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Archive for October 16th, 2012

By Roderick Heath

MASH commences with a sequence that is at once extremely familiar and yet demands new attention. Helicopters carry mangled men in flight, suspended between heaven and earth, life and death, a sense of narcotised isolation imbued by the hazy photography and the bleakly beautiful, blackly funny ode to suicide on the soundtrack. This opening would be recreated and seen week in and week out by millions of television viewers when the movie was turned into one of the most popular shows of all time. And yet the TV version fudged two crucial aspects – the haunting tone of the visuals and the actual lyrics of the song. This brilliant credit sequence segues in a moment of verbal humour that seems like a lost Bob Newhart or Bob Hope sketch, as Col. Henry Blake (Roger Bowen) barks out a stream of orders to his pint-sized yet ultra-competent orderly ‘Radar’ O’Reilly (Gary Burghoff) who anticipates every single one, whilst another, SSgt. Vollmer (David Arkin), doesn’t catch any. So in the first few minutes of MASH, director Robert Altman leads his audience through rapid alternations of tone and artistic intent. What the hell kind of movie is this? It’s only then, with the mock-heroic concision of an Alexander Pope poem, MASH gives us our first view of antihero Capt. Benjamin ‘Hawkeye’ Pierce (Donald Sutherland), spotted emerging from the latrine, whilst the words of Douglas Macarthur flow by in exultant pomposity, followed by an underwhelming yet fittingly stark promise by Dwight Eisenhower. (more…)

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Ralph Bates' Caligula tries to make Freddie Jones' Claudius see his point

Ralph Bates’ Caligula tries to make Freddie Jones’ Claudius see his point

by Allan Fish

next up in the masterworks of TV series

(UK 1968 324m) DVD2

Removed from the ranks of mankind

p  Philip Mackie  d  Derek Bennett  w  Philip Mackie  book  “The Twelve Caesars” by Suetonius  m  Derek Hilton  art  Peter Phillips  cos  Nandi Routh

André Morell (Tiberius), Ralph Bates (Caligula), Freddie Jones (Claudius), Sonia Dresdel (Livia), Barrie Ingham (Sejanus), Roland Culver (Augustus), Eric Flynn (Germanicus), Kevin Stoney (Thrasyllus), John Phillips (Piso), Suzan Farmer (Livilla), Nicola Pagett (Messalina), Charles Lloyd Pack (Crispus), Jerome Willis (Macro), Barbara Murray (Caesonia), Caroline Blakiston (Agrippina), William Corderoy (Drusus), John Paul (Cassius Chaerea), Donald Eccles (Nerva),

The series to which the BBC’s I, Claudius was compared by drama critics of the day lay unseen for the best part of forty years before its arrival on DVD in 2006.  In truth, however, any comparisons are a trifle misleading.  The later BBC series was based on a deliberately exaggerated melodramatic pair of novels which took as many liberties with Roman history as Shakespeare with 15th century Britain, and also covered a period of time three times greater.  More importantly, it followed not fiction but fact, the historical work of Suetonius from which so much Roman history of the period derives.  Consequently, I think it is no coincidence that, on comparison, The Caesars is the more scholarly drama, and certainly the least hysterical.  Both are great TV serials for different reasons, but for accuracy, toss the Graves adaptation away, this is what you need. (more…)

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