» DVD Review - "The G...
GOODIES DVD REVIEW
(from C&G #89 May 2003)
(by Alison Bean)
This DVD is excellent. It's the kind of DVD that does the technology proud and it more than makes up for the BBC's long-term disinterest in 'The Goodies'. I do not make the latter point lightly, as the lack of repeats in the UK and the poorly-marketed videos that no one ever seemed to be able to find in the shops infuriated a great many people. However, it may have been a good thing. Had the BBC put this DVD together we wouldn't have the beautifully restored episodes and the numerous and wonderful extras. The "Special Feature" would be "Scene Selection", as on 'The Young Ones' DVD, or "Artist Profiles" as on the 'Yes, Minister' DVD. Imagine the disappointment.
So, what's on this magnificent two DVD set then? For starters, eight episodes: 'The Tower of London' (1.1), 'Kitten Kong' (Special 1), 'Gender Education' (2.11), 'The Goodies and the Beanstalk' (Special 4), 'Kung Fu Kapers' (5.7), 'Lighthouse Keeping Loonies' (5.8), 'Earthanasia' (7.6) and 'Saturday Night Grease' (8.2). These episodes are a good mix of well-know favourites, popular classics and not-so-obvious choices.
'The Tower of London', whilst not a brilliant episode, serves as a good re-introduction to the series for those who've gone without for so long. 'Kitten Kong' and 'The Goodies and the Beanstalk' were on the aforementioned videos, and have perhaps suffered from over-exposure as a result, but they look so good on this DVD that I can't really complain. 'Kung Fu Kapers', 'Earthanasia' and 'Saturday Night Grease' have been long overdue for commercial release, whereas 'Lighthouse Keeping Loonies' is one of the lesser-known "three men trapped in a room" episodes, much loved by many fans. 'Gender Education' seemed at first an odd choice, the disappointing 'Berserk' sequence in the second half of the episode being a marked contrast to excellent studio scenes in the first half, but this episode, along with 'Kung Fu Kapers' and 'Saturday Night Grease', is representative of the satirical side of the series, something often over-looked by media types who can think only of giant kittens.
All the episodes have been digitally re-mastered by Bryan Bath and Jonathan Wood, who are to be congratulated for making the scratchy episodes we're used to look better than ever. A short digital restoration feature on disc one shows the difference between the originals and the restored episodes, with enthusiastic commentary from Tim Brooke-Taylor, Graeme Garden and Bill Oddie.
The trio also provide commentaries for 'Kitten Kong', 'The Goodies and the Beanstalk' and 'Lighthouse Keeping Loonies'. Sadly the commentaries are a bit of a disappointment, but it is perhaps not surprising that the team seemed unfamiliar with the shows after 30 years. They have fairly good memories when it came to the locations and anecdotes about filming the episodes, but there are too many moments of "dead air", particularly in the commentaries for 'Kitten Kong' and 'The Goodies and the Beanstalk'. More successful was the commentary track for 'Lighthouse Keeping Loonies' where the trio abandoned talking about the episode fairly quickly, instead discussing the process of writing and making the series. This proved to be far more interesting and entertaining. Perhaps on future releases there should be commentaries from production staff too, such as producers John Howard Davies, Jim Franklin or Bob Spiers?
Other extras on the discs are an (almost) laughter-free track on 'The Goodies and the Beanstalk', together with Franklin's storyboards of edited or un-filmed scenes from the episode, plus the surviving footage from 'Broaden Your Mind' (the late-60s BBC sketch series written and performed by Brooke-Taylor and Garden, with Oddie) and two hidden extras, aka "Easter Eggs".
The laughter-free track on 'The Goodies and the Beanstalk' may not seem a particularly exciting extra at first, but it turned out to be well worth watching. With the majority of the laughter track removed a number of lines previously obscured by audience laughter can finally be heard. A particularly good one is the revelation that the second recipe in the 'Giant Book of Tasty Recipes' is Sweet and Sour Chartered Accountant.
The storyboard also provides an insight in to what an un-tampered with 'The Goodies and the Beanstalk' would have been like. Unfortunately there is no explanation as to why these edited or un-filmed scenes were edited or un-filmed and it is a shame that there is no commentary track for this section. Also I found the way in which the storyboard is presented a little annoying. It is presented like a slide show, with the storyboarded frame and the accompanying notes appearing on screen one after the other. Unfortunately there are no manual controls for the slide show and when the accompanying notes are brief you have to wait for the next frame. When the accompanying notes are lengthy you have to read quickly before the next frame appears. This section would have been better presented like most DVD photo galleries, with manual controls allowing you to look at each frame for as long as you wish.
Perhaps the most exciting rarity on this DVD is the surviving 'Broaden Your Mind' footage, which hasn't been seen for over 30 years. 'Broaden Your Mind' was in many ways a bridge between the radio series 'I'm Sorry I'll Read That Again' (ISIRTA) and 'The Goodies'. Mostly written and performed by Brooke-Taylor and Garden, it was a gentle sketch comedy series based around the idea of televised learning. The entire series was wiped in the infamous BBC video tape purges of the mid 70s and it was thought that the show only survived in the form of off-air audio recordings made by fans in the UK and Australia, so the discovery of this footage caused a great flurry of excitement.
The footage in question is from episode 2.5 (22/12/69), the second to last episode of the series. By this stage in the development of the programme Oddie had become increasingly involved in both the writing and performing, although his most notable contributions were his songs, which he performed in the studio. For this reason Oddie is not in the footage on the DVD. The surviving footage consists entirely of sketches and the credits sequences, shot on film prior to the studio recording in front of an audience.
The surviving footage lasts for about 10 minutes and begins with the credits sequence, which was inter-spliced in each episode with several quick sketches. In this case the sketches concern a revelation about policemen and an examination of medieval military technology. It is interesting to note how ISIRTA-esque these quick sketches and indeed the theme music are.
The first full-length sketch involves Garden as (the regular character) Dr Findish, a mad German scientist employed by the British Institute of Applied Science and Technology and Not Germ Warfare. In this sketch Dr Findish discusses Turgonitis, a new disease developed at the Institute which causes Brooke-Taylor to fall over - and apart. This is a nice piece of physical comedy from Brooke-Taylor and involves plenty of special effects and stop-frame filming techniques. What with the mad scientist character and all, it's hard not to notice that the team were becoming 'The Goodies'.
The second full-length sketch is a parody of the ground-breaking documentary 'Royal Family' (which had been screened six months earlier), famous for being the first programme to show the British Royal Family "behind-the-scenes". The subject of the parody is Ex-Queen Gladys of Streatham, a woman so far down the list of those in line for the throne that she needs to wait for roughly the population of Birmingham to die before she becomes Queen. The Ex-Queen is played by ISIRTA cast member Jo Kendall, with Brooke-Taylor as her Consort, Prince Fred of East Ham. Garden plays Fred, the official representative of Silo Dairies (ie. the milkman) who calls to enquire which type of milk the Ex-Queen would like. There are lots of ISIRTA-style jokes in this sketch, the best one concerning the Ex-Queen giving Fred a signed photo of herself.
The final 'Broaden You Mind' sketch is a quickie about coughs and sneezes spreading diseases, which again is very ISIRTA-esque. Overall this footage is enjoyable and amusing; the quality of the film is amazing – it looks better than the Goodies episodes, and the restoration team are again to be congratulated. It is sad that this is all that remains of 'Broaden Your Mind', other than the audio soundtracks; it would have been wonderful to see some studio sketches from the series, including Oddie's songs. But until the rest of the series turns up in someone's shed, this will have to do. And if you're interested in hearing the studio sketches from this episode the audio soundtrack is available at http://broadenyourmind.tripod.com/
As for the Easter Eggs, they are both on disc 2. One is the timeclock which proceeded 'Army Games' (1.5), an episode not on this disc. This features a member of the crew explaining the purpose of the timeclock – and some frightened yelps from Oddie and Brooke-Taylor. The second Easter Egg is the station ident preceding a repeat of a first series episode on BBC1 (the first person to identify which episode this ident proceeded should probably be given a very large, real, chocolate Easter Egg for their trouble!). Information on how to access the Easter Eggs is available at http://www.excellent.addr.com/goodies/eggs.htm
So, that - very un-succinctly - is what's on the DVD. I thoroughly recommend that you go out and buy a copy right now. And if you enjoyed this DVD the good news is that volume 2 is on the way. Volume 2 will reportedly feature the special 'Goodies Rule - OK?', but I'm also hoping for 'Radio Goodies' (1.7), 'The End' (5.13), 'It Might As Well Be String' (6.5) and Rock Goodies (7.5). As for extras (and besides the afore-hoped-for commentaries from production staff) how about the footage of The Goodies rehearsing for the Amnesty concert 'A Poke In The Eye (With A Sharp Stick)' and the extracts from the documentary 'How On
Earth Did They Do That?', showing the filming of special effects for 'Rome Antics' (5.9) and 'Cunning Stunts' (5.10)? Or how about some of the 'Top Of The Pops' appearances? So many possibles, so little disc space - whatever's on it, volume 2 is bound to be a Superstar.
Episode choice - IIIII Superstar
Episode restoration - IIIII Superstar
Commentary tracks - III Goody Goody Yum Yum
Extras/Easter Eggs - IIIII Superstar
Menus/Technical Stuff - IIII Officially Amazing
OVERALL - IIIII Superstar