Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Birmingham Winter Memorabilia Show 2010

Robin made an appearance at this on Nov 20-21. Sadly, no, I didn't attend. I guess it looks like some sort of film memorabilia convention type thing. Not that interesting to me otherwise, but I would have loved to go meet Robin :( Sadness and woe, being half a world away! Anyhow, next best thing, another fan out there DID get to go and posted a bunch of nice photos of Robin on his flickr account at: http://www.flickr.com/photos/stfphotoagency/5196226128/ so check them out! Robin looks good for his age, glad to see he still has his long hair. Can you believe how shiny it is???

Friday, November 19, 2010

Please, Sir! - 1971

This was a popular sitcom in Britain in the late 60s/early 70s. Robin is listed as only having appeared in one episode from 1971. I found someone on an online marketplace selling bootleg copies of the entire series PLUS a spinoff movie. Did I really want to puchase all that for one small glimpse of Robin playing some minor character? No. So I politely asked the guy if he’d be willing to sell me JUST that episode, plus a couple other Robin episodes from other series he was selling. Um, sorry, no can do. Really? You’re already bootlegging stuff and can’t push a button and re-copy 3 shows onto one disc for me? Sigh. But I held my tongue, who knows, this guy might be my only source. So I made an offer for the whole series PLUS another whole series that had just one Robin episode. Offer accepted.

Well, as I paid for the whole 4-season series plus its spin-off movie (where the class goes to camp), I might as well get my money’s worth and watch it. Actually, it’s not too bad. Kinda funny. Enjoyable. First season is filmed in black and white and is a cross between the movie “To Sir With Love” and “Welcome Back Kotter” A new teacher in a high school located in a working class section of London is given the school’s most unruly class of seniors: 5C. In England, at least at that time, not sure of now, grades were known as “Forms”. The 5 in 5C means 5th Form, roughly equal to our Senior class in High school. But if you want to go on to university it seems that there is a 6th form as well, but these kids certainly won’t be doing that. The C may stand for the not as smart group? “A” may be the smart group? I’m assuming that part.

So….of course the kids give the new teacher a hard time at first but also of course he quickly wins them over even though all their previous teachers have quit in disgust. And the viewers find out that these kids, underneath their smart mouths, have hearts of gold.

Robin originally tried out for the role of “Duffy” but lost it to the worst looking “teenager” imaginable. When the series starts in 1968 Peter Cleall, who plays him, is 24 years old! But looks much, much, older, despite his long shaggy blond hair. An 18 year old Robin would have been a lot more believable as a high school student. Funny enough, he is also the guy who played the aging Gary Glitter-esque rocker in “Confessions of a Pop Performer”!

Most of the other main characters also probably are not played by teenagers. There’s the “sexy” one, Sharon, who looks like a voluptuious woman in her mid-20s. I am amazed by her beautiful thick hair though! There’s the dowdy religious girl, Maureen, who has a schoolgirl crush on Sir. There’s the learning-disabled one who is abused at home. The streetwise one who boasts about how tough he is but has an overprotective Mum at home (played by the same actress who plays the nosy neighbor in “Beryl’s Lot”). And the one I like, the sharply dressed blond guy, who looks the youngest of the lot.

Despite Robin officially being in only one episode, in his autobiography he mentions he appeared in a few episodes in 1971 as a character named “Eric”. After wading through the first 3 seasons I finally come to season 4’s episode 6 titled “A.W.O.L.” He is playing a character named “Eddie”, not “Eric”. Faulty memory on the part of Robin? He is also not in ANY other episodes. Hmphs.

By the 4th season, the original class has graduated and it’s a big changeover at Fenn Street School. The show no longer focuses on just one class or teacher. Nor does it focus on a just few main students. But the kids are all really kids now, and definitely look like it. Each episode brings in different kids for the stories to revolve around. New teachers are introduced as well.

In “A.W.O.L” two boys in their late teens have been ditching class and hanging out at the local billiard hall. Robin plays an apathetic young man, none too smart, who also hangs out there. They are involved in mischievous petty theivery. A popular new teacher comes down to have words with him and to talk the kids into coming back.

It isn’t the best display of acting talent I’ve seen, but Robin sure looks hot with his long fluffy hair and groovy jacket!

On a side note, the actor that plays the energetic and dynamic young new teacher is Richard Warwick, who was in a few of Robin’s other works, including “If….” And went on to become good friends with him in real life, according to his book. He’s fun to watch in “Please Sir”, very flamboyant and cheerful. I looked him up on the web to see what he’s been doing lately and unfortunately, he died of AIDS in 1997. Too bad.

Season 4 was the last season of the show, and I can see why. Characters come and go which leaves the viewer confused. Richard Warwick’s character, who comes to the school with much fanfare, disappears all of a sudden without explanation. There’s so many different kids you can’t keep track of who’s who. The last few episodes focus on the core staff of elderly teachers who’ve been there since the beginning and get on your nerves after awhile. Why the show just couldn’t have continued to follow the original characters instead of spinning them off into a new show “The Fenn Street Gang” is puzzling.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Stand Up Virgin Soldiers – 1977

Like in 1978’s “Let’s Get Laid”, Robin plays a short-haired soldier. His character is a lot more appealing in this one though, for some reason. He acts more like himself. And even with the short hair, he’s really hot! Maybe it’s because he made this one straight after “Queen Kong” and his glowing tan hasn’t faded yet.

The setting is 1950, Malaya, Singapore. The British army are there fighting some war – Korean, maybe? Robin is a likeable young soldier who pals around with a fellow soldier. They visit the local brothel, put on a talent show, play tennis, date nurses, get invited to a fancy dinner given by the officers…. Um, is this a war they’re in, or are they on vacation? There’s a tiny bit of a toned-down Timmy Lea in him, in a couple incidents where he either is bumping into a wheelchair-bound patient in the hospital or knocking something over at fancy luncheons or dinner. But it’s so much more subtle and nicely done in this than in the Confessions films.

This more serious-than-usual role again demonstrates the range he’s capable of . To go from a wacky hippie in Queen Kong to a believable 1950s era soldier is quite a shift!

I think anyone would find this film enjoyable. Although some of the dangers of war are touched upon, it is basically a lighthearted look at the fun and comradarie of life as a soldier. It was filmed in England, yet still you still get a realistic feel of them being in a hot, humid jungle environment. Everyone must have had to be continuously spray-bottled for them to have that “always perspiring” look!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Menace – “Trespasser” - Nov 17, 1970, season 1, episode 8

This week I’m treating you to yet another appearance that I cannot find to watch. There were two seasons of 23 episodes put out in the years 1970 and 1973. Wikipedia says that 21 of these are “lost”, but who knows. The originals may be stored somewhere.

It was a BBC drama described as “series of thrillers designed to keep the audience on the edge of their seats.” In his episode, Robin plays a character named “Robbie Clay”. Man, it sounds like an interesting show!

Found a nice write up about the series in general on an informative website called “Action TV”. Here’s what they have to say:

“Jordan Lawrence was the creative force behind Menace, a series of twenty-three plays running to seventy-five-minutes which found their basis in the aspects, perceptions and representations of menace in various settings in and around the villages, townships and cities of the United Kingdom. The stories, whilst thematically linked, approached the essential premise from a wide variety of different directions, some subtle and some far less opaque. The nature of menace could either be reflected through a particular act, the body language of a particular character, the environment in which an episode was set, or a set of circumstances under which a character or characters was placed. The success of the series was firmly rooted in the changing nature of menace from episode to episode, and this became a potent allure for audiences ensuring healthy ratings figures and commanding attention from the popular press. The programme drew from the creative well of a fine combination of writers (amongst whom the most notable were Alun Richards, Roy Clarke, Hugh Whitemore, Fay Weldon and James MacTaggart) who were able to inject menace into darkly comic situations, and heighten darkly menacing situations to make a viewing pleasure transform itself into an uncomfortable time for the audience. The first series proved more popular than the second, probably because of the novelty value of the programme and, perhaps, by virtue of the fact that it was originally transmitted on BBC 2, the risk-taking arm of the corporation. When the programme shifted its home to BBC 1 for the second, shorter season, audiences were more accustomed as to what to expect from the series. Also, in part, the emphasis shifted more towards action rather than menace and thus, the original premise became somewhat watered down so its popularity somewhat waned…Menace was never commercially exploited, but with the announcement that Thriller is soon to be released on DVD in the United Kingdom, perhaps a raid on the BBC archives may now be warranted.”
-Text © Matthew Lee, 2004

I also found a cast listing at “Action TV” where they have summaries of a lot of the episodes but not this one!

Cast : Moira Redmond (Laurie), Gordon Jackson (Lander), Thorley Walters (Thatcher), Geraldine Newman (Pauline), Robin Askwith (Robbie Clay), Gerald Rowland (John Clay), Roberta Tovey (Annie Clay), Barbara Lott (Mrs Clay), Nick Brimble (The Locksmith) and David Quilter (The Doctor)

Well, I’ll keep track of it and see if it is indeed ever released!