The original Shaft movie celebrates its 50th Anniversary

Exactly fifty years ago today (on Wednesday 23 June 1971) SHAFT premiered in Detroit (the Palms Theatre). Reports originally promoted a dual premiere with Chicago (The Roosevelt Theatre), but that opening actually took place one week later on 30 June. The Roosevelt ran showings from 8:45am through to midnight and the film reportedly grossed $108,000 in its first week in that theatre alone.

Detroit Free Press, 9 July 1971.The film premiered on the east coast in Baltimore on Thursday 24 June 1971 and in Los Angeles (amongst other cities) on Friday 25 June at the Fox theatre. Gordon Parks and Richard Roundtree attended the St. Louis premiere on the same day. In New York there was a benefit screening at 8pm on Tuesday 29 June at the DeMille Theatre (in aid of the widows of seven police officers slain during the year) before its opening on 2 July at both the De Mille and the Playhouse. SHAFT became a huge success across the USA as it went into a staggered wider release across 120 cities from 2 July.

Gordon Parks (second left), Gwenn Michell (centre) and Richard Roundtree (third right) at a screening of SHAFT in Atlanta.

Director Gordon Parks witnessed for himself the round-the-block queues on Broadway in New York as he told Roger Ebert back in 1972: “Ghetto kids were coming downtown to see their hero, Shaft, and here was a black man on the screen they didn’t have to be ashamed of. Here they had a chance to spend their $3 on something they wanted to see. We need movies about the history of our people, yes, but we need heroic fantasies about our people, too. We all need a little James Bond now and then.”

Ad in the Evening Standard, 20 November 1971.

It was not until Friday 19 November 1971 that the movie opened in the UK and reportedly broke box office records at the Ritz in Leicester Square, London, having grossed $5,428 in its first three days. By July 1972, the movie had grossed more than $18 million against a budget of $1.1 million and is attributed with saving MGM from bankruptcy.

Whilst by no means perfect, the film (based on Ernest Tidyman’s novel published the previous year) is rightly regarded as a landmark in cinema history. SHAFT opened Hollywood up to black filmmakers, actors and technicians and an explosion of “Blaxpolitation” movies dominated cinema for the next two or three years. Largely unknown male model/actor Richard Roundtree’s, who gave a superb muscular performance as John Shaft, became an overnight star. SHAFT was recognised at the 1972 Academy Awards, with Isaac Hayes’ theme winning the Oscar for Best Song and his soundtrack also nominated. In 2000, the film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress for being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.”

Ad in the Baltimore Sun, 20 June 1971, promoting the east coast premiere attended by Gordon Parks and Richard Roundtree.

The success of SHAFT led to two immediate sequels – SHAFT’S BIG SCORE! (1972) and SHAFT IN AFRICA (1973) as well as a short-lived series of seven TV movies (1973-4). The franchise was revived in 2000 by director John Singleton with Samuel L Jackson playing Roundtree’s nephew – later established, in Tim Story’s misguided 2019 continuation of the series, as his son. Roundtree would reprise his role in both films.

Whilst today the hype around the film’s original release may seem a long way away, recent events have demonstrated that the social and civil issues that inspired the creation of a black hero who was his own man, respected in both white and black communities, remain relevant and therefore so is the character of John Shaft.

Here in the UK, the 50th anniversary is being celebrated by screenings of SHAFT at a number of Everyman theatres across the country on Monday 28 June at 8.45pm.

EDITED ON 28 JUNE: Thanks to Michael Coate for further and some corrective information on premieres and openings. A link to Michael’s article on the 50th Anniversary is given below:

Film Review – TAKEN (2008)

TAKEN (2008, France/USA/UK) ***
Action, Crime, Thriller
dist. 20th Century Fox; pr co. EuropaCorp / M6 Films / Grive Productions; d. Pierre Morel; w. Luc Besson, Robert Mark Kamen; pr. Luc Besson; ph. Michel Abramowicz (Colour. 35 mm (anamorphic) (Kodak Vision Premier 2393), D-Cinema. Digital Intermediate (2K) (master format), HDCAM SR (1080p/24) (source format), Super 35 (3-perf) (source format). 2.35:1); m. Nathaniel Méchaly; ed. Frédéric Thoraval; pd. Hugues Tissandier; ad. Gilles Boillot; rel. 16 February 2008 (France), 26 September 2008 (UK), 30 January 2009 (USA), ; BBFC cert: 18; r/t. 93m.
cast: Liam Neeson (Bryan Mills), Maggie Grace (Kim), Famke Janssen (Lenore), Katie Cassidy (Amanda), Leland Orser (Sam), Jon Gries (Casey), David Warshofsky (Bernie), Holly Valance (Sheerah), Xander Berkeley (Stuart), Olivier Rabourdin (Jean-Claude), Gérard Watkins (St-Clair), Marc Amyot (Pharmacist), Arben Bajraktaraj (Marko), Radivoje Bukvic (Anton), Mathieu Busson (Undercover Agent), Michel Flash (Gio), Nicolas Giraud (Peter), Rubens Hyka (Leka), Camille Japy (Isabelle), Valentin Kalaj (Vinz).
Neeson stars as Bryan Mills, a former government operative trying to reconnect with his daughter, Kim (Grace), in this fast-paced action thriller. His worst fears become real when sex slavers abduct Kim and her friend shortly after they arrive in Paris for vacation. With just four days until Kim will be auctioned off, Bryan must call on every skill he learned in black ops to rescue her. The movie coasts on Neeson’s charisma and macho performance as well as the tightly edited action sequences. The pace is such that director Morel manages to gloss over the story’s plot holes and its many conveniences. The villains remain two-dimensional targets for Neeson’s killing machine and there is only lip-service paid to the strained relationship between Neeson and ex-wife Janssen. That said, what we have left is an undeniably enjoyable and bone-crunching entertainment. Followed by TAKEN 2 (2012).

Film Review – SON OF FRANKENSTEIN (1939)

SON OF FRANKENSTEIN (1939, USA) ****
Sci-Fi, Horror, Drama
dist. Universal Pictures (USA), General Film Distributors (GFD) (UK); pr co. Universal Pictures; d. Rowland V. Lee; w. Wyllis Cooper (suggested by the novel “Frankenstein; or, the Modern Prometheus” by Mary Shelley); pr. Rowland V. Lee; ph. George Robinson (B&W. 35mm. Spherical. 1.37:1); m. Frank Skinner; ed. Ted J. Kent; ad. Jack Otterson; rel. 13 January 1939 (USA), January 1939 (UK); BBFC cert: PG; r/t. 99m.
cast: Basil Rathbone (Baron Wolf von Frankenstein), Boris Karloff (The Monster), Bela Lugosi (Ygor), Lionel Atwill (Inspector Krogh), Josephine Hutchinson (Elsa von Frankenstein), Donnie Dunagan (Peter von Frankenstein), Emma Dunn (Amelia), Edgar Norton (Thomas Benson), Perry Ivins (Fritz), Lawrence Grant (Burgomaster), Lionel Belmore (Emil Lang), Michael Mark (Ewald Neumüller), Caroline Frances Cooke (Frau Neumüller), Gustav von Seyffertitz (Burgher), Lorimer Johnston (Burgher), Tom Ricketts (Burgher).
Rathbone is the son of original Frankenstein who returns to the ancestral castle long after the death of the monster (Karloff). There he meets the mad shepherd Ygor (Lugosi) who is hiding the comatose creature. To clear the family name, he revives the creature and tries to rehabilitate him. The third in the series was successful enough to re-ignite Universal’s interest in the genre. Whilst the plot may be familiar, there are still many iconic moments here that make this another high quality addition to the series. Lugosi is superb as the bitter and twisted (both mentally and physically) Ygor and Atwill enjoys himself as the police inspector with an artificial arm (lampooned hilariously in Mel Brooks’ YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN (1974)). Rathbone too rises to the occasion with an energetic performance. Karloff continues to add pathos and a physical presence to the role of the creature, but here he is given less to do. The expressionistic set design and shadowy photography are first class and Lee directs the material with a sure hand. The series would descend into routine hokum starting with THE GHOST OF FRANKENSTEIN (1942).

TV Review – BEFORE WE DIE (2021)

BEFORE WE DIE (2021, UK) ***
Crime, Drama, Thriller

pr co. Caviar Films / DPG Media / Screen Flanders; net. Channel 4; exec pr. Walter Iuzzolino, Jo McGrath, Robert Franke, Bert Hamelinck; pr. Dimitri Verbeeck, Robin Kerremans; d. Jan Matthys; w. Matt Baker; ph. Seppe Van Grieken; m. Jeroen Swinnen; ed. Joris Brouwers; pd. Pepijn Van Looy; ad. Floris Van Looy, Melanie Light; cos. Jutta Smeyers; b/cast. 26 May 2021; r/t. 6 x 44m.

Lesley Sharp (Hannah Laing), Patrick Gibson (Christian Radic), Vincent Regan (Billy Murdoch), Rebecca Scroggs (Tina Carter), Toni Gojanovic (Davor Mimica), Ryszard Turbiasz (Zvonomir), Issy Knopfler (Bianca Mimica), Kazia Pelka (Dubravka Mimica), John O’Connor (Marcus), Tijmen Govaerts (Jovan), Rino Sokol (Pavle), Nisha Nyar (Fran), Tess Bryant (Rachel), Petar Cvirn (Stefan Vargic), Jonathon Sawdon (Darius), Bill Ward (Sean Hardacre), Steve Toussaint (Kane), Mickey Angelov (Andri Kabashi).

Detective Hannah Laing (Sharp) becomes deeply conflicted when she discovers her son (Gibson) is playing a crucial role as an undercover informant in a brutal murder investigation. Adapted from the 2017 Swedish TV series, this Channel 4 drama benefits from sure-handed central performances from Sharp and Gibson. The scenario of the mother/son and police/informer relationship may be manufactured to drive the drama, but the themes are explored by a taut script that unfortunately loses its credibility altogether during the final episode’s protracted, but admittedly neat, twist denouement. Gojanovich displays the necessary charisma to make the chief villain a three-dimensional character. The Bristol setting, however, feels at odds with the premise which would have sat more naturally with a bigger city location. Technical attributes are strong, with the story being nicely shot and the musical score, for once, complementary and not overly intrusive. The story ends where the first series of the Swedish version did, with some plot points remaining unresolved, before moving on to a second series.

PRESS REACTION:
The Guardian (Lucy Mangan): “…based on a Swedish series of the same name. It figures: viewing it felt exactly like watching something where all the important things had been lost in translation.” (**)
Independent(Sean O’Grady): “It’s the kind of bewilderingly complicated detective drama we’ve become used to, the sort where you can’t quite recall who’s doing what to whom, or why, but we still feel for the various complicated characters living their complicated lives.” (***)
Times(Carol Midgley): “sharp acting, but I don’t believe this monster mum.” (**)
Telegraph (Anita Singh): “…this crime thriller was patronisingly slow. Still, at least the actors provided some eye candy.” (**)
i (Emily Watkins): “The programme’s downfall was its occasional paint-by-numbers narrative beats, and there were a few too many coincidences. Still, it was terribly good fun – let’s say exemplary of a newly coined genre, Bristol Noir.  (***)

 

Film Review – BLACK SUNDAY (1977)

BLACK SUNDAY (1977, USA) ***½
Adventure, Crime, Drama, Thriller
dist. Paramount Pictures (USA), Cinema International Corporation (CIC) (UK); pr co. Paramount Pictures / Robert Evans Company; d. John Frankenheimer; w. Ernest Lehman, Kenneth Ross, Ivan Moffat (based on the novel by Thomas Harris); pr. Robert Evans; ph. John A. Alonzo (Movielab. 35mm. Panavision (anamorphic). 2.39:1); m. John Williams; ed. Tom Rolf; ad. Walter H. Tyler; rel. 22 March 1977 (USA), 12 August 1977 (UK); cert: 15; r/t. 143m.
cast: Robert Shaw (Kabakov), Bruce Dern (Lander), Marthe Keller (Dahlia), Fritz Weaver (Sam Corley), Steven Keats (Robert Moshevsky), Bekim Fehmiu (Mohammed Fasil), Michael V. Gazzo (Muzi), William Daniels (Pugh), Walter Gotell (Colonel Riat), Victor Campos (Nageeb), Joseph Robbie (Joseph Robbie), Robert J. Wussler (Robert Wussler), Pat Summerall (Pat Summerall), Tom Brookshier (Tom Brookshier), Walter Brooke (Fowler), James Jeter (Watchman), Clyde Kusatsu (Freighter Captain), Tom McFadden (Farley), Robert Patten (Vickers), Than Wyenn (Israeli Ambassador).
Intermittently tense but overlong thriller in which Palestinian terrorists look to transport and explode a bomb in a Goodyear blimp to the stadium staging the Superbowl. Frankenheimer allows the character motivations to come to the fore, which occasionally slows the pace in the deliberate build-up. This allows Shaw, Dern and Keller to flex their acting muscles, with Dern in particular memorable as US military veteran harshly treated by the government. Well-staged action sequences are sprinkled throughout but the climax stretches narrative logic by going for big set-pieces.

Music Review – ELECTRONIC: ELECTRONIC (1991)

Electronic | Music fanart | fanart.tvELECTRONIC
ELECTRONIC (LP, Factory Records, 27 May 1991, 52:29) – score 73%

Musicians: Bernard Sumner – vocals, keyboards and programming; Johnny Marr – guitars, keyboards and programming; Neil Tennant – vocals on “The Patience of a Saint” and backing vocals on “Getting Away with It”; Chris Lowe – keyboards on “The Patience of a Saint”; Donald Johnson – drums and percussion on “Tighten Up” and “Feel Every Beat”; David Palmer – drums on “Feel Every Beat” and “Getting Away with It”; Denise Johnson – vocals on “Get the Message”; Helen Powell – oboe on “Some Distant Memory”; Andrew Robinson – additional programming.
Producer: Bernard Sumner and Johnny Marr; Engineer: Owen Morris; Mastered by Tim Young; Recorded at Clear Studios, Manchester, December 1989–early 1991.

Electronic was one of the most unusual partnerships of the 90s with New Order’s Bernard Sumner teaming with Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr to produce this hybrid of electronic synth and guitar based pop. The result was for the most part a success. Marr’s infectious “Shaft”-like wah-wah guitar riff coupled with Sumner’s melodic keyboard phrases on the opening “Idiot Country” demonstrate this is a marriage that can work. “Reality” is closer to Sumner’s trademark sound with its extensive programming, whilst the ebullient “Tighten Up” has more of a band feel. The Pet Shop Boys assist with “Patience of a Saint” and “Getting Away with It”, the former featuring Tennant’s lead vocals and Lowe’s lush keyboard textures and the latter (not on the original UK vinyl release) containing a longing chorus and an orchestral approach. “Gangster’s” stuttering programmed rhythms are complemented by Marr’s funky guitar, whilst “Soviet” is a lush and sombre instrumental with Oriental hints and provides a nice interlude before the album’s true classic. “Get the Message” is where the elements of Sumner and Marr’s talents merge to form a wonderful blend of acoustic guitar, insistent bass, subtle synthesizers and sublime melodies, aided by Denise Johnson’s soulful backing vocals. “Try All You Want” is perhaps the least distinguished song on the album feeling a little bit by-the-numbers and “Some Distant Memory” follows suit but is helped by the warming synth motifs in its closing moments. The album finishes strongly, however, with the experimental “Feel Every Beat”, which is perhaps the most exciting track musically with its shuffling bass and piano rhythm, funky guitar and singalong chorus. The production is expansive and full of 80s echo with a pleasing dynamic range. Sumner and Marr would record two more albums as Electronic but their debut retains its distinct charm despite its sound being frozen in time.

TRACK SCORES:
1. Idiot Country (Sumner/Marr) (5:02) ****
2. Reality (Sumner/Marr) (5:39) ***
3. Tighten Up (Sumner/Marr) (4:38) ****
4. Patience of a Saint (Sumner/Marr/Tennant/Lowe) (4:11) ****
5. Getting Away with It (Sumner/Marr/Tennant) (5:14) ****
6. Gangster (Sumner/Marr) (5:24) ***
7. Soviet (Sumner/Marr) (2:00) ***
8. Get the Message (Sumner/Marr) (5:20) *****
9. Try All You Want (Sumner/Marr) (5:37) **
10. Some Distant Memory (Sumner/Marr) (4:09) ***
11. Feel Every Beat (Sumner/Marr) (5:08) *****

THE MUSIC PRESS:
NME (David Quantic): “This is a pretty 1990s sort of a record, fresh as a daisy and wearing huge new oxblood Doc Martens” (****)
Q (Phil Sutcliffe): “Its strength is in conflict … The inexorable pounding of the beatbox versus the fragile sadness of Sumner’s voice and the he’s/she’s leaving stories; the symmetry of the synthesized or sampled sounds versus the sheer blood and bone physicality of Marr’s guitar”. (*****)
Vox (Keith Cameron): “Electronic is simply a 100 per cent pure distillation of Marr and Sumner’s respective talents. The hit single ‘Get the Message’ has it in a nutshell: it breaks no new ground; it simply achieves perfection.” (*****)
All Music Guide (Ned Raggett): “Both more and less than what a partnership of Sumner and Marr would promise, Electronic’s debut has weathered time much better than might have been thought upon its release, but ultimately only half works.” (****)

Music Review – DEL AMITRI: FATAL MISTAKES (2021)

Review: Del Amitri Avoided Making 'Fatal Mistakes' On New Album - American SongwriterDEL AMITRI
FATAL MISTAKES (CD, Cooking Vinyl, 28 May 2021, 45:52) – score 76%

Musicians: Andy Alston – keyboards; Justin Currie – vocals, bass; Kris Dollimore – guitar; Iain Harvie – guitar, backing vocals; Ash Soan – drums.
Producer: Dan Austin; Mixed by Dan Austin; Mastered by Paul McGeehan; Recorded at Vada studio, March 2020.

Fatal Mistakes is the Scottish band’s seventh studio album and their first since 2002’s experimental Can You Do Me Good? It is a distinct return to the band’s roots and all the better for it. Currie’s gift for marrying wistful melodies with his characteristically cynical lyrics is in evidence right from the chirpy album opener “You Can’t Go Back” and most evident on the infectiously catchy “It’s Feelings”. Elsewhere, “Musicians and Beer” weaves around its tribal rhythm and crashing electric guitar chords; “Close Your Eyes and Think of England” lyrically deals with Brexit; “Losing the Will to Die” and “I’m So Scared of Dying” demonstrate Currie’s dark humour as he comes to terms with his own mortality; “Otherwise” is a moody and reflective ballad with warm instrumentation; and “Nation of Caners”, by far the longest song, closes the album with its insistent bouncing rhythm building in intensity along with Currie’s angry lyrics. Instrumentally the songs are largely based around Harvie and Dollimore’s neat and unobtrusive guitar work and could have fitted on any of the band’s heyday albums. The collection is remarkably concise, with all but two songs clocking in under four minutes. This does, however, give the feeling on some songs that they have ended abruptly. The production has a low-fi quality that gives the songs an organic and intimate feel. On the whole a welcome return from a band playing to its strengths.

TRACK SCORES:
1. You Can’t Go Back (Currie) (2:53) ****
2. All Hail Blind Love (Currie/Harvey) (4:04) ***
3. Musicians and Beer (Currie) (2:46) ****
4. Close Your Eyes and Think of England (Currie) (3:30) ****
5. Losing the Will to Die (Currie) (2:34) ***
6. Otherwise (Currie) (3:01) ****
7. It’s Feelings (Currie/Harvey) (2:42) *****
8. I’m so Scared of Dying (Currie) (4:27) ****
9. Mockingbird, Copy Me Now (Currie/Dollimore) (2:23) ****
10. Missing Person (Currie) (3:19) ***
11. Second Staircase (Currie) (3:00) ***
12. Lonely (Currie/Harvey) (3:28) ****
13. Nation of Caners (Currie) (7:39) ****

THE MUSIC PRESS:
Mojo (Jim Farber): “The music swings again, even if Currie’s damning viewpoint hasn’t lightened.” (****)
Classic Rock Magazine: “While long-term fans might initially be disappointed by the marked absence of the bar-room swagger of yore, repeated listens bear fruit.” (****)
Telegraph (Neil McCormick): “Del Amitri’s bracing feel-bad pop-rock won’t be for everyone, but for those of us who appreciate sweet melodies set off with sour sentiments, it is perversely good to have the old curmudgeons back.” (****)
American Songwriter (Lee Zimmerman): “Fatal Mistakes reflects a duelling perspective, one that recognizes the difficulty of maintaining a certain standard but that is determined to reach new goals. The fact that Del Amitri succeed as well as they do is a testament to both their confidence and their talent.” (***½)

TV Review – INNOCENT (SERIES 2) (2021)

INNOCENT (Series 2) (2021, UK) **
Crime, Drama, Mystery

pr co. TXTV; net. ITV – Independent Television (UK); pr. Jeremy Gwilt; d. Tracey Larcombe ; w. Chris Lang (series created by Matthew Arlidge, Chris Lang) ; ph. Ian Moss (Colour. 1.78:1); m. Samuel Sim; ed. Matthew Tabern; pd. Kieran McNulty; ad. Irina Kuksova; b/cast. 17-20 May 2021; r/t. 4 x 45m.

Cast: Katherine Kelly (Sally Wright), Jamie Bamber (Sam Wright), Shaun Dooley (DCI Mike Braithwaite), Priyanga Burford (Karen), Laura Rollins (Paine) Andrew Tiernan (John Taylor), Lucy Black (Maria Taylor), Amy-Leigh Hickman (Bethany), Ellie Rawnsley (Anna Stamp), Nadia Albina (Jenny), Poppy Miller (Supt Denham), Michael Yare (Alf), Michael Stevenson (DC Dave Green).

Matthew Taylor, a 16-year-old school boy was brutally murdered in the quiet Lake District. Five years later the accused is found not guilty and released from prison, but who did kill him? The premise here is to take a wrongly convicted party and make them the centre of a drama in which a new police  investigation uncovers the real perpetrator of the crime.  The format then moves into familiar whodunnit territory, whilst dealing with the personal dramas affecting the wronged party (in this case the excellent Katherine Kelly) and those immediately involved with the scenario. The issue I have with this drama is that the premise is so manufactured it requires a considerable suspension of disbelief to assume the initial investigation was so inept as to have missed the multiple clues presented here to solve the case. This is driven by both the concept’s restrictive boundaries and the lack of skilled writing to extract any believable situations from the idea. The feeling therefore is that the characters have been created to serve the scenario rather than falling naturally into Lang’s  environment. Additionally the direction falls into the trap of many similar crime drama series in recent years by pushing the big melodramatic moments and manipulating the audience through overly manufactured false trails and constant incidental music. It manages to retain some interest through Kelly’s excellent lead performance, which is much more nuanced than the majority of the cast, who appear to have waltzed in off the soap opera conveyer belt. The series plays out over 4 episodes and three hours of screen time and as such it does not feel protracted, but when we do get to the final act and the unveiling of the killer, only those unfamiliar with the genre tropes will be surprised.

TV Review – MARE OF EASTTOWN (2021)

MARE OF EASTTOWN (2021, USA) *****
Crime, Drama, Mystery

pr co. Home Box Office (HBO) / Mayhem Pictures / wiip studios; net. Home Box Office (HBO) (USA), Sky Atlantic (UK); exec pr. Gordon Gray, Brad Ingelsby, Paul Lee, Gavin O’Connor, Mark Roybal, Kate Winslet, Craig Zobel; pr. Karen Wacker; d. Craig Zobel; w. Brad Ingelsby; ph. Ben Richardson (Colour. Video (HDTV). ARRIRAW (2.8K) (source format), Digital Intermediate (4K) (master format), 2.00:1); m. Lele Marchitelli; ed. Amy E. Duddleston, Naomi Sunrise Filoramo; pd. Keith P. Cunningham; ad. Gina B. Cranham, Michael Gowen, Michelle C. Harmon; b/cast. 18 April 2021 – 31 May 2021 (USA), 19 April 2021 – 1 June 2021 (UK); r/t. 403m (7 episodes).

Cast: Kate Winslet (Detective Mare Sheehan), Julianne Nicholson (Lori Ross), Jean Smart (Helen Fahey), Angourie Rice (Siobhan Sheehan), John Douglas Thompson (Chief Carter), Joe Tippett (John Ross), Cameron Mann (Ryan Ross), Jack Mulhern (Dylan Hinchey), Izzy King (Drew Sheehan), Justin Hurtt-Dunkley (Officer Trammel), Sosie Bacon (Carrie Layden), David Denman (Frank Sheehan), Neal Huff (Father Dan Hastings), James McArdle (Deacon Mark Burton), Guy Pearce (Richard Ryan), Ruby Cruz (Jess Riley), Enid Graham (Dawn Bailey), Chinasa Ogbuagu (Beth Hanlon), Kassie Mundhenk (Moira Ross), Mackenzie Lansing (Brianna Delrasso).

Kate Winslet stars as a detective in a small Pennsylvania town who investigates a local murder while trying to keep her life from falling apart. The result is one of the greatest crime TV series ever, driven by a superb script, expert direction and a lead performance from Winslet that is astonishing in its sincerity. Writer Brad Ingelsby has shown how to pace a mystery over 7 episodes whilst fleshing out fully rounded characters with flaws which show them to be real and believable. Where Ingelsby’s writing impresses most is that it avoids the pitfall of many modern crime dramas by refusing to manufacture melodrama and shock twists for the sake of it and instead relies on story progression through quality writing, strong characterisation and natural dialogue. Everything that happens here feels and looks real and is performed with integrity by a cast at the top of their game. Winslet holds the centre ground as the detective haunted by a tragedy in her family’s recent past and reminders in the disintegration of her best friend’s family as she investigates a murder case and a missing persons case, which may or may not be related. As Winslet unravels the mysteries and deals with ongoing personal dramas, she starts to come to terms with the tragedy that haunts her. The audience is pulled in to her life and feels everything she feels as her relationships with family and friends evolve with her investigation. US reviewers pointed to similarities in approach to TRUE DETECTIVE, and here there are parallels with BBC’s HAPPY VALLEY. MARE OF EASTTOWN surpasses the former and sits comfortably with the latter.

Music Review – MARILLION: MISPLACED CHILDHOOD (1985)

Misplaced Childhood (2017 Remaster): Amazon.co.uk: MusicMISPLACED CHILDHOOD (LP, EMI, 17 June 1985, 41:17) – score 82%
 
Musicians: Fish – vocals; Steve Rothery – guitars, additional bass; Pete Trewavas – bass; Mark Kelly – keyboards; Ian Mosley – drums, percussion
Producer: Chris Kimsey; Engineer: Thomas Stiehler; Mixing Engineer: Mark Freegard; Recorded at Hansa Tonstudio, Berlin, Germany, March – May 1985; UK Album Chart: 1; BPI Cert: Platinum (300,000+).

Marillion found their musical voice with their third studio album. It effectively splits the music into two inter-linked side-long (old LP terms) suites. Here the band have dispensed with trying to re-create the sounds of their heroes and have unearthed a musical palette that has a fresh sound and is creatively progressive. Fish’s lyrics recall the growing pains of youth, both figuratively and emotionally. His vocal delivery is less abrasive and more in tune with the music here and the marriage is a vast improvement on the first two albums. Rothery’s guitar has the sublime grace of Dave Gilmore along with the creative colouring of Steve Hackett; Mosley and Trewavas have merged into a propulsive rhythm section and Kelly’s keyboard textures are less showy and serve the songs admirably. MISPLACED CHILDHOOD would catapult the band from a cult following to a mainstream one, albeit for what would prove to be one more album before change was forced upon them.

Side 1:
1. Pseudo Silk Kimono (Fish, Kelly, Mosley, Rothery, Trewavas) (2:15) ***
A sinister keyboard refrain from Kelly opens the album. The piece acts as an atmospheric entrée to the album.
2. Kayleigh (Fish, Kelly, Mosley, Rothery, Trewavas) (4:04) ****
A song of regret surrounding a broken relationship, which became the band’s biggest hit single. It is a slick song with a strong melody that maybe suffered from overplay on the radio and is the track every non-Marillion fan associates with the band. Rothery’s mid-song solo is graceful and fluid. Released as a single on 7 May 1985 peaking at #2 in the UK singles chart.
3. Lavender (Fish, Kelly, Mosley, Rothery, Trewavas) (2:28) ****
A boy dreams of walking in the park and meeting a girl and falling instantly in love. The song riffs on the nursery rhyme “Lavender’s Blue” with a delightful singalong melody and soaring Rothery solo. Again, it shows the band could write with restraint. Released as a single on 27 August 1985 peaking at #5 in the UK singles chart.
4. Bitter Suite (Fish, Kelly, Rothery, Trewavas, Mosley) (7:53) ****
A series of short song vignettes opens with moody atmospherics as Rothery’s guitar weeps over a droning synth. The piece also highlights Fish’s penchant for spoken lyrics. The vignettes skilfully link short musical themes with a reprise of Rothery’s guitar refrain from “Lavender”.  The suite’s subtitles: i) “Brief Encounter”; ii) “Lost Weekend”; iii) “Blue Angel”; iv) “Misplaced Rendezvous”; and v) “Windswept Thumb” are all titles of old films.
5. Heart of Lothian (Fish, Kelly, Mosley, Rothery, Trewavas) (4:08) ****
A song of connection with your roots. It has a triumphant, celebratory and uplifting guitar figure and is delivered by Fish with vocal panache. Subtitles: i) “Wide Boy; ii) “Curtain Call”. Released as a single on 18 November 1985 peaking at #2 in the UK singles chart.
Side 2:
6. Waterhole (Expresso Bongo) (Fish, Kelly, Mosley, Rothery, Trewavas) (2:13) ***
A fast syncopated drum pattern from Mosley drives the opener to the second side with Kelly’s urgent repeated keyboard riff. Rothery’s guitar colours in the background.
7. Lords of the Backstage (Fish, Kelly, Mosley, Rothery, Trewavas) (1:53) ****
The rhythm changes to 7/8 and the band is perfectly in tune as the urgency is heightened in this short connecting section of music that leads seamlessly into the side’s centre-piece.
8. Blind Curve (Fish, Kelly, Mosley, Rothery, Trewavas) (9:30) *****
The pace slows to mid-tempo and the band get to demonstrate their instrumental prowess through some gorgeous, lilting melodies. Fish’s vocal delivery is nicely restrained and allows the music to breathe. This is the band’s strongest work top date and shows how they could piece different musical sections and tempos together to make for a dynamic whole. The theme of disillusionment is perfectly captured in the final section of the song before the mood changes as we merge into the following track. Subtitles: i) “Vocal Under a Bloodlight”; ii) “Passing Strangers”; iii) “Mylo”; iv) “Perimeter Walk”; v) “Threshold”.
9. Childhood’s End (Fish, Kelly, Mosley, Rothery, Trewavas) (4:33) ****
Rothery’s plucked guitar figure softens the mood before it abruptly picks up again as we switch from a reflection to revelation. The song’s title is a reference to the Arthur C. Clarke novel, which itself was a source of inspiration for Genesis’ “Watcher of the Skies”.
10. White Feather (Fish, Kelly, Mosley, Rothery, Trewavas) (2:24) ****
The album closer puffs out its chest with pride with its exultant cries of defiance. A wonderful close to a remarkably consistent album. The title reference is grounded in superstition relating to a plucked white game cock feather, which if placed in the clothing of a person marks them as a coward.

Single B-sides
1. Lady Nina (Fish, Kelly, Rothery, Trewavas, Mosley) (5:50) **
Inspired by German brother houses. This is the only song in which a drum machine was used for the final recording (the song loosens up when Mosley’s real drums enter). The song harks back to FUGAZI in its awkward marriage of rhythm and melody and Kelly’s showy approach to keyboards. B-side to “Kayleigh” released as a single on 7 May 1985.
2. Freaks (Fish, Kelly, Rothery, Trewavas, Mosley) (4:08) ***
Kelly’s repeated riff gives the song its foundation, whilst Rothery offers crashing guitar chords in this rocking song that fails to build on its promising opening but does increase in intensity in its closing moments.  B-side to “Lavender” released as a single on 27 August 1985.
3. Lavender Blue (Fish, Kelly, Rothery, Trewavas, Mosley) (4:23) ***
A different mix and longer version of “Lavender” which effectively brings different instrumentation to the fore through exclusion and emphasis. As such it draws attention to the instrumental changes rather than the winning melody. Included on the 12-inch single release of “Lavender” on 27 August 1985.