1 9 6 4 (UK)
5 x 60 minute episodes
A group of television writers and directors were brought together in pairs to collaborate on a series of specially written drama productions for ATV’s Studio 64 series. The episodes aired fortnightly.
Airing at 9.35 pm on Sunday 19 January 1964, The Crunch postulated a situation where the newly created independent Eastern State of Makang (formerly a British Colony) threatened the safety of London.
As the play opened, London was being evacuated and in a quiet street of West London, the Makangese Ambassador (Maxwell Shaw) has secreted a nuclear weapon in the basement of their Embassy and was threatening to detonate it if his demands weren’t met.
Harry Andrews played the Prime Minister and Anthony Bushell the CO of the troops called out in this thriller by the author of the Quatermass series.
Prime Minister Goddard
Mr Ken (Makangese Ambassador)
Lt. Gen. Priest
Better Luck Next Time
Airing on 2 February 1964, Better Luck Next Time revolved around William Foster (Michael Bryant), an intense young man in the publishing business who was trying to shake himself free of the pressure and strains of the New York business world and of a wife who wanted him to stay in the rat-race and run even faster!
In a hotel room, Willliam met Jenny (Zohra Lampert), a shapely and sleepy-eyed girl who had come along as the “professional co-respondent” he needed to get a divorce. The pair propped themselves up in bed and chatted like two nervous strangers as they waited for a private detective to “discover” them together.
During that wait, the two began to fall in love – but things didn’t work out and William found himself once again in another hotel room with another hired co-respondent.
The Devil and John Brown
Set in Scotland in 1835, Andrew Keir was seen as an Ayrshire miner who was trapped below ground for 23 days in The Devil and John Brown which aired at 9.35 pm on Sunday 23 February.
Keir (once a Lanarkshire miner himself) gave a gripping performance as the man – trapped by a fall of rock – with the milestones of a bitter-sweet life passing before his eyes as he lay in the darkness waiting to be rescued.
Good use of flashbacks freed the plot from the picture of one man entombed.
It was acted and produced with competence, but too much of it called for exclamations of hoarse despair, and too much of it took place in the flickering light of a miner’s lamp to make this a really memorable play.
The Happy Moorings
Jocelyn Willow (Millicent Martin) hires the services of escort Oliver Strickland (Roy Kinnear) to obtain a divorce from her husband (Nigel Stock) in this offbeat comedy from Keith Waterhouse and Willis Hall.
But unwelcome surprises awaited her and her flustered escort when they motored up the river to spend the night at her husband’s riverside hotel where Jocelyn plotted to confront her husband with the evidence necessary for the divorce.
JG Devlin and Jack MacGowran contributed character sketches as two old eccentric retainers at the hotel.
Unfortunately, the complicated carry-ons at the Boatel were hard to follow – there were eight characters, interconnected by the wildest coincidences explained mainly in gabbled dialogue.
Walter Reynolds (Barman)
The Close Prisoner
Henry Hutchins (Bernard Cribbins) was told at the age of 14 that his chest and back were literally turning to steel. But nobody is really interested in his steel torso.
In the television studio where his life story is being told, the director (Michael Gwynn) and floor manager (Michael Coles) are only interested in artistic merit and commercial acceptability. Where the truth doesn’t quite fit, it has to be massaged a bit.
Henry’s parents (Dandy Nichols and Norman Bird) like it to be “nice”. “This is nicer,” they cry, ignoring Henry’s pleas as he chokes to death on the studio floor to watch a “hearts and flowers” version of his death bed scene, which has been specially pre-filmed.
Once Henry existed. Now he doesn’t. Between his birth and death is just a space – a series of episodes which people can adjust to suit their own point of view.
Sheila Steafel deserves mention as Henry’s wife, Ethel, for a bedroom scene in which she has few lines but speaks volumes with a mere change of expression. Bernard Cribbins was fitted into a special plaster cast at Elstree for the play.
Henry (aged 14)
Henry (aged 8)
William (Ted) Kotcheff