social media is quickly turned into a conduit for the anger and frustration of the trolls and their ilk: blog comments, message boards, Facebook, Twitter - I've seen them all used to berate, bully and abuse individuals.  I'm always astounded by the things which set the bullying off - you'd think that it would be triggered by some kind of serious issue, but no, more often than not it is because someone - usually a complete stranger to those doing the abusing - has simply expressed an opinion the trolls don't agree with.  For some reason, this sends them apoplectic with rage.  For example, I was recently reading about a woman whose only 'crime' was to say that she didn't want to have children - she suddenly found herself on the receiving end of quite appalling abuse on Twitter from complete strangers.  (Quite why so many people felt so strongly about a personal choice made by an individual they didn't know eludes me - it isn't a crime not to want children.  I've never felt the urge to reproduce my genes either- I don't think that makes me evil or reprehensible.  It also doesn't mean that I hate children.  I don't, I just don't want any of my own).

But I digress.  Not all internet trolling is quite as extreme or as vicious.  Most of it is much lower level and, to be frank, consists of people being dicks.  You know the soert of thing I mean: the pedants in message boards or blog comments who insist in correcting even the tiniest inaccuracies in the postings of others, using the most supercilious tone possible; the idiots who just can't help making snide comments in response to postings (they probably think they are being witty - they aren't); and the contrarians who, as a matter of principle, disagree with anything anyone else says, usually in the most offensive way possible.  But, this sort of thing isn't unique to the web.  Not even the vicious social media type of bullying.  In the past, it took the form of poison pen letters and offensive grafitti sprayed on people's houses.  The web has simply made it easier, quicker and less risky: you no longer have to find out the victim's address, waste money on stamps or run the risk of getting caught in their garden with a spray can of paint.   The low level type of trolling is still prevalent in real life.  It often takes the form of pub bores.  Earlier this week I had the misfortune to have to put up with my local's resident bore, Ted (not his real name, but close enough).  It occurred to me afterward that Ted operates just like an internet troll: disagreeing with anything anyone says in an attempt to establish his (non-existant) intellectual superiority, disparaging opposing views in patronising and offensive terms and hijacking conversations.  The latter is the bit I find most irritating - it frequently becomes impossible to have a conversation as Ted keeps butting in and derailing it, effectively turning it into an argument.  Oh, and he's an instant expert on everything. Ted is one troll I wish would go online and bother people - at least there I could probably get him banned from the virtual equivalent to the pub's lounge bar or, at the very least, block him. Sadly, that just isn't possible with real life trolls. 

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Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Only Human?

I was half listening to some kind of audio hagiography of Margaret Thatcher on the radio the other night as I was drifting off to sleep when they got to the bit about how the 'Iron Lady' was just human like the rest of us.  It's a sequence common to all such biographies - after we've established how tough, uncompromising, hard working and efficient the subject was, (usually adding in how bold they were in pursuing unpopular policies or taking political risks), you get the segment where they try to humanise them, with anecdotes from colleagues about how they were kind to small animals or performed ingognito at children's parties.  In the case of Thatcher, we were presented with the likes of Kenneth Clarke and Matthew Paris telling us, in astonished tones, how Mrs Thatcher, when she was Prime Minister, once made them a cup of tea!  Apparently that showed that she was really just and ordinary housewife, even when she was in the midst of destroying the coal industry and creating mass unemployment.  But all that was OK, because she was really human.

To which my response was to think that the same thing could be said of Hitler.  It's well documented, after all, that, even in those dark last days in the bunker, Hitler was always nice to his secretarial staff, regularly taking tea and crumpets with them.  He was also very nice to Geobbels' children, often reading them bedtime stories.  Presumably, following the logic of the Thatcher programme I heard, this somehow exonerrates him from the war crimes that he was responsible for.  I mean, what do the concentration camps and attempted genocide matter - he liked children and was good to the ladies in the typing pool.  Whilst it is always good to remind ourselves that even ruthless dictators are also human beings, it is important to remember that this still doesn't absolve them of guilt.  It's all too easy to demonise the likes of Hitler, turning them into inhuman monsters, as if by dehumanising them somehow seperates them from us, making them 'special cases'.  Establishing that they were still human beings, who still did mundane things like the rest of us, still had feelings, still loved and grieved and cried, reminds us that they aren't 'special cases', different from us because they were inherently evil - they started off just the same way as the rest of us, as ordinary people.  But it doesn't alter the heinousness of their deeds.  In the case of someone like Thatcher, learning that she was 'just human', makes the callousness of her policies even worse.  Sure, she wasn't Hitler (despite my earlier analogy) but she still destroyed a lot of communities and ruined a lot of lives.  Worse still, her policies fatally eroded the better values of our society, putting materialism and personal gain above care and compassion.  All whilst making tea for Kenneth Clarke.   

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Monday, November 23, 2015

Curse of the Crimson Altar (1968)

Notable mainly for featuring three generations of horror icons, (classic monster Boris Karloff, Hammer Dracula Christopher Lee and Euro horror favourite Barbara Steele), Curse of the Crimson Altar is a typically barmy late sixties Tigon production for which I have a real soft spot.  Not quite as deliriously insane as another Vernon Sewell directed Tigon horror, the contemporaneous Blood Beast Terror, Curse nevertheless has its moments.  Most of these involve an especially bizarre performance from Micheal Gough as the red-herring mad butler and a series of strange dream sequences experienced by hero Mark Eden.  Whilst quite eerily shot, these do come over more as some kind of S&M fetish party, (large men dressed in what appears to be bondage gear wander around with various implements of torture, with the whole thing presided over by a green painted Barabara Steele sporting a ram's horn festooned headress), rather than a supernatural experience.

Adding to the fun is Boris Karloff's occult historian, pushed around in a wheelchair by a black clad, sunglasses wearing, mute bodyguard.  With witches' curses, evil ancestors exacting revenge across the centuries, a spooky old house and strange and arcane rituals, it's fair to say that Curse of the Crimson Altar throws everything into the mix in its quest for chills.  That it never really succeeds in raising a fright in no no way lessens its entertainment value, as bizarre incident piles upon bizarre incident.  Moreover, as if aware that the film couldn't deliver in the horror department, the producers also included a dollop of swinging sixties decadence, with a wild party full of semi-clothed young people, plus some brief nudity from the leading lady.  Despite their top-billing, Lee., Karloff and Steele actually have little to do in the film, with most of narrative being carried by bland leads Mark Eden and Virginia Wetherall.  Of the three horror icons, only Karloff seems to be enjoying himself, gleefully hamming it up at every opportunity.  Ultimately, the film is stymied by its refusal to carry through with its supernatural plot - the dreams turn out to be drug induced hallucinations which, along with various murders and other strange incidents, are revealed as part of crazy Christopher Lee's plot to avenge the execution of his witch ancestress Lavinia (Barbara Steele), by killing the descendents of her accussers.  That said, it does try to have its cake and eat it in one final barmy scene as Lee, trapped atop the burning house, turns into Barbara Steele before being consumed by the flames. 

Curse of the Crimson Altar used to be a taple of the BBC's late night horror movie seasons, but in recent years it seems to have vanished from view.  Never a fan favourite and generally dismissed by critics, Curse is no classic, nor is it a strong example of Tigon's output from the period.  Neverheless, when watched under the right circumstances it has a curious charm and some sequences do create an agreeably uneasy atmosphere.  Moreover, like most of veteran director Sewell's output, the whole thing is very professionally put together. 


Friday, November 20, 2015


More childhood TV memories - this time it's How, one of Southern Television's most popular and long-running programmes.  A children's TV series of a kind they no longer seem to make, How was 'must watch' viewing for me as a kid- one of the few ITV programmes I watched rtegularly, in fact.  Running from 1966 until 1981, it was notable for beinging together two of Southern's stalwarts: Jack Hargreaves and Fred Dineage, who appeared in most episodes.  In fact, the presenting line-up stayed pretty stable for the programme's run.  The demonstrations to illustrate the solutions to the various 'how' questions posed always fascinated me and, I have to say, I found Hargreaves far less avuncular and far more interesting here than he ever was on Out of Town.

There was even a tie-in book, published in either the late sixties or early seventies - The Daily Mail Book of How - which offered more explanations to various questions of 'how' and illustrated how you could do such things as turning unwanted vinyl records into bowls by heatiing them up so they became malleable enough to mould.  In common with, I suspect, every other child in the UK I was never allowed to test out any of these supposedly practical solutions, as they were deemed too dangerous.  I wasn't even allowed to test out the solution to 'How Can You Tear a Telephone Directory in Half' because a) my father unreasonably wanted to use the Yellow Pages and b) because it involved baking the directory in the oven, which my mother was convinced would result in the house burning down.  Sadly, I lost or misplaced the book many years ago.  Perhaps I should try and track a copy down and try out some of the stuff in it... 


Thursday, November 19, 2015

Hearts, Minds and Bombs

Before we get back to the schlocky movies and other usual business of this blog, I feel I must digress to more serious business.  I've decided that I have to address the whole business of the recent terror attacks in Paris.  The knee jerk reactionary furore which has followed this appalling business has itself been almost as appalling.  Particularly the conviction of our political leaders that the best way to respond to acts of extreme violence is to commit even more extreme acts of violence yourself.  As I've grown older, it has become ever clearer to me that violence simply begets more violence, it becomes a vicious circle which becomes ever wider and destroys more and more lives.  When it comes to combatting amorophous terror groups like ISIS, it is highly questionable whether conventional military tactics will be effective.  It's all very well bombing ISIS-held parts of Syria and Iraq, but what exactly is this achieving?  The likes of ISIS don't have conventional military or civil infrastructures to denude and disrupt.  Ordinarily, bombing would be expected to reduce the enemy's military capability, reducing their ability to attack us.  But the problem with ISIS is that they don't have a conventional military capability - as Paris has shown, they only require a handful of operatives to cause widespread chaos and fatalities. You can bomb Syria and Iraq as much as you like and it won't reduce that sort of capability.

The problem with things like ISIS are that they represent an idea or philosophy which, for one reason or another, appeals to a particular group of people at a particular time in history.  Conventional military action can only 'treat' the symptoms, to truly defeat terror organisations of this size, you need to deploy other tactics to try and undercut their support.  You have to try and understand why all those disaffected young Muslims are prepared to blow themselves up and gun down innocent civilians in the name of ISIS, rather than pursue other avenues of protest.  In order to do that, we have to do the unthinkable: ask ourselves what we, as a society, are doing to so alienate the people who become suicide bombers and terrorist gunmen, that they feel that violence is their only recourse?  I know that people don't want to here this sort of thing, insisting that we're the victims and this makes it sound as if we were 'asking for it'.  But the sad fact is that terrorist organisations prey upon young and disaffected individuals, offering them something which these individuals clearly feel that society doesn't: a sense of belonging, of worth and comradeship.  They give them the belief that they have the power to change society, despite being made to feel insignificant by the community.  To take an example, the Provisional IRA typically appealed to Catholic youths in Northern Ireland who had no jobs, no hope of a job in the foreseeable future and saw all the instruments of government dominated by the protestants, consequently perceiving them to be entirely oppressive.  By joining the IRA  they became 'someone', they had the power that a gun gives you and felt they could now strike back at their oppressors.

It's no different with the current Muslim extremists - the people they recruit to do their dirty work feel that they have no investment in the societies they attack.  Bombing towns and cities in the Middle East will only serve to reinforce this feeling and strengthen their sense of grievance. It's their hearts and minds we need to battle for if we want to 'win' this war.  Sure, I know the government likes to talk about combatting the 'radicalisation' of young Muslims, but other than harassing anyone they deem a 'radical', this doesn't seem to be achieving much.  Which isn't surprising, as it doesn't address he fundamental issues: why do they feel so disaffected, what is it about modern society which so alienates them?  I'm not saying that we need to radically change our way of life to appease potential terrorists, but perhaps a bit more accommodation and tolerance, so as to make all UK citizens feel that they belong and are valued, might help.  Ultimately, we'll have to come back to this issue, like it or not.  Unless we can totally destroy ISIS, as the Romans did to Carthage in order to end the Punic Wars, razing the city to the ground, killing the men folk and selling the women and children into slavery, then the bombing won't work.  In fact, it will just deepen their resolve, as the Blitz did with UK in World War Two.  But even then, that lesson went unlearned - what was our response to the Blitz?  That's right, bombing the shit out of Germany's cities.         

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Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Green Definition

There are times when my laziness proves beneficial.  Several years ago the tube started going on my big old widescreen TV, (everything started going green), so I replaced it with a new, al singing, all dancing full HD flatscreen TV.  Which itself gave up the ghost yesterday evening, without warning it just switched off in the middle of something I was trying to watch and wouldn't switch back on.  As it was the only TV I owned, this was a bit of a blow,  But then I remembered - I did have another TV: the faulty old one, which had sat stored in a cupboard for years.  I'd kept meaning to either take it to the dump or arrange for some people who recycle old electrical appliances to take it way.  But somehow I never quite got around to it - so there it was, covered in dust and lurking in a cupboard.  So I hauled it out, manhandled it into the living room and plugged it in - incredibly, it worked.  of course, it is so old that it doesn't have a built in digital tuner, so I hooked it up to my HD recorder and, lo and behold, I had sound and vision.  Green tinged vision, but I was at least able to complete my interrupted viewing. 

There's something decidedly strange about watching HD channels on a non-HD TV.  Not just a non-HD TV, but not even an LED or LCD TV.  The old steam powered tube's resurrection was short lived, as, unable to fix the old flatscreen (I had vainly hoped that it might be something simple like the fuse in the plug, but no such luck), I was forced to buy a new one today.  There's only so long that I can watch TV with everyone tinged green. Due to the bizarre pricing policies and offers practiced by electrical retailers, I found that it was actually cheaper to replace my 24" full HD TV with a 32" full HD TV rather than a new one of the same size.  I can't say that I really wanted a larger screen - it really is a bit of monster - but decent 24" full HD TVs seem to be ridiculously expensive right now.  So I'm now the proud owner of 32" Hitachi smart TV with full HD.  I must say that the picture quality is excellent.  It might seem strange to say tis, but black and white stuff looks especially good on it, with a nice crisp monochrome image.  Hopefully, this TV will last longer than is predecessor, which didn't even notch up five years, (needless to say, it waited until it was out of warranty before it died).   If nothing else, this whole business has taught ne that I should never throw anything away. 

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Monday, November 16, 2015

The Girl From Rio (1969)

This sequel to Million Eyes of Sumuru is a completely different kettle of fish to its predecessor.  Whereas producer Harry Allan Towers had succeeded in stifling much director Lindsay Shonteff;s characteristic cinematic style in the earlier film, here he seems to have left Shonteff's successor behind the camera, Jesus Franco, to his own devices.  The result is pure, full on Franco - and not bad Franco (as in most of the films he directed for Towers), but surreal and psychedelic Franco, as seen in Venus in Furs (also, ironically, a Harry Allan Towers production). Indeed, Venus in Furs and Girl From Rio share both Brazilian locations and cast members, leading me to suspect that the Rio sequences in the former might have been shot at the same time as those for the latter. 

But to focus on Girl From Rio - stylistically, it is completely different to the first Sumuru film.  Whereas the earlier movie was basically an exotic crime thriller, played largely for laughs (particularly with regard to the heroes),  Franco's film boldly strides into James Bond territory, with the villain's lair featuring stylised, boldly coloured and minimalistic sets, her minions wearing striking, albeit entirely impractical, skimpy costumes and a much more conventional, square jawed hero.  There's still plenty of humour on display, but it is much better integrated into the plot than it had been in the first film, with much of it provided by George Sanders' secondary villain, Masius.  Indeed, it has to be said that Franco succeeds in eliciting an excellent performance from the veteran actor.  By this late stage in his career, Sanders' performances were all too often characterised by weariness, as he went through the motions with his stock suave villain schtick.  Maybe it was the tropical climate in Rio, perhaps he had a good pay cheque, whatever the reason, for Franco Sanders provides a lively and drily comic performance, seemingly enjoying every moment of his turn as a master villain who 'doesn't like to be crude' and consequently doesn't like having to watch his henchmen's brutal 'interrogation' techniques.  At one point he hides his eyes during the beating of a character, at another he chuckles as he reads a Popeye comic rather than watching his henchmen beat and partially drown one of Sumuru's agents, played by Maria Rohm.  He even gets away with delivering a variation on an old Laurel and Hardy phone gag - 'It's a long distance from Spain', his female assistant tells him as she answers the phone, 'I know that,' he replies, 'but who is it?'.

Girl From Rio also looks superb, with excellent cinematography, (Franco keeps his penchant for the zoom lens firmly under control), and moves at a cracking pace.  The locations are used to great effect, with Franco contrasting the gaiety of Rio and its carnival, pulsing with colourful life, with the anti-septic emptiness and silence of Sumuru's all woman city, Femina.  Whilst Rio is depicted as lush with greenery and composed of older, whitewashed buildings showing every sign of being lived in, Femina is all glass and concrete, with nothing moving and no indication that any of it is remotely habitable.  Where Rio has a constant background of music and human noise, the only background noise in Femina is that of the wind whistling around the vast, empty buildings.  Perversely, the only parts of Sumuru's city which show signs of life are her elaborate, high tech torture chambers.  Which brings us to another area where Girl From Rio delivers in a way that Million Eyes of Sumuru (and, indeed most Towers productions) failed to - that of the perversity, decadence and torture which is always implied by this type of film.  Here, though, Franco gives us the full on kink with some of the goings on in the torture chamber - all presided over by a clearly aroused Sumuru.

Of course, Girl From Rio isn't without its faults.  Despite fantastic design, costumes and art direction, which give the film a glossy, expensive look, Towers' typical cheapness is visible at the film's climax, where it is obvious that the budget wouldn't run to blank rounds, so the warring factions have to simulate things like recoil as they fire their weapons, with sound effects dubbed post production.  Moreover, the destruction of Femina is simply represented by lots of coloured smoke drifting past the camera.  Richard Wyler is also somewhat wooden as the hero and, despite being played straight, is often as ineffective as Frankie Avalon and George Nader were in the first film, as he finds himself a pawn in the conflict between rival villains Sumuru (played once again by Shirley Eaton) and Masius.  The plot is somewhat perfunctory, with Wyler sent to Rio having supposedly absconded with ten million dollars of his employer's money.  The idea being that this will attract Sumuru's attention and induce her to abduct him, so that he can penetrate Femina and rescue the millionaire employer's daughter who is being held there.  Masius, however, proves to be a fly in the ointment, determined first to the obtain the phantom ten million, then to use Wyler against Sumuru in a plot to steal her riches.  But the details really don't matter - the plot is simply there as a device to allow Franco to deploy his superb visuals.

If Girl From Rio never quite matches Franco's Venus in Furs in conjuring up a dream like atmosphere, where reality constantly seems to be in danger of melting away, at times it comes close, particularly in the scenes of Wyler and his female sidekicks escaping from the torture chamber , running through fog filled corridors.  As I've made clear elsewhere, I'm ordinarily not a fan of Franco - he turned out far too much dull, low budget dross, often with perfunctory direction in his career - but I'll concede that when he's good, he's very good.  A handful of his films achieve a bizarre blend of the art house, psychedelia, eroticism and, well, just downright lunacy.  With these, he achieves heights of film making that most other commercial directors can only dream of.  Of course, cynics might suggest that in a career that saw him direct over 150 movies, the law averages dictated that at least some of Franco's movies had to be good.  By contrast, I prefer to believe that Franco was a decent film maker who simply decided that, most of the time, earning a living took precedence over his art, hence the amount of hack work he did as a director for hire.  But sometimes he took the trouble to lavish a little more care and, in the process, succeeded in producing true schlock poetry.     


Friday, November 13, 2015

You Couldn't Make it Up...

"Chester Crown Court heard the victim was tricked by Newland and only realised what had happened when she ripped off her blindfold and saw Newland wearing a prosthetic penis."

You just can't make this stuff up, can you?  As the trial of a woman who posed as a man to have sex with another woman she met on the internet, (and persuaded the victim to wear a blindfold during their meetings so as to keep up the deception), closes with her being jailed for eight years, I can't help but ponder what the British sexploitation film industry of the seventies would have done with such material.  A film about gender role swapping suburban swingers might well have been the next logical step for Derek Ford after tackling wife swapping and groupies.  That said, strap on dildos and blindfolds sound like the sort of thing that might have turned up in Sex Clinic.  Indeed, with their penchant for producing sex movies with scenarios 'ripped from the headlines', (the Sunday tabloid headlines, that is), I can imagine Hazel Adair and Kent Walton rushing a sensational piece of low budget smut into production if this story had happened in 1976.  The idea of a predatory lesbian with a fake penis exploiting innocent young girls would have fitted in well with the homophobic undercurrent which seems to be present in Adair and Walton's sex films.

But, without wishing to trivialise the trauma suffered by the victim in the real life case, there can surely be little doubt that the stuff which came out during this trial would have provided excellent material for a British sex comedy.  The opportunities for his trademark reaction shots that discovering a fake penis beneath a dress would have provided Robin Askwith don't bear thinking about.  That said, devising a scenario in which Askwith might actually encounter a strap on dildo wearing male impersonator might have been problematic - but I have faith in the abilities of seventies sex film writers to come up with something convincing.  Maybe there could be a twist in the plot by which Askwith's character pretends to be a woman to infiltrate a nurses' home, or something, then, whilst still impersonating a woman, is forced to pretend to be a man, wearing a fake penis so as not to give his original deception away.   Or something like that.  The comedic possibilities are endless.

If nothing else, this trial has reinforced the old adage that truth is stranger than fiction.  As I said at the outset, you just can't make this sort of thing up.  Actually, you could, but it would be dismissed as being ridiculous. But when all's said and done, ignoring the dramatic and comic possibilities of the trial's bizarre revelations, the reality is that we've seen a tragedy played out - not just for the victim, but for the perpetrator as well, who, I can't help but feel, needs help much more than an eight year jail sentence.

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Thursday, November 12, 2015

Christmas Watch 2015

UK TV ads must pay well - as if the likes of Kevin Bacon, Sylvester Stallone, Bruce Willis, Al Pacino, Arnold Scharzenegger and Harvey Keitel plugging everything from bread to insurance weren't enough, I've just seen Jeff Goldblum fronting a Currys-PC World commercial.  Surely he has something better to do with his time?  Isn't there another Independence Day movie in the works?  Surely he must be in that - it must pay better than a TV ad for a British electrical retailer?  Still, I suppose that as none of these ads are ever likely to be seen in the US, then they all feel safe that their reputations won't be affected.  The Goldblum advert is part of a Christmas campaign, so Goldblum's appearances for Currys-PC World might just be seasonal.  Which brings me to my main point: the arrival of Christmas.  Or Winterval, as we like to call it here.

With monotonous regularity, the season of goodwill just keeps rolling around. That said, perhaps it is just my imagination, but this year the season's start seems to have come a little later than usual.  It also seems to be somewhat more muted than usual.  Perhaps its this never-ending recession - or are we in one of those economic recoveries that nobody but the super-rich seem to notice - but the mood, so far, seems pretty down beat.  I haven't even noticed any Christmas trees going up in shops yet, although the decorations are up in Crapchester town centre - apparently they are being officially switched on soon by some minor 'celebrity' or other that I've doubtless never heard of before.  (The heady days when we could afford the likes of Ted Rogers, Marti Caine or a professional Grant Mitchell lookalike to turn the lights on are long gone - Crapchester council even cancelled this year's municipal firework display, pleading poverty).  But no matter - TV has been valiantly flying the flag for an early start to Christmas, with both channel Five and True Entertainment merrily screening Christmas-themed movies in their daytime schedules since October.  Indeed, there's even a temporary channel on Freeview - True Christmas - entirely devoted to Christmas programming for the duration of the season. Needless to say, I haven't bothered retuning my Freeview box.  So, there you have it: Christmas has officially arrived - John Lewis have run their Christmas commercial, which these days seems to be the official starting point for the festive season.     

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