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The Strange World of Gurney Slade
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Both firmly of its time and spectacularly ahead of it, The Strange World of Gurney Slade is to television comedy what The Prisoner has become to television drama - brilliantly inventive, startlingly surreal and unlike anything previously seen on television. Anthony Newley stars as an actor who walks off the set of a banal sit-com and into a fantasy world of his own imagination. In this surreal odyssey through his own personal alternative reality he indulges in random conversations with both animals and inanimate objects it s a world in which characters can step out of advertising posters and where he can hear the most intimate thoughts of passers by. An unpredictable, absurdist fantasy, Gurney Slade created an indelible impression upon anyone who saw it. Created by Newley and written by the highly talented Sid Green and Dick Hills (who were soon to become key writers for Morecambe and Wise) this series has been newly transferred from the original 35mm film elements specifically for this release.
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This is a chance to rediscover the great Anthony Newley, one of Britains most creative and inovative Artists - terrible underrated and neglected (till today). He was not only a great actor, entertainer and composer, his work was always in front of its time and therefore mostly misunderstood and derided. Through his whole work he always dealed with surrealism - like here in "Gurney Slade", but also in his later works, like the undervalued " Can Heironymus Merkin ever forget Mercy Humppe and find true Happiness".
After so many years give Anthony Newley the recognition and appreciation he finally deserves !!
OK, so it looks good. What about the show? Is it really as funny as it thinks it is? Personally I found myself chuckling wryly rather than shaking with laughter, but on the whole I think it holds up pretty well. Some people have compared it to The Prisoner and Monty Python, but I think there's a lot of stuff here that wouldn't look out of place on The Twilight Zone. Especially the stuff about talking to animals and inanimate objects, the episode where Gurney finds lots of squatters inside his brain, and the end of the last episode, where Gurney realises what a dummy he's been.
The show obviously didn't catch on at the time, and the writers must have known it wasn't to everyone's taste when they wrote the episode where Gurney is put on trial for his life for allegedly not being funny. Ironically, that episode has one of the most genuinely funny endings in the entire series.
On the whole Network have done the series proud. The cover is nicely quirky, especially the back cover where almost everything except the barcode is printed backwards. (The ATV logo fooled 'em, though - that looks the same either way round). Inside, there's a nicely informative booklet about the making of the series and its critical (lack of) reception. The disc navigation is also eccentric, but it's not that hard to figure out - after all, there are only three menu options. The menu is even accompanied by a snatch of the theme tune, which is something Network don't always do. I would have liked the single version of Max Harris's theme tune to have been included as an extra, but once again you can't have everything. What you do get is a selection of trailers, which are every bit as weird as the series itself, and some slightly scratched publicity photos from the series (complete with a photo of the photo album!) and of Newley.
So, kudos to Network for rescuing yet another forgotten gem from the vaults, and long may they continue. Now if you'll excuse me, I think that lamppost wants a word with me.
50 years on and the theme tune was instantly recognisable, as was the slightly mournful often puzzled face of the delightful Anthony Newley in the role that was created only for him, no one else could have carried it off with such aplomb and should you say it? grace and charm. The scene where he walks out of the studio, busy ignoring everything everyone is saying to him is classic, something we all long to do at times, walk out of our lives into something else. (I know I did - not that long ago, too.) From then on the series just becomes more surreal and wonderful. It is such a treat to see a sharply defined film like this, the black and white photography leaps from the screen in all its glory, like high class black and white photographs do. Superb, it really is.
For anyone who remembers this amazing sitcom, buy this and watch it and keep your copy and watch it again and again and be grateful for the people who decided to release it so us 'oldies' could grab a piece of our past and relive it once again.
If you want to investigate the roots of British alternative comedy, this is a must.