Six Damn Fine Degrees #76: Tales From Viking Times

Welcome to Six Damn Fine Degrees. These instalments will be inspired by the idea of six degrees of separation in the loosest sense. The only rule: it connects – in some way – to the previous instalment. So come join us on our weekly foray into interconnectedness!

As a kid, I was a massive fan of listening to stories on cassettes. Far more so than music. Music cassettes inevitably had those tracks you wanted to skip past, leading to fiddling attempts to fast forward the right amount (…and miss it and go back and overly compensate going back and so try to jump forward and – uh-oh, I think the tape is chewed up now). Whereas a good story tape was immersive. You were there for the ride for at least the rest of the side.

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Six Damn Fine Degrees #72: The Wrong Poirot

Welcome to Six Damn Fine Degrees. These instalments will be inspired by the idea of six degrees of separation in the loosest sense. The only rule: it connects – in some way – to the previous instalment. So come join us on our weekly foray into interconnectedness!

In the early ‘70s, a British film studio hoping to make a global success decided to tap into one of the nation’s most famous exports: Agatha Christie. When it came to which of her works they would adapt, they opted for Murder On The Orient Express – a story that would allow for an exotic (if relatively cheap) location and a large cast that could be filled with bankable stars. Audiences, they hoped, would head to the cinemas thanks to the name of the author and the likes of Sean Connery, Lauren Bacall, Ingrid Bergman and Anthony Perkins.

The formula worked. The film was a huge hit, a commercial triumph topping the US box office. It also enjoyed great reviews, with critics praising Sidney Lumet’s stately direction and the strength of the adaptation. Indeed both audiences and critics seemed to mention just one flaw with the film: Albert Finney as Poirot.

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Six Damn Fine Degrees #66: Kapitän Kirk 

Welcome to Six Damn Fine Degrees. These instalments will be inspired by the idea of six degrees of separation in the loosest sense. The only rule: it connects – in some way – to the previous instalment. So come join us on our weekly foray into interconnectedness!

As someone who is always trying to improve their German, without actually doing the hard slog of sitting down with an exercise book and learning all the correct genders for nouns or what on Earth is going on with prepositions (seriously – what is going on there?), I have discovered a dubious easier alternative: popular culture.

Or more specifically, popular culture dubbed into German. If there’s a big movie coming out that looks not brilliant, just a bit meh – then I try to watch it first in German. Actual complicated drama series are beyond my talents. I won’t understand enough to follow the plot. But Godzilla: King of The Monsters? I’m there! (Ich bin dort?)

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Six Damn Fine Degrees #63: What’s Up Doc?

Welcome to Six Damn Fine Degrees. These instalments will be inspired by the idea of six degrees of separation in the loosest sense. The only rule: it connects – in some way – to the previous instalment. So come join us on our weekly foray into interconnectedness!

A lot is written about Hollywood’s tendency for remakes. And a lot of it seems needlessly negative in my opinion. There’s nothing wrong with having another spin at an old success, it’s a formula as old as Hollywood. Often it fails, but sometimes it’s worth the effort. I’ve not crunched the numbers but I’m pretty sure the ratio of few successes/mostly failures is probably the same as for brand new films.

But alongside the Hollywood remake there’s another interesting beast. The film that is so clearly inspired by another, which doesn’t so much wear the influence on its sleeves as don the exact same influence tuxedo. It’s not a remake because it doesn’t do anything so obvious as try to recreate the plot, or the characters but instead takes as the starting point what the film’s makers loved about the earlier film and tries to find ways to make that work in a brand new context.

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Six Damn Fine Degrees #55: John Turner as Roderick Spode 

Welcome to Six Damn Fine Degrees. These instalments will be inspired by the idea of six degrees of separation in the loosest sense. The only rule: it connects – in some way – to the previous instalment. So come join us on our weekly foray into interconnectedness!

Whenever you watch a live action adaptation of a book that you love, there is always the troublesome business of the casting. Will those starring in the production possibly match up to the version in your head from reading the original. If the actor does a good job, they might come close to how you imagined the role initially. An actor might even still do a good job, but just be wrong. Their performance is so at odds with your own take on the role, that, even if you keep watching it you’ll mainly be quietly tutting at it.

But occasionally an actor will come along and give a performance in a role that works so well, that so exceeds the version that once played in the brain, that they become that character going forward. When you re-read the book, it’s their version that you imagine. Whatever feeble brain casting you imagined before has been sacked and kicked out the imaginary production, forever replaced by the version you saw on screen.

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Six Damn Fine Degrees #50 – The “True” Story of Lina Lamont

Welcome to Six Damn Fine Degrees. These instalments will be inspired by the idea of six degrees of separation in the loosest sense. The only rule: it connects – in some way – to the previous instalment. So come join us on our weekly foray into interconnectedness!

They can’t make a fool out of Lina Lamont. They can’t make a laughing stock out of Lina Lamont.

There’s one important lesson that needs to be learnt by any student of Hollywood history: don’t believe the hype. Don’t buy into the spin. And certainly don’t be fooled by popular tales that demonise and blame those that dared to challenge the system.

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Six Damn Fine Degrees #46: The Shirelles’ “Boys”

Welcome to Six Damn Fine Degrees. These instalments will be inspired by the idea of six degrees of separation in the loosest sense. The only rule: it connects – in some way – to the previous instalment. So come join us on our weekly foray into interconnectedness!

“What’s your favourite Beatles tune sung by Ringo” is – it should be said – quite a niche Fab Four related question. But for me the answer is 1963’s “Boys”, his track on their first album Please Please Me. It’s a great little stomper of a rock tune, grabbing the listener’s attention from the very start, and holding it for its brisk running time of under 2½ minutes. It’s also fun, with Ringo playfully grinning as he sings his way through a chorus that goes:

Well, I talk about boys (yeah, yeah, boys)
Don’t ya know I mean boys (yeah, yeah, boys)
Well, I talk about boys, now (yeah, yeah, boys)
Aah, boys (yeah, yeah, boys)
Well, I talk about boys, now (yeah, yeah, boys)
What a bundle of joy! (yeah, yeah, boys)

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Six Damn Fine Degrees #39: The Final Scene in The Lady Eve

Welcome to Six Damn Fine Degrees. These instalments will be inspired by the idea of six degrees of separation in the loosest sense. The only rule: it connects – in some way – to the previous instalment. So come join us on our weekly foray into interconnectedness!

Ever since the invention of the motion picture, there’s been an audience appetite to watch hot couples getting it together. You want people to pay money to go see your movies, you can’t go wrong with putting a gorgeous man and an attractive lady in front of the camera and let the audience know they’re into each other.

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Six Damn Fine Degrees #36: Le Axe Murderer de Rochefort

Welcome to Six Damn Fine Degrees. These instalments will be inspired by the idea of six degrees of separation in the loosest sense. The only rule: it connects – in some way – to the previous instalment. So come join us on our weekly foray into interconnectedness!

Michel Legrand’s score to 1967’s Les Demoiselle de Rochefort is one of that film’s many delights. Not only is it better than his score for The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (yes, it is, no, I will not be taking questions) but its a vital underpinning to a frothy delight of a film full of bright, vibrant colours, happy dance routines, beautiful people falling in love – and, of course, an axe-wielding psychopath.

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Six Damn Fine Degrees #30: Shelley Duvall in The Shining

Welcome to Six Damn Fine Degrees. These instalments will be inspired by the idea of six degrees of separation in the loosest sense. The only rule: it connects – in some way – to the previous instalment. So come join us on our weekly foray into interconnectedness!

In the inaugural awards ceremony for The Golden Raspberries back in 1980, Shelley Duvall was nominated for her performance as Wendy Torrence in The Shining. This fact is a useful reminder as to how mixed to hostile the critical reception was for the film on its initial release. And that the annual exercise in lazy trying-to-be-cool snobbery that is the Razzies really don’t know what they’re talking about.

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