Monday 01 February 1999
Midnight Movie (15)
BBC Films. Available to buy now pounds 10.99 each.
QUITE WHY the BBC thinks these two dramas or indeed most of the other programmes its releasing in this series qualify as film is a mystery. Some of them are very impressive: I'm thinking of the rather sweet This Could Be The Last Time, starring Joan Plowright, which was broadcast last September and, in particular, the adaptation of Iain Banks's The Crow Road. But a four-and-a-half television series is never going to be thought of as a film.
Down Where The Buffalo Go is case in point: it's nothing more than an overlong Play For Today. An what an oddity it is too. First broadcast in 1988, it stars Harvey Keitel as Carl, a shore patrolman at the Holy Loch Polaris submarine base. By the time we meet him, Carl's marriage to a local woman is already on the rocks. He's better off than his brother- in-law Willie, though: he's estranged from his wife and kids and about to lose his job. The pace is funereal, the tone equally downcast , but more disappointing still, director Ian Knox has no idea how to exploit Harvey Keitel's simmering presence. Neither does playwright Peter McDougall quite know what to do with the promising material. `Local Hero' it is not.
It seems remarkable that this year we'll be commemorating the fifth anniversary of Dennis Potter's death. Famously, the last months of his life were dedicated to his cheeky suggestion that the BBC and Channel co-produce his final two dramas, Karaoke and Cold Lazarus. As a result, less ambitious Potter fare, such as Midnight Movie, was easily overlooked. First transmitted in 1994, it seems at first glance to be Potter-by-numbers. Jim Carter, a country solicitor, has acquired a country residence for film producer Brian Dennehy and his trophy wife, Louise Germaine. As Carter finds himself drawn to Germaine (sound familiar?), it turns out that the house provided the backdrop for the most famous film of Germaine's mother, a Sixties starlet who died in mysterious circumstances.
Potter seems to be in third gear here. Nevertheless, there's still enough gusto in the direction (Potter's own) and ham in the performances to speed this drama along.
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