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The movie with the midas touch: Goldfinger’s golden anniversary

October 4, 2014

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Going for gold: to sate the growing 007 fans all around the world, Broccoli and Saltzman’s magic factory Eon Productions pulled out all the stops and verily sparked ‘Bondmamia’ with its third spy-fi fantasy epic – a precious-metal movie masterpiece that proved to be less gilt-edged, more 24-carat

On September 17 1964, at the prestigious Odeon Leicester Square cinema in London’s West End, one of the few films that can genuinely be considered an out-and-out cornerstone of post-war pop culture premiered. The film was Goldfinger. And, arguably, the world would never be the same again. Goldfinger, of course, wasn’t the first of Eon Productions’ ‘official’ Bond film series; it was the third, but owing to a wilful adoption of a somewhat lighter, more ironic, even knowingly self-parodying tone, it set the template for every 007 flick that would follow. It also properly delivered for the first time the ‘box of delights’ offered by so many future efforts – the world-threatening plot; the grandiose larger-than-life villain; his equally larger-than-life, harder-than-nails henchman; Bond’s gadget-laden mode of transportation (the now world-famous Aston Martin DB5, of course); the totally bodacious title song; the witty puns throughout and the outrageous how-will-he-possibly-get-out-of-this? Bond-trap.

Directed by Guy Hamilton, who’d later return for three further consecutive movies (1971’s Diamonds Are Forever, ’73’s Live And Let Die and ’74’s The Man With The Golden Gun), designed by the genius that is Ken Adam (whose cathedral-like Fort Knox set was the result of letting his imagination run wild as he wasn’t allowed a look around the real US federal gold reserve) and scored by the incomparably brilliant John Barry (whom with Anthony Newley and Leslie Bricusse also wrote arguably maybe still the best Bond title theme, recorded by Shirley Bassey), the movie was graced with a cast including versatile German thesp Gert Fröbe as the eponymous villain Auric Goldfinger, Honor Blackman as his personal pilot Pussy ‘I must be dreaming’ Galore, Shirley Eaton as unforgettably literal ‘golden girl’ Jill Masterson, Tania Mallet as her vengeful sister Tania and Korean judo ace Harold Sakata as the fantastically formidable henchman Oddjob. Oh, and Sean Connery as James Bond, of course, in a performance seemingly more-at-ease than ever before or since.

And it would be with Goldfinger that Connery became an undisputed global superstar; in fact, in the minds of many around the world the character of 007 and the man Sean Connery became synonymous (later in the decade, he signed an autograph only for the recipient to complain it didn’t read ‘James Bond’). Such was the unadulterated anticipation for Goldfinger and Connery’s Bond in autumn ’64 that at that London premiere, the crowd pressure was so great it broke the windows of the Odeon. And the movie too did much breaking of its own – breaking box-office records, that is. In today’s money, it raked in over $1 billion; out of the 23 ‘official’ 007 movies so far, it still ranks third on the all-time (inflation-adjusted) grosser list, behind only 2012’s Skyfall and ’65’s Thunderball).

So, as the unique and still rather magnificent Goldfinger celebrates its golden anniversary this autumn (I was lucky enough to catch it on the big screen in the summer; it still looks and feels fresh as a daisy), do please, peeps, join George’s Journal as it gets in on the act, with this rare images-, videos-, facts- and quotes-boasting post. For, when back in ’64 Cubby Broccoli and Harry Saltzman aimed for a bold change in direction for 007, they verily pulled off an Operation Grand Slam – and then some…

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Golden nugget of knowledge

It’s been said that 70-80% of the world’s population has seen Goldfinger at least once and that sales of the Aston Martin DB5 increased by 50% after its release – sadly for car-buying-punters, though, none of the vehicles sold featured the box of tricks 007’s did

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24-carat quote

You have to walk the line between absolute nonsense and seriousness and a way to cope with it is a little bit of humour~ Guy Hamilton on screenwriter Richard Maibaum’s approach to scripting Goldfinger (BAFTA/ Film4 Summer Screen interview, July 2010)

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Golden nugget of knowledge

Goldfinger was at first banned in Israel because the actor who played the titular villain (Gert Fröbe) was a registered Nazi during the Second World War; sometime later, however, it emerged he had helped hide Jewish families from the Gestapo during the war, and so, rightly, the ban was lifted

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“[Co-producer] Harry [Saltzman] came from the circus; for him, Bond was a show. And [he was] always looking for something new. He popped in one day and said: ‘There’s a thing called a laser-beam, it’s fantastic; we’ve got to have it in [the film]’. I said: ‘Harry, that’s terrific – how do we use that in the picture?’. He said: ‘I don’t know, that’s your job’. [Scriptwriter] Dick Maibaum was thinking ‘the Perils of Pauline': ‘Instead of using a circular saw [as used in the famous torture sequence as it is in the original novel], we’ll use the laser-beam’. And I said: ‘Thank you, Harry!’” ~ Guy Hamilton on how the laser-beam effect came to grace Goldfinger (BAFTA/ Film4 Summer Screen interview, July 2010)

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Golden nugget of knowledge

Future Hollywood writer-producer-director (most notably the man behind TV’s Happy Days and The Odd Couple and helmer of 1990’s Pretty Woman) Garry Marshall appears as a hood in the games room scene at Goldfinger’s Kentucky stud farm

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24-carat quote

I got into a situation where I didn’t have anywhere to live for two weeks and John [Barry] said ‘Come and live with me’… [The first night] I went to sleep and I was woken up about an hour later by the piano …. All night long he was on the piano. I thought: ‘I’m going to be here two weeks, my God, I’m never going to get any sleep!’. In the morning I got up, went down to breakfast and he was still on the piano … and [then] he said: “I’ve finished”. I asked: “What were you composing?” … He played me Goldfinger [the song] … and so I was the first person in the world to hear Goldfinger – and I heard it all night!” ~ Michael Caine on the writing of Goldfinger’s title song (John Barry Memorial Concert, Royal Albert Hall, London, June 2011)

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Playlist: Listen, my friends! ~ October 2014

October 1, 2014

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In the words of Moby Grape… listen, my friends! Yes, it’s the (hopefully) monthly playlist presented by George’s Journal just for you good people.

There may be one or two classics to be found here dotted in among different tunes you’re unfamiliar with or have never heard before – or, of course, you may’ve heard them all before. All the same, why not sit back, listen away and enjoy…

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CLICK on the song titles to hear them

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Peter Sellers and Sophia Loren ~ Bangers And Mash (1960)

Jayne Mansfield ~ Suey (1965)1

The Beach Boys ~ Good Vibrations (1966)2

Moby Grape ~ He (1968)

Joe Cocker ~ Feelin’ Alright (1969)

Barbra Streisand ~ Life On Mars (1974)

Richard Rodney Bennett ~ Overture from Murder On The Orient Express (1974)

John Lennon and Elton John ~ Whatever Gets You Thru The Night (1974)3

Violinksi ~ Clog Dance (1979)

Shuki Levy and Haim Saban ~ Theme from Pole Position (1984)

Robbie Robertson and Gil Evans ~ Main Title from The Color Of Money (1986)

Debbie Harry ~ French Kissin (In The USA) (1986)4

Diana Ross ~ If We Hold On Together (1988)5

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Digging that ace bass? That may be because it’s from then lowly session musician Jimi Hendrix on guitar – no really. This seemingly highly unlikely pairing of the electric lady and the man behind Electric Ladyland (1968) came about because, at the time, they shared the same manager; Suey is in fact the B-Side of  Mansfield’s single As The Clouds Drift By (1965), recorded at the same session and also featuring Hendrix on guitar

2 Featuring footage of California’s finest ever band recording a take of one of the greatest pop/ rock songs ever produced

3 Recorded at an Elton John concert held on November 28 (Thanksgiving Day) 1974 at Madison Square Garden, New York City – Lennon’s appearance and co-performance of the song took place as John agreed to play on the studio cut of the tune but with a caveat; should it reach #1 in the US, Lennon would make a rare public-performance-appearance at said concert. The song, of course, topped the charts and, in addition, the two also performed together the Beatles standards I Saw Her Standing There and Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds (which John had covered around this time). It’s also said that back-stage at this concert Lennon got back together with wife Yoko Ono after several months apart (his notorious ‘lost weekend’ episode)

4 Believe it or not, this sunny-as-a-California-summer-day UK #8 solo hit for Harry was written by Chuck Lorre, whom would later hit pay-dirt as the creator and executive producer of the sitcoms Two And A Half Men (2003-present) and The Big Bang Theory (2007-present)

5 As featured in dinosaur-cute-a-thon hit animated movie The Land Before Time (1988)

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Shirley Eaton/ Valerie Leon ~ Carry On Golden Girls

September 30, 2014

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Talent…

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… These are the lovely ladies and gorgeous girls of eras gone by whose beauty, ability, electricity and all-round x-appeal deserve celebration and – ahem – salivation here at George’s Journal

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When it comes to the silver screen, is there truly anything more British than either the Bond or Carry On series? Surely not. And in celebration of that (and the fact that spy-fi monolith Goldfinger celebrates its 50th anniversary this autumn), this blog’s serving up a very special post for you here, peeps – a pictorial tribute to a couple of indubitably glorious UK lovelies who’ve enjoyed various brushes with both Bond and Sid James and co. in their time. Yes, we’re talking the blonde (ahem) Bond-shell that’s Shirley Eaton and the bodaciously leggy and buxom Valerie Leon – the latest, you better believe it, double-entry in this blog’s Talent corner

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Profiles

Names: Shirley Eaton/ Valerie Leon

Nationality: English

Heights: 5’7″ / 5’11”

Professions: Actresses

Born: January 12 1937, Edgware, London/ November 12 1943, Hampstead, London

Known for: Shirley – becoming iconic for all-time as the villainous title character’s companion Jill Masterson in classic Bond film Goldfinger (1964); although, few will probably remember her actual role (let alone her name), much more likely the fact she was full-bodily painted gold from which her character (impossibly in the real world) dies from skin suffocation. In addition to similarly gold-painted co-star Margaret Nolan (in the latter’s case for flashy titles-featuring and marketing purposes only, though), she became the face of the film, even making it on to the cover of Life magazine in late ’64. Away from Bond she memorably starred in three early flicks of the much-loved Carry On series – 1958’s Sergeant, ’60’s Constable and ’59’s Nurse (in which she played the ostensible protagonist). She also appeared in three episodes of UK adventure TV serial The Saint (1962-68) and opposite Mickey Spillane as his own detective creation Mike Hammer in The Girl Hunters (1963). Considered a British sex symbol throughout the ’50s and ’60s, she retired from acting in 1969 to raise her children.

Valerie – perhaps most of all for appearing in five Carry On films in the late 1960s/ early 1970s (just as the movies’ bawdiness became more and more obvious, ergo her figure proved something of a must for the filmmakers): 1968’s … Up The Khyber, ’69’s Camping, ’70’s Up The Jungle, ’72’s Matron and ’73’s Girls. For horror fans, she put in an all-time iconic performance as the protagonist/ antagonist of Hammer’s Blood From The Mummy’s Tomb (1971) and Bond fans will note she also essayed minor but memorable roles in two separate 007 flicks, 1977’s The Spy Who Loved Me and 1983’s ‘unofficial’ effort Never Say Never Again, in addition to typically sexiful appearances in other notable UK/ US movies such as The Rise And Rise Of Michael Rimmer (1970), No Sex Please, We’re British (1973), Revenge Of The Pink Panther and The Wild Geese (both 1978). Moreover, an entire generation of male TV viewers will happily recall her featuring in British TV ads for Hai Karate aftershave.

Strange but true: Shirley appeared in a heat for the UK (BBC’s) entry for the 1957 Eurovision Song Contest/ Valerie was apparently cast as the Sardinian hotel receptionist in The Spy Who Loved Me (despite her patent lack of an Italian accent) because she told the filmmakers she didn’t want to play a character that ended up being killed

Peak of fitness: Shirley – in that black underwear of hers, lying face-down and peering through binoculars in Goldfinger, as Bond (and we) ogle her before his introduction/ Valerie – despite all those appearances in low-cut dresses and skimpy bikinis in the Carry Ons, it has to be in her truly-only-almost-there costume as Blood From The Mummy’s Tomb‘s reincarnated Egyptian goddess Tera  

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Playlist: Listen, my friends! ~ September 2014

September 1, 2014

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In the words of Moby Grape… listen, my friends! Yes, it’s the (hopefully) monthly playlist presented by George’s Journal just for you good people.

There may be one or two classics to be found here dotted in among different tunes you’re unfamiliar with or have never heard before – or, of course, you may’ve heard them all before. All the same, why not sit back, listen away and enjoy…

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CLICK on the song titles to hear them

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Dick Dale and the Deltones ~ Misirlou (1963)¹

Julie London ~ Wives And Lovers (1965)

Count Basie and his Orchestra ~ Goldfinger (1965)

Donovan ~ Atlantis (1968)

The J.B. Pickers ~ Freedom Of Expression (1971)²

The Faces ~ Maybe I’m Amazed (1972)

Sally Oldfield ~ Mirrors (1979)

Joy Division ~ She’s Lost Control (1979)³

Blondie ~ Sunday Girl (1979)4

Marvin Gaye ~ I Heard It Through the Grapevine (1980)5

Cyndi Lauper ~ The Goonies ‘R’ Good Enough (1985)

Kate Bush ~ Big Sky (1985)

The Rembrandts ~ I’ll Be There For You (1995)

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¹ As featured over the opening credits of Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction, released 20 years ago this year

² From the soundtrack of the cult road-movie classic Vanishing Point (1971)

³ Recorded live for the BBC2 music showcase Something Else in September ’79 and, yes, featuring Ian Curtis losing himself in the music and idiosyncratically dancing

4 A rare version of Blondie’s classic hit that sees Debbie Harry timelessly deliver the lyrics in French

5 A sumptuous version – with an awesome intro – of Gaye’s signature tune recorded live at the Montreux Festival

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Did someone call for a Doctor? George’s Journal’s great Doctor-ranking-rundown

August 22, 2014

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Top of the Docs: so just which of these oh-so familiar faces will be Time Lord Victorious?

That’s right, we’re almost there, my fellow Gallifreyan-partial peeps. Unlike The Doctor himself, we’ve had to come the long way round – we’ve patiently waited (that is, those of us who haven’t in any way checked out the ‘leaks’ on the ’Net) nine whole months and finally the moment has come. Yes, tomorrow, folks, on the goggleboxes in the corner of our lounges and in the flickatoriums across our towns and cities (indeed, how you choose to get your Who-viewing jollies is entirely up to you), Peter Capaldi will finally make his bow as The Twelfth Doctor.

But, my, just what will he be like? Will he genuinely be a much darker version? A far more alien Gallifreyan? A far less patient Time Lord? Dare one say it, a less easy to like Saturday teatime TV hero? Who knows? Indeed, ‘Who’ really knows – but certainly not us yet. What we all do know, though, is exactly what each of the previous 12 – yes, 12 – incarnations of the show’s iconic character have been like and, just as significantly, what we think of them. And, boy, haven’t they been different – and yet similar at the same time? And, golly, don’t we all tend to disagree – and hopefully agree to disagree – on just which ones we prefer and which ones we’d rather see packed up in a box under the time console never to emerge from the TARDIS ever again?

So, methinks, what better way for this blog to mark the unveiling of the next Doctor (and the beginning of the next series of Who) than for a trip down memory lane by taking a look back at all the Doc’s previous incarnations – and, while doing so, ranking them from 12th place right up to my (ahem) numero Who-no?

And lo, is that a thud I heard from outside? And hasn’t the time console stopped sliding up and down? Yes, we’ve landed, folks; time indeed then to fling open the TARDIS doors and commence our adventure…

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12. Colin Baker ~

The Sixth Doctor

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Aka: The curly, surly one

Era: 1984-86

Episode total: 31 (8 serials)/ most episodes 25-minutes-long

Appearance: Big, blond curly barnet and a quite ridiculous multi-coloured outfit – in the words of Baker himself: ‘like an explosion in a rainbow factory’

Personality: Irritable, pompous, argumentative, volatile and self-aggrandising, yet also – like all the other incarnations – heroic and moralistic

Catchphrase: None

Major companion: Nicola Bryant (Peripuguilliam ‘Peri’ Brown)

Major foe: Michael Jayston (The Valeyard)

Best serial: The Trial Of A Timelord (1986)

Worst serial: The Twin Dilemma (1984)

Pros: A Doc with a difference? One who’s far from immediately likeable and thus a bit of a challenge (following his introductory-regeneration he really shows a dark side too) and that regeneration is arguably the greatest in the show’s history

Cons: The prickly personality and crap clobber takes some getting used to; perhaps the only Doctor it’s hard to actually like (the idea had been for Baker to peel back the layers of the character, ensuring he became more likeable, as time went on – only the actor was fired by the Beeb before the plan properly got underway)

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11. Sylvester McCoy ~

The Seventh Doctor

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Aka: The one with the question-mark umbrella

Era: 1987-89 and 1996

Episode total: 42 (12 serials)/ all episodes 25-minutes-long

Appearance: Short and dark haired with a cream (later dark brown) raincoat, sleeveless pullover featuring question-marks, spats, a panama hat and a red question-mark-umbrella

Personality: Initially a clownish, play-the-fool sort, with a propensity to roll his ‘r’s and predilection for alliterative utterances and playing-the-spoons; eventually he takes on a darker, more sombre air, giving the impression he was manipulating events rather than reacting to them

Catchphrase: Fine

Major companion: Sophie Aldred (Dorothy Gale ‘Ace’ McShane)

Major foe: Fenric

Best serial: Remembrance Of The Daleks (1988)

Worst serial: Time And The Rani (1987)

Pros: A diminutive dynamo of a Doctor, full of energy and unexpectedness; transformation of a light-frothy incarnation into a deeper, darker, more complex one

Cons: The rolling ‘r’s, alliteration and spoon-playing grates quickly and, although interesting and admirable, the change into a darker version isn’t entirely convincing – it hardly feels like a natural evolution and McCoy isn’t the best when it comes to the sober drama and gravitas

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10. William Hartnell ~

The First Doctor

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Aka: The grumpy grandfather

Era: 1963-66 and 1973

Episode total: 134 (29 serials)/ all episodes 25-minutes-long

Appearance: A combed-back grey mane and an Edwardian gentleman’s outfit, including a long, black frock coat and sometimes checked trousers

Personality: Often authoritative, irritable, short-tempered and forgetful (owing to advanced years), but at other times caring and well-meaning – especially to his grand-daughter Susan

Catchphrase:Mm, what’s that, my boy?

Major companion: Carole Ann Ford (Susan Foreman)

Major foe: The Daleks

Best serial: The Dalek Invasion Of Earth (1964)

Worst serial: The Gunfighters (1966)

Pros: The original, ‘authentic’ Doc, thus, to a large extent, the one that set the template for all the others to follow or (more often) deviate from; always engaging and, as an older man who’s restricted in the physical stakes, a somewhat off-kilter but comfortingly cosy heroic leader

Cons: That irascible personality isn’t easy to warm to, while the old-school manners and headmasterly air aren’t exactly dynamic; similar to (but to less of an extent than) the unlucky Sixth and Seventh Doctors above, he wasn’t actually blessed with the greatest stories either

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9. Patrick Troughton ~

The Second Doctor

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Aka: The scruffy cosmic hobo

Era: 1966-69, 1973 and 1985

Episode total: 119 (21 serials)/ all episodes 25-minutes-long

Appearance: Short with a black Beatles-esque mop, over-sized black jacket, ill-fitting bow-tie and, like his predecessor, sometimes checked trousers – but deliberately unlike his predecessor, the overall look was like he’d thrown on bits he’d found at a jumble sale; in colder climes often sported a deep brown, very woolly coat which looked like it once belonged to a mammoth

Personality: On the surface, a mixture of kindliness, scatter-brained skittishness and even comedic buffoonery, belying an inner cunning, steeliness and bravery

Catchphrase:When I say run, run!

Major companion: Frazer Hines (Jamie McCrimmon)

Major foe: The Cybermen

Best serial: The War Games (1969)

Worst serial: The Krotons (1968)

Pros: Charismatic and amusing; a distinctive change to (even negative of) Hartnell’s original Doctor, thus the successful source for all subsequent Docs’ larking about; adept at instantly dropping the clowning and heroically taking control

Cons: Favourite of die-hard Whovians he may be, but his explain-things-to-everyone-like-they’re-a-child style is rather reminiscent of a Blue Peter presenter; that shabby outfit is sartorially rubbish; unfortunately quite a large chunk of his episodes are still missing

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8. John Hurt ~

The War Doctor

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Aka: The ‘retconned’ one

Era: 2013

Episode total: 2 (and 1 mini-episode)

Appearance: Post-middle-aged, grey and a bit haggard with an unruly beard yet somewhat coiffed hair, a beaten-up brown leather jacket, boots and an ammunition belt

Personality: Irascible, old-fashioned and mannered like the First Doctor – but more no-nonsense (or ‘no more’?) and world- and war-weary; a man of undisputed action, preferring to sip from a thermos lid than a teacup, for example

Catchphrase: Gallifrey stands!

Major companion: None

Major foe: The Daleks/ The Time Lords

Best episode: The Day Of The Doctor (2013)

Worst episode: N/A

Pros: He’s the War Doctor, ergo a badass; oozes awesome charisma without even trying; a fascinating eye on what the Doctor would be thrown slap-bang into a war; he’s bloody John Hurt!

Cons: Only properly appears in one episode; created via ‘retconning’; is he even ‘technically’ The Doctor?

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7. Peter Davison ~

The Fifth Doctor

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Aka: The young one with the blond mop

Era: 1981-84 and 2007

Episode total: 69 (20 stories)/ most episodes 25-minutes-long

Appearance: Youthful and blessed with longish blond hair, dressed in beigey-cream and white cricketing togs and often sporting a stick of celery on his lapel

Personality: Amiable and often cheerful, but prone to doleful brooding and guilt; likes to collect and keep a group of companions around him if possible – given his lack of authoritativeness then, something of a team-leader of do-gooders and put-righters

Catchphrase:Brave heart, Tegan

Major companion: Janet Fielding (Tegan Jovanka)

Major foe: Anthony Ainley (The Master)

Best serial: The Caves Of Androzani (1984)

Worst serial: Four To Doomsday (1982)

Pros: Given his agreeableness, maybe the most likeable of all the Doctors; an unquestionable success as the first ‘young’ one (ensuring McGann, Tennant and Smith’s later casting wouldn’t raise too many eyebrows); a solid, dependable and charming lead in a far from golden era

Cons: Lacks the authority, edge and combination of light and dark of many incarnations – and sometimes overly indecisive; all his companions were either average or pants; like the other two ’80s Docs, was burdened with stories more akin to kids’ TV than thought-provoking sci-fi/ mild horror (apart from his swansong, the fantastic The Caves Of Androzani)

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6. Paul McGann ~

The Eighth Doctor

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Aka: The ‘blink-and-you-missed-him’ one

Era: 1996 and 2013

Episode total: 1 (and *1 mini-episode)

Appearance: Initially, Byron-esque long brown locks and an Old West-style dark outfit (intended for a costume party), complete with frock coat and cravat; when we later meet him, with shorter hair but a long fringe, a long dark overcoat, waistcoat and neck-scarf

Personality: Youthful, romantic, exuberant, whimsical and filled with wonder and joy at the limitless nature of the universe – sort of like a Gallifreyan Pre-Raphaelite

Catchphrase: ‘Physician, heal thyself

Major companion: Daphne Ashbrook (Dr Grace Holloway)

Major foe: Eric Roberts (The Master)

Best episode: *The Night Of The Doctor (2013)

Worst episode: N/A

Pros: Always engaging and charming, yet with just the right touch of mystery; a finely judged take on The Doc as a modern TV (romantic) hero, thus a successful forerunner to Tennant and Smith’s versions; returned to TV 17 years later and was even better second time round

Cons: The real what-could-have-been incarnation; controversially, is apparently half-human, rather than a full Time Lord; the only one to have headlined a failed Who project; seen too little of him to form an opinion on how good he was/ his strengths and weaknesses?

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5. Christopher Eccleston ~

The Ninth Doctor

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Aka: The Northern one

Era: 2005

Episode total: 13/ all episodes 45-minutes-long

Appearance: Tall with cropped dark hair, a black leather jacket, variously coloured v-neck shirts and Dr Martens boots

Personality: Sprightly, spunky, mercurial, moody, unpredictable – life’s like a box of chocolates with the Ninth Doctor; you never know what you’re going to get (I thank you)

Catchphrase:Fantastic!

Major companion: Billie Piper (Rose Tyler)

Major foe: The Daleks

Best episode: Dalek (2005)

Worst episode: The Long Game (2005)

Pros: An unusual and interesting departure for the character (modern, dynamic, fast-talking and faster moving); a successful kick-starter for ‘Nu Who’; thanks to ‘rectonning’, his personality and appearance make perfect sense as The War Doctor’s successor

Cons: Only featured in 13 episodes; audience didn’t get to see his introduction via a full regeneration; departed after only one series, leaving fans wanting more?

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4. David Tennant ~

The Tenth Doctor

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Aka: The ‘sexy’ one

Era: 2005-10

Episode total: 47/ most episodes 45-minutes-long

Appearance: Slim and handsome with long sideburns, spiky hair and an often upturned fringe, dressed in a dark blue or brown pin-stripe suit, tie and trainers/ sneakers; sometimes wears an ankle-length faux-suede coat and rectangular-framed glasses

Personality: Arguably the most human Doctor – exuberant, excitable, amorous, geeky yet trendy and up on the pop-culture-zeitgeist, but certainly not without his brooding moments too

Catchphrase:Allons-y!

Major companion: Billie Piper (Rose Tyler)

Major foe: John Simm (The Master)

Best episode: The End Of Time – Parts One and Two (2009-10)

Worst episode: Love And Monsters (2006)

Pros: Hugely charismatic and hard to take your eyes off him; iconically heroic and easy on the eye; the first incarnation to enjoy a genuine character arc (including doomed romance and overdoing his do-gooding); a huge hit with the punters, truly cementing the success of ‘Nu Who’

Cons: The geeky-trendy shtick and accompanying catchphrases can become a bit annoying; too mainstream, or rather human a Doctor – should the character actually fall for a human being?

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3. Jon Pertwee ~

The Third Doctor

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Aka: The dandy with the schnoz

Era: 1970-74 and 1983

Episode total: 128 (24 stories)/ all episodes 25-minutes-long

Appearance: Tall, grey and always dressed like an Edwardian Beau Brummell – long, often dark frock coats, waste-length capes, neck-scarves and frilly collared and cuffed shirts; often too wears driving-gloves when motoring around in his beloved pseudo-vintage car Bessie

Personality: Usually mannered and courteous, if a little posh, nay even patrician, but invariably becomes indignant at cruelty and evil; a lover of all things vehicular and not averse (unlike most Doctors) to resorting to fisticuffs – especially if it means he can practice his Venusian karate (‘Aikido!’)

Catchphrase: ‘Reverse the polarity of the neutron flow

Major companion: Katy Manning (Jo Grant)

Major foe: Roger Delgado (The Master)

Best serial: The Dæmons (1971)

Worst serial: The Time Monster (1972)

Pros: One of the unforgettable ones – that voice, that face, that hair and those outfits; The Doctor as a true action hero – if there’s a chance of karate-chopping a monster or driving something funky, this Doc never passes it up; surrounded by the cosy but marvellous company of characters that’s the ‘U.N.I.T. family’ and the original (easily best) version of The Master; spearheads the show’s hugely successful transition into colour

Cons: Much of his time sees him banished to Earth, unable to pilot the TARDIS into space and away to other eras, thus somewhat limiting his adventures; the ‘U.N.I.T. family’ as a supporting cast and constancy of The Master as main villain might be a little too samey for some

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2. Matt Smith ~

The Eleventh Doctor

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Aka: The young one with the chin and the fringe

Era: 2010-13

Episode total: 44/ most episodes 45-minutes-long

Appearance: Always young-looking with a long, swept-to-one-side fringe and, originally, dressed in a tweed jacket, black jeans and boots; later adopts a more Victorian look, comprising colour-coordinated three-quarter-length coat, waistcoat and trousers and a pocket-watch. Oh, and a bow-tie – always a bow-tie.

Personality: Something of a mixture of the previous incarnations: brilliant, brave, eccentric, excitable, chipper, bitter, geeky, confident, socially awkward, somewhat amorous and, most significantly, young and old at the same time

Catchphrase:Geronimo!

Major companion: Karen Gillan (Amy Pond)

Major foe: The Silence

Best episode: The Pandorica Opens/ The Big Bang (2010)

Worst episode: Nightmare In Silver (2013)

Pros: A beautifully realised and finely balanced interpretation of The Doctor – fitting for this supposed-to-be final incarnation, not least because he combines so many of his predecessors’ traits; fascinatingly presents the character as a sort of folk hero throughout the universe and all-of-time; high quality of this Doctor is matched by high quality of his era; enjoys a story and (character) arc that lasts his entire tenure – indeed, it could be said the conclusion of his character arc is the conclusion of the character arc of all the previous Doctors too

Cons: A ‘greatest hits’ Doctor – does he actually take the character anywhere new?; as they go along, his series’ story arcs (and episode plots) tend to get a bit timey-wimey, wibbly-wobbly complicated – and might his overall arc be tied up rather too hurriedly and conveniently?

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1. Tom Baker ~

The Fourth Doctor

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Aka: The boho with the scarf

Era: 1974-81, 1983 and 2013(?)

Episode total: 172 (41 stories)/ all episodes 25-minutes-long

Appearance: Tall and a bit lanky with unruly, curly dark brown hair, boggling eyes and a crazy grin, accompanied by a ludicrously long, multi-coloured scarf, a dark brown (sometimes red) coat and occasionally a cravat (the overall look was based on that of ultimate boho Aristide Bruant); later sports a burgundy version of this general outfit

Personality: The most protean Doctor of all, the Fourth is wonderfully unpredictable – wildly happy or angry one moment, contentedly or morosely quiet the next; all wise and knowing or filled with childlike wonder and amazement; silly and stubborn or overflowing with common sense; yet rarely is he wrong or confounded and always brave, resourceful, moralistic and heroic

Catchphrase:Would you care for a jellybaby?

Major companion: Elisabeth Sladen (Sarah Jane Smith)

Major foe: Michael Wisher and David Gooderson (Davros)

Best serial: Take your pick… The Ark In Space (1975),
Genesis Of The Daleks (1975), Pyramids Of Mars (1975), The Deadly
Assassin
(1976), The Talons Of Weng-Chiang (1977) or City Of Death (1979)

Worst serial: Underworld (1978)

Pros: Before (and maybe still after) Tennant’s stint, he’s seen as the definitive take on the Doc by millions of fans – after all, who is it that’s the curator at the end of The Day Of The Doctor?; easily the longest lasting incarnation and never lets up the pace or quality as the years pass; boasts the largest number of quality stories (see ‘Best Serial’ above); early part of his era arguably sees the ‘Classic Series’ at its best as the stories homage and pastiche gothic horror and classic literature; forms an exquisite partnership with surely the show’s greatest companion Sarah Jane Smith

Cons: Truly hard pressed to come up with one… actually, while I’m thinking and you’re waiting, would you like a jellybaby…?

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Peter Capaldi ~

The Twelfth Doctor

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Peter Capaldi makes his debut as the Twelfth Doctor in Deep Breath tomorrow at 7.50pm on BBC1, at 8.15pm (Central Time) on BBC America, at 8pm on Space (Canada) and at 4.5oam on ABC1 in Australia. Oh, and at more or less the same time in cinemas across the world…

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Who ya gonna call? Don’t get spooked, but Ghostbusters has hit 30

August 13, 2014

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I ain’t afraid o’ no ghost: detail from the Ghostbusters teaser poster, featuring the iconic ghost-caught-in-a-‘no’-sign logo – created by Michael Gross from Dan Aykroyd’s original design

The miners’ strike. Band Aid. Reagan’s rampant re-election victory. That guy with his jet-pack at the Olympics. And Torvill and Dean. What do they all have in common? That’s right – incredibly, frighteningly they all took place 30 years ago. Just as did, in fact, the first wave of ‘Ghostbusters-mania’. For, even more pertinently, the spectrally terrific comedy adventure is celebrating its big ‘three-oh’ this summer.

Wait, the first wave of public delirium associated with Venkman and co.? Don’t get me wrong, summer ’84’s definitely wasn’t the only one. On the back of the marvellous original movie, there next came the animated TV show The Real Ghostbusters, which then flooded the toy market with Kenner’s oh-so awesome, oh-so colletable action figures – kids went utterly crazy for both. And then, as the decade came to a close, the original big-screen team were back, saving Christmas with the Statue of Liberty. Or something.

But, there’s no getting away from it (just like trying to outrun a giant King Kong-like marshmallow sailor man), the original earthquake caused by the box-office cash-till-ringing splendiferousness of Ghostbusters was truly seismic; it was everywhere in the summer (and later) months of ’84. Ray Parker Jr.’s oh-so catchy theme tune was thoroughly contagious, Slimer was utterly loveable and Bill ‘The Murricane’ Murray seemed like the biggest, coolest star on the planet. Indeed, getting caught up in Murricane’s ghost-bustin’ hurricane made many feel like a god. And practically everyone said yes.

So, then, peeps, join me please in saluting Ghostbusters’ 30th with a very special post dedicated to the ghoulishly great blockbuster (a true cultural cornerstone for millions that grew up in the intoxicating ’80s), featuring, as it does, tidbits on the flick’s making, quotes from cast and crew members, classic video clips and many, many a top image (several from behind-the-scenes). Warning: If you don’t, Slimer’ll get you – but don’t worry, you’ll feel so funky…

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The cast…

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Ghostbusters was originally conceived by paranormal enthusiast Dan Aykroyd as a movie vehicle for himself and fellow ex-Saturday Night Liver John Belushi; he wrote the film-to-be’s screenplay with friend and oft co-star Harold Ramis. Eventually, Aykroyd would play Dr Ray Stantz (‘The Heart’) and Ramis Dr Egon Spengler (‘The Brains’).

Cast as the movie’s unofficial lead Dr Peter Venkman (‘The Mouth’) was Bill Murray, with whom Ramis had starred in hit comedy Stripes (1981); in fact, in the ’70s the trio had all performed together in Chicago’s Second City comedy troupe. The final ‘Ghostbuster’ role, Winston Zeddmore (‘The Everyman’), was filled by Ernie Hudson, the victim character, Louis Tully (‘The Keymaster’), by Rick Moranis and the client/ Venkman’s love-interest, Dana Barrett (‘The Gatekeeper’), by Sigourney Weaver – whom won her role by acting out Dana’s transformation-into-a-terror-dog in her audition for director Ivan Reitman.

Intriguingly, Jeff Goldblum, John Lithgow, Christopher Lloyd and Christopher Walken were all considered for Spengler, while Tully and Venkman were supposedly written for, respectively, John Candy and John Belushi – Candy had ‘artistic differences’ with Reitman; Belushi didn’t live long enough to fill his intended role, dying of a drug overdose in 1982 (apparently, Chevy Chase and Michael Keaton also turned down Venkman, but – although often trotted out – Eddie Murphy was never the intended casting for Zeddmore).

Ultimately, Serbian model Slavitza Jovan was cast as the androgynous god Gozer after Paul ‘Pee Wee Herman’ Reubens passed on it, while according to Aykroyd, loveable ghoul and unlikely break-out star Slimer was to some extent supposed to be ‘the ghost of John Belushi’.

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I went over and I introduced myself and he said, ‘Hello, Susan.’ [Then] he picked me up and put me over his shoulder and walked down the block with me … It was a great metaphor for what happened to me in the movie: I was just turned upside down and I think I became a much better actress for it~ Sigourney Weaver on meeting Bill Murray for the first time, on location for Ghostbusters outside New York Public Library (from vanityfair.com)

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We had three different studios going [at once], I had a motorcycle going back and forth from one to the other~ SFX genius Richard Edlund, whom set up his own company for Ghostbusters, on the time-strapped challenge of getting all the movie’s effects finished on time (from vanityfair.com)

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The numbers…

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Ghostbusters was greenlit with a budget of $25m, a figure plucked out of the air for the executives by Ivan Reitman and a then astronomical sum for a comedy; the deal for that show of faith was its script had to be finished and the film shot and edited in just 12 months.

It opened on June 8 1984 and promptly hit #1 at the US box-office, staying there for seven non-consecutive weeks. So far, it has grossed a worldwide total of $291.6m; ensuring it was the third biggest global hit of 1984 and stands at #33 on the list of highest grossing movies of all-time, adjusted for inflation. It was nominated for two Oscars (Original Song and Visual Effects) and currently holds a 96% ‘Certified Fresh’ rating on rottentomatoes.com.

The same summer, its theme song, performed by Ray Parker Jr. (see bottom video clip), topped the US Billboard chart for three weeks and hit a high of #2 in the UK, where it stayed for the same amount of time. Lyndsey Buckingham has claimed he turned down the opportunity to write and perform a theme song for the film.

Several Stay Puft Marshamallow Man suits were made for the shoot and all of them were destroyed due to the rigours of filming – each of them cost $20,000.

The huge dollop of marshmallow that falls on NYC health department irritant Walter Peck (William Atherton) was actually 50 gallons of shaving cream – he was often harrassed by the public for some time after the movie’s release; a bus full of schoolkids apparently shouted ‘Dickless!’ at him.

While on location, Bill Murray withdrew $2,000 from an ATM for a homeless man.

The sequel, Ghostbusters II, was released on June 16 1989 and achieved the biggest ever three-day opening-weekend box-office gross – only for the record to be broken just one week later by Batman (1989).

Ultimately, Ghostbusters II (even accounting for five years’ worth of increasing inflation) grossed around $75m less than the original; it currently holds a 51% ‘Rotten’ rating on rottentomatoes.com.

Fondly recalled TV cartoon spin-off The Real Ghostbusters ran for seven seasons from 1986-91, totalling 147 episodes. It was this series, rather than the films, that generated the hugely successful Kenner toy action figures and play-sets. The Venkman character was voiced by Lorenzo Music, whom at the time also provided the voiced of Garfield on TV – ironically, Bill Murray voiced the iconic cat in 2004’s Garfield: The Movie. In January 2009, The Real Ghostbusters was named #22 on ign.com’s list of the ‘Top 100 Animated TV Series’.

During Ghostbusters’ original run, the commercial in the film was independently shown in cinemas, the artificial telephone number it features (with the standard movie ‘555-’ prefix) replaced with a genuinely functiong telephone number. When fans called the number, they heard a pre-recorded message from Aykroyd and Murray – the number received 1,000 calls an hour (that’s 24 hours a day) for six weeks.

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The film crossed over to so many markets and audiences and was celebrated for so long … It went through three seasons: the entire summer, [then] every kid was dressed as a ‘Ghostbuster’ for Halloween, and it dominated the Christmas gift season~ Rick Moranis on Ghostbusters’ unexpectedly extraordinary box-office success (from vanityfair.com)

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Many of the images featured in this blog post can be found in the book Making Ghostbusters by Don Shay (ISBN: 9780918432681)

Thanks to Mike Seiders’ stupendous infographic and Lesley M M Blume’s article The Making of Ghostbusters: How Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis and ‘The Murricane’ built Ghostbusters (published on vanityfair.com) for much of the information and artist Fabrizio Fioretti for the final four 3D character images

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Playlist: Listen, my friends! ~ August 2014

August 2, 2014

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In the words of Moby Grape… listen, my friends! Yes, it’s the (hopefully) monthly playlist presented by George’s Journal just for you good people.

There may be one or two classics to be found here dotted in among different tunes you’re unfamiliar with or have never heard before – or, of course, you may’ve heard them all before. All the same, why not sit back, listen away and enjoy…

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CLICK on the song titles to hear them

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Louis Armstrong ~ Chim Chim Cher-ee (1965)

Jefferson Airplane ~ Embryonic Journey (1967)1

Alan Hawkshaw ~ The Night Rider (Theme from The Milk Tray Man adverts/ 1968-92) (1968)2

Woodstock (August 15-18 1969) Medley:

Elvis Presley ~ Suspicious Minds (1970)3

The Murgatroyd Band ~ Magpie (1971)4

Eric Rogers ~ Carry On Medley (1963-73)5

10cc ~ I’m Not In Love (1975)6

Stu Phillips ~ Theme from Quincy, M.E. (1976)

Dennis Wilson ~ Love Remember Me (1977)

Sade ~ Smooth Operator (1984)

Bruce Springsteen ~ Dancing In The Dark (1984)7

Ray Parker Jr. ~ Ghostbusters (Dub Version) (1984)

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1 This awesome guitar instrumental from The Airplane’s legendary Surrealistic Pillow album (1967) closed the last ever scene of Friends (1994-2004)

2 The ace advertorial composition for the unforgettable Bond-esque UK TV commercials; it was written by Cliff Adams, whom later would record a smoother and funkier, arguably even cooler version

3 This live Las Vegas effort made just be the ultimate performance of the ultimate Elvis song. Trust me… 

4 The Murgatroyd Band – performers of this, the ’71 single release of the theme from Magpie (1968-80), ITV’s ‘trendy’ answer to the Beeb’s kids’ magazine show Blue Peter (1958-present) – are actually, of course, Spencer Davis Group; the lyrics are lifted from/ inspired by the magpie-superstition-concerning old English nursery rhyme ‘One For Sorrow’

5 Featuring themes written by Rogers and performed by his orchestra from, in order, Carry On Doctor (1967), Carry On Camping (1969), Carry On Girls (1973), Carry On At Your Convenience (1971), Carry On Matron (1972) and Carry On Cabby (1963)

6 This rendition of the Cheshire-hailing popsters’ overdubbing, endless looping multi-tracking-tastic mega-hit (UK #1; US #2) was captured for the ’75 Christmas Day edition of BBC chart show Top Of The Pops (1964-2002) 

Yes, that is a long-before-Friends Courtney Cox jumping up from the crowd to dance with ‘The Boss’ in this naff-as-hell yet rather marvellous video for the mid-’80s stone-cold rock classic

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