Category Archives: uk

Lost Hits of the New Wave #28

“Wot” by Captain Sensible

Honestly I had never really thought of this one as lost, but as more of a classic, but it’s been pointed out to me recently by someone who really knows his music – this was something new to him. New, but properly loved, as it should be.

“Wot” is one of my favorites of the new wave era, and could be listened to on a loop for maybe hours, grooving every moment. I love it. And the fact he namedrops and disses Adam Ant in the song just makes all that much cooler.

Captain Sensible goes way back in the punk and new wave movements. He founded The Damned, was in the supergroup Dead Men Walking, and was the first of many to record “Jet Boy, Jet Girl,” which I am sure we’ll cover here at some point. Last I heard, the Captain had formed his own anarchist political party over in the UK. Still punking after all these years.

Blackmail 1929

While known alternately as both Great Britain’s first and Alfred Hitchcock’s first sound movie, Blackmail in truth was released simultaneously as a talkie and as a silent film. To make sure it was seen by as many people as possible, Hitch made two versions, the one silent to ensure theaters not yet equipped for sound in 1929 could still show it.

Blackmail is a tale of passion, betrayal, murder, and yes, blackmail, based on a play by Charles Bennett, who also helped Hitch adapt it for the screen. Bennett would end up working with the director in this capacity many times over the years, on films like Secret Agent, Sabotage, The 39 Steps, Foreign Correspondent, and The Man Who Knew Too Much. On his own he would also go on to adapt the TV version of “Casino Royale” and Curse of the Demon.

While originally a stage bound story, Hitch, and Bennett, do a wonderful job of opening the story up to many locations and sets. Many adaptations like this of the time were limiting and almost claustrophobic. The film’s climax is an edgy mad chase through the British Museum, similar to scenes Hitch would continue to construct throughout his career.

Lead actress Anny Ondra, primarily a Czech and German actress is stunning as an early Hitchcock blonde. All the other roles are played with precision but Ondra is the standout by miles. She was so well liked that the studio refused to let Hitch do the ending he wanted. The studio insisted Ondra walk free at the end, rather than pay for her crimes.

Hitch’s directing and storytelling skills are at their height here, and seriously, when aren’t they? Even before he was the master of suspense, he was always a master filmmaker. As with all Hitchcock films it is key you pay attention at all times, the devil is in the details. Simple yet complex, the dynamic storytelling style that would make Hitch one of our era’s greatest directors is evident and already honed here at the end of the 1920s decade.

I recently caught the rarely seen silent version on “Silent Sunday Nights” on TCM, and it was stunning. Must see for any Hitchcock fan or student of the medium, recommended.

The Final Entries of the 2013 Eurovision Song Contest

Sweden – “You” by Robin Stjernberg


It’s a nice pop tune, but I guess Sweden doesn’t really want to win two years in a row.

Spain – “Contigo Hasta El Final (With You All The Way)” by ESDM


At first it seems like Spain has gone traditional. I just wonder if the audience will still be with them by the time the song really kicks in.

Italy – “L’Essenziale” by Marco Mengoni


Wow, that’s some hair.

Germany – “Glorious” by Cascada


Germany is usually a strong competitor, despite most of Europe still hating them for that World War II business, and this year is no exception. It’s a great dance tune that would have won if it were from the Ukraine, but not Germany.

France – “L’enfer Et Moi (Hell and Me)” by Amandine Bourgeois


This is a great song, and per usual, it’s in French, but it’s much better than most years’ entries. It seems the French are in it to win it this year. I can’t wait to see what this looks like on stage. That will make or break it.

Along with the UK entry, “Believe in Me” by 1980s songstress Bonnie Tyler, the above finalists join Semi-Final winners Lithuania, Moldova, Finland, Belgium, Estonia, Belarus, Malta, Russia, Armenia, The Netherlands, Romania, Hungary, Denmark, Iceland, Azerbaijan, Greece, Ukraine, Norway, Georgia, and Ireland in the Grand Final tomorrow afternoon. Those of you in the States can watch it live here.

Eurovision 2013 UK

It’s that time of year again – Eurovision is coming. The United Kingdom just announced that Bonnie Tyler, of “Total Eclipse of the Heart,” will represent them at Eurovision this year.

The song is “Believe in Me,” and it’s not bad. Hopefully it will be good for more than two points this year.

The New Monopoly

You’ve all probably heard the news this week, Monopoly, the popular property trading game from Hasbro (or currently from Hasbro, previously from Parker Brothers, or Waddington’s in the UK), is getting a new playing piece, and letting their fans decide which new piece will be replacing which old piece. It’s great marketing and promotion, of course.

Monopoly is an American tradition, king of the board games, and has been around since the turn of the last century. Initially a parlor game to explain taxes to those not smart enough to understand, it first saw widespread popularity as The Landlord’s Game in 1923, and finally as Monopoly in 1934. Like Scrabble, I think every household has at least one Monopoly game. At my house we didn’t have any board games, and even we had Monopoly. Today, many versions of the game, based on colleges, localities other than the traditional Atlantic City, even movies and other popular genres. Monopoly is a videogame, and a sticker game at McDonald’s. Currently in my household we have a Doctor Who version and a Justice League version.

I can remember back in the 1970s when the summers were so hot no one wanted to go outside, we would have marathon games of Monopoly that would last for hours, sometimes days. We’d bend the rules, and I’m not just talking about the dubious Free Parking rule – we’d use two banks, no limits on hotels or houses, we’d make deals outside of the game to keep someone in the game – “Let me use your bike and I’ll spot you $500 in the game.” Yeah, that kind of stuff. It’s a crazy, addictive, and sometimes cutthroat game. Good, good times.

In those days there were very specific playing pieces. You had the car, which everybody wanted. If you had first choice, you always had the car. If you had second choice, it was slightly different – if you were a girl, you took the dog, and if you were a boy, you took the battleship. After that, the top hat, iron, thimble, cannon, boot, man on a horse, and wheelbarrow were up for grabs. Notably, those were the pieces in the set we played with. Even then we knew there had been other pieces.

In the 1950s, the purse, rocking horse, and lantern had been replaced by the dog, wheelbarrow, and man on horse. So there’s nothing new under the sun. Similarly in later years, Monopoly has added (and apparently subtracted) a train and a money bag as tokens as well. Noatably, most of the different variations of the games have different tokens as well. My Justice League set has tiny busts of the first eight members.

The new deal, which is sure to equal sales in the old sets, as well as anticipation of the new ones, has the public voting for a new piece to replace an old one. Any of the existing (the cannon has apparently previously been jettisoned) are up for retirement. The new pieces you can vote for on the Monopoly Facebook Page include the robot, the helicopter, the cat, the diamond ring, or the guitar.

Personally I’m pulling for the robot or the helicopter. They both have the coolness factor of the car. I am wondering however, how popular would a full set of playing tokens be? I know I would buy that, all of the past and present pieces in one set would be cool for collectors and fans of the game as well. You could even throw in proposed pieces like the biplane and the piggy bank. Now, the real question is, why isn’t there a playing piece of the game’s mascot, Uncle Moneybags?

The Magic of Gerry Anderson

Yesterday while I was writing about the deaths and lives of Jack Klugman and Charles Durning, we lost someone who was definitely lesser known, but also much closer to my heart – producer Gerry Anderson. They say these things happen in threes. Let’s hope this is the cycle and we don’t lose anyone else.

Many of you probably don’t recognize the name Gerry Anderson and there are some of you who are mourning the loss of this great talent in genre television. He was a writer, director, producer, publisher, futurist, a television pioneer, the developer of Supermarionation, and a master of storytelling. However, all that said, you might just know him better by three specific words – “Thunderbirds are go!”

I first encountered Gerry Anderson, and his then wife and partner Sylvia, as a child of the 1970s. I have a very distinct memory of hearing about a new show coming on weekday afternoons on UHF channel 17, the TV announcer had said it was ‘cooler than “Ultra Man,”‘ so you know darned well I was glued in front of the folks’ black and white television when “Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons” premiered.

“Captain Scarlet” was a program created completely using marionettes and models, and it wasn’t stop motion or animation, it was film, and the puppets and machines were actually moving. To add to the fascination was the stunningly adult, startling violent story that went along with it. It was a spy drama with the earth defending itself against an evil alien race, the Mysterons, who had infiltrated mankind, and the hero who would save the day, Captain Scarlet, who had become indestructible.

It was awesome, and I was hooked. The only things that “Captain Scarlet” had going against it were my low tech TV (all the characters were color codenamed) and my own as yet non-mastery of spelling (I kept waiting for Mogera from the Toho film The Mysterians to show up). This was also around the time “Space: 1999” was hitting it big on prime time television, also, although unknown to me at the time, created by Gerry and Sylvia Anderson, but in live action.

Anderson’s most famous creations are perhaps only peripherally known here in the United States, but in his native UK, everyone knows “The Thunderbirds.” Among his other work, both in live-action and in Supermarionation, include “Stingray,” “Supercar,” “UFO,” “Terrahawks,” “Space Precinct,” “Fireball XL5,” and “The Protectors,” among others. He and his wife also produced two “Thunderbirds” movies at the height of their popularity.

In recent years, Anderson produced a fully computer animated version of “Captain Scarlet” and consulted on the big budget live-action motion picture version of The Thunderbirds. The former did quite well in the UK, but the latter was pretty much a flop here. The beloved producer’s reputation was still untarnished.

Gerry Anderson passed away yesterday after a long battle with dementia brought on by Alzheimer’s disease. We have lost a creative star in the field of television, he will be missed.

Titanic, The Evil Version

Titanic ~ This is not the Titanic you think it is, in fact, this is not any of the Titanics you might think it is. It’s not from 1997, 1953, or even 1915. I had never heard of this 1943 version until very recently, and it is a sad and very intriguing monument to the power of propaganda. This is the Nazi version.

This Titanic was made by the German film industry, controlled by the Nazis, in the midst of World War II. At a time when Germany was at war with Great Britain, this dramatic propaganda film showed the story of the Titanic sinking, not strictly because of an iceberg, but because of the greed and folly of the British ship’s owners.

In this Titanic, the upper class British passengers are all rich, careless, and decadent, with the Germans poor and heroic, in fact, the only German crew member is our hero. The skewed almost-Bizarro World version of history has to be seen to be believed.

This subtitled anti-British piece of work was never actually released as Nazi officials thought the scenes of chaos inboard the ship might panic German citizens who were under attack during wartime. For years it was thought lost, but occasionally shows up on TCM. Worth watching as a curiosity.

Thumbs Up for London, Epic Fail for NBC

I just watched most of the opening ceremonies for the 2012 London Olympics. I had to turn away. NBC, in the form of Meredith Viera and Matt Lauer, destroyed any enjoyment I may have gotten from the show.

The opening ceremonies were amazing, and fun, and a spectacle to behold. I amused myself thinking that this is what we would get if the UK ever got off its butt and actually won Eurovision for a change. Yeah, it was that kind of spectacle.

There was a battle between Voldemort and Mary Poppins, a jab at America and our lousy healthcare system, appearances by Mr. Bean, JK Rowling, Daniel Craig and The Queen, tributes to the world wide web and children’s literature, and a touching love story told through the history of British pop music. We even had a three second audio cameo of the TARDIS sound during “Bohemian Rhapsody.” Like I said, amazing.

The problem was NBC had Viera and Lauer over-explaining everything to the audience at home. This isn’t the freaking Rose Bowl Parade, and we are not dull children. We have brains, and failing that, Google, we don’t need you to explain it all. I don’t know what shocked me more – the things they did not know or what they thought we did not know. I know I will never watch any program with them involved again. Even with thousands of Twitter folks telling them to shut up live, they continued their idiotic banter.

A note to the folks at NBC who put this together… Do you ever wonder why the rest of the world hates the United States? Tonight, it’s because of you.

The Final Six Entries in the 2012 Eurovision Song Contest

These are the five nations who are always in the Finals, plus last year’s winner and this year’s host, Azerbaijan.

United Kingdom: “Love Will Set You Free” by Engelbert Humperdinck

The UK always tries to make an effort, like trying to get Morrissey, or getting Andrew Lloyd Webber to write the song. This year they got decades past pop idol Humperdinck. It’s just not enough, UK…

France: “Echo (You and I)” by Anggun

Speaking of trying to win, every once in a while France decides they’d like to win and actually enters something catchy and modern. This is one of those years. Another one that’s growing on me.

Italy: “L’Amore È Femmina (Out Of Love)” by Nina Zilli

I think this one has a real chance of winning. Dancey, jazzy and fun.

Azerbaijan: “When the Music Dies” by Sabina Babayeva

Another power ballad, but a strong one and a real contender for the win.

Spain: “Quédate Conmigo (Stay With Me)” by Pastora Soler

You’ll have to click the link above to see the Spain video, embedding forbidden by YouTube. It has no chance to win though in my opinion, but then again, just my opinion…

Germany: “Standing Still” by Roman Lob

Europe aside, I think this could be a hit here. I like it a lot, one of my favorites, and another strong contender for the win.

The Grand Final for the 2012 Eurovision Song Contest takes place on May 26th in Baku, Azerbaijan.

Lost Hits of the New Wave #13

“Come On Eileen” by Dexy’s Midnight Runners

This song, and “Safety Dance” by Men Without Hats, is one of the reasons I started this “Lost Hits of the New Wave” project. It really bothered me how these two songs are usually what folks who weren’t there, think the new wave is all about. There was so much more, and so much that has been sadly forgotten. It’s not just “Safety Dance” and “Come On Eileen.”

“Come On Eileen” hit huge in the summer of 1982 in the United States, filling the number one spot in the charts between Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean” and “Beat It.” Like most acts of the era, Dexy’s Midnight Runners had already had several hits in the UK. The group at this time, was led by Kevin Rowland, who would eventually take lead billing over the Runners, and also included the addition of a fiddle section called The Emerald Express.

The album “Too-Rye-Ay” also introduced a new look for the band, a kind of ragged gypsy farmer fashion that was unique at the time. I remember the first time I saw the music video for “Come On Eileen” was on “Dancin’ On Air,” and the host made much of asking the kids what they thought Dexy’s Midnight Runners looked like. One kid said he thought they were all shiny like ABC. Most were surprised.

“Come On Eileen” was followed up in the States by two more songs from the album that went nowhere, making “Eileen” a true one hit wonder. The Runners broke up after another album, multiple hits in the UK, and even attempted a couple reunions. Supposedly there is a new album in the works, with the latest release date June of 2012.

Bookmark and Share