ClASSETTES, they tell us, • -• are the tools of the next and imminent revolution on our screens. Recently I had an appetising foretaste of the kind of entertainment we shall be able to have in the home, once our television sets can be fitted with new units (just as when 'commercial' was introduced) which will allow us to insert the cassettes of our choice.
The occasion was a private preview of the television film that has been made of the Ian MeKellern Hamlet which was highly acclaimed at the Cambridge Theatre. This was a real preview, not just of a television programme not yet seen,
but for which at the time no arrangements had yet been made for showing.
Above all it was a preview of a new technique, the harbinger of a new type of entertainment we shall before long he able to have in our homes.
David Giles, who directed nineteen episodes of "The Forsythe Saga," was the director. Co-ordinating producer between stage and television was Norma Carney, who has worked in almost every field of BBC and Independent Television. All stressed that, though the overriding object was to make a permanent record of a distinguished theatrical production, the technique was completely different from that of the photographed stage play.
The whole cast, after six months of the theatres of this country and the continent, were rehearsed for two weeks and re-produced to repeat the production for the cameras. This new production was filmed at Pinewood, and recorded on video-tape destined ultimately for the cassettes.
Inevitably this new-style recreation of a notable stage performance will be publicly shown before long. In the meantime this is not the place to review individual performances, excellent though many of them are, besides McKellern's own. But from the viewer's point of view it is a new possibility of catching and preserving in permanent form, but more vividly than before, the ephemeral magic of the theatre. Until now, the photographed play made the stage seem further off than the live theatre.
As normal television drama is more stagey than a movie, so this video-recording feels more truly theatrical than the TV we know — for better or for worse. For this means that the video-recording is far more like a real close-up of the stage show, with faces, figures. costume more vivid and voices more clear, almost like "stereo" on discs.. Look out for the "Hamlet," on whichever TV channel succeeds in showing it first.
By coincidence, last Saturday evening BBC-tv made two attempts at translating another theatrical medium on to the normal small screen. Cavalli's
seventeenth-century Italian opera La Calisto has some most beautiful music and the BBC-2 presentation gave us some fine singing, most notable I thought from Janet Baker as Dianna, and James Bowman as Endymion. But whatever Peter Hall's Glyndcbourne produelion looks like in that lovely opera house, it struck me as wildly unsuitable for television, with the long narrow centre stage looking like a floodlit pier, vulgar costumes and clumsy groupings. Immediately following the opera BBC-1's Gala Concert showed us the Prime Minister conducting the London Symphony Orchestra, As always in a musical context. Mr Heath looked more relaxed than
when talking politics. And although I don't imagine Covent Garden will rush to line him up as musical director, his conducting of Elgar's "Cockaigne Overture" seemed 'decidedly adequate', to use a temperate phrase which occurred in another 1313C-TV programme.
This was The Ship of the Sun Gods, an Anglo-Norwegian enterprise showing Magnus Magnussen's attempt to put into practice Professor Marstrand's theories about the Bronze Age Scandinavian ships of three thousand years ago. In these programmes Magnussen has made a rewarding pursuit of the archaeological byways which have proved such a popular attraction.
The Story of Carl Gustav Jung promises stern viewing of BBC-Ps 6.15 period these next two Sundays. Laurens van der Post is a sympathetic story. teller, and Jung must have been the most congenial of the great psycho-analysts. as flashbacks to John Freeman's memorable "Face to Face" interviews remind us, especially to Christians.
He was the only one to allow room even for the possibility of God, and the first instalment usefully recalled his finding that most cases of mental derangement originated in loss of faith, while cures were accompanied by recovery of religious faith. But I can't help feeling this Sunday serial can only be recommended to people with more thorough grounding in psychology than the average viewer—including myself.
Also last Sunday BBC-1 produced a stylish production of Moliere's Tartuffe, with that fine actor Michael Hordern as the arch-hypocrite and an exceptionally effective English rendering of Moliere's couplets by Richard Wilbur.
Animal-lovers should he warned not to look for fourlegged wild life on the big screen in either Straw Dogs ("X," Paramount) or Lions Love ("X," Paris-Pullman). The latter is Agnes Vardis not unamusing, outrageously sardonic sketch-book of a sophisticated woman director's impressions of a visit to Hollywood and its traditions of "instant nostalgia."
The movie capital is personified grotesquely by Andy Warhol's so-called "super-star" Viva and by two of his female impersonators. There are lapses of taste not only into nudity and ribaldry but in the use of news-shots of Robert Kennedy's assassination. But Madame Varda makes her points, and they are pertinent.
"Straw Dogs" reverses the tradition of gifted European directors going to the States and losing their talent there. Sam Peak in pah (reputation aglow from "The Wild Bunch") came to Cornwall to make this lurid melodrama about a quiet American mathematician (Dustin Huffman and his wife Susan George) at the mercy of moronic, sadistic village idiots and perverts.