Posts from 7th March 2006

7
Mar 06

God vs Zilla fite!

Do You SeePost a comment • 573 views

Talking to other people about seeing the original Japanese Godzilla* I mentioned how dark the film was. The looked back incredulously saying that it is a film about a giant monster destroying Tokyo, of course it is dark. Perhaps my friends don’t get giant monster movies.

Dinosaurs vs robots = fun seems obvious to me, but perhaps enjoying a big meaningless fight is restricted to certain kinds of genre fan. Perhaps the nuclear holocaust subtext of Godzilla is so plain that it is impossible to enjoy the sheer (fake) destruction. But Godzilla, whilst played perfectly straight, is well aware of how much fun destroying buildings is. Whilst its anti-war, anti-weapon, anti-nuclear line is less a subtext than a raison d’etre, it becomes clear in the Tokyo destruction sequence that THIS is what the film is really about. Destroying stuff is safe on film because it is not real. Its almost as if halfway through making it, the film-makers realised this.

The ending with the underwater anti-oxygen bomb is therefore a massive anti-climax (also because it lingers on the hopeless love triangle storyline). It is also nicely paradoxical: inventing deadly weapons created Godzilla but an even more dangerous weapon destroys him. But Godzilla has already invented its own genre by this point, and later Godzilla films understand that it is the fighting and destroying that brings us in. A comparison with King Kong is instructive, but at this point at least there is no attempt to anthropomorphasize Godzilla. He is a force of nature: and nature is pissed off. And like King Kong, it has a great last line too: I have a feeling we have not seen the last of Godzilla. Unlike Raymond Burr.

*Well, I guess the original Japanese print probably did not have English translations of what the characters said at the bottom of the film.

SANDIE SHAW – “Puppet On A String”

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#232, 29th April 1967

In a sense the UK’s relationship with the Eurovision Song Contest mirrors its attitude to ‘Europe’ as political entity: a conflicted, pendulum-swing mess of amused contempt, cynical superiority, desperate attempts to play catch-up and a fundamental feeling that no matter how hard Britain tries to play the game it will never quite understand or accept the rules.

On the one hand, ‘nobody’ takes the Eurovision seriously. On the other, there’s a shallow-buried feeling that Britain is Better At Pop than the continent, which every so often surges into a public sense that we really ought to win it. Those surges tend to result in us recruiting a top songwriter, or producer, or performer or entrepreneur to win Eurovision – and Sandie Shaw, reluctantly, was the first example.

As its writer admitted, “Puppet On A String” was designed for Eurovision, not for Sandie, so of course Shaw hated it and feared its impact on her career*. It’s very efficiently tooled for Europe, a lively song on a jaunty bed of light orchestration – it sounds a few years out of date, and quite cut off from ‘pop’ as it had developed during the British mid-60s. But that doesn’t mean it’s a horrible record – the quick, brassy rhythms suggest jerky marionette movement very effectively, the hooks are good, and Shaw doesn’t let her distaste for the thing show. In truth it’s the kind of immediately catchy, mildly annoying song that would have had a good shot at Eurovision whoever was singing it.

*Shaw’s record sales were on the wane in 1967, so her career as a pop star was on shaky ground anyway, “Puppet” or no. In 1968 she launched a fashion line and got a TV gig – what is probably true is that “Puppet” became a millstone in terms of the kind of fans she attracted, and her reputation.

Bash The Pegg returns

Pumpkin PublogPost a comment • 348 views

Way back in the past, when Week Of Quiz was a mere twinkle in our eyes, the biggest excitement of the week could be the quiz at The Shepherd’s on the Archway Road. It was a nice pub, it was a good quiz, but it was of course enlivened by the presence of minor comedy star Simon Pegg on one of the team. As large Spaced fans, we thus based our evening around beating his team (Quizzers With Attitude): and so the night out became known as Bash The Pegg.

The the Shepherd’s became the unpleasant Boogaloo with its ultra rockist jukebox, and Bash The Pegg was no more. So what joy to discover last night at my regular Monday night quiz in Hornsey : Mr Pegg playing the quiz. Yes, Bash The Pegg has returned.

(Yes. We did. But he was only in a team with one other and there were five of us. Also a small amount of fear sets in when one comes across this on the IMDB...)

We’re going through changes

Do You SeePost a comment • 152 views

Thanks to the miracle of Interweb stealery I was able to watch The Changes last week, the ten-part kids’ TV adaptation of Peter Dickinson’s novels from the 1970s. This was always a touchstone of Mr R Carmody’s thinking, so I was eager to see it: of course as soon as it got going I remembered that the theme tune was said touchstone not the actual show.

Which wasn’t bad, once you got used to its peculiar tone and creaking pace. In memory most of the BBC’s 70s and 80s output – until Grange Hill came along, anyway – was like this: sensible and patient children moving thoughtfully through a variety of quite gentle adventures. The oddness in the Changes comes from the fact that the events and dangers of the story are enormous – England thrown back to the dark ages; plague, suffering, anarchy and a constant threat of death – but the heroine, Nicky, paces through them with a stoic, well-brought-up acceptance. Even when she’s about to be stoned as a witch she just looks a bit glum. “But I’m not a witch,” she says, as if she’s been accused of stealing another girl’s pencil case.

It’s not a bad performance though – certainly not set against the mostly wooden guest cast, though the occasional villains get to ham things up nicely. She has presence, and her naturalism lends her authority and gives the whole show a slightly dreamlike quality, so that in the final episode I ended up accepting the completely ridiculous conclusion just because the tone held so steady. It was a big rock pretending to be Merlin all along? Oh, good, glad that’s sorted out.

The adaptation would have been a tricky proposition as Dickinson wrote the books in reverse chronological order – starting with the magic-heavy resolution and then using the other two to explore the human consequences of a world without machines. So telling the story in event order, as the TV series has to, means moving from psychological sci-fi to Arthurian fantasy (hence the fudge at the end with the rock – in the books it’s Real Actual Merlin, and he’s hooked on morphine to boot). Given this difficulty the even keel the series keeps is pretty admirable, even though it means The Changes lacks real excitement.