Tuesday, 13 November 2018

Christopher Sandford

Christopher Sandford:  

 The '60s were remarkable years, fizzing with possibilites, of sudden opportunities and lingering disappointments. Christopher Sandford's story is fascinating in the way it touches obliquely on some pivotal pop-culture moments. Without knowing it, I'd watched him in a number of my favourite films and television programmes, without a glimmer of recognition or connection.

'Coronation Street' Oct 1963, as would-be beat sensation Walter Potts   

Early roles as a teenager included a few TV shows, mostly now lost, and typical light comedies such as the inevitable cruise-ship romp 'Next To No Time' (1958) with Kenneth More and Sid James, and the equally inevitable schoolboy hi jinks of 'A French Mistress' (1960), with James Robertson Justice. But it was his role as Walter Potts, the gormless window cleaner of 'Coronation Street' that brought him to the public's attention. In 1963, as Beatlemania was gathering momentum, the primetime soap's storyline saw Walter transformed into "Brett Falcon" by would-be impresario Dennis Tanner. This neat TV-pop crossover even resulted in a flurry of real-life singles on Decca and Fontana. 
His solo album on Transatlantic from the mid-'60s. 

Demonstrating a radio tracking device to
Patrick McGoohan in 'Danger Man'  
He appears in several episodes of 'Danger Man', notably as a Arthur the departmental boffin and as a DJ/agent on a pirate radio station in 'Not So Jolly Roger'. He seems to have been ticking along nicely with the odd part in popular shows of the time, including 'Z-Cars', 'No Hiding Place', 'Public Eye' and 'The Saint'. He also appears in 'Half A Sixpence' (1967) as Tommy Steele's mate Sid, and the BBC adaptation of Dickens's 'Dombey & Son' from 1969.   

Flash bang wallop what a picture.  In 'Half A Sixpence' (1967)
with Tommy Steele (and the late great Julian Orchard). 
As Brett Sinclair's tuneless cousin Onslow, about to get electrocuted in a
'Kind Hearts & Coronets'-influenced episode of 'The Persuaders'    
The '70s presented a new landscape. Sandford's swinging London pop-persona was in demand, but looking increasingly outré in the new decade. He appears in full comedy-mode in 'The Persuaders' Ealing-esque episode 'A Death In The Family' as Roger Moore's groovy duffer of a cousin. On the darker side, he turns up as the brilliantly-named depraved pornographer David Thing  in "Cool It Carol' (1970) a rather grimy, if moralistic, sexploiter with Robin Askwith.        

Great character name. With a curious mix of guest stars in the
Robin Askwith sexploitation movie 'Cool It Carol' (1970)  
Darker still is his slightly chilly turn as Sue's fiancé in the marvellous 'Deep End' (1971), and another rather grim gooseberry role in the obscure Giallo-style 'Die Screaming Marianne' (1971).       

As the fiancé of Sue (Jane Asher) in 'Deep End' (1971)
'Die Screaming Marianne' (1971)
The remainder of the '70s saw relatively few highlights, and in fact there are only six entries on imdb covering the period from 1975 to 2006. He also returned to music with a couple of pastiche comedy records. A modest claim to fame comes from his appearance in the 'Dad's Army' episode 'Time On My Hands' as the German airman dangling from the Walmington-on-Sea town hall clock.  

A mixed bag, but some real gems, some fascinating oddball stuff and a fascinating story.   

Christopher Sandford-imdb

Wednesday, 7 November 2018

Leon Lissek

Actor Leon Lissek as a taxi driver in the 1968 'Avengers' episode 'The Forget-Me-Knot'

Leon Lissek: 

Although born in Australia, Leon Lissek has spent the majority of his long acting career in the UK where his mobile features and expressive eyes have made him a memorable face in a range of supporting roles. Which isn't to say that he is simply a master of the shrug, gape or head-shake, as a series of slightly more substantial acting successes makes clear.     

In the Hammer horror 'Countess Dracula' (1971)
A few major films have featured his talents, such as 'Nicholas & Alexandra' (1971) which featured a Tom Baker as Rasputin, and alongside Albert Finney's Poirot in 'Murder On The Orient Express' (1974, ), as well as 'Sweeney 2' (1978), 'Time Bandits' (1981), 'Personal Services' (1987), and 'The Unbearable Lightness Of Being' (1988). There's also an early role in the revered 'Marat/Sade' (1967). It's in television though, that he has really made the bigger impression.   

In the dock in a 'Crown Court' story from 1973 

With equal aplomb, Leon Lissek has met with television's casting demands for Jewish rabbis, businessmen and revolutionaries, Spanish priests and waiters, Arab sheikhs, French maitre d's, and various Greeks, Russians, Hungarians and Mexicans. You could have spotted him in police and adventure shows ranging from 'Softly Softly', 'Special Branch', 'Z-Cars' and 'Van Der Valk' to 'The Avengers', 'The Protectors', 'The Return Of The Saint' and 'The Professionals'.       

Continental shenanigans in 'Return Of The Saint'
He seems to have returned to Australia for a spell in the mid-'70s, to appear as a regular in 'The Sullivans', and several other Australian programmes. In the UK, lighter fare included low-brow comedies 'Not On Your Nellie' and 'Take A Letter Mr Jones', and kids TV 'Tottering Towers', 'Robert's Robots' and 'The Famous Five.' Better things were around the corner though, with his performance in the big-budget TV drama 'Shogun' as Father Sebastio.    

Waiting for the bathroom in an episode of
the BBC sitcom 'Ever Decreasing Circles'    
The '80s and '90s saw a sprinkling of quality drama - 'Our Friends In The North', 'The Final Cut', 'Cambridge Spies' - and occasional small roles in some popular productions such as 'Ever Decreasing Circles', 'A Fine Romance' and so on, culminating in a stint on 'EastEnders' with the legendary Stella Tanner, as Bruno and Luisa Di Marco, before the cast was dramatically pruned in late 1998.       

Playing Lavoisier in 'Marat/Sade' (1967)

Leon Lissek-imdb

Wednesday, 31 October 2018

Roy Evans

Actor Roy Evans in 'Vault Of Horror'

Roy Evans: 

With his hangdog demeanour and baleful gaze, we seem to often see Roy Evans in either roles of brooding menace or slight gormlessness. He's a minor Doctor Who favourite, having appeared in several stories: as the sinister razor-toothed Trantis from the long 1965 adventure 'The Dalek's Master Plan', and two Pertwee-era classics, 'The Green Death' and 'The Monster Of Peladon'.      

Roy Evans as Trantis in the 1965 'Dr Who'
story, 'The Daleks' Master Plan'
A skim through his film roles shows up a lot of incidental characters, the sort that appear in the credits as 'coachman', 'tall undertaker', 'sewerman', blind beggar', etc, but he's been in some interesting productions. He's in a lot of cult horror: 'The Fearless Vampire Killers' (1967), The Blood Beast Terror' (1968),'The House That Dripped Blood' (1971), and 'Dr Jeckyll & Sister Hyde' (1971). And in the cult favourite 'Psychomania' (1973), he's the unfortunate motorist who first encounters Nicky Henson's resurrected ton-up zombie as he roars out of his stone-circle grave. On the lighter side, he shows up in  'Oliver!' (1968) - he plays one of the workhouse inmates chasing Oliver around the dining hall after he asks for more - and he's in the Albert Finney 'Scrooge' (1970), and interesting bigger budget fare like the space western 'Moon Two Zero' (1969), 'Jabberwocky' (1977), 'The Elephant Man' (1980) and 'The Company Of Wolves' (1984).     

In 'Dr Who: The Green Death'  
Television work has included semi-classic stuff ranging from 'Doctor Who', 'Minder', 'The Protectors', 'Return Of The Saint', 'Budgie', 'Adam Adamant Lives!', 'The Changes', 'Cribb', 'Blakes 7' and David Bowie's 'Baal', to better kids' programmes such as 'Dramarama', 'Worzel Gummidge' and er, 'Here Come The Double Deckers'. Comedy appearances include: 'The Black Adder', 'Murder Most Horrid', 'Only Fools And Horses', as well as popular dramas such as 'Porterhouse Blue', 'Poldark', 'Secret Army', 'Campion' and the 1977 TV adaptation of 'Treasure Island'.     
Spooked by undead motorbike noises in 'Psychomania' (1973) 
All round, an interesting CV. He seems to be retired since the early 2000s, but there's a good chance of spotting him in something from that long back catalogue.   

Roy Evans-imdb

Saturday, 29 September 2018

Richard Ridings

Richard Ridings:

The recent death of Liz Fraser led me to revisit a few of her later roles, one of which was her gleeful portrayal of Doris Entwhistle in 'Fairly Secret Army'. She charms as the cheerfully racist other half of Sergeant Major Throttle (the marvellous Michael Robbins) in David Nobbs' prescient '80s satire of the politely seething fascism of the little Englander. Geoffrey Palmer enlarges on his ex-army suburban agitator character from 'Reggie Perrin', railing against: "Communists, Maoists, Trotskyists, neo-Trotskyists, crypto-Trotskyists, 
union leaders, Communist union leaders, atheists, agnostics, long-haired weirdos, short-haired weirdos, vandals, hooligans, football supporters, namby-pamby probation officers, rapists, papists, papist rapists, foreign surgeons, headshrinkers – who ought to be locked up, Wedgwood Benn, keg bitter, punk rockers, glue-sniffers, 'Play For Today', squatters, ...etc". Anyway, also spotted in the great cast was a suited and booted Ray Winstone with thug in-tow: Ron Boat, played by Richard Ridings.

In 'Fairly Secret Army' with the great Geoffrey Palmer.
(Note our old friend John Owens in the background)   
He was in the role of the sine qua non '80s yobbo, slack gumby jawed, comically quizzical, bulky in stature and light on wits. His face was immediately familiar from a host of similar small parts in shows including the Comic Strip episode 'The Yob', and a mixture of hardcases and tough coppers in 'Boon', 'Minder', 'The Bill', and 'Heartbeat' and as Mad Mick in 'The Ritz'.

As the not-so-dumb Warren in the '90s reboot of 'Minder'
As time progressed, there followed a new vein of casting and some interesting roles: he's in the unlikely comedy vehicle for the not-very-comical Edward Woodward, 'Common As Muck', but also in the fabulously star-studded 1997 BBC adaptation of 'The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling' as Reverend Thwackum, which must have led in part to his recent memorable role as the Beadle in 2016's underrated gaslight noir novelty 'Dickensian'.

In 'Dickensian', as the devoted and frustrated Beadle, seen here with 
his ambitious and manipulative wife played by Caroline Quentin 
         His feature-film career contains appearances in a few big productions: Polanski's 'The Pianist' (2002), 'The Fourth Protocol' (1987), 'Who Framed Roger Rabbit?' (1988), 'Erik The Viking' (1989) Fierce Creatures' (1997), and he plays Buck in 'Rise Of The Planet Of the Apes' (2011).
As Henry VIII in 'Six Wives with Lucy Worsley'.
Alice Patten plays Catherine Parr. 
His voice features in a lot of video game soundtracks, usually of the battle axe and dragon variety, but he's also done a fair bit of kids' TV, such as providing the voice of Daddy Pig in the ever-popular 'Peppa Pig'. 

Richard Ridings-imdb 

Saturday, 15 September 2018

Robin Parkinson

Actor Robin Parkinson in the BBC show 'Whatever Happened To The Likely Lads?'

Robin Parkinson: 

One of the great skills of the character actor is to invest a peripheral role with enough personality to convince as a real individual in a real situation, without interfering with the main action. In British film and television there exists the recurring figure of the dignified but inconsequential little Englander, a small man who may display any blend of timidity, doggedness, thwarted genius, cheerful dullness, determined helpfulness and ennui. Robin Parkinson is something of a master of these roles.

Desmond pledges to help Miss Jones (Frances De La Tour) with her
drink problem, after a 'word-to-the wise' from a jealous Mr Rigsby
It was recalling his appearance as Desmond, the ardent and poetic librarian suitor of Miss Jones in 'Rising Damp' that got me researching Robin Parkinson, whose name I could not have told you before, and which uncovered a long CV of interesting work stretching back to the '50s.        

In the odd espionage caper 'Catch Me A Spy' (1971) 
On the big screen, you might have spotted him as the jeweller in the ring fiasco of 'Billy Liar' (1963), or in 'The Family Way' (1966), the Clements/La Frenais spy spoof 'Catch Me A Spy (1971), 'Alfie Darling' (1975), or in the movie spin-off of 'George & Mildred' (1980), but it's probably unlikely.

Assisting Terry (James Bolam) with his suit for Bob's wedding
in 'Whatever Happened To The Likely Lads?'
It's almost certain, though, that you've seen him in television comedy. Apart from the aforementioned 'Rising Damp', he has been in a panoply of vintage sitcoms, ranging from 'Whatever Happened To The Likely Lads?', 'Dad's Army', 'Shelley', 'Moody & Pegg' and 'The Young Ones', to 'The Liver Birds', 'Love Thy Neighbour', 'The Brittas Empire', 'Bless This House', 'It Ain't Half Hot Mum', 'Beryl's Lot' and 'Terry & June'. There are lots more, including taking over the role of Monsieur (It is I...) Le Clerc in the later series of 'Allo Allo', although this was after it had gone from feeble to desperate.

As a chatty cabbie in 'The Professionals'

He also turns up in a lot of sketch comedy and light entertainment. You'll see him in the shows of the Two Ronnies, Dick Emery, Kenny Everett, Kelly Monteith, Harry Worth, and Peter Serafinovicz. Light dramas, middle-brow classics, cop shows and cosy crime favourites are also his stock in trade. See for instance, 'Clochemerle', 'The Pickwick Papers', 'The Good Companions', Whodunnit', 'All Creatures Great & Small', 'Van Der Valk', 'Softly Softly', 'The Professionals', 'Rosemary & Thyme', to name but a few.

Presenting the face of respectability to be subjected to the cynical
mordant wit of 'Shelley', as played by the late Hywel Bennet  
Then there's children's television, with 'Danger: Marmalade at Work', 'The Tommorow People', and a long-running stint as the soothingly-voiced narrator of the spoon-puppet show for tinies, 'Button Moon'.

Robin Parkinson narrated all the episodes of 'Button Moon'

The 'little man with spectacles' is, or at least was, a mainstay of British entertainment culture, and Robin Parkinson is a maestro at portraying the many nuances of the type. He's also the man forever perplexed by a bunged-up Peter Cleal in the timeless and iconic Tunes commercial

Robin Parkinson-imdb

Friday, 30 March 2018

Sharon Duce

Actress Sharon Duce in an episode of the long running ITV drama 'Crown Court'

Sharon Duce: 

An acclaimed stage actress, but best known to TV audiences for a string of roles in series through the 1980s including 'Big Deal', 'The Hard Word', 'Funny Man' and 'Coming Home' starred with Duggie Brown in both 'The Hard Word' in 1983 and Shelagh Delaney's  'The House That Jack Built'. Earlier work saw her establishing a precedent of attractive, but serious young women characters - a doubtless uphill struggle in the aftermath of the dolly-bird era. She played a WPC in 'Z Cars', and was Terry's old flame in the memorable 'Minder' episode where he thinks he has a long-lost son.     

As Lu in Shelagh Delaney's 1977 drama series 'The House That Jack Built'

As Jan Oliver in 'Big Deal' 
The 1990s and 2000s saw her appear in the most popular primetime fodder of the day: 'Peak Practice', 'Boon', 'Holby City' etc, and crime dramas such as 'Dalziel & Pascoe' and  'Wycliffe'.   

Enjoying Christmas with the 'Royle Family' in 2000. 

More recently there have been forays into the world of soaps, with featured roles in 'Coronation Street' and 'Emmerdale', and of course the ever-present 'Midsomer Murders' and the likes of 'Casualty', 'London's Burning', 'The Bill' and 'Doctors'.     

As the self-reliant Hermione Hepworth in 'In Loving Memory'
Television comedy has included 'In Loving Memory', 'Singles' and the much loved 'Royle Family At Christmas', while sporadic feature film appearances were in 'Outland' (1981), 'Funny Man' (1981), 'Rogue Trader' (1999) and Conviction' (2004).  
Sharon Duce - imdb

Friday, 1 December 2017

Matthew Scurfield

Actor Matthew Scurfield plays a detective in 'Tales From The Crypt' episode 'The Kidnapper'

Matthew Scurfield: 

Distinctive beaky character actor who crops up in a lot of popular TV from the '70s onward... That's how I would usually kick off one of these little salutes to a character actor, peppering the entry with references to popular cultural touchstones, perhaps TV favourites such as 'The Sweeney', 'Pie In The Sky' or 'The Bill', or marginal roles in popular movies like '1984' (1984), 'Raiders Of The Lost Ark' (1981).  

I get the feeling, though, that Matthew Scurfield has some more interesting stuff going on. 

Playing a KGB agent in the Michael Caine and Lawrence Olivier
spy thriller, 'The Jigsaw Man' (1983)

He certainly has popped up in a bunch of that stuff, but the more I find out about him, the more interesting he seems. I could list a lot of middling '70s-'90s sitcoms and prime-time dramas from 'C.A.T.S. Eyes', 'Wycliffe'  and 'Boon' to 'Ripping Yarns', 'The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy' and 'Educating Marmalade'. Like some other British character actors, he was also rounded up for 'Game Of Thrones'. 
Brought up in an academic household but encumbered with undiagnosed dyslexia, he has tracked back and forth across high, mid and low-brow culture, from hanging out with Syd Barrett and Steven Berkoff to appearing in 'The Bill' and 'Coronation Street'. 

Waving at West London from a Lincoln Continental with
Pete Townshend in the art school project 'Lone Ranger' (1968)
Perhaps a better idea of the man comes from his pre-professional outing in the art school project 'Lone Ranger' (1968) - Storm Thorgerson and Alfreda Benge were also involved - a slightly rambling affair as you might imagine, but worth having a look at [you can see it here].           

Roughing up Ford Prefect (David Dixon) and Arthur Dent (Simon Jones)
in the BBC TV version of 'The Hitch Hikers Guide To The Galaxy' 

Giving Arthur some grief in the rebooted 'Minder' 

Still acting, but these days he is principally a counsellor based in Malta. His autobiography 'I Could Be Anyone' looks to be well worth investigating.          

Matthew Scurfield-imdb