You may well have noticed in my recent list of top ten movies a distinctly British feel to the compilation and that’s because, these days, I have some difficulty equating the American way of life with my own, despite both nations speaking the same language! At least, we speak the same language to a certain extent but the connection between the two countries doesn’t really go any further than that. Even in my choices involving US participation, such as “Alien”, there is also a strong British contingent. “Alien” has a British director in Ridley Scott, who almost designed the Daleks whilst at the BBC in the early Sixties, as well as a couple of Brits in the cast alongside the five Americans. “Lifeforce” may have been directed by an American but it is set predominantly in London with a mainly British cast.
In the Nineties, in the absence of any new British science fiction or fantasy series, with the exception of “Bugs” (curiously broadcast at the same time of year, on the same channel and evening, and in the same timeslot as new “Doctor Who” is now), I watched a fair amount of American television, predominantly the various spin-offs of “Star Trek” and “Buffy, the Vampire Slayer”, together with its spin-off “Angel”. How times change! I no longer watch any US telly. I’ve seen but a few minutes of “Battlestar Galactica”, never watched “Ugly Betty”, and not even a few minutes of Englishman Hugh Laurie, playing American, in “House”. For the most part, when Brit actors work in the States they tend to produce inferior work. I best remember Alan Rickman as Slope in “The Barchester Chronicles”, for example, rather than the baddie in “Die Hard” or as the Sheriff of Nottingham!
The behaviour of Americans does at times seem, to me, to be extreme and excessive. From twenty years ago, I remember an American character in the second series of “A Very Peculiar Practice” describing the UK as a “pissant little swamp”! This was, of course, writer Andrew Davies telling his audience the way he thinks the citizens of the US see us and so is, perhaps, something of a generalisation. My father has worked with Americans, though, and has told me they sometimes commented on the smallness of everything over here! Does bigger automatically mean better, then? I think the marketing machine of Hollywood, representing its country both at home and abroad, would have us believe that it does! Many, if not most, people nowadays derive their viewing pleasure from films, nay movies, made from wads of cash thrown at each project, the result of which is usually nowt more than forgettable throwaway fluff.
I dare you to watch the opening three-and-a-half minutes of Seventies’ horror film “Blood on Satan’s Claw” and not be hooked by the cliff-hanger! Wallow in the Britishness of its direction and creative use of camera angle. Listen to the haunting score by Marc Wilkinson with its inclusion of one of Stravinsky’s favourite instruments the cimbalom, an east-European instrument a little like a piano, but played with various types of mallet. Enjoy the initial appearances of Barry Andrews, as Ralph Gower, who a few years earlier had appeared in “Dracula Has Risen from the Grave”, and Wendy Padbury, as Cathy Vespers. She well-and-truly leaves “Doctor Who” behind her in this film. Then, there is our beautiful English countryside to gaze upon. Yes, the pace is slow. It’s so slow you can even read the credits! But, as when listening to Bach, you appreciate with a cleansed soul, free from the Romantic syrup of Rachmaninov!!