Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Mr. Forbush and the Penguins ( 1971 )

Richard Forbush is a rich young philanderer. He likes to woo girls and wear smart-looking clothes to college. His professor considers him to be one of the most academically brilliant students in his class with "the potential to be an outstanding biologist" but Forbush has little interest in biology, only mating. 

One day, he meets Tara ( Hayley Mills ), the new waitress at his local pub, and, smitten with her, attempts to impress her with tales of how he will go "down the Amazon" and be one of the last men to undertake a great scientific adventure. When his professor offers him the opportunity to live the great adventure by spending six months in Antarctica tracking the population and habits of a penguin colony, he turns it down....until a casual remark made by Tara changes his mind. 

"That's all you are. Wind. Empty wind."

He is aghast that Tara does not succumb to his charms and is downright offended when she calls him "empty wind". He decides to accept the position after all but begins to regret it soon after. 

"It's a grim prospect, all that ice. I don't know how I am going to get back in one piece. I feel rather like poor Captain Oates. Remember what he said when he walked into the blizzard to die,'I'm just going outside and may be some time'"

Within a few weeks, Forbush is dropped off at Shackleton's Hut at Cape Royds with a two-way radio being his only link to the outside world. He is told not to interfere with nature but he grows attached to the penguins he is studying and their plight to survive. After months of watching skuas steal the penguins' eggs, he attempts to destroy them by building a catapult to hurl rocks at them. All is in vain and Forbush comes home realizing that every living creature depends in some way upon every other.

Mr. Forbush and the Penguins, also released as Cry of the Penguins, is not your typical arctic adventure film. Instead of the man-battling-the-elements plot line, this film focuses on how six months spent alone with penguins can change a man. It does indeed transforms Mr. Forbush dramatically. 

John Hurt gives a wonderful sensitive portrayal of the young playboy turned penguin fancier. It is hard to imagine that the man throwing rocks at the invading skuas at the end of the film is the same Mr. Forbush who showed little to no interest in arctic birds at the beginning of the picture. Hurt has such a marvelously silky voice that it is a pleasure to hear him narrate the penguin sequences. Hayley Mills also gives a good performance in what is strangely listed on the credits as a guest appearance. Also in the cast is Tony Britton as Forbush's professor, Dudley Sutton, Thorley Walters, and Judy Campbell.

The production for Mr. Forbush and the Penguins was rather rocky. Alfred Viola, a commercial director, was making his directorial debut when he signed on for the production but mid-way through was dismissed by producer Roy Boulting, who took over directing himself. Boulting also put his wife Hayley Mills in the role of Tara, in place of Susan Fleetwood. Swedish director Arne Sucksdorff flew to the Arctic for location filming and captured some beautiful footage of the penguins in their natural habitat while John Addison ( Tom Jones ) created a compelling score for the film. 

Unfortunately, after all that effort ( and a nearly £600,000 investment ), Mr. Forbush and the Penguins tanked at the box office.  The publicity department mistakenly tried to publicize the movie as a comedy, plastering the posters with corny taglines like "It's not often that 740,000 penguins can help a love affair!" and "the zaniest bunch of birds on the South Pole!". 

If one is looking for comedy, then this film would fall short. In fact, the first 15 minutes are rather a drag. But after the professor hands Forbush his opportunity to become an explorer of old, the film becomes an absorbing blend of documentary and drama. A look into the life of one man and over half-a-million tuxedo-clad arctic birds....quite a novel idea for a film. And speaking of novels, if you want to enjoy this story in print, read Graham Billing's original 1965 novel "Forbush and the Penguins". 

Monday, January 30, 2023

ReMIND Classic TV Magazine

Last week I discovered the neatest magazine and in the most unlikely location - Dollar Tree. The magazine is ReMIND and it is filled with articles and fun stuff related to classic television shows and pop culture of the 1950s-1990s, plus loads of trivia games. Little did I know that this magazine has been around for well over 7-8 years! 

The Past is a Blast! 

If you like Closer magazine, then you will love this one. We shared some pictures down below so you can see what the interior looks like and, if you click on this link, you can read through a full issue digitally. 

The cover price is $4.99 per issue, but with a subscription, it is only $2 an issue. Better yet, with code "DOLLAR5" it is only $1 an issue. What a deal! Plus they give you a bonus trivia book. We all love puzzles, don't we? Click here if you want to take advantage of that deal. We don't get any kickbacks from this, we're just sharing it with you. 

ReMIND back issues are available on their website for $7.99 each (including shipping ). Not a bad price, considering they have some collectible issues.... especially that one with The Munsters on the cover. 

Keep your eyes open for the next installment of The Impossibly Difficult Name that Movie Game because we will be giving away a one-year subscription to the magazine for the first person who can guess the screenshot. 

Saturday, January 28, 2023

Rentaghost ( 1976-1984 )

"If your mansion house needs haunting just call Rentaghost..." 

Growing up in England in the 1970s, you would no doubt remember Rentaghost, a children's show that had a delightful blend of punny humor and downright silliness, not to mention an unforgettable theme song! A ghost never dies....and neither does Rentaghost, which is now being introduced to newer generations through streaming on BritBox. 

The series was created and written by Bob Block ( who was also responsible for devising the equally silly Pardon My Genie and Robert's Robots ) and concerned a ghost rental agency, run by Fred Mumford ( Anthony Jackson ) a recently deceased young man.

Fred was a failure all of his life and, unfortunately, he dies before he can rectify that situation. Now that he is dead, he decides to start a business back on Earth to have a second chance at starting a successful enterprise. He creates Rentaghost, a ghost rental service "Poltergeists in your parlor? Don't suffer from lack of exorcise - send for us!"

To aid him in this new business, he recruits two other ghosts who were failures when they were on Earth - Mr. Hubert Davenport, a Victorian gentleman, and Mister Timothy Claypole, a medieval court jester who is now a mischievous poltergeist. This threesome tries its best to make Rentaghost a success, but each undertaking turns into a dismal failure by the end of the episode. 

Their landlord Mr. Meeker ( Edward Brayshaw ) knows that his tenants are a "bunch of flippin' layabout spooks!" and, in spite of being disgusted by their ineptitude, becomes their business manager and tries to dream up new ways for the gang to make money. Each week they try their hand at different enterprises - a moving service, taxi business, storage service, detective agency, etc. There is no shortage of occupations a ghost can undertake!

Most of the humorous situations in the series arise from the ghosts running out of "psychic energy" or teleporting themselves at the wrong time to the wrong places. Fred is particularly lousy when it comes to teleporting since he is relatively new to the ghosting process, having just been dead for six months. All he has to do is hold his head back and pinch his nose but he always ends up landing somewhere he shouldn't be....such as in a closet. This is particularly embarrassing when Fred visits his parents. He never had the heart to tell them that he died and so he tries to act normal but strange things happen when you are a spirit. His mother is especially worried about Fred's lack of appetite. "He always chucks away his food!" she tells his father, not knowing that ghosts don't eat. 

Occasionally, Mr. Davenport's own mother ( long since dead ) visits to scold her son. She is a young woman in her twenties. Even Mr. Davenport finds it unsettling to have a mother half his age but she died much younger than he so naturally she would not be older in the spirit world. Mr. Davenport is quite a gentleman and much of the ways of the modern world shock him...especially "pop" music and those "frightfully noisy aeroplanes". 

Mister Claypole is even more astounded by modern technology! Being from the middle ages, much of what he sees amuses him....like the box with the little people in it ( a TV set ) and the machine that talks back ( telephone ). Fred's modern lingo usually goes over his head and he tends to take everything said literally. When Fred tells him to help Mr. Meeker "move house", Mister Claypole moves his house....with Mr. Meeker in it!

Later in the series, Mister Claypole becomes the leading character and other ghosts are added to the cast, including Hazel McWitch, Miss Popov and a pantomine horse called Dobbin. Unfortunately, beyond the fifth season, Rentaghost became rather childish and it no longer had its sitcom structure. 

The principal actors all do a grand job of getting "into the spirit" of their characters. Anthony Jackson is especially appealing as the clumsy Fred Mumford. When Michael Darbyshire ( Mr. Davenport ) passed away in 1979, Jackson did not want to continue the series without him and so both characters were written off the series. They were said to be on an extended tour haunting the stately homes of England. 

In fact, all three lead actors have since passed on. Darbyshire died at the age of 62, Michael Staniforth ( Claypole ) at the age of 44, and Jackson at the age of 62. Even Edward Brayshaw ( Mr. Meeker ) died at the age of 57, so none of the original cast members are alive today. Perhaps the spirit world did not look kindly upon this playful spook sitcom. 

Rentaghost ran for a total of 9 series, beginning in 1976. The show only had 5-6 episodes per series, so there are not as many episodes as one may expect to find. BBC destroyed the few episodes that were made when, in the late 1990s, they wiped ( taped over ) many of their children's programming videotapes, discounting the programs as "low priority". Thankfully, the television station UK GOLD were airing episodes of Rentaghost at the time and had backup copies. 

Memorable as the characters may have been to youngsters, even more memorable is the Rentaghost theme song, written and performed by none other than Michael Staniforth himself. It's a catchy jingle that perfectly captures the light-hearted "spirit" of the show. 

Click here to have a listen to the theme.....and here to view one of the episodes. 

Wednesday, January 25, 2023

The Family Way ( 1966 )

The Family Way is one of those films that you have probably heard a lot about but never bothered to watch, thinking it to be just a routine British drama. But it is not routine. And it is worth watching. The plot may sound simple, certainly not something one would build a film around, and yet it is deceptively rich. This is because the characters are so well created and so very well performed. 

Playwright Bill Naughton's tale focuses on a working-class family in England. Arthur Fitton ( Hywel Bennett ) has just married his childhood sweetheart Jenny ( Hayley Mills ) and they are both looking forward to taking their honeymoon in Majorca. Unfortunately, the travel agent absconds with their money and they find themselves starting their marriage in the upstairs room of Arthur's parents' house...where the walls are "paper thin". Arthur is a sensitive young man and he finds it difficult to make love in a house where one can hear every whisper. So he sits and listens to Beethoven while Jenny patiently waits for him to come to bed. Their marriage remains unconsummated several weeks later and Arthur and Jenny begin to feel frustrated - for different reasons. Jenny feels she may not appeal to Arthur and Arthur thinks something must be wrong with himself. Their struggle with arousing sexual urgings generates much of the humor of the story but it also stirs up revelations from Arthur's parents about their own marriage which leads into the real heart of the story. 

John Mills and Marjorie Rhodes give stellar performances in the role of Arthur's parents, Ezra and Lucy. The Frittons are an everyday family from Yorkshire with Papa Fritton going off to work each morning leaving his wife to tend to the washing and cooking. Arthur works, too, but, unlike his father, he does not spend his free time in pubs drinking with his friends. He is a loner who would rather spend time at home reading and listening to his records. This clash in personalities has made Arthur feel distant from his father and closer to his mother. 

The Frittons have another son, Arthur's younger brother Geoffrey ( Murray Head in a non-singing role ). Geoffrey is not like his father either but this does not seem to bother Ezra much, perhaps because he is not the eldest. Ezra wants Arthur to be a man and his quiet interests make him worry that Lucy's gentle upbringing of the lad has made him queer. 

Surprisingly, when Jenny's parents come to the Fritton's house for a private talk "about Arthur", we discover that Ezra's friendship in his youth with an old pal named Billy may have looked strange to outsiders as well. After all, how many newlywed men take along their best friend on their honeymoon?

Lucy's recollections of her unorthodox first days of marriage bring up memories best forgotten. This old friend, Billy, who "suddenly left" one day without a word may have meant more to Ezra and Lucy than both are willing to admit. 

Ezra's final line "He looked just like Billy" ( speaking of Arthur as he was leaving ) makes one wonder whether Arthur even was Ezra's son at all, and not Billy's. Naughton's script gives the audience only vague hints about the Frittons' past, which lends the story a richness that would have been spoilt had all been revealed. 

The Family Way began as a television play ( titled Honeymoon Postponed ) by Bill Naughton for ABC's Armchair Theatre in 1961. Naughton later adapted it into a theatrical play that premiered in 1963 with Bernard Miles in the role of Ezra Fitton. John Mills happened to catch this performance and was so enthralled with the part that he went backstage hoping to discuss purchasing the film rights as a vehicle for him and his daughter. He was told that the Boulting brothers and an American had already purchased the rights. Roy Boulting had hoped to make the film with Peter Sellars in the lead but after the project was put on hold for several years, he contacted John Mills, who was tickled pink and considered it to be "the best part I've had since Hobson's Choice". 

Indeed, it was. Mills gave a wonderful performance of a lower working-class father whose thoughts and ways are quite different from his more sensitive son. Marjorie Rhodes deserves equal credit for a powerfully understated performance. Also excellent are the two young leads. Hayley Mills, whose acting always standouts, looks especially lovely in this film. Perhaps it was the glow of a young woman in love captured on film ( Mills was having a romance with The Family Way's director Ray Boulting at the time ). 

Hywel Bennett was relatively new to film but had experience in theater. The success of The Family Way led to a contract with British Lion films and two more pictures opposite Hayley Mills ( Twisted Nerve and Endless Night ). Roger Ebert called Bennett "one of England's best young actors" in 1969. Today, he is best known for his role as James Shelley in the popular sitcom Shelley ( 1979-1984 ) and for his voiceover work for the British Rail television adverts of the 1980s. Also in the cast are Liz Fraser, Avril Angers, John Comer, and Barry Foster. 

In addition to its empathetic script and fine performances, The Family Way is noted for its soundtrack, particularly its theme song by Paul McCartney. It is George Martin who really deserves credit for creating the score, having just a 15-second piano piece from Paul to work with. He turned a simple tune into a beautiful and subtle score. 

You can watch The Family Way for free on Tubi ( via Roku or online at tubitv.com ) or on DVD. 

Thursday, January 19, 2023

British Pathé: The Royal Tour in Technicolor ( 1966 )

In this 1966 British Pathé newsreel, we get a glimpse of Her Royal Majesty Queen Elizabeth and Prince Phillip taking a holiday ( ahem, royal tour ) in the West Indies colony known as British Guinea. Arriving in the royal yacht Brittania, the Queen did her customary walkabout, greeting the governor and other dignities before taking the grand tour of Georgetown and the surrounding sugar plantations. 

The Queen received a grand turnout of spectators, most of whom were told to boycott their visit but obviously did not. British Guinea declared its independence from Great Britain in 1965 and so this visit from the Queen was like a royal farewell salute before the nation celebrated its official independence day in May 1966.  

Ready to watch The Royal Tour? Simply click on the link below:

The Royal Tour ( 1966 ) - 3:57 minutes

Similar British Pathé newsreels:

The Queen in the West Indies ( 1966 ) - 4:20 minutes

The Royal Tour of the Caribbean ( 1962 ) - 29:32 minutes

Sunday, January 8, 2023

Check it Out! - Karen Wyman on The Ed Sullivan Show ( 1967 )


When Ed Sullivan says "here is something you won't forget" it means you are in for a special treat indeed. This man saw so many talented top-notch entertainers in his days as a variety show host, but he thought 16-year-old Karen Wyman's debut performance of "Why Can't I Walk Away?" ( from the stage production Maggie Flynn ) was something extra special....and it certainly was. 

Enjoy this clip from The Ed Sullivan Show - June 22, 1969. 

Saturday, January 7, 2023

From the Archives: Land of the Giants ( 1968 )

"Gadzooks! It's a man!"

Yes, man never looked so towering and terrifying as he did in Land of the Giants, Irwin Allen's 1968 sci-fi series. In this scene, Gary Conway, Deanna Lund, Kurt Kaszner, Heather Young, and the rest of the cast stare up at what we may surmise to be a giant cat or rat. 

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 : http://stores.ebay.com/Silverbanks-Pictures