Arts

Cult Movie: The Bodies Beneath compiles oddball TV and film gems

Cooking, the Vincent Price way – just one of the gems in The Bodies Beneath
Ralph McLean

The Bodies Beneath

REGULAR readers of this column will know that there's a wealth of beauty to be found in the deepest, dustiest corners of British cinema and TV history – bizarre, broken and bewildering as it may occasionally be.

The history of the mainstream – the big hitters, the ratings winners – will always give you the general picture, but focus in a little closer on the oddball offerings, the once popular but now forgotten slices of shared TV and film experiences that have flickered before our collective eyeballs during the last century and a deeper, darker understanding of the world we have lived in all these years begins to emerge.

Through their work with the BFI's exemplary Flipside imprint, archivists Vic Pratt and William Fowler have long been aware of the magic that lurks in the lesser seen crevices of our shared on-screen culture. Their new book, The Bodies Beneath (Strange Attractor Press) gathers together some of their favourite weird and wonderful moments with real style and genuine panache.

Compiled with love and a true fan's passion for the subject matter, they have dug deep to unearth all manner of moody and manic little gems from both big screen and small, gluing them all neatly into one tidy little volume that feels solidly academic and readily accessible to all in equal measure.

No small feat, that.

Subject matter lurches from stories of less-loved Doctor Who episodes and long-lost 70s sitcoms to occult rites in swinging discotheques and Patrick McGoohan's Catholic puritanism as Danger Man with effortless charm.

Sexploitation pot boilers sit side-by-side with thoughtful analysis of era-defining telly like The War Game and the authors even find room to discuss Cooking Price-Wise, an early 1970s shot on video showcase from ITV which highlighted the calorie-ignorant culinary skills of the great Vincent Price in all their garish glory.

It looked so good I went straight to You Tube to sample its delights for myself.

Other gems include a proper end of the pier tale of melancholy as the great Bela Lugosi finds himself washed up in British B movie land and having to resort to slumming it with a music hall drag act in the utterly bizarre Old Mother Riley Meets The Vampire, witnessing Anthony Newley commit cinematic suicide with the insane Can Hieronymus Hump Ever Forget Mercy Humppe And Find True Happiness and watching the dark side of comedian Charlie Drake emerge on mainstream telly.

Best of all, though, is a reminder of the anti-social antics of Sooty. One episode of the children's series in particular found the yellow glove puppet running his own chemist shop and dispensing mind-altering pharmaceuticals to Sweep like some kind of afternoon TV Timothy Leary.

Like so much of the material in this splendid book, it seems so strange you think it can't be true, until you realise it is.

That flipside is a truly wondrous place, you know.

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