Audrey HepburnTaking a break from all online activity for several days can be a bit of a gamble. Hell, how was I to know the head of the Met would be belatedly pushed before she jumped in my absence, thus leaving this here blog bereft of a swift post-mortem on a useless individual who will henceforth be sailing off into the sunset on a handsome retirement package as well as the inevitable seat in the Lords as Baroness Dick of Head within a year? Mind you, it could’ve been worse; it could’ve been Boris, and I would therefore have been denied an instant obituary to line up alongside those of David Cameron and Theresa May. Whilst the PM is doing his best to keep a low profile following his schoolboy-apologising-to-the-headmaster grilling in the Commons last week, Fleet Street’s ongoing fascination with the woman who currently has ownership of his balls shows no sign of abating, though ‘Carrie Antoinette’ (I can’t claim credit for that one, alas) has a limited shelf-life that simply serves to keep the saga running whilst the Tories decide whether or not any suitable replacements are prepared to trigger a leadership contest.

As is the case during this hysterical, newsworthy-for-24-hours era – whereby one favoured headline has to be pored over relentlessly in sensationalistic, speculative fashion for a day before being hurriedly superseded by the next (lest the viewers’ collective attention span expires) – the mortal remains of Cressida Dick have already been gutted by the MSM to the point whereby any further dissection of them could feel like exhuming Sgt Dixon’s cadaver. At the same time, the tense situation along the Ukrainian border, which was discussed here when it began to boil over a couple of weeks back, is a subject that any rushed analysis of could date within hours; probably best to come back to it when what everyone is expecting to happen actually happens. With this in mind, I’ll momentarily linger on a growing pop cultural trend I noticed has moved on into dubious new areas.

In the face of joyless Puritans permanently on the lookout for something to remove from the history books, some artists have been issuing preemptive strikes. Over the last few months, ‘Brown Sugar’ has been dropped from the Stones’ set-list after half-a-century and Elvis Costello has exercised self-censorship re ‘Oliver’s Army’ before the serial cancellers beat him to it. It’s a sad state of affairs that artists feel they themselves have to act as Ministry of Truth employees for fear that the artless will do it for them without asking, as each apologetic compromise to the unforgiving consensus earns them no stay of execution. After all, there is no concept of redemption in the new religion; once damned, one is damned for eternity. Much better to adopt the stance of Woody Allen’s character in the superb 1976 movie set during the McCarthy era, ‘The Front’; called to appear before the House Un-American Activities Committee, Allen declares he doesn’t recognise the authority of the Committee to interrogate him and abruptly exits by telling them to go f*** themselves.

Oh, for a brave soul to do likewise today. Joe Rogan has blotted his copybook somewhat by issuing what amounts to a half-arsed apology, something that will eventually be seen as an unnecessary olive branch held out to those whose only response will be to set fire to it. As has been rightly pointed out over the past week, sexual misconduct allegations will be the next weapon unleashed from the Woke arsenal if accusations of retrospective racism have proven unsuccessful. It’s a familiar contemporary pattern that is as predictable as night following day now; a minor employee will allege Mr Rogan touched her inappropriately ten years ago before too long and the demonisation will be complete. Therefore, the artist doesn’t need to humiliate himself when confronted by the 21st century’s McCarthy militia, for the militia will proceed regardless – and it has been hard at it for a long time.

Whether the removal of gollywogs from Enid Blyton books, the disappearance of Paul McCartney’s cigarette from the front cover of ‘Abbey Road’ or, of course, the ‘Top of the Pops’ revision that tells us Gary Glitter or Jimmy Savile had no part to play in pop culture beyond allegedly abusing underage girls on an industrial scale, ironing out the rough edges of the past is nothing new. A reference to ‘Negro spirituals’ being sung whilst the prisoners of HM Prison Slade dig a trench in ‘Porridge’ was excised when the haphazard dispersal of soil resulted in Fletcher informing Godber that he had no desire to visually resemble said slave labour. A wisecrack typical of Ronnie Barker’s character was removed without once taking into account the audience’s awareness that the programme was produced in the mid-1970s and therefore contains attitudes common to the era, especially from a character born in the 1930s like Norman Stanley Fletcher. To edit old dialogue so that it chimes with contemporary sensibilities is as ridiculous a move as the box-ticking BBC efforts to re-imagine the Britain of the past as some 21st century Islington dinner party vision of a multicultural nation.

Hollywood has set the pace in this revisionism and, not content with producing unwatchable Critical Race Theory lectures masquerading as entertainment (lectures that the cinema-going public mysteriously don’t queue-up to sit through) it has now re-imagined some of its past Identity Politics-free output that people are still drawn to. Disney’s animated masterpiece ‘Fantasia’ has already suffered from this approach, and over the weekend I caught a TV screening of what was once one of my favourite movies, ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’. Around half-an-hour in, I began to realise that one notable aspect of the iconic Audrey Hepburn classic was strangely absent. Having watched the film on numerous occasions, I knew it more or less scene-by-scene and I was naturally expecting the appearance of Mickey Rooney’s toe-curling ‘Jap’ neighbour complaining about the noise from Holly Golightly’s apartment – yet he never appeared.

After a while, it dawned on me an entire character played by a box-office star in his own right had strangely vanished from the story. Now, before I go any further, I have to admit ‘Mr Yunioshi’ has always made me wince and I regarded this particular character as the sole weak link in an otherwise perfect film; a competent actor and household name for decades prior to ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’, Mickey Rooney was nevertheless responsible for a portrayal of an oriental idiot in the movie that would put Benny Hill to shame, played purely for laughs complete with comedy goofy teeth – even though it’s not remotely amusing. It’s an unfunny, cringe-inducing performance and would be even if ‘yellow-face’ accusations hadn’t permeated the narrative. I confess I often used to skim through his scenes whenever watching it on a VHS tape back in the day, but did I want Hollywood’s PC police intervening and removing him on my outraged behalf? In a word, no; but it’s happened; the version of the film I saw this time round had no Mr Yunioshi in it. Admittedly, it was a superior watch without him, but that’s not the point.

As with those cheering the toppling of statues of unloved figures from the sidelines, once a trend has been set in motion and has been legitimatised as a means of removing a character from the picture, what happens when those with an unquenchable appetite for destruction then turn their attention to someone the cheerleader for anarchy holds dear – as they will do? Granted, few who love the film will mourn the absence of Mickey Rooney from ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’, yet this is a dangerous precedent. Are all derogatory references to the colour of the black sheriff in ‘Blazing Saddles’ to be edited out, robbing the movie of a key element of its storyline in the process? Give it time. The list is relatively endless of old movies primed for this treatment, and having seen it done once I don’t doubt I’ll see it done again. A cultural line has been crossed, and nothing is sacred when you give a green light that lets loose the non-creative on the creative, however unfashionable their creative endeavours may now be.

© The Editor




Time to digress again – and why not? As with the B word last year, each post about Identity Politics or the pandemic requires at least 48 hours’ breathing space before my exhausted ire can summon up the requisite energy for a fresh assault on the subject, so today’s digression treads a familiar path – if taking an unusual starting point. Anyway, as a small child I resided in a ‘Coronation Street’-style neighbourhood in which the traditional corner shop run by a grumpy old man was still a permanent fixture; for those kids with an appetite for escapism that couldn’t be satisfied by penny sweets, these claustrophobic emporiums often included a revolving rack crammed with American comic-books featuring eye-catching covers designed to provoke the pestering of purses in the possession of mothers. These glossy imports were also a little pricier than their home-grown equivalents on account of the full colour contents, so it helped to have a few good deeds in the bank.

The October 1971 issue of ‘Jimmy Olsen’ (subtitled ‘Superman’s Pal’, just in case the reader didn’t realise) had a US cover price of 25₵, but one that featured the UK price of 7½p stamped on it – presumably by customs & excise. Such purchases were something of a treat on account of the cost, but children tend to value their treats – or did when they were few and far between – and this particular treat imprinted itself on my consciousness via its characteristically vivid illustrations by the great Jack Kirby. The story as best I can remember it involved the Man of Steel (Jimmy Olsen’s pal, lest the reader forgot) somehow stumbling upon an Earth-like world plagued by characters resembling the classic Universal Studios stable of horrors – Dracula, Frankenstein’s Monster, the Werewolf, etc. – which had evolved for real on account of old movies being beamed onto the planet from outer space and taken as a design for life from the Gods.

As was commonplace in the comics industry back then, good ideas tended to regularly recur when the author ran out of new ones; this plot was a rehash by Jack Kirby of a ‘Fantastic Four’ story he’d co-penned in the 60s, though that one concerned a parallel world developed along the lines of 1920s Prohibition-era Chicago, a planet evolving into a society run by gangsters. I suppose one could say the story was a sharp satire on the way in which cinema influences actions in the real world as some imitate what they see on screen and then cinema gets the blame – an accusation that was certainly made in the 30s and 40s whenever certain crimes were said to be inspired by a specific film. The irony here was that the Golden Age of the Hollywood gangster picture – primarily the province of Warner Brothers and one that made Edward G Robinson, James Cagney and George Raft household names – was born of holding a mirror up to the contemporary criminal element; art imitated life and then life imitated art.

The only reason I’m thinking of this is due to the ongoing narrative of my DVD lockdown library once again. Having been through every TV series on the shelf, I’ve just moved onto movies and I fortunately have an abundance of these films, most of which I haven’t watched for several years. The gangster flicks in the collection lean heavily towards the pre-war monochrome ones, especially if Cagney stars. I find him a mesmerising, incredibly charismatic actor whose on-screen presence transcends all the famous tics and gestures that were as crucial to every 1970s TV impressionist’s act as Frank Spencer impersonations. When I was a kid, Cagney was still one of the world’s most instantly recognisable movie stars, even if he’d long since retired from the business by then; regular screenings of his old films dominated BBC2’s ‘Saturday Cinema’ institution, the sole alternative to wall-to-wall sport during my childhood. His electrifying performances in classics such as ‘Public Enemy’, ‘Angels with Dirty Faces’, ‘The Roaring Twenties’ and ‘White Heat’ aren’t remotely stagey, even though they pre-date the Method school; he so convinces as a cold-eyed hard man that it’s no surprise he struggled to escape the typecasting these roles inevitably led to.

‘White Heat’, the movie climaxing with the legendary line ‘Look ma, top of the world!’ as Cagney’s psychotic crook with an Oedipus Complex, Cody Jarrett, is poised to be blown to smithereens, had elements of the gangster picture of the 1930s, but brought it firmly into the present day – 1949 – by incorporating tropes of Film Noir, the genre that had taken the crime story down an intriguing dark alley. In Noir, the focus shifted from the gangster to the private eye or police detective, and the main obstacle to nailing the bad guy tended to be the femme fatale, an alluring female figure of ambiguous moral character who often ensnared both hero and villain along the way. The femme fatale was the talkies’ successor to silent cinema’s bad girl, the Vamp, and provided numerous actresses with an entrée into the A-list; indeed, so career-defining did these roles become for some of them that it proved difficult to evade the long shadow they cast. The extensive attention to lighting that Hollywood reserved for its female stars at the time – the kind we’d now only really associate with still photography – helped seal the images in iconic amber forevermore.

Although Barbara Stanwyck in 1944’s ‘Double Indemnity’ gloriously exposed the avaricious bitch at the dark heart of the femme fatale and Rita Hayworth in 1946’s ‘Gilda’ portrayed the character at her most breathtakingly vivacious, my own personal favourite is Veronica Lake, she of the famous peek-a-boo haircut that was much later taken to a lop-sided extreme by Phil Oakey of The Human League. The trio of movies Lake made alongside Alan Ladd between 1942 and 1946 – ‘This Gun for Hire’, ‘The Glass Key’ and ‘The Blue Dahlia’ – saw this exquisitely elegant, languid blonde bombshell make the femme fatale as alluring as ever but gave the archetype a sympathetic, human quality that made it possible to fall in love with her without the perennial worry of waking up after a night of passion to discover she’d done a runner with your wallet. Veronica Lake undoubtedly has the femme fatale look, but her disarming ‘girly’ voice suggests a soft centre beyond the untouchable exterior; one gets the impression that the femme fatale front is a tool she’s developed in order to survive.

Having established herself as one of Hollywood’s most distinctive screen Goddesses, Veronica Lake then had to forego the hairstyle that made her stand out at the request of the US Government, concerned that its popularity could prove a safety hazard for women working dangerous machinery during wartime. However, so associated was she with this specific look that its voluntary sacrifice to the war effort actually had a detrimental effect on her career. She also suffered a couple of personal tragedies in the loss of a child and divorce; she then began drinking heavily, perhaps as a response to the less-than-sympathetic treatment stars received in the era of the all-powerful studio system, gaining a reputation for being ‘difficult’ on set. Offers dried up, and by the early 50s she was declared bankrupt, fleeing to New York where she descended into a sad cycle of drunkenness and dead-end jobs. She resuscitated her career in periodic bouts on stage and even played Blanche DuBois in Bromley in 1969. I so want to believe a certain resident of Bromley at that time saw this performance and was then inspired to copy her old image for the LP he released the following year, ‘The Man Who Sold the World’; but we’ll probably never know.

Veronica Lake died in 1973 aged 50 of acute kidney injury after having been diagnosed with cirrhosis of the liver. But did the Veronica Lake who still smoulders as the celluloid embodiment of my kind of woman ever really die? Of course not, no more than Cagney or Bogart or any of them; they’re immortal – and just as they wove a fair few dreams that offered something other than Frank Bough or Dickie Davies on drizzly Saturday afternoons 40-odd years ago, they retain the magical power to divert and distract when it’s most needed. For that alone, those of us in the gutter looking up at the stars are eternally indebted.

© The Editor


For those in the know, there are a couple of memorable stories from the original ‘Star Trek’ series and the Jon Pertwee era of ‘Doctor Who’ in which Captain Kirk and the Doctor follow the same path by slipping sideways into parallel universes – ‘Mirror, Mirror’ and ‘Inferno’. What is now an over-familiar sci-fi trope still seems fresh and novel in these interesting twists on the respective formulas both programmes tended to rely on; the unnerving encounters with darker incarnations of regular cast members are one intriguing element – and the usual good guys are invariably evil when this freak occurrence takes place; just in case the viewer doesn’t twig quick enough, Spock is gifted with a sinister beard and Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart has an eye-patch and a scar. However, it is the world these characters inhabit that provides the most fascinating aspect of the adventures.

The Enterprise looks roughly the same, but in this dimension it is a warship belonging to a brutal intergalactic empire, whereas the version of Britain Pertwee’s Doctor finds himself in is a militaristic fascist republic. Both stories play upon the ‘what if?’ factor, pondering on possibilities had global events taken a different turn; and, of course, these events were still fresh at the time ‘Mirror, Mirror’ and ‘Inferno’ were produced (1967 and 1970), when the world was less than 30 years away from the collapse of Hitler’s Germany and Mussolini’s Italy – warnings from recent history transplanted to an alternative present.

I only thought of these two classic examples of two classic series at their best because I keep noticing those movie posters you see pasted on the sides of double-decker buses. Normally I tend to roll my eyes when greeted by any sign of the latest multimillion-dollar dump Hollywood has decided to take on the world’s cinemagoers; but the current ones are catching my eye on account of them not being quite right. Whereas they usually change with such rapid regularity that one rarely sees the same poster on a bus for more than two weeks running, I recently realised the movies being promoted via public transport at the moment were either released way back in February – and have therefore already been forgotten and wouldn’t normally still be there – or give a release date in April/May that never actually happened due the lockdown.

It’s an extremely minor equivalent of suddenly slipping into a parallel universe, but seeing posters for movies still unseen that declare they were premiered at the nation’s picture houses on dates when they weren’t is a weird one, akin to the disorientating differences a character in a genuine parallel universe experiences. Well, it’s as close as I’ve come, anyway. That’s what happens when you queue outside supermarkets situated on a main road and aren’t distracted by a Smartphone screen. I can quite easily pass the minutes by simply pretending I am indeed in a parallel universe where buses don’t lie and those movies did indeed premiere as planned, showing now at a cinema near you; and then I contemplate the queue and the two-metre separation between each person in it and realise this universe is probably far stranger than a parallel one as it is.

Actually, the movies being plugged on those buses may end up representing an even greater financial disaster than they ordinarily would if they had been released and failed to break even at the box-office. Yes, many will be swallowed up by a costly black-hole courtesy of the pandemic, though lockdown aside, the fate that awaits the majority of the over-hyped bilge vomited out by Tinsel Town is generally down to the clueless halfwits behind them gambling everything on what the public will take to. It happens across all creative industries, of course – movies, TV, publishing, music; a hit suddenly appears from nowhere that the people running these industries didn’t predict and then there’s a rush to repeat it in order to capitalise on the success, a rush that swiftly tests the patience of the public with the new craze. There may be an entire army of experts employed by movie studios, TV companies, publishing houses and record labels who reckon they can both anticipate and manipulate what the public will or won’t buy, but the truth is that few ever accurately do. Even if I take my own humble example when it comes to this here blog, it’s near-impossible to guess what will provoke a response and what won’t.

Access to Winegum stats is a behind-the-scenes privilege of ‘Petunia’; they not only inform me in which countries on the planet I’m receiving the most views – India and Cambodia make regular surprise appearances alongside the more expected nations – but they also let me know which posts are pulling the punters in; and there are some vintage ones that keep appearing in the list with such regularity that I’m often baffled by their appeal. Yes, I’m well aware there are certain topics I might choose to write about that I pretty much know in advance will appeal to a particular Twitter audience because they happen to be a pet subject with a passionate crowd who Tweet a lot; equally, when Twitter isn’t especially interested, I may receive an above-average flurry of comments on the post itself without attracting a single retweet.

But for me, the subject matter is more or less secondary to whether or not I personally consider the post a well-written one that makes its intended point as perfectly as I can manage it. There have been times when I’ve put one out and I look at it again and reckon I was too tired when I wrote it or I rushed it when I should’ve taken a bit more time and improved the prose. And then I find it keeps surfacing in the list of most-viewed posts, perhaps two or three years after it was published; just because I might not rate or care for a post doesn’t mean I’m necessarily in the right; if somebody out there likes it, in a way that’s all that matters. Indeed, there are many posts I rate extremely highly and think read just as well today as when they were written; and yet nobody else took to those ones. It’s completely random sometimes.

There’s quite an early one about corporal punishment called ‘The Back of My Hand’ that simply won’t go away, and one I wrote about the trans issue – specifically in relation to children – called ‘Goodbye Sam, Hello Samantha’ has been achieving as many views over the past couple of months as anything new I’ve written. I’ll concede that I think the latter is perhaps as good a piece as anything I’ve written on that subject, but I still can’t quite understand why it continues to reel ‘em in. But that highlights my point, I suppose; you really can’t guess what’ll impact and what won’t. I’ve written books I (and others) thought would make my name and they never did – ‘Looking for Alison’ being the prime example.

I seemed on the cusp of recognition with that when I was interviewed for Radio 4’s ‘iPM’ show at the time of the book’s publication, and I recall after the interview I had a free cab-ride home laid on for me by the BBC. I exited said taxi without paying a penny and had a brief sense of what it must be like to be Alan Yentob. It’s easy and understandable to decry ‘how the other half live’ and, let’s face it, we all do it; but even the tiniest glimpse into that world makes one realise how easy it is to fall into its luxurious embrace. I know why there were cries of outrage over author Neil Gaiman travelling all the way from New Zealand to Scotland, but I equally know if I were in his position I’d have probably done the same. Why not, if you can afford it? Maybe there’s a parallel universe where we all can…

© The Editor


Unfortunately, it’s one of the recurring stories of our times and one that it becomes increasingly difficult to say something new about whenever it rears its ugly head; once again, the headlines keep us in a state of permanent déjà-vu and the seriousness of the crime is almost diminished through terrible repetition. Sadly, we’re back where we’ve been so many times before, but there’s no way it can be avoided; the grim truth demands our attention. Yes, Damian Green allegedly touched a woman’s knee.

In other news, New York experienced a major terror incident when a Jihadist drove a van onto the sidewalk and ploughed down pedestrians and cyclists alike, killing eight of them before being apprehended. Miraculously, he wasn’t shot dead by cops and survives to face the music, though the biggest concern for some is inevitably not the bodies cluttering up Manhattan’s pavements but an anticipated upsurge in ‘Islamophobia’. Anyway, enough of that trivial little domestic business across the pond. Onto more serious matters.

The journalist and broadcaster Julia Hartley-Brewer claimed Defence Secretary Michael Fallon once touched her knee and she made it clear in no uncertain terms what she would do to him if his hand came into contact with said body part again. Fallon withdrew. Fallon is someone who previously edged Philip Hammond in the contest to decide the dullest member of the Cabinet, yet this moment of indiscretion has suddenly and remarkably made the grey man moderately interesting. I doubt few of us would have been surprised had Boris stood accused of such a dastardly deed, but Michael Fallon? Lock up your daughters, especially if they happen to be young party activists; just ask Labour.

It’s interesting that a professional political class which has unquestionably supported DPP Alison Saunders’ cynical crusade to up the rape conviction statistics by broadening the legal definition of sexual assault is now being confronted by the ramifications of this support. The Saunders approach is all fine and dandy if some pleb has the finger of suspicion aimed at him, but the problem with legal definitions is that they’re supposed to be egalitarian and don’t distinguish between class, wealth and social standing. Granted, the ruthless cuts to legal aid have severely limited Joe Public’s ability to defend himself when confronted by an allegation of a sexual nature, but those whose incomes can feather the most exclusive law firm nests probably never imagined they’d be placed in a situation where they’d have to deal with the grim reality of everything they failed to challenge the wisdom of.

William Hague urged caution on Radio 4’s ‘Today’ this morning when it comes to believing the authenticity of every allegation aimed at a public figure, though I don’t remember similar caution being advised by Westminster when the Yewtree witch-hunt was rounding up showbiz stalwarts from the 70s and 80s; back then, the ‘I believe her’ mantra was being recited from every political platform. Operation Midland attracted more criticism in that its targets weren’t quite as irrelevant as Yewtree’s hapless has-beens, though despite a grovelling after-the-event apology from Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe as the outgoing Met Chief sought to cover his back, the damage done to the likes of Harvey Proctor remains a shameful example of what can happen when the powers-that-be allow our police force to be politicised by an inherently merciless and perennially unsatisfied agenda.

The sudden downfall of a liberal left Hollywood darling like Kevin Spacey shows how when the ‘I believe her’ (or in Spacey’s case, ‘him’) rule is applied to everyone rather than a select few, it’s actually not very nice at all. Holding up a placard or wearing a T-shirt bearing a nifty hash-tag slogan is easy when you imagine you’re above the net being cast; when that net is widened and you risk being entangled in it, the experience of thousands of nonentities denied your privileges is brought into extremely sharp focus as the irresponsible gamble of not questioning the placing of a clumsy pass on a level playing field with a brutal rape is writ horrifyingly large. The system that has promoted and repeatedly failed to challenge this fallacy can eject its favoured sons without a second thought if it means the whole system risks being tarnished with the same unsavoury accusations. There must be a lot of leading men in Tinsel Town consulting their lawyers at the moment.

When OJ Simpson was on trial for the murder of his ex-wife way back in 1994/95, the defence shrewdly played the race card, garnering wide African-American support in the process as focus shifted away from the actual crime itself and onto the broader subject of US race relations; their client was rewarded by walking away from court a free man, hailed as the victim of the trial as opposed to the cause of it. One cannot but wonder if Bill Cosby had been accused of murder rather than rape that the voices noticeably silenced in their support for one of the entertainment industry’s great black pioneers might have been heard in a way they weren’t as, one-by-one, women came forward to accuse him whilst the system that had celebrated him for decades denounced him.

The ruling elite have sat back and allowed this state of affairs to develop unchecked for a long time because they imagined they were immune to it. In their desperate search for votes and eagerness to be seen endorsing various pseudo-‘liberal’ causes, they have gleefully given the thumbs-up to dubious moral movements without reading the small print; and now they are finally paying the price for their stupidity. Well, more fool them. I should imagine many little men rotting away in a prison cell on the strength of an allegation propelled towards a guilty verdict via a climate fully endorsed by the political class will be short on sympathy; and who could blame them?

© The Editor


Ooh, where to start? A weekend of finger-pointing and retrospective accusations as summer’s ‘silly season’ is extended into the autumn has left me spoilt for choice when attempting to document the insane landscape we inadvertently inhabit. It began with that Hollywood PR exercise masquerading as a BBC TV chat-show presented by Graham Norton. Adam Sandler, one of those actors whose career provokes the question – ‘What the f**k have you ever done?’ – appeared alongside Emma ‘Miss Jean Brodie’ Thompson and actress Claire Foy, apparently placing his hand on the knee of the latter throughout the ‘interview’, something that provoked frothing-at-the-mouth hysteria on Twitter. A friend then sent me a leaked video of unknown origin in which another superstar of similar charisma – Ben Affleck – was mauling an MTV-style interviewer of Eastern European accent as she sat on his lap, a clip that climaxed with Affleck’s impersonation of a ‘spaz’. Suffice to say, he came across as an arrogant slimeball, albeit one that Tinsel Town’s system positively encourages. See also Harvey Weinstein.

This was followed by the dubious exposure of an online ‘closed group’ of ladies gossiping about various Westminster stalwarts that it’s best to avoid sharing a lift or taxi with. Lecherous old MPs groping young lobbyists, secretaries and PR trainees young enough to be their daughters? Jesus! Who knew? Call Mr Profumo! It’s not exactly Cecil Parkinson impregnating his secretary, but it’s what passes for a political sex scandal in 2017; hot on the heels of Jared O’Mara being suspended by the Labour Party following the publication of comments he made 15 years ago, we need to be vigilant, sex toys and ‘Sugar Tits’ pet-names not permitting.

Then we were told the actor who plays Todd Grimshaw on ‘Coronation Street’, the soap’s first openly gay character (currently in a relationship with a rather wet vicar on the show), has been shown the same exit door that illustrious predecessors such as Peter ‘Len Fairclough’ Adamson were shown for more serious crimes in more innocent times. Bruno ‘Todd Grimshaw’ Langley’s own crime was allegedly sexually assaulting a young lady in a Manchester night-club, though he received his cards before the allegation became a charge, suggesting the powers-that-be at Granada were waiting for an excuse to boot him out, anyway. This revelation broke more or less simultaneously with the news that a Five Live broadcaster has also been suspended on the basis of allegations he was guilty of letting his fingers do the walking where his female colleagues were concerned.

And we round off this supremely silly weekend with the convenient full-circle headline of another member of the Hollywood Royal Family being accused of a foul deed in the dim ‘n’ distant past. This time, it was the turn of none other than Kevin Spacey – someone whose off-screen activities have evaded my own personal ‘gaydar’; Spacey pre-empted an allegation of inappropriate behaviour with an underage actor in the 80s by belatedly coming out. Spacey is someone whose career has largely consisted of commendable efforts on celluloid (unlike Ben Affleck) and also included a stint as guv’nor of the Old Vic in London. Curiously, considering how ‘right-on’ the ruling elite of Hollywood are, they still have a problem with out-and-proud actors, casting resolutely straight leading men as gay characters in the likes of ‘Philadelphia’ and ‘Milk’, whereas we in Blighty have a lengthy list of gay Lord and Lady thespians, even if they tend to play it straight when cast in California.

So, what conclusions do we draw from several days of post-Weinstein allegations and accusations? Well, in the case of Ben Affleck, irrefutable evidence that he’s a bit of a prick is out there in cyberspace, so anything unsavoury levelled against him has pretty solid proof to go on re how he behaves in the company of young women. Kevin Spacey’s conduct is slightly different in that it took place before the days when everything was recorded and documented online, yet he’s still been forced into belatedly admitting his bedroom preferences courtesy of the imminent media storm. Call me old-fashioned, but I believe whatever men or women get up to behind closed doors is their own business and has no relevance to their profession unless they choose to be defined by it; personally, I don’t care if Kevin Spacey is gay or straight, but it evidently matters to media whores deprived of genuine scandal, so Spacey bows to their God-given authority before they exercise it.

Five years on from the tsunami of allegations triggered by the despicable Mark Williams Thomas’s ‘Exposure’ hatchet-job on Jimmy Savile – which served as a handy smokescreen to obscure the genuine outrage of Rotherham and Rochdale – we appear to have reached a point whereby any authentic act of deplorable misogyny aimed at the opposite sex by the male of the species has been overshadowed by the abuse of descriptive terms for actual assault, applied as they are with cavalier nonchalance to clumsy attempts at seduction, making men believe that any move on their part will be labelled ‘rape’. Perhaps it’s laying the ground for western women to adopt the burqa as a modern-day secular chastity belt, duped into the illusion of emancipation by the propaganda. Who knows? We are the dead, as someone once said. But maybe there’s life after death after all. Fingers crossed!

© The Editor


It’s less than two years since the Oscars Ceremony presented Lady GaGa’s ‘Victims Symphony’, complete with a chorus line of Survivors™ resplendent in concentration camp chic to tastefully hammer home the metaphor; and it’s less than a year since the Golden Globes provided a platform for Meryl Streep to play Meryl Streep by condemning the new tenant of the White House without naming him in a histrionic speech that ticked all the liberal Hollywood boxes. Last autumn, the red carpet residents sided with a woman complicit in covering-up her husband’s innumerable infidelities and opposed the election of a man caught on tape bragging about ‘pussy’ like a teenage boy who’d never been laid. And all the time, they were aware that one of their own was apparently even worse, but said nothing. Dame Meryl had even called him ‘God’.

If Meryl Streep’s least appealing role is Meryl Streep, nobody quite does Emma Thompson as a simpering-faced identity politician like Emma Thompson; she’s been at it this weekend in a video saturating social media, adding her wise-after-the-event voice to the sudden stampede to name and shame Harvey Weinstein now that it’s okay to do so. Perhaps the Tinsel Town elite are falling over each other to damn the deposed mogul because his supposedly sleazy activities have reminded the wider world that, for all the PC makeover it has received in recent years, Hollywood is – and always has been – a grubby little corner of California where glorified pimps like Weinstein have free rein to live out their Playboy Mansion fantasies safe in the knowledge that the biz will indulge them as long as the box-office is booming.

I doubt anyone outside of the Hollywood bubble was really surprised at the revelations that have erupted this past week; maybe the only real surprise has been the sheer number of allegations. They only usually happen here if the accused is already six feet under, though the Met must be rubbing its hands together at the thought of being involved in allegations concerning someone in the entertainment firmament who isn’t on his deathbed or dead already. But it’s not as though what Weinstein has apparently gotten away with throughout his career as a leading producer has no precedence in his seedy neck of the woods.

The casting couch has been a permanent part of the furniture in the American movie business since the silents; Marilyn Monroe allegedly expressed that achieving stardom might hopefully mean that she wouldn’t have to suck anymore cocks. Fat, rich powerful men abusing and exploiting wide-eyed wannabe starlets fresh off the Greyhound Bus from Hicksville is a loathsome tradition woven into the foundations of the industry. Indeed, the only voices we aren’t hearing at the moment are those of the actresses who got where they are because they submitted to Weinstein’s advances.

Lest we forget, however, all we have so far are allegations and accusations, yet it’s testament to the times in which we live that Weinstein has been hung, drawn and quartered before any of this has reached a courtroom; mind you, it happened to Bill Cosby quick enough, so Weinstein knew what to expect when disowned by family, friends and the industry in record time. The fate awaiting Dirk Bogarde’s character in ‘Victim’ springs to mind; when his successful early 60s lawyer is threatened with the public exposure of his relationship with another man, he warns his wife that her intention to stand by him no matter what will result in utter social exclusion and the cold shoulders of friends and associates fearful of being tarred by the scandal.

Just as a virtual ‘conspiracy of silence’ appears to have enabled Weinstein to maintain his dubious lifestyle, the post-outing consensus has been set with remarkable speed. Fashion queen Donna Karan made the mistake of publicly contradicting the sudden about-turn and was forced to issue a hasty apology when swamped by a viciously hostile online reaction which only just stopped short of a mass bonfire of the designer gear Hollywood has clad itself in for decades. James Corden, a man whose comedic talents continue to elude anyone with a sense of humour, has also taken the Karan route of begging forgiveness to salvage his mystifying career following his ill-timed jokes on the subject. Saying nothing was the rule until a week or so ago; now if anything is said at all, it has to constitute absolute condemnation.

The difficulty for those not required to rush to judgement is that, having been subjected to multiple scandals of this nature over the past half-decade, every sensational addition to the roll-call of ‘hiding in plain sight’ villains inspires instant scepticism in some and utter conviction as to the guilt of the accused in others; we’ve had so many that it’s hard not to fall into a default mode. The pattern is so established now that being bombarded by the latest chapter in this thoroughly modern saga inevitably leads one to react in the same way as one reacted last time round.

As tends to be the case, initial accusations of impropriety swiftly move on to more serious allegations of rape, and one wonders how long it will take before Weinstein is accused of murdering one of the women he supposedly assaulted, let alone being a member of a Beverly Hills Satanic set indulging in ritual abuse and murder. Actually, Alex Jones is probably already bursting his lungs airing that theory on YouTube, thinking about it. The script is becoming as repetitive and predictable as the ones that make up most of the slurry the US film industry churns out these days; but it’s box-office dynamite, and that’s the currency of the movies. Hollywood, we have a franchise.

© The Editor


Even today, when the majority of mainstream sports have switched allegiances to the pay-per-view big bucks of subscription satellite broadcasters, Saturdays still constitute the one odds-on cert of the week when those who resent their licence fee being squandered on sport get rather hot under the collar. Step back in time three or four decades, however, and we have all sporting events spread across the two BBC channels and ITV. Even the sports that the Digger’s empire has held the live rights of for so long that it’s hard to imagine them being screened on mainstream telly now – the most obvious being cricket – had to be assimilated into rather crammed schedules alongside the non-sporting shows. Makes you wonder how they managed it within such a narrow window, but they did.

And let us not forget that every Saturday, spanning the almighty broadcasting chasm from lunchtime to teatime, both BBC1 and ITV handed over roughly five hours to non-stop sport. ‘Grandstand’ and ‘World of Sport’ had complete control of that time slot, as fixed and set in stone as the school broadcasts were on weekdays. If it was one of those drizzly, dreary afternoons that kept the bike locked in the shed, what alternative was there on the box? An afternoon institution by the name of Saturday Cinema on BBC2 – the sole alternative; if you didn’t like sport, you were provided with a glorious cinematic education.

There was a rigid rule in place up until around the middle of the 1980s that kept films with a shorter vintage than five years away from TV screens – ‘Cabaret’, for example (released: 1972), didn’t receive its British television premiere until 1978. The way that British TV dealt with this embargo was to give the kiss of life to the Golden Age of Hollywood. At a time when monochrome shows from the 60s were being junked because nobody in television believed the public, who had forked-out small fortunes for colour TV sets, would tolerate black & white broadcasts anymore, Saturday afternoons on BBC2 were a sanctuary for movies that spurned Technicolor in favour of a lush cinematography that manufactured a unique illusion of the real world in fifty shades of silver, one unlike anything on offer in the expensive disaster blockbusters at the local fleapit.

For those of us who hadn’t lived through the realities of the 30s and 40s, the interpretation of it that we garnered from Saturday Cinema was of fire escapes on the sides of buildings, hats on every head, Art Deco automobiles, raincoats, tuxedos, cigarette holders, Bourbon-on-the rocks, neon lights flashing through venetian blinds, shoeshine boys, speakeasy clubs with dancing-girls, black pianists and chanteuses in sequins, streetwise dames who gave as good as they got, and fast-talking, snarling guys who spoke in a slang that had the infectious rhythm of jazz, guys who’d shoot first and ask questions later.

The look was as startlingly distinctive as the dialogue, as was the music – stabbing strings that emphasised the intensity of the melodrama during the final scene; and someone always died in the final scene. These films opened with the credits and concluded with a simple ‘The End’; they rarely ran longer than ninety minutes; they lifted the young viewer out of the genuine horrors played out on TV news broadcasts and into a parallel past with comforting archetypes and clearly-defined boundaries that were easier to understand, not to mention far more seductive. The women were beautiful and the men were handsome because the cinematographers spent hours lighting the set before shooting actually began; this really was cinema as an art form, utterly separate from reality and re-imagining the world in a way that only the graphic novel is capable of doing in the 21st century.

The incredible on-screen presence of Cagney and Bogart or Crawford and Davis is a world away from the studied mumbling of contemporary movie icons. These were actors who had paid their dues on stage and always carried their voices to the back-row. They predated the Method, but the curious caricatures of real people they played seem just as authentic as the Method because they make perfect sense in the artificial construct of reality they inhabit – just as nobody in a comic book thinks it remotely odd that musclemen in tights engage in fisticuffs that leave their streets resembling war-zones. Who pays for the damage when the Incredible Hulk has a punch-up with the Thing? Who cares?

Children stumbled upon classic cinema in the 70s and 80s because there were no TV alternatives on a Saturday afternoon. Now there are, and it’d be interesting to see how many movie stars from the 30s or 40s any child today could name. Would they recognise Edward G Robinson or Barbara Stanwyck? Would they even recognise Laurel and Hardy? Some of these old stars were still alive when I was a child – and occasionally turned-up in a toupee on ‘Parkinson’; but a lot of them were long-dead. They were before my time, but of my time as well.

In a fragmented television landscape where anything other than talent contests, quiz shows, antique treasure hunts, house conversions and ‘maverick detectives’ hunting down serial killers have been reduced to niche interests and ghettoised via specialist channels, a child would have to seek out these movies now; I didn’t. A paucity of choice actually brought the viewer into contact with programmes only the converted would make the effort to track down today. I welcome the theoretical availability of choice in terms of channel numbers, but I’d like there to be a little more choice within the channels I can receive, not a schedule designed solely to give me more of what I’m already familiar with.

Hope has appeared, however, in the shape of a newcomer to the overcrowded digital TV landscape called Talking Pictures TV, which specializes in precisely this kind of celluloid entertainment; it’s already collected quite a cult following, which is encouraging. The world of ‘Double Indemnity’, ‘White Heat’, ‘The Roaring Twenties’ and ‘Mildred Pierce’ remains as entertaining an alternative to what’s outside the window as any the 20th century invented. And still a bloody good alternative to sport.

© The Editor


mooreThe regressive left must think all of its Christmases have come at once. How tedious it would have been had Britain voted to remain in the EU and Hillary Clinton had won the keys to the White House. There was precious little opportunity to raise a placard and embark upon a march when Martin Luther Mandela-Obama was President. Mr Charming could slaughter as many innocents as he liked with the odd drone, promise to close Guantanamo Bay without doing so, and bar citizens of certain Islamic nations from entering the US; but all of that could slip under the left’s radar because he was cool – a finger-snapping Jazz Dude President. Plenty of style on the surface and plenty of unpleasantness beneath it that goes with the office, whoever holds it; as long as the latter is carefully obscured by celebrity sheen, all is well with the world – though wasn’t that kind of superficial salesman-like take on politics the very thing we wanted an end to?

Twitterati who know no better (and plenty others who should) have been proclaiming the Apocalypse for the past seven days, having the time of their lives whilst doing so. Helium-inhaler Laurie Penny Dreadful blamed the resumption of her menstrual cycle on Trump’s inauguration; another woman claimed she was going to abort the baby she discovered she was carrying on the very same day because associations with the Donald would damn the child forevermore – though with a potential mother of that mentality, the unborn baby was at least spared a lifetime of being saddled with a new twist on the old Original Sin concept.

In case you missed it, Donald Trump isn’t merely a charmless, boorish bruiser who views his country as a failing business he intends to turn around and make a handsome profit from; no, he’s Hitler, Stalin, Genghis Khan, Lex Luthor, Ming the Merciless and Doctor Doom all rolled into one unappetising package – and he must be exterminated! Posing as those who care for their fellow-man, some openly advocate his assassination while a cowardly punch delivered by a masked thug to the head of an admittedly repugnant white supremacist on the streets of Washington is apparently something we are supposed to admire. Not for the weekend anarchist the Christopher Hitchens approach of destroying your enemies by destroying their argument, of course; that would require brains rather than brawn. Lest we forget, however, Black Panther H. Rap Brown once said ‘Violence is as American as cherry pie’, so I guess the current method of dealing with the problem makes sense.

‘We will repel bullies!’ cried actor David Harbour (who he?) at the Screen Actors Guild awards, the latest in the ongoing round of ceremonial self-indulgent back-slapping Hollywood vomit-fests leading up to the ultimate golden bucket of puke, the Oscars. ‘We will punch some people in the face!’ he screamed with characteristic humanity as the rest of his rant was submerged by a tsunami of rapturous applause. Peace ‘n’ love, eh? Violence is okay as long as it’s directed towards individuals the consensus has decreed worthy targets. Funnily enough, ISIS regards anyone who doesn’t subscribe to its nihilistic dogma in similar terms. There used to be a word for that, along with imposing views upon a populace and silencing dissenting voices. Oh, yeah – Fascism.

On this side of the pond, double-barrelled activists have been creaming their jeans at the prospect of a state visit by the Donald; it goes without saying there’s already a petition. Minor invites of the same nature to the leaders of Saudi Arabia or China don’t quite provoke the storm this one has, despite their abysmal human rights records surpassing America’s; and who was our PM cosying-up to after holding (little) hands with Trump? President Erdogan of Turkey, a man who has overseen a ruthless purge of anybody brave enough to question his regime; I haven’t heard many protests about that summit meeting from the usual suspects.

UKIP’s Raheem Kassam isn’t exactly the shy retiring type; his regular Twitter pronouncements appear to delight in provoking a vociferous response, yet his gleeful rejection of the perceived wisdom on Trump has inadvertently laid bare one important aspect of the regressive left’s attitude to multiculturalism. Yesterday he was accused of ‘betraying his culture’ by not frothing at the mouth over the news of Mr President’s ban on selected Islamic nationals entering the US; a lapsed Muslim, Kassam is a brown gentleman who refuses to submit to the nice little stereotype of a British Asian, and this upsets the multicultural model somewhat.

By spurning a Holy Book that, as with many, condemns the kind of personal practices the regressive left demands as a right, Raheem Kassam is a Bad Man rather than a mildly entertaining, attention-seeking contrarian. The left may imagine white guilt over our colonial history is eased by advertising its tolerance towards Islam whilst simultaneously overlooking hardline Islamic countries’ far-from tolerant suppression of women, gays and dissidents; but the toe-curling and patronising approach to Muslims who adhere to the victimised minority mindset, unable to defend themselves and therefore in need of kindly middle-class white Brits to come to their rescue and speak up on their behalf (their mastery of the English language is quite basic, you understand), is a head-patting exercise of a kind even our imperial forefathers would find appallingly condescending.

The marches and protests we’ve already been treated to, and will continue to be for the next few months, are the regressive left’s World Cup; they love ‘em, that’s why they’re so quick to take to the streets and chant as though they were in a stadium, announcing to a global TV audience that the referee likes playing with himself. It’s a wonder the whole spectacle isn’t presented live on BBC1 by Gary Lineker, ably assisted by Simon Schama and Lily Allen as pundits.

It’s time to get a grip and put things in perspective; and look at it this way – if Hillary had been elected, we’d have more U2 albums to endure. As it is, Saint Bono has threatened to release no new material until Trump is out of office. Here’s to two full terms, then. I say that not because I especially want it, but because the entertainment quota is virtually guaranteed from both camps on account of them being as unpleasant as each other.

© The Editor


trumpEver since Gettysburg, the Great American Speech has not only been the aim of every US politician seeking to define their time and enshrine their place in it; the moment talking pictures appeared, the movie industry realised few tactics served better as the denouement of a drama than the lead character pausing to passionately speak his mind to an assembled group of characters (and the audience) in a highly theatrical manner, as though he too was on a podium addressing the nation. This week has seen two examples of this enduring gesture – one coming from an outgoing President and the other coming from an ageing actress.

Like Barack Obama and his predecessors, Meryl Streep’s field of expertise is speaking lines written for her by somebody else. Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley sang lines written for them by somebody else; they were aware they didn’t possess the talent to write their own, so they focused on what they did best and didn’t lose any sleep over it. But professional actors are a different breed of entertainer and they often make the mistake of believing the adulation and awards that shower down on them for doing their job is somehow a reflection of them as individuals rather than the characters they’ve portrayed. When they sever the strings of the scriptwriter and, like Pinocchio, imagine they’re flesh-and-blood instead of wood, the illusion is shattered and the audience winces.

It doesn’t matter if it’s Charlton Heston cheerleading for the NRA, Clint Eastwood interviewing an invisible Obama, Michael Caine endorsing Cameron, Sean Penn intervening in the Falklands or the conveniently-distanced George Clooney lecturing Europe on its refugee crisis, the impact is the same. We belatedly (not to say disappointingly) realise they’re not who we thought they were when we watched them on the big screen. Tell an actor he’s wonderful and he’ll do anything for you – something those who benefit from a celebrity endorsement know all too well.

With last year’s PC Nuremberg Rally masquerading as the Oscars ceremony still sending a lingering shudder down the spine, 2017 hasn’t even got as far as the Academy Awards before the same narcissistic urges have claimed centre-stage again. The Golden Globes is the Song for Europe to the Oscars’ Eurovision, but the woman one US critic referred to as ‘America’s Judi Dench’ decided to pre-empt the biggest bash in cinema’s calendar by using the Golden Globes as her own personal platform, knowing full well she was playing to the adoring converted.

Actors will become increasingly dispensable in the next few years; the CGI ‘reanimations’ of Peter Cushing and Carrie Fisher in the latest ‘Star Wars’ movie are probably the shape of things to come, and as the technology advances more and more thespians will have to specify beforehand whether or not they consent to their image being resurrected in the event of their death. Therefore, Streep, as the reigning grande dame of Hollywood, grabbed the headlines with her own words in a way a CGI version of herself from twenty years hence would be incapable of; she never said the words ‘President-Elect’ or ‘Donald Trump’, but her target was implicit in the speech. She delivered it with the kind of faux-earnestness she’s called upon in a hundred movies – the final scene in which a solitary piano accompaniment gradually builds up into a rousing, swooping crescendo of soupy strings cynically engineered to provoke tears and applause. She may have had a salient point hidden behind the hammy window-dressing, but it was buried beneath a landslide of emotional apple pie.

As a man who has yet to come to terms with at least the pretence of dignity that is supposed to compliment his office, Donald Trump responded to Streep’s speech in the style of a petulant Twitter troll, oblivious to the fact he should be above all that by now. He’s no longer merely a reality TV star anymore, lest we forget. But Trump is at war with anyone who mocks or criticises him; he’s Richard Nixon taken to an online level, not simply dismissing his knockers with foul-mouthed vitriol behind closed doors, but engaging with them in unedifying internet fisticuffs in full view of the world.

He could have made Meryl Streep look even more foolishly self-indulgent had he just ignored her; but what he shares with Hollywood royalty is his inability to relent from imposing his opinions upon a populace he genuinely believes is enamoured with everything he says or does. In this respect, Trump and the red carpet A-listers should be natural allies, for their conceit and vanity is their dominant mutual personality trait.

As with the pyjama-clad slovenly shoppers captured on camera last weekend, who responded to being rightly shamed by crying racism, the majority of Trump’s most vociferous critics fall back on wearisome buzzwords that ironically mirror the similarly simplistic and crude playground taunts of the man himself. By contrast, Hollywood’s pampered starlets, labouring under the misapprehension that their public edicts carry the kind of weight ordinary Americans lack the intellectual capacity to articulate, clearly imagine that the audiences who pay good money to watch their overhyped brain-dead blockbusters will instinctively agree with their anti-Trump rhetoric just because they have achieved the wealth and privilege every US citizen is duped into believing they too can attain.

But perhaps there is one saving grace to emerge from this sad little war of words between America’s ultimate showbiz elite and a President-Elect who himself is more showbiz than political: George Clooney has hinted Hollywood will go ‘on strike’ until the President-Elect is booted out of office. Just think about it – no mainstream Tinsel Town popcorn slopping around the multiplex aircraft hangers like a celluloid slick for four years! Go for it, George!

Everyone is acting out their preordained parts because none of the participants are smart or shrewd enough to see that they’re doing so; their egos are too immense to discern anything beyond the shadows they cast to recognise the clichés. Like two competing B-movies at the local fleapit, the right-on left and the rabid right are back where they belong, engaged in a tired battle neither will concede and neither will win. They both deserve to drown in a perpetual golden shower.

© The Editor


yodaIt doesn’t quite carry the same dramatic weight as an evil intergalactic empire, but the forces of the Jedi have been vanquished…by the Charity Commission; that august institution may not be headed by a heavy-breathing psychopath in a black cowl and cape, but it has successfully rejected desperate appeals for Jediism to be registered as a religion. And this is despite 177,000 people listing that as their faith on the 2011 Census – more than listed Rastafarianism, which itself took decades to be accepted as a religion (something many still dispute).

There are many ways of looking at this demand on the part of ‘Star Wars’ devotees. It could be viewed as one more dispiriting example of ‘Kidult-hood’ and the clinging to the totems of childhood in a wilful reluctance to grow up rather than finally stashing the toy-box in the parental attic; it could be viewed as a characteristically quirky prank on the part of agnostic Brits refusing to take such a question seriously; or it could be viewed as evidence that even if orthodox religion has been rejected by vast swathes of the population, the need to look up to the stars for some form of salvation still exists; just as the mythology of Ancient Greece and Rome, the Norsemen, Christianity and Islam provided comfort in the past (and continues to in the present where the latter two are concerned), the craving for celestial beings to worship seems to be an instinctive human desire.

Prior to the release of ‘Star Wars’ in 1977, science fiction as a cinematic genre had, as with most others in that last Golden Age of Hollywood, a distinctly adult feel to it. Movies from the first half of the 70s with a futuristic or sci-fi slant, such as ‘Soylent Green’, ‘Rollerball’, ‘The Omega Man’, ‘Westworld’ and ‘Logan’s Run’, reflected the maturity of sci-fi that came in the wake of Stanley Kubrick’s 1968 film of ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’. Even George Lucas himself had followed the trend with his 1971 directorial debut, ‘THX 1138’, another in a long line of Ballard-esque Dystopian views of the future that bore little relation to Lucas’s wish to revive the ‘space opera’ serial of the 30s, ‘Flash Gordon’.

Lucas’s failure to acquire the rights to ‘Flash Gordon’ resulted in him developing his own equivalent over a three-year period, and when ‘Star Wars’ finally arrived at cinemas, the absence of competition in terms of big-budget adventure films for all the family enabled the movie to clean up at the box-office. In the mid-70s, it was only really the ‘disaster’ strain of cinema that pulled in the punters, with the likes of ‘Earthquake’, ‘The Towering Inferno’, ‘Jaws’ and the ‘Airport’ series; but the craze had run out of steam by 1977 and Lucas’s timing was perfect.

It’s undeniable to see now that the revolutionary blend of a simplistic B-picture plot with cutting-edge special effects created the formula that remains with us today where the ‘Blockbuster’ picture is concerned; the only real difference is that, almost forty years on, space Cowboys & Indians have been superseded by superheroes. The crucial distinction between ‘Star Wars’ and the franchises that have pursued the same path since 1977, however, is that almost from the very beginning there were some who took the lightweight fun very seriously indeed.

News footage of the queues outside the cinema when ‘Star Wars’ arrived in Britain at the end of 1977 shows a sizeable proportion of young men in their late teens and early twenties present as well as the expected children (who, like me, had received advanced warning of this event via promotion in American Marvel comics); the presence of over-18s suggested an audience that George Lucas hadn’t anticipated. I remember going to see the film as a ten-year-old in early 1978 and it defined that year for me as a childhood fad. The merchandise swamped the shops, from bubblegum cards, comics and stationary to the ridiculously expensive action figures, though I never owned any of the latter.

By 1979, I’d moved onto something else, as tended to happen with me then; I was actually becoming more interested in pop music and the 99p seven-inches assembled into their chart positions on the wall of my local Woolies. I did go to see ‘The Empire Strikes Back’ in 1980, an eleventh hour childhood moment on the cusp of adolescence, but by the time ‘The Return of the Jedi’ hit cinema screens three years later, not even Princess Leia’s slave girl outfit could tempt me back; my prepubescent fascination with the George Lucas universe has never been rekindled.

I realise my experience as a brief ‘Star Wars’ fan is not necessarily the common route many have taken once exposed to the saga. Imaginary worlds such as those created by Tolkien already had a dedicated adult following of largely male fanatics before ‘Star Wars’, but Lucas’s invention has spawned even greater fanaticism to the point whereby some use it as a design for life; attempting to elevate the cult of the Jedi, the movie series’ monastic Samurai-like warriors, to the level of an actual religion, is perhaps taking things a little too far. Although the man-made mythology of the Jedi is no more fantastical than that of actual bona-fide religions, one can’t help but wonder why the world needs another religion when the ones we’ve had for thousands of years have hardly left a legacy of peace and harmony.

The decision of the Charity Commission to turn down charitable status for the so-called Temple of the Jedi Order seems like a victory for common sense, though when one studies the myths and legends of the ‘legit’ faiths that have far more followers than the Temple of the Jedi Order can boast around the world, there’s not much to separate them. Until some bright spark invents genuine light sabres, the Jedi’s capacity for violence would at least be subdued in comparison to the competition; and Jedi Jihadists remain restricted to a galaxy far, far away, which can’t be bad.

© The Editor