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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
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(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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HOVER MOUSE over the images for information

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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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You’re the best around: 1984’s blockbuster summer – 30 years on, the greatest ever?

August 1, 2014

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Six of the best: fan-art inspired by and detail from the posters of half a dozen of 1984’s summer (and autumn) offerings courtesy of Hollywood – back when it genuinely was a dream factory

Hmm, so, as far as I can tell this summer season of blockbusters on offer from Hollywood have been headlined by a CGI-driven Planet Of The Apes second sequel – or prequel – and yet another CGI-driven Marvel Studios adaptation of one of its comic book creations that looks intriguing and ‘different’ because it features a snarling (albeit still cute) raccoon whom shoots stuff. You know, once upon a time, when it rolled round to May/ June, it wasn’t like this. But it sure seems like a long time ago.

And that’s because, peeps, sadly it was. The last truly great cinematic blockbuster summer I can recall is that of 1994 (The Lion King; Forrest Gump; Speed; True Lies; Four Weddings And A Funeral; Maverick). That’s 10 years ago. And even that was arguably a flash in the pan. Because, really, the majority of them came in the ’80s. It seemed that most summers back then, we yoof were blessed with original and oh-so exciting fare from one fortnight to the next. Not only did the sun shine, but our eyes, ears and imaginations were given an explosion of thrills, spills, laughs and excitement. Take 1989’s, for example (Batman; Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade; Lethal Weapon 2; When Harry Met Sally…; Back To The Future: Part II; Ghostbusters II; The Abyss) or 1985’s (Back To The Future; The Goonies; Rambo; Fletch; St. Elmo’s Fire; National Lampoon’s European Vacation; A View To A Kill; Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome; The Black Cauldron). And, if you go back further, even 1977 arguably offered a classic cinematic summer thanks to the thunderous triumverate that was The Spy Who Loved Me, Smokey And The Bandit and, of course, the very first Star Wars.

For me, though, the greatest blockbuster summer of all occurred three decades ago. However you look at it (in terms of originality, diversity, depth and breadth), 1984’s always was, remains still and surely always will be the sun-soaked season at the flicks to beat. In which case, in celebration of its 30th anniversary, here’s my countdown of the 10 greatest summer blockbusters that were released in ’84. And, what’s more, at the very end of the post, you lucky folks have the chance to agree or disagree with me, by voting for your top movie out of ’em all in a poll. Oh yes, we’re not doing things by half in this post – it’s summer ’84, after all…

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10. Police Academy

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Who? Hugh Wilson directs Steve Guttenburg, Kim Cattrall, Bubba Smith, Michael Winslow, David Graf, G W Bailey, Leslie Easterbrook and George Gaynes

What? Infinitely infantile, slapstick-reliant comedy about a hapless group of new recruits in the eponymous police academy of an unnamed metropolis. Mild and silly sex, fat, height, gun and authority-undermining gags ensue before the disparate gang reach their unlikely graduation.

When? Released March 23/ box-office gross: $81.2m (domestic)

Well? Easily the weakest entry on this list (not least because its run at cinemas could only just be said to squeeze into ’84’s cinema summer), but hugely popular; especially in the States. The best things about it are Steve Guttenburg’s likeable leading (straight) man, which he’d replicate for Short Circuit (1986) and Three Men And A Baby (1987), and Michael Winslow’s incredible electronic-esque aural impressions. The bad things about it are, erm, everything else. And the fact that six even worse sequels followed. Somehow, though, it’s still very whimsically recalled.

Wow? Legendary critic Roger Ebert claimed of Police Academy: “it’s so bad, maybe you should pool your money and draw straws and send one of the guys off to rent it so that in the future, whenever you think you’re sitting through a bad comedy, he could shake his head, and chuckle tolerantly, and explain that you don’t know what bad is”

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9. Purple Rain

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Who? Albert Magnoli directs Prince, Apollonia Kotero, Morris Day, Clarence Williams III and Olga Karlatos

What? Vehicle for pop-pixie-cum-sex-god Prince’s mid-’80s idiosyncratic funky sound disguised as a thinly veiled would-be biopic of the Minneapolis-hailing hero

When? Released July 27/ box-office gross: $68.4m (domestic)

Well? More feature-length, MTV-friendly flashy video (therefore advert) for the album that shares its name than a convincing commercial movie venture, and yet, no question, it somehow proved to be the latter too, defying the odds to become a huge hit and, thus, a rare out-and-out success as a modern pop/ cinema crossover

Wow?  Prince and Day (and their respective bands The Revolution and The Time) returned for a Prince-directed sequel Graffiti Bridge (1990); it unceremoniously bombed, failing to make back its $6 million budget

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8. The NeverEnding Story

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Who? Wolfgang Petersen directs Barret Oliver, Noah Hathaway, Tami Stronarch and Thomas Hill

What? Fairy tale-esque fantasy adventure wrapped up in a natty story-in-a-story-book narrative that captivated a generation of ’80s kids whom never wanted its (ahem) ‘never-ending’ story to end

When? Released April 6 (West Germany)/ box-office gross: $100m plus (worldwide)

Well? Curiously over- and underdone at the same time, it nonetheless remains a much-loved family favourite, full of magic, mysticism and the fantastical and surrounded by, dare one say it, something of a refreshingly un-Hollywood feel (owing to the fact it was a product of Euro-cinema). Best not to mention the sequels, though.

Wow? Giorgio Moroder’s unmistakeable techno-pop score – including the classic title tune performed by Kajagoogoo’s Limahl (see above video clip), which is absolutely impossible to separate from the film – oddly wasn’t present on the print of the movie released in West Germany, where much of it was filmed and from where much of its budget derived

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7. Splash

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Who? Ron Howard directs Tom Hanks, Daryl Hannah, John Candy and Eugene Levy

What? Light, frothy romantic comedy about a not-so-little mermaid whom steps out of the frothy surf to sample Noo Yawk, her guide around the Big Apple being Tom Hanks in his original ‘comic everyman’ role – and the one that made him a Hollywood star

When? Released March 9/ box-office gross: $69.8m (domestic)

Well? Comfy as your toes in Granny’s knitted woollen socks it may be, but this debut directorial effort from Ron ‘Richie Cunningham’ Howard is one of his most successful; genuinely charming and, at times, tittersome, it’s a tamely but finely crafted slice of Tinseltown-served family entertainment that, owing to its quality, has dated well. And Daryl Hannah’s damned hot.

Wow? It was the first film to be released under Disney’s more adult-themed Touchstone Pictures stable, owing to the big-wigs deciding its brief moments of cussing and nudity didn’t fit the Disney brand and, going forward, the creation of such a spin-off studio wouldn’t be a bad move

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6. The Karate Kid

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Who? John G Avilsden directs Ralph Macchio, Noriyuka ‘Pat’ Morita, Elisabeth Shue, William Zabka and Martin Kove

What? Baby-faced handsome new kid in town calls on the Japanese answer to Yoda  to toughen him up and fend off the cool, buffed-up crowd that frequent the local karate club (yep, seems unlikely they’d hang out there, but hey, it’s the ’80s) and, in doing so, learns and earns much more than a black-belt. Such as how to correctly paint fences – wax-on; wax-off, apparently.

When? Released June 22/ box-office gross: $90.8m (domestic)

Well? Basically an adolescent-does-martial-arts version of 1976’s Rocky (it’s even directed by the same bloke), Karate Kid nonetheless remains almost as enduringly popular and well recalled. It hit a huge chord with ’80s teens and kids, leading to its sequels (each of which inevitably got crapper as they went along) and an unlikely merchandising blitz, but did so not just because it was timely, perky and marketable, but also because it was a decently drawn and paced drama that engaged audiences as much as it kick-started a karate club boom.

Wow? Studio backer Columbia Pictures’ first choice for martial arts mentor Mr Miyagi was Japanese screen legend (and frequent Akira Kurosawa collaborator) Toshiro Mifune 

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5. Star Trek III: The Search For Spock

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Who? Leonard Nimoy directs William Shatner, DeForest Kelley, James Doohan, George Takei, Walter Koenig, Nichelle Nichols, Christopher Lloyd, Robin Curtis and himself

What? Following hot on the heels of 1982’s hot-to-trot Wrath Of Khan (and, thus, forming the middle part of a mid-movie-series-trilogy that would conclude with ’86’s The Voyage Home), this entry in the not-quite-yet-geriatric first Trekkers’ quest to conquer the silver screen saw Shatner and friends attempt to retrieve from beyond the grave the recently self-sacrificed Spock (Nimoy; whom also directed – not from beyond the grave)

When? Released June 1/ box-office gross: $76.6m (domestic)

Well? The weakest of the three flicks in the aforementioned sort-of-trilogy, meaning it’s the third best Star Trek movie of, erm, however many of ’em have been made, Search For Spock also obviously features little of the unmistakeable pointy-eared one, yet it somehow doesn’t diminish proceedings, caught up as we are in Kirk & co.’s desperate bid to retrieve their Vulcan chum via hot-tailing it in their (stolen) spaceship, battling ruthless Klingon thugs and dodging doom on a quickly self-destructing planet. Genuinely, heroic sci-fi hokum rarely rollicks more.

Wow? Despite actively dieting to get in shape to play Kirk again, Shatner’s weight fluctuated during the shoot so much that 12 shirts of different sizes had to be made for him

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4. Romancing The Stone

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Who? Robert Zemeckis directs Michael Douglas, Kathleen Turner, Danny DeVito, Zack Norman, Alfonso Arau and Manuel Ojeda

What? Bestselling romance author (Turner) finds herself in a real romantic adventure when she schleps to South America to save her sister from the clutches of a dodgy army colonel, encountering Douglas’s ‘B-movie’-esque herioc rogue along the way and, together with him, facing fatal waterfalls, snap-happy crocodiles, deadly drugs barons and Danny DeVito

When? Released March 30/ box-office gross: $86.6m

Well? Indy-lite it may be, but it’s a winner all the way. Judged and paced perfectly with a smart, witty script and cracking casting (the Douglas-Turner pairing’s spot-on and DeVito a fine foil; so much so they’d all team up for 1986’s sequel The Jewel Of The Nile and ’89’s very different, DeVito-directed The War Of The Roses). Often overlooked and undeservedly so – not least because it persuaded Spielberg to take a punt on another Zemeckis project named Back To The Future.

Wow? Stone wasn’t actually inspired by Raiders Of The Lost Ark (1981); its script was written in the late ’70s by screenwriter Diane Thomas, whom pitched it to Michael Douglas while serving him as a waitress; her job at the time to pay the bills. Tragically, shortly after Stone premiered (and while working on a Raiders sequel and the Spielberg film that would become 1989’s Always), she was killed in a crash – in the car she bought with her pay from Douglas.

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3. Gremlins

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Who? Joe Dante directs Zach Galligan, Phoebe Cates, Hoyt Axton, Frances Lee MacCain, Corey Feldman, Polly Holliday, Judge Reinhold and Keye Luke

What? Yuletide-set comic-horror in which an eccentric inventor dad gives his teen son the most unique Crimbo gift imaginable, a sweet, furry, otherworldly creature nicknamed ‘Gizmo’, with which the adolescent fails to follow the rules (as is so often the case when it comes to horror protagonists), the results being the thing spawns macabre and devilish – and yet still somewhat cute – versions of itself, reaping violence and chaos throughout his sleepy, snowy town

When? Released June 8/ box-office gross: $148.2m (domestic)

Well? A delicious black-comedy delight from start to finish, Gremlins is easily one of the most original, inventive and satisfying of all ’80s blockbusters. And a huge hit it was too, despite its sly skewering of US festive cultural norms (and, in doing so, sending up of the likes of 1946’s classic It’s A Wonderful Life) being received by an eager American audience slap-bang the middle of ’84’s cinema summer – and even coming out on the very same day as, yes, Ghostbusters.

Wow? Gizmo’s voice was provided by Howie Mandel, well known in the US as a comedian and host of game-show Deal Or No Deal; outside of the US he’s best known for portraying  Dr Wayne Fiscus in legendary hospital semi-soap St. Elsewhere (1982-88)

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2. Indiana Jones And The Temple Of Doom

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Who? Steven Spielberg directs Harrison Ford, Kate Capshaw, Key-Huy Quan, Amrish Puri, Roshan Seth and Philip Stone

What? Sequel (or, to be precise, prequel) to Raiders, in which the awesome archaeologist sets out to retrieve sacred stones for an Indian village (read: really, an adventure conducted at break-neck speed in which the iconic ’80s film hero, with ditzy blonde chanteuse Willie Scott and ultimate short-arse sidekick Short Round in tow, faces-off against evil religious fanatics via a series of eye-boggling action set-pieces, such as on a mine-cart railway and an epic rope-bridge)

When? Released May 23/ box-office gross: $333.1m

Well? It’s Temple Of Doom, for chrissakes; of course it’s awesome. All right, it might not quite be in Raiders’ class and, while the playing around with the Indy formula (i.e. attempt to darken the tone in several respects) remains controversial, its risky audacity and stand-out sequences still undoubtedly thrill three decades down the line. Like the it’s-clearly-really-a-rollercoaster rollercoaster-like mine-cart chase, Doom was, is and always will be one hell of a ride.

Wow? David Niven was apparently attached to the British army officer role Captain Blumburtt (eventually played by Philip Stone), but died before filming began

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1. Ghostbusters

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Who? Ivan Reitman directs Bill Murray, Sigourney Weaver, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis, Rick Moranis, Ernie Hudson and the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man. Oh, and Slimer.

What? A trio of New York paranormal scientists strike out on their own as ‘ghostbusters’, setting up their HQ in a disused fire-station and crashing about the city in a knackered old ambulance, just as the Big Apple’s barraged by a plague of ghouls; the lead up to a potential demonic apocalypse (‘cats living with dogs’ etc.). Can our unlikely heroes save the day?

When? Released June 8/ box-office gross: $291.6m

Well? Possibly the greatest ever comic-adventure summer blockbuster, slyly mixing its heroics and top comedy with mild (and finely realised) horror, excellent characterisation from the leading and supporting players (all of it comic and all of it spot-on) and an irresistible theme song hit. Ultimately, though, Ghostbusters’ undoubted quality and deserved success comes down to the superb script from Aykroyd and Ramis and pitch-perfect direction from Reitman. In the summer of ’84 there was no question who most peeps were gonna see – and, had they existed in real life, who they were gonna call too.

Wow? Aykroyd initially envisaged Ghostbusters as a vehicle for himself and fellow Saturday Night Live alumnus John Belushi, in which they would travel through time, space and even other dimensions to tackle ghosts; director Reitman suggested reigning in his ambitions owing to inevitable budgetary constraints

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And making it an Indian summer were…

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A Nightmare On Elm Street

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Who? Wes Craven directs Heather Lagenkamp, Robert Englund, John Saxon, Johnny Depp, Ronee Blakley, Amanda Wyss and Jsu Garcia

What? A quartet of teens experience horrific nightmares in which hat-wearing, stripey jumper-sporting, severe face-burned killer Freddy Krueger stalks them, attempting to kill them with the knives that protrude from his gloves – only, it turns out, when he murders them in their dreams he bumps ’em off in real life too

When? November 9/ box-office gross: $25.5m (domestic)

Well? Not exactly deserving in this company in terms of cinematic gross, Nightmare was nonetheless a big hit on initial release given its minuscule budget ($1.8m) and hugely unexpected commercial success. Like Police Academy, its popularity led to a dearth of inferior sequels, yet unlike Police Academy, it was a critical success and deservedly so; an imaginative and genuinely shocking slasher-horror and massive influence on its genre

Wow? Protagonist Nancy Thompson could have been played by either Courteney Cox, Demi Moore or Jennifer Grey, while her boyfriend character Glen Lantz (Johnny Depp) saw auditions from Nicolas Cage, John Cusack, C Thomas Howell, Brad Pitt, Charlie Sheen and Kiefer Sutherland

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The Terminator

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Who? James Cameron directs Arnold Schwarzenegger, Linda Hamilton, Michael Biehn, Paul Winfield and Lance Henriksen

What? Fantasy actioner in which a near-indestructible human-looking cyborg from the early 21st Century is sent back in time to 1984 Los Angeles to kill unassuming local girl Sarah Connor, as she’s about to give birth to a son who’ll grow up to lead a resistance movement to the über-artificial intelligence entity that has laid waste to humankind via nuclear war – and is the creator of the robot-warrior-assassin

When? November 26/ box-office gross: $78.4m

Well? A sci-fi action adventure for adults (of now legendary proportions), the original Terminator movie is basically a dark, violent comic book translated to cinematic form. That, though, doesn’t do it justice, for it’s also a smart, stylish, compelling and wholly satisfying experience – with a genuine superstar-making turn from Arnie as the titular antagonist

Wow? Initially, studio backer Orion suggested casting O J Simpson as the Terminator – but Cameron nixed the idea because he didn’t feel the public would find Simpson a believable killer

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And finally, of course…

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Beverly Hills Cop

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Who? Martin Brest directs Eddie Murphy, Judge Reinhold, John Ashton, Lisa Eilbacher, Steven Berkoff, Ronny Cox, Gil Hill and Bronson Pinchot

What? Sweary comedy-adventure that sees streetwise Detroit police detective Axel Foley (Murphy) travel to Beverly Hills in order to track down his friend’s murderer, whom he suspects to be his previous employer, an LA tycoon. While investigating the latter, however, Foley irritates the local police (owing as much to his willful practical jokes as his probing), in particular those charged with dealing with him, Detectives John Taggart and Billy Rosewood

When? December 5/ box-office gross: $316.6m

Well? A home-run of an ’80s blockbuster if ever there was one (and certainly for me, after Ghostbusters, ’84’s best), Beverly Hills Cop is an utter joy. Strip from it Murphy’s terrific lead role, full of swaggering charm, street-smarts and underdog heroism, and you might think it’d be a humdrum (somewhat) hard and violent cop thriller, but that’d be to dismiss its sly and witty script, engagingly comic supporting turns (especially from Reinhold and Ashton), tone-perfect direction from Brest and, of course, Harold Faltermeyer’s iconic score and that Glenn Frey opening credits tune – as big a hit in the charts as the movie was at the box-office

Wow? The now deceased Christopher Hitchens once claimed that the similarly late, acclaimed British author Kingsley Amis believed Beverly Hills Cop to be a ‘flawless masterpiece’

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Deborah Kerr/ Jean Simmons ~ Hollywood’s Brit Hits

July 23, 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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In a long overdue move, this nook of the ’Net is, yes, folks, finally paying its dues to two of the finest – both most certainly in terms of looks and acting chops – female stars to have crossed the pond and plied their trade in Tinseltown. And my, how they made a splash over there – and, frankly, everywhere and for all-time. Yup, it is, of course, the flame-haired fantasy that was Deborah Kerr and the lovely as a sunny summer’s day Jean Simmons – undoubtedly, then, they’re the latest double-entry in this blog’s Talent corner

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Profiles

Names: Deborah Jane Kerr-Trimmer/ Jean Merilyn Simmons

Nationalities: Scottish/ English

Professions: Actresses

Born: September 30 1921, Glasgow (Died: October 16 2007)/ January 31 1929, London (Died: January 22 2010)

Known for: Deborah – undoubtedly one of Hollywood’s greatest female stars of the ’50s; she lent her beauty, class, grace, intelligence and outstanding talent to every one of her roles (often subtly suggesting a fragility and sexuality beneath their ice-cool exteriors), most famously, governess extraordinaire Ann Leonowens opposite Yul Brynner’s Thai monarch in monster hit musical The King And I (1956) and disloyal military wife Karen Holmes in drama From Here To Eternity (1953) – which saw her, against type, notoriously romp in the surf with Burt Lancaster. She also, to great popular acclaim, romanced Cary Grant in comedy An Affair To Remember (1958), played three different roles in Powell and Pressburger’s wartime masterpiece The Life And Death Of Colonel Blimp (1943), portrayed a repressed nun tested to the limit in the same filmmakers’ Black Narcissus (1947), was a Christian martyr in ancient epic The Robe (1953) and shone as the oldest ever Bond Girl (at 46) opposite David Niven in 007 spoof Casino Royale (1967). Nominated for the Best Actress Oscar six times (for 1949’s Edward, My Son, From Here To Eternity, The King And I, 1957’s Heaven Knows, Mr Allison, 1958’s Separate Tables and 1960’s The Sundowners), but never winning, she finally received a long overdue honorary statuette in 1994. Her greatest love, though, as with many of the best actors, was the stage.

Jean – blessed with big, brown eyes, a glorious grin and often a marvellously mischievous expression, the preternaturally beautiful Ms Simmons enjoyed a long career in cinema and on TV, even though it rarely featured the great roles and acclaim her talent suggested it should. Most memorably, she burst on to the screen as a teenager opposite Deborah Kerr in Black Narcissus and as surely the ultimate Estella in David Lean’s adaptation of Dickens’ Great Expectations (both 1946) and then exceeded many’s expectations by going blonde to play Ophelia in Laurence Olivier’s Hamlet (1948), for which she was Oscar-nominated. Moving to Hollywood with husband (and fellow Brit movie star) Stewart Granger, she was snapped up by a smitten Howard Hughes for a terrific femme fatale turn in Otto Preminger’s film noir Angel Face (1950), sang and hoofed it up with Marlon Brando and Frank Sinatra in Guys And Dolls (1955), essayed Burt Lancaster’s and Kurt Douglas’s love interests in, respectively, Elmer Gantry and Spartacus (both 1960) and co-starred with Kerr again in both Young Bess (1953) and The Grass Is Greener (1960). Later, she married filmmaker Richard Brooks (whom directed her to another Oscar nom in 1969’s The Happy Ending), appeared in legendary TV serials The Thorn Birds (1983) and North & South (1995-86) and battled and beat alcoholism.

Strange but true: Deborah was reputedly offered a fee as much as the rest of the cast’s combined to appear in Carry On Screaming! (1966), but turned it down in favour of a stage play that was eventually aborted/ Jean dubbed the voice of lead character Sophie in the English-language version of Studio Ghibli’s animation Howl’s Moving Castle (2004)

Peak of fitness: Deborah – utterly charming and beguiling in her tri-character-turn in The Life And Death Of Colonel Blimp/ Jean – finally free from Roman servitude, frolicking in a lake with her hero lover Kurt Douglas in Spartacus

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Retro World Cup: let them entertain you ~ the 30 greatest ever World Cup players

July 13, 2014

retro_world_cup_mascotsretro_world_cup_mascots

greatest_world_cup_players

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Pitch perfect: the soccer superstars of lore in this heroes’ gallery all make it into this post’s World Cup top 30 rundown, but is its numero uno among them? (Image credit: Daniel Nyari)

Here we are then. World Cup final day, at last. But, wait a tick, this isn’t 1986, is it? Or 1990? No, folks, it is indeed 2014 and, yes, it is Germany versus Argentina. Again. If you’re anything like me, you may not be looking forward to this final this time out quite as much as you have others; the third time these two nations have met each other in the climax to football’s quadrennial showpiece. I mean, it’s hardly a triumph for variety, is it?

Unlike, if I may be so bold, this post is. For, yes, in celebration of today marking the conclusion of the most goal-happy, most surprising, most exciting and – genuinely – the most entertaining World Cup in at least 20 years, I’ve decided to conclude this blog’s season of World Cup posts by rather painstakingly putting together my rundown of the very best players to have graced every edition of the thing. Using a rating system described below, it ranks every footballer – from 30th down to 1st – according to the number of matches they played; the number of goals they scored; the number of times they reached later stages of tournaments (and which later stages); the number of tournaments they won and, most important of all, the amount of singular talent they possessed.

So, if you will, folks, please take a few moments and indulge me; pass your peepers over this labour of love dedicated to the ‘special ones’ of soccer lore. Trust me, it shouldn’t take you as long as watching a knockout-round tactical-mine-field-of-a-match going the full 90 minutes, plus extra-time and, of course, the dreaded penalty shoout-out. Well, hopefully it won’t, anyway…

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Key to symbols:

football_ability  Football talent

(Maximum ‘football talent’ available 30 pts/ 1-30 pts)

matches  Total World Cup match appearances

(1-9 World Cup matches = 1pt/ 10 or more World Cup matches = 2pts)

goals  Total goals scored in all World Cups

(1-4 goals scored = 1 pt/ 5-9 goals scored = 2 pts/ 10 or more goals scored =3 pts)

quarter_final_appearances Total World Cup quarter final appearances

(Each quarter final appearance = 1 pt)

semi-final_appearances Total World Cup semi-final appearances

(Each semi-final appearance = 1 pt)

final_appearances Total World Cup final appearances

(Each final appearance = 1 pt)

jules_rimet_world_cup / fifa_world_cup Total World Cups won

(Each World Cup won = 1 pt)

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CLICK on each player’s name for a bonus video clip

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30. Sándor Kocsis

Soccer - Sandor Kocsis

football_ability_14  matches_5  goals_11  quarter_final_appearances_1  semi-final_appearances_1  final_appearances_1 = 21 pts

Nation: Hungary

Position: Forward (classic shirt number: 8)

World Cups: Switzerland 1954

The lowdown: The figurehead of the ‘Magnificent Magyars’, the outstanding Hungary side of the ’50s (yes, the one that was the first ever team to beat England at Wembley), Kocsis shook the world at the ’54 tournament by scoring an incredible 11 goals in five appearances. He’d be overtaken at just the next World Cup as its highest ever scorer, but a full 60 years on from his exploits he still possesses the best goal-to-game ratio (2.2) of multiple World Cup goalscorers.

The abiding memory: Netting a double hat-trick (against South Korea and West Germany) – the first man to do so in World Cup history

Strange but true: After defecting to the West in ’56, Kocsis played for Barcelona along with fellow ex-‘Magnificent Magyar’ Zoltán Czibor; both of them played in the ’61 European Cup final against Benfica held at the same stadium as the ’54 World Cup final, in which they’d both scored – in this match they both scored again and lost the match, again, 3-2

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27. [1] Teófilo Cubillas

greatest_world_cup_players_teófilo_cubillas

football_ability_16  matches_13  goals_10  quarter_final_appearances_1 = 22 pts

Nation: Peru

Position: Forward (classic shirt number: 10)

World Cups: Mexico 1970; Argentina 1978; Spain 1982

The lowdown: Affectionately nicknamed ‘The Pelé of Peru’, Cubillas was a diminutive dynamo in the white (and that ace red diagonal stripe) of Peru, an outstanding ‘second striker’ whom boasted terrific technique and a marvellous knack of scoring from direct free-kicks. He netted five times each at two World Cups held eight years apart (’70 and ’78) and was named ‘Young Player of the Tournament’ at the first.

The abiding memory: A sublime free-kick strike with the outside of his foot against Scotland in ’78 that bent the ball round the wall and into the top corner

Strange but true: While playing in a 1981 match for Fort Lauderdale Strikers (alongside George Best) against Los Angeles Aztecs, he scored a hat-trick in seven minutes

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27. [2] Dino Zoff

greatest_world_cup_players_dino_zoff

football_ability_14  matches_13  quarter_final_appearances_2  semi-final_appearances_2  final_appearances_1  fifa_world_cup_won = 22 pts

Nation: Italy

Position: Goalkeeper (classic shirt number: 1)

World Cups: West Germany 1974; Argentina 1978; Spain 1982

The lowdown: Sure, both the USSR’s Lev ‘The Black Spider’ Yashin and England’s Gordon Banks may technically have been better goalkeepers, but the reason Zoff’s on this list is that in ’82, hardly tub-thumping but a cool, calm customer, he became the first ’keeper to captain a World Cup winning-side in modern times – beating Spain’s Iker Casillas to that honour by 30 years. He was also Italy’s ‘Number 1’ for a decade and went on to manage them.

The abiding memory: Surrounded by jubilant teammates, Zoff serenely lifting the World Cup trophy in triumph

Strange but true: He holds the record for going the longest period of time without conceding a goal at multiple international tournaments (1,142 minutes between ’72 and ’74)

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27. [3] Gheorghe Hagi

Soccer World Cup 1994: Romania vs Argentina - Gheorghe Hagi

football_ability_18  matches_11  goals_3  quarter_final_appearances_1 = 22 pts

Nation: Romania

Position: Attacking/ left midfield (classic shirt number: 10)

World Cups: Italy 1990; USA 1994; France 1998

The lowdown: ‘The Maradona of the Carpathians’, Hagi lit up the ’94 tournament, in particular; indeed, Brazil’s Romario won that year’s ‘Golden Ball’, but the best on show was surely the Romanian playmaker par excellence. Hagi had everything; excellent technique, passing, finishing and vision. He captained his nation to the last eight in ’94, including a terrific 3-2 victory in the ‘Last 16’ round over Argentina.

The abiding memory: The goal he scored out of nowhere against Colombia in the ’94 group stage, curling the ball into the net as he lobbed the keeper 40 yards out from the left side

Strange but true: More sad and true – at the end of the ’80s, Hagi was prevented from joining both AC Milan and Bayern Munich because Romania’s then Communist regime wouldn’t let him leave the East; eventually, however, he’d play for both Real Madrid and Barcelona

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24. [1] Just Fontaine

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football_ability_17  matches_6  goals_13  quarter_final_appearances_1  semi-final_appearances_1 = 23 pts

Nation: France

Position: Forward (classic shirt number: 17)

World Cups: Sweden 1958

The lowdown: The highest scorer in a single World Cup, the small, squat 24 year-old Fontaine put four past defending champions West Germany in ’58’s third/ fourth place play-off to top-off a staggering tournament tally of 13 goals. Although having only played in one tournament (six matches), he still stands fourth on the all-time World Cup scorers’ charts – and, overall, bagged a total 30 goals in 21 international appearances.

The abiding memory: That double-brace against France’s old rivals the West Germans

Strange but true: Before the tournament, Fontaine had scored just one international goal in 53 months and, throughout it, he actually wore a teammate’s borrowed boots

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24. [2] Geoff Hurst

greatest_world_cup_players_geoff_hurst

football_ability_15  matches_6  goals_5  quarter_final_appearances_2  semi-final_appearances_1  final_appearances_1  jules_rimet_world_cup_won_1 = 23 pts

Nation: England

Position: Forward (classic shirt number: 10)

World Cups: England 1966; Mexico 1970

The lowdown: England’s World Cup hero for all-time thanks to his three goals defeating West Germany in the  hallowed ’66 final on home soil, Hurst remains the only man to have scored a hat-trick in a World Cup final – a feat which, on its own, would surely secure him a place in the pantheon of the precious soccer prize-seekers’ greatest

The abiding memory: “They think it’s all over… it is now” – blasting that ball into the top corner to make it 4-2 and win England the Cup

Strange but true: Despite his incomparably heroic exploits, Hurst had earned so little money as a footballer that, when he retired from the sport, he became an insurance salesman

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24. [3] Grzegorz Lato

greatest_world_cup_players_grzegorz_lato

football_ability_14  matches_20  goals_10  quarter_final_appearances_2  semi-final_appearances_2 = 23 pts

Nation: Poland

Position: Right-winger/ forward (classic shirt number: 16)

World Cups: West Germany 1974; Argentina 1978; Spain 1982

The lowdown: After notoriously qualifying for the ’74 World Cup at the expense of England, Poland surprised, well, everyone by excelling at the tournament itself (finishing a terrific third), thanks in no small part to the seven goals scored by ace marksman Lato, which also secured him that year’s ‘Golden Boot’. Strictly speaking not an out-and-out striker, his awareness, acceleration and shot were his weapons, helping his nation to third place again in ’82.

The abiding memory: Netting the only goal against World Cup holders Brazil in ’74’s third/ fourth place play-off tie

Strange but true: Between 2001 and ’05, he served as a senator for Poland’s Sojusz Lewicy Demokratycznej (Democratic Left Alliance); since 2008 he’s been Chairman of the Polish FA

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20. [1] Uwe Seeler

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football_ability_15  matches_21  goals_9  quarter_final_appearances_2  semi-final_appearances_2  final_appearances_1 = 24 pts

Nation: West Germany

Position: Forward (classic shirt number: 9)

World Cups: Sweden 1958; Chile 1962; England 1966; Mexico 1970

The lowdown: Before Völler, Klinsmann and both the Müllers came Seeler, a four-time World Cup-appearing West German goal-getter as dependable as a BMW. His record of nine nettings has been bettered by others on this list, but the short, stocky striker remains the only man to have scored at least twice in four separate tournaments and currently ranks fourth on the list of total minutes played at the competition (behind Italian Paolo Maldini and compatriot Lothar Matthäus) with 1,980. He also captained his nation at the ’66 and ’70 editions.

The abiding memory: Probably shaking hands with England skipper Bobby Moore at the start of the ’66 final – the only one in which he played

Strange but true: He was the first man to score at four different World Cups – beating Pelé to the honour by mere moments

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20. [2] Paolo Rossi

greatest_world_cup_players_paolo_rossi

football_ability_15  matches_14  goals_9  quarter_final_appearances_2  semi-final_appearances_1  final_appearances_1  fifa_world_cup_won = 24 pts

Nation: Italy

Position: Forward (classic shirt number: 20)

World Cups: Argentina 1978; Spain 1982

The lowdown: The World Cup’s ultimate ‘zero to hero’, Rossi was the scrawny-looking striker (having just returned from a two-year match fixing scandal-related ban) whom was so inept in Italy’s opening three games at the ’82 tournament, he was described by a journalist as ‘a ghost aimlessly wandering over the field’. However, like his team, he was transformed into an irresistible, opportunistic tour de force in a do-or-die tie against Brazil, scoring a hat-trick to see Italy into the semis. Ultimately, he ended up winning the Cup, the ‘Golden Boot’, the ‘Golden Ball’ and the European and World Player of the Year Awards.

The abiding memory: His perfectly poached hat-trick against Brazil in that unforgettable match that put the Azzurri through and the Seleção out

Strange but true: Rossi’s rise to greatness is even more remarkable when one considers he also overcame injuries early in his career that required three separate knee operations

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20. [3] Sócrates

greatest_world_cup_players_sócrates

football_ability_19  matches_10  goals_4  quarter_final_appearances_2  = 24 pts

Nation: Brazil

Position: Attacking midfield (classic shirt number: 8/ 18)

World Cups: Spain 1982; Mexico 1986

The lowdown: A football legend unlike any other, Sócrates might as much deserve his place in this rundown for who he was as for what he did. Tall, lanky and lazily handsome, he was the chain-smoking, heavy-drinking political activist whom also happened to be one of the greatest footballers of his generation, captaining the marvellous ’82 Brazil side (in a sort of double playmaker role with Zico – yes, the Brazil of ’82 was that wonderful) to glorious defeat at the second group stage thanks to their lack of defence. Blessed with terrific vision and finishing ability, his trademark move was the blind-heel-pass.

The abiding memory: That fantastic goal he smashed past Dino Zoff at his near post in ’82’s fabulous Brazil-Italy encounter

Strange but true: He really did earn a doctorate in medicine while still a professional footballer (although not in Dublin as rumour would have it) and practiced after his sporting career; his younger brother Raí was Brazil’s initial captain at the ’94 World Cup, which they won

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20. [4] Gary Lineker

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football_ability_16  matches_12  goals_10  quarter_final_appearances_2  semi-final_appearances_1 = 24 pts

Nation: England

Position: Forward (classic shirt number: 10)

World Cups: Mexico 1986; Italy 1990

The lowdown: Easily the UK’s highest scorer at the World Cup and the ‘Golden Boot’ winner at the first of his two tournaments, the modern-day anchor of the Beeb’s Match Of The Day was, way back when, absolutely lethal in the six-yard box – and also a decent footballer with a cute touch (as his performances in England’s much improved later Italia ’90 games attest). England’s undisputed football hero throughout the ’80s and early ’90s, he retired from international duty after 80 matches, just one goal short of Bobby Charlton’s record goal haul of 49.

The abiding memory: That late, late equaliser against the West Germans in the ’90 semi-final is very special, but his glorious hat-trick against the Poles in ’86 is truly unforgettable

Strange but true: So talented at sport was the young Lineker, it’s said he could have made it as either a professional cricketer or a professional snooker player, had he not chosen football

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18. [1] Ferenc Puskás

world_cuo_greatest_players_ferenc_puskas

football_ability_20  matches_7  goals_4  quarter_final_appearances_1  semi-final_appearances_1  final_appearances_1 = 25 pts

Nation: Hungary/ Spain

Position: Forward (classic shirt number: 10)

World Cups: Switzerland 1954; Chile 1962

The lowdown: Heralded one of the greatest players of all-time, Puskás was captain of the ’50s Hungary team. Thanks in no small part to his ability, grace and goals, they reached the final at the ’54 World Cup – only to great surprise to be beaten by West Germany, although decades later Puskás was retrospectively awarded that tournament’s ‘Golden Ball’. After 85 matches for Hungary (scoring 84 goals), he defected to the West and joined Real Madrid. Eventually adopting Spanish nationality, he played for the country three times in the ’62 tournament.

The abiding memory: Playing in the ’54 final despite having endured a hairline fracture to his ankle earlier in the tournament

Strange but true: The party-loving Puskás only knew two words in English: ‘drink’ and ‘jiggy’

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18. [2] Gérson

greatest_world_cup_players_gerson

football_ability_19  matches_5  goals_1  quarter_final_appearances_1  semi-final_appearances_1  final_appearances_1  jules_rimet_world_cup_won_1 = 25 pts

Nation: Brazil

Position: Central midfield (classic shirt number: 8)

World Cups: England 1966; Mexico 1970

The lowdown: Hailed as ‘the brain’ behind Brazil’s legendary ’70 World Cup triumph, Gérson’s importance may be a little overstated by his many admirers, but there’s no doubt he was an important influence on that side, dictating play in midfield and launching defence into attack with raking balls forward. He was also arguably the best player in the ’70 final, in which he scored.

The abiding memory: Brazil’s second goal of that final (and his only of the tournament), a cracking shot with his powerful left foot

Strange but true: As the ’70s progressed, Gérson’s name became a controversial byword for the traditional Brazilian stereotype of disregarding laws and authority thanks to him declaring in a much seen cigarette commercial: “I like to take advantage of everything”

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16. [1] Eusébio

greatest_world_cup_players_eusebio

football_ability_21  matches_6  goals_9  quarter_final_appearances_1  semi-final_appearances_1 = 26 pts

Nation: Portugal

Position: Forward (classic shirt number: 13)

World Cups: England 1966

The lowdown: Sure, Eusébio didn’t score as many goals in his sole World Cup as Just Fontaine or Sándor Kocsis did in theirs, but coming nearly a decade after them, it’s only fair to say that by the ’66 World Cup defensive play had improved (see Bobby Moore’s entry below); thus, it was becoming increasingly difficult to score a ludicrous number of goals in a single tournament. But Eusébio certainly did; verily living up to his nickname ‘The Black Panther’ by cracking in nine in just six matches. Prior to, during and after the tournament he was always uncannily lethal in front of goal (749 goals in 743 domestic games; 41 in 64 internationals); a deserved winner of ’66’s ‘Golden Ball and, of course, ‘Golden Boot’ awards then.

The abiding memory: Dragging Portugal back from the brink against über-minnows North Korea in the ’66 quarter final and putting them in the ‘last four’ by scoring four times, transforming a 0-3 scoreline into 4-3

Strange but true: Eusébio’s early years were so impoverished that, as a teenager, he played football barefoot with a local team he’d formed using balls made of socks stuffed with newspapers

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16. [2] Jürgen Klinsmann

greatest_world_cup_jurgen_klinsmann

football_ability_15  matches_17  goals_11  quarter_final_appearances_3  semi-final_appearances_1  final_appearances_1  fifa_world_cup_won = 26 pts

Nation: (West) Germany

Position: Forward (classic shirt number: 18)

World Cups: Italy 1990; USA 1994; France 1998

The lowdown: The current coach of the United States (or USMNT, if we’re going to get all acronymical about it like the Yanks do) may not strike one as a World Cup great, but his record absolutely speaks for itself. Eleven goals in 17 matches across three World Cups – and at least three quarter-finals reached with far from a great team in his latter two tournaments, at that. He’s also the only man to have scored three or more goals at three consecutive World Cups.

The abiding memory: Following his strike partner Rudi Völler getting idiotically sent-off early in the 1990 second round tie against the Netherlands, playing the rest of the match as a lone striker to perfection, pulling the Dutch defence all over the place – and, yes, inevitably scoring against them

Strange but true: Born into a family of bakers, Klinsmann’s parents only allowed him to pursue a career in football after he’d served his apprenticeship in his dad’s bakery

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15. Bobby Moore

greatest_world_cup_players_bobby_moore

football_ability_20  matches_13  quarter_final_appearances_2  semi-final_appearances_1  final_appearances_1 jules_rimet_world_cup_won_1 = 27 pts

Nation: England

Position: Centre-back (classic shirt number: 6)

World Cups: Chile 1962; England 1966; Mexico 1970

The lowdown: The only out-and-out defender on this list, Moore has been acclaimed by many (not least Pelé) as the best there’s ever been; his positioning, anticipation, ease on the ball and distribution ensuring he was decades ahead of his time – and arguably better than the vast majority of today’s centre- and full-backs too. Critically as well, of course, he captained his country to World Cup glory (at the tender age of 25) and led England to the last eight at Mexico ’70, as well as playing in all four of England’s Chile ’62 matches.

The abiding memory: Smiling as wide as the King’s Road as he received the Jules Rimet trophy from The Queen and hoisted it high

Strange but true: The Bobby Moore Fund, the charity set up by his widow, has (as of February 2013) raised £18.8m for research into bowel cancer, from which Moore died in 1993

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13. [1] Jairzinho

greatest_world_cup_players_jairzinho

football_ability_18  matches_16  goals_9  quarter_final_appearances_2 semi-final_appearances_2 final_appearances_1 jules_rimet_world_cup_won_1 = 28 pts

Nation: Brazil

Position: Forward/ right and left midfield (classic shirt number: 7)

World Cups: England 1966; Mexico 1970; West Germany 1974

The lowdown: One of the greatest players in the truly great ’70 Brazil side, Jairzinho is remembered as a legend for scoring at least one goal in every match his nation played there – not least because he wasn’t a striker at all, but a winger with terrific strength, balance, vision, dribbling skills and an awesome shot. Nicknamed Furacão (‘The Hurricane’) following his Cup-winning and -scoring exploits, he actually turned out for Brazil in the previous tournament and in ’74 too, where he added two further strikes to his total goal tally.

The abiding memory: Given all the goals he scored in the ’70 tournament, there’s much to choose from here, but for me it’s got to be the one he notched against Uruguay in the semi-final, a terrific team goal resulting from a marvellous move he started himself in the Brazilian half

Strange but true: Jairzinho claims he received a ‘Best Body on the Planet’ prize at the ’70 World Cup; unsurprisingly FIFA have never corroborated its existence, let alone its award

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13. [2] Lothar Matthäus

greatest_world_cup_players_lothar_mattheus

football_ability_15  matches_25  goals_6  quarter_final_appearances_4 semi-final_appearances_2 final_appearances_2 fifa_world_cup_won = 28 pts

Nation: (West) Germany

Position: Central/ attacking midfield/ sweeper (classic shirt number: 10)

World Cups: Spain 1982; Mexico 1986; Italy 1990; USA 1994; France 1998

The lowdown: A far-more-than-decent midfielder and spot-kick specialist, Matthäus may not have been among the very best to have appeared in a World Cup match, but pretty much deserves his place here as he appeared in so many; a record-setting 25. He was past his prime when recalled in ’98, but earlier played a pivotal up-and-down-the-pitch role, getting the Teutonic ones to the final in both ’86 and ’90 and winning it as captain the second time.

The abiding memory: Oozing class as a midfield maestro throughout the ’90 tournament and, like the cat that got the cream, lifting the World Cup trophy come the end

Strange but true: Recalled again, Matthäus earned the last three of his 150 Germany caps at Euro 2000; playing at the back, he (and the team) had an torrid time, but he was 39-years-old

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11. [1] Bobby Charlton

greatest_world_cup_players_bobby_charlton

football_ability_21  matches_13  goals_4  quarter_final_appearances_2  semi-final_appearances_1  final_appearances_1 jules_rimet_world_cup_won_1 = 29 pts

Nation: England

Position: Attacking midfield/ forward (classic shirt number: 9)

World Cups: Chile 1962; England 1966; Mexico 1970

The lowdown: The man around whom coach Alf Ramsey built his World Cup-winning side, Charlton was England’s best player for nearly 20 years and considered by many one of the world’s best ever. Eventually settling into the ‘Number 10’ role, he offered much more than a (still) record 49 goals: outstanding passing, vision, creativity, goal-assists and a comforting confidence on the ball that only the great players exude. Crucial for setting the tempo in games and ensuring England controlled matches, Charlton was one of the two players (the other being Moore) without whom his nation would never have won the Cup.

The abiding memory: Probably the brace he scored against Portugal in the ’66 semi-final to send England to their first and only World Cup final

Strange but true: In Japan, those whom choose to sport Charlton’s notorious bald-head-defying ‘comb over’ hairstyle are referred to as ‘bar-code men’

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11. [2] Roberto Baggio

greatest_world_cup_players_roberto_baggio

football_ability_19  matches_15  goals_9  quarter_final_appearances_3 semi-final_appearances_2 final_appearances_1 = 29 pts

Nation: Italy

Position: Forward (classic shirt number: 10)

World Cups: Italy 1990; USA 1994; France 1998

The lowdown: Baggio was basically the ’90s’ Italian Wayne Rooney, a superstar ‘second striker’/ playmaker blessed with great skill, ability and pace. The difference is he truly delivered for his nation. Following an outstanding solo goal in Italy’s own World Cup in ’90, he dragged them to the final four years later; taking the bull by the horns after a sluggish group-stage start by the Azzurri, he scored all their goals (except one) in every subsequent round. Oh, and also unlike Rooney, he was so handsome he looked like a Greek god. With a ponytail.

The abiding memory: Sadly, it’s him looking disconsolately to the ground as he skied his must-score-penalty in the ’94 final’s shoot-out, handing the Cup to Brazil. In truth, he should never have played, carrying an injury (his thigh was heavily bandaged), he could barely run.

Strange but true: Famously, Baggio is a Buddhist (his nickname being Il Divin’ Codino/ ‘The Divine Ponytail’); less famously, he became Goodwill Ambassador of the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation in 2002 and, in recognition of his human rights activism, received the ‘Man of Peace’ award from the Nobel Peace Prize Laureates in 2010

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10. Gerd Müller

greatest_world_cup_players_gerd_muller

football_ability_19  matches_13  goals_14  quarter_final_appearances_2 semi-final_appearances_2 final_appearances_1 fifa_world_cup_won = 30 pts

Nation: West Germany

Position: Forward (classic shirt number: 13)

World Cups: Mexico 1970; West Germany 1974

The lowdown: His successor Miroslav Klose may have now outscored him in World Cups, but the latter’s not a patch on Germany’s real master marksman. Scoring 14 goals in just 13 appearances, including a sensational 10 in his first tournament, Müller may well have looked the most unassuming player on the pitch, but the diminutive striker exploded into life like a power grid being switched on when the ball entered the penalty box, accelerating, heading or swivelling and finishing with power and accuracy. No wonder his nickname was ‘Der Bomber’.

The abiding memory: Pouncing on a teammate’s pull-back to smash home in the 43rd minute of the ’74 final and win West Germany the World Cup on home soil – his 68th and final goal in his 62nd and final international match

Strange but true: He remained the World Cup’s top scorer for 32 years (that’s seven whole tournaments), until Brazil’s Ronaldo scored his 15th in 2006

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9. Roberto Rivelino

greatest_world_cup_players_roberto_rivelino

football_ability_19  matches_15  goals_5  quarter_final_appearances_3 semi-final_appearances_3 final_appearances_1 jules_rimet_world_cup_won_1 = 31 pts

Nation: Brazil

Position: Left midfield/ attacking midfield (classic shirt number: 11/ 10)

World Cups: Mexico 1970; West Germany 1974; Argentina 1978

The lowdown: Famed as much for his glorious ‘porn star’ moustache as for his brilliant dribbling, powerful long-range bending free-kicks and perfecting of the much imitated ‘elastico’ or ‘flip flap’ feint trick, Rivelino was a key component of Brazil’s awesome ’70 World Cup-winning side and his nation’s outstanding player (for whom he became its leading playmaker) for the rest of the decade, blessing its further two tournaments with his unmistakable abilities and ensuring top four finishes for Brazil in both

The abiding memory: Probably that thunderous free-kick he scored against Czechoslovakia in the group stage in ’70 – a strike that earned him the fitting moniker ‘Patada Atómica’ (‘Atomic Kick’) from the enrapt Mexican public

Strange but true: In a test match earlier this year, the now 68-year-old Rivelino scored the first ever goal at football club Corinthians’ new stadium in São Paulo, a venue for this summer’s World Cup; it was a penalty – awarded against his own side

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8. Zico

FUSSBALL : WM 1982 , BRA - ARG  3:1

football_ability_24  matches_13  goals_5  quarter_final_appearances_3 semi-final_appearances_1 = 32 pts

Nation: Brazil

Position: Attacking midfield (classic shirt number: 10)

World Cups: Argentina 1978; Spain 1982; Mexico 1986

The lowdown: For many, Arthur Antunes Coimbra (or Zico for short) remains the greatest player never to have won a World Cup. Famously a member of the ’82 Brazil side, he inherited Pelé’s ‘Number 10’ shirt (not surprising, given his nickname was ‘The White Pelé’) and managed to stand out in a team bursting with talent; he was a box of all the footballing tricks imaginable, including the ability to bend fiercely struck balls in every direction. Barely ever playing as an out-and-out forward, he scored 48 goals in 71 matches for his country.

The abiding memory: The bicycle-kick-volley he thundered in against New Zealand in the ’82 group stage – two words: bloody brilliant

Strange but true: Although his ’82 teammate Sócrates is recalled for his politicalism, it was Zico who actually took public office, serving as Brazil’s Minister of Sports in the early ’90s

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7. Johan Cruyff

greatest_world_cup_players_johan_cruyff

football_ability_28  matches_7  goals_3  quarter_final_appearances_1 semi-final_appearances_1 final_appearances_1 = 33 pts

Nation: Netherlands

Position: Attacking midfield/ forward (classic shirt number: 14)

World Cups: West Germany 1974

The lowdown: For me, the greatest player never to have won a World Cup. A revolutionary (even many of the greats can’t claim to be that), the Dutch master was instrumental in translating on to the pitch the radical tactical philosophy that was ‘Total Football’ – in all its groovy glory. Captain then of the totaalvoetbal-ed-up Dutch side that took the ’74 tournament by storm, he only just missed out on winning it and (inventing and showing off the ‘Cruyff turn’ too, lest we forget) then retired from the international game, never to be seen again on the biggest stage.

The abiding memory: Could it be anything else? Flummoxing a Swedish defender in a ’74 group game as he performs the ‘Cruyff turn’ for the very first time – and rocks the world

Strange but true: Cruyff didn’t travel to Argentina for the ’78 World Cup, not because he’d fallen out with the manager or become too big- (and pig-) headed, but because death threats had been made against his family if he went, thereby ushering in his international retirement

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6. Franz Beckenbauer

greatest_world_cup_players_franz_beckenbauer

football_ability_21  matches_18  goals_5  quarter_final_appearances_3 semi-final_appearances_3 final_appearances_2 fifa_world_cup_won = 34 pts

Nation: West Germany

Position: Sweeper/ centre-back/ central midfield (classic shirt number: 5/4)

World Cups: England 1966; Mexico 1970; West Germany 1974

The lowdown: A cast-iron World Cup legend, the dominant yet elegant Der Kaiser, against the odds against the out-of-this-world Dutch, skippered his team to triumph on home soil in ’74. He was also terrific in England in ’66 (arguably marking Bobby Charlton out of the final) and awesome in Mexico in ’70, his performances and goals there (not least against England again) critical in his nation’s progress to the semi-final – an epic encounter with Italy, throughout much of which he remarkably played with a dislocated arm in a sling. Moreover, he is said to have introduced the modern ‘sweeper’ role to football – oh, and he became the first man to win the World Cup as manager as well as player, coaching West Germany’s victorious 1990 side.

The abiding memory: Lifting the new World Cup trophy as captain of a West German team that had somehow beaten Cruyff’s Dutch after falling behind in just the first minute of the final

Strange but true: After publicising a mobile phone company, he requested a number containing seven consecutive sixes, only to be flooded with calls from punters believing it to be a sex chat line (the German word for six, sechs, obviously closely resembles the English word ‘sex’)

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5. Ronaldo

greatest_world_cup_players_ronaldo

football_ability_25  matches_19  goals_15  quarter_final_appearances_3 semi-final_appearances_2 final_appearances_2 fifa_world_cup_won = 38 pts

Nation: Brazil

Position: Forward (classic shirt number: 9)

World Cups: France 1998; Japan and South Korea 2002; Germany 2006

The lowdown: Overweight; under-committed; overrated; under-performing. Say what you like about Ronaldo, but when it came to World Cups, the pot-belly-bordering, dubious-hairstyle-debuting boy from Brazil truly delivered. Two finals, 15 goals (including a mind-boggling eight in one, as well as four in another) and a performance in the ’02 tournament’s concluder that delivered the Seleção their fifth title. At his best, he was unplayable – electric acceleration, terrific ball control, incredible finishing and a brain ticking along at a full time-zone faster than the defenders around him. Practically the perfect modern-day World Cup forward.

The abiding memory: It really should be those two redemption-ensuring strikes in the ’02 final, but sadly it’s hard to shift utmost from memory what ensured redemption was ‘required’ in the first place – the pantomime that was his dazed and confused, post-fit appearance in the ’98 final (and, no, the whole farrago wasn’t actually Nike’s fault, as it turned out)

Strange but true: Having experienced a somewhat turbulent private life, including siring four children with three different women (and a notorious encounter with three transvestite prostitutes that led to extortion), he had a vasectomy in 2010 – and indelicately referred to the procedure as ‘closing the factory’

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4. Zinedine Zidane

greatest_world_cup_players_zinedine_zidane

football_ability_28  matches_14  goals_5  quarter_final_appearances_2 semi-final_appearances_2 final_appearances_2 fifa_world_cup_won = 39 pts

Nation: France

Position: Attacking midfield (classic shirt number: 10)

World Cups: France 1998; Japan and South Korea 2002; Germany 2006

The lowdown: The best footballer of the last 30 years, Zidane could do everything (instantly change and elegantly run games, deliver flawless dead-ball success and score incredible goals), plus he nearly won two World Cups. Establishing himself the best of his generation at his home World Cup of ’98, he was the catalyst behind eventual French glory, not least because in the final he put them 2-0 up with a pair of lethal headers. France suffered ignominy in ’02, but eight years after their triumph they almost did it again, Zidane’s ability, drive and aura dragging an otherwise unremarkable team to the final, which was eventually lost to Italy – but only after the brilliant baldy gave them the lead with an utterly unsurprisingly exquisite, chipped penalty.

The abiding memory: It should be his great performances (maybe specifically his three World Cup final goals), but for right or wrong, it’ll always be that inexplicable head-thrust into the chest of Italian enfant terrible Marco Materazzi in the ’06 final, which cost the great man his place on the pitch and the fairy-tale career end his talent merited

Strange but true: In the mid-’90s, English Premier League clubs Newcastle United and Blackburn Rovers both looked into signing Zidane; the former bizarrely concluded he wasn’t good enough and the latter’s interest faltered when chairman Jack Walker reportedly chided manager Kenny Dalglish with ‘why do you want to sign Zidane when we have Tim Sherwood?’

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3. Garrincha

greatest_world_cup_players_garrincha

football_ability_28  matches_12  goals_5  quarter_final_appearances_2 semi-final_appearances_2 final_appearances_2 jules_rimet_world_cup_won_2 = 40 pts

Nation: Brazil

Position: Right midfield/ forward (classic shirt number: 7/ 11)

World Cups: Sweden 1958; Chile 1962; England 1966

The lowdown: Born with a deformed spine, both legs bent outwards and one shorter than the other, Garrincha (‘Wren’ or ‘Little Bird’ in Portuguese) still grew up to be one of the greatest ever footballers. Blessed with perhaps the best dribbling ability in history, perfect on both feet and a ferocious shot, his wing-play proved critical in his nation winning the ’58 World Cup, their first, and was even better  at the ’62 edition. Here he was Brazil’s golden boy in the injured Pelé’s absence, particularly excelling against England in the quarter final and hosts Chile in the semi – netting four goals across the two games, including a ‘banana shot’ into the corner, a header and a 20-yard screamer. He also scored a stunning free-kick with the outside of his foot in ’66.

The abiding memory: Probably those ’62 performances against England and Chile; crucial for sealing Brazil’s (and the only ever) back-to-back World Cup triumphs

Strange but true: Garrincha is arguably more fondly revered in his homeland than Pelé, owing to his evergreen, devil-may-care attitude to both football and life  (which is considered far more Brazilian than his illustrious contemporary’s) – so much so, he apparently didn’t realise Brazil had won the Cup after the ’58 final, believing its format to have been more like a league than a tournament; he assumed they had to play everyone else. Sadly, his hard-living exploits caught up with him and he died in 1983, relatively impoverished and aged just 49.

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2. Diego Maradona

greatest_world_cup_players_diego_maradona

football_ability_29  matches_21  goals_8  quarter_final_appearances_3 semi-final_appearances_2 final_appearances_2 fifa_world_cup_won = 41 pts

Nation: Argentina

Position: Attacking midfield (classic shirt number: 10)

World Cups: Spain 1982; Mexico 1986; Italy 1990; USA 1994

The lowdown: The most controversial footballer in history, the diminutive Diego was also utter dynamite on the ball; actually, it was often impossible to get it from him, it seemingly tied to his feet as he passed opponents to score extraordinary goals. Much was expected of him in ’82, but he failed to deliver and was sent-off in his final match. He exceeded expectations in ’86 though, dribbling three times more than any other player and scoring or assisting 10 of Argentina’s 14 goals – frankly, he pretty much single-handedly won the World Cup that year. In ’90 he finished a runner-up, fortunately as neither he nor his side played brilliantly, but in ’94 (in his career’s twilight), after scoring yet another stunning goal, he was sent home after failing a drugs test.

The abiding memory: Those few short minutes from the ’86 quarter final against England when he scored that logic-defying goal from another planet, almost immediately following the ‘Hand of God’ incident; possibly the most incorrigible, unforgivable case of cheating in all football

Strange but true: Idolised almost as a god in his homeland he may be, Maradona’s life has been that of a South American soap opera’s tragic hero; he’s suffered from cocaine and alcohol addiction, which has caused him life-threatening illness, and apparently owes the Italian government €37 million in taxes from his playing days, towards which it’s said he’s only paid back €42,000, two luxury watches and a pair of earrings.

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1. Pelé

WORLD CUP 1970

football_ability_30  matches_14  goals_12  quarter_final_appearances_2  semi-final_appearances_2  final_appearances_2  jules_rimet_world_cup_won_2 = 43 pts

Nation: Brazil

Position: Forward/ attacking midfield (classic shirt number: 10)

World Cups: Sweden 1958; Chile 1962; England 1966; Mexico 1970

The lowdown: Quite simply, the greatest footballer ever to have played the game, Edson Arantes do Nascimento (or just Pelé to you and me) is fittingly the best ever to have pulled on his boots and run out in a World Cup match too. Why was he the greatest? The common denominator for many is he simply did things none of his contemporaries could get close to doing; things that maybe didn’t even occur to them. Johan Cruyff has said: “Pelé was the only footballer who surpassed the boundaries of logic”, while the man’s ’70 teammate (and that Brazil team’s captain) Carlos Alberto suggested that his footballing genius lay in his improvisation. It’s not often mentioned, but he endured a torrid time in both the ’62 and ’66 contests, at which he should have been the star yet suffered tournament-ending injuries in both. His golden years were undoubtedly ’58, in which he came alive in the quarter final (one goal), the semi (a hat-trick) and the final (two goals) and at just 17-years-old ensured Brazil’s victory was inevitable, and ’70, in which he featured in an outrageously brilliant team of Brazilian talent, scoring four goals in a central attacking role that saw him just about still outshine everyone else.

The abiding memory: Many recall those two classic moments from the ’70 World Cup when he didn’t score (audaciously attempting to lob Czechoslovakia’s goalkeeper from the halfway line and feigning the Uruguayan goalkeeper as he and the ball passed him before attempting a shot that ended up just wide), but that may be because they’ve been shown so many times, delightfully so. Yet his most glorious moment may be the first of his two goals in the ’58 final, which saw him expertly trap the ball on his chest, flick it over a defender and then, after waiting for it to come down, volley it into the corner of the net perfectly. Quite sensational if you consider the occasion and the fact he was still a teenager.

Strange but true: There’s been much debate over how many goals Pelé actually scored. He’s supposed to have ‘officially’ notched up 767 goals in 831 matches, but ‘unofficially’ netted 1,281 times in 1,367 games. Both figures, though, definitely include 77 in 92 for Brazil. Of course, the official and the unofficial figures are – like the player himself – simply out of this world.

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