Thursday, 28 April 2016
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.