Posts Tagged ‘Radio 2’

Barry Norman’s 1977 Review of Star Wars

April 29, 2022

Here’s a blast from the past to cheer up fans of Star Wars and who miss the genial, avuncular tones of film critic Barry Norman on their TV screens. I found this little snippet from Film 1977 on YouTube, in which Norman looks at, and actually likes, Star Wars. He states that it has become the biggest grossing film in history, as it was when it first came out, although it’s since been overtaken by Titanic and Avatar. The film contained the right mixture of romantic adventure, including the knights of the round table and Science Fiction. Alec Guinness as Obi-Wan Kenobi is described as a kind of elderly Sir Galahad with the film also starring Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher. But, adds Norman, the real stars are likely to be the two robots, R2D2 and C3PO. He also mentions how the film was already becoming a merchandising phenomenon. The action figures wouldn’t be out by Christmas, but a whole range of other toys, including ray guns, would. He quotes one Fox executive as saying that it’s not a film but an industry.

The film’s success took writer and director George Lucas and producer Gary Kurtz by surprise. Lucas spent years writing and re-writing the script before it was ready for shooting, and the film was initially rejected by two studios. Even more amazing is that it was shot on the low budget of £6 million – which was obviously worth a lot more in 1977 than it is now – and that the special effects and many of the live action sequences were created by British special effects technicians at Elstree. But none of the film’s massive profits will be coming back to them, unfortunately.

Before Star Wars, Lucas was best known for his film American Graffiti, but the seeds of Star Wars are in an earlier film he made as a 27 year old graduate film student, THX1138. And now, two films later, at the age of 32, Lucas is so rich he need never work again. But there’s no point being jealous, says Norman, adding ‘Damn him!’ He nevertheless concludes that Lucas is a good director who deserves his success.

The review rather surprised me, as I can remember Bazza complaining in the 1980s that there wasn’t a cinema for adults, and Star Wars, while a family flick, was aimed at children. The review surprised me even further with the statement that Lucas is a good director. I think he was, at least in the first trilogy. Unfortunately the first of the prequels, The Phantom Menace, caused some people to drastically revise their opinion of Lucas as a director. Mark Kermode, reviewing it for BBC radio, declared that Lucas ‘couldn’t direct traffic’, which is far too harsh. I’m not a fan of the The Phantom Menace, which is rather too juvenile for my tastes. But it definitely wasn’t the Nazi propaganda flick poet and critic Tom Paulin claimed it was in a bug-eyed bonkers segment for the Beeb’s Late Review. And watching the next two prequels on DVD, I found that they recaptured some of the wonder and excitement I’d had watching the original trilogy as a child in the ’70s and ’80s.

As for Bazza, his retirement from the show and death a few years ago has, in my opinion, left a hole in the Beeb’s film criticism. Yes, Kermode and Mayo are good on Radio 2, and Kermode’s series a few years ago on the essential elements and plot structures of various film genres was very good. The Beeb did try bringing in Jonathan Ross and then a couple of female presenters, one of whom I believe was Claudia Winkleman, to replace Bazza on Film –. Ross was responsible for the Incredibly Strange Film Show on Channel 4, in which he reviewed some truly bizarre and transgressive movies. At least one of these was by John Waters, the man responsible for Hairspray amongst other assaults on the cinematic sensibilities of the mainstream American public. I was afraid when Wossy took over that he’d drag the show downmarket. But he didn’t. He was knowledgeable and intelligent, offering reasoned criticism and insight. Nevertheless, neither he nor the two ladies could match Norman and his quiet, genial tones giving his opinion on that year’s films. Bazza was so popular, in fact, that 2000AD sent him up as an alien film critic, Barry Abnormal, in the story ‘DR and Quinch Go To Hollywood’. This was about a pair of alien juvenile delinquents trying to make a movie from a script they’d stolen from an alcoholic writer after he’d passed out and they thought he was dead. The film stars Marlon, a parody of a certain late Mr Brando. Marlon is illiterate, but his acting is so powerful, as well as the fact that no-one can understand a word he says, that people so far haven’t actually figured that out. Marlon dies, crushed by an enormous pile of oranges after trying to take one from the bottom of the pile. Which Dr and Quinch film and release as ‘Mind the Oranges, Marlon!’

It’s good to see Barry Norman giving his surprisingly positive views about Star Wars, 45 years, and many films, as well as countless books, comics and toys later. Star Wars is, I believe, very firmly a part of modern popular culture, as shown by the way it’s casually discussed by the characters in the film Clerks and the Channel 4 TV series, Spaced. And Norman himself, though having departed our screens years ago, is still fondly remembered by fans of his series, even if we didn’t always agree with him.

And why not?

Agent Stool Pigeon Tears Apart Alex Belfield in Answer to Fans

February 24, 2022

Last week was not a good one for mad YouTuber Alex Belfield, as he was suspended from YouTube for a series of violations. It appears he has now gone off to Ustreme with his friend, Jim Davidson. Belfield is very much a man of the right, ranting about the Channel migrants, whom he calls ‘dinghy divers’, calling for the privatisation of the NHS and criticising the Covid lockdown as well as other diatribes about race and Black Lives Matter and the trans craze. He has some kind of feud going with individuals from the Beeb which has resulted in a long series of court cases. He takes every chance to talk down the corporation and demand its privatisation and sneers at its staff as ‘Guardian-reading, oyster-eating, champagn-sipping, university-educated Naga Manchushy types’. He hates middle class left-wingers, and presents himself as a White working class lad from a pit village whose managed to succeed despite opposition from a woke, left-wing middle class establishment.

But he has his critics. I’ve put up a number of pieces on here criticising him, and have had a number of replies from his fans. Some of them are polite, but most are just abuse. And it seems I’m not alone. He has another critic in the shape of ASP – Agent Stool Pigeon – on YouTube. I found this video on the gentleman’s channel in which he answers Belfield’s fans by tearing further into their hero. I got the impression that he’s done this several times before, and that this is an answer to their complaints.

After denying that he’s making money from Belfield, he states that most of the mad YouTuber’s content doesn’t contain a thread of truth. Belfield simply looks at the day’s headlines and then makes up the rest. He tells his listeners that they could do the same and save themselves the time and expense of watching Belfield. All they have to do is go to the supermarket, pick up a paper, read the headline and then make up their own story. And then walk back home. They’ll have saved themselves money and had a walk. He also makes the point that while Belfield tells his viewers not to trust the mainstream media, all his stories come from that same media. He doesn’t do anything original. He leaves out information that contradicts his points and doesn’t provide links, though he will give a screen shot of the headline. But he’s also groomed his fans so that if someone questions him, he’ll set them off on a pile-on against that person. He did it the other day in Tweet about the Times journo he said banned him from YouTube.

The Pigeon also states that Belfield attacks and slams people all day to make money not caring whether what he says is true or not. But he’ll block anyone who questions him. He will never interview anyone who questions him. He’ll give his story on stage or on screen when no-one can interrupt or question him. The Pigeon also advises people not to give money to people on YouTube. But people have given donations to Belfield, who has not shown what he’s done with the money through providing bank records and so on. He points out how hypocritical this is coming from Belfield, who regularly attacks the Beeb for not showing what it is doing with the money donated to it. He compares his hold over his fans to that of a cult leader, who’s trained his followers to think like him and give him all their worldly possession. But after Belfield’s ban, he communication with his fans has come to a halt. There isn’t anything on YouTube and nothing on his Twitter feed except repeated requests to buy tickets for his shows, or join the mailing list for his shows, The Stoolie points out that all Belfield does is push their buttons to amplify their anger, while using some of the most disgusting and unfunny innuendos. His jokes come from 1977.

The Pigeon also corrects the view that the Beeb is taking Belfield to court. It’s not. Some of the Beeb’s employees or ex-employees are taking the mad YouTuber to court for defamation, and this could be expensive. If he loses, he’ll have to pay damages and court costs. He also being sued by 8 people on 12 counts of stalking. Belfield claims that the whole world is against him, but things like this don’t happen for no reason. And now he wants people to spend a pound a week for him to recycle the headlines. And all the while he’s laughing at them.

The video doesn’t consist of anything beyond the Pigeon’s dulcet Liverpudlian tones and caricature of Belfield. But it is a very effective demolition of him.

It’s also interesting reading some of the comments by people, who’ve also lost faith in him or seen how he cynically twists the news. For example, Swoop said: ‘Here’s one you’ll like: During one of Belfield’s livestreams last year he was spouting a load of rubbish about how the Army being called into Liverpool meant that people we’re going to be getting visited at home and having covid tests forced upon them by soldiers……I actually managed to get through to the phone in and asked him where on earth he was getting this rubbish from, when he inevitably became insulting I told him to put his money where his mouth is and make a bet on it. Since then I’ve not been able to get through again. Funny that innit? Alex Belfield owes me £500. Correction: Alex Belfield owes the RAF Benevolent Fund £500.’

And there’s this from Chocolate Frenzie: ‘

I followed Alex Belfield for over a year- sent him money twice and then a few months ago he had a rant and said something along the lines that he didn’t care about his followers continuing to follow him- I was so hurt I stopped listening to him after that – as for his phone in well I gave up on them a while back as I couldn’t stand listening to him making innuendoes to the female callers – goes a bit too far – drinks in wits out’

Alex C commented: ‘Agree 100 percent with every word on this video..well done..he grooms as you say,,he mind controls . He does not care one bit about the people he fleeces.He is driven. The things that please me… He was a radio 2 dj ..with hundreds of thousands of listeners,, And his circle keeps shrinking. Everytime he burns a bridge his world shrinks,less people…despite the money he yearns fo4 lots if people to adore him. He is twisted, bitter,,,and is a huge star in his own head. Remember he was once Bankrupt. Remember he was until his 20s plus a morbidly obese man. Remember he uses your money to live a great life. But his sheep enjoy being fleeced.’

And there’s more, much more, from people stating out that according to the Times it was the advertisers who pulled the plug on him. One of the things they disliked was his misogyny. Another commenter states that Belfield claimed to have set up a charity account for all the donations, then admitted he hadn’t.

If even some of these allegations are true, then it’s devastating and Belfield definitely shouldn’t have an audience.

‘Dumb Britain’ Answer from 2006 Reveals Who’s Really Running the Tories

July 21, 2020

As I’m sure many of my readers know, Private Eye has been running a column for donkey’s years now called ‘Dumb Britain’. This is a collection of daft answers contestants have given to questions on quiz shows. And the edition for the 20th January – 2nd February provided this highly entertaining and very enlightening answer to Richard Allinson’s question about an ambitious journo turned Tory politico. Allinson was standing in for Steve Wright, then the host of Steve Wright’s Big Quiz on Radio 2. The question was

‘Name the eccentric politician who has resigned as editor of the Spectator to concentrate on his political career with the Tories?’

As any fule kno, this is the wretched Boris Alexander DePfeffel Johnson. But the contestant replied, ‘Boris Yeltsin’.

Yeltsin was the drunken, corrupt Russian president, whose wholesale privatisation of the Russian economy caused its economy to meltdown. At one sewing machine factory they were even paying their workers in their products, thanks to Yeltsin’s catastrophic mismanagement. Putin’s continued tenure of the Russian presidency, equally corrupt and much more thuggish, is owed to a great extent on the old arkhiplut managing to get the economy back on its feet and to give the Russians some pride back in their country.

But it also strangely relevant today, after the publication of the report into Russian political meddling. You know, the one Bozo sat on for as long as he could, because it reveals colossal interference in which the Tories culpably looked the other way or were actively involved. With all this going on, it may as well as have been Yeltsin.

Or more correctly, Putin.

Pat Mills: Be Pure! Be Vigilant! Behave! 2000AD and Judge Dredd: The Secret History: Part Two

March 30, 2018

The brutal treatment inflicted by the two ‘Prefects of Discipline’ understandable left Mills with a hatred of the Catholic church. He isn’t alone there. The Irish comedian Dave Allen, and his countryman, the much-loved Radio 2 broadcaster and presenter Terry Wogan, also had no particular love of the church because of the similar sadistic discipline they’d also received as part of their Catholic education. And I’ve met many ordinary people since then, who have also fallen away from the church, and often against Christianity altogether, because of it. One of my uncles was brought up a Catholic, but never attended church. This was partly due to the brutality of the monks, who taught him at his school.

Mills also corrects the impression that Judge Dredd was immediately the favourite strip in the comic. The good lawman wasn’t, and it was months before he attained that position. And he also attacks Michael Moorcock for his comments criticising the early 2000AD in the pages of the Observer. Moorcock was horrified by Invasion, and its tale of resistance to the conquest of Britain by the Russians, hastily changed two weeks or so before publication to ‘the Volgans’. Moorcock had been the boy editor of Tarzan comic, and declared that in his day the creators had cared about comics, unlike now, when the creators of 2000AD didn’t. This annoyed Mills, and obviously still rankles, because he and the others were putting a lot of work in to it, and creating characters that children would like and want to read about. One of the recommendations he makes to prospective comics’ creators is that writers should spend four weeks crafting their character, writing and rewriting the initial scripts and outlines of the character in order to get them just right. And artists need two weeks creating and revising their portrayal of them. This was difficult then, as creators were not paid for what Mike McMahon called ‘staring out of the window time’, though Mills generally managed to find someway round that. It’s impossible now, with tight budget and time constraints.

I can see Moorcock’s point about the Invasion strip. It wasn’t Mills’ own idea, although he did it well. True to his beliefs, its hero was working class, a docker called Bill Savage. He didn’t initially want to work on it, and was only persuaded to by the then editor telling him he could have Maggie Thatcher shot on the steps of St. Paul’s Cathedral. But it is a right-wing, Tory fantasy. It appeared at the tale end of the ’70s, when MI5, the CIA and Maggie Thatcher had all been convinced that the Labour leader, Harold Wilson, was a KGB agent, and the trade unions and the Labour party riddled with Communists or fellow-travelers ready to do the bidding of Moscow. The strikes in the period led to various arch-Tories, like the editor of the Times, Peregrine Worsthorne, trying to organise a coup against the 1975 Labour administration. And ITV launched their own wretched SF series, in which a group of resistance fighters battle a future socialist dictatorship.

He also discusses the office hatred of the character Finn and the man it was based on. Finn was Cornish, driving a taxi round the streets of Plymouth by day. He was practising witch, and at night battled the forces of evil and against social injustice. The character was based on a man he knew, an ex-squaddie who was a witch. Mills has great affection for this man, who introduced him to modern witchcraft, and in whose company Mills joined in ceremonies at the Rollright Stones in Oxfordshire. But the management didn’t like him, and had him sacked. There was a persistent dislike of the character, which seemed to come from its basis in witchcraft, and Mills himself was the subject of lurid stories about what he was supposed to get up to at these ceremonies. This ended with the strip’s abrupt cancellation, without proper explanation. Mills states that he is very distantly related to one of the women executed for witchcraft at Salem, and so is very definitely down on people, who despise and malign witches.

I’m not surprised by either the rumours and the hostility to the strip. This was the 1990s, the heyday of the Satanism scare, when across America, Britain and Europe there were stories of gangs of Satanists abusing animals. Children were being conceived by abused women, used as ‘brood mares’, to be later used as sacrifices to Satan. It was all rubbish, but repeated by a wide range of people from Fundamentalist Christians to secular feminist social workers. And it destroyed many lives. You may remember the Orkney scandal, where forty children were taken into care following allegations of abuse. The minister at the local kirk was supposed to be a Satanist, who had an inverted crucifix hanging from his ceiling. It was no such thing. It was, in fact, a model aeroplane.

Much of this dangerous bilge came from a group of rightwing evangelicals at the Express. I’m not surprised. I can remember the Sunday Express repeating some of this drivel, including the ludicrous claim that CND was Satanic because of its symbol. This was declared to be an old medieval witchcraft symbol, based on a broken cross. I mentioned this once to a very left-wing, religious friend, who had been a member of the nuclear disarmament group. He looked straight at me and said levelly, ‘No. It’s semaphore’. The scare pretty much disappeared in Britain after a regular psychiatrist issued a report stating very firmly that such groups didn’t exist. There are several excellent books written against the scare. The two I read are Jeffrey S. Victor’s Satanic Panic and Peter Hough’s Witchcraft: A Strange Conflict. Victor is an American sociologist, and he takes apart both the claims and gives the sociological reasons behind them. Hough is one-time collaborator of ufologist Jenny Randles, and his book comes at it from a sympathetic viewpoint to modern witches and the occult milieu. He talks about the political beliefs of modern occultists. These naturally range all over the political spectrum, but the majority are Lib Dems or supporters of the Green Party and keen on protecting the environment. And far from sacrificing babies or animals, those I knew were more likely to be peaceful veggies than evil monsters straight from the pages of Dennis Wheatley or Hammer Horror.

The 1990s were also a period of crisis for the comic, which went into a spiral of decline as their best talent was stolen by DC for their Vertigo adult imprint. There was a succession of editors, who, flailing around for some way to halt the decline, blamed the remaining creators. They were increasingly critical, and seemed to be encouraging the abuse letters being sent to them from what seemed to be a small minority of fans. There were also plans to interest TV and Hollywood in developing 2000AD characters in film. Mills and Wagner were horrified to find they were giving away the rights dirt cheap – in one case as low as pound. The comic was close to collapse, but was eventually saved by Rebellion and its current editor.

Continued in Part Three.

Radio 2 Programme with Trevor McDonald on the British West Indies Regiment

October 18, 2016

Another programme on Black history is also on the radio tonight. This is Huge and Mighty Men of Valour, in which the ITV newsreader and the 21st century’s answer to Alan Whicker, Trevor McDonald, talks about the history of the British West Indies Regiment. the blurb for this in the Radio Times runs

Trevor McDonald presents the untold story of the West Indies role in the British Empire’s war effort. Until 1915 the War Office was reluctant to recruit West Indian troops but heavy losses changed their perspective and thousands of young men willingly signed up for the newly formed British West Indies Regiment. Such was their physical fitness and readiness to work that they were dubbed “huge and mighty men of valour” . But racism and poor conditions at the end of the War resulted in a mutiny and the radicalisation of many troops who, upon their return home, helped sow the seeds of self-determination, which rattled the colonial powers.

This is on tonight, Tuesday 18th October 2016, at 10.00 pm on Radio 2. If you miss it, I should think it’ll be available on BBC iplayer.

A First World War Indian Army Recruiting Poster

November 6, 2014

Indian Recruiting Poster

This week I’ve been blogging about the contribution of non-White servicemen and women and that of Chinese labourers to the imperial forces during the First World War. This has partly been because, as Guy Debord’s Cat reported earlier this week, one of the Nazi splinter groups of the Fascist Right has been selling poppies and other merchandise. They’re trying to cash in on the patriotic mourning in Remembrance Day, and appropriate it for White Nationalism.

This is in complete contradiction to history. I’ve described in my previous blog posts how the scholars at the In Flanders Fields Museum in Ypres have researched and teach the multicultural composition of the British imperial forces. The former British Empire and Commonwealth Museum in Bristol even had a display on it. After nearly a century of scandalous neglect, there is now a monument to these brave men and women amongst the monuments to the White fallen in Flanders. Radio 4 has also broadcast a programme on the contribution of the Chinese labourers, and tomorrow at 9 pm, Radio 2 will also broadcast a show on the Indian squaddies, who did their patriotic duty and joined up.

I found this recruiting poster for the Indian Army in one of the history books I’ve got here at home, simply entitled History of the World: the Last Five Hundred Years, edited by Esmond Wright, and published by W.H. Smith in 1984. The text reads: ‘This soldier is guarding India. He is guarding his home and his household. Thus we are guarding your home and you must join the army.’ While the British exploitation of India under the Empire is a fact of history, this shows without doubt that Indian soldiers fought in the imperial forces for their homeland. It disproves any attempt to claim Remembrance Day by White bigots for themselves.

Radio 2 Programme on Indian Soldiers in WW I

November 5, 2014

Earlier this week I reblogged a piece from Guy Debord’s Cat on the way the Nazi right were trying to cash in on Remembrance Day. They were selling poppies and merchandise with the intention of appropriating this act of commemoration for the fallen as a unique symbol of White British patriotism. In my own comment to the Cat’s eloquent piece, I pointed out that the British imperial forces not only included Whites, but also non-White servicemen and women. They also included Chinese labourers. These served with honour alongside their White comrades, but it is sadly only in the last decade or so that their contribution to the War has received the recognition it deserves. In the early part of this century the former Empire and Commonwealth Museum in Bristol staged an exhibition on non-White servicemen in the First World War. Radio 4 has also broadcast a programme about the Chinese labour force, whose own role in the conflict has really on just been recently rediscovered. Dominiek Dendooven, of the In Flanders Fields Museum in Ypres, Belgium, also gave a presentation in a seminar the archaeology department of Bristol University some years ago on ‘Multicultural War in Flanders’. This covered the material remains of the non-White troopers and labourers, and the trench art they produced during and after this most terrible of wars.

This Saturday, the 8th November, Radio 2 is also broadcasting a programme at 9 pm on the Indian squaddies in the conflict, Forgotten Heroes: the Indian Army in the Great War. The blurb for this in the Radio Times reads:

Sarfraz Manzoor tells the story of the 1.27 million men from the Indian Army who fought alongside British troops in every major battle from Ypres to Gallipolli – a fact almost completely overlooked in the history books. On the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War, Manzoor redresses the balance, revealed through letters written home by sepoys – an expression for infantry soldier from the Perian/Urdu word – which were saved by military censors.