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James Hayes "JM Hayes" (Herts., UK)

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Frost on Friday [DVD] [1968]
Frost on Friday [DVD] [1968]
Dvd ~ David Frost
Price: £11.75

1 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Frosty Frost over Friday..., 9 Dec 2011
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This review is from: Frost on Friday [DVD] [1968] (DVD)
The last of the 'Frost on...' DVD releases, 'Frost on Friday' is probably not the best place to start, as the selection of programmes (broadcast 1968/1969) strike a serious and rather chilly tone throughout. Two of the interviews - General Moshe Dayan, and war criminal Baldurvon Schirach - were shot on B&W film on location, and lack the immediacy of the more usual studio-based encounters. The interview with Rhodesian prime minister Ian Smith also is of unusually poor quality (sound and vision), and not easy to stay with. The standout interviews are with Tory black sheep Enoch Powell, and with heart transplant pioneer Christiaan Barnard. Frost shows admirable journalistic acumen when pressing Powell on the specifics of some of the assertions made in his controversial 'rivers of blood' speech; but it when exposing Barnard's apparent lack of knowledge about the circumstances of how his heart donors were made available to him, that leads to a gripping - if rather inquisitorial - 50-minute interview, Frost's questioning style is a master class in interviewing technique. It seems that Barnard was not expecting to be subjected to such a moral grilling, and his exasperation shows itself as the interview gets more heated through his body language - at one point he even appears to make a retaliative lunge for Frosty's own sturdy ticker.
Disappointingly, this selection of 'Frost of Friday' does not include the interview with NoŽl Coward edition which is advertised as being among the contents on some pre-release notices. The show certainly exists - excepts have been included in Coward documentaries. Why it was excluded is not made clear.
A retrospective interview with Frost himself would have made a fitting addition to the final disc, which runs only to about 100 minutes.
Let's hope Network DVD supplements the 'Frost on...' issues with selections from 'The Frost Programme' for Rediffusionn, running around the same time period - I would recommend for inclusion his 7 November 1970 encounter with a chaotic studioful of mouthy Yippies, including Jerry Rubin and Felix Dennis; the Beatles singing 'Hey Jude' and 'Revolution' live in the studio in 1968; and the famed Emil Savundra 'trial by television' interview from 1967.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 22, 2013 12:25 AM BST

Kenneth Williams: Born Brilliant: The Life of Kenneth Williams
Kenneth Williams: Born Brilliant: The Life of Kenneth Williams
by Christopher Stevens
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £19.34

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Thorough job, but not thorough enough?, 5 Dec 2011
This well thought-out and well-written biography throws some revealing new perspectives on several areas of KW's life and death - e.g., his relationship with playwright Joe Orton during the troubled first production of `Loot', and the probability that KW did not in fact intend to commit suicide, but mixed his medications unwisely. However, 'Born brilliant' contains some curious omissions in terms of KW's legacy and aftermath. For instance, there's little mention of KW's inspirational and legitimising influence over succeeding generations of 'camp' comedians, from Larry Grayson and John Inman to Julian Clary and Graham Norton. And there's no mention of KW 'tribute acts', such as the one-man show by David Benson, that have appeared over the last decade.
The revealing `Comic Roots' documentary that KW made in 1983, in which he revisited several of his former Bloomsbury haunts, doesn't seem to have warranted a mention; nor has the extensive 'Kenneth Williams: Seriously Outrageous' Reputations BBC-Tv two-part documentary broadcast in 1998, which featured informative testimony from several of KW's friends and fellow thesps.
There's also scant mention of KW's friendship with actor Gordon Jackson, which was, the published KW 'Diaries' suggest, one of tremendous importance to him; the book doesn't even say much about how they met.
Quibbles, you say; and you'd be right. Don't let them put you off buying and enjoying this otherwise excellent book.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 5, 2012 2:14 AM BST

Night Before =jewel=
Night Before =jewel=
Price: £6.73

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hugely accomplished album: so why no raves?, 25 Nov 2011
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This review is from: Night Before =jewel= (Audio CD)
Given the range of Customer Reviews for Hooverphonic's latest that have been posted to stateside since being released a year ago it's surprising that there hasn't been a single posting to - especially given the band's estimable fanbase. This apparent apathy can't be because 'The Night Before' is no good; indeed, it's a superb return to form following the lugubrious indulgencies of 'The President of the LSD Golf Club'. Hooverphonic's trademark baselines and sweeping string-synths are astutely deployed. The songwriting is assured and contained, and several tracks are very catchy indeed: 'Anger Never Dies', for instance, stands comparison with any recent Bond theme you've heard. Lyrically, the album's a tad lighter and (arguably) poppier, but this works well to offset the richness of Hooverphonic's melodies.
On a more critical note, where 'The Night Before' slightly unsatisfies is in its sparse solo instrumentation - I kept feeling that some of the tracks needed a bit of extra musicality - an inventive guitar lick here, some tuneful keyboards there - to ornament the arrangements. Another caveat is its length (cue Grumpy Old Man mode): when will contemporary pop/rock artistes realise that CDs allow for over 60 minutes of content, and that realising a 12-track album that runs to way less than that is rather short-changing the punters? Given that most other genres now customarily include 70+ minutes of playing time, surely a few extra tracks, B-sides, interview tracks, could fill-out.
I listened to `The Night Before' without knowing that Geike Arnaert had been replaced new lead vocialist Noémie Wolfs, so in that respect the succession has been flawless, although many other Hooverphonic purists may beg to differ.
Get a taster of what's in store by checking out 'The Night Before' singles' videos on YouTube - search for 'Anger Never Dies', 'One, Two,Three', and the song of the same name, 'The Night Before'. All excellent stuff - highly recommended. Hooverphonic fans: buy. New to Hooverphonic? Buy as about the best introduction to the band's style and scope.

A Secret Wish [25th Anniversary Deluxe Edition]
A Secret Wish [25th Anniversary Deluxe Edition]
Offered by Fulfillment Express
Price: £10.12

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A bonus DVD would have made this really 'deluxe', 15 Mar 2011
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This is a rich package, and the remixing of the original tracks has paid some sonic dividends, but in some ways I would have been just as satisfied with a remix of the original track listing, plus extras like the tastey 'Femme Fatale' cover that crops up on the otherwise disappointing 'Outside World' compilation from 2002. To truly qualify as a 'Deluxe Edition' this issue should have come with a bonus DVD containing the Propaganda singles videos, plus any other performance footage ZTT could have mustered up or licenced. After all, 'A Secret Wish' has proved a major cash-cow for ZTT, and in its various manifestations must have made the label loadsamoney over the last quarter century.

Wonders of the Ancient World: Antiquity's Greatest Feats of Design and Engineering
Wonders of the Ancient World: Antiquity's Greatest Feats of Design and Engineering
by Justin Pollard
Edition: Hardcover

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars You've got to hand it to those ancients..., 10 Mar 2011
...When it came to Wonders of the World they didn't muck about. Hanging Gardens in the Babylonian style, oh mighty Nebuchadnezzar? Not a problem, sire. A 30m-high Colossus standing athwart the harbour entrance at Rhodes? Yes, we can do that in the bronze. And who can forget the housewarming party for the 25,000 square-metre canalside palace at Nimrud for 'merciless' Assyrian King Ashurnasirpal, where 69,574 guests boogied away for ten days and ten nights?

But it wasn't all show. As Justin Pollard's book reveals, Wonders took many magnificent forms, from canals and aqueducts, to tombs and temples. They were a global phenomenon, with early civilisations in the Middle East, Europe, India, Japan and the Americas constructing astonishing monuments. Their fame spread far and wide, and Wonders were often visitor attractions as well as places of veneration and worship, or tributes to wealth and power. 'Wonders of the Ancient World' visits 40 such marvels created between the beginning of human civilisation and the start of the medieval period: some now only exist partly in myth; others have survived - to some extent - into the 21st century. Pollard's hit-list includes well-known Wonders such as The Parthenon, The Colosseum, Stonehenge and Petra, along with less-familiar achievements such as the rock-cut shrines of Ellora, the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus, and the Rice Terraces of Banaue (which are still in use after 2,000 years).

Some Wonders had a functional purpose and represented the innovations in science and technology of their time. In the first century BC, the architects of the Tower of the Winds near to the Acropolis aligned the building precisely north - a remarkable feat, as Pollard notes, given that the magnetic compass was not known in Europe until the 13th century AD. The structure also embodied a kind of computational sundial. The statistics pertaining to the build-quality of Wonders are awesome. Egypt's 4,500-year-old Khufu Pyramid, for instance, originally stood 146.7m high, and is constructed largely of 2.3m limestone blocks weighing 2.5t each. The Borobudur temple on the island of Java, renowned as one of the greatest Buddhist monuments, contains around 56,000 cubic metres of stone held in place without the use of mortar.

Even with the tools and techniques now at our disposal, fabrication on this scale and artistry would remain a daunting project for contemporary architects. The fact that our forebears were able to conceive and construct Wonders with relatively rudimentary building aids - but with unlimited slave power, of course - illustrates what humankind was capable of achieving with basic human ingenuity.

Pollard provides a potted history of each site, with accessible box-outs highlighting aspects of each Wonder's fate. However, the overwhelming magnificence of the places featured also serves to highlight some of the book's limitations; and although subtitled 'Antiquity's greatest feats of design and engineering', most engineers might be disappointed by the lack of technical graphics. Though light on technical detail, Pollard's prose is engaging enough for the average reader, and, after all, this book looks designed as a glossy gift rather than a historical reference source. (This review first appeared in 'E&T' magazine - [...]

The Struggle for Unity: Colour Television, the Formative Years (Iet History of Technology)
The Struggle for Unity: Colour Television, the Formative Years (Iet History of Technology)
by R. W. Burns
Edition: Paperback
Price: £56.14

5.0 out of 5 stars Colour by numbers, 10 Feb 2011
Burns's meticulously researched book is how early in the history of television technology its exponents were thinking about developing a rudimentary colour version. John Logie Baird, whose influence looms large over the early chapters, was demonstrating low-definition colour TV prototypes as early as 1928.
However, it is the battle between the two contending US standards - from CBS and a consortium led by RCA - that provides the central drama of Burns's story. Both organisations invested millions in developing and refining their contending specifications, driven by a heady admixture of electrical engineering pride and potential commercial rewards. These mighty rivals spent huge additional resources on lobbying standards body National Television Standards Committee and other influential parties to favour their respective proposals. The RCA-led standard won out in 1953 after a protracted - and sometimes acrimonious - series of detailed technological appraisals, and formed the foundation of colour television standards (including the European PAL and SECAM systems) used since.
The US had limited broadcast colour TV by 1954, and although its quality was comparatively low-grade, it represented a huge achievement for the broadcasting engineering. Burns ably outlines the products and personalities involved, and references the also-rans. The development of the vital display tubes is also well covered.
Unfortunately, for a book about colour display `The Struggle for Unity' contains no archive colour photos. It's also a pity that an explanation of the development of colour videotape recording did not fall within the scope of this work. Despite these quibbles, `The Struggle for Unity' is destined to become a standard authority on this history of electrical engineering and the foundations of broadcast media. (This review first appeared in 'E&T' magazine - [...]

Out - The Complete Series - Special Edition [1978] [DVD]
Out - The Complete Series - Special Edition [1978] [DVD]
Dvd ~ Tom Bell
Price: £11.93

32 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars South London's hardest still the best, 21 Dec 2010
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Frank Ross has just got out of nick after doing an eight stretch: although he was caught bang to rights pulling a bullion job, he is set on finding out the filthy grass what shopped him. Over six episodes Ross tracks down his former members of his old firm, while causing plenty of aggravation to the two slags now running his South London manor, and the bent filth who put him away. He also has to deal with a wife and son sent dysfunctional by his prolonged absence at Her Majesty's pleasure...

Possibly Trevor Preston's - and Euston Films' - finest hour outside of 'The Sweeney', the screenplay and acting are taught and assured, and every performance crackles with cred. Watching this for the first time in 30 years, I found I could recall stretches of dialogue as though I'd heard them only last week. My only reservations are 1) having spent the first 29 years living in and around Frank Ross's locale, I'd say much of the slang is more East- than South London; b) the casting of John Junkin as Ross's buddy/heavy - he just doesn't look tasty enough to put down geezers half his age; c) the final episode is a bit compressed, as Preston pulls all the plotlines together, and the action hurtles toward a slightly uneven denoument.

As with a lot of telly of that era, characters carelessly booze and smoke their way through scenes. The 1978 16mm print could have done with a bit of superficial restoration, but generally it holds up well. Superb theme and incidental music by George Fenton at a fairly early stage in his esteemed career.

So if you like brown lambskin car coats, green Ford Granadas, wide-lapelled suits with flaired trouser legs, talk of slags, aggravation, faces round the manor, then forget 'Life On Mars' et al - this is the real deal.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 14, 2013 8:06 PM GMT

The Avengers  -  Series 5 [DVD]
The Avengers - Series 5 [DVD]
Dvd ~ Patrick MacNee
Price: £35.50

19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Remedial action required?, 18 Nov 2010
My heart sank when the reviews highlighting the faulty audio on 'The Avengers - Series 5' started to stack up. 'Series 4' was a cracker, with superb sound and vision (though hiding away a couple of Extras as easter eggs was daft). 'Series 5' was going to be a Christmas/New Year viewing treat; had also planned to purchase two additional copies to give as gifts; but not now...
Surely if the problem is real Optimum should now acknowledge it, and recall this set pending an audio-corrected re-issue?
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 18, 2010 8:31 PM GMT

Shall We Dance [DVD] [1937]
Shall We Dance [DVD] [1937]
Dvd ~ Fred Astaire
Price: £4.95

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Shall we hope for a better DVD issue than this?, 4 Oct 2010
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This review is from: Shall We Dance [DVD] [1937] (DVD)
One would think that the combination the Gershwins, Fred and Ginger, luscious art deco sets, plus the comic chemistry of Edward Everett Horton and Eric Blore, would warrant a better DVD issue than this. As with other Universal Pictures Astaire/Rogers issues, it looks sourced from a mediocre NTSC master rather than directly to PAL from a good-quality print. Result of doing it on the cheap: substandard picture and sound quality; the latter is particularly irksome as 'Shall We Dance' contains several items of Gershwin scoring that only exists on the soundtrack of this 1937 movie. It also, of course, features some of the bros' best-known songs - 'They All Laughed', 'They Can't Take That Away From Me', 'Let's Call the Whole Thing Off', 'Slap That Bass', 'Beginner's Luck', plus the muscial number 'Prominade (Walking the Dog)'. Despite these presentational shortcomings, and in lieu of a decent Blu-ray issue, 'Shall We Dance', at 1hr 48minutes, is arguably the best of Fred and Ginger's RKO pairings: a scintillating, wisecrack-rich script, pacey direction from Mark Sandrich, and watching it even in this imperfect form is a joy and a delight. There is also an informative introduction by Ava Astaire McKenzie in which she relates her father's reaction to George Gershwin's death, and of the composer's own reaction to seeing a first cut of the film. Buy and be happy.

Vivaldi - The Complete Sacred Works
Vivaldi - The Complete Sacred Works
Price: £47.25

11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Doesn't get any better than this..., 6 Sep 2010
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Not just the finest recordings of baroque choral music, but one of the finest classic recordings full stop. Featured King's Consort soloists are beyond outstanding. Music and voices flawlessly performed, superb recording quality: 13+ hours of transcendental beauty. Hugely recommended!

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