Alastair Reid: Director whose career highlights included 'Traffik' and 'Tales of the City'

The television drama output of the Scottish director Alastair Reid displayed a man in full command of his craft. His eye for striking compositions was allied to strong narrative skills, with a preference for shooting on film; his use of camera angles conveyed an inventive and sometimes mischievous spirit. It is to be regretted that his talents did not successfully expand to the cinema screen.

Near the end of one single play, The Silver Mask (LWT, 1973), a character approached the bedroom of a wealthy invalid. Reid's camera concentrated on a hammer in his hand – then revealed him placing the ornament of the title on her bedroom wall. In the first episode of Inspector Morse, "The Dead Of Jericho" (Central, 1987), the Bafta- and Emmy-winning drugs trade drama Traffik (Channel 4, 1989), and the Hitler Diaries forgers' story Selling Hitler (Thames, 1991), his director of photography was Clive Tickner. He recalled: "Alastair was big on tracking, we always took extra rails when working with him as he often worked out a whole scene in one shot, which required some neat moves to 'mop up'. Sometimes he would compose the action to fit into one long-lens shot. A very imaginative man, and a lovely person to work with."

Born in Edinburgh, Reid graduated from that city's College of Art before studying directing at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School. His television directorial debut was a two-year stint on Emergency – Ward 10 (ATV, 1957-67), commencing in 1964. For the industrious producer Stella Richman, then Head of Drama at Rediffusion, he worked on two anthology series, Half-Hour Story (1967-68) and The Gamblers (1967-68), as did his contemporary, Alan Clarke.

Reid's cinema debut was an apparently unlikely one. Baby Love (1967), was a sexploitation film about a Northern Lolita in London. Rather than the expected smutty comedy, Reid gave proceedings a bleak tone and an awareness of the social divide; its sequences of nightmares invite comparison with an earlier venture of its producer, Michael Klinger, Roman Polanski's Repulsion. The Night Digger (1971), written by Roald Dahl and starring his wife Patricia Neal, was sparingly released in America and only seen in Britain years later, on late-night TV. Again for Richman, Reid deployed an opulent look, shooting in Milan and all on film, for Six Faces (BBC, 1972), starring Kenneth More as a businessman planning an Italian venture, observed by different participants in his life.

South Riding (YTV, 1974) had itsperfect adapter in Stan Barstow (who predeceased Reid by two weeks). Reid shared directorial duties with itsproducer, James Ormerod, and it won the Society of Film and Television Arts (later Bafta) award for Best Drama Series. However, it was overlooked in publicity for the BBC's adaptation earlier this year.

The character actor Aubrey Morris cites "Special Duties", (Thames, 1975), in the series Shades of Greene, adaptations of Graham Greene stories, in which Reid cast him alongside Sir John Gielgud, as a career highlight. On home ground, Reid's version of the Jacobite tale The Flight of The Heron (BBC Scotland, 1976) was shown in BBC1's Sunday early-evening slot.

Decades before Life on Mars, Philip Martin deconstructed the 1970s tough British crime drama with Gangsters (BBC, 1976 and 1978). Set in Birmingham, it contained, in the words of David Rose, Pebble Mill Head of Drama, "plenty of hokum", and references to the movie serials of earlier decades in its episodes' endings. Reid proved well suited to Martin's self-reflexiveness. In its home region only, its Pirandellian final episode was followed by Gangsters: Judgement Day, a live discussion in which Reid participated. He confounded viewers' expectations again with Curriculee Curricula (BBC, 1978), an Alan Plater play with interpolated songs that was simulcast on BBC2 and Radio 4. Doctor Jekyll and Mr Hyde (BBC, 1980) was made on video, but Reid did not hold back from Victorian gothic, aided by David Hemmings' committed performance. On film, lasting for three hours, and again for Rose, the futuristic drama Artemis 81 (1981) demonstrated Reid's technical skills.

The television schedules for Christmas Day 1987 included two examples of Reid's work. His second Morse case, "The Wolvercote Tongue" (ITV, 1987) was followed by The Story of a Recluse (1987), based on the three pages ofan unfinished story by Robert Louis Stevenson. It began in black and white, until the writer Alasdair Gray appeared and explained his motivations withthe adaptation, at which point it went into colour; it concerned a student (a young Peter Capaldi) accused of cheating by a gambler (one of Stewart Granger's last roles).

The kaleidoscopic Armistead Maupin adaptation Tales of the City (1993) was another big success for Reid. Despite a mainly American cast, and filming in San Francisco, it was a British production, made for Channel 4 by Working Title. However, when Reid worked for the latter on What Rats Won't Do (1998), it was a rare example of an unsuccessful romantic comedy film from that company.

He succeeded where David Lean had failed by adapting Nostromo (BBC, 1997), albeit for the small screen.

Gavin Gaughan



Alastair Reid, director, producer and screenwriter: born Edinburgh 21 July 1939; married (one son, two stepdaughters); died Stoke St Gregory, Somerset 17 August 2011.

Sport
footballLIVE City face Stoke, while Warnock returns to Palace dugout
Arts and Entertainment
books
Life and Style
3D printed bump keys can access almost any lock
gadgets + techSoftware needs photo of lock and not much more
News
i100
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Arts and Entertainment
Inside the gallery at Frederick Bremer School in Walthamstow
tvSimon Usborne goes behind the scenes to watch the latest series
Life and Style
Silvia says of her famous creation: 'I never stopped wearing it. Because I like to wear things when they are off the radar'
fashionThe fashion house celebrated fifteen years of the punchy pouch with a weighty tome
Arts and Entertainment
Gregg Wallace in Summer's Supermarket Secrets
tv All of this year's 15 contestants have now been named
News
i100Steve Carell selling chicken, Tina Fey selling saving accounts and Steve Colbert selling, um...
Life and Style
A picture taken on January 12, 2011 shows sex shops at the Paris district of Pigalle.
newsThe industry's trade body issued the moratorium on Friday
Arts and Entertainment
Could we see Iain back in the Bake Off tent next week?
tv Contestant teased Newsnight viewers on potential reappearance
News
i100
News
The slice of Prince Charles and Princess Diana's wedding cake and the original box from 29 July 1981
newsPiece of Charles and Diana's wedding cake sold at auction in US
Voices
The Ukip leader has consistently refused to be drawn on where he would mount an attempt to secure a parliamentary seat
voicesNigel Farage: Those who predicted we would lose momentum heading into the 2015 election are going to have to think again
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne made her acting debut in Anna Karenina in 2012
film Cara Delevingne 'in talks' to star in Zoolander sequel
Sport
Mario Balotelli pictured in his Liverpool shirt for the first time
football
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Junior VB.NET Application Developer (ASP.NET, SQL, Graduate)

£28000 - £30000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Junior VB.NET ...

C# .NET Web Developer (ASP.NET, JavaScript, jQuery, XML, XLST)

£40000 - £50000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# .NET Web De...

Clinical Negligence Solicitor

Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: HAMPSHIRE MARKET TOWN - A highly attr...

Network Engineer (CCNP, CCNA, Linux, OSPF, BGP, Multicast, WAN)

£35000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Network Engineer (CCNP, CCNA, Linux, OSPF,...

Day In a Page

Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

The phoney war is over

Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

Salomé: A head for seduction

Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

British Library celebrates all things Gothic

Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

In search of Caribbean soul food

Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
11 best face powders

11 best face powders

Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone