Archive for Film & DVD Reviews

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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Hustlers

hustlersfilmposterStarring: Big Jay, Big Jay Oakerson, Cardi B, Constance Wu, Emma Batiz, Frank Whaley, Jennifer Lopez, Julia Stiles, Keke Palmer, Lili Reinhart, Lizzo, Madeline Brewer, Marcy Richardson, Mette Towley, Stormi Maya, Trace Lysette, Vanessa Aspillaga, Wai Ching Ho
Director: Lorene Scafaria
Rating: 15
Runtime: 110 min

Hustlers tells the story of a crew of strippers in New York City who begin to steal money by drugging stock traders and CEOs who visit their club, then running up their credit cards.

On some levels, Hustlers is an enjoyable movie. The relationship between Dorothy, a.k.a. Destiny (Constance Wu) the new girl at the Manhattan gentlemen’s club and the established Ramona (Jennifer Lopez) is intriguing throughout. Jennifer Lopez steals the show and looks stunning (at 50 years of age). She trained intensively for her dance routines and it shows.

I liked the way in which the stripping was handled as Simran Hans wrote in the Guardian: “Brilliantly, though, the editing is teasing rather than explicit; Scafaria offers just enough of the girls and their bodies to get pulses racing without exploiting them or their story.” The exploitation of the girls by the club and the hierarchy of power within them was clearly presented – treating the club as a workplace as well as a place of entertainment.

Where I have a problem with Hustlers is the portrayal of the crimes in a way that seems to condone them and present them as “Robin Hood-esque”. These events had consequences in real life (it’s based on a true story). Yes, I can understand that the 2008 financial crash would affect the income of strippers near Wall Street. Yes, I can see that many of those frequenting the club wouldn’t elicit any great sympathy from me or anyone else. Drugging them with MDMA to make them happy and ketamine to distort their memories and then maxing their credit cards is just plain wrong, however. The lack of any focus on the male victims in this film and the story being told from only one perspective might make you forget that.

The film is not short on justification for the crimes the strippers committed and back in real life neither are some of those convicted. One of them (Roselyn Keo) said:

“It sounds so bad to say that we were, like, drugging people,” she said. “But it was, like, normal.”

“What’s an extra $20,000 to them? It wasn’t like we pulled them off the street. “They had history. They’d been to Hustler, they’d been to Rick’s, they’d been to Scores. They all walked in ready to party. And yeah, we slipped an extra one that they didn’t know about. But all of it goes hand in hand — sex, drugs, and rock and roll. You know?”

There is a bit of hand-wringing in the film about one guy who had an autistic son. In real life his name was Fred. The strippers ripped-off a company card and he got fired. Later, after starting a new job, he was informed his name had been reported to an agency that tracks white-collar crime, and he was fired again. Since then, he’s found a new job but lives in fear of being found out by his current employer. “I wake up in the morning thinking about it. “Every day, once or twice a day, I feel the barrel of the gun against my head.”

I wasn’t surprised to learn that the audience breakdown of the opening weekend was 67% female, including 69% being over the age of 25. When I saw it the audience was overwhelmingly female. Given the way, male characters are treated (not one is developed as a sympathetic character and only one is given any redeeming qualities) it was likely that men would simply not want to watch it. They’ve voted with their feet (or at least their money).

The gushing praise lavished on Hustlers by critics is noteworthy. Isn’t it odd that confused ‘Feminists’ who understand why informed consent is so important can accept a film like this without a murmur or, indeed, present it as a socially worthy work? It shows just how far the moral values which should underpin our society have disintegrated. It’s OK to drug and rob someone if they are an unsympathetic character. Or so the people behind the slick and watchable Hustlers would seem to have you believe.

Reviewed by Pat Harrington

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