Day 290: Black And White Classics

And the ’60s BBC scandal that never happened…

October 17 main

After spending all of Wednesday in Middle-earth, I spent yesterday in the ’60s (and a little bit of the ’70s) reviewing Out Of The Unknown, the well-regarded, but largely forgotten BBC2 anthology series. There were four series but luckily/unluckily (delete according to whether you have to review the entire bleeding box-set) the BBC junked a load of episodes (the same as they did with Doctor Who) so I only had to watch about a quarter of the 49 episodes.

I won’t say too much here – you can read my SFX review in about a month – except to say that the first two series were proper, intellectual, challenging, hardcore sci-fi for much of the time, while the third was more difficult to judge (as it had the fewest surviving episodes) but seemed a little more Tales Of The Unexpected, while the final season was a complete change of gear into cheesy, and occasionally downright distasteful, supernatural horror. One episode concerned a rape victim who willingly gives herself up to the ghost of a rapist because her husband isn’t forceful enough with her – it made me squirm to watch it. It didn’t help that someone gave the episode the fnarr, fnarr title, “To Lay A Ghost”. Where was Mary Whitehouse when we needed her?

Just to balance that, two season earlier there was an adaptation of EM Forster’s “The Machine Stops” which is probably the finest piece of ’60s small screen science fiction I’ve ever seen.

The opening title sequence for the first three seasons is great too – that’s a screen grab from it in the main picture above. Well, not the shoes, obviously. Here’s another one for you:

out of the unknown opening titles

One other thing that amused me greatly was in the episode “Lamda 1” in which two men witness a Dali-inspired nightmare landscape that includes weird sculptures, some created from disembodied hands, like this:

hand sculpture

And in a later shot another hand seems to be giving us a familiar salute:

Hand sculpture rude

I really hope was a crafty in-joke, perpetrated by a cheeky set designer to see if he could sneak it past the moral guardians at the BBC. But it was probably just a coincidence…

See you tomorrow.

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