Archive for Michael Winner

Lady Latterly’s Shover

Posted in FILM, literature with tags , , , , , on February 20, 2015 by dcairns


Marlon Brando gets jiggy repulsively bestial with the fragrant Stephanie Beacham in Michael Winner’s THE NIGHTCOMERS, reviewed by me over at Electric Sheep Magazine. Of course, frame-grabbing moments like this from the big sex montage allows me to present Winner’s World of Erotica in condensed diamond form, his lap dissolves (he edited it too) creating a Janus-faced limb-tangle, a Brando-Beacham telepod mishap, like something out of Brian Yuzna’s SOCIETY.


Look, Stephanie is eating a tiny arm! How adorable.

Arguably Winner was Britain’s greatest underrated experimental filmmaker, devoting fully three decades of his career to exploring the myriad ways of making a film simply fail to work. An inexhaustible field of study for one so resourceful.

Rejected TV Show Ideas

Posted in Television with tags , , , , on June 1, 2013 by dcairns


I once had a TV show proposal rejected with the words “I found the characters hard to relate to because they were all of above average intelligence.” To be fair to the exec in question, that sentence continued with the words “and mad.”

Here are some of my TV series proposals. Most of them are not real. None of them have happened.

Adolf Hitler Investigates. The adventures of a crime-fighting Führer. I thought this would be a natural for Channel 5.

It’s The Adolf Hitler Show! A history show for kids where Adolf Hitler, boiling in a cauldron in hell, tells the story of WWII.

They Saved Hitler’s Legs. Sitcom in which a man gets Hitler’s legs transplanted onto him and can’t stop goose-stepping. Alternative title: He Can’t Stop Goose-Stepping.

The Borgias Kitchen. Cookery show without Hitler.

Election Night of the Living Dead. The next General Election, covered live through the night by actors made up as zombies, acting like zombies (shambling movements, incoherent moaning instead of speech). Still think this is potentially a winner.

Dimbledon. Tennis coverage from Winbledon presented by David Dimbleby. Surprised this hasn’t happened.

Crufts Rollerball. In the spirit of Alan Partridge’s desperate suggestion of Monkey Tennis: pedigree dogs from the popular dog show play a violent contact sport on rollerskates.

Invisible Snooker. Snooker played by invisible men wearing night-vision goggles in complete darkness. On other words, a black screen with intermittent clacking sounds. Tense and relaxing at the same time.

Tick Talk. A late night open-ended discussion show about parasites.

A Brief History of Time on Ice. Stephen Hawking’s masterwork of popular science presented as an allegorical ice ballet.

Play it Again, Samurai. Casablanca restaged in feudal Japan. To be played by white actors in yellowface speaking gibberish, dubbed into English with fake Japanese accents. “We’ll always have Hokkaido.”

Battlestar Potemkin. A space opera about refugees seeking the lost planet Earth, made as a silent film in a Russian montage style. I think Dirk Benedict would be up for this.

Frears Sneers. To replace the gap left by Winner’s Dinners, which was a newspaper column about film director Michael Winner eating things, a TV show about Stephen Frears openly scoffing. It shares with its illustrious predecessor the fact that its whole existence is predicated upon a title that rhymes.

John C. Clarke’s Mysterious World. Punk poet John Cooper Clarke investigates bigfoot, the Loch Ness Monster and the chupacabra or goat-sucker. He ponders the mysteries of this and other worlds, and tries to find something that rhymes with chupacabra.

Psychic Farmers. Show about dairy farmers with telepathy. Maybe they can communicate telepathically with cows, but I don’t want to stress that part too much.

Finally, to make up for the fact that I once, unknowingly, worked for the company that went on to make Embarrassing Illnesses, easily the most abhorrent show on television anywhere, I propose a show starring the executives and producers of that company, to be entitled Humiliating Deaths.

I’m sure everyone has at least a couple of rejected TV show ideas. What are yours?

A Hard-boiled Oeuvre

Posted in FILM, literature with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 5, 2013 by dcairns


For the first half of PEEPER (1976) I was almost convinced I was watching a neglected classic. The script, by W.D. Richter (BUCKAROO BANZAI) from a Chandler pastiche by sci-fi author Keith Laumer, served up a constant sizzle of snazzy dialogue and cynical VO, the latter delivered by Michael Caine in a straight reprise of his delightful manner in Mike Hodges’ PULP. As that film had wound up with a walk-on by a Humphrey Bogart impersonator, so this movie begins with one, narrating the opening titles in a piece-to-camera presentation that’s giddily audacious. Director Peter Hyams seems to be on top form, and his cameraman Earl Rath, who lensed the astonishing proto-steadicam shoot-out chase in Hyams’ earlier BUSTING, steeps the art-deco locations in acidic greens, achieving a distinctly 1970s neo-noir look.


I had thought that the really hip 70s noirs had either mixed things up by going back further in time, or had updated their stories to the modern day. CHINATOWN does the former, but adds such a wealth of modern attitude — political, sexual — as to seem furiously contemporary, while THE LONG GOODBYE really squeezes every ounce of anachronism to be had from the conceit of Marlowe in modern L.A. Dick Richards’ 1975 FAREWELL, MY LOVELY remake with Robert Mitchum seems a stale exercise in nostalgia by comparison. But then I think of the late Michael Winner’s incomprehensibly Brighton-set version of THE BIG SLEEP, and I have to conclude that there are no rules except that good filmmakers are more likely to make good films. Bad ons, not so much.


Anyhow, PEEPER starts great, the cast is very nice, Caine has chemistry with Natalie Wood, and then it all somehow goes to pot. Liam Dunn is a great comedy antagonist, but Timothy Carey and Don Calfa, excellent actors and types, are also reduced to stooge status, depriving the whole thing of necessary tension. Necessary even in what’s virtually a comedy. Oh, we also get the wonderful Liam Dunn — Mr Hilltop in YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN, the judge in WHAT’S UP DOC?, as a typically decrepit, wonderfully weaselly character, the only guy Caine can convincingly push around.


When the climax involved Wood fighting aboard a lifeboat, I got a horrible sense of why the film doesn’t tend to get revived much. But maybe it just isn’t good enough — the plot never reaches an extreme state demanding drastic action, but peters out in some confusing twists. A major sympathetic character is murdered and goes unavenged. The long takes lack the dynamism of Hyams and Rath’s BUSTING work, and sometimes merely looks as if they didn’t have time to get adequate coverage. It’s a shame, since the first half is a real delight. They could make a whole series of sequels to that first half. I kind of regret they made the second half at all.