Randall & Hopkirk (Deceased) 1.6 – A Man of Substance

Well… I liked the first forty minutes of that quite a lot, anyway.

In the last episode of the first series, Randall’s hired to find a missing person who was supposedly last seen in a very, very remote village called Hadell Wroxted. It’s a really timelost place, with some very deliberate echoes of The Wicker Man, and nobody can quite get away from it. This little town’s very big secret is that somehow, everybody can see and hear Marty, and Marty can taste, smell, and feel again.

Naturally, Marty takes this opportunity to drink his weight in bitter – poured by no less than Gareth Thomas, who learned a thing or two about remote villages nobody can quite get away from when he starred in Children of the Stones twenty-three years before this – and take an attractive woman to bed. He’s so pleased to enjoy the pleasures of the flesh again that he doesn’t pause to ask how she has the same supernatural undress-yer-partner-from-across-the-room powers that he has.

Part of the joy of Randall & Hopkirk is that Marty is selfish. In the sixties, Kenneth Cope played that angle beautifully, with petulant and unreasonable jealousy. In the remake, Vic Reeves plays Marty as very resentful, and this selfishness comes out in a remarkably ugly way. I think that the writer, Charlie Higson, really misjudged the ending. Marty doesn’t find some bravery or heroism to get him to do the right thing in the end. He only does it because the attractive lady he was hoping to spend immortality with was just a magical mask worn by the much older Elizabeth Spriggs. So the writer painted himself into a corner, with no way that Jeff would ever, ever trust Marty again without a reset button. Five and three-quarters’ good episodes of six is a fine batting average, but it was a shame the series ended so poorly.

And with that, we’ll take a break and return Randall & Hopkirk (Deceased) to the shelf for a while to keep things fresh. But stay tuned, because I believe we will watch the second series in January!

Young Indiana Jones 2.11 – Austria, 1917

When ABC first showed the Austria episode, written by Frank Darabont, in September of 1992, I was most impressed by the casting of Christopher Lee as a conniving diplomat in the Viennese court. Today, I remain incredibly happy to watch Lee be magisterial and perfect, but the real star here is Joss Ackland as “The Prussian,” an evil, silent official in the secret police. He’s almost like a proto-Toht, if you remember Ronald Lacey’s character in Raiders. The Prussian is menacing and Ackland commands every shot he’s in without a line of dialogue. It’s a shame Indy’s spying activities didn’t take him back to Austria for a rematch. Amusingly, we saw both Lee and Ackland in different episodes of The Avengers earlier this month.

Our son got a little lost with the court intrigue this time. The story involves getting a letter from Emperor Karl I of Austria out of the country, but the letter that the emperor’s foreign minister (Lee) prepares doesn’t quite offer the concessions necessary for a separate peace with that nation. So after some mostly lighthearted chase scenes, the talk of diplomacy went straight over our seven year-old’s head.

Things picked up in the final act, when the chase scenes take on a much more serious edge. I think the cinematographer had a ball creating all the shots with looming shadows and long dark alleyways. It ends with a terrific scramble across the border into Switzerland, a good episode that probably could have been written a little more evenly and with at least one more big set piece in the first half, but entertaining all the same.

Other actors of note this time include a couple of faces that I recognize from ’80s Doctor Who: Elizabeth Spriggs as the mysterious Frau Schultz, and Patrick Ryecart as Karl I. Ryecart’s probably very familiar to fans of contemporary TV. He has recurring roles in both Poldark and The Crown.