Archive for The Goon Show

The Sunday Intertitle: Goony Toons

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on January 30, 2011 by dcairns

ALF, BILL AND FRED is probably my favourite Bob Godfrey cartoon — I encountered it on Channel 4 sometime as a kid, back when Channel 4 would run unexpected surprises like this. It’s a simple, even twee, rags-to-riches type story, enlivened by a disrespectful approach to “style” and “production values” — Godfrey creates a style by ignoring or celebrating the clashes of mixed media, and doesn’t bother about things looking cheap.

There’s a strong resemblance to Terry Gilliam’s cut-out approach, which is also anticipated by Walerian Borowczyk’s collaboration with Chris Marker, LES ASTRONAUTS. WB supplies the persistent air of surreal nightmare that haunts Gilliam’s Monty Python work, while BG gives us the jokey blokeyness.

Godfrey also created KAMA SUTRA RIDES AGAIN, which I believe was the short screened with CLOCKWORK ORANGE on its release. I presume Kubrick approved it. Sex, violence and broad comedy: it could serve as a clue as to how Kubrick wanted his audience to react to his movie. I’ve really hate KSRA though — essentially a slapstick tour of various preposterous sexual positions, reimagined as Evel Knievel-style stunts. The cartoon lead’s wife becomes progressively more encased in plaster casts as the film goes on.  I’ve always disliked plaster-cast comedy: I howl with laughter at Laurel and Hardy’s COUNTY HOSPITAL, but that’s precisely because it doesn’t force one to think of pratfalls causing broken bones. Olie’ leg is in plaster from the very start, and we never get told how it happened. The movie is true to a scared principle of slapstick, which is that serious injury never results. I think even giving somebody a black eye is pushing it.

On the other hand, Godfrey also gave us THE DO IT YOURSELF CARTOON KIT, narrated by Goon Show alumnus Michael Bentine, which is pretty good. The Victoriana theme certainly seems like it must have influenced Gilliam’s work ~

Of course, what makes Gilliam more than a mere imitator is the wildness of his invention and the excellence of his timing, which owes little to anyone. Cut-out animation was merely a means to an end for Gilliam, in the same way that CGI FX and troubled mega-productions are now.

This one gave rise to a catchphrase in our house — whenever we have to lift Tash, our Siamese cat, out of trouble (a routine occurrence), grabbing her under the front legs and hoisting her until she is extruded into a long, vertical shape like Gilliam’s marauding mutant, we remark, in shrill, stentorian tones, “But at what cost?”

A Love Bewitched

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , on December 29, 2010 by dcairns

I’m glad this is up on YouTube, and in such pristine form. Hope whoever posted it is the rights holder, I stuck a bit on YouTube and got my account closed for my troubles.

And when are we going to get to see this (deeply flawed, intermittently brilliant) Powell movie? The film that really killed Powell’s career (you don’t wind up making a slasher movie for Anglo-Amalgamated if your career hasn’t been killed)…

I recently saw THE QUEEN’S GUARDS, Powell’s follow-up to PEEPING TOM — he had Hollywood studio backing for it, as the damage of PEEPING TOM hadn’t happened yet. But THE QUEEN’S GUARDS, as Powell ruefully admits in his autobio, is a bad film. As such, it may have done more to hurt him than PT’s critical reception — at least many of the reviewers admitted TOM was made with Powell’s usual skill (this seemed to make things worse). That can’t be said for GUARDS.

At any rate, the idea that PEEPING TOM was the sole cause of Powell’s fall should be laid to rest.

HONEYMOON is startling because the bad bits are so bad and the good bits — see above — so good. It certainly gives the impression that Powell without Pressburger needed a strong collaborator (like Leo Marks) to shape his ideas. The story meanders, never acquires depth, and ultimately fails to resolve itself at all. Even some of the dance sequences are bad: Powell film’s Antonio’s first impromptu dance in medium shot, cutting off his feet, a shocking thing to do in any dance, but especially a Spanish one. Some of the problems no doubt stemmed from a last-minute alteration: Powell felt he hadn’t got enough of Spain into the movie, so he made a quick whistle-stop tour of the locations in his car, filming out of the window. This footage was more or less dumped into the movie, with a treacly song by Wally Stott (musical arranger for The Goon Show, later transexual) laid over it — the result is that the film seems like it’s never going to get started, and when it eventually does, it’s regularly interrupted by tedious travelogue. If Powell had lived with the edit for just a few more days, I have no doubt he’d have hacked some of this filler out.

Still, as you can see from the amazing action above, while it’s not quite THE RED SHOES ballet, the El Amor Bruja number is stunning, and makes the idea of a restoration exciting indeed.

Fred

Posted in FILM with tags , , , on February 6, 2009 by dcairns

Surviving bits of Independent Television’s answer to the BBC’s radio extravaganza The Goon Show, known as A Show Called Fred. Directed by Richard Lester, who honed his appreciation of visual surrealism by working in live television, where mistakes of the most catastrophic nature were transmitted to the entire nation, without any opportunity for correction or apology. A dog might go berserk and tear down a backdrop of Versailles, leaving actors in 16th century French aristocratic gear stranded in front of a wild west town. One time a dog bit a microphone in two during a love scene and people phoned up from all over to find out what had happened. You can see this kind of chaos at work in Fred, where it’s practically become the subject: the show, like many sketch shows, is a deconstruction (or demolition) of television itself.

Of course, it helps that Lester was working with Spike Milligan, the most anarchic talent the BBC has ever known. As the series went on, in two more incarnations (The Idiot Weekly, Price 2D and Son of Fred) Milligan pushed the deconstruction ever further — no sets, just numbered flats, and actors carrying props from one sketch to another. Eventually he lost the audience, and more or less lost Lester. Leave it to Milligan to test-drive surrealist comedy to destruction years before any of the Monty Python team had even entered TV.

Some of these sketches are a little rough-edged or overlong, but we’re lucky to have them: for years the entire show, which went out live, was considered lost to history.

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