Monday, 18 January 2016
First viewed : 6 January 1978
Back to late night adult drama with this six-part serial which took over Target's post-watershed Friday night slot. I remember Gangsters semi-fondly though I could hardly make head or tail of it. I realise now that was partly because I hadn't seen the Play for Today original drama in 1975 or the serial that it led to a year later so there was a fair bit of back story I was missing.
What seemed to be going on was that a man who could take care of himself John Kline ( Mauirce Colbourne ) was caught in a no-man's land in the Birmingham underworld, semi-co-operating with an Asian policeman called Khan ( Ahmed Khalil ) and a black American girl Sarah Gant (Alibe Parsons ) against a whole host of villains from every different race on the planet. He also had a flaky white girlfriend Anne ( Elisabeth Cassidy ) to keep out of trouble. As the series progressed his most dangerous adversaries turned out to be a Chinese Triad gang who sent out a series of asssassins to nail him, each one more bizarre than the last. In the end Kline was bumped off by a mere touch from a man pretending to be WC Fields - actually it was the series' writer Philip Martin who then took a wrecking ball to the fourth wall by having a gravestone dedicated to the makers of Gangsters at Kline's funeral and then Cassidy walking off set and followed backstage to her dressing room in a post-modernist grand gesture.
I think Mum might have watched a small portion of it because she identified one of the thugs, Sturt, as ex-boxer Terry Downes. The character could only speak by pressing a battery operated device to his neck; I don't know if this was as a result of events in the previous series . He didn't last long in this one as he dropped his own petrol bomb on his foot . I liked the way he had the presence of his mind to use the device to say "Oh. Shit" as he erupted in flames.
There was another scene I didn't quite get where Sarah was lying on her back apparently undergoing some sort of torture but not seeming to mind too much. I realise now I was watching my first sex scene, filmed from the POV of her rogerer . If he'd been in the shot I might have twigged what was going on as I'd been told the mechanics of the act but I had no concept of the orgasm and didn't come across the word until the other end of the year.
The other reason I was struggling to make sense of Gangsters is that no one else was watching it . All my peers were glued to Bodie and Doyle on the other channel so it seemed like quite a perverse act for me to stick with it.