Monday, 17 February 2014

'Censored Scenes From King Kong' at the British Film Institute

Never heard of it? No, neither had I until Chris mentioned it was a BBC telly play from 1973 by Howard Schuman with Julie Covington in the cast and then it was firmly on the radar. Is that enough of a clue as to why I might be interested? No? Well Howard Schuman wrote 'Rock Follies' in 1976 and 'Rock Follies of 77' in 1977 and Julie Covington starred in both series along with Rula Lenska and Charlotte Cornwall. I'm sure all three ladies are probably fed up with people keep harking back to 'Rock Follies' but it was a classic. Oh, and Andy McKay of Roxy Music wrote the music. Added cred points there.

The BFI has a series on at the moment about cinema/television techniques and this play was being shown as part of the series. This was (supposedly) an early example of the technique of having your actor in front of a green or blue screen and projecting whatever you wanted on the background. The BFI people explained it but it went over my head since I don't really care, I just wanted to hear from Howard (who was in the audience) and see it. Sadly, all I heard of Howard was him shouting out that the BBC exec in charge of the play series thought it was camp like 'Rocky Horror' and didn't want to show it. No introduction or anything.

It was part of a series of plays shown at 11:00pm on the BBC that was cancelled during power cuts or something. So it wasn't banned by the BBC, just a case of bad karma (man). It's only been screened two or three times before so only a hundred or two people have ever seen it. Including me.

'Censored Scenes' is a bit of fluff really. It opens with a bloke being all Buddhist in Japan and then he turns up in London after a few years of having vanished from his hospital bed. His friends somehow find him and they've become a singing group. In the meantime he searches for the missing film cut from 'King Kong' that show the ape making love to Faye Wray. He thinks he finds the film but it turns out to be a heroin stash (as you'd expect in his topsy-turvy world). None of it makes any sense and harks back to the late '60s rather than the early '70s but that doesn't matter (man). The main thing is that this was the playground that led to 'Rock Follies'!

Yes Julie Covington was in it but I got excited when I saw she was on the rehearsal stage with Beth Porter! Beth played Kitty Schrieber in 'Rock Follies'. And who was their manager? None other than Michael Angelis who was the manager of the Little Ladies in 'Rock Follies'! Three 'Rock Follies' stalwarts three years before that show was even written and I was thrilled. Every now and then were little tricks and phrases that reminded me of 'Rock Follies' and this was surely part of the inspiration for the later series (sugar mountain anyone?).

Derek Fowlds played three parts in it and it was lovely to see him from back then. He played Basil Brush's sidekick and then starred in 'Yes, Minister' and 'Heartbeat' but it was fun to see him do some 'arty' acting early in his career.

The wow factor of the afternoon was increased to stellar proportions by having Fenella Fielding sitting behind us - yes, *that* Fenella Fielding! The lovely Fenella is now 86 but still getting out to frequent cinema and television events. I didn't say anything, obviously, but I was secretly delighted.

There are exactly two bad photos of Howard Schuman on the internet (how can he be so invisible?) and none of 'Censored Scenes' so here's a photo of Fenella instead!

No comments: