Archive for the Watched it Category

Normal service shall be resumed -very soon

Posted in Authors I've read, Watched it on September 17, 2012 by echostains

This blog has been rather neglected  for the last couple of months.  I’ve not given it up – and I’ve plenty of material to add.  So watch this space…………..

test card image is from here

Happy Burns night!

Happy Birthday Playwright, columnist and novelist Keith Waterhouse  (1929 – 2009)

Watched – Enid (Blyton)

Posted in Authors I've read, period drama, Watched it with tags , , , on August 12, 2011 by echostains
Bonham Carter as Enid Blyton

When I was a child, Enid Blyton was my favorite author. She was beloved of most children: a wonderful storyteller whose stories kept you entranced. But I often wondered what Blyton was  like as a person. Helena Bonham Carter was, at first glance, a surprising choice, to play Blyton in this BBC 4 biopic, but – then so was Trevor Eve who played Hughie Green, in the last series and I thought he was absolutely great!

Enid Blyton

The young Enid gets into storytelling to distract her siblings from the furious arguments which are going on between their parents. Her father eventually leaves for another woman (or so her mother says, though all her life Enid won’t believe this). It is easy to see why Enid starts escaping into her own world. She leaves home as soon at the first opportunity (Enid never stops running all through her life). She trains to become a schoolteacher, though her real ambition is to be an author. Rejected many times, she keeps trying, until eventually a door opens. Not one to hang around, she marries her publisher.

the very famous Five books

Their early days seem idyllic. What a blow it must have been to her to be told she couldn’t have children.. But despite these problems, she does have a child (in fact two,) but motherhood does not come easily to her. She seems more work inspired, than nurturing. Time for a nanny. But although she is honest about her failings, she does have some odd ideas about how to handle week old babies….

Enid Blyton bedtime story book

It is strange the way Blyton is different with other children than her own, and a bit baffling really. She seems more relaxed whilst in the company of children she doesn’t know. To an extent, she seems to shun anything that doesn’t fit into her world of fiction, such as the War. It’s as if in her refusal to be distracted, it will just go away. When her husband starts drinking, she banishes him into the spare room!

Noddy a popular Blyton character


Blyton is the ultimate escapist, and does not like the banalities of motherhood: writing comes first. When Blyton finally comes to terms that we are at war, she contributes by digging for victory with her children and entertaining officers whilst her husband is away (escapism again). Eventually of course, she takes a lover ‘Uncle’ Kenneth Waters.

the magical land of Enid

The acting was really good and the attention to period detail wonderful. Bonham Carter makes a great Blyton, showing all her contradiction. She is both hardened and yet vulnerable in her reluctance to face reality. The way that Blyton deals with harsh reality is through her children’s tales, where a happy ending is assured and cake is distributed with lashings of Ginger Beer She has such a hard unfeeling edge to her to her personality though and is able to compartmentalise her life skillfully, dismissing her children. Poor Hugh (ex husband) gets the treatment time and time again, and very cruelly. It is incredulous the way that she can turn her back on anything she doesn’t want to deal with, including her mother and her siblings. A very complicated, emotionally damaged but talented person, whose end was indeed tragic.

Watch it HERE

Watched ‘Barchester Chronicles’

Posted in period drama, Watched it with tags , , , , , , , , on April 30, 2011 by echostains

I have never read an Anthony Trollope book, and I know there are many of them.  I have however seen the series ‘The Way we Live Now’ starring David Suchet and greatly enjoyed it.  So when I spotted ‘The Barchester Chronicles‘ DVD I was quite looking forward to watching it.  The series was first shown in 1982 and is an adaptation of Anthony Trollope’s first two Barchester novels (The Warden and Barchester Towers).

The stars are Susan Hampshire, Donald Pleasence as Mr Harding (a central character), a very young Alan Rickman as adversary Obadiah Slope and Geraldine McEwan as Mrs Proudie the Bishops wife. 

 The plot centres around a zealous Mr John Bold an over zealous young reformer, discovering that the unworldly Mr Harding is in receipt of a very good wage for doing next to nothing takes it upon himself to point this out to Mr Harding, who is by turn horrified and mortified as he really has no idea about financial matters.  The newspapers get hold of this story and life for Mr Harding, from that point on, becomes intolerable.

I found this series a slow burner and didn’t think that I would like it, but the appearance of the slimy slithery Mr Slope (a kind of evangelical Uriah Heep with an eye for the ladies and not at all ‘umble’) played mesmerisingly by a very young Alan Rickman really livens up the series.  Slope  foolishly makes the mistake of making an enemy of the weak Bishops wife Mrs Proudy – and pays for it!  Mrs Proudy (Geraldine McEwan) and Mr Slope provide a lot of comedy.  The love interest is provided by Mr Hardings daughter Eleanor Bold.

The series was filmed in and around Peterborough Cathedral and on a BAFTA in 1982 for Design.

See here for full cast and nominations

Images and further plot details from here

Watched ‘The Black Swan’

Posted in Watched it with tags , , , , , , , on February 21, 2011 by echostains

Directed by Darren Aronofsky’s and starring Natalie Portman the Black Swan is a kind of modern-day fairytale (more Brothers Grimm).  It is advisable to suspend all belief all who enter into the film and just sit back and enjoy.

Henpecked Nina, a delicate flower in a hothouse of casting couches and farfetched scenarios, pirouettes between fantasy, reality and surrealism.  Suspend belief when you watch this film and drift with the flow and you will really enjoy the experience.  The dancing itself is amazing – with Portman so lithe and graceful.  Nina’s spirit and sensibilities display their frailties when she lands the dual roles of Black and White swans Odile and Odette.  The twin roles test her endurance, sexuality, and duty towards her mother’s belief in her and her obsession to please her mentor and musical director Thomas.  Amidst a backdrop of beautiful music and swans the dance plays on whilst poor fragile Nina slowly unravels.

Reality versus unreality in this film and its hard to see the seams between whats real and what isn’t and that’s the strength of the film.  It is this that gives the film it’s fantasy edge which include skin shedding, drug taking, the exploration of sexuality and self-mutilation –  to name but a few ingredients.  This is however no mish mash nor are the scenes gratuitous, they all contribute to the beauty and darkness and pain of this unusual film – extremely out of the ordinary.

One of the first things I noticed about the film is how well Natalie Portman dances, but what I didn’t know until the night of the BAFTA’s (for which Portman won  leading Actress) was that Portman had practised ballet for this part for a whole year, Portman and co star Mila Kunis were coached by Georgina Parkinson, a former principal  ballerina from the Royal Ballet.  who sadly died during filming in 2009, aged 71.  A lot has been said about the ‘unhelpfulness’ of stereotyping  of the ballet scene and ballerina’s in general,  but I think that if you just enjoy the film for its fairytale qualities – then you will love it.  The dedication that Portman (and the other dancers) put into their roles and the wonderful music make this film quite nightmarishly thrilling! 


Read about and see the amazing make up here

See here for more details

Watched ‘Carrington’ DVD

Posted in Watched it with tags , , , on February 11, 2011 by echostains


I rewatched Carrington the other night on DVD.  I had watched it ages ago, but for some reason or other just wanted to see it again.  The film is about the artist Dora Carrington‘s relationship with the writer Lytton Strachey.  As a painter Carrington was quite selective in her subject matter, painting  her immediate background and her closest friends.  She hardly ever signed her work and hardly ever exhibited.

Lytton Strachey,by Dora Carrington

Her relationship with Strachey is both passionate and tender.  Strachey himself, a self-confessed homosexual thought a great deal of her.  Carrington is played very well by Emma Thompson and Strachey mesmerisingly by  Johnathan Pryce. The photography is very beautiful: the days drenched in sunshine.  Of course the Bohemian Bloomsbury group were non plussed by  Carrington’s and Strachey’s relationship – in that circle, anything went.  The menage de trois which Carrington finds herself in often is quite tragic, though she tries to deal with it in a ‘mature’ fashion.  Through it all her heart belongs to the unattainable Strachey.

Merry go round by Mark Gertler

Before her involvement with Strachey, (who really does prove to be the true love of her life), Carrington had a relationship with artist Mark Gertler.  Gertler proves a temperamental, erratic almost hysterical figure in the film. He was a conscientious objector like Strachey.  It soon becomes clear that Gertler and Carrington are not suited as partners.

Carrington’s art is reduced to decorating cupboards and painting lamp shades, making  a quirky but brilliantly original home for herself, Strachey and usually a third-party.  She first moved with in with Strachey to Tidmarsh Mill in Berkshire, then on to Ham Spray in Wiltshire making both houses highly individual with her artistic flourishes. But it does seem that Carrington gave more than she actually got back in this film.  She seems to support Strachey more than he supports her. Sometimes she is in dire straits with no money coming in, he hardly thinks to help her and the upkeep of their home, though he is a famous author.

Tidmarsh Mill by Dora Carrington

Carrington  married an athlete Ralph Partridge whom she didn’t love, then moved on to his friend a timid sort of man, Gerald Brenan who she did adore, though Strachey would always have all her heart.

Gerald Brenan by Dora Carrington

The saddest part of the film is towards the end when she attempts suicide and at the second attempt is  successful.  Her pain at losing Strachey is heartbreaking and very moving.  This is a haunting film, and some of the scenes are indelibly imprinted upon my mind.  If you get a chance to see it – please do and you will not be disappointed.

E.M Forster by Carrington

I shall be writing about Carrington’s art  later on my Echostains art blog

Images from here,  here here and here  and Here and here

Dora Carrington website here

Watched ‘Hattie’

Posted in Watched it with tags , , , on January 31, 2011 by echostains

Hattie Jacques and Ruth Jones

I missed this  BBC4  biopic when it was first shown a couple of weeks ago – however I was lucky enough to catch the repeat the other night.  Hattie Jacques (Josephine Edwina Jacques) b. 1922 – 1980)  was a British comedy actress, well-known for her roles in the Carry On films from 1958 – 1974 where she often played a hospital Matron but she also different roles in other films.  She played the ‘twin’ sister of Eric Sykes in the BBC series Sykes and starred on radio and in theatre.

Hattie, (convincingly played by Ruth Jones) married the actor John Le Mesurier 1949 – 1965. They had two sons Robin and Kim.   Hattie had wanted to be a ballerina but her weight ruled this out.  One of the scenes shows Hattie dressed as a fairy being left dangling by a harness over a stage amidst sniggers.

Jacques  first went on stage when she was 20 years old and enjoyed a varied career of stage, radio and film.  This biopic focuses on the relationship of her, John Le Mesurier and her chauffeur John Schofield

Hattie with her family

  On the face of it, Hattie and Le Mesurier seem to enjoy a happy home life, with Le Mesurier and Jacques helping each other learn their lines, their sat comfortably around the kitchen table with their boys.  They have a lodger Bruce who lives upstairs who is very theatrical and jolly and it all seems to be a happy household. 

The Hattie triangle

Then along comes John Schofield the chauffeur and bit by bit, like a house of cards everything seems to collapse.  John Schofield is very good-looking and knows it.  The more I looked at this actor – the more I thought I recognised him.  Now where had I seen him before?  Aidan Turner  is the actor.  He played Gabriel Dante Rossetti in Desperate Romantics, the series about the Pre Raphaelites.  He plays the Cockney wideboy Schofield with much gusto, whilst cuckolded and very laid back Le Mesurier is played admirably by Robert Bathurst.

Poor Hattie didn’t have a chance against John Schofield the chauffeur, and   the comparison with Le Mesurier couldn’t be starker.  John Schofield is passionate, funny, earthy and a bit rough.  Le Mesurier is refined, undemonstrative but kind and gentle.  At times Hattie and Le Mesurier seem more like brother and sister.  It’s easy to see how comfortable the couple are with each other, but glib John the chauffeur who is much younger than her, desires Hattie and makes her see herself in a completely different way.   There’s a scene where Hattie has  just met John and she is talking to Bruce the lodger – when you would swear that Ruth Jones IS Hattie Jacques.  This is what the actress has to say about Hattie, the woman;-

There was more to Hattie Jacques than the public persona of the Carry On films,” says the Bridgend-born actor.

“Sometimes people don’t look beyond the character … I can understand that feeling and where Hattie was coming from.”

As Bruce the lodger moves out of the couple’s home – in moves John the chauffeur;-

Eric Sykes and Hattie Jacques

“We’ve always had a lodger” says Hattie

He’s a shot of energy who’s good for the boys’  she says (…and for herself of course)

But when Le Mesurier eventually finds out about the affair which is raging under his own roof, his only concern is for Hattie.  Worried that John will  hurt her and how he just doesn’t  understand what a remarkable woman Hattie really is, Le Mesurier refuses to leave the marital home.  He says he wants to see the ending – how it ends!  I felt like shouting ‘wake up man – it’s not a film or a script – it’s your life and your wife at stake here!’

There’s an uncomfortable ‘This is your Life’ scene which was wonderfully cringeworthy and very awkward for Hattie who has to play Happy Families to her fans.  Gentleman Le Messier gives Hattie her divorce, siting himself as the adulterer (he has eventually met his future wife Joan Mallin). I don’t know whether to feel sorry for Hattie or not. 

Ruth Jones as Hattie

She was a very versatile competent actress,  a quite beautiful looking woman, very feminine  and obviously attractive to the opposite sex.   Yet still she lacked self-confidence.  Today she would be classed as Big and Beautiful and celebrate this.  She lived in another time though – but have things really changed, are we still not obsessed with body image? .  In the scene where her and Le Mesurier go to court for their divorce, she overhears a reporter saying something like ‘You might have known that it would be a thin bird he ran off with…’  That is so typical of the attitude towards the  overweight still and  SO not true in Le Mesurier and Hattie’s case!

There’s a wonderful interview with Hattie’s son Robin here about what he thought of ‘Hattie’

For a list of Hattie’s film theatre radio and television appearances – see here – she accomplished quite a lot!

Meet the cast and read what they have to say about ‘Hattie’ here

Ruth Jones quote here

Hattie and John in happier times image from here with a brief account of Hattie’s life

Sikes and Hattie image here Hattie the nurse here,  Hattie and Ruth Jones here

DVD review ‘Twenty Thousand Streets under the Sky’ by Patrick Hamilton

Posted in Watched it with tags , , , , on January 21, 2011 by echostains

I don’t know what it is recently, but I have the urge or need to watch a DVD most nights before going to bed, no matter how late it is. Unfortunately for me, I have already exhausted my supply, so now it’s a case of playing ‘repeats’. The trouble is that they have to match my mood. You would think then that this wouldn’t be a problem. What sort of mood am I in? Well, I don’t really know for sure until I play one. The other night, I felt this need to watch something. I debated whether to watch part 3 of I Claudius. It’s my favourite part, with John Hurt as Caligula. But no – no sooner had I got it out of it’s sleeve, then back it went. The next applicant was ‘Byron’ starring Johnny Lee Miller. This I ran for about 15 minutes before ejecting. I toyed with Bleak House for a few minutes, eventually plumping for ‘Twenty Thousand streets under the sky’ with Sally Hawkins, Zoë Tapper and Bryan Dick.


the DVD fabulous!

It is a trilogy by Patrick Hamilton, but originally 3 seperate books. Each story tells the three protagonists own tale. The first one ‘The Midnight Bell’ sets the scene for most of the tale, the ‘Midnight Bell’ pub in which Bob is a barman or waiter. He comes across as bright, cheerful, charming and honest, but by the time the tale ends he is a very different person (and a lot lighter in wallet). The Midnight Bell is Bob’s side of the story. We see him worshipped by Ella, also of the Midnight bell, with a room next to his. Ella is just a friend, though she may have stood more of a chance if Bob had not seen Jenny the prostitute who steals his heart amongst other things.

Bob and Jenny who leads him a merry dance

The second tale ‘The siege of pleasure’ is Jenny’s story and seen from her point of view. It tells of Jenny’ descent from poor but respectable skivvy into prostitution through her addiction to drink. It is a sordid tale of seduction, deceit and rather sad. Even when offered by Bob, a way out, Jenny does not divert from the path she has chosen. Probably the most noblest thing she does, is let him down at the end, though that is debateable

poor lonely Ella

The last tale, ’The plains of cement’ is Ella the barmaids tale. In some ways although this one does have some humour in it, it is also the most poignant. The humour (though disturbing) is down to the elderly, well off Mr Eccles, an elderly customer who takes a shine to Ella (who’s in love with Bob, who is in love with Jenny, who is in love with money and booze). Though unsuitable as a boyfriend, Eccles at least sees Ella as a ‘young beautiful thing) and she isn’t offered many chances: Both are lonely: both are destined to stay so


The book, a jolly good read

None of these people achieve their hearts desires. The acting is positively superb and the atmosphere is convincingly 1930s smoky pubs. First shown on BBC TV and available on DVD. I’ve watched this over and over again and read the book: a marvellously good read. I would say that the BBC version is very faithful to the book. The characters are very 3 dimensional and all too human.

This review was originally on my Echostains blog