Sunday, January 31, 2021

Within These Walls: The Animals Went in Two by Two ( 1975 )

Within These Walls was an award-winning British television series about life "within the walls" of HM Prison Stone Park, a woman's prison. It ran for five seasons between 1974-1978. The beautiful English actress Googie Withers starred as prison governor Faye Boswell in the first three seasons and was later replaced by Katharine Blake and Sarah Lawson.

The episodes were all excellent productions with well-written scripts. Each lasted an hour and, since the inmates changed every episode, the stories featured a new drama surrounding one or two of the recent admittees. They also focused on the problems and personal lives of the regular staff at the prison. These regulars included Faye Boswell, deputy governor Charles Radley, chief officer Mrs. Armitage, prison doctor Peter Mayes, Assistant Governor Martha Parrish, and Miss Clarke. 

The Animals Went in Two by Two was an especially well-made episode that featured a thought-provoking script by Susan Pleat, who often wrote for the series. It addresses the need people have for relationships. As Dr. Peter Mayes explains, "We can't all be self-contained, nor is it right that we should be. People pair off. They need to couple. Adam and Eve....Noah's Ark...the animals went in two by two." 

This need to couple is not often satisfied as simply as one would expect. Nurse Jean Trevelyn ( Patricia Garwood ) finds it particularly disquieting to discover that her need for love draws her to other women...women who in turn need her. Sharon ( Ann Holloway ) is a young woman whom Jean meets in the hospital ward while visiting Claire ( Angela Thorne ), her former cellmate. Jean begins tutoring Sharon in reading and writing and, when Sharon comes to the main prison wing, she asks to room with Jean, who takes her under her wing. 

The other women in the prison whisper that Jean is a lesbian, but Jean herself hasn't come to terms with that label. When she found out that her former ( female ) employer wanted to run away with her she "hated her for it". Yet, she cares for Sharon. This is what makes Susan Pleat's script so good. Within These Walls often tackled issues that other series tended to shy away from. Lesbian relationships were common in all-women prisons and several other episodes of the show had lesbian characters, but The Animals Went in Two by Two is not about lesbianism, it is about relationship...and where and with whom people find it. The way people feel about others often cannot be described by a predefined label. 

One certainly cannot label Dr. Mayes' ( Denys Hawthorne ) desire. He wants to start a relationship with Miss Clarke ( Beth Harris ), the welfare officer. He's lonely, she's lonely, so why not pair off? But once again, matters are not that simple. Miss Clarke is middle-aged and has never been married. She looks at relationships in an intellectual way and does not feel she knows the doctor well enough to make love to him. "What does that mean, 'You don't know me well enough'?" asks Dr. Mayes, "Do I have to rack up points? A point a month, you reach twenty and you score?" He wants to find comfort in bed with her...and something more. When that doesn't work, he confesses, "I'm used to little trixi things, carefree, without a thought in their heads". This revelation causes Miss Clarke to pity him... It's good to see the vulnerable sides of the regular cast members. 

The Animals Went in Two by Two stands out not only for its script but for its fine direction by Tony Wharmby. He uses close-up shots almost entirely and this adds to the confined feeling of the prison. It also allows us to see how well the cast performs without the aid of additional dialogue. They use their eyes and subtle facial gestures to reveal their character's emotions. 

All of the principal players give impressive performances. Ann Holloway is excellent as the emotional Sharon; Angela Thorne subtly reveals the clinging nature of Claire, and Patricia Garwood gives a fine and tender performance as Jean. Denys Hawthorne is excellent as usual as Dr. Mayes, and Beth Harris is especially intriguing as the prim Miss Clarke. Who would have guessed busy Miss Clarke was such a lonely woman? Jean Holness also gives a good performance as Mrs. Evans, a nosy elderly prisoner. 

One need not be familiar with Within These Walls and its regular cast of characters to enjoy The Animals Went in Two by Two. It can easily stand on its own and could have aired as an individual play on Play for Today. The episode is available on DVD as part of the Within These Walls Collection ( Season 3, Episode 15 ) and also on Youtube. 

Friday, January 29, 2021

The Child of Glass ( 1978 )

"Murder, Mystery...and Ghosts!" So reads the VHS cover of The Child of Glass and the film did indeed feature murder, mystery, and ghosts. The story, based on the novel "The Ghost Belonged to Me" by Richard Peck, tells the tale of a young boy - Alexander Armsworth ( Steve Shaw ) - who befriends Inez, the ghost of a Creole girl, in an old barn on the property his family just moved into. It's a sprawling Louisiana colonial that was once owned by a riverboat captain and is rumored to have a hidden treasure on the property. The ghost of Inez is not interested in treasure. She just wants to be reunited with her parents and pleads with Alexander to help release her from a decades-old curse by solving this riddle: 

Sleeping lies the murdered lass.
Vainly cries the child of glass.
When the two shall be as one,
the spirit's journey will be done.

The riddle must be solved by the stroke of midnight on All Hallow's Eve. Alexander has no clue what it means, but since Inez tells him that he has only a few days to solve it before she disappears in limbo forever, he sets to work on it with the aid of his friend Blossom ( Katy Kurtzman ). 

Blossom Culp lives with her palm-reading Aunt Lavina ( Nina Foch ) who insists that Alexander is gifted "to perceive the spirits!". He doesn't believe in such nonsense but Blossom and her crazy aunt are the only two people he can turn to for help. His parents ( Biff McGuire and Barbara Barrie ) are busy preparing the house for an old-fashioned costume party and his older sister ( Denise Nickerson ) doesn't have much interest in Alexander's ramblings about ghosts and curses. 

The Child of Glass is not a scary ghost story in any way, nor is it particularly engrossing as a mystery, but - like most Disney films - it still remains very entertaining. This is in no small part due to the engaging performances of the child actors playing the two leads - Alexander and Blossom. Steve Shaw is adorable as the southern-talking mop-haired lad. Olivia Baresh also gives a good performance as little Inez, the blue-glowing ghost. Also in the cast is Anthony Zerbe as a drunken handyman, Jack Radar as the local sheriff, and character actress Irene Tedrow as the high-and-mighty Miss Merrywether. 

The Child of Glass premiered on television as part of Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color on May 14, 1978 and was rebroadcast periodically on television throughout the 1980s. Today, you can find it on DVD as part of Disney's Generation Collection. 

Friday, January 22, 2021

The Impossibly Difficult Name that Movie Game


We're feeling terribly sneaky this Friday and decided to post an especially tricky image for this month's installment of The Impossibly Difficult Name that Movie Game. Put your thinking caps on and see if you can solve this enigma! 

Not familiar with the rules of the game? Simply click here to read all about it ( it's a quick read ). 

Friday, January 15, 2021

Portrait of a Lady ( 1968 ) - BBC

In 1968, BBC produced an excellent television adaptation of Henry James' critically acclaimed 1880 novel "The Portrait of a Lady". It aired as a two-part mini-series in January of that year. 

Suzanne Neve starred as Isabel Archer, the beautiful and spirited American woman who travels to England and becomes heir to a large fortune. This sudden windfall was meant to give her the opportunity to live her life as she pleases, to do as she likes without feeling an obligation to marry for "security".  Unfortunately, she wastes this opportunity when she decides to wed Gilbert Osmond ( James Maxwell ), an artist with extremely high-standards of living. She realizes her mistake too late and - having pride and a great deal of dignity - decides to simply bear it. 

If you are familiar with the work of Henry James then you will realize that The Portrait of a Lady plays James' usual tune of sorrow and disappointment. However, his extremely direct dialogue makes it a highly entertaining lament. 

This BBC production is not lavish in any way but the cast play their roles so well that even if they were standing on a bare stage their characters would come alive. Suzanne Neve is excellent as Isabel. Her character is so admirable that even her misguided decisions can be easily forgiven. Her cousin Ralph Touchett ( Richard Chamberlain ) certainly forgives her for letting him down. He put her on a pedestal the first moment he met her and delighted in watching her dare to dream and do all the things he could not due to his illness. Once she met Gilbert, those dreams vanished, and although Ralph warned her against marrying Gilbert, he still found it easy to love her for the eagle-like spirit she once displayed. 

Henry James often wrote stories that featured unusually spirited women ( for his time ). Ms. Archer is a woman who seems to have a glorious destiny ahead of her and yet no one is able to tell her what that destiny may be....and she certainly hasn't an inkling of what others expect of her, nor of what she expects of herself. When she meets Gilbert, she believes that becoming his benefactor may just be the greatest service she could render to the world but quickly discovers she was mistaken and finds herself in a disastrous marriage. 
Fortunately, this television adaptation focuses more on the events leading up to her marriage and does not spend much time dealing with the details of her marital sufferings. These events include Isabel meeting the handsome Ralph, being courted by the kindly Lord Warburton ( Edward Fox ), trying to dodge Casper Goodwood ( Ed Bishop ), and traveling the world with her Aunt Lydia ( Beatrix Lehmann ). 

Richard Chamberlain gives a stand-out performance as the sickly, but always happy, Ralph. Chamberlain had just completed his television series Dr. Kildare and this was quite a change from the kind of role that one would expect him to play. His performance garnered such critical acclaim that he remained in England and continued to do period films and other literary adaptations, eventually becoming known as the "King of the Miniseries". 

The Portrait of a Lady also features excellent performances by Rachel Gurney ( as Madame Merle ), Kathleen Byron ( as Countess Gemini ), Sarah Brackett, Alan Gifford and Sharon Gurney ( Rachel's real-life daughter playing her daughter on screen ). 

Like most of the BBC stage-to-screen teleplays, The Portrait of a Lady was split into episodes and aired over the course of several weeks. This play was aired in six parts ( 45 minutes each ). Despite the minimal set decor and simple direction, the episodes are never tiresome. In truth, there should have been one extra episode because some of the scenes skim over large spans of time too quickly. 

Friday, January 8, 2021

Tanya Roberts Interview on the set of "A View to a Kill"

The beautiful Tanya Roberts passed away last Monday at the age of 65. Since she was best known for her work on the James Bond film A View to a Kill ( 1985 ), we thought we'd share a brief interview that was conducted on the set during the making of the final action sequence. 

Ms. Roberts was only 30 years old when she co-starred with Roger Moore, who was age 57 at the time of filming, making him the oldest actor to play James Bond. 

Monday, January 4, 2021

From the Archives: Red Canyon ( 1949 )

Edgar Buchanan and Howard Duff enjoy a relaxing talk on the trail in this scene from Red Canyon ( 1949 ), an entertaining semi-western from Universal Pictures. 

From the Archives is our latest series of posts where we share photos from the Silverbanks Pictures collection. Some of these may have been sold in the past, and others may still be available for purchase at our eBay store :