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The weather can just about catch you out, whenever. The day before, we had sunshine and blue skies, and now several feet of snow, and what can be one guy’s misery, can be another’s pleasure, like these fella’s fooling around on the Chiltern Hills…
I’ve just settled into the very first series of “Alfred Hitchcock Presents” I remember these from years ago and being made solely for television screening. I’ve always been a fan of his work, which has often been very forward thrusting and certainly mind catching. These 30 min TV slot fillers are intriguing little stories with Alfred introducing the plot and also summing up at the end. This in itself is a great treat. There is much written about this man, so lets not go down that road, only to say, the guy had directed films successful for Gainsborough in the 30’s and when they threw in the towel, he was left at a loss, thankfully American Studios realised the genius in him and brought him to Hollywood, and where he directed many of his life-long features.
You know, I’ve just worked myself thru my complete series of ‘Callan’ and realised this is just as hard hitting as when it surfaced on our screens back in the 70s. It was based on an earlier ‘One-Off’ without the trimmings. The single-minded callousness of the characters portrayed, held its togetherness, even today in a very different world, it could almost have been written recently. The charismatic Edward Woodward, a killer with a heart, matched perfectly with the sheer single-mindedness of Anthony Valentine as Toby Myers, and both judged over by William Squire as Hunter. You might say, this would be more appealing to a male audience, but I’m not so sure. Ok, my mother was not so keen on it, but many women, I’ve learnt since, liked the rugged charm of Edward Woodward as ‘Callan’ and the ‘High fee luting’ style of Anthony Valentine in portraying the character of Toby Myers.
I remember, myself and ‘HG’ (my dad) and ‘M’ (Marilyn my partner) and her dad (Alfred) settling down very well, once a week, to this uniquely original program from ITV .
Episode 61… Barney
Unlocking the door, Charles had opened it to a slightly built youth with a tousled shock of black hair and a warming grin. ‘Hi.. I’m Barnabas’ he announced, ‘But everyone calls me Barney. I’m Toby’s younger brother. I’ve heard a lot about you from him, all good mind you. Sorry it’s so early, my College friends seem to be early birds too.’
‘Come on in Barney, we have been expecting you. I guess you could do with some breakfast. Just let me change from these pyjamas and I will let the others know you’re here. Bacon and eggs be ok?’
‘I can certainly go for that!’ came a rushed reply. ‘My friends don’t do much in the way of cooking and prefer to eat on campus.’
‘Just go through to the Parlour Barney. I will be with you in around ten minutes.’
As Charles climbed the stairs, he could hear Barney whistling to himself in quite a pleasant way. It settled in his mind that Barney was instantly likeable. “I’m impressed with Toby’s younger brother” he told himself.
By 8 o clock that morning, they were all sat around the dining table and tucking into his rather excellent version of bacon and eggs with fried bread. Barney, it seemed, was most happy to be again reunited with his brother and showed a great deal of interest in their recollections of events in North Wales.
‘Rebecca is still fast asleep upstairs. Do we wake her.’ suggested Esme at last. ‘Perhaps, she needs plenty of rest. The Doctor feels it’s all down to shock.’
‘Let her sleep, and please, no-one disturb her, until she is ready for us. I will be seeing Doctor Fellows later this morning. I know, we feel he does not fully share our views, never the less, he is a practical and very sincere man and his advice will be most helpful.’
‘You’ve known him a long time?’ forwarded Esme.
‘We were at Cambridge together.’ replied Charles. ‘Although, he was always a better student than I was.’ Charles smiled. ‘But firm friends… Do those bonds make. I was a dreamer, had my thoughts on the Arts, not really the studious type… More the Studio type!’ The other’s grinned, and he knew he was in perfect company.
‘Charles, I just love you… And just not for your bacon and eggs’, remarked Esme.
Toby and Barney looked at each other and smiled generously. Thoughts had passed between them. “We are off on another adventure” Became their common ground.
You know, I recently sat back in front of the screen and watched the few surviving episodes of Dixon of Dock Green… Some 22 episodes from 1973 to 1976, and I guess, I felt that these had stood up well to that Test of Time. The series started in 1956 featuring Jack Warner and Peter Byrne, in Ted Childs BBC productions. I found the story lines were still very strong, offering not too differing and absorbing scenarios that have appeared and been applauded in latter years.
I guess, these episodes would have been shown early on Saturday evenings, as far as I can recall. My parents and I would sit and watch the opening introduction from a uniformed Sargent Dixon and with his opening invitation of “Good Evening all” and raised salute.
These were comfortable family shows, and you knew the villains would get their come-upence at the end. The series was based on an earlier full length Cinema feature entitled “The Blue Lamp” featuring Jack Warner, for the first time, as ‘Dixon’ and yet, it’s rather sad that non of the founding early black and white TV shows were saved for posterity, then, who really had a crystal ball. As a young man in those days of early TV colour productions with the BBC opting for the German PAL system, I can clearly remember the immense popularity of the series. By 1976, I guess, it was time for ‘Dixon’ to hang up his helmet, just perhaps, by now, he was a bit long in the tooth. Now… It’s happy memories and something to take to bed, with a glass of Scotland’s finest. “Goodnight All” …’Goodnight George’ was our chorused response.
Episode 60… An Excellent Talk
The three sat around a table in the small dining room of the little photographic shop on Moscow Road in Bayswater. Charles had brought forth a bottle of excellent single malt whisky for them to enjoy. Esme began to sip warmly on her half-full glass tumbler and then looked directly at Toby.
‘What happened to Edward in the end?’ she asked.
Tobias smiled very kindly. ‘Are you really that concerned, or is it just simple curiosity?’
‘Yes, I would like to know,’ she replied. Just to put my mind at rest.’
‘Well, he was simply spirited away, he is a good boy now. I’m sure you would approve.’
While the warming whisky was beginning to reach parts of the mind within all three of them, tiredness lay just around the corner.
‘You mean… He was killed!’ Esme looked shocked.
‘Of course not! There are gentler ways to reform a person’s character. Edward was introduced to what you might say… a better life… That is, one that would suit his crime more adequately.’
‘Did you torture him.’
‘Lets say, he was persuaded in choosing another character for himself. Edward is now enjoying his life in quite a different role. Listen Esme, do you remember those hypnotic dancing ladies that you watched so elegantly from the tower room window and do you remember the barking dog that joined them. Now.. Do you understand?’
‘I thought, that was all a dream, you being there in that tower room. It can’t be real, because you were here, here all the time. Do you really have a power to put those images in my mind Tobias. To replace thoughts and visions in my head and to change a person’s image and character. Can you really turn a someone in to something completely different?’
‘Esme, those thoughts and visions are of your own making. I am merely the voyage on which you travel. Barney has this transient gift too.’ He looked upon her with very bright eyes. ‘It is the way we brothers have been since birth. Charles knows of this, and now, you also share our thoughts.’
‘Then, what of Rebecca… Tobias?’
‘Her spirit won’t be with us for long. We feel this is merely a footprint. There is a purpose in giving herself to us. When we know that purpose… she will leave us.’
Charles listened quietly and very solemnly to things he already understood… then said: ‘Tonight we had better rest, with the thought that we all now know… We have a common goal.’
It was 6 o’clock the very next morning, when a gentle knocking of the shop door brought Charles from a warm bed and downstairs rather wearily…
Episode 59… Return To Bayswater
On reaching Bayswater Charles drove quickly to his friend Doctor Michael Fellows.
‘Well Charles, I have given her a thorough examination and aside from a little shock’ he concluded, ‘she seems to be in good health. One odd thing though, she hasn’t spoken a word to me. Has she said anything to you about her ordeal.’
‘Nothing very much doctor.’ he replied ‘Just some murmurings, really that’s all.’
‘Well Charles, could be the shock. Take her home and let her rest, that’s just what she needs right now. Please come and see me in the morning, I will need to know a little more about her for my report.’
‘Report!… Dear friend… Please understand. There can’t be any report.’ Charles startled hastily. ‘Rebecca does not exist, at least not in our time. There would be no reckoning of her.’
‘What are you saying. This is nonsense. Of course she must exist. She is flesh and blood.’
‘No Michael. Look… You don’t understand.’
‘I understand, what I see before me Charles. You’ve clearly suffered stress in saving this woman from a burning building and it’s clouded your thinking. I have to report this to the Police, you know that. It’s the law. Go home, have a glass of whisky and rest, and then, tomorrow you can tell me why you did not take this unfortunate woman to a local hospital instead of bringing her all the way to Bayswater.’
‘Well, you said yourself that she is only suffering from shock.’
‘Come on Charles, that won’t do, it’s not an excuse and you know it.’ Doctor Fellows looked directly at him. ‘I need answers not fantasy.’
‘Alright I promise, I will explain everything in the morning. But I will need your confidentiality Michael, we have known each other for many years.’
‘Friendship is beside the point. I really can’t agree to anything like you suggest. You really do know that, don’t you.’
‘Alright then Michael… Just your findings, please nothing more. My account would simply confuse. However, as a friend, I will want you to know the facts, believed or not, that’s your choice. I will fully explain things, I promise.’
‘And no more fantasy please Charles. I have too much respect for you.’ Doctor Fellows smiled assuringly. ‘You are right, we do go back a long way.’
Toby had kept shop, just as expected, greeting them on their arrival and announcing that brother Barney had given up the small bedroom for their new guest and would stay close by with friends from College. ‘He’ll be here in the morning.’ was the word.
‘How did you know we were bringing Rebecca here?’ inquired Charles, rather surprised.
‘Doctor Fellows rang just after you left him, telling me you were home again and then mentioned Rebecca. I knew you would want her to stay here with us, rather than some gloomy hotel room.’
‘Thanks Toby. You’re absolutely right. Well, we are all very tired. Let’s get Rebecca off to bed, I sure Esme will help her get undressed and ready for a good night’s sleep. Then us three, I suggest, have a late night dram before geting ourselves retired for the night. It’s good to see you Toby, we’ve got lots to talk over in the morning.’
Esme remained very silent. She had began to warm to Tobias, for he would support Charles at every turn. With Rebecca here now, could this be a time of undue reckoning. Had they really brought a spirit from the past into their lives at Bayswater.
Whiplash… Outset 1959
Ok, I’m not one for name-dropping, so I’m kinda gonna work this little connection into my latest aquision. My father loved a number of programs put out by ITV. So in those days, and I guess it was a Friday evening, their news would end at 10.30 and for one full half hour, once a week, we would be treated to an Australian set drama featuring America actor Peter Graves, brother of James Arness (Gunsmoke) in the role of Christopher Cobb, who was the first man to run a stagecoach line from Sidney to Camden and on to Gundagai in New South Wales.
Now, me and dad loved to watch this series before going to bed, and recently, I discovered a reasonable priced DVD on NTSC to my absolute joy and from Amazon.
Now, for the name dropping bit. Frank Ifield, born in this country to Australian parents had a string of hits in the UK and voiced the theme to whiplash on the outset of his career. In the 80s it became my privilege to photograph Frank and at 79 he’s still touring. Well done!