Tag Archives: Nocturne

The Endeavour Archives: NOCTURNE also previewing ARCADIA

THE ENDEAVOUR ARCHIVES #7

Russell Lewis

An exclusive interview

by Damian Michael Barcroft

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With thanks to Hilary Bray

Camille Pleyel

and Wynnie Stoan

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SO, last week I was telling you about the eleventh day of shooting and the first on location in Oxford for Series 3 – Film 1: RIDE. You’ll forgive me if I didn’t go into too much detail for fear of spoilers but I hope to rectify that now the episode has been broadcast.

Radcliffe Square was the first of the day’s three location shoots. Rehearsals and sound checks etc. were all well underway by the time I got there at 08:22. Remarkably, considering the scene only lasts just over two minutes in the final cut that you will have seen last Sunday, it took until 10:43 to get the required footage. But then, despite the promise of spring (12 April 2015), it was bloody cold and windy – so much so that they had to stop filming because Shaun’s eyes were watering. Indeed, I don’t think I ever expected to see Endeavour Morse jogging on the spot outside the Bodleian to keep warm.

However, in addition to the weather, cast and crew had to contend with various obstacles including unruly cyclists and a particularly angry delivery man – all determined on making a cameo appearance. It is testament to the good natured family atmosphere enjoyed by both cast and crew that they all remained so humorous and patient – although, since I’m posting this on a Sunday, I won’t reveal what Roger said when confronted by a group of snap-happy tourists hell-bent on a selfie or two.

Needless to say, a lot of cheese and pickle sandwiches were eaten that morning. Anyway, more of this later. I’ve also included a full transcript of the scene in question at the end of the following interview as there is a particularly lovely moment between Endeavour and Thursday which was sadly cut from the final edit. For now though, here’s the second part of an exclusive interview as we continue to explore series two while offering the odd glimpse of tonight’s film…

1052Part II:

NOCTURNE

DAMIAN: As with FUGUE (S1:02), the second film of series two also happens to be a horror/thriller story. Will tonight’s film ARCADIA continue the trend for series three?

RUSS:  The short answer is no.  There was a request to shake the Selection Box a little this time out — so that we didn’t get too predictable.  There is an ‘ENDEAVOUR does… (insert genre here)’ film amongst the four, but we have swapped the order around a little.

1100DAMIAN: We talked about your love of horror in one of our interviews last year and there are so many references again in NOCTURNE but would it be fair to say that THE INNOCENTS (1961), the work of M. R. James’ and the seventies GHOST STORIES FOR CHRISTMAS were particular inspirations for the mood and tone of this film?

RUSS:  All of those things.  PICNIC AT HANGING ROCK came up a bit too — in my discussions with the Director, such as they were.

1056DAMIAN: While we were doing our interview prior to the broadcast of NOCTURNE, you mentioned that the actual backstory regarding the Victorian murders sprang from a loose personal connection with the murder of Francis Saville Kent and an affectionate tribute to Dan McCulloch (producer of series one), could you elaborate on this please?

RUSS:  In the late 70s, I worked on a BBC dramatisation of the Constance Kent case which was shot in the West Country – as near as damn it to the original locations.  If I remember right – the cast had an anniversary supper – on the evening of the murder.

I suppose we were down there two to three months — across the summer.  Staying in various hotels.  One in the Quantocks had a touch of Fawlty Towers about it.  Not in the service – but in the 70s atmos.  Public telephone in the hallway – with a ‘hood’ for privacy!  This was an England where a glass of orange juice was often offered as a ‘Starter’.

Fawlty Towers’ ‘The Wedding Party’ with the flirty French guest who goes out in an evening to sample the delights of Torquay..?  Mad, but there’s something about the still, summer-night blackness beyond the entrance that absolutely nails what this hotel was like.

One of the locations we used was a house owned by a Headmaster at some school or other — I can’t remember where exactly — and, though a much smaller building, that had a feel of Shrive Hill House.  While the crew were filming outside, I had an explore of the servants’ quarters and attic.  It stuck in my head, and provided the jumping off point for Endeavour exploring the upper floors of Blythe Mount.

The tribute to Dan…    Well, he’s a Home Counties boy — and Dorking has some very pertinent personal associations for him.  It was a tease — the notion that he might end his days a hopeless rummy in a rooming house there.  In truth, I can think of no future for him that would be less likely.

1054DAMIAN: Morse tells us that “this place [Shrive Hill House/Blythe Mount School for Girls] is like a honeycomb; backstairs and concealed corridors…” which instantly reminded me of Poe, particularly the Corman film version of The Fall of the House of Usher (1960). While there’s an abundance of gothic elements and nods to the genre (note the Hammer Horror double-bill that gives Strange “the proper willies”) in some of your scripts, I thought that NOCTURNE, unlike FUGUE, was similar to The Hound of the Baskervilles in that it takes a detective famous for their logic and deductive reasoning and places them in an apparently supernatural setting which almost stretches the conventions of Morse to bursting point. While I, and I’m sure other “connoisseurs of the macabre”, loved every moment, were there any concerns that the audience might find it a little too Scooby-Doo?

RUSS:  I suppose it may have been a stretch for some, but I hoped we’d built up enough trust with the audience over the preceding films that they’d go with us.  Probably just me trying to have my penny and my bun.  But – for all the ghostly bells and whistles — we did try to play fair by the rules of the whodunit.

It’s interesting that you reference The Fall of the House of Usher.  Though Blythe Mount didn’t crumble into the tarn, in the original, early drafts of NOCTURNE, the school went up a raging blaze – Endeavour hunting for Bunty and the killer through the smoke and flames; an ending like so many Hammer Horrors – but, the director wasn’t keen.  So…

1055DAMIAN: Who is your favourite screen Sherlock Holmes by the way?

RUSS:  Oh – that’s hard.  Benedict Cumberbatch is doing great work, of course.  A Sherlock for the 21st century.  Modern and thrilling.

Perhaps it’s like the Doctor – every generation has its own Sherlock.  For someone of my years… Jeremy Brett is hard to trump.  One of Paget’s illustrations sprung to life.  I did see him and Edward Hardwicke do The Secret of Sherlock Holmes on stage, which was rather wonderful. But I remember when the first of the series went to air – JB’s brilliance notwithstanding, it was David Burke’s Watson that was the real great leap forward.  They redefined the relationship – after decades of a kind of ‘received’ performance from the what-what-what? school of Watson, David Burke restored his dignity.

Basil Rathbone was the Sherlock I grew up with as a kid, with the movies on re-run, so I’ve a great fondness for his portrayal.  That would have been the first Sherlock that properly registered with me.  Peter Cushing was terrific.

Blasphemous, perhaps, so say it softly, but I thought Robert Downey Jnr & Jude Law made a pretty decent fist of it in the two Guy Richie movies.  Jared Harris was a corking Moriarty.  And Eddie Marsan’s Lestrade…  On screen for all too brief a time, but not a second of it wasted.  But then Eddie Marsan’s work always has such integrity.  I don’t think he’s ever played a false moment.  You know – like Edmund Reid, or Fred Abberline – one didn’t become a Detective Inspector in Late Victorian London by being dull-witted.  I think you really feel that with Eddie Marsan’s portrayal.  That he could handle himself – intellectually and physically.

Nicol Williamson was interesting in The Seven Per Cent Solution, but a bit of a stressful watch. Hard to take your eyes off Alan Arkin’s Sigmund Freud, though.  Hard to take your eyes off Alan Arkin in anything.  Weirdly enough – it was Arkin’s turn in ‘Wait Until Dark’ I had in mind for the photographer in TROVE.  That sort of Paul Simon ‘do’?  A sort of… French Crop, is it?  But, sadly – the look fell by the wayside.

However…  ‘favourite’ Holmes…  I have a very special place in my heart for Christopher Plummer’s turn in Murder By Decree.  James Mason also gives a hugely entertaining old school Watson.  ‘You squashed my pea!’

Of course, like From Hell — it shadows the late Stephen Knight’s now much discredited hypothesis.  But the yarn spun, and the supporting cast…  Frank Finlay’s Lestrade; Donald Sutherland’s Robert Lees; Sir Anthony Quayle, Sir John Gielgud, and a cracking turn by David Hemmings…  together with a suitably creepy score and cracking production values, makes for an altogether irresistible two hours.   Great opening model shot of London skyline too.  If you haven’t seen it…  Great fun!

But he’s crime fiction’s answer to Hamlet, isn’t he?  It’s quite possible that the greatest Holmes may not have been born yet.

DAMIAN: I loved the moment when the author of “Plighted Cunning: An account of the Blaise-Hamilton murders”, Stephen Fitzowen (splendid Desmond Barrit), bangs on the door of the school and says in a very Lionel Grisbane sort of way, “Good Evening” which I almost expected him to follow with “I have returned…”. Was there a particular model for the character or an actor in mind to play him as you wrote the part?

RUSS:  Yeh – Desmond was great.  I think the stage direction in the shooting script featured an exterior establishing shot – which was Fitzowen getting out of a taxi, and framed in a halo of light from a lamp by the door – portable recording equipment in hand, standing in for Max Von Sydow’s suitcase.  But in the end – for scheduling reasons — this was never shot.

That whole sequence was intended to take place on a dark and stormy night.  Thunder. Lightning.  If you’re going to embrace the tropes..?  All or nothing at all.  But, despite my best efforts, I couldn’t convince the director to get behind it.  C’est la guerre.

1030The character was a nod to Dashiell Hammett’s The Dain Curse – which featured a writer Owen Fitzstephan right at the heart of proceedings.   There was an adaptation of this in the 70s with James Coburn as ‘Ham Nash’, the Gumshoe; and everyone’s favourite troubled Jesuit — Jason Miller — as Fitzstephan (which was another happy connection.)

My memory is a dented and wonky sieve, but I think Fitzowen was originally several characters; including a trio of academics with an interest in parapsychology.  I don’t think I went as far as naming them Venkman, Spengler & Stanz, but that’s certainly what I was drawing on.  Just a bit of fun.  Seeing how they played out as dramatic characters, rather than comedic ones.  Sadly – due to space and budget – they ended up biting the bullet, and some of their material was grafted on to Fitzowen.

1036But he was a type, more than anything…  A touch of Ronnie Barker’s ‘Magnificent Evans’ in there.  Maybe even a bit of Ed Reardon.  Some of that… Neil Oliver is it?  The TV historian?  Some of that Celtic ‘WhooOOOOoo!’ in the delivery.  A chap, one suspects, who could invest even the most commonplace occurrence with a suggestion of the fey folk at work or the Gods at dice.  I’d love to hear him order breakfast.

It was a bit of a pig for poor old Des – especially the magic lantern show, which featured hideous amounts of unadulterated plot-spiel.  Lines like that are very difficult to get down – as there’s nothing to play off.  No cues.  But he did it wonderfully.

103310341035DAMIAN: Once again, this film features a plethora of cultural references including, in addition to those already mentioned, Lewis Carroll, Ian Fleming, Philip Larkin, Charles Perrault, P. G. Wodehouse and John Wyndham to name but a few. At what point do these occur to you, is it through the research and writing stage or do they forever reside within your consciousness rather like Simonides’ method of loci?

RUSS:  Mostly just flotsam and jetsam swilling around the cloaca maxima that serves for a mind.

DAMIAN: And is Plighted Cunning simply a reference to King Lear and, if so, was this used because of the story, like NOCTURNE, concerns themes of betrayal and justice regarding a father’s fortune?

RUSS:  I think – because I was drawing on the Murder at Rode (Road) Hill House – that I was trying to find a title that had an echo of Cruelly Murdered by Bernard Taylor.   That and Yseult Bridges’ The Saint With Red Hands – were our two main guidebooks to the case.  I think I was just trying to come up with a title that a rather florid character such as Fitzowen might have used, and it seemed to chime.  The Queens of the Golden Age plundered Shakespeare, so it felt right and fitting to follow their example.  One of those three in the morning decisions that’s hard to accurately recall after such a passage of time.

DAMIAN: I know you’re fond of walking, to what extent have your adventures manifested themselves into your scripts such as the Domesday Book (TROVE) and Holmwood Park Sanitorium (NOCTURNE) for example?

RUSS:  Quite a bit, I suppose.  You do see some odd things.  Long abandoned vehicles in unlikely places.   The caravans in NEVERLAND came from one I’d seen in a state of advanced disintegration.  It was on a regular route – and, over a couple of years, I just watched this thing gradually disappear.  Actually, when I first saw it, the caravan looked rather like the mobile home at the start of THEM!  Torn open.  Thankfully no fifteen foot ants came whiffling out of the tulgey wood.  But yes – I’m a sucker for the atmosphere of such places.

Holmwood Park first put in an appearance in LEWIS – Falling Darkness – and it seemed fun to fold it back into ENDEAVOUR in some way.  I think I read somewhere, or someone told me, about a place like Holmwood Park, not too far from Oxford, where undergrads that had burnt-out sometimes ended up.  A kind of proto-Priory.  Quite a lot of derelict medical facilities out there.  Nature reclaiming buildings.  Creeping decay.  Ruin.  Damp.  Fungi.  And there’s definitely a sense of frozen in aspic about some of them.  Time stopped.  Some of the larger sites – the staff social areas – clubs and canteens.  Press your nose up against the window and you can see cabinets still filled with old Darts trophies – shields and cups.  Round Robin Tennis fixtures – decades out of date.  Fantastic.

DAMIAN: There are close-ups of “Plighted Cunning” in NOCTURNE and we regularly see various shots of articles and clippings from The Oxford Mail. Given their detail and relevance to the plots, who actually writes these?

RUSS:  Sam Costin creates the text for these – and he’s an absolute genius at it.

10421041DAMIAN: Where are all the props such as Plighted Cunning and the autographed Rosalind Calloway LP (from FIRST BUS TO WOODSTOCK) stored?

RUSS:  In various prop-houses and storage facilities.

DAMIAN: How was Chopin’s Nocturne chosen?

RUSS:  It’s a favourite.  They’re all terrific, but something about the one we went with seemed to my ear even more eerie than its fellows.  And I thought if we could put that on a musical box…

DAMIAN: We talked about film noir last week so I was intrigued to discover there is actually a 1946 George Raft movie in that genre called Nocturne! – were you aware of this or is it just a coincidence?

RUSS:  It is just a coincidence.

DAMIAN: There are some lovely moments between Morse and Joan Thursday (Sara Vickers) and there has been an obvious attraction and chemistry between the two since the first series. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to see them destined for a bit of slap and tickle or perhaps I should say a bit of how’s your father?

RUSS:   It’s an interesting relationship.  And the chemistry is rather lovely to watch.  I do know exactly how it’s going to evolve, but more than that…  I can’t say.

1049DAMIAN: Another scene which I adore was between Morse and Max after the young girl Maud Ashenden is murdered. Max says to Morse, “Adults, one takes the rough with the smooth. But this… you find this piece of work, Morse. You find whoever did that. For me, all right? You find them…”. An absolutely beautiful moment in which Morse expresses sympathy but also genuine surprise at Max’s unusual lamentation for a corpse. Was this purely because it was a child’s death or were there possibly hints that there might be other reasons that it resonated with Max to such an extent?

RUSS:  I thought it would be nice to see another side of Max.  The typically sanguine and unflappable pathologist undone by the brutal ruin wrought upon poor Maudie.  And Jimmy Bradshaw played it – as always — to perfection.  I don’t have a lot of room to cast as much light as I’d like to upon those most intimately involved with Endeavour – mainly for reasons of time, and the demands of unspooling the plot, but I hope I can give some clues here and there as to what makes them tick.  Nice for the actors to have something to play, rather than simply offering ‘just the facts, ma’am.’

1046aDAMIAN: In the absence of you actually telling us anything about tonight’s film ARCADIA, can you please say something clever and cryptic instead?

RUSS:   Well, we’ve done the Manufactory; the Department Store; and so this is – to some small degree – our ‘Ladybird Book of the Supermarket.’ A key player from Morse’s later adventures puts in an appearance.  And we touch on Endeavour’s childhood connection to Quakerism.  One door opens…

ARCADIA~~~

101. EXT. OXFORD LOCATION PARK BENCH [Radcliffe Square] – DAY 5

ENDEAVOUR and THURSDAY.

ENDEAVOUR: Didn’t you say that was Harry Rose’s business?

THURSDAY: Slots? In part. Harry Rose has been at it since the Devil was in short trousers. Oh — and it’s definitely Bixby by the way. Dr.deBryn was able to match his prints to a number of latents taken from the house. (digs out sandwiches) Right.

ENDEAVOUR: You’ve seen them? Cheese and pickle. The Belboroughs?

THURSDAY: All bar the tennis player. She stayed at the Randolph. The rest haven’t got a decent alibi between them for Bixby. Though your mate Anthony Donn says he was with Belborough the night Jeannie was killed. (a moment) You really think there’s a connection between Harry Rose and this bloke at the shooting gallery?

ENDEAVOUR: Maybe. I don’t know. I’m just stumbling around.

THURSDAY: What you’re good at.

THURSDAY eats his sandwich – watches the world go by.

ENDEAVOUR: The first week I hardly slept. I didn’t know if I was going to be found hanged from the bars of the cell, or take a dive from the top walk. (off Thursday) Every night I expected to hear boots on the landing – the key in the lock – but nobody came by. A month. I didn’t know if you were alive or dead. That was the worst of it. No. Not quite. The worst was… Knowing it was my fault.

THURSDAY — appalled.

ENDEAVOUR: (CONT’D) I was too slow. My stupidity nearly left Mrs.Thursday a widow, and…

The thought is too much for him.

THURSDAY: I knew walking in to Blenheim Vale that I might not walk out. (That’s) The job, I suppose. Something bad like that? Sometimes you’ve to put all you are against all they’ve got. It was my decision. And I’d do it again without a second thought. Don’t ever blame yourself.

ENDEAVOUR: If I’d been quicker off the mark…

THURSDAY: You were there at the end. Nobody else. You had the chance to run. To look to your own neck. But you didn’t. You stood. A pinch like that, it’s not brain that counts. It’s guts. I won’t forget it. Ever. (a moment) You should eat something. You don’t eat enough. Here.

THURSDAY offers the other half of his sandwich. A moment — ENDEAVOUR takes it. Just two men, sharing a sandwich.

12/04/15 08:22 Setting up for the first location shoot for RIDE @ Damian Michael Barcroft

12/04/15 08:22 Setting up for the first location shoot for RIDE

Excuse the quality of some of these photos - I was cold too, shivering and my fingers not working.

Excuse the quality of some of these photos – I was cold too, shivering and my fingers not working.

Location2: Market Square

Location2: Market Square (11-13:50)

You just see the director, Sandra Goldbacher, in between Roger and Jack Laskey

You can just see the director, Sandra Goldbacher, in between Roger and Jack Laskey

Location 3: Just outside Shirburn Castle, Waltlington, Oxon

Location 3: Just outside Shirburn Castle, Waltlington, Oxon

e15

Filming began 16:32 and wrapped 18:30. A splendid day was had by all.

Interview and photos copyright © Damian Michael Barcroft 2016

All other images copyright © itv/Mammoth Screen

e34Kx

THE ENDEAVOUR INTERVIEWS: Russell Lewis Part III

Please note that this interview was originally published prior to the broadcast of Endeavour: SWAY (S2:03) on April 13, 2014.

Interview copyright © Damian Michael Barcroft 2016

RUSSELL LEWIS

An exclusive interview

by Damian Michael Barcroft

With thanks to Diogenes Small

and Mr. Tiger

ACT III

‘FUGUE’

(The nut cluster)

We’ve previously discussed FIRST BUS TO WOODSTOCK and GIRL, now we continue our journey through the first series of Endeavour with FUGUE and ROCKET in addition to previewing tonight’s film, SWAY…

©itv/MammothScreen

©itv/MammothScreen

DAMIAN: FUGUE was something of a gear change, a race-against-time serial killer thriller. For as wonderful as the swinging sixties were, this was also the decade which witnessed the horrific murders of the Zodiac Killer, Charles Manson and closer to home, Ian Brady and Myra Hindley. You must have been very young at the time but I’m wondering if you can remember these events from your own childhood and if they influenced the script for FUGUE in any way?

RUSS: With the exception of the Zodiac Killer – the rest were a constant presence from as far back as I can remember. The relations amongst whom I lived and grew up were all quite elderly, and the Victorian preoccupations, death and morbidity (we’ll leave spiritualism and the lavatory to one side this time around!) loomed large. I was probably privy to far too many details of the Tate/LaBianca murders at far too early an age. This Be the Verse…

Of course, one says Tate/LaBianca, but in truth it’s the left side of the oblique with which the media, and, through them, the public, was most fascinated. Likewise, the Saddleworth killings have provided the yellow press with easy copy for almost half a century. I doubt there’s many of my generation for whom the perpetrators didn’t occupy far too much imaginary real estate. The maternal side of my family came originally from Barton upon Irwell, so that created an additional, I hesitate to say proprietorial, interest for them, but I suspect that certainly had a part to play. ‘Manchester… so much to answer for.’

But, no – FUGUE was absolutely not influenced by either. I think there may have been a line, I’m not sure whether it was for FUGUE or not, in an early Endeavour draft for one of the films about ‘that business up North’, but I can’t remember now if it ever made a shooting script, or a final edit.

I wouldn’t want to trivialise or exploit any of those crimes by drawing upon them to any major degree, or constructing a direct parallel, in a show like Endeavour. It’s just not the place. Nor the time. If one was looking seriously and specifically at those crimes from a dramatic point of view, fine. But, otherwise… To plunder them for an ‘entertainment’ – to borrow from Graham Greene’s taxonomy – wouldn’t, to my mind, be appropriate. I’m happy to look further back for a jumping off point, but something within such recent living memory… No. I wouldn’t be comfortable with that.

By comparison – and we may be getting ahead of ourselves — the Victorian murders in NOCTURNE sprang from a loose personal connection some thirty-odd years ago with the murder of Francis Savile Kent at Rode (Road) Hill House, which – at the time – led me to The Saint With Red Hands by Yseult Bridges, and another volume by Bernard Taylor, Cruelly Murdered, I think it was, which also dealt with the case. It stayed with me, I suppose. Percolating. Germinating. Waiting its moment.

©itv/MammothScreen

©itv/MammothScreen

It’s now one-hundred and fifty years in the past, and seems far enough removed to draw upon comfortably for something like Endeavour. (It was also drawn on – much closer to the time – to varying degrees by Wilkie Collins and Charles Dickens, and also gets a run-out in a segment of Dead of Night, so we’re in pretty decent company). Yet, even there, our crime is but a faint echo – five murders rather than just the one – of its inspiration. In fact, I think the only direct point of contact is that the respective paterfamilias in both instances share the same forename. Though our Samuel was a tea-planter rather than a Inspector of Manufactories.

One final correction to be made. It’s been suggested that our luckless Victorian police Inspector (who ended his days a broken, hopeless drunk in a cheap rooming-house in Dorking) was a nod to Whicher – whose career never recovered from his failure to bring someone to book for the Rode Hill House murder. The truth is much closer to home. It was an affectionate tribute to the producer of the first series of Endeavour, Dan McCulloch – for whom, sober or not, the description holds some meaning.

©itv/MammothScreen

©itv/MammothScreen

©itv/MammothScreen

©itv/MammothScreen

DAMIAN: Indeed, the psychiatrist, Dr. Daniel Cronyn (aka Mason/Gull), mentions the growing trend in American serial killers and references Charles Raymond Starkweather, Albert De Salvo (The Boston Strangler) and the bodies in the swamp at Fairvale (a nod to Psycho?). Furthermore, FUGUE also features many little allusions such as one of Cronyn’s aliases, Gull, who intends to claim five victims (a favourite suspect of the five canonical Jack the Ripper murders is Sir William Gull) and also the walled up body in the cellar of the farmhouse (Edgar Allan Poe’s The Black Cat?). Do you have a fondness for the horror and Gothic genre?

RUSS: Yes, Sir William (one of Stephen Knight’s now much discredited ‘unholy trinity’) was certainly in my mind – but it was the sense of his surname as a verb that was uppermost. Fairvale – the cuckoo’s egg amongst the rest — was indeed a nod to Hitchcock. The walling up… certainly has Poe associations, but, if anything, I think I would have had A Cask of Amontillado, and the fate of the poorly named Fortunato (and his thousand insults!) more in mind, as he was alive at the time of his immurement, unlike the victim in The Black Cat – but again, the point of departure for all the murders comes back to the first key idea, which was to recreate famous deaths from Opera. Radames fate in Aida was too attractive to ignore. Again – the idea was to attack the thing which gives Endeavour such comfort and pleasure, and taint it in some way. As in FIRST BUS TO WOODSTOCK.

©itv/MammothScreen

©itv/MammothScreen

A fondness for horror/Gothic? You really will wish you hadn’t asked… One of my early prize possessions was Denis Gifford’s (sometime cartooning and writing partner of Bob Monkhouse, amongst many other achievements!) landmark A Pictorial History of Horror Movies, which I got hold of when I was nine or ten, from WH Smiths at Euston Station. (The important things stay with you.) Later, I acquired some of Alan Frank’s fine guides to the genre.

Universal, RKO, AIP, Amicus, Tigon, and the mighty House of Hammer were as familiar in my mouth as household words. And like many young boys, the Aurora ‘Glow in the Dark’ model kits of the classic ‘monsters’ became an obsession. An obsession clearly shared with the young Mark Petrie… Though, so far as I’m aware, no one ever came scratching at my bedroom window.

This was all in a pre-video recorder/DVD age. But I was lucky enough to be growing up at a time when BBC2 could be relied upon to broadcast a regular Saturday night Horror Double Bill – starting off with the Universals, but, then, moving on to a mix and match of Hammer classics, and many of the Corman/Poe/AIPs. It really was an education.

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©itv/MammothScreen

©itv/MammothScreen

©itv/MammothScreen

©itv/MammothScreen

©itv/MammothScreen

I was far too young to get into what were then X-Cert films – today’s 18 — which certificate such horror fare invariably bore. But good old TV came to the rescue by delivering the wig-out 70s, and such English curiosities as Scream and Scream Again; Psychomania; the late Hammer Draculas – AD1972; Satanic Rites, &c.; Pete Walker’s output: a brace of Phibes, (the latter featuring Robert Quarry, AIP’s own Count Yorga! for extra meta!) . Though, I suppose, of all that period, the film which casts the longest shadow is The Wicker Man. Ah… Sgt.Howie.

In some small degree FUGUE is a nod to both Phibes, and Edward Lionheart’s (Theatre of Blood) ‘collect the set’ m.o. And also – of course – though the ‘crimes’ were driven by a different motive altogether, Kind Hearts and Coronets. On the literary side… Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Sign of Four, and Dame Agatha’s And Then There Were None.

©itv/MammothScreen

©itv/MammothScreen

We were hugely spoiled – for a brief wee while in the 60s and 70s — with TV shows in the genre; the BBC’s Ghost Stories for Christmas; some ITV adaptations of the classics; Brian Clemens’s long running ATV Saturday night Thriller; Nigel Kneale’s Beasts; and then the BBC’s Supernatural, (mostly) by Robert Muller, came along in 1979 — tales told at the Club of the Damned. Made in studio, and directed multi-cam from the gallery. Staggering set designs and builds — of a kind you’d kill for now.

Robert Hardy wandering haunted canals and sitting at the table of a certain cafe in Ghosts of Venice. Gordon Jackson proving that there was much darkness beyond the kindly Hudson in Night of the Marionettes. Vladek Sheybal channelling Peter Lorre!! Oh my! So many gems. Between them, the Beeb, Network DVD and the BFI have reissued many of the above titles. If you have a taste for such, I can’t recommend them highly enough.

More recently, my fellow Spooks alum., the great LUTHERan, Neil Cross gave us a memorable addition to the BBC’s Ghost Stories for Christmas, with his modern retelling of the MR James story Oh Whistle and I’ll Come to You My Lad. And that appears to have re-established the tradition, though adherence has been sporadic, and more honoured in the breach…

©itv/MammothScreen

©itv/MammothScreen

No monograph on the subject – which I realise this is turning into – be it ever so brief, would be complete without mention of The League of Gentlemen – Jeremy Dyson, Mark Gatiss, Steve Pemberton and Reece Shearsmith. Keepers of the dark and secret flame, I’m a great admirer of their work — both severally and individually. Their collective admiration, respect and affection for the genre is something to be cherished. Mark Gatiss’s Crooked House trilogy, and, more recently, the Ghost Story for Christmas – The Tractate Middoth — have been particular treats. The three-hander Rope homage in the outstanding Psychoville (Series 1, I think), was something very special indeed. Flawless writing, execution and performance. And now Number 9, and Ghosts, and the Great Detective, etc.. Long may they reign – in all their numerous guises and disguises.

As a boy, I was in and around some of the studios where some of these productions had been made – the Hammers, Amicus, Tigon – and even, I think I’m right, someone will correct me else, an AIP (The Masque of the Red Death was done over here, as I think, was The Tomb of Ligeia) — and, indeed, still were being made. It gave me an enormous kick to be amongst such history.

I was much given to prowling (haunting) empty sound-stages and backlots during lunch breaks. There is a certain… atmosphere on a deserted studio set. A pin-drop silence. Some residual heat from the lights. A particular scent of warm air. To which nothing quite compares. All very Sunset Boulevard, I’m sure, but there is something about bogus corridors and flights of stairs that lead nowhere which, if you have a mind at all susceptible to suggestion, excites the imagination. I found it mesmerising. Thrilling. Perhaps even sacred. Still do. Alas, very little is shot ‘in studio’ these days.

©itv/MammothScreen

©itv/MammothScreen

Amongst my very earliest memories is playing amongst a whole heap of Dalek casings on the back-lot at Shepperton, which would have been left over from the Peter Cushing Doctor Who outings. For years there was a particular aroma – which took a city boy a lifetime to identify – that I always associated with Shepperton. It drove me mad trying to work out what it was. But it wasn’t until we were in pre-production on TWTTW (The Way Through the Woods) that I was able to solve the mystery.

Chris Burt – who produced TWTTW — had an office in the ‘main house’ at the studio, and I was often holed up there with John Madden as we tried to crack some of the difficulties in adapting Colin Dexter’s novel. (There is a central conceit in the plot which it’s easy to get away with on the page – but because we have to present the thing visually it was as tricky as you like. In fact, thinking about it, there’s a couple of those. Colin is terribly canny and will sometimes tease his readers with a ‘someone saw something’ kind of sentence. Which is great, but how do we shoot it? Which ‘someone’? What ‘something’?)

Anyway, I digress – sorry, this is turning into a Ronnie Corbett story. But there, walking across to the house every day, was this scent again. Only this time, I was able to locate and identify the culprit. What was it that had haunted my senses for thirty-odd years? Only ‘box’ and nothing more… (Now I’ve told you, I can’t help but feel like Eric Idle’s waiter — Gaston, was it? — expounding his philosophy post the Mister Creosote sequence in the Pythons’ Meaning of Life!!) I think this is the point that the Harry Stoneham Quartet start playing the Parkinson theme and we roll end credits.

There’s a Lewis I wrote – my first when I came back onto the flight roster – set around Hallowe’en, which really was a massive nod to all of the foregoing. My love of the genre in film and TV, together with the writings of Poe, Lovecraft, M.R.James and many, many others, all got folded into that story. Falling Darkness, I think it was. I get confused as I did two for that series – the other was titled The Dead of Winter, and centred on Hathaway’s childhood connection to a stately home, and the family who live there. But we didn’t title them until quite late, and it could have gone either way – so I’m never 100 per cent sure which way round it was. It was the same with Series 1 of Endeavour – with the exception of, appropriately enough, FUGUE, the rest were all finally titled at the end of production. If we ever went again, I think I’d probably go back to that model – titles last. Otherwise things leak out – spoilers and so forth, which I’m not too keen on. At all.

One happy coincidence, however, that comes courtesy of my association with Morse, and which closes the circle, is that while we were prepping TWTTW at Shepperton, Sir Kenneth Branagh’s film Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein was shooting on the sound-stages and backlot. Once more I was able to indulge my weakness for wandering deserted sets – this time of a beautifully realised Ingolstadt, and come at last within the baroque – though still memorably melancholy – shade of the House of Frankenstein. Even through adult eyes, the magic was, and is, and will ever remain, undimmed and undiminished.

‘And much of madness, and more of sin – And horror the soul of the plot’!

DAMIAN: FUGUE features more screen time with Morse than is perhaps usual with many scenes in which he is alone. The episode also introduces Thursday’s family for the first time so I’m wondering if this was a deliberate attempt to highlight his isolation and loneliness?

RUSS: If he is alone, it’s probably because we wanted to underline his status – still at this stage very much the outsider. And introducing the Thursdays – their normality pushed the disconnect with the nature of the case.

©itv/MammothScreen

©itv/MammothScreen

DAMIAN: There’s a wonderful connection to the original series with the explanation as to why Morse suffers from vertigo (see Service of All the Dead) but am I right in thinking Masonic Mysteries was also an influence?

RUSS: Yes, Endeavour’s high-jinks were intended to sow the seeds of his later vulnerability – ‘C’mon! Show a little backbone, will ya?’. But the finale of FUGUE is one of those instances where – in early drafts at least — you’ll find “LOCATION DEPENDENT” in the Sluglines and Stage Directions. We had a good idea of what we wanted, but really couldn’t nail down what we might or might not be able to realise until a suitable location had been found. And so the Recce fed back into the script. Once we had the location for Alfredus College, we was able to tailor the action on the page to what could be achieved. Our nod to the genius of Harold Lloyd.

Masonic Mysteries is such a towering achievement in the Inspector Morse televisual canon that it is often there to a greater or lesser degree.

But I couldn’t close any discussion of FUGUE without mentioning director Tom Vaughan. That we were blessed with fantastic performances from the cast notwithstanding, Tom just ‘got’ FUGUE from the off, and gave us all we could have asked for and more. And then once Barrington Pheloung does his thing – aided and abetted by Matthew Slater… In the words of many a reality TV talent contest, it ‘takes it to the next level.’

~~~

©itv/MammothScreen

©itv/MammothScreen

ACT IV

‘ROCKET’

(The very rum truffle)

DAMIAN: Again, there was change in mood with the third film, ROCKET, which was perhaps a touch lighter in tone and humour. Is it a conscious decision to shape each film differently with its own unique identity and is this why every film has a different director?

RUSS: Well – each film has a different director for very practical reasons. Typically, the post production period of the first film occupies the shooting period of the second, and the shooting period of the second is the ‘prep’ time for the third film. I suppose it might be possible to bring back FILM 1 director for FILM 4, but it would be a lot to ask, as their schedule would run – prep FILM 1, shoot FILM 1, post FILM 1 – prep-FILM 4 – shoot FILM 4 – post FILM 4.

From my end – we only get to do four of these a year, and I want to try to get as much variety in as possible. It’s always Endeavour, but, hopefully, comes out of a different trap for each film. But it was lovely that we got Colm McCarthy back for HOME – a secret Dan McCulloch kept up his sleeve until the last moment.

©itv/MammothScreen

©itv/MammothScreen

DAMIAN: You’ve said in the past that there was a long and quite twisted backstory to writing ROCKET – would you care to elaborate for us please?

RUSS: You’ll have to jog my memory, as it’s quite a long time ago now. The final clue was always in my head – the accidental method whereby Endeavour unlocks the mystery. (Spoilers ahead!) Ah – now I remember. Yes. As I mentioned before, not everything you write ends up getting green lit and made, and some years ago – ten or more, I should think – I was asked to adapt a novel as 2×90 minutes. I… took some liberties. It was a pretty loose adaptation, as these things sometimes are, but I needed to find a way in, to make it more of a state of the union piece, and as a result I ended up looking at certain newsreels – amongst which sundry visits by members of the royal family were made to certain towns and factories, etc.. There was one with the DoE – it must have been the late 50s/early 60s – and the tone of it struck a chord somewhere. And then another of HMQ’s visit to… Stevenage, I think it was – there to admire the Thunderbird missile factory… Met by the Lord Lieutenant, etc.. ‘Have you come far?’ Bob Danvers Walker providing the narration. What a voice. And – to cut a long story – there was a changing of the guards at the broadcaster, and the new broom didn’t share their predecessor’s enthusiasm for the project, so it quietly died a death. But those newsreels were stacked away in the back of my mind…

Nothing is ever wholly wasted. A decade or so goes by… And thinking about stories for the first series of Endeavour, I remembered the newsreel. I’m fascinated by the long history of our island race – how EXACTLY did we get here? – changing social mores, &c. And the missiles and Her Majesty seemed too tempting to resist as a jumping off point. As soon as one thinks of factories and British films, a certain Boulting Brothers’ masterpiece (one of several!) can’t be far behind.

I thought it might be fun to have some kind of dynastic struggle behind the scenes amongst the owners of the factory. And the Plantagenets seemed a splendid model. Thinking of Henry, Eleanor and their fractious offspring brought to mind James Goldman’s staggeringly good The Lion in Winter. And the rest is…

So – those were the three things, the major ingredients for ROCKET stew.

I also had a the back of my mind that bit of folklore/urban myth about everywhere a royal personage visits smelling of fresh paint. So one takes that and puts it with the rest of it, and… Click!!!

Dan McCulloch brought us to director Craig Viveiros who was fairly untried with television. Little did we know that he wouldn’t just get the crate airborne, but would shortly dazzle us with barrel-rolls and loop-the-loops. Ridiculously talented just about covers it.

I’m very partial to a chamber piece – a precinct drama – which in effect is what ROCKET was. The factory and offices of Imperial Electric were a closed space. Our cut-off country house. We were two and a bit weeks in the old Tate & Lyle factory at Greenwich – possibly our longest stay at any location to date – which doubled for IEC — and I think the look Matt Gant (Production Designer) and his team of elves achieved simply dazzles. The way Craig and DoP John Pardue shot it… It’s just terribly stylish.

Likewise Chinon Court – the Brooms’ family home – which was Craig’s call for a location. I’d been terribly literal with the mediaeval vibe, but thankfully Craig, Matt and Dan saved me from myself, and went for this moderne masterpiece, which we then dressed with the odd bit of armour, etc., so’s not to lose sight of its inspiration. It fitted the look of the factory far more closely, and gave the whole thing a sense of completeness.

We were very lucky with our directors. Ed Bazalgette had the toughest gig of all, I think – opening the batting for us on GIRL; defending The Ashes almost, after the reception FBTW had received. He had so much on his shoulders – essentially setting up a new show – but he delivered with his customary brilliance, style and panache, and gave us not only a terrific film, but a perfect springboard for all that followed. An unbeaten double century.

But – back to ROCKET… Add the sublime Miss Jenny Seagrove, and the living legend that is Mister Martin Jarvis (every bit as lovely and mischievous as you might expect) as our Nora and Henry and it’s like all one’s birthdays and Christmases have come at once. That Martin had history with Morse (Greeks Bearing Gifts – What a film!) made the experience even more special. To hear that voice – THAT voice! – delivering one’s dialogue at the read… I mean… Come on!

DAMIAN: There are many moments for the fans to savour in this film but I particularly enjoyed the humorous exchanges between Morse and Strange (Bergman!) and the beautifully written and performed scenes with Alice Vexin (Maimie McCoy). I know Morse is currently busy with Nurse Monica but might we see Alice return one day?

RUSS: Yeh – dear old Strange. If not a cultural desert, then perhaps an area with very low precipitation. I’d forgotten about the Bergman, but now you mention it, that scene very nearly got cut from the final edit. Jokes are always a hostage to fortune – being seen as not furthering the plot, but I think I’ve said before, it’s the character stuff carries equal weight for me, and I think there might be some Jakes material lurking in this scene also, which probably saved it. You’ll have to forgive my memory – I haven’t seen it since it was broadcast. But, yes – Strange’s misunderstanding, possibly prefigures/draws on an exchange about Morse’s recent holiday destination in TWTTW…

Very sadly we did lose a scene between Dorothea and Strange, which came quite late in proceedings – once Endeavour was firmly on the scent. It is shot – and edited – and perhaps one day we’ll include all the stuff we couldn’t squeeze in. It’s a scene I like a lot – a rare two hander between Abigail and Sean. It sprang off the back of some oblique Endeavour mutterings in the cinema about Simeon Stylites. Also cut…

©itv/MammothScreen

©itv/MammothScreen

Ah… Alice Vexin… in the person of Maimie McCoy. I thought it was interesting to turn the usual coat inside out and have a character who had carried a torch for Endeavour, or rather her idea of Endeavour – enhanced by the passage of time. As Jakes observes in TROVE – ‘absence makes.’ There’s little quite so attractive as that which one cannot have. But I think once, almost immediately, that Alice had got it out of her system that the bubble was burst, and she could see Endeavour was not the brightest of prospects for something long term.

In terms of Endeavour’s development, it felt right to establish in the fourth film we’d done that he wasn’t going to lead some kind of prissy, asexual, weirdly monastic existence. He might be unlucky in love by the time we get to meet him as a Chief Inspector, but to imagine, or, worse, to actively want his twenties and thirties to be just this arid stretch of nothing seemed to my mind unrealistic, immature and more than a little bit Annie Wilkes! You dirty birdy! Of course Endeavour taking someone to bed on screen (as t’were) was a break with tradition, but we hoped we’d bring the audience with us.

Maimie’s this luminous, ethereal screen presence. A very sharp, very sensitive actor – both strong and fragile at the same instant, which was just perfect for Alice. And she and Shaun just nailed that relationship. I particularly like the way Craig V and his D.o.P. framed those scenes at the table in the pub. Very Kubrick.

©itv/MammothScreen

©itv/MammothScreen

One thing I’m keen to establish is the idea that Oxford is a living, breathing place outside of our adventures. The notion that Endeavour would not run into Alice, or, indeed, other characters previously encountered in a place so relatively small and socially insular (then! Before there are ‘letters’!) as Oxford strikes me as unlikely.

DAMIAN: As is now customary, please tell us a little bit about tonight’s film, SWAY – I believe you’ve been digging into Oxford history again?

RUSS: Yup, I’ve got a history of the Oxford City Police that contains a great section on Bonfire/Fireworks Night/November 5th, which was an annual blast of riotous town and gown mayhem. All leave was cancelled and the City Police deployed a large contingent of officers in ‘disguise’ to infiltrate the crowds and identify troublemakers for their colleagues to nab. I think I’ve mentioned before how the shooting schedule – late summer through winter – defines what we can and can’t realise, and so FILM by FILM the seasons progress – SWAY brought us to autumn, and November 5th seemed a good spot to hang the story on – there’s another reason it was chosen, which will become clear if you watch it, but I can’t go into it here for fear of spoilery.

©itv/MammothScreen

©itv/MammothScreen

“Le Minou Noir”

~ Damian Michael Barcroft ~

Follow Damian on twitter for more exclusive interviews

~~~

The Inside Story

Each week we’ll be looking at what information we can glean from each of the Endeavour films concerning significant events and encounters and how they relate to the original series. Today we continue with our study of Fugue and Rocket

Morse appears in The Oxford Mail with the following headline: ‘TOP OF THE COPS – DETECTIVE CONSTABLE IMPRESSES AUDIENCE AT OPERA RECITAL’. Fugue

The psychiatrist, Dr. Daniel Cronyn (aka Mason/Gull*), is asked to help profile the “Opera Phantom”. He makes reference to the growing trend in American serial killers and mentions Charles Raymond Starkweather, Albert De Salvo (The Boston Strangler) and also the bodies in the swamp at Fairvale (Fairvale is fifteen miles away from the Norman Bates/Psycho mansion and motel). Fugue

*It is interesting that Gull wishes to claim 5 victims – the same number as the canonical Jack the Ripper murders – one of the suspects was Sir William Gull. Fugue

Cronyn stabs Morse in the stomach with a knife. Fugue

Morse develops a fear of heights which he still suffers from in 1987. Fugue & Service of all the Dead

-Thursday’s family: Win (wife), Sam (son) and Joan (Daughter). Sam has/or is about to join the army and Joan works in a bank. Fugue

-Thursday speaks Italian. He came up through Italy after North Africa, landed at Reggio and then on to Cassino. Fugue

-Thursday also speaks German. Rocket

-There is a picture hanging on the wall of Thursday’s living room which is reminiscent of Housman’s “blue remembered hills”. The picture is to the right of Morse when he is resting shortly after the stabbing. Fugue

Oxford City Police are responsible for providing additional security while Her Royal Highness Princess Margaret is escorted on a tour of a factory for the official unveiling of the new Standfast Mark Two surface-to-air missile. The purpose of the visit is to help promote British industry abroad. Rocket

Alice Vexin discovers the body of Percy Malleson (aka Kendrick). Alice had a crush on Morse while at University and lived across the stair from Susan. Alice and Morse haven’t seen each other for seven years and he hardly recognizes her at first. Rocket

Morse tells Alice he has only been back in Oxford for a couple of months. Rocket

Morse and Alice meet on a date at the Fox and Hounds where she used to drink as a student. Morse says he likes police work but doesn’t fit in. Alice tells him that he was never like the rest despite Morse wanting and trying to be. She continues that he was difficult, awkward… all corners socially and so angry… but himself most of all.

After Morse’s failed relationship with Susan, Alice hoped he might seek comfort in her but instead, he just disappeared from her life.

Alice wears her hair like Susan did in the hope that it will remind Morse of her and perhaps be attracted to her. Morse says he doesn’t know if he is still in love with Susan but it is obvious that he is. Alice wonders if he could love her too.

Later, Morse and Alice spend the night together but soon afterwards, she tells him that she doesn’t think he is ready for a relationship and doesn’t want to be second best after Susan. The two go their separate ways. Rocket

THE ENDEAVOUR INTERVIEWS: Russell Lewis Part II

Please note that this interview was originally published prior to the broadcast of Endeavour: Nocturne (S2:02) on April 6, 2014.

Interview copyright © Damian Michael Barcroft 2015

RUSSELL LEWIS

An exclusive interview

by Damian Michael Barcroft

~ With thanks to Rex De Lincto ~

Last week we discussed FIRST BUS TO WOODSTOCK with the writer and executive producer of Endeavour, Russell Lewis. Today, we begin our journey through the first series as well as previewing tonight’s episode – NOCTURNE…

ACT II

“GIRL”

(The soft centre with a touch of the chase me Charlies)

DAMIAN: FIRST BUS TO WOODSTOCK was a stunning piece of television which exceeded all expectations and must have been a huge challenge to follow, particularly when one considers that it was never actually intended as a pilot but rather a one-off tribute and 25th anniversary celebration of the original Inspector Morse. You have previously said that had you been aiming at a series, you probably would have done a few things differently. Could you give us a few examples Russ?

RUSS: Compare and contrast GIRL and FBTW. And, I think most of the answers are there… With GIRL, we were – apart from Shaun [Evans] and Roger [Allam], Jimmy Bradshaw and Abigail Thaw – starting over. Essentially, if FBTW had been the pilot for something, I would have set up the returning ensemble. STRANGE, most obviously. And the THURSDAYS. Truth is the THURSDAYS did exist in early drafts of FBTW. But it was so packed out already with story that – much to my chagrin – they were excised. Mothballed, as it turned out. I did try AGAIN – to get them into GIRL, but again… my designs were thwarted (for the best of reasons.) However, they found their moment and added considerable value to FUGUE. So – every thing in its season. Looking back now – it feels to me as if they have always been part of the fabric of ENDEAVOUR, even if they were off-stage for the first two adventures.

DS Peter Jakes (Jack Laskey) ©itv/MammothScreen

DS Peter Jakes (Jack Laskey) ©itv/MammothScreen

And one mustn’t forget DS JAKES, of course. A permanent stone in Endeavour’s shoe. I’m enormously fond of JAKES. His role as antagonist in chief was filled in FBTW, admirably, by the marvellous Danny Webb as DS Arthur LOTT. His relationship with Endeavour is constantly evolving. I mean, he’s got the rank and probably feels he should have landed the job as Thursday’s bag-man. So, that’s always a bit of a sore point between him and Endeavour. And yet, I think, even in the first series, he’d started to if not admire, then perhaps respect Endeavour’s abilities. Of course, a huge amount of JAKES’s appeal is down to Jack Laskey, who brings so much to the role. It would have been easy just to play the snide, but in Jack’s more than capable hands, Peter Jakes gives us so much more.

And, completing the Cowley Road nick line up, dear old Reginald BRIGHT – who took over from the unfortunate CRISP. I wanted to have a man in uniform at the top – to ring the changes from D.Ch.Supt.Strange and, in LEWIS, Jean Innocent.

DAMIAN: GIRL serves as an excellent set-up which not only re-establishes Morse for the casual viewer but also introduces new characters including an old friend and another great original creation in the aforementioned Chief Superintendent Reginald Bright who we’ll discuss again shortly. Before that however, can you tell us a little bit about PC Strange and why he missed the “First Bus”?

RUSS: Well – we had a fairly dense story to unpack. The key relationship that needed to be brought foreground was between Endeavour and Fred Thursday. There simply wasn’t room to introduce Strange and do him the justice he deserved. No dark agenda. Nothing… sinister. We are always up against it for screen-time, running, as we do – some twelve minutes shorter than the original IM [Inspector Morse].

Strange missed the "first bus"... ©itv/MammothScreen

Strange missed the “first bus”… ©itv/MammothScreen

...but he made it second time around! ©itv/MammothScreen

…but he made it “second time around!” ©itv/MammothScreen

DAMIAN: It was a beautiful homage to James Grout, the gentleman who played Strange in the original series that you gave the new incarnation the Christian name Jim. Mr Grout passed away in 2012 but he appeared in your adaptation of The Way Through the Woods and I’m wondering if you ever had the chance to meet the great man and if you could tell us a little a bit about him please?

RUSS: Well – James Grout was known generally as Jimmy. I met him briefly on location at Leith Hil – which doubled for Wytham Woods – in TWTTW [The Way Through the Woods]. And had admired his work hugely – not only in Morse, but across a raft of memorable performances. The luckless George Batt in Mother Love springs most readily to mind. Strange – in the persona of Jimmy Grout – for all his grouching at Morse, there was always a certain kindness, a genuine affection, in their relationship. He had very kindly eyes, did Mister Grout. So…

Colin Dexter and James Grout ©itv/MammothScreen

Colin Dexter and James Grout ©kippa

Giving the unnamed Strange the forename of James Grout seemed a way to commemorate his enormous contribution to IM. It was doubly fortunate, as my son is also called James, and, if I’m in on the ground floor of something – creating it – I usually try to name a major character – typically someone with a kind nature and generous heart – after my own sprig, who has an abundance of said qualities. Thus, James Kavangh QC… and in the Morse universe, James Hathaway. That I was able to combine both in the person of Jim Strange was very pleasing.

But casting STRANGE was a tall order. And then we saw Sean Rigby – who was either just leaving, or had just left, drama college – and he blew us away. I mean, he just WAS Strange. Matey-ing away as if to the manner born. And we knew at once we’d found our man. That was the last bit of the jigsaw.

DAMIAN: I’d now like to discuss a horse of a very different colour and perhaps you might also tell us more about the Viscount Montgomery of Alamein inspiration?

RUSS: Ah… BRIGHT. Well, it was the voice and bearing, really. Here was this military giant, and yet to look at him, and hear him addressing the troops – the little foxy moustache, the rhotacism… And yet for all that, a brilliant commander who inspired great loyalty and devotion. So, that was the jumping off point. Anton Lesser (I still have to pinch myself at our good fortune that he agreed to take on the role) just fills those shoes to perfection.

CH SUPT Reginald Bright (Anton Lesser) ©itv/MammothScreen

CH SUPT Reginald Bright (Anton Lesser) ©itv/MammothScreen

I remember Anton was quite concerned that Bright shouldn’t be just a figure of fun, easy to ridicule. He was certainly very easy to read as that on the page, and I think that there was a general buzz in pre-production, because he has a certain way of speaking, a predilection for tortured and tortuous idiom, that he was just a buffoon. But to my mind – going back to Monty – nothing could be further from the truth. I think I either wrote, or spoke to Anton – wrote, I think – to outline my take on the character, which was at odds with that initial received impression of him. People might mistake him for a bit of chump – and to a certain degree he plays into his detractors’ hands with his demeanour – but, for my money, he was anything but a fool. He may be a stickler for the rule-book, but beneath that rather large hat, is steel and flint, all the way down.

Bright has come – as I think is alluded to in some of his dialogue – from the Colonial Police, and has spent most of his career ‘overseas’. I think that dictates in some part his attitude to the men. He is still applying the lessons learnt in the tropics – a certain ‘Empire’ way of dealing with ‘local officers’ and indigenous peoples – to the good folk of Oxford. His is a world – his younger days at least – straight out of John Betjeman’s A Subaltern’s Love Song. ‘Six o’clock news… lime juice and gin.’ The second son. Packed off to ‘foreign climes’ to make his way in the world, and do his bit for King and Country. He is a man even more out of time than most in the 1960s. But, he is a very decent man, if a little dazzled by those he perceives as his social betters. When the chips are down, his loyalty to his troops – for all his bark and bite – is total.

DAMIAN: There is a reference to Charlie Hillian (played by Maurice Bush in Inspector Morse) in Girl – might we hear more of him in the future?

RUSS: I think it very unlikely that we will not hear, and see, more of Mister Hillian.

DAMIAN: Speaking of the future and specifically this evening, please tell us something about tonight’s film, NOCTURNE…

RUSS: High summer. A certain sporting event. 1966 was the year of Dr. Jonathan Miller’s masterly interpretation of Alice in Wonderland for the BBC. A favourite. Eerie. Unsettling. Haunting.

So the mood of that piece of work was a vague, uncertain point of departure. One thought begets another. Deborah Kerr and Tippi Hedren drop by to say hello. A snake of choristers sing their way along a sun dazzled beach. The cover of an old Long Playing Record sets hares running hither and yon. A West Country summer long since passed casts a long shadow. Frederic Chopin does his thing. And before you know it… NOCTURNE swims into view.

DAMIAN: Curiouser and curiouser!

~ Damian Michael Barcroft ~

Follow Damian on twitter for more exclusive interviews

S2-FILM2: 'Nocturne' ©itv/MammothScreen

S2-FILM2: ‘Nocturne’ ©itv/MammothScreen

~~~

THE INSIDE STORY

Each week we’ll be looking at what information we can glean from each of the Endeavour films concerning significant events and encounters and how they relate to the original series. Today, we continue our study of Girl

Morse isn’t much of a team player. His school reports always stated that he was bad at games. However, he was good at Cross Country or anything where he could compete alone. Girl

Morse is described as having a grammar scholarship and a failed degree. Girl

Morse states that he was a cipher clerk in the Royal Signal Corps. First Bus to Woodstock & Girl

While serving in the Signal Corps, Morse’s training took place in Leicestershire. Girl

Morse meets Chief Superintendent Reginald Bright. Girl

Bright tells Thursday that Morse worked about two years in uniform before being transferred to CID. He also complains that Morse is acting as Thursday’s bag-man, a job that should have gone to a Detective Sergeant rather than a Detective Constable. Girl

Morse and Jim Strange meet for the first time marking the beginning of possibly Morse’s longest friendship which lasted 35 years until Morse’s death in 2000. Girl 

Strange is already thinking about promotion and tells Morse he doesn’t want to spend the rest of his life in blue serge. Girl

Morse bids farewell to Pamela and her son Bobby as they board a coach. Their destination is not stated but one of the services runs to Newcastle as advertised on one of the boards behind them. Girl

Morse and Chief Inspector Dawson worked as detective sergeants under the command of Charlie Hillian in 1969*. Second Time Around

*Hillian is mentioned by Thursday in Girl: “I know you’ve already spoken to DI Hillian out of Kidlington about the robbery”.

Mary Lapsley, an eight-year-old girl is murdered in 1973. Morse, Patrick Dawson and Charlie Hillian worked on the case which wouldn’t be truly solved until eighteen years later in 1991. Second Time Around

A celebration is held for former assistant police commissioner Charlie Hillian. Morse’s old rival, Chief Inspector Patrick Dawson (who you’ll remember were together when Hillian was a chief inspector in Oxford) leads the proceedings. Hillian later dies from a head injury, the truth about the Mary Lapsley case and indeed Dawson are finally revealed after 18 years. Second Time Around

Detective Constable Morse. Oxford City Police. Warrant Number, 175392. Girl

Jakes watches the television police drama, Gideon’s Way (1964-65). Girl

S1-FILM1: 'Girl' ©itv/MammothScreen

S1-FILM1: ‘Girl’ ©itv/MammothScreen

THE ENDEAVOUR INTERVIEWS: Sean Rigby

Please note that this interview was originally posted April 6, 2014 during the series two run.

Sean Rigby

An exclusive interview

by Damian Michael Barcroft

~ With thanks to Anthony Sayer ~

DAMIAN: Endeavour boasts an impressive cast of characters and while I adore every single one of them, I’m particularly fascinated by Police Constable (later Chief Superintendent) Jim Strange and pathologist Max de Bryn. Perhaps this is because they are both somewhat intriguing characters who frequently appear in both Colin Dexter’s novels and the original Morse television series. Yours is a very understated and subtle performance made all the more remarkable considering this was your first professional job in television after graduating from LAMDA (The London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art). Can you tell us how you landed the part?

SEAN: I graduated from LAMDA in July 2012, and like most drama school graduates, was hunting for a regular job at the time. A friend of mine sent me an email telling me that he had been up for a part in something called Endeavour. He didn’t think he was right for it, but thought that I might be. I contacted my agent and requested that they get me an audition, but they had reservations about whether I was old enough to play the part. Luckily, they decided to take a punt, and got me an audition with Susie Parriss, the Casting Director.

S1-FILM1: 'Girl' ©itv/MammothScreen

S1-FILM1: ‘Girl’ ©itv/MammothScreen

"I'm Strange" ©itv/MammothScreen

“I’m Strange” ©itv/MammothScreen

My first audition with Susie was, without a doubt, one of the worst I have ever given. I wore the black three piece suit I had worn to my graduation, shaved off my beard, and slicked back my hair in a vague attempt to look like a 1960’s policeman. It was a roasting hot August day and it’s safe to say that I was sweating cobs. I got completely lost on my way to Susie’s house and had to ring a friend of mine to get on google maps and give me directions. If you had been around the area that day you may well have seen a proto-Strange frantically sprinting through the streets of Wimbledon. I arrived with 5 minutes to spare, hair all over the place and severely out of breath. I went in, sat down with Susie, and promptly set about forgetting all my lines, mumbling and sweating even more. It was a complete disaster and I resigned myself to the fact that I had utterly blown it.

©itv/MammothScreen

©itv/MammothScreen

©itv/MammothScreen

©itv/MammothScreen

For some reason, a week later, I got a call from my agent saying that Susie would like me to come in and read with her, Ed Bazalgette [Director] and Dan McCulloch [Producer]. That went much better, and the week after that I was called in to read with Shaun [Evans]. I had been told by my agent that this would be the last round of auditions. Susie asked me to come and audition for the part of DC Gray in Lewis in the meantime.

The next day, whilst sitting on the tube in Barons Court (right outside LAMDA), I got a call from my agent telling me they had “Good news and bad news. Which would I like to hear first?”. I requested the bad news to which my agent replied “Well, you can’t do Lewis!”. I leaped off the tube and performed an impromptu Irish jig on the Barons court platform.

DAMIAN: Can you remember which section of the script you were given to audition with?

SEAN: If my memory serves correctly it was the section of Girl where Morse discovers the Golf Cheese and Chess Society.

DAMIAN: I understand that you did a great amount of research after you were cast as Strange but you had never actually seen Inspector Morse before the audition. I’m wondering what were your initial thoughts on the character from reading Russell Lewis’ script?

SEAN: There’s a no nonsense style in the way that Strange communicates. I suppose that’s what struck me initially.

S1-FILM2: 'Fugue' ©itv/MammothScreen

S1-FILM2: ‘Fugue’ ©itv/MammothScreen

DAMIAN: It must have been greatly exciting to read through Colin Dexter’s Inspector Morse novels, finding various clues and making notes on all of the characters and their relationships. What were the most revealing pieces of the puzzle?

SEAN: It’s a very difficult thing to quantify, really. The relationship dynamics between Morse and Strange in Endeavour and Inspector Morse are at once vastly different and very similar. The most illuminating part of reading the books was discovering the world in which these characters operate. I had to quickly consume a body of work which Morse fans the world over had taken years to savour; as much as I wanted to find out every detail to inform my performance, I wanted to read the books in a respectful and appreciative way, not just cram as if for an exam.

DAMIAN: There are some wonderful insights into Strange’s family life in As Good as Gold (lovely moments in which he celebrates his birthday over a glass or two of Macallan while he proceeds to bore Morse with nostalgic musings on his grandchildren), did you also manage to take a look at the short stories as well?

SEAN: I must confess that the short stories are still unopened on my bedside table, but I will make a start on them very soon indeed. To echo my previous answer, I am cautious about ‘bingeing’ on Colin Dexter’s writing. It deserves pacing and appreciating, much as Strange would approach that Macallan!

©itv/MammothScreen

©itv/MammothScreen

DAMIAN: This is the clincher: like Morse, both Russ and I have copies of Moriarty’s Police Law (1965, Eighteenth Edition) which was required reading for any police officer taking their Sergeant’s exam – but do you have a copy?

SEAN: I shall have to come clean and say that I do not. Strange would not be impressed!

DAMIAN: We simply couldn’t discuss Strange without acknowledging the great and much missed James Grout who played the role from 1987 to 2000. Strange’s Christian name was never mentioned in either Dexter’s novels or the original TV series so it was a lovely tribute that the character was finally named Jim in his honour. To what extent has James Grout’s interpretation of the role influenced your own?

SEAN: James Grout was an incredible actor. It’s as simple as that. He gave Strange effortless authority laced with a genuine kindness. I’d like to think that Strange in the 1960’s is very much trying to find himself. He is very sure of where he wants to go in the world but is still unsure of his footing within it.

James Grout, right, with John Thaw

Say cheese! – the original Morse and Strange ©itv

DAMIAN: Strange is a Southerner and you are Northern lad, was is difficult to incorporate James Grout’s voice in addition to the accent into your own vocalisation?

SEAN: Well, James Grout was from London and you can certainly hear that in his accent. However he was a classically trained actor and that accent seemed to have been softened over the years. I decided that Strange might have a more pronounced London accent in the early days as it would be softened eventually from years in the Oxford police force.

The accent can be tricky at times. There a few occasions where I get quite tongue tied with some of the vowels and slip back into my native Lancashire.

DAMIAN: James Grout gave a beautifully judged performance that managed to encompass a great amount of comedy but this never detracted from his absolute gravitas and authority. It was a stroke of dramatic genius that Russ chose to reverse this by having Morse start out as Strange’s superior in the first film of series one (Girl) but by its end (Home), Strange, unlike Morse, has taken his Sergeant’s exam – will series two see the beginnings of the inevitable development of their shift in power?

SEAN: Perhaps a more pronounced shift in their already differing priorities.

DAMIAN: Of course, it is rather ironic that Morse is perhaps directly responsible for the eventual promotion since it was he who recommended Strange to serve as Acting Detective Constable in his absence when he takes some time off to his visit his ailing father (Home), might Morse regret planting those “little acorns”?

SEAN: He may regret his decision from time to time, yes!

DAMIAN: Surprisingly, it’s not Robbie Lewis with the honour of being Morse’s longest-serving friend – it’s actually Strange – a thirty-five year sentence! Morse and Max meet for the first time in First Bus to Woodstock before your character is introduced but Max is described as suffering a stroke early on in Inspector Morse and is replaced by Dr Grayling Russell in Ghost in the Machine (Max dies in Dexter’s novel, The Way Through the Woods) whereas both in print and on screen, Strange is with Morse right up until the tragic end of The Remorseful Day. Can you describe your own interpretation of the often antagonistic relationship between Morse and Strange?

SEAN: I think there is a mutual admiration between the two. Strange is equally impressed and frustrated by Morse’s intellect. Likewise, Morse perhaps finds Strange’s dependability endearing whilst being irritated by his reluctance to bend the rules. I think they have a quiet patience for each others’ shortcomings.

S1-FILM3: 'Rocket' ©itv/MammothScreen

S1-FILM3: ‘Rocket’ ©itv/MammothScreen

DAMIAN: There were some lovely moments in Rocket which I thought were quite revealing about Strange: Morse mentions that there is a new Bergman playing at the Roxy cinema and Strange automatically assumes it is a new Ingrid rather than Ingmar Bergman film and also the proud moment when he appears (looking very dependable!) in the Pathe newsreel footage of Princess Margaret’s visit. Strange is not very cultured but he can be quite pompous can’t he?

SEAN: There is something of the Auguste clown about Strange at times. He has a confidence in his own abilities and an acumen which can lead him to make some fairly humorous gaffes.

strangehome1

S1-FILM4: ‘Home’ ©itv/MammothScreen

DAMIAN: The books and original series give the impression that Strange is somewhat under the thumb of his wife. Hopefully he is a little more fortunate than Morse when it comes to matters of the heart, will there be any forthcoming romantic liaisons for Strange that we can look forward to?

SEAN: Strange does dip his toes into the dating world. The results? We shall have to wait and see…

DAMIAN: You’re a great actor playing one of my favourite characters and you’ve been as good as gold – I think you deserve a chocolate biscuit or two! Thank you Sean.

SEAN: Cheers matey! I shall certainly enjoy a few! Perhaps a couple of Garibaldi’s (my personal favourite).

The name's Strange, James Strange... YESH! ©itv/MammothScreen

The name’s Strange, James Strange… YESH! ©itv/MammothScreen

~ Damian Michael Barcroft ~

https://twitter.com/mrdmbarcroft