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The Spinning Image Newsletter #11

Ding Dong!

Ding Dong!

Who's at the front door? Is it the boss and his wife arriving for dinner and the roast has been burnt to a crisp? No! Don't Panic! It's the eleventh Spinning Image Newsletter - but of course.

SITE NEWS

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  • Competition News

    This months competition features the soon to be released Tin Drum, as well as Shock Corridor/The Naked Kiss and The Fifth Element. The competition is accepting entries now - go on win yourself a nice pressie in time for Chistmas.

  • August Competition Winners!

    Congratulations to the nine lucky people below who were pulled from the hat in our September Competition. They successfully answered the set questions (answers being: One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (Hills Have Eyes), Jonathan Breck (Jeepers Creepers 2), Maggie Simpson (Simpsons Classics) and Salem's Lot (Near Dark).

      Hills Have Eyes Special Edition DVD
      Darrel Barber (Kent)
      Stephen Scarlet (Enniskillen)

      Simpson's Classics
      Michael Haigh (South Yorkshire)

      Jeepers Creepers 2 T-Shirt and Frisbee
      Alison Barker (Walsal)
      Helen Cooper (Derby)
      George Davies (Staffs)
      Paul Singleton (Norfolk)
      Stephen Smith (Suffolk)
      David Thomson (Bucks)

      Near Dark
      Cristina McDowall (Devon)
      Paul Monroe (Huntingdon)
      Simon Tinsley (Newcastle)

DO YOU REALLY THINK THAT'S WISE, SIR?

Sitcoms had a few transfers to the big screen before the 1970s, with Bottoms Up! (a version of 1950s public school thrashcom Whack-O!) and Inn For Trouble (based on 50s family Cockneycom The Larkins), but the great British era of flares and strikes was the real turning point for the sitcom movie. Working on the notion that if it was good enough for telly, then audiences would pay to see it on the big screen, a whole rash of these efforts appeared, only really dying out when the decade changed to the eighties. Let's take a look at what was on offer, and how we can update them to make their heyday return...

  • Till Death Us Do Part - Alf Garnett was one of the most popular characters on TV in the sixties, and this offers a feature length showcase for his light hearted bigotry. The Update: Well, Warren Mitchell is still alive, so get him back for a present day sequel, where he rails against asylum seekers and the Euro.

  • The Alf Garnett Saga - A bit more complicated this one, which went into Alf's history during the war and onwards. The Update: Probably a good idea to get someone younger to play Alf here - I suggest a midget in a furry suit. And let's make him come from outer space.

  • Up Pompeii - Sir Francis of Howerd upped the smuttiness of this double entendre fest set in Ancient Pompeii, before and during the unfortunate incident with the volcano. The Update: Well, there already were updates, both on TV and in film. And nobody could replace Frankie.

  • Steptoe and Son - The miserable but funny Galton and Simpson classic was adapted into two films, with this slightly cruder version where Harold gets married being the first. Wilfred Brambell and Harry H. Corbett reprised their roles. The Update: Let's have them both married to the same woman, so they're both Steptoe - and Son! You dirty old man! You dirty young man! Brilliant!

  • Steptoe and Son Ride Again - This sequel saw Albert pretending to die, with hilarious consequences. Didn't quite have the magic of the series, it has to be said. The Update: There aren't any rag and bone men left in Britain, so they'd have to be working in a call centre now.

  • Bless This House - Sid James bestrode British comedy like a mighty Colossus, and this was a version of his successful TV series, but you'd be better off watching one of his Carry On films, to be honest. The Update: Nobody can replace Sid, so let's make the father an invisible ghost no one can see or hear! The generation gap will be even more pronounced now!


  • Father Dear Father - Sort of a milder version of the above, except with Patrick Cargill as the Father. The plot sees one of his daughters married - a situation ripe with comic potential. The Update: Cast Julian Clary as Father for a start. The rest will fall into place.


  • That's Your Funeral - Nobody remembers this, but it was a sitcom based around an undertakers. The car chase with hearses is the bit anyone will recall if they've seen it. The Update: Let's expand on that chase to make it a full on Fast and the Furious style movie, with customised hearses battling it out to get to the funerals in the quickest possible time.


  • The Lovers - A coy tale of young love was transferred with some charm to film, with Paula Wilcox and Richard Beckinsale as the girlfriend and boyfriend who want to wait until they get married. Well, she does, anyway. The Update: Obviously, the only two people who can play these roles nowadays are Ron Jeremy and Marilyn Chambers. It'll be a new direction for the comedy. Trust me, it'll be great.


  • For the Love of Ada - An "aren't old people nice" sitcom starring Irene Handl and Wilfred Pickles, in the film they celebrate their first wedding anniversary. The Update: Let's get Sir Sean Connery and Sir Michael Caine as the loving couple. They'll have to fight it out as to who plays Ada, but it'll be lovely.


  • Nearest and Dearest - Jimmy Jewel and Hilda Baker starred in this tale of a brother and sister forced to run their late father's pickling business, despite hating each other. The Update: Jewel and Baker were supposed to hate each other in real life, too, so let's have a Most Dangerous Game-style story where they hunt each other down to the death in the abandoned factory. Get Jean-Claude Van Damme involved somewhere, it'll be fantastic.


  • On The Buses - Remember the days when buses had bus conductors? Reg Varney in all his working class glory starred in all the On the Buses movies, accompanied by Bob Todd and Stephen Lewis as Blakey. The Update: Let's have privatised coach drivers working for National Express for the first instalment.


  • Mutiny on the Buses - More of the same. The Update: Let's bring things bang up to date with On the Concorde! It'll be really futuristic and Olive can be a stewardess!


  • Holiday on the Buses - That sound? It's the bottom of a barrel being scraped. The Update: Take them to EuroDisney, so we can have some hilarious cultural misunderstandings. "Je deteste tu, Butler!"


  • Please Sir! - The pupils of Fenn Street School also went on holiday with this comic variation on To Sir With Love, starring John Alderton. The Update: It all looks kind of quaint now, so let's add a few teenage pregnancies, rampant bullying and a collapsing education system - my aching sides!


  • Love Thy Neighbour - The notorious "isn't racism hilarious" sitcom did indeed have a movie spinoff, and it wasn't exactly Blazing Saddles. The Update: Well, we could have an asylum seeker living next door to, no, wait, are you insane?!


  • The Likely Lads - One of the great seventies sitcoms, Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads? was an update in itself, with excellent performances and writing. The Update: The tone of men who aren't as young as they used to be being disappointed with life should translate well to a couple of golf-playing marketing managers moaning about the economy. Obviously one will be slightly more plain spoken than the other.


  • Dad's Army - A stretched out version of the "Don't tell him, Pike!" invading Germans episode, this is one of the better examples of the genre. The Update: As everyone knows, the whole cast is now dead apart from Pike, so let's have that whole cast replaced by coffins, and Will Young as Pike. For the terrifying climax, the coffin lids begin to shift and open, and the words, "The End?" appear onscreen, thereby setting up the sequel!


  • Are You Being Served? - Double entendre fest with the staff of Grace Brothers, here going on holiday. All of them. All together on the same package. For some reason. The Update: This time the staff go on a team-building adventure weekend where a paintballing exercise turns nasty in the Deliverance style - "I'm Freeeaaaargh!"


  • Man About the House - The flat sharing TV classic had hairy bloke Richard O'Sullivan moving in with foxy Sally Thomsett and Paula Wilcox for saucy shenanigans. In the film they had to save their dwelling from demolition. The Update: Doesn't seem so daring now, so we'll probably have to add the inevitable. Yes, the "who had the last of the butter?" scene takes on a whole different connotation. I don't know what that means.


  • Porridge - A comedy about a prison? Well, at least they couldn't go on holiday in the film version. But Ronnie Barker and Richard Beckinsale do escape by accident. The Update: Hm, how about a comedy version of Scum instead? Of course, for some people Scum is already a comedy....


  • Rising Damp - Classic Leonard Rossiter showcase had its boxing episode turned into a film, with poor results. The Update: Let's have a boxing match between Batman and Superman, with Wonder Woman as Miss Jones.


  • George and Mildred - The couple from Man about the House had their own successful spinoff, but this film of George being mistaken for a hitman on holiday was pretty awful, and signalled the end of the sitcom movie's Golden Age. Sniff. The Update: Let's not bother. Let us remember them as they were.


  • Whoops Apocalypse - What's this? A late entry? Yes, they turned this eighties Cold War satire into a heavy handed movie. The Update: George W. Bush and Tony Blair's fight against Osama Bin Laden and Saddam Hussein leads to, erm, nah, some things are beyond a joke. Know what I mean, kids? Yeah, right on!


LINKS

Here are a few pertinent links...

http://www.brightlightsfilm.com/35/britishsitcoms1.html
...is a much better overview of sitcom movies than the above hastily written filler [filler! - Ed], and provides a measure of intelligent comment.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/comedy/guide/
This is the BBC guide to comedy, with every British sitcom ever made listed, and all the ones from around the world shown on U.K. TV as well. You could spend hours on this site.

http://are-you-being-served.net/shtml/aboutthemovie.shtml
Here's a page all about the Are You Being Served? film, from people who know what they're talking about.

EVERYBODY WANTS TO GET INTO THE ACT

It's not just the Brits who turned sitcoms into movies, but other countries tend to be playing the nostalgia card in their adaptations. As we shall see...
  • Munster Go Home (1965) and Batman (1966)

  • These two were made as the TV series were still going, meaning the Americans might have cashed in on this idea before the 1970s - but the Brits picked it up and ran with it! Batman was a sort of sitcom wasn't it?

  • The Addams Family (1991)

  • The success of this, although ostensibly based on the cartoons, led to a bunch of U.S. sitcom movies, most of which were rubbish, and few of which included the original actors. Although Addams Family Values was not too bad.

    There was:

  • The Beverly Hillbillies (1993)
  • Car 54 Where Are You? (1994)
  • The Brady Bunch Movie (1995) - followed by a sequel the next year.
  • Sgt Bilko (1996)
  • McHale's Navy (1997)
  • Leave It To Beaver (1997)

  • All of which were about as good as an On the Buses film. In fact, the only really good film based on an American sitcom is The Naked Gun, which was taken from the classic, but short-lived, Police Squad.

  • Absolument Fabuleux (2001)

  • Strangest item is a French version of Absolutely Fabulous, produced while the series is still going in Britain. Josiane Balasko and Nathalie Baye take the roles made famous by Jennifer Saunders and Joanna Lumley, and I don't think I ever want to see this.


REST IN PEACE

Charles Bronson, the ex-miner who became a star around the world, died aged 81 in August. After making his way up through the ranks of supporting players in films like House of Wax, Vera Cruz and Pat and Mike, he hit the big time when he played one of The Magnificent Seven. The Great Escape and The Dirty Dozen followed, then he worked with Sergio Leone on Once Upon a Time in the West. During the seventies, he starred in action films like Death Wish, Mr Majestyk and Hard Times. Other cult films included Machine Gun Kelly, From Noon Till Three and The White Buffalo. One of his last, uncharacteristically non-violent, roles was in Sean Penn's The Indian Runner.

Director Jack Smight died aged 78 in September. He mostly directed in TV, but his big screen films include Harper, No Way To Treat A Lady, The Traveling Executioner, Airport 1975 and Damnation Alley.

Controversial film director Leni Riefenstahl died aged 101 in September. She will be best remembered for directing Triumph of the Will, the nototrious Nazi propaganda film, and The Olympiad, the 1936 Olympics documentary, both at the request of Adolph Hitler. Later she distanced herself from the Nazis, but never apologised. She had also been a film star of "Mountain Films" before the war. Recently she had directed a short film about scuba diving, her latest passion.

Actor John Ritter was best known for starring in sitcom Three's Company, but also appeared in films such as The Other, Nickelodeon, Americathon, They All Laughed, Skin Deep, Sling Blade and Bride of Chucky. The son of singing cowboy Tex Ritter, he died suddenly, aged 54, in September.

Legendary country singer Johnny Cash, the Man in Black, died aged 71 in September. He made occasional acting appearances in films like Door-to-Door Maniac and A Gunfight, and also wrote and produced The Gospel Road, a film about his religious beliefs.

Singer and actor Sheb Wooley died aged 82 in September. His films included High Noon, Giant, Terror in a Texas Town, The War Wagon, The Outlaw Josey Wales, Silverado and Purple People Eater, based on his hit song.

Legendary bodybuilder Gordon Mitchell appeared in many italian exploitation films, starting out as Hercules-style heroes in films such as Giant of Marathon. He also made spaghetti westerns and had bit parts in films as diverse as Fellini's Satyricon and Reflections in a Golden Eye. He died aged 80 in September.

Donald O'Connor gained screen immortality as Gene Kelly's best friend in Singin' in the Rain, but never quite made the top grade of stardom, despite his talent. He started as a teenage actor in films like Million Dollar Legs and Beau Geste, moved into musicals in the forties, and found fame as the star of the Francis the Talking Mule series in the 1950s. Other films included There's No Business Like Showbusiness, The Buster Keaton Story and Toys. He died aged 78 in September.

Great, pioneering director Elia Kazan died aged 94 in September. Born in Constantinople in 1909, Kazan worked on Broadway before directing films such as Gentlemen’s Agreement, with Gregory Peck, and Pinky. His 1951 film of Tennessee Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desire, starring Marlon Brando, won four Oscars, and three years later he directed Brando again in the powerful On the Waterfront. East of Eden (1955) is considered by many to be Kazan’s masterpiece, and James Dean received the first ever posthumous Oscar nomination for the film. Kazan also courted controversy in 1952 for being one of the first in Hollywood to testify at Senator McCarthy’s anti-communist Senate hearings. Kazan’s other films include Baby Doll, A Face in the Crowd and The Last Tycoon.

Invaluable character actor Jack Elam died aged 84 in October. His distinctive look, due to being blind in one eye, meant he got work as a villain in many westerns and thrillers such as Rawhide, High Noon, Kansas City Confidential, The Far Country, Kiss Me Deadly, Gunfiught at the O.K. Corrall, Baby Face Nelson, Once Upon a Time in the West and Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid, and he showed a flair for comedy in Support Your Local Sheriff, Rio Lobo, Support Your Local Gunfighter, and the Cannonball Run films.

Stage actor Denis Quilley died aged 75 in October. His films included Life at the Top, The Black Windmill, Murder on the Orient Express, Evil under the Sun and Privates on Parade, probably his best known role.

Actor Art Carney became famous in classic sitcom The Honeymooners, and won an Oscar in the 70s for Harry and Tonto. Other films include The Late Show, Movie Movie, Going In Style, Roadie, Firestarter, The Muppets Take Manhattan and The Last Action Hero. He died aged 85 in November.

NEW REVIEWS

New reviews on the site include:

HAVE I LEFT THE GAS ON?

Well, if you have, you'd better be off. Let us end this foray into big screen small screen efforts (or are they small screen big screen efforts?) and look forward to a trip to the cinema soon. Support your local picture palace or the sitcom movie will be back, and not just for Red Dwarf fans.

Anything to add? Contact us via the little box. Till next time... Tattie bye!


 

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