HERE'S a how-d'ye _ do. Alerted by a wild blast of publicity for the BBC's new Saturday morning programme for children, Whoosh, I thought it was time to take a few samplings from all the mass of TV put out for the subteenager. I approached "Whoosh" with a wide open mind. I four d myself making a few notds. They grew increasingly tart as the programme proceeded. I ended with thumbs decidedly down. Only to get an immediate reaction from my sons of three and seven: "Wery good." So what is one to say? The programme was designed for children and the available children pronounce it "wery good" and even produce instarices. One of these, indeed, was "the bit where he ran backwards wery fast," the very piece about which I had scribbled "Must learn that just speeding up film. even backwards, is not automatically funny." Who must learn?
Well, i'm still inclined to think that the makers of "Whoosh" must learn. After all, the fact that they have a push-over audience should not allow them to get away with just the feeblest of shoves. To begin with, it won't pay off for ever, and secondly if children watch television made with hard thought they will not in later life, I really believe, fall so completely for the imagination-food which cheats and cuts corners and implants ides disastrously disconne ted from reality. And "Whoosh" was notable for howling unlikeliness. Fantasy it is meant to be, with its protagonists able to summon up any item they need by merely asking for it up a service-lift and being endowed, too, with the ability to transport themselves to any destination they want accompanied by the (fairly faint) sound whoosh. But fantasy must, above all, be truly and properly rooted in the real or it tells us nothing.
"Whoosh" is not rooted in the real. Take this situation: you find at the end of a treasure trail a large chest. What do you do? Surely you at least try and open it. Not the "Whoosh" team. They immediately, but for no given reason, decide to transport their find home. The human mind is not like that.
For what the human mind is like in wildly fantastic situations, let me heartily recommend Dr. Who. The series of serials under this title has been with us for years now, and we are well into our second eponymous hero (how I love that phrase). He is now played, and excellently, by Patrick Trouditon.
I have seen odd episodes every now and again, and it seems to me that at present the whole thing is in extremely fine fettle. And the principal reason for this is that the stories bristle with real characters, people who have human weaknesses and idiosyncracies, so that when confronted with some ingenious but fanciful bugaboo they react in a way which validly enlarges the audience's experience of their fellow men.
This is thanks too, it is only fair to add, to some first-class performances by both occasionals and regulars. And I cannot resist a special word of praise for Deborah Watling for being able really to scream. It's not such an easy feat, and, my goodness. she's called on to perform it with gratifying frequency.
Gratifying to me, that is. But how gratifying to the young viewers? What about this question of watching horrors? In the very first piece on television I wrote for this paper I advanced, all innocently, the view that young minds need a ration of horrors (thoughtfully calculated) to help them cope with the grimmer events of later life. And, by golly, with what a thump some sociological study came crashing down on my head for it.
And yet, you know, I still cannot quite believe the argument is totally without foundation. And for a very simple reason. As a child. I myself supped full of horrors, mostly printed, sonic via the radio. And I loved them.
I cannot say that any protective mechanism I may have developed has been much tested in later life (thank goodness), but I do fed that such testing as it has had has shown it to exist and I feel too that I can contemplate possible future horrors, like death, with some degree of calm.
So I still cheerfully allow my own brood to watch on as the horrid weedy fingers "with life in them like human beings" twirl and twist and seek their prey and Miss Watling screams again.
Finally, if I have damned a new programme, let me hail a departing one. Battle royal with homework has always prevented anyone in our family seeing Rediffusion's Do Not Adjust Your Set. But my elderly mother, brought up, God bless her, without benefit of TV or even radio. had warmly recommended it. So last week I slunk off on my own and watched its final programme.
And very good it was too. Indeed, I thought it knocked spots off the now-departed late-night Saturday show At the Eleventh Hour whose field, curiously enough, it more or less covered—though it managed very well without a trace of smut.
It did however take the mickey out of the Prime Minister, hut only in passing and with the lightest of touches. And it carried too a devastating take-off of what you might call the new news. with lots of people in shirtsleeves and pieces of paper being impressively put down on desks all the time.
It was gay, inconsequential, zany, quick and, above all, professional. Every joke was neatly and rapidly built up and then cut away from with all the adroit swiftness of a con man leaving the scene of the crime. In short, I liked it. But I wonder what my children would have said?
Could be good
Wednesday, BBC-2: "The Birth." First of three films made in the Holy land by Malcolm Muggeridge telling the story of the life of Christ. Also Thursday and today week.
Wednesday, ITV: "The Ronnie Barker Playhouse." Second in this new series of comedy plays with the same star and top writers tonight Akin Owen.
Thursday, ITV: "Sanctuary." No. 2 in the new nuns series, with the extra touch of controversy. EVEN after success at the London Festival, JOnas Cornell's Hugs and Kisses ("X," Paris-Pullman) was easily taken for a deceptively trifling affair. No doubt this was partly due to its title, a perfectly valid rendering of the original Swedish Puss och Kratn, which sounds like light relief from the darker Northern nights of Ingmar Bergman.
Now Mr. Cornell is quoted as protesting that it is "not a comedy, but a cold film," and that most people don't quite understand it. It is certainly a film I should like to see again before I could quite under
Outwardly, as others have noticed, the plot is patterned very like that of Pinter's The Caretaker, except that it is on Max and Ewa, a young hus
band and wife, that the stranger John moves in suddenly
and stays gradually. The framework, the beautifully lit camerawork, the polish, make it look like a smooth-running Swedish bedroom or marital farce.
Bearing the director's warning in mind, it is not difficult to see that the elegant, sophisticated antics only conceal the turbulence caused by the unbalancing of relationships. The playing of both actors, SvenBertil Tauber (as Max) and Hakan Serner (as John), and of Agneta Ekmanner as the wife, is a delight.
#t least as difficult to understand as the film is the fact that it has fallen foul of our very liberal, not to say permissive, censorship, and become one of those mini-causes etslebres which stimulate discussion of censorship.
Censorship, of course, is on the mat. With theatre censorship undergoing changes. and with television on occasion using its privileged position to flout film censorship by show ing clips of censored film, it is not surprising that the filmmakers, too, should be restive about its censorship.
By general consent—including. it seems, that of Lord Harlech and Mr. John Trevelvan of the British Board of Film Censors — the offending sequence in "Hugs and Kisses" hich has suffered cuts was not erotic. offensive or provocative. It was cut on a technicality, on a specific ruling of what may legally, as distinct from tastefully, be shown of a naked lady.
Censorship surely cannot be divorced from taste and so from fashion. In earlier days censorship was acceptable because most of the material censored would have grossly offended millions of people. Today I might still be comforted by having films cen sored within what seems to me reason.
But I recognise that it would be unreasonable to count on such protection in what we are told is a permissive age. I imagine the enlightened John Trevelyan must have found it galling to feel forced by a technicality to compel a cut which inevitably makes the censorship seem a bit of an ass, especially when we remember the many more outrageous Swedish (and other) movies for which his "X" has been sufficient.
After inventing the "X" to keep out under-sixteens (when they can be recognised) the censor's work nowadays is thought to be mainly done with the possibility of prosecution always in reserve.
It is difficult not to sympathise with the film's distributors when 0 , appeal for films to be ti ated as an art medium and are considered individually according to their merits and to the type of audience they expect.
In the same bill is Bert Haanstra's The Human Dutch ("U," Paris-Pullman). This award-laden documentary of Dutch daily living is finely photographed and edited. Only it seems much longer than its 94 minutes. partly because although at the end it claims to be about 12 million individualists. it has shown principally millions of identical individuals monotonously uniform except for a few (including a stork and a goose) blessed falls on the ice while skating along the canals—and the Dutch Royal family group being photographed at home.
Cornel Wilde, romantic actor, unsophisticated filmmaker, proves himself an
honourably truth seeking producer-director of Beach Red ("X," London Pavilion). Nobody, I think, would call this account of a jungle patrol on a Jap-held island in 1943 a film of quality or even distinction.
It is full of cliches like the dreams of the wives and girls Mr. Wilde and his unit left behind them. But it strives desperaely to face facts and to convey some of the human truths of war encountered by the men, the boys, involved. A quite unusual degree of "audience participation" is achieved.
How does an 18-year-old boy who turns sick at the sight of a body consumed by a flame-thrower gird himself up to accompany his partner to the end? It may sound exaggerated but I could only go back to "All Quiet on the Western Front" to recall as intense a feeling of "This is how it must have been."
Remarkably, too, the enemy are accorded the same human values. These Japs, too, thirst, bleed, and are terrified, and dream of their wives and children. It is certainly taking pleasure grimly. But sometimes that may be the only way to take pleasures.