Lost and Forgotten Films of British Cinema…

Man from Tangier 1957 This is a cosy and yet intriguing drama from the stable of Butcher Films and features American actor Robert Hutton. It’s warming to know that so many of these entertaining supporting features from the days of your local movie house are now preserved and presented on disc from such companies as Studio Canal, Renown Pictures, Freemantle and many more. I first owned a copy some years back, again on the old system VHS and was pleased when Renown issued it on disc. Butcher Films were used to fill out a cinema showing by supporting the main feature, a combination you rarely get nowadays as modern films are longer in length. Back in those days film producers took the view that the average audience would not sit for anything longer that two hours, unless it was an American production of magnitude, such as Gone with the Wind and others of big budget. Even American studios took the same view when it came to run-of-mill production, although at the time, more dollars were being put into these, as opposed to some British productions where backing was a difficulty.

Anyway, getting back to our Man from Tangier. This sweet little plot involves the mix-up with two identical overcoats in a Barber shop at a London Rail Station. This, without me spoiling the plot for you, leads to the unravelling of a master smuggling racket headed from abroad.

Butcher Films may have been considered second rate by some of my friends involved in film production, and yet today, you can find wonderful little gems in their wide range of screenplays. Nostalgic locations that perhaps no longer exist and character actors starting out to become household names. So why not take a trip down ‘Memory Lane’ you’ve nothing to lose.

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Lost and Forgotten Films of British Cinema…

Underneath the Arches 1937 This is a film that I’ve never seen, yet its title song can revolve around in my head for all time. The song from Flanagan and Allen was most popular in its day. Although, what I do have in my collection are the original production stills in album form taken by a Twickenham Studios stills man, then rescued from a skip by a dear friend Harry Amos, who at one time was a film editor at Bray Studios. Later Harry went into Television.

Alas, I’ve yet to find a disc of this film, maybe there is no suitable print available for transfer, one can only live in hope. Meanwhile, I will content myself with my lasting album of stills put together by Twickenham’s photo department…

Checking through this album and it’s script production progress, it would seem to be another madcap adventure for Bud Flanagan, Chesney Allen and the ‘Crazy Gang’. Enid is there too, providing her sensible element to the more zany antics of the remaining cast. Looking through the stills, lots of sand had been brought into the studio to provide what I think to be something of a South American flavour. Could be lots of fun.

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The Shriving of Miss Esme Stamp…

Episode 57… Rebecca’s Acceptance

Once more, Charles watchful look at the ruined house showed him nothing. No voice entered his mind. Nothing seemed to be out of order to his expectation, and once more, rain began to soak through those overhead clouds. ‘Come-on, lets go.’ He announced reluctantly.  ‘There is nothing more for us here’. He had satisfied himself that this was a waste of their time. ‘Let’s get back to the car.’ he declared.

‘Charles.. Charles, I can see her. Rebecca, she is looking at us from a second floor window. The house is there, yes there, in all its entirety. Can’t you see. It’s as beautiful as before. She is smiling, and yet she is crying. Can’t you see her Charles… Can’t you see this beautiful lady.’

‘Esme, all I see are these old ruins, as I did before, but the images from my camera  allowed me to visualize a little before they faded completely…’

‘Something is wrong.’ Esme interrupted him. ‘I just know it. There is brightness all around her. It’s filling that room Charles. It’s a fire. The room is ablaze. Look, now I can see other rooms beginning to light up. Charles, she has set fire to the house. We must do something. This is horrific! What can we do?’

‘We can’t do anything. Esme, what you are seeing are images put in your mind of a long distant past. I still see only ruins. Nothing more.’

‘But perhaps we are here to help her Charles, to somehow rescue her from this nightmare .’

‘She is dead Esme. You know that.’

‘Her spirit lives on Charles. I know it.’

‘She may not have perished here in this fire. She could have died of old age and this could just be her footprint left for me.’ Esme was beside herself and becoming distraught.

‘Then, what you are saying, it’s up to us, to save her from this dreadful fire.’ He began to follow he thoughts.

‘Let’s try Charles, let’s try, before the fire get a real hold.’

In searching for some way to reach this distressed woman images began to form in his head. He was seeing those images just as in his photographs. They were suddenly alive in his eyes. Albeit burning, the manor house became clearly visible, as if some outside force had placed it. The thought that Rebecca could conduct this energy simply pushed him on. Around the back of this house of inferno he found a large wooden barn just as it would have been in Rebecca’s time and likely used by the grounds staff to the manor. Inside there was much clutter of garden implements and thoughtfully a table and chairs placed for tea breaks no less and in one dark corner, a large double ladder that might just reach the second floor, after all, the tall growing Ivy had to be trimmed from the walls of the house by someone. With that thought in mind. Charles reached out for it. In a way it had leaned to the wall making it almost a fixture and took quite some freeing, after some cursing and panting it gave and suddenly he felt the full weight of this possible route of escape. Inner strength became a reality and that spurred him. Within moments he stood and faced the yellow heat of this blazing building. ‘Esme’, he shouted. ‘You don’t have to guide me with your eyes. I can now see the house and the flames proper.’ Daylight had become night and those yellow flames were his single purpose

‘This is Rebecca’s way of coming into your mind.’ she shouted back. ‘It’s through her power, she wants you to save her. At last, she has brought you into her astral level. Perhaps, she was unsure at first. I don’t know, but remember, we all meet in the end, along different and varied paths.’

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Lost and Forgotten Films of British Cinema…

Ok For Sound 1937 This movie held a fascination for me years ago when I was researching the life of Enid Stamp Taylor. Enid features along side the Crazy Gang headed by Bud Flanagan and Chesney Allen. It’s another screwball comedy set within a bankrupt film studio. By today’s comedy tastes it’s difficult to relate to, and yet there are moments within its production and delivery that is not so very different from today’s. Of course, it has too much song and dance that is much dated now and perhaps in a way, that’s part of its charm. I won’t give you the storyline because that’s rather here there and everywhere. Its clearly a vehicle only for the ‘Crazy Gang’ and the script making a gesture to their unique popularity of the time. If you do ever get the opportunity to watch this movie, then it would be worthy of your time and patience. Production was from Gainsborough at their Islington Studios in the days when the guys there were enjoying a real high, then screened around the Country by Gaumont British.

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Lost and Forgotten Films of British Cinema…

A Fire Has Been Arranged 1935. I remember owning an old VHS copy of this movie some years ago. It’s a rather odd screwball type of plot for Bud Flanagan and Chesney Allen, who are a couple of crooks that decide to hide their ill-gotten gains by digging a hole in a field. They are then caught by Police for their crimes and serve 10 years imprisonment. On their release they return to collect their loot only to find that a shopping mall has been built over the ground. What serves next is a mad cap attempt to find their loot by digging up the flooring of a department store. The store becomes engulfed in fire and a team of woman fire fighters, headed by Rob Wilton, try to put the fire out. The movie includes song and dance and ends with Bud and Ches driving their wreck of a car along a rail line. Not for the faint hearted. But you gotta admit, these were great guys and great in their time… Production and distribution was from Twickenham Studios and it went out as a U Cert, so that means it was fun to be enjoyed by everyone.

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The Shriving of Miss Esme Stamp…

Episode 56… A Change of Mind

‘I don’t know Charlie. I think you are playing with forces that you can’t understand and you are putting Esme in some danger.’

‘Some danger Bill? Danger from what! Forces we don’t understand. Come-on, this is all nonsense. It’s born in the minds of those that…’ he stopped himself further, thinking of Esme feelings.

‘We’ve looked over the old place Bill. No harm has come to us. If Esme can raise thoughts in her mind when she is there. That’s perfectly ok. Look, when a person can tune into what we call an astral plain they are given the courtesy of being respected as a “Medium”. Not labelled as some person of evil. To be that gifted and move within a spirit world. Why not?’

‘Because it’s not right Charlie It’s not normal behaviour.  You know, I did not welcome you both here to become ghost hunters. Perhaps, you both… Should return to London and not cause any further upset’. Bill was clearly very angry, it was there in his eyes.  ‘Charlie, all I want to do… All we ever came here for, was peace and quiet. The kind of life that allowed me to paint and the kind of life that suited Margarita. Charles… Esme. Let it go. Go back to the city… To a life that is suited to you both. And then… We can remain friends.’

‘Well, you’re right Bill.’ That frustration in Charles mind began to ebb somewhat. ‘We have no reason to impose on you both in this way. I’m… No, we are both very sorry. We will return to London in the morning and remain good friends and that’s how it should be. I’m sorry Bill… Margarita, I won’t give any more thought to this silly matter.’

They talked in their small bedroom that last night and sat either side of the bed, rather saddened and with their backs to each other.

‘Bill’s right of course.’ said Charles after some period of silence. ‘We have to return to London. We can’t presume on this friendship any longer, it simply, is not fair to them. We’ve outstayed our welcome, and rightly so.’

‘But, surely Charles, we can’t let this go.’

‘We can Esme, we have to, for the sake of friendship and most importantly… Respect for others. We’ll return to London, and there perhaps, we will have those answers we are searching for…’

‘Please Charles. If we do this. I must stay with you. I’ve no wish to return to the folds of my mother and certainly not after a failed marriage. She would not understand how my life has been changed. She would only see the best of Edward.’

‘I’m sorry to say, that your mother thinks only of you’re welfare in terms of wealth and position. That’s her way and it’s borne of her generation. Maybe, that’s not so bad, but times are changing. The old class system is breaking down and because of that, thankfully. we will be together forever. That’s how it will be!’

That following morning Margarita had cooked a fine breakfast for them in her little kitchen. Around the table it was a quiet affair. She fussed over them for extra helpings and with respect for their long journey home. Bill puffed cautiously on his old clay pipe from a chair in the corner of the room. At last, he spoke. ‘Charlie, look I’m truly sorry. I really did not get much sleep last night thinking about what I said to you. Perhaps you both should stay. I was out of order….’

‘Dear friend’ Charles interrupted him. ‘You have a perfect right to your own life. We both know that. For us to return to London is the very best thing to do, and look, how many years have I known you and Margarita…Ten, maybe fifteen years, come-on Bill. Do you really think this changes anything.’

It was sad farewells when they spoke their goodbyes and then walked slowly from the cottage. The rain clouds had now cleared, and yet, Charles swung off to the right, away from the path that would take them back to their parked car, instead he held onto Esme’s arm quite firmly and headed in the direction of the old manor house ruins.

‘Why are we doing this’ she asked.

‘Well, I don’t wish to involve our dear friends any further and before we return to London I want us both to take one last gander at this ruined manor house… Surely, you don’t mind.’

‘Of course not!’ Esme’s face was suddenly lit with enthusiasm ‘I just love your sense of adventure. That thrill of the unexpected. I always get that high with you.’

Well, perhaps it’s just the way we are. That’s what makes us both tick. But don’t get off on a roller coaster Esme. This could be just another lost cause.’

‘I don’t think so.’ There was a mischievous look to her eyes. ‘Tobias and Barnaby have much to do with our lives. More than we’ve yet to realize. I feel, it involves the way we think. I believe, this adventure is for all four of us, and there is more yet to come.’

‘Esme, My love, I think you are absolutely right.’

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Snap Around…

You know, getting out and about in an English Autumn is very special to me. I can almost taste those wild fruited berries and falling golden leaves. It’s a time to reflect on the warmth of past summer months and it’s a time to plan ahead for the coming winter. It’s a time of sensible shoes from the back of the wardrobe, and it’s a time to shake out that heavier jacket stored there since last March. It’s a time to feed the small creatures in my garden with more than their summer ration, and above all, it’s a time when family and friends brace together and form a circle of one…

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The shriving of Miss Esme Stamp…

Episode 55… Disappointment

It was raining very heavily that following morning. Bill said he wanted to finish off a landscape and Margarita felt there was plenty to do in the kitchen, so donning raincoats and weather proof hats the two of them set off in the direction of the old manor house.

‘What are we looking for?’ inquired Esme, as they made their way up a long steep gulley. The wind and rain down drafted along this pathway and progress was slow.

‘I don’t really know.’ he replied. The rain stung their faces unceasingly, ‘Anything that is not how it should be, I guess.’

At last they arrived. Everything seemed as they had both seen it for the first time. Stonework was crumbling and nature had taken back her heritage in every way. It was possible of course to follow the ruined outlines of the old house and also to determine the structured remains of fallen rooms.

‘There must be cellars’ declared Charles, ‘A house of this size would have cellars. Perhaps, undisturbed for years. I doubt the fire would have reached below ground level and this could reveal some insight into how life was during the heyday of the house. We must find an entrance, it will be somewhere near to the servants quarters.’

‘This could have been the servants kitchen?’ Esme stepped into a structure that was wide, long, much toward the rear of the house. ‘This would be referred to as “below stairs” of course.’ she told herself.

‘Look for remains of stone steps down or even a steel trapdoor in the floor.’ called Charles. ‘At the very least, there would have to be a wine cellar!’

‘That’s impossible. The floor is strewn with scattered debris, not counting the fallen bricks and masonry. Perhaps, Rebecca Haig did not drink?’

‘Well maybe, but her guests would have. Just try to find something, anything that may give us a lead to what lies below. I’m sure there would be more than just wine bottles below. The Family and for that matter, the staff, would put items down there that were seldom used. The Butler would then hold the keys to the wine cellar. Determination sat within Charles mind. He smiled to her. She had always been the keeper of his enthusiasm.

‘I know Charles. We learnt at Prep School, just how the British aristocracy behaved. It was one of Miss Ferguson’s pet subjects when it came to modern history lessons!’

The rain began to ease and a sparkle of sunshine began to break through those darkened clouds. ‘Well, I hope that’s a good sign.’ remarked Charles. They removed their raincoats and hats, then threw them over a low wall. ‘They might even dry a little.’ he said with a chuckle.

A search of this supposed servants hall revealed nothing and after an hour of trying to clear the floor Charles called a halt to their labours. ‘I think we are looking in the wrong place.’ he declared. ‘It’s no good, this can’t be right.’ He looked very despondent, clearly wishing they had found some clue or other to the cellars.

‘Let me come here alone, at another time.’ suggested Esme. ‘Perhaps, that’s the only way we can be involved in this. Perhaps, Rebecca will talk to me again, hopefully.’

‘Well, she hasn’t talked to either of us today that’s for sure. She has got to be the key to all this or we are just off our chumps.’

‘You know. I’m sure we are right about this, we are both rational people. Bill and Margarita, well maybe they have a different take on this. Frankly. I’m not even sure what their views are on this. Perhaps I can tune into this supernatural phenomena where others can’t. It seems we both can’t do that together. Let me try and explore here alone once more and then tell you of the images that form in my mind from my experience.’

‘Ok, if you have this gift Esme, and I accept that you do. Then, I insist on you taking every precaution. I will not run the risk of losing you to some aspectual entity.’ There was  a serious look in his face.

‘Look Charles, what could possibly happen to me up here. You can see the place is a ruin. Nobody really lives here anymore. It’s got to be simply a case of over-imagination.’

He felt there was not much reassurance in her words, but he would agree. He also felt the outcome could be quite different from that imagined, just here and now…

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Snap Around…

There are times when taking in your local antiquity market can be a real surprise, like this one in Spitalfields. Now I don’t spend the time here that I would like to, so this visit became a real eye feast. The guys here offer the buyer just around everything that you’ve never imagined. From out of date publications, typewriters long forgotten, jewellery that only the brave would wear, to stuffed animals and full size human skeletons from medical research institutions; I’m assured. It’s a wonderful bric-a brac of British life and our celebrated history that can only be attributed to these wonderful Isles.

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Snap Around…

You know, there are times when your left eye catches something that your right eye was not covering. Like suddenly stumbling on this guy trying to put across his point of view on Speaker’s Corner. I always say, if you got something to say, someone should listen, anyway it’s pretty real to get it off your chest…

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