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.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
There will be a chance to bid for a rare example of the SAS Diary, collated by a former member of the regiment in the aftermath of World War II but only published – in a limited run of just 5,000 – in 2011
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm today
File: James Woods attends the 52nd New York Film Festival at Walter Reade Theater on September 27, 2014
peopleActor was tweeting in wake of NYPD police shooting
Martin Skrtel heads in the dramatic equaliser
SPORTLiverpool vs Arsenal match report: Bandaged Martin Skrtel heads home in the 97th-minute
Billie Whitelaw was best known for her close collaboration with playwright Samuel Beckett, here performing in a Beckett Trilogy at The Riverside Studios, Hammersmith
people'Omen' star was best known for stage work with Samuel Beckett
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Telesales & Customer Service Executives - Outbound & Inbound

£7 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Are you outgoing? Do you want to work in...

Recruitment Genius: National Account Manager / Key Account Sales

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for a...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Manager

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity to join...

Recruitment Genius: Recruitment Consultant

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We have an excellent role for a...

Day In a Page

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'