Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Capital Celluloid - Day 221: Thursday August 11

The Strange World of Gurney Slade (Newley, 1960): BFI Southbank, NFT1, 6.10pm

BFI introduction: 'Finally, 50 years after its original transmission, one of the great lost comedies of British television is to get a full DVD release.The Strange World of Gurney Slade was a groundbreaking surreal comedy that baffled the public but was almost universally praised by the critics of the time. One episode surfaced in the 1990s as part of C4's TV Heaven strand and a further episode screened at BFI Southbank a couple of years back as part of the Flipside's Anthony Newley special, but otherwise the series has remained unseen since its repeat run in 1963. After the TV Heaven screening Gurney Slade was described as a cross between Monty Python and The Prisoner, and it certainly did blend zany humour with the tale of an everyman railing against the insanities of everyday life, but of course it predated both series by some years.

In the show, Slade retreats from the real world into a fantasy land of his own making, in which we hear his inner monologue and find him conjuring up romantic encounters with pretty girls and holding deep conversations with inanimate objects. Contemporary audiences just didn't get the show, but it had a small, loyal following including the young David Bowie, who later went on record to call the show 'tremendous'. Newley's co-creators in the production were scriptwriters Sid Green and Dick Hills (later to work with Morecambe and Wise) and together they crafted a winning mix of Goon-ish flights of fantasy, thoughtful satire and Slade's weird, philosophical rambling. We will screen two episodes, supported by related material - not all of which will be available on the forthcoming DVD release.'

Here is the opening.

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