Wednesday December 19, 2018
Do you wish to avoid the misery that is EastEnders Christmas Special and escape into happier days of fine cars and groovy music? This Top Ten list is at your service -
Even by the standards of low budget British films of 1962 Gaolbreak is a truly dire B-feature. Almost all the actors look mortified, the script has the dramatic impact of an out of date telephone directory and a ladder propped against the studio wall replicates the titular prison escape. So, why should you waste any money on this DVD? Put simply - who could resist an epic in which criminals uses a Ford Escort 100E as a getaway car?
9) Look at Life
These colour travelogues, made by the Rank Organisation between 1959 and 1969, are utterly addictive. The cinematography is so pin-sharp that you might start to believe you are watching recent footage of roads filled with Vauxhall Cresta PAs, Ford Consul Mk. IIs, Morris Minor 1000s and Standard Ten Companions. This excerpt from the Transport box set is a 282-second proof of why Look at Life is essential viewing – streets of police Wolseley 6/110s, a time when motorway construction was regarded as exciting and (for the chaps) obligatory Brylcreemed hairstyles:
Possibly the cinematic masterpiece of 1971 and a film with something for everyone. Assuming ‘everyone’ craves a searing drama concerning toad-worshipping undead bikers whose favourite past-time is invading the Shepperton branch of Fine Fare. But then Psychomania offers much more – Rover P6 2000s, Jaguar S-Types, a Ford Thames Trader, Morris Minor Series IIs, lots of Triumph motorcycles, hippy funeral songs (!) and people being turned in a toad (!!). And then there is the dialogue - ‘Well…I'm dead, mother. But apart from that I couldn't be better’ plus a zombie anti-hero who has to borrow two new pence to telephone home. Truly a film masterpiece:
7) The Professionals
We all know the principal British Leyland and Ford PR vehicles, but one of the many fascinations of The Professionals (asides from Martin Shaw’s perm) is the back-up cars. Heroes features a luckless Ford Cortina Mk. I “Aeroflow” being hurled after a gang of international rotters, Servant of Two Masters guest stars two Morris Marinas – a 1.8 Super Estate Mk. I and a Van – and, of course, there are plenty of FD-series Vauxhalls throughout the series.
6) Funeral in Berlin
Released in 1966 as the second of the Harry Palmer trilogy, shot partially on location in West Berlin, and with most of the ingredients for a successful Cold War drama; trench-coated individuals in dark alleys, Mercedes-Benz “Fintails” cruising along darkened streets and some fine Eastern Bloc machinery. The DDR Volkspolizei use an EMW 340 and Colonel Stok uses a Horch Sachsenring P240 staff car. The theme tune isn’t bad either -
5) Some Mothers Do ‘Ave Em
As the Christmas Special was one of my highlights of the 25th December 1975 (it was scheduled on BBC1 between Bruce Forsyth & the Generation Game and The Morecambe and Wise Christmas Show), how could l leave out Some Mothers? The stunts with the Hillman Imp are still remarkable after 43 years.
4) Man in a Suitcase
One of the best ITC shows, with Richard Bradford’s sardonic, aggressive leading man, one of the finest of all theme tunes on any British TV programme.
An incredible array of guest stars – Felicity Kendal, Edward Fox, Rodney Bewes and Donald Sutherland – plus the Hillman Imps. Our hero occasional favours a Triumph Herald 1200 Estate or a Ford Zephyr 6 Mk. III but in the main he opts for Linwood’s finest. The sight of a chain-smoking Mr. Bradford at the wheel of a Hillman Imp, Singer Chamois or even a Super Imp Rallye was a highlight of late-night television during the 1980s:
3) The Protectors
Fondly remembered for its Tony Christie theme song Avenues and Alleyways, its opening credits featuring a somersaulting Fiat 850 Coupe and footage of From Russia With Love -
and the star cars: Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow, a Jensen Interceptor, a NSU Ro80 and a Citroën SM, not to mention a Dyane 6, a Mehari and a very early GS Club. With such an automotive line-up, who needs good acting – which is just as well. Robert Vaughan performs with the enthusiasm of a meter reader on a wet October morning, while many of the guest villains ham as though their Equity cards depended on it. On the other hand, the street scenes of London traffic circa 1972 is fascinating and some episodes take place in Spain (SEAT 2000 taxis) and Malta (a police Ford Consul Mk. II and a GP Beach Buggy) there is the standard ITC lack of continuity. And whoever cast John Thaw as a Mafia Don merits some kind of an award.
2) Catch Us If You Can
A British road movie disguised as a vehicle for The Dave Clark Five. It was also the first picture to use a Mini Moke (the director John Boorman referred to it as a ‘toy jeep’), with four members of the group being chased through Devon by a mocked-up police Ford Zodiac Mk. III. The Austin-badged Moke, BOX 656C, was a pre-production model that also appeared in The Avengers, and the film also stars a Jaguar E-Type 3.8 Roadster and a 1939 Daimler 4-Litre Sports Saloon. Even if you don’t like the music of the DC5 (which I do), the black & white photography of London and the West Country, the supporting cast – especially a pre-George and Mildred Yootha Joyce - and the motor cars makes this is an unforgettable 91 minutes.
1) The Fast Lady
How could this not be the top of the list? There’s Stanley Baxter (who appeared in far too few pictures), James Robertson Justice (on top form), Leslie Phillips (ditto), Julie Christie in her second starring role – plus the eponymous 1927 Bentley 3 litre Speed Model Open Tourer with Vanden Plas coachwork. Not to mention the Park Ward bodied R-Type Continental, the police Wolseley 6/99, the Jaguar Mk. VIIM, the Austin A40 “Farina” and a very early Morris Mini Cooper, the cameos from a Jensen Interceptor 4-Litre and a Daimler SP250 “Dart” … In short, a DVD collection is all the poorer if it lacks The Fast Lady -