Archive for Jon Finch
DIAGNOSIS: MURDER — not the completely excellent Dick Van Dyke TV show, oh no, but a TV-ish movie from Edinburgh-born Sidney Hayers (NIGHT OF THE EAGLE). I had limited hopes for it but watched anyway due to my quasi-sexual passion for Byronic wonderboy Jon Finch.
I was pleasantly surprised!
Not so much by Finch, who seems to have lost a terrifying amount of weight. He looks like he’s competing for the Miles Mander Cup. His face is pinched and drawn, his movements lack energy, and he’s still sporting that disfiguring Action Man ‘tache from FRENZY. *But* — the script casts him as a wonderfully charmless and acerbic copper, tirelessly insolent to suspects, colleagues, even inanimate objects. It channels some of the impudence of his greatest role (to date), Jerry Cornelius in THE FINAL PROGRAMME. The only dull spots are a subplot involving his married mistress, which requires him to be solicitous and noble, which is hugely disappointing, but about two-thirds through I started wondering if Hayers, who co-wrote, was playing a Long Game. He was, and it all pays off in one of the best-plotted denouements I’ve seen in AGES.
Finch isn’t the whole show, mind you — we get Christopher Lee as an aloof psychiatrist who may have murdered his wife, and the adorably box-faced Judy Geeson as his secretary, who may be his mistress. To say more would be unfair. Fiona describes this one as “LES DIABOLIQUES meets The Sweeney.” Which may take some unpicking.
The twisty thriller thing you probably understand. The Sweeney was a violent slice of televisual thick-ear which ran amuck over British airwaves, an onslaught of bad hair, bad clothing and bad attitudes, accompanied by an aggressive yet campy score by Laurie Johnson (The Avengers).
The show spawned two movies, which are actually not bad — the second in particular deserves attention. It’s arguable that the portrayal of British coppers as surly, boorish and prejudiced, though it was uncomfortably admiring, was a lot more accurate than respectable show’s like the BBC’s Dixon of Dock Green and its polite ilk. Fans of 70s shows perhaps regard them as equivalent to those Warner pre-codes which uncritically serve up a lot of offensive attitudes, but strike a truthful chord at the same time.
Here’s a bit of Finch at his most obnoxious, followed a scene later by Christopher Lee in… unusually ebullient mode. Nice to see him loosen up and enjoy a laugh. The music is by Laurie Johnson.
The whole time I was writing this, my unproduced screenplay, I never had a clear idea in my head as to who I might like to act in it. Usually I’ll have both a Blue Sky Casting List (drawing from all actors, living and dead) which can be helpful to find a character’s voice, and a more down-to-earth selection of who I might actually be able to get. What you probably don’t want to do is cast the Blue Sky choice, should you suddenly be lucky enough to be able to get them, because an ever-so-slight tension between performer and role is often helpful.
That said, I have a hankering to see Jon Finch take his rightful place in the mainstream, and I think, though MR IF would hardly be likely to achieve that, he’d be fun in it — you have to see him in THE FINAL PROGRAMME rather than FRENZY or MACBETH to get that, though. Alternatively, the actor Stephen Dillane had managed to leave no particular impression on me until I saw his extremely witty perf in Raoul Ruiz’s KLIMT, playing an absurd and possibly hallucinatory arts bureaucrat. In the same film, Nikolai Kinski’s physical performance as Egon Schiele (making Schiele-like shapes with his hands!) also impressed me no end.
To contrast with the craziness, I’d like to get more naturalistic, muted performers in the other roles, though they’d need to have some comedy prowess. Britain is full of such players, due to the amount of TV soap opera and cop shows and the like dominating the culture. But we also have our share of flamboyant eccentrics, partly thanks to Shakespeare. In that vein, Ifs of earlier years might have included Peter Wyngarde, Graham Crowden, Tom Baker and Nicol Williamson.
Freddie Jones as Mr Netherbow!
Now Read On…
INT. INDIAN RESTAURANT – NIGHT
Howie puffs furiously to cool his mouth. Sheena laughs at his red face as he struggles with a mouthful of vindaloo.
So how did you get to be a human?
I was born. A baby could have done it.
I mean, the human in the zoo. Making an exhibition of yourself. It’s not something anybody would do.
Well, I always liked my fellow animals. I’ve learned a lot from them. How to smell fear, how to scare off predators by making myself look bigger…
He inflates his cheeks and puffs up his chest.
- how to order the hottest dish on the menu?
Damn my simian impulsiveness! I can’t help acting on instinct.
I think that’s good. We get to be too civilized.
Yeah. We’re all animals really.
They are leaning closer together across the table.
Yeah, we shouldn’t feel bound by all these ridiculous constraints.
I agree. We should be like lions, or fruit bats. We want something, we should just go for it.
A silence. Nothing happens.
A loud giggle from another table.
Prue Wasson. Prue fucking Wasson.
I’d know that simpering giggle anywhere. I was at school with her. She called me Sheena McQueen of the Jungle one day and then everybody did it. She used to walk about with her hands up her sleeves with just the fingers sticking out like this:
She shows Howie. He is silently appalled at this affectation.
And she used to hit me with her hockey stick. And she used to WRINKLE HER NOSE.
Damn her eyes!
Damn her nose.
I’ll show her! I’ll show her – baboon style!
He stands up indignantly, walks over to the next table, loosening his trousers, and taps a thin, papery-skinned young LADY on the shoulder. She is sitting with her hands inside her sleeves.
As she turns to face him, he turns his back on her and drops his trousers, bending to give her an eyeful of arse. He slaps his butt cheeks at her.
Straightening up, he turns back to his own table, now empty. The restaurant door bangs shut behind the fleeing Sheena.
Prue Wasson picks up a fork and jabs.
EXT. INDIAN RESTAURANT – NIGHT
A YELP from within.
Sheena hurries out of the Taj MacHal Restaurant* (with its tartan minaret emblems). A shadowy figure sweeps after her, leaving behind him spray-painted GRAFFITA on a wooden FENCE:
THE END IS NIG
Howie runs from the Taj MacHal clutching his backside, looks around, and sets off after Sheena.
A DRUNKEN WOMAN staggers by the other way. As she passes we see the letter H has been spray-painted on her back. As she nears the graffita there is a WHUNG!
The shadowy figure has just fired a HARPOON GUN.
The harpoon skewers the drunken woman to the fence. With her back to us, she now completes the graffita:
THE END IS NIGH.
A melodramatic LAUGH echoes out.
INT. SHEENA’S FLAT – NIGHT
The door bursts open as Sheena enters, a protesting Howie on her heels. She slams the door on him.
I’m sorry! I’ve been hanging out with monkeys too long! I was just doing what baboons have done for, oh, decades, probably. It’s to repel enemies.
Sheena turns from the door, sees something, and screams.
What is it? Let me in!
He hammers on the door. Sheena opens it, trembling. He comes in and stops in surprise.
Sheena’s cat, Edward Woodward, is dressed as an Eskimo – furs, a little harpoon. His litter tray is now a tiny igloo.
They’re called Inuit People now.
An Inuit mog. Does he do this often?
No. He bloody doesn’t. It’s that FUCKER. He’s been in my house and he’s got Edward Woodward done up as an Eskimo.
I’ll KILL him.
(shouting at the ceiling)
I’ll kill you!
(also shouting at the ceiling)
You heard! Leave her alone or I’ll show you my arse! And leave her cat alone too!
To be continued…
*Though the Taj MacHal is fictitious, there is a genuine Edinburgh restaurant called the Kebab Mahal. But when I picture it, I usually imagine the Passage to India restaurant on Leith Walk, which used to have a picture of Alec Guinness in brownface on the sign.