Sunday, 7 August 2011

Spyders Web - Spyder Secures a Main Strand (1972)

The only non-brilliant thing about this spectularly mental television show is that I spent the entire episode trying to remember where I'd seen Patricia Cutts before, only to discover when I looked her up later that she committed suicide two years after this was made and so the answer was probably 'nowhere'.

Interestingly, she actually played Blanche Hunt in Corrie for two episodes (the character's first two episodes) immediately before her death. Had she lived we might have been deprived of the wonderful Maggie Jones version.

Anyway, the first episode of Spyders Web is both peculiar and entertaining, with Anthony Ainley on top form as the tweed clad, pipe smoking throwback Clive Hawksworth (though for reasons best known to Ainley he chooses to play the role in a deliberately non-naturalistic way, complete with a habit of staring around like blind man. It's very reminiscent at times of Paul Darrow's Avon from Blakes 7, at the other end of the seventies). Odder still, though, is the sudden unexpected appearance of a shoe fetishist secret agent, with a fondness for polishing secretary's shoes in situ.

What makes all this especially jarring is the fact that the script is by Roy Clarke of Last of the Summer Wine fame. A scene where the number one agent becomes an object of ridicule after having full make-up applied for a fake tv appearance is pure Clarke, but another where Ainley talks about getting some 'pussy' and the dangers of 'pooves' less so.

The whole thing has a real kitchen sink feel about it - in the sense of everything bar the kitchen sink being chucked into the mix. An early role for Roger Lloyd Pack, Ainley accidentally burning his fingers holding a piece of blazing paper, and the world's most obvious - and yet at the same time most pointlessly over-blown - reveal ever all add to the feeling of making it up as they go along.

Originally filmed in colour, but with only one and a half episode left in that state, the end title card claiming this was an 'ATV Colour Presentation' was no more out of place and unexpected than anything else in what promises to be a brilliantly bizarre tv show.