Thursday, 28 April 2016

387 Out

First  watched :  25 April  1979

This  had  been  originally  broadcast  in  1978  but  I  picked  up  on  it  during  its  first  repeat  in  April   1979  and  was  instantly  grabbed,  despite  coming  in  halfway  through  the  series. I  eventually  saw  those  first  episodes  when  the  series  was  repeated  again  in ( I  think ) 1983.

Out  was  a  six  part  crime  drama  from  Euston  films   but  told  from  the  point  of  view  of  a  villain, Frank  Ross  ( Tom  Bell )  who's  just  got  out  of  jail  after  an  eight  year  stretch  for  a  bank  robbery where  the  police  were  waiting. Frank  wants  to  know  who  grassed  him  up  and  doggedly  follows  the  trail  to  the  answer. Frank  is  a  villain  of  the  old  school  who  doesn't  sell  out  his  mates  or  relish  violence   but  wants  an  answer  particularly  as  his  family  has  disintegrated  in  his  absence.

Watching  Out  now   seems  like  a  guilty  pleasure  with  its  regular  outbursts  of  violence  and  casually  racist  and  sexist  dialogue. It's  also  a  wonderful  nostalgia  trip  into  the  world  of  Down  In  The  Tube  Station  , Ford  Granadas, vandalised  telephone  boxes  and  hit  men  in  beige  raincoats. Above  all  that  though  it's  still  an  absorbing  and  exciting  drama  that  sustains  its   grip  to  the  end  with  a  brilliant , BAFTA -nominated  central  performance. Tom  Bell,  a  picture  of  tight-lipped   self  control  and  latent  menace, was  henceforth  one  of  my  favourite  actors  right  up  to  his  death.

Having  said  that  all  the  performances  are  top  notch. Frank's  main  adversaries  are  icy , peroxide  blonde  crime  boss  McGrath  ( Brian  Cox )  who  secretly  idolises  him  and  cynical, loveless  police inspector  Bryce  ( Norman  Rodway )  whose  contempt  for  Ross  leads  him  to  stray  over  the  line. Both  are  impeccable  as  are  comedy  actor  John  Junkin  as  Frank's  thuggish  associate  and  Derek  O  Connor  as  McGrath's  sadistic  hatchet man.

I  remember  my  friend  Stephen  being  very  amused  by  the  scene  where  Frank's  wayward  son  Paul  ( Andrew  Paul )  has  a  piss  on  the  front  porch  then  tells  his  foster  "I'm  making  the  milk  bottles  grow". My  favourite   bit  was  the  scene  where  Frank's   beleaguered  mate  Chris  ( Brian  Croucher )  takes  a  swing  at  the   mild-mannered  repo  man  played  by  Norman  Eshley   who's   come  for  his  car. Eshley  then  calmly  proceeds  to  beat  the  shit  out  of  him  without  breaking  sweat.

In  the  end  Frank  was  able  to  take  Bryce  down  but  McGrath  slipped  away , leaving  the  door  wide  open  for  a  sequel . It  never  materialised   because  Bell  refused  to  revisit  the  part  so  the  series  remains  a   one-off  classic .

It's  interesting  to  note  that  its  director  Jim  Goddard  went  on  to  direct  infamously  poor  Madonna  vehicle  Shanghai  Surprise   some  years  later.


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