Archive for Film & DVD Reviews

The Myth of Night Magic

The original poster for Night Magic

Night Magic is a 1985 Canadian-French musical film written by Leonard Cohen and Lewis Furey and directed by Furey. The film stars Nick Mancuso as Michael, a down on his luck musician whose fantasies begin to come true after he meets an angel (Carole Laure). The film’s supporting cast includes Stéphane Audran, Jean Carmet, Frank Augustyn, Louis Robitaille, Anik Bissonnette, Nanette Workman and Barbara Eve Harris.

Article By Nick Mancuso

I starred in Night Magic. And I feel guilty about it. A marvelously original musical by two geniuses Leonard Cohen and Lewis Furey. Take a listen. Find this lost Canadian film.I say geniuses because there is no doubt that Leonard Cohen remains one of the great legends in music history, poetry, and writing in the latter part of the 20th century in the period known as the 60s. As for Lewis well take a listen.

Leonard Cohen. A legend. Night Magic the unknown unsung movie he wrote starring myself Carol Laure Stephan Audron Jean Carmet directed by Lewis Feury first time at the bat. Cinematography by Phillppe Rouseleaut. Choreography and dancing by Eddie Toussant Ballet de Montreal and Frank Augustine of the National Ballet of Canada.

A class act of a film and a complete flop.It reflected a time of mythic figures in cinema and music Fellini Kurosawa, Godard. the Beatles. the Rolling Stones, Jim Hendrix, Jim Morrison, Bob Dylan, and from the frontier country of olden Canada Leonard Cohen, Joni Mitchel, Neil Young, Gordon Lightfoot, and all the other illuminated crazies that infused my generation with the sheer force and hope for a shimmering bright new future. It reflected the echoes of a time that would once and all-time end the war to end all wars.And bring about a time of peace and love.To my mind at least this was the subtext of Night Magic. Yes, it was to be peace and love and this unknown little film spoke about it all. Success. Fame. Love. Immortality

We started in Montreal Canada in the late summer of 1984. It was a wonderful summer that year in Canada in my favourite city. Night and Magic. The Baby boomers sing and dance.Just watch us.The Baby Boomers born from desperation and sprung from parents who had survived the worst event in human history and who were not one of the corpses piled in the millions into mass graves. Who had not been transmuted into hot ashes or evaporated by the nuclear flash of Hiroshima. We children were survivors and children of survivors. We had done something right to be alive and to stay alive and therefore had a purpose a reason to be.A reason to sing and dance.Leonard Cohen was to be the voice of our generation. He was one of these amazing children born in Montreal in 1934 a Jew who was not hatched in Europe but born into a safe harbor called Canada. His father was a successful merchant his mother the daughter of a distinguished rabbi.His teacher was one of Canadas greatest poets Irving Layton.His guitar teacher who was an immigrant Spaniard taught him some basic chords and then committed suicide. He was an artist through and through. A true Bohemian not a hippy or a yippie and certainly not a yuppie or the X generation. Leonard learned 3 chords and started strumming along to the song of the Universe.Leonard was a born poet but he wanted to be like David to play the harp and sing. To God and for God. And my character Michael was modeled on this modern cinematic David.These are the thematics of this little unknown orphan of a film shivering in a snowbound lane way. Lol as the theologically correct cynical children of today smirk.Buried and forgotten.

The film is in fact a very biblical and religious fairy tale and Carol Laure is not only a perfect angel but she is the Virgin Mary and Suzanne all wrapped up into one brunette Marianne. A modern fairy tale lost and forgotten in a Quebec winter.How odd in the Age of Beyonce and Lady Gaga and COVID to think that a film like this could ever be made.And yet it was.Another era.In 1964 Leonard was at the perfect age and the perfect time. And in the perfect country; Trudeaus Canada the land of peace.Hope and brilliance were in the air.One day in 1965 my old friend then young now-deceased Alex Gottlieb announced to me that Leonard was writing songs and singing.At the University of Toronto, we knew him only as a poet a protege of Irving Layton.Alex put on the scratchy disk.”Susanne takes you down to her place by the river/ you can hear the boats go by/ you can hear the river answer…”What?An awful voice tuneless like fingernails on a chalkboard…..hopeless he was. There was no future for this unknown Canadian poet. Who the hell wants to hear songs about razor blades in the age of the Midnight Rambler? Alleluia. It’s ironic and fitting that Night Magic which he wrote with Lewis Furey should remain unknown hidden in the amnesiac snows of Canadian Cultural History. Like all things Canadian which do not exist until they exist in the outside world until they are recognized and lauded by the Americans or the British or God forbid the French. Night Magic disappeared into the night. I feel guilty about Night Magic and this article is by way of an apology to make amends to this little gem of a film playing that singing poet. I feel guilty because I did not go to Cannes when the film was accepted into the Directors Fortnight Category. I feel guilty for not walking the red carpet with the paparazzi screaming “Over here! Over here!”. I feel guilty because I helped bury the film by not suiting up and showing up. Because you see, this film is a gorgeous work of art musically and visually imaginative and more than deserves to be remembered. The film is about lost love and love found and lost again and the egocentric selfishness of the artist and his obsessions with himself and the consequences thereof. In the context of the larger picture I was perfect for the part at the time. My Salad days though slightly wilted.When Carol asked me to star in it while shooting Bobby Roths Heartbreakers with Peter Coyote I balked.I’m neither a singer nor a dancer and Michael was both. Stage fright paralyzed me.” I know you can do it” Carol told me. We had worked together on several films going back to the time of John Hirch’s CBC and Gille Carl. So I took the leap.Rehearsals began in Montreal a month before principal photography and that time I learned to sing and dance. Somewhat. I did it all by the numbers with much help from some marvelous people.But my voice was to be Lewis. I had done this sort of dubbing thing before when I filmed the rock star in “Blame it On the Night” original story by Mick Jagger. I gave a concert for 3 days at the San Diego Sports Arena singing in Ted Neeleys Voice ( Jesus Christ Superstar) in a 4-octave range and blowing out my voice in front of 10,000 people I was on stage with Billy Preston and Mary Clayton. Faking it. Pretending. An actor’s utter madness. But no risk no gain. And here’s the kicker.No gain means no fame and vice versa. Cosmic law in showbiz.And as Charlton Heston once told me while shooting a film called Motherlode with Kim Bassinger directed by Heston and written by his son Fraser: ” The trouble with showbusiness is that its business that is show and show that is business.” Ya cant win unless you get the loot.Leonard never cared much about the loot.

Night Magic made neither loot nor fame.It cared not a whit.“It is to such as you /that we were sent/ to speak directly to your deepest shame/ and light the fires of experiment…” So sang Michael in Night Magic so sang Leonard Cohen.” we claim you now…in the name of that which/ you have never done before /the victim shall be smitten on his Sore/ The Haughty One shall have a Visitor” What language!! Not exactly Rocky Horror!! Almost Elizabethan. Chilling words. Michael loses everything including the Angel that loved him “I burned the House of Love tonight” . Again Leonard. This film is very much about the fires of experiment. To my mind the fires that electrified the 60s. My generation. And Leonard’s even more so born 14 years earlier. The hope of a generation that betrayed itself. Look around you and listen to the music in this film beat its heart out against the diminishing rattle of a shifting Schumann Wave, the heart sounds of Gaia our Planet. A cacophony of sound. Splintered chords in syncopated 7/8 time.The music of Shtokhausen divided by Bertold Brecht. And so it began.We had a nothing budget and Robert Lantos who had produced the movie ran out of money so we the principal players threw some of our salaries back in.So why would I not go to Cannes? That was the question. Was it indifference? No, I had massive stage fright. I hated the red carpet. How bizarre.” I never thought / I’d get this far: ” Michael ” we always knew you would! “ The Angels

Fear is an ugly thing. Fear of success. Fear of the red carpet. Fear of judgment.Leonard had neither fear of success nor failure. He was a free man. But the film did not liberate itself.Was the film afraid?It was afraid of its own genius.Afraid it would be captured and compared.Afraid of its novelty.Who was the villain in the story? No one. It was self-betrayal . It was treason which according to Dante was the greatest of all sins. Night Magic betrayed itself and I like a good Mephistphelian actor played along. But for Leonard it was different.His Buddhism and dharma and Sangha kept him balanced. He bought a small house in the immigrant section of Montreal. To which he returned every now and then to “renew his neurotic affiliations.” He chopped wood and carried water for his old Roshi on Mt Baldy In California. He knew the score. He was not afraid.He stayed humble because from the get-go he knew everyone was in trouble.He didn’t kid nor kill himself much as he sang about it. He loved women and he loved song and he loved life and he was grateful to his maker the Creator of heaven and earth.He understood the essential magic of the universe. There’s a crack in things. That’s how the light gets in.

I first met Leonard Cohen in a macrobiotic restaurant in Montreal at midnight.We became instant friends. He asked if he could come and watch us rehearse at the National Theatre School.Of course. Dancing and sweating every day with Edie Tousant Ballet of Montreal and Frank Augustine of the National Ballet he, asked if he could bring me water or a coffee. Thank you.He was of service to others at all times.When he offered me the rights to Beautiful Losers his first novel I accepted. I was a beautiful loser and did nothing with the rights.The film itself became a beautiful loser.”I burned the house of Love tonight/ it made an aweful ring” Michael/Cohen Night Magic

Leonard was kind and gentle and sweet with an impish sense of humor. There was no anger nor frustration in the man. He had the feeling of a man who knew the jig was up. With him, everything seemed possible because there was a smile at the end of the Universe. The cold razor blade reality was not his. Its something he wrote about.“everybody knows/the war Is over/ everybody knows/ the bad guys won:” So drink eat sing and dance deep into the night for tomorrow you will pay the bill.

Night Magic was originally entitled The Hall.I think it was Robert Lantos the producer of the film who gave it the name Night Magic. The Hall a classic Cohenism was too prosaic for Mr. Lantos. He went on to become along with Garth Drabinski Canada’s most successful producer and yet when I asked him years later how it felt to have succeeded he told me he felt like a loser. “Why?” I asked?

Because I wanted to produce….you know…films.” He was, of course, talking David Korda films, MGM …you know films. Gone With the Wind films, The Red ShoesStar Wars, The Godfather, Rambo. In a relative world, we are all of us…losers. It’s hard to believe Night Magic the film was ever made. Before the existence of MTV and music videos, a film totally ignored by Canada written by a Canadian legend. How utterly fitting. It’s a marvelous gem of a movie and I am happy to have been a part of it. Thank you Leonard Cohen. Thank you Night Magic.

Nick Mancuso, Paris 2020

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Citizens of Boomtown: The Story of the Boomtown Rats

Citizens of Boomtown: The Story of the Boomtown Rats
https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m000jjr5

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The Boomtown Rats in Ireland

This documentary about the Boomtown Rats has its faults but is hugely entertaining and informative. Director Billy McGrath records and analyses both the band’s history and its music. He highlights key (sometimes iconic) footage documenting its huge success and subsequent fall from popularity. Guests include Bono, Sinead O’Connor, Dave Stewart, Jools Holland, David Mallet and Sting, as well as music writers, photographers, and historians all give their views on the history and social impact of the Rats.

I should declare my interest. I am a Boomtown Rats fan. I loved ‘A Tonic for the Troops’ when I first heard it. I loved the mix of punk rebellion with people who could actually play instruments and carry a tune. I loved the relative complexity of the lyrics.

The Boomtown Rats originated in Ireland. An Ireland that was economically grim and socially frozen. Ireland was dominated by the allied Church and State and to many young people was depressing and corrupt. All many wanted to do was escape. That was certainly true of the members of the Boomtown Rats. Added to that sense of alienation or estrangement was there disrupted family backgrounds. All in all a mix for anti-authority, questioning and rebellious positions. And that’s exactly what you got.

For me, the relationship between their Irish roots and the state of that nation was one of the most fascinating aspects of the documentary. The lyric of Banana Republic written in response to the band being banned from performing in the Republic is uncompromising. Take the chorus:
“Banana Republic
Septic Isle
Suffer in the Screaming sea
It sounds like dying
Everywhere I go
Everywhere I see
The black and blue uniforms
Police and priests”

The Irish establishment took a dim view of this song and Geldof’s earlier “denunciation of nationalism, medieval-minded clerics and corrupt politicians” in a 1977 interview/performance on Ireland’s The Late Late Show. The Irish Times described the band as “a thorn shoved into the skin of church and state”.(1)

Yet the Rats were also one of Ireland’s most successful exports for a time opening up opportunities that other Irish bands followed. And Geldof never abandoned Ireland itself whilst maintaining his criticism of the system there.

There are many ‘might have been questions’ raised by the documentary. The Rats were ahead of their time in terms of producing music videos but there was no dedicated music video channel at the time. Had there been maybe they would have broken through in the United States. If Geldof had been less abrasive and understood America and Americans better perhaps they would have done better there. As the Irish Times put it: “Geldof, for whom keeping his mouth shut did not come naturally, went out of his way to alienate US audiences by deriding the sainted Bruce Springsteen.” (2)

You can mark the end of the band at different points but I would place it when they failed to breakthrough in the United States. It didn’t help that the anthemic I Don’t Like Mondays was blocked by legal threats from being produced as a single there.

Bob Geldof kept busy. He starred in Pink Floyd the Wall (released in 1982) cast as the mentally deranged Fascist leader Pink. He brought his energy to organise the massive 1985 Live Aid charity concerts and the Xmas hit Do they know it’s Christmas? and many associated efforts for famine relief in Africa.

The Rats reunited as a part-time touring act in 2013 and in 2020, 36 years after their last release. They also produced a seventh album, Citizens of Boomtown (after which the documentary is named). Although keyboardist Johnny Fingers and early-era guitarist Gerry Cott are both absent, the Rats of 2020 — Geldof, guitarist Garry Roberts, bassist Pete Briquette, and drummer Simon Crowe – are all original members. The album received mixed reviews but the live gigs were said to be filled with energy and passion by those who attended.

In both the documentary and in an interview with Rolling Stone Geldof insists that the band’s older songs aren’t nostalgia but are relevant today:

““When I sing ‘I Don’t Like Mondays’ I’m not in 1979,” he says. “I’m in last night’s school massacre, which nobody anticipated at the time. When I’m doing ‘Rat Trap,’ it’s not for the hopelessness of the people in that abattoir I wrote it in, but hopelessness now. When I do ‘Banana Republic’ it’s not for the Irish Republic, which eventually grew up and matured. It’s for the American republic as it descends ever further into political infantilism.”

“When I do ‘Lookin’ After No. 1′ it’s not about the conditions of life in 1979,” he continues. “It’s about Google and Facebook and [Mark] Zuckerberg always on, always monitoring, collating every thought you have, every friend, every choice, packaging and selling it to a third party who in turn exploits you and your preferences. It’s utterly now. That rage, that animus propels the Boomtown Rats.” (3)

I can’t hope to cover all the informative, thought-provoking, and entertaining aspects of this documentary. It is so full. Though there are still aspects missed such as Geldof’s support for Father’s Rights and his opposition to Brexit.

I said at the start that it had flaws. There is a very contrived ‘interview’ with Bob Geldof at the beginning which I think is meant to be funny but isn’t. I didn’t make much of the rather ‘art-schooly’ of the band walking through a tunnel behind a figure wearing a gas mask and pulling a board laden with rocks. Each to their own though! It is also a little self-congratulatory but given the band, and particularly ‘Saint Bob’s’ contribution to humanitarian relief and social progress maybe we can forgive them that!

Reviewed by Patrick Harrington

(1) https://www.irishtimes.com/…/the-boomtown-rats-citizens-of-…
(2) https://www.irishtimes.com/…/citizens-of-boomtown-bob-geldo…
(3) https://www.rollingstone.com/…/bob-geldof-interview-boomto…/

Picture credit: By Author unknown; Photo courtesy Orange County Archives – https://www.flickr.com/photos/ocarchives/5486877395/, No restrictions, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=14267259

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Eurovision Song Contest: the Story of Fire Saga


Rating: PG-13 (for crude sexual material including full nude sculptures, some comic violent images, and language)
Genre: Comedy
Directed By: David Dobkin
Written By: Will Ferrell, Andrew Steele
On Disc/Streaming: Jun 26, 2020
Runtime: 121 minutes
Studio: Netflix


When everything around us is grim: Coronavirus, impending economic disaster, increasing political polarisation and – of course – Brexit and the climate change crisis, you might be forgiven for looking to watch something escapist to take you mind off things at least for an hour or so.  If so, Will Ferrell’s Eurovision Song Contest is just the tonic you need.
It’s common in Britain to treat

the annual Eurovision Contest with disdain and condescension; so this film could easily have take the lazy option and been a sneer-fest at the expense of this very popular event. It’s not. It’s an affectionate and gentle send-up of Eurovision’s more absurd, camp and at times startling features; including the voting system.


The plot, such as it is sees Lars  Erickssong (Will Ferrell) as a not-that-talented singer in a small Icelandic fishing village realise his ambition to represent his country at the 2020 Eurovision Contest in Edinburgh. Sigrit Ericksdottir (Rachel McAdams) is his best friend and his much more talented partner in Fire Saga. They get through to the final by default after an explosion on a boat wipes out the favourite to win the Icelandic heat and all the other entrants.


Pearse Brosnan plays Ferrell’s embarrassed father with superb grumpiness. There are cameo appearances from Graham Norton as himself and some real-life past Eurovision winners. Add a very camp Russian competitor, and a sexy Greek one to each make a play for Sigrit and Lars to introduce some tension between them.


The onstage performances are terrifically choreographed – as are the inevitable disasters, but Fire Saga’s entry song Double trouble makes it through to the final. There are some twists in what passes for a plot but who cares about the plot in this delightful romp? 


There are fantastic, catchy songs – which, like genuine Eurovision songs – are dreadful ear worms. You won’t get Jaja Ding Dong out of your head. I bet it will become a disco and party standard in years to come. Set all your worries and troubles aside and just luxuriate in this hugely entertaining film. 

Reviewed by David Kerr

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Survivors – Comparing the TV Series, Covid 19 & the Future Part 4 ‘Medicine’

Spoiler Alert: the following talks generally about ideas from the series, with specific information related to ‘Medicine’.

Just before the ‘lockdown’ I had root-canal surgery here in France. In fact this became necessary as I had had an abscess. And I had the abscess for about 18 months (mostly kept under control through using iodine). I went to the dentist at very short notice and it was the LAST possible moment I could have gone. The dentist saw me late in the afternoon (I was her last patient I believe) and then she was off on holiday. Well she didn’t come back after her holiday as the ‘lockdown’ intervened. It was only a week or so ago that I was able to have the procedure finished and during the interim I needed antibiotics and more iodine!

For one moment let me imagine what might have happened to me had I been a ‘Survivor’. Let’s presume I wasn’t able to go to the dentist. My abscess would have got worse. Would I have been able to get tincture of iodine in England (I called many chemists before a visit there a few years back to see if I could buy any – but no luck. Myself and my request seemed an odd anachronism!). I might have got lucky with the abscess and it could have healed (though I have read conflicting information on this) – but given that it hadn’t completely after 18 months – that would’ve seemed unlikely. The danger would be sepsis! And from this – death! When I finally visited the dentist for the completion of the treatment (removal of temporary filling and re-draining of infection from tooth/gum) – I was VERY grateful there WERE dentists and wonderful, modern equipment. I had also broken part of my tooth too which she fixed efficiently.

The condition of our teeth and their maintenance of good health generally would be a worry in a survival situation. In ‘Survivors’ they had painkillers, needles, and no doubt scavenged antibiotics. How long would these last? Antibiotics have a shelf life and would be difficult to produce in the survivors circumstances. Before antibiotics became common-place I think they used sulphur, but this wasn’t as effective. In the past ‘the poor’ would have had bad teeth – and often bad health. In France a disparaging term for those without money is ‘sans dents‘. Our oral health has an effect on our general health. And if we found ourselves in the world of the survivors and we needed treatment, how many dentists would have survived? Remember the general survival rate was 1 in 5,000. It’s one thing to read about how to do dentistry– it’s quite another to act upon it. And this dentistry would have to be carried out ‘ad hoc‘ with scavenged equipment. How would a filling be done? And how would we maintain the health of our teeth and gums? Again we’d have to consult the past for advice!

A baby is born during the series. This is somewhat played down (and I don’t think the mother plays a further part but is referred to obliquely). As with dentists, how many midwives or doctors would have survived – and where would they be found? Having a baby would be – as in the past – a threat to the life of both mother and child. We saw in various episodes that painkillers seemed available and needles to inject opiates. The first mothers and babies would be the ‘lucky ones’ – but I imagine ordinary folk (helping at the birth), would struggle with certain deliveries – such as ‘breach births’. Who would have the skill to perform a caesarean? The birth would have to be natural but assisted as best and as ably as possible. Mortality rates would revert to pre-industrialisation figures. In the late 18th Century maternal death was between 5-29 per 1,000. How many babies died? How many babies died then that would have been saved had they been born a century later?

Of course in ‘Survivors’ attitudes to sex/women of possible child-bearing ages would change fairly quickly. In the episode ‘Corn Dolly’ the group we are following (before settling down at their manor house) come across a small commune where many are mortally-ill from eating poisoned fish. Charles, the leader, administers morphine (I’m fairly sure) through injections – to aid a less painful death. It also turns out that he has impregnated most of the women at this small commune in his zeal to re-populate the world! Now, I shan’t dwell too much on the social side of this here – but it is safe to say that women would be ‘expected’ to carry babies and bring in future generations. Sticking to the medical side of this – that would mean sex would more likely result in pregnancies. Which, as discussed, carries risk. Women’s attitude to sex, especially, would surely change – and men’s attitude to women too. I’ll discuss this in a future article. Many women (and girls of course) might find themselves pregnant and at the mercy of either nature or the competence of their fellow humans. Results could be shocking. It is revealed in the last episode (of Series 1) that Jenny is pregnant with Greg’s child.

Every cut would pose a possible threat to the remaining populace. Every accident too. In one episode of ‘Survivors’ a chap has had his legs crushed beneath a tractor. Greg does his best to help him but he doesn’t know how to re-set the man’s bones. This man is eventually left for dead by the woman he is living with (in a hut in a quarry). She has no further use for him in this condition. Spoiler: he survives! And he eventually joins Abby and Greg’s commune. Those who survive any apocalyptic scenario would have to learn ‘old skills’ pretty fast. How to cauterize a wound; how to amputate limbs; how to stem blood flow; how to treat infections etc. Whereas in the past knowledge was built on and developed, in ‘Survivors’ knowledge would be taken back to a place where the ‘old ways’ would be re-learnt. Before, the skills were in place (however primitive) but the knowledge was lacking – in ‘Survivors’ or a post-apocalyptic future, the knowledge would be there but the skills would need to be re-learnt (however primitively).

Alcohol would need to be distilled to produce high-grade alcohol for cleaning, and food and herbs would have to be grown to be eaten for good health or applied to the body as treatments. A variety of food would not just be pleasing – but would also help people feel good mentally as well as physically. Survival would be dependent on many things: supply of good fresh food; a varied diet; new medicinal products (including food/herbs); fresh water; salt; bodily and oral hygiene; the ability to foresee ailments and to treat effectively before blood poisoning or the worsening of the condition. People would need to be physically fit. It would be a young man and woman’s world, though aided by the wisdom of those with necessary skills. Eyesight would be dependent on youth and inherited traits. Folk would need to raid opticians for glasses of various prescriptions – if available. If you had one pair of glasses left and those were damaged or lost then you would be left with your natural eyesight. This could cause problems for normal existence (depending on the state of the eyes). Some conditions could worsen and without treatment might cause blindness, including: macular degeneration; infections of the cornea or retina; glaucoma; diabetes AND simply the inability to find suitable glasses.  

Mental health might well be a problem too. The challenge of everyday living would focus and occupy the mind and that would be conducive to good health. But the situation itself – the lack of food, the struggle to survive, the realisation of the post-apocalyptic world and the LOSS of loved ones would surely take their toll. Would some just ‘give up the ghost’? Again I would like to discuss this further when I’ll talk about social interaction/change and religious/spiritual responses. It’s certainly true to say that the survivors would be like a hapless lot in a leaky lifeboat in the middle of a vast ocean. Occasionally other life boats would be seen and connected with. And some would pose a threat. Threat would be a constant.

Diseases could become rife and in the face of some horrific ones, thought long gone, how would the survivors fare? How would their primitive medicinal skills and (initially well-stocked) medical supplies cope? As with all these thoughts I have had – there would have to be an adjustment. Humans are very good at adapting. Our survivors would need to do so fast! Fortunately for the commune they eventually take in a young woman who is a medical student. She is able to treat Greg’s wounded arm. Obviously for the purposes of future episodes our group needs more than a touch of ‘luck’.

Doctors and dentists would become as gods in this post-apocalyptic world. They would in themselves command power but could also find themselves held hostage (as it were) for their skills – a strange symbiosis perhaps within a commune. Whichever commune a doctor or dentist belonged to would have immediate power and influence. I presume there would be an inclination (probably prompted) for any doctor or dentist to pass on their skills. Hopefully these skills would also be written down with relevance and reference to their current situation so that others could learn. It would be a matter of ‘application’. At what point, I wonder, could the survivors check out hospitals (full of dead/decaying/disease-ridden bodies) and dental surgeries. At what point would ‘safe’ chemists become emptied?
People would need to be able to diagnose diseases/illnesses or damage to the body and treat these as far as possible. They would need to formulate a prognosis too and ideally make others aware of prevention. Already in ‘Survivors’ we have seen violence and death – for a remaining population of about 10,000 that is unacceptable both morally AND in terms of survival. Such a small population would need to expand as quickly as possible.

In the end it would be down to ‘survival of the fittest’. Survival of the healthiest, the luckiest. Those who are young, fit and have healthy ancestry will survive. It would be down to them to procreate; do the bulk of the physical labour; learn new skills – and for some to learn the particular skills of medicine. They would also act as the fulcrum between the past and the future. In fact, that generation would either keep the human race alive or not – it would be as dramatic as that. Their health and knowledge would produce, and then rear, the first post- apocalyptic generation. That generation would have no empirical knowledge of the ‘safe’ world of their parents – the reasonably safe world we now enjoy. Their knowledge of the old world would come through their parents and older survivors. Their attitude to medicine would also be key to their future survival. And again I stress the connection between knowledge and its application. This would be the great test in all skills. There would need to be veterinarians too to control diseases in animals and treat any problems. Those working with animals would have to learn animal-medicine FAST!

The world of  ‘Survivors’ and any future post-apocalyptic survival of the human race would rest on a number of things, the most important of which being individual survival. Every man and woman (and child) would count. Every animal used by the communes would count. In the abandoned towns and cities, animals would teem and reclaim lost land. The future would be fashioned in the countryside. The future would be a marriage of intellect and brawn. As the years roll by perhaps shamanic figures would once again rise in communities – with their knowledge of medicine being paramount. Maybe ‘wise women’ would once again dispense herbal knowledge and remedies. As I write these words I can envisage a very different organisation of human affairs. Maybe a very different kind of human. A strange new world indeed.

by Tim Bragg
Tim Bragg is the author (amongst many books) of ‘Lyrics to Live By – Keys to Self-Help; Notes for a Better Life’ available from Amazon

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Survivors – Comparing the TV Series, Covid 19 & the Future Part 3  ‘Food’

Survivors_LogoReviewed by Tim Bragg

Spoiler Alert: the following talks generally about ideas from the series, with specific information related to ‘Food’.

Before I start writing – or rather re-writing this article – I have to say that I lost 1,000 words as a result of a power cut. An hour or so trying to recover the original document proved fruitless. So I will turn the loss into an advantage! Needless to say I was very happy with what I wrote but I cannot recapture those particular thoughts. But this has emphasised the dependency we have on both electricity and technology – themes I shall cover in the future. And I have decided to have singular articles for Food and Medicine whereas I had intended a combination.

The plague in ‘Survivors’ is called ‘The Death’. Without food and water you die – of course. And at times, without medication, you also die. In the series, life for the survivors is an awkward mix of reliance on the past (pilfering food and medicine) and adjusting to the needs of the future. The baton of the past being slipped into their hands for them to run with. Although they have stockpiled non-perishable foods, they have to plant and grow their seasonal, fresh needs. Most survivors would be ordinary folk with few skills – those WITH skills would find themselves elevated within their small communities. The ranking of folk is also something I wish to write about later.

For the moment I am going to concentrate on food and its production. Our group has finally decided to set up in a permanent place. It’s an old manor house which offers room, protection (to a degree), plenty of grounds to cultivate, a river and some animals close by. Fortunately a lone man joins the commune with self-sufficiency skills and he is able to point out where the group’s initial husbandry is going wrong. Paul (the new member) is able to look at land and know how it is to be cultivated (or not) – he has a seasoned eye for a young chap. He understands about irrigation too and how that is to be managed. Most people will have come from urban areas and have little clue about how to grow things, when to sow crops, how to raise and treat animals, how to cure meat and pickle or dry food. In the commune there is an old Jewish lady that seems to have some of the latter skills (harking back to a pre-war time) and having Paul arrive is a God send (or a ‘writer’ send).

Apparently during the lockdown here in 2020 large rats have been invading homes in the UK as their normal source of food in restaurants has been cut off! That got me thinking about the state of towns and cities in ‘Survivors’. How long would these places yield food? With so many dead bodies – neither buried nor burnt – diseases would surely flourish. Rats would teem and likely carry disease. In one episode of  ‘Survivors’ a small community has been close to wiped out as a result of eating poisoned fish. Rivers could easily become polluted by all manner of means – not least the slurry of dead humans and animals, plus toxins leaked from unmaintained factories. Every aspect of healthy living would be challenged. What water could/couldn’t you drink (running water from high-up streams would be best I imagine)? How would you tell if a fish was poisoned? You’d have to know a healthy fish – here any anglers would play their part. I don’t eat meat or fish but as the future overtakes the past with each new generation then I imagine all people would simply be glad and thankful for the food on their plate. The magical appearance of ready-made foods would be long gone – our whole connexion with Nature and Animals (flora and fauna) would be radically changed. How good would you be at picking edible mushrooms for instance?

Food would continue to be scavenged of course but as I have written, fresh food, meat and milk would be needed. In one episode a forlorn character realises that they will never eat bananas again. Even tomatoes would have to be grown in greenhouses (in Britain). Potatoes are a great crop as they are hardy and it’s possible to get three (but at least two) yields a year. You’d need to find potatoes that have germinated and duly plant them. And keep them blight free! All crops would be dependent on the season and its weather. You’d have to think ahead – think in a way most of us have never had to. Growing vegetables and herbs isn’t ‘easy’ – okay nature does a lot of the work but you have to dig the ground and maintain the soil. And keep insects, slugs and snails (maybe animals) from eating your crop. An episode showed how our group, though it had a tractor, realised they’d need to re-learn the skills of ploughing with horses. And as soon as animals are involved you really need to know what to do. It would be likely that horse-related skills would be found within the survivors – if not, then how do you handle a horse? How do you get it to wear a harness? Where is the food to sustain it? (You’re going to have to grow that.) If you have sheep/cows/goats – do you know how to look after them. Someone would have to step in and get their hands dirty – literally. These animals need to be disease free, well fed, sheltered if necessary. And how do you milk a cow or goat – not as easy as portrayed (Jenny in ‘Survivors’ was shown milking a goat). Okay you learn. But it would be such a complete change of mentality needed. The milk would come straight from the animal. How do you keep it fresh? Where would the bull be for the cows – who’s going to take charge of him? It wouldn’t be a story-book farm or some sentimental reflection you’d previously seen on the TV.

And what about killing your ‘food’? Someone will have to break the chicken’s or rooster’s neck; someone will have to snare a rabbit and kill it – then skin and prepare for cooking; someone will have to take a lamb and hold back its head so its throat can be slit (and the blood caught and used)! None of the meat from the animals killed would be wasted, at least. I imagine a random group from a survival rate of 1 in 5,000 wouldn’t produce many slaughterhouse workers, butchers or folk used to despatching animals. Methods of killing would have to be learnt and then done as quickly and efficiently as possible to save further pain to the animal. If rabbits or deer are shot then that will require the skills of stealth and accuracy – otherwise wounded animals will escape only to die later, slowly and painfully – or find themselves easy prey (meat) for another species. And the animals which are kept will have to be raised properly – all sorts of parasites will need to be monitored. Veterinary practices will also need to be raided. Where will future replacements come from? How will future drugs be made? Re sheep – who will learn to sheer the sheep – not as easy as one might think, I imagine. Would our attitudes to animals change for the better or be far worse (in the interim period at least)?

I don’t know how long drugs can be used safely – whether there are ‘expiry’ dates. Eventually alongside the growing of plants to eat, must come the growing of plants and herbs as medicine. Alcohol and cider could be made – but a primitive distillery would be required to create high-percentage alcohol that could clean wounds. There would be a LOT of drugs/medicine to go round – but going into towns and cities might become prohibitive. Just too dangerous – too dangerous even for the collection of much needed medicine. At some point  surviving folk would have to go right back to the fundamentals of medicine and how it is obtained. We would need folklore customs and detailed books for growing and gathering medicinal plants and herbs – then their domestication. We would need to re-discover the variety of produce in hedgerows.

Food is not just about ‘staying alive’. We need variety and good taste. Vegetables would need to be sown at the correct times and rotated. Land would be ploughed. Orchards located and/or fruit trees grown close by. Much time would be spent growing and tending food – making sure each season supplies its crop. Growing food requires forethought. Food could, of course, be traded and exchanged with other local communities (that could be trusted). And each group would need manpower (people-power) to keep its existence sustained. I think there would be a return to pre-modern sex-based roles. Men hunting and doing heavy manual work with women preparing and cooking food. This food would also need to be stored correctly. In one episode of  ‘Survivors’ our group loses much of its stock as it has stored the food in a cellar – which would have seemed sensible. But with heavy rains the cellar was flooded, causing extensive damage.

Eating food is a communal act – a celebration, a bonding of folk. We used to say ‘grace’ before eating – acknowledging that all food came from God. Perhaps in some future, devastating pandemic (as in the fictional ‘Survivors’) we would either re-discover a connexion with God and/or give praise to all the souls that brought the food to the table. A recognition that it was a group effort to bring about the nourishment on the plate: those who tended the vegetable and herb garden; those who ploughed the fields; those who cured and pickled; those who reared, killed and prepared the animals; those who obtained salt; those who fished; those who collected honey; those who picked fruit; those who knew which mushrooms or berries to pick and eat (not the poisonous varieties!); those who COOKED! Those who gathered wood for the fires and those who kept them going. Everyone would be as intertwined as the life found in a hedgerow.

Through the growing, rearing, managing, preparing and cooking of food there would come a  re-alignment of our relationship with Nature and ourselves. Rain and sun would affect crops as would the phase of the moon re sowing! Wind might drive the sails of mills (re-built for grinding wheat). We would become creatures of daylight again – and fire-lighting and maintenance a pre-occupation. With our natural ingenuity and enough minds put together (along with all the tools required and books found in libraries) we certainly could manage to transform from a ‘everything you want – when you want’ society into a self-sufficient hybrid society. I say ‘hybrid’ as we would take the best of the past and use it for as long as possible to help effect a sustainable future. With enough time, the transition could be made. But we would have to live WITH Nature not against her. Every aspect of food and our relationship with it would be altered. Life might become harder but perhaps – more rewarding.

Tim Bragg is the author (amongst many books) of ‘Lyrics to Live By – Keys to Self-Help; Notes for a Better Life’ available from Amazon

survivorsboxsetSurvivors

  • Starring: Denis Lill , Lucy Fleming , Ian McCulloch and Carolyn Seymour
  • Directed by: Pennant Roberts , Terence Williams and Gerald Blake

You can buy Survivors – Series 1-3 Box Set [DVD] [1975] here

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Survivors – Comparing the TV Series, Covid-19 & the Future Part 2 ‘Law & Order’ 

Survivors_LogoReviewed by Tim Bragg

Law & Order

Spoiler Alert: the following talks generally about ideas from the series, with specific information related to ‘Law & Order’.

Law and order will be key to any major crisis. During current times we have virtually imprisoned ourselves in order to stop the spread of Covid-19. In China the Government used and continues to use draconian methods to control movement of people and the spread of the virus. The Government monitors Chinese people through their mobile phones (which appear ubiquitous) and phone users now have to have their faces scanned and their devices linked to their real identities (which are also monitored through their national identity cards). There are nearly a quarter of a million face recognition and surveillance cameras throughout the country. In the UK and France we have seen some ‘heavy-handed’ policing operating alongside quite ‘laissez-faire‘ attitudes. In France we have ‘attestations’ to fill out if we move from our homes (to exercise, shop, work etc.) and some places have had curfews installed. In the UK, alongside drones hunting down lone or small groups of folk walking in rural areas, it seems a ‘blind eye’ has been turned to certain communities who have carried on as normal. Along with some police acting as if their new ‘apparent’ powers have gone to their head: insisting on ‘social distancing’ in parks – other folk have carried on travelling in overcrowded public transport. In France some local governments have instructed the CRS (the riot-control police) NOT to enter certain unofficial ‘no go zones’.

Most people are complying with the emergency measures governments have introduced and, it seems, have enthusiastically embraced the wearing of masks and gloves. In France (as currently in other countries such as the Czech Republic) mask wearing will soon become compulsory. It’s certainly an odd situation to find oneself in. Humans are social animals where most communication is non-verbal – but we find ourselves isolated and masked. We find ourselves complying with every governmental decree – partly I would argue because it is our natural inclination to protect others and partly because we readily seem willing to obey. As I discussed in Part 1 the mortality for Covid-19 is running very low – maybe 0.34% – but maybe we neither know the true figures at one end or the possibly manipulated figures at the other. We just don’t know. Where I live in France we have the lowest death rate (as I write) – these include folk transported into this area as we have vacant hospital beds. It’s likely you could count the poor local souls who have died on one hand. And yet I see people acting with palpable fear. It’s likely our department will seal itself off (as all others) while the borders around France are closed for exit but open for entrance. It’s all a tad odd.

In Survivors the first real brush up against Law & Order occurs in Episode 2. Abby arrives at a house (and small commune) run by an ex-Trade Union official called Arthur Wormley. He has effectively declared himself ‘Protector’ of the surrounding area. Wormley also hints that he has, or has had, some insider knowledge of the pandemic through government contact. This seems an attempt to give him legitimacy. While Abby is there she witnesses a ‘Kangaroo Court’ and a man taken to be a threat to the commune is summarily executed. Wormley’s men are encountered in Episode 3 too when they lay claim to the goods in a supermarket which Abby, Greg and Jenny are taking food from. Apparently they would be allowed to take what is ‘fair’ if they first obtain ‘official chits’. On the one hand we could argue that this is a reasonable attempt to manage resources and distribution – on the other it appears more as if Wormley is setting up as a ruthless and authoritarian ‘Chieftain’.

Again – I’m not attempting to re-write the plot of this first series but to highlight certain issues. It is obvious that Wormley will become both an active and an existential threat. His dictatorial regime is one manifestation of government. This idea has a volt-face in the Episode; ‘Garland’s War’. In a sense this episode looks at a Feudal System of government, with a twist of course. The main character, Garland, has found himself evicted from his ancestral home by a chap named Knox and his followers. Garland is waging a one-man guerrilla war to get his place back. At one point we have the idea that Knox is the reasonable alternative to how he sees Garland – as a despotic feudal baron. A few twists of the plot later and it’s clear that Knox is the ‘bad guy’ and Garland – though still an outcast – has an old-fashioned, patriarchal but also benevolent and romantic idea of how the estate should be run. There’s a definite spoiler possible here for you – so I’ll quickly move on!

There are a few clashes between groups as one would expect, with independent groups, militia-type groupings and even a small settlement with a tank! But the main episode for Law & Order is interesting and a defining moment, perhaps, of the first series (for a number of reasons). It has been decided within our group of survivors that they need some entertainment – and those of us under lockdown in 2020 can readily relate to this. There’s dancing to Greg’s guitar and singing (not bad at all in fact and realistically portrayed in the way these scenes most often aren’t) but also alcohol freely flowing. Price, the Welsh chap, has defected back to the group and has struck up a relationship with Barney (who is simple-minded but has useful natural skills). Price also has his eyes on a young woman called Wendy who joined the group with an old Jewish woman she’d been staying with.  Barney leaves the festivities and main hall first, obviously drunk. Wendy goes to bed soon after and Price follows her. It’s obvious what he wants and in her bedroom she is knifed to death by Price – presumably as she struggles against his advances. The next day when Wendy’s body is found Price manages to frame Barney as her killer – who is unable to articulate his innocence. There follows a form of trial where Barney is incapable of defending himself. He is found guilty of the murder and it is decided he should be killed (as opposed to ‘banishment’). Which he is. This is quite startling and unexpected (in these Hollywood-ending times). Price in fact finally owns up to his guilt but in a discussion between Greg and Abby, Greg states that they can’t admit they have killed the wrong person to the group and they can’t afford to kill another man. Thus there is a secret between Price, Abby and Greg. (Without giving the game away further this IS resolved.)

As a result of this episode the actress playing Abby had a massive barny (no pun intended) with the director and effectively left the series (with a further four episodes remaining to which she must have agreed to continue acting as Abby). I also noticed that the writer of this episode didn’t write any further ones! This episode being discussed is actually called ‘Law and Order’ and set a dark and most realistic tone, in many ways. It made me question the whole procedure of guilt and innocence. Some thoughts:

  1. How reliable can evidence be?
  2. How can a man without full faculties be tried for a crime?
  3. How responsible would that person be with ‘diminished responsibilities’?
  4. How else were the group to respond to what seemed like ‘overwhelming evidence’
  5. Would ‘banishment’ have been a fairer sentence? (It was presumed Barney would have died alone once away from that commune.)
  6. Could he have had an alternate form of punishment – such as working longer and harder for x amount of time to ‘repay his debt’? But could they continue to trust him – might ‘he’ not strike again?
  7. Had they the right to execute him?
  8. Had they the right NOT too? (There would always be the apparent chance of him doing something like that again and if he were ‘rescued’ from banishment might he not do the same to a girl from another group? In that case they would have to share some of the guilt for letting him free!
  9. Greg became the ‘executioner’ by lot. Was it fair for any of them to be so?
  10. How would a New World Order re-create laws and justice? In a new situation what would the laws be based on? The Bible? Common-group-sense? Biased-group-sense? The Old Order?  ‘Might is Right’?
  11. An innocent man was executed having been ‘tried and sentenced’. What precedent would that set for the group and other communities?!
  12. A guilty man effectively went free. His ONLY redemption being that he confessed – albeit too late.

The fewer the people and the greater the existence of ‘strong men’ (or violent men or psychopathic men) would mean that, as with Wormley, the greater the chances of summary execution. Again there would have to be a correlation with maintenance of law and order and the amount of people LEFT in society. For us ‘here and now’ law and order is largely maintained – but not completely. People that think differently – ACT differently. People who think differently or live their lives under different mores won’t see a situation in the same manner.

I usually say: the more people there are the greater the laws needed to control us (well, I paraphrase) and with fewer people, of course, there might possibly be: fewer laws, concentrated laws or specific laws. In response to an epidemic such as that found in ‘Survivors’ it would seem that laws have been put into place, such as they are, in a piecemeal fashion. Thus the laws are concentrated in certain areas where certain groups either have, or wish to have, control. The laws we are experiencing at the moment across the globe often reflect the nature of our existing governments – with the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) coming in the hardest. The dangers for freedom/liberty are that the extended powers given Western governments (such as the UK and France) will not be wholly rescinded. Further, there is always the danger of tyrannical measures arriving on the coat-tails of disaster.

We have therefore two opposites: next to no law (and certainly no national, coherent law in ‘Survivors’) and a kind of emergency regime in democratic nations with more hard-line governance in dictatorial regimes. And with some countries taking a more ‘relaxed’ approach to the virus (re ‘social distancing’, wearing of masks, etc.). I imagine that differing amounts of people would reflect in the nature of any imposed law and order – perhaps a certain balance between government officials and number of survivors would bring in even MORE draconian measures. If a million folk, say, were to survive in a nation then the Government might try hard to keep these folk ‘together’ under their preceding law and order regime and in so doing might well resort to heavy-handed military force.

In the last episode of the first season of ‘Survivors’ (which I have only recently watched) Greg says: we are all out for the best for ourselves. By the end of the episode he has begun to communicate with other groups with the idea of creating a Federation. It’s going to be interesting to see how these pockets of Law & Order either coalesce or separate like oil and water.

Tim Bragg is the author (amongst many books) of ‘Lyrics to Live By – Keys to Self-Help; Notes for a Better Life’ available from Amazon

survivorsboxsetSurvivors

  • Starring: Denis Lill , Lucy Fleming , Ian McCulloch and Carolyn Seymour
  • Directed by: Pennant Roberts , Terence Williams and Gerald Blake

You can buy Survivors – Series 1-3 Box Set [DVD] [1975] here

 

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Survivors – Comparing the TV Series, COVID-19 & the Future Part 1 ‘Introduction’

Survivors_Logo

Reviewed by Tim Bragg

Spoiler Alert: the following talks generally about ideas from the series, with specific information related to Episode1.

Survivors was a successful TV series first broadcast on television in 1975 (with further series in ’76 and ’77). The episodes I have re-watched thus far have been mainly written by Terry Nation, creator of the Daleks (from Dr.Who) among many other credits. When the series first aired I was a youth discovering life and this had an impact upon me. We would wait from week to week to discover the unravelling fate of the eponymous ‘survivors’. I think all (or most episodes) of the series are available on YouTube – I’ve seen a playlist containing 24 episodes, though that would be two short for series one and two (both 13 episodes respectively). Regardless, I shall deal with each series generally and maybe hone in on the themes of particular episodes. Throughout I shall try to marry the narrative of the 70s survivors with both the reality NOW and how we might have responded to a similarly exaggerated situation. In the fictional account, only 1 in 5,000 people have survived – rendering the UK’s population to around 10,000. We are probably looking at a contemporary COVID-19 death rate of between, say 8 and 17 per 5,000 of those WITH the disease. Thus against the survival of ONE per 5,000, we have something like 4,990 – it’s hard to be accurate as we don’t know how many have had (or will have) the virus. The figure could well be closer to 4,995 plus survival rate. Currently, we only have stats for those dying from the virus and even these figures are questioned. In the area I live in in France the death-rate is roughly equal to our previous year (we seem to have the lowest rate of infection in France). Okay – its current speculation set against a fictional creation. But you get the idea. ‘Survivors’ REALLY IS about surviving.

The flavour of the series is interesting in that it marries prescience with a now almost achingly old-fashioned and nostalgic sense of England. For instance, the virus has come from China and is a pandemic/epidemic (as far as is known). The Government response seems incompetent with deliberate lies about the extent of the effects of the virus. Everything we are experiencing now seems to have been considered but obviously highly exaggerated because of the death-rate. The infrastructure of the whole of the UK seems to have quickly shut down, with no electricity and faltering public services. As I respond I’m going to relate my ideas to this fictional account with what we are currently experiencing – and how we might deal with a virus such as that NOW. How would we modern humans cope compared with those fictional mid-70s characters?

The main figures I have encountered thus far are Abby – a middle-class married woman whose young son is at boarding school. She contracts the illness but survives, whereas her husband dies. At least the first half of Series 1 is structured around the search for Abby’s son (who isn’t among the dead boys at the school and is apparently part of a group of healthy students sent camping into the countryside). Contrasted with Abby is Jenny – a young working woman from London. Most of the characters speak with middle-class accents. (On a side note – have a listen to musicians from the 1970s and you will be surprised at how ‘well’ they speak, Roger Waters springs to mind but remember should you watch any music documentaries). The final main character (thus far) is Greg. Greg is resourceful and ‘handy’. Another adult character that crops up and is intertwined throughout is Tom Price – a Welshman. He adds an element of ‘humour’ and represents, perhaps, a typically useless (as well as devious) survivor. Though full of seeming bravado his only real skill is in ‘wheeling and dealing’ and the ability to ingratiate himself into any situation or with any company. I’ll introduce other characters as they occur.

Abby responds to the death of her husband by leaving their house after burning it down. This seems both extreme and odd. This would surely be the place her son would head for if he has survived (and she finds out later that there is such a chance). Though we are constantly, and rightly, told that the chances of ANYONE surviving are extremely low. Abby is later framed as a leader, though I am yet unconvinced. Jenny walks out of London to find herself in the countryside where Abby is from. I’m not going to re-write the plot, but the first major idea of the series is presented in this episode: that society must start again. Everything must be re-learned and that though there is plenty to go round for the moment all of that will be gone in one or two further generations. At that point, humanity would have to stand on its own two feet and not rely on the spoils of previous generations. In this case, Greg is a very useful figure but not the most competent as we later find out when other characters’ skills become apparent. But he is useful and can turn his hands to most things.

My thoughts on what might happen as a virulent virus scythes down a population and how best to make initial responses will be compared with both the series and a modern highly lethal variant of Covid-19. If you were to find yourself surviving amid utter carnage with the collapse of everything around you – what would or what MUST you do? The responses will be as varied as the survivors themselves of course – with both cool heads and crashing emotional reactions. I found Abby to be quite cold emotionally but maybe she was stunned by the lightning changes brought about by the virus. Whereas we have experienced an abstract response perhaps to Covid-19 (unless we have lost someone close or are working on the ‘front-line’). I do recall the gradual sense of ‘awakening’ to what was happening as elements of normal life were shut down and civil liberties curtailed in quick succession. In a quick and total collapse, there would be NO government and NO law. This is something I will discuss later.

What do you do? Where do you go? With dead bodies everywhere diseases would soon spread. Do you get away from humanity as fast as possible or should you attend to local things first? Should you look for babies or children in the neighbourhood who might have survived? Or anyone else? Or as society disintegrates, and people are freed of any moral shackles – would there be an interim of utter lawlessness, chaos, and danger? How would ordinary people behave? The reaction in a village would surely be completely different to that in a metropolis. Jenny is ordered out of London by her doctor friend (who knows exactly what’s going on and the effect of the virus). She encounters some youths on her escape. I found this moment almost touching. The youths were like I was back then – bell-bottomed jeans and long hair. They were not particularly aggressive. Today it might not be quite the same. We have lost the hegemony of culture and depending upon where we live – the surrounding society might not be so ‘high trust’. What we have NOW – low numbers dying but a great degree of fear leading to initially appalling scenes of people fighting for toilet rolls and general looting in certain areas – might have been much worse. In ‘Survivors’ there would have been a brief time of immediate danger – but as the numbers rapidly thinned then the danger would – for that moment – have been different. In other words – the death rate of a virus will mirror both how folk respond and the real danger of immediate groupings. How quickly would some of us turn savage?

Ideally, bodies would be disposed of – but if the numbers became overwhelming the remaining few could do very little. Would pets be kept, or killed (the latter as an act of mercy)? In ‘Survivors’ there is a fear that roving packs of dogs could well be rabid. Would folk remain in their own areas or run? Either way, they would need the wherewithal to note where food could be obtained and petrol – especially if traveling on foot or by car (perhaps ‘stolen’ cars. Jenny had to walk from London as the streets were either congested by folks fleeing or blocked by abandoned cars).

With the whole environment opened-up as it were – then survivors would need clean water (or the means to boil or purify); wood stoves or Calorgas stoves and heating and – though this might not pop into the head of a survivor in a state of absolute shock – to know where a library was and get as many books as possible on HOW to survive. I imagine many would think ‘help was at hand’. In one episode Tom Price goes on about the Americans or Japanese helping – to which he is abruptly shut up. There is no-one to help. All this makes me wonder about the numbers of folk required to survive to maintain any notable infrastructure and I will talk about this later. The first generation of survivors would be the ‘lucky’ ones. Food shops, chemists, cars, petrol, goods of all sorts readily available. Seemingly. Garden Centres might be prized as they contain tools/clothes/poisons etc. as well as plants and seeds. The transition from modern to medieval would be extremely hard. But at least those plunged into darker ages would have modern knowledge.

Tim Bragg is the author (amongst many books) of ‘Lyrics to Live By – Keys to Self-Help; Notes for a Better Life’ available from Amazon

survivorsboxsetSurvivors

  • Starring: Denis Lill , Lucy Fleming , Ian McCulloch and Carolyn Seymour
  • Directed by: Pennant Roberts , Terence Williams and Gerald Blake

You can buy Survivors – Series 1-3 Box Set [DVD] [1975] here

 

 

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1950s Tiki Culture / Exotica Documentary (“The Air-Conditioned Eden”) (Parts 1 and 2)

Tiki_Anthony_Eisley_Hawaiian_Eye_1961

Tiki culture gave repressed 50s Americans an excuse to be freer

This documentary is about “Tiki Culture” & Exotica in 1950s American pop culture. It aired circa 1999 as part of Channel 4’s “Without Walls” series. It’s a fascinating look at how Americans created a weird fusion of cultures (originally drawn from Hawaii, Polynesia, and Oceania), to escape from the sexual and social repression of their daily lives. Tiki had its own music (Martin Denny & Exotica music is featured) and the style influenced arts, design, leisure, architecture and much else. Some even tried to create a Tiki home. But why? What drove this?

Jarrett Hedborg, an Interior Designer who contributed to the documentary said:

“A lot of this look is about running away from technology. The idea of the White man’s garden of Eden and this feeling of refuge. It is feasible to have the fantasy of sitting on the beach under a palm tree looking out at the Pacific even though you’re sitting on your bamboo sofa in Des Moines, Idaho staring out at your back garden.”

Delusional? Maybe!

Walt Disney even created a big Tiki attraction at Disneyland.

At one point America (and particularly American men) went crazy for the idea of natives who lived by different standards and who gave them permission to be freer. The swaying hips and beckoning hands invited them to join a fantasy. The effect on other cultures and how they defined their identity was almost certainly more negative. Their culture was distorted and projected back to them. By the 60s Tiki began to disappear. It became an embarrassment and most hid their Tiki paraphernalia.

As one of the contributors sums up: “Tiki was a purely populist or pop culture phenomenon. It was very loved by the people but discarded and shunned by culture critics and writers. The elitists were demanding more authenticity. The people didn’t care. They didn’t know better so they just had fun with it.”

Fascinating.

Reviewed by Pat Harrington

Part one is here

Part two is here

 

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Dark Waters

darkwatersRating: PG-13 (for thematic content, some disturbing images, and strong language)
Genre: Drama
Directed By: Todd Haynes
Written By: Matthew Michael Carnahan, Mario Correa
In Theaters: Dec 6, 2019
On Disc/Streaming: Mar 3, 2020
Runtime: 126 minutes
Studio: Focus Features
Stars: Bill Camp, Victor Garber, Anne Hathaway Tim Robbins, and Mark Ruffalo

Dark Waters is a disturbing film. It tells the true story of an attorney (Robert Bilott), played by Mark Ruffalo) who took on the DuPont corporation over toxic chemicals. It’s in the fine tradition of films like A Civil Action and Erin Brockovich.

Ruffalo is perfect for the part of the crusading lawyer. He depicts a man who has an inner sense of Justice who perseveres in the face of obstacles. The type of man who quietly argues his case and persuades doubting colleagues at Taft Stettinius & Hollister LLP. Someone who isn’t intimidated by the scale of the forces on the other side. He is very unflashy, much like the film.

Bilott is prepared to risk his career, his health and even his family relationships to do what is right. He is lucky that his wife Sarah (played by Anne Hathaway) has the same values and generally supports him.

He is also lucky to win the support of his law-firm boss, Tom Terp (played by Time Robbins). His law firm DEFENDS the big corporations not the little guy and they’re trying to land Du Pont as a client! Yet Bilott is able to persuade them to do the right thing and take the case of Wilbur Tennant (played by Bill Camp), a West Virginia farmer who is convinced DuPont has poisoned his cattle, his land — and perhaps his family. DuPont has dumped toxic chemical waste into the Dry Run Creek where his animals drink.

From there the David vs. Goliath battle begins. DuPont doesn’t lack resources. They have an army of lawyers and deep pockets. They use every legal trick in the book to delay and confound Bilott. Bilott works his way through everything that they throw at him. They swamp him with files but he painstakingly puts them in order and analyses them. They introduce scientific evidence and he exposes their corporate links.

At first, even the local community being poisoned in Parkersburg isn’t supportive. DuPont is the biggest employer in the town and has “bought” the community, financing the local mall and schools and giving out freebies.

Slowly the truth begins to emerge. DuPont has knowingly exposed thousands if not millions of consumers to dangerous levels of toxins. As I said at the start it’s disturbing. It makes you question what type of people run large corporations and whether they have our best interests at heart. It’s also inspiring as the villains are eventually brought to some kind of account at least.

Dark Waters is a compelling true story based on the 2016 New York Times Magazine article “The Lawyer Who Became DuPont’s Worst Nightmare”. It has a great ensemble cast (I particularly enjoyed Victor Gerber as the DuPont lead lawyer). It’s a thought-provoking film and one where the good guys actually win.

Reviewed by Pat Harrington

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Joker

jokerdancing

A dark tale for our times

Dir: Todd Phillips
Starring: Joaquin Phoenix
Robert De Niro, Frances Conroy, Zazie Beetz, Brett Cullen, Shea Whigham, Bill Camp, Marc Maron
15 cert
122 mins

Joker is a film that depicts a damaged man in a broken society. It is an origin story that answers the question: “How did Arthur Fleck (played powerfully and convincingly by Joaquin Phoenix) become the Joker?”.

As you might expect the explanation follows a dark trajectory. The story is told entirely from the perspective of Fleck. He is tormented by mental illness in a harsh society that doesn’t care about him. He is exploited and abused. It’s a harrowing portrayal of a man about to go over the edge. You are never quite sure what is real and what is delusional as we are taken into his mind.

It’s hard not to feel sympathy for Fleck and question the way society treats him. As Fleck becomes Joker it seems all too plausible. Is this transformation a further fall into madness or self-actualization? Joker leaves that question open but the scene where Fleck becomes Joker and triumphally dances down steps to the tune of convicted child sex offender Gary Glitter – “Rock and Roll Part 2” – is haunting.

One of the themes of the film is “you get what you deserve”. As Joker strikes back at the people who run the twisted, amoral society that has abandoned and rejected him he becomes “an icon of resistance to a mob of masked troublemakers” (as the Telegraph put it). Joker resonates with rioters who put on clown-faced masks. The violence is unrelenting and often difficult to watch. Our own society uses violence as entertainment routinely – the Director of Joker pointed to John Wick 3 when criticized in the media. Perhaps these films are our version of the Roman arena?

Will we see Joker and clown masks at real-world demonstrations/riots? It’s not impossible. The Guy Fawkes visage from V For Vendetta has been adopted by Anonymous, the Occupy movement, and most recently the Hong Kong marchers. Will we see the theme “You get what you deserve” adopted as a slogan? As our world gets madder it could happen.

Reviewed by Patrick Harrington

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