“Blue is beautiful, blue is best,” may well be Nick Clegg’s morning mantra these days, but back in 1972 it was the haunting call which alerted Dougal to the fact that something was wrong in Dougal and the Blue Cat
(Second Sight Films), the film spin-off from BBC TV series, The Magic Roundabout.
For those unfamiliar with the world crafted by Eric Thompson, the one belonging to Dougal, Zebedee, Florence, Dylan and others, it was a mainstay of British teatime TV from the mid 1960s until 1977, it took place in a magic garden where strange things happened regularly, not least of which was the fact that Dougal was a large, yellow, dog.
Adapted from the original French scripts, Thompson’s eccentric and heartwarming tales went widescreen with this oddity, which sees a strange force take over an abandoned factory in the garden, only for a new character, Buxton the blue cat, to arrive on the scene.
Convinced that Buxton is trouble, and already suspicious of the voice emanating from the factory which insists blue is best, it’s not long before Dougal and his pals are of on a new adventure to stop evil from infiltrating their quiet home.
Retaining the slightly spaced-out feel from TV, Thompson added a dash of menace to proceedings, Fenella Fielding drafted in as the voice which taunts Buxton into doing his worst. As a result, the film may look like it’s for kids, but there’s more than enough for adults to savour, Thompson skilfully giving each character a life of their own and ensuring the film works as a standalone adventure.
Extras include the original French language version of the film plus recollections from Thompson’s wife and daughter, actors Phylidia Law and Emma Thompson, as they remember the work Eric put into his adaptations.
Far away from the fantasy world of the Magic Roundabout, but still retaining a touch of surrealism, is David Hayman’s Silent Scream (BFI).
This 1990 film stars Iain Glen as notorious Scottish criminal, Larry Winters, sent to Glasgow’s Barlinnie prison in 1963 for the murder of a Soho barman. Moving back and forth through Winters’ life, we see him growing up in Glasgow and forging his career in the parachute regiment, violence and crime always in present.
Rather than shoot a traditional biography or crime thriller, the Hayman lets us see into the confused mind of Winters through a series of animated sequences and near-hallucinatory moments.
The prison’s Special Unit, which gives prisoners the opportunity to express themselves through art and music, is the catalyst for these sequences, Winters’ tortured mind struggling to maintain its composure.
Glen is impressive here, Hayman obtaining a layered performance which is never less than intense. Dubbed the new Al Pacino following the film’s release, Glen is pitch perfect as the tormented Winters, ensuring this is never an easy watch.
Sadly there’s no director’s commentary here to allow Hayman to give his view on the film, but the finished piece has thankfully lost none of its power in the 20 years since its release.