Thursday, 31 October 2013

Thursday 31 October 1963

It's All Hallow's Eve, though hardly anyone in Britain celebrated it back in 1963, and there's nothing especially horrific about the shows I'm featuring here tonight.  Though I suppose that's a matter of opinion, really.

I think I've bored you before with the information that I'm following the ATV run of Space Patrol, which is the same as its initial broadcast on ABC, except for the scheduling of this episode.  Intended as the introduction to the series, it didn't turn up on ABC until after plenty of other episodes were broadcast.  The Swamps of Jupiter consequently spends a lot of time dwelling on things we're already familiar with: the role of Space Patrol, decontamination prior to space flight, the operation of the Galasphere, the freezer, and Husky's bottomless appetite.  The latter two are linked here as the Martian crewman takes a cake into suspended animation with him so it'll be fresh for when he awakes.

There is one piece of new information, though: in later episodes the location of the city where Space Patrol has its headquarters is rather vague, but in the introductory narration here its explicitly stated that it's New York.  Perhaps Roberta Leigh, Arthur Provis and their colleagues thought that might be a bit alienating to British viewers.

Anyway, the plot in The Swamps of Jupiter is pretty perfunctory.  Dart, Husky and Slim head off to Jupiter to find out why there's been no contact from the scientific team based there.  Turns out its because they've all been killed by a pair of villainous Martians who've come to Jupiter to collect the skins of Jupiter's mangy doglike swamp creatures the Loomies.  "I never thought I could feel squeamish killing Loomies, but they're such pathetic-looking creatures," one of them notes.

It turns out the lead Martian is himself a scientist, who's discovered that the skins of Loomies are ultra-light and, if heated, remain warm for years.  "A permanent hot water bottle!" as Husky exclaims.  However, he and Dart are not happy with his fellow Martians' decimation of Jupiter's wildlife, and the whole thing culminates in a hilarious puppet punch-up, ending with the baddies plastifoamed up and ready to be taken away for some severe punishment.

Of course The Swamps of Jupiter also sees the introduction of the planet's most bizarre native, Joe the Jovian, and the beginning of his unrequited infatuation with Larry Dart.  "I wish you stay here and make home with me," he forlornly tells the captain as he prepares to depart.  Bold.

Recently I was informed that yet another revamp of The Saint is on its way to our screens.  I can't see where exactly the enduring appeal of Simon Templar lies.  Of all the shows I've watched for TV Minus 50, The Saint's probably the one I find the dullest.  Tonight's episode's a good example of how humdrum it generally is - though as with any 1960s TV programme there are still plenty of points of interest.

Simon's in Paris to visit an old friend, Juliette Grillot (Yolande Turner) (he manages to be even smugger than usual in his opening monologue, as he correctly predicts that an unassuming little man will shortly be carted off by the police thanks to the "brew of political unrest" that simmers under the city's gay facade).  Juliette's the sister of André Grillot (Alex Scott), a wine merchant in partnership with the decidedly dodgy-seeming Jean Bougrenet (John Bailey).

Bougrenet is indeed as dodgy as he appears.  He's involved with a group of Algerian freedom fighters (for the money, rather than due to any political convictions) and has incurred the wrath of one of their leaders, Major Quintana (Martin Benson), just out of prison.  He was supposed to be selling forged bearer bonds in various companies on Quintana's behalf, and hasn't done as well as the Major would have liked.  Bougrenet withdraws all of his company's funds and prepares to flee, but before he can manage it he ends up impaled on a paperknife by Quintana.

Fortunately Simon's around to help out André, the police's number one suspect in the murder of his partner.  He takes some bonds he's found to an old acquaintance, forgery expert Mére Lafond.  Played with great verve by Hazel Hughes, she's easily the episode's best character.  Her decidedly butch manner is mischievously alluded to in the script: "Monsieur, in 60 years I have made only one mistake... my husband."

Mére LaFond recognises the near-perfect bonds as the work of Vladek Urivetsky, the world's greatest forger.  Urivetsky's in the pay of Quintana, and played by a very excitable Hamilton Dyce.

Especially good bits include a thrilling bout of fisticuffs between Templar and Quintana's henchman Lt Prevost (Neville Becker) (the episode's directed by Peter Yates, whose skill with action would later be put to use in Hollywood films like Bullitt and (a personal favourite) Krull).

And there's one of my favourite things - a 60s party scene.  Templar has a lookalike on hand to don his costume for a bit while he heads off to sort out the baddies but avoid the beady eyes of the police.

But perhaps the highlight of the episode is provided by this remarkable tabard, sported by Bougrenet's housekeeper Marie (Miki Iveria).  Glorious.

1 comment:

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