TV series still without a DVD release

These titles are still missing in action, surviving but with no video release. They are also, with one or two exceptions, completely absent from the bootleg circuit.

Is any company out there interested in securing the rights to get these out in the world for archive TV lovers to enjoy?  Would lovers of comedy, drama, or period adaptations buy?

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Phyllis Calvert and Penelope Keith in Kate.  Photo via Nostalgia Central.

Kate – starring Phyllis Calvert.  38 episodes across three series, 1970-1972.  Made for Yorkshire Television.  Kate is an agony aunt who has a knack for getting into trouble.  Also features Penelope Keith and Jack Hedley.

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Helen: a Woman of Today – starring Alison Fiske and Martin Shaw.  13 episodes in a single series, 1973.  Made for London Weekend Television.  Helen is approaching middle-age and decides to end her marriage.  Also features Sharon Duce and Sheila Gish.

Bel Ami – starring Robin Ellis.  5 episodes, 1971.  Made for the BBC.  Adaptation of Guy de Maupassant’s novel about the amoral Georges Duroy.  Also features Elvi Hale, Garfield Morgan, Arthur Pentelow and Peter Sallis.

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Stanley Baker and Daphne Slater in Jane Eyre.  Photo via Bronte Blog.

Jane Eyre – starring Daphne Slater and Stanley Baker.  6 episodes, 1956.  Made for the BBC – my thoughts on seeing it at a BFI screening here.  Rich adaptation of the Charlotte Brontë novel, in fact one of the best I have seen.

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Liza Goddard and Dinsdale Landen in Pig in the Middle.

Pig in the Middle – starring Liza Goddard, Joanna Van Gyseghem, Dinsdale Landen (and later Terence Brady).  20 episodes across three series, 1980-1983.  Made for London Weekend Television.  Comedy about the middle-aged Barty who is torn between two glamorous women.

Foxy Lady – starring Diane Keen and Geoffrey Burridge.  12 episodes across two series, 1982-1984.  Made for Granada Television.  Daisy joins a Northern newspaper in this breezy comedy.  Also features Gregor Fisher, Milton Johns and Patrick Troughton.

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The Informer – starring Ian Hendry.  21 episodes made across two series, but only 2 survive, 1966-1967.  Made for Associated-Rediffusion.  Alex is a former lawyer now released from prison, making a living on both sides of the law.  Also features Jean Marsh.

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Neil Innes as the Wizard with Toby Spelldragon in Puddle Lane.

Puddle Lane – children’s series with Neil Innes.  75 episodes, 1985-1989.  Made for Yorkshire Television.  A magician tells stories with the help of his cauldron and dragon. Also features Kate Lee.

Great Expectations – starring Dinsdale Landen.  13 episodes, of which 12 survive, 1959.  Made for the BBC.  The first television adaptation of the Charles Dickens novel.  Also features Colin Jeavons, Michael Gwynn, and Helen Lindsay.   The atmospheric opening episode is accessible at the BFI Mediatheque.

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Article from the Radio Times.  Janet Munro in The Tenant of Wildfell Hall.  Scan via Britmovie.

The Tenant of Wildfell Hall – starring Janet Munro and Corin Redgrave.  4 episodes, of which 3 survive, 1968.  Made for the BBC.  Adaptation of the Anne Brontë novel, clips were shown on ‘The Brontës at the BBC’.  Also features Bryan Marshall, Megs Jenkins, and Felicity Kendal.

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Nicol Williamson, George Segal and Will Geer in Of Mice and Men.  Photo via eBay.

Of Mice and Men – starring George Segal and Nicol Williamson.  A two-hour drama, 1968.  Made for the American Broadcasting Company.  Adaptation of John Steinbeck’s classic novel.  Also features Will Geer, Don Gordon and Joey Heatherton.

The Coral Island – with Nicholas Bond-Owen and Richard Gibson (I know of the German release without English soundtrack).  9 episodes, 1983.  Made for Thames Television.  Ralph, Jack and Peterkin find themselves shipwrecked.

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Ian Hendry and Nyree Dawn Porter in For Maddie With Love.

For Maddie With Love – starring Ian Hendry and Nyree Dawn Porter.  48 episodes over 2 series, 1980-1981.  Made for ATV.  Maddie is terminally ill and her husband and children have to come to terms with change.  An excellent and overlooked series, only one episode has been officially released on Network’s Soap Box set. Also features Colin Baker, Robert Lang and Bruce Montague.

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Dinsdale Landen in Devenish. Photo via Memorable TV.

Devenish – starring Dinsdale Landen.  14 episodes across 2 series, 1977-1978.  Made for Granada Television.  Prufrock Devenish is an amoral social climber in this nutty comedy.  Also features Doran Godwin, Terence Alexander, Geoffrey Bayldon and Michael Robbins.

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Clive Dunn and Michael Bentine in It’s a Square World.  

It’s a Square World – with Michael Bentine.  56 episodes, of which 45 survive, 1960-1964.  Made for the BBC.  Zany and influential sketch show .  Also features Frank Thornton and Clive Dunn.

Thirty Minute Theatre – just under 50 episodes survive from 285 (many never filmed), but only a handful have been released.  Includes key work from a variety of writers and directors.  Made for the BBC.

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Benedict Taylor and Paul Rogers in Barriers.

Barriers – starring Benedict Taylor.  20 episodes, 1981.  Billy seeks his adopted parents.  Made for Tyne Tees Television.  This has turned up on YouTube so I rewatched it in a poor quality copy, but it has stood up well.

Hamlet – starring Ian McKellen.  One-off film, 1970.  A co-production between the BBC and Prospect Theatre Company.  Also features John Woodvine, Faith Brook, and Susan Fleetwood.  One of the few colour Shakespeares that remains resolutely in the archives.

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David Swift and Richard Beckinsale in Bloomers.  Photo via Nostalgia Central.

Bloomers – starring Richard Beckinsale and Anna Calder Marshall.  5 episodes recorded of the planned six, 1979, this series was curtailed with Beckinsale’s death.  Made for the BBC.  A comedy in which a resting actor starts work in a flower shop.  I have seen the episodes in poor-quality copies, with thoughts here.

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William Windom in My World and Welcome to It.

My World and Welcome to It – starring William Windom.  26 episodes, 1969-1970.  Made for Sheldon Leonard Productions.  John Monroe observes and comments on his wife and family in this comedy based on artist/writer James Thurber.  I first saw this in the 1980s on Channel 4, and have seen the whole series on poor quality copies.

That’s my twenty most wanted at the moment – what’s yours?

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Great character: a tribute to Dinsdale Landen

Dinsdale James Landen was born on 4th September 1932 in Margate, Kent, one of twin boys (his brother Dalby practised as a solicitor).  From his first appearance on television as a juvenile lead playing Pip in ‘Great Expectations’ (1959), through to stage and screen roles over the next four decades, he became well-regarded as a character player in drama as well as an accomplished comedy actor, especially in farces.

In recent years much of Landen’s work has become available on DVD or been shown in archive cinema screenings, which has allowed this unusual performer’s talent to become ripe for assessment.  An early film role in ‘The League of Gentlemen’ and a leading appearance in the Edgar Wallace Mystery ‘Playback’ show promising screen presence, but it seems to me that it was when his roles allowed him to drop the ‘mockney’ accent and take on a more cultured persona that he came into his own.

One exception to this run of comedy silly-asses which could be seen to great effect in productions from Marty Feldman’s ‘Every Home Should Have One’, TV plays ‘Absent Friends’ (by Alan Ayckbourn) and ‘What The Butler Saw’ (by Joe Orton), and the flamboyant detective Matthew Earp in two episodes of Brian Clemens’ anthology series ‘Thriller’ is Landen’s appearance as a bisexual pub landlord in John Mortimer’s play written for ‘Thirty Minute Theatre’, called ‘Bermondsey’.  In this play Landen and Edward Fox share a lengthy screen kiss, and the play is disarmingly frank about this character’s love for his wife and his old friend Pip, during a Christmas Eve where lots of secrets tumble into the open.

If Landen was vulnerable and touching in ‘Bermondsey’, despite his obvious weakness for infidelity, he could play darker characterisations too, none more so than the abusive stepfather in Henry Livings’ play for ‘Plays for Britain’, called ‘Shuttlecock’.  Here the gifts he used in comedy make the character more frightening and grotesque.  This also gave strength to his wheelchair-bound possessed scientist in the ‘Doctor Who’ story ‘The Curse of Fenric’, an episode from the Sylvester McCoy era which seems to divide viewers.

Landen was not an unattractive man, so often played lotharios (and lushes) – the bored lecturer in ‘The Glittering Prizes’ who eventually returns to his loveless marriage, the adulterous and boozy executive in Simon Gray’s ‘Two Sundays’ (for ‘Play for Today’), Diana Rigg’s unreliable lover in ‘After You’re Gone’ for ‘Three Piece Suite’.   Eventually he got a comedy lead, in ‘Devenish’, and was torn between Liza Goddard and Joanna Van Gyseghem in ‘Pig in the Middle’ (he’d been a sitcom Alfie-type in the 1960s series ‘Mickey Dunne’ but sadly no episodes survive).

By the time the 1980s came around character parts (mainly military) in long-running series (like ‘Lovejoy’) and period dramas (Catherine Cookson’s ‘The Wingless Bird’ and Edith Wharton’s ‘The Buccaneers’) were more the norm but he was still seen in the classics like Bernard Shaw’s ‘Arms and the Man’ and the acting workshop series ‘Shakespeare Lives!’.

There was even a foray into the musical stage, alongside Michael Ball in ‘Aspects of Love’.  Watching the production from Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Sydmonton Festival, it is clear that although Landen might not have been able to hit the notes required for George’s songs,  as an actor his portrayal even in a ‘reading’ of the part gets to the heart of the character.

In the mid-1990s an enforced break from the stage and screen due to oral cancer pretty much ended the long career of this versatile player – just one rather sad swansong appearance in an ‘Inspector Linley’ episode was to follow.

Long married to classy Welsh actress Jennifer Daniel (they’d met on ‘Great Expectations’ and wed within weeks), Dinsdale Landen passed away just after Christmas 2003 from pneumonia.  There are few character players with the range he had displayed throughout his career – whether as a blustering military man in ‘Morons from Outer Space’, the eccentric Uncle in children’s series ‘Woof!’, or a chilling assassin in ‘The New Avengers’.

Incidentally, that ‘Great Expectations’ from 1959 survives almost complete.  The missing episode is right in the middle.  Frustrating, isn’t it?