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jmj (Sydney, Australia)

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Blake's 7: The Complete Collection (Exclusive To [DVD]
Blake's 7: The Complete Collection (Exclusive To [DVD]

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The greatest sci-fi drama lives on!, 4 May 2011
"Blake's 7" will never be remembered for its sweeping cinematography, cutting-edge production values or sophisticated special effects, so what makes the show great? The stories were for the most part consistently good and there was great acting from the regular cast with the often camp theatrics of guest roles to enliven the proceedings. Colin Baker as "Bayban the Butcher" in Season 3 springs to mind here!

Like all shows "Blake's 7" stands or falls on its ability to entertain and engage. On that basis it never fails, but attempts to compare it to the other well-known giants of sci-fi television drama don't work. It really is too different. Dark, intelligent, painfully comical and cyncial the show leaves all the others behind.

At its core "Blake's 7" is a deeply cyncial show. There is no idealism here. While freedom fighting is a noble and heroic enterprise it is mostly futile. The crew's efforts to strike back at the Federation are usually unsuccessful and at best only make a small difference. It is difficult to watch just how ineffectual their attacks and counter attacks were over the course of the 4 seasons. And you do see it from both perspectives. Yes the Federation is a brutal regime, but it is also a unifying force of order in a universe torn apart by petty conflicts and galactic wars. Ambitious opportunists like Servalan and Travis flourish in this universe.

The characters are a departure from formula with anti-heroes Avon and Vila, flawed Blake and the wonderful Jacqueline Pearce in a groundbreaking role as the malevolent and dangerous Servalan. The regular female cast were strong with hard-as-nails Jenna, warrior Dayna, gutsy Soolin and alien telepath, Cally providing credibility as women who don't need to be rescued. Orac the irascible portable computer and ship computers Zen and Slave are beautifully voiced by Peter Tuddenham. They are important characters in their own right. Space Commander, Travis played by Stephen Greif in Season 1 and Brian Croucher in Season 2 deserves special mention as the character's obsessive pursuit of Blake mirrors Blake's obsession with destroying the Federation. The two actors do a fine job, but because they are different men there is minor character inconsistency.

Of course Paul Darrow as Avon is the standout. Acerbic, unlikeable, but unforgettable his character is the lynchpin of the show. The fact that the show survived without Blake for 2 seasons is a credit to all the actors, but Paul Darrow carried the momentum of events right up to the very last episode. Avon is the great anti-hero, no moralising or heroic posturing, it is all about saving his own skin and allowing nothing or no one to dent his cold armour. However, he does get physically and emotionally hurt many times. In season 3's "Rumours of death" where he searches for his presumed dead lover only to realise that she betrayed him the stark cynicism of the show prevails. In an agonising finale Avon comes full circle. Whatever Blake-like idealism remained is gone and these events are a dismal lead-up to the unrelenting and grim season 4.

Michael Keating is brilliant as unashamed coward and talented thief, Vila. Not just a fool on the hill Vila's cowardice sharply distils the moral ambiguities of the show. His chemistry with Paul Darrow sparks and their characters exchange some hilarious dialogue. Avon's biting sarcasm is a perfect foil for Vila, whose carefully constructed veneer of stupidity results in some very telling observations about other characters.

Season 1 is a little slow, but creates the background and events so well that you can't wait for Season 2. Seasons 2 and 3 are the best in my opinion. Season 3 exemplified what is great about the show with good stories and interesting character developments. Season 2 has my favourite episode, "Gambit". "Blakes's 7" let its hair down here and indulged in some high-camp and very funny hijinks guaranteed to have you laughing out loud. The serious undertones are present, but it is Vila and Avon who have the most fun! Servalan draped in a glittering red dress is at her most manipulative and deadly. Jacqueline Pearce must have relished this performance!

The much maligned season 4 does have some bad stories. The quality of the storytelling declined and the behaviour of some characters was changed so much that they became unrecognizable. However, my introduction to "Blake's 7" was the 4th season way back in 1982 and I still am very fond of it. I know some fans may disagree, but "Sand" is a favourite episode only because it dared to do something different with two central characters. As for the famous or infamous final episode of season 4 ... in many ways the ending makes perfect sense, but it is still very visceral and shocking and sad.

Blake's 7 is really like no other sci-fi drama. The story arc remains constant and while characters come and go, the Shakespearian Avon/Blake relationship keeps you watching. It succeeded so well because it was different and unflinching in its observations of human behaviour. There is no black and white certainty in this universe. By the 3rd season Avon is bone weary of all the pursuits and attacks culminating in his tired response to Tarrant, "Why not? It is something else to chase ..."

After some 30 years I can still go back and get something new every viewing. You have to accept that it was made in the 70s/early 80s, so things can be cheesy, but you won't regret the experience of watching "Blake's 7" for the first time.

Night And Fog [DVD]
Night And Fog [DVD]
Dvd ~ Alain Resnais
Offered by wantitcheaper
Price: £11.20

9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Lest we forget ..., 9 Feb. 2011
This review is from: Night And Fog [DVD] (DVD)
This is a powerful and painful to watch testament of man's inhumanity to man. As the camera follows a path through a derelict and empty Auschwitz you are reminded of what took place here. Combined with the now familiar footage of mass graves of emaciated bodies this film defines what must never happen again.
Yes. Modern audiences are desensitised because they have been over-exposed to cartoonish, dumbed-down violence, but what you see in this film is agonising because it is real. I don't believe we should become so 'desensitised' that we cannot understand what is real anymore.
So much is achieved in the short running time of thirty minutes. You will go back to this film again and think about it for a long time afterwards. It haunts the soul. If you think it is too confronting, then remember that the suffering and death of those many thousands that died in Auschwitz and all the other death camps must never be forgotten.
The intention of this film is not to dehumanise anyone. It speaks for those who suffered and died in such agony and they deserve to have a voice.

Private Collection: A History of Erotic Photography 1850 -1940
Private Collection: A History of Erotic Photography 1850 -1940
by Danny Moynihan
Edition: Hardcover

13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent photographs, but disappointing lack of context, 15 Dec. 2009
The photographs are excellent, but this book lacks context. The introductory essay is interesting and way too short. It is also presented in a way that defies all logic. Certain words have been blacked out and are visible only if you have a magnifying glass to hand or your eyesight is very good! I understand this sort of gimmickry up to a point, but it is unnecessary and distracting.

The absence of dates and captions combined with a lack of anaylsis or commentary about the photographs is very frustrating. Nothing about provenance or the collection owner either. What you have is a fascinating collection of images with no information that places them in a historical or social context.

However, the photographs do speak for themselves despite the lack of information. They show the real bodies of real people. No botox or liposuction in evidence here! They reflect their times and in some cases the background details help you identify the era. There is some unintentional humour as well. When you look at the expressions on some of the faces of those supposedly in the throes of sexual ecstasy it looks as exciting as eating lemons!

The photographs are exceptional. Some are quite beautiful. It is an interesting mix of pornographic and what I would describe as
erotic studio poses.

A must for those interested in vintage erotica, but not strong on historical analysis or background information.

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