Friday, August 27, 2010

Beasts - Buddyboy!

There is a belief held by some fans that all of Nigel Kneale’s works are great. I am about to dispel this notion. My evidence? A little episode of Beasts called Buddyboy! By this time, Nigel Kneale had a long and successful association with television. Obviously I need to mention the Quatermass serials but there was so much more that he had done by this stage. By the 1970’s, Kneale’s relationship with the BBC had soured quite a bit. One of the losses from this relationship was the fourth Quatermass serial but Kneale was looking at other outlets to continue bringing his type of stories to viewers.

In 1975, ATV asked Nigel Kneale to write for their serial Against the Crowd. What he came up with was the play Murrain. The program was very much in the typical style of Kneale’s work where it is left up to the viewer to interpret for themselves what they think is really going on. Nigel Kneale worked with Producer Nick Palmer on this and Kneale was very happy with the results. So much so, talks almost started immediately with ATV to collaborate on more drama. This eventually evolved into the Beasts. As Andy Murray wrote in his viewing notes of the DVD release of Beast, the series would revolve around the theme of “civilized man in conflict with the primal, animal side of existence”. Each of the six episodes would be done in a completely different style and would deal with paranormal activity or some other phenomenon.

Buddyboy TX: 26/10/76

The episode I randomly chose was Buddyboy. The episode plays out as if someone reached into a bag and pulled out random ideas and locations then tried to craft a story out of it:

(reaching into a bag) Hmmmm…. Let’s see, we are going to write a story based around, a theatre that shows porn, some of the theatre staff wants to get into the business of shooting porn movies. Porn Barron wants to expand business and looks to buy bigger place to turn into theatre. Decides to buy old, run down dolphinarium. Oh, wait, it’s haunted. Haunted by the ghost of a dolphin named Buddyboy.

That’s it. I have to give Kneale full credit for taking the most abstract plot elements and try to string them together and create a story. I am not sure what happened with the story and to be honest, after a while I didn’t really care. The story is about Dave, who owns a theatre that shows porn movies, wants to expand his business and has a possible location to look at for expansion. He meets with the current owner Hubbard. Hubbard owned the place which was a dolphinarium. There was an extremely smart yet difficult dolphin called Buddyboy. Buddyboy died mysteriously. Although Hubbard insists of no wrong doing, he is haunted by the clicks and whistle of a dolphin. Hubbard is played by Wolfe Morris. He is quite convincing as a man who is tortured. He looks like he will explode at any moment. He shakes and sweats; his eyes are bulged out and blood shot. I felt myself in pain every time he was on screen!
While Dave is looking at the property, he finds that a young woman named Lucy is squatting in the dolphinarium. Lucy actually was someone who worked with Buddyboy. There is something not quite right about Lucy. She is mystified by Buddyboy, almost worships him and she misses him. Clearly something weird is going on as Hubbard immediately hates the sight of Lucy and the feeling is reciprocated. There is a backstory we never really get about those two. But then, suddenly, we hear the sound of a dolphin whistling and clicking. Very scary……

Eventually, because Hubbard wants to unload the property so badly Dave lowballs him on the price. Not only does Dave get the dolphinarium, he also somehow gets Hubbard’s apartment. Now this is probably explained in the episode but I may have lost interest by this point. I am not sure why Dave also gets the apartment but maybe he is just holding onto it until after Hubbard returns from his trip? As the episode plays out, Dave and Lucy get a lot closer. It certainly has nothing to do with love but more a relationship sprung out of convenience. As they stand in what used to be Hubbard’s bedroom (as they were able to keep all the furniture), they decide to make love which leads to one of the most bizarre sequences of television I have ever seen.

Dave rips off her shirt and brings her to bed. We cut to a close up shot of Dave’s face mimicking the act of having sex but has the most cheesy-pleasured looking smile on his face. Then, we have a close up of Lucy. Her face is very unhappy, almost unsettling. While she is lying there, the shot is overlaid with her back in the dolphinarium. She’s standing in different areas of the set, looking around. We hear the unmistakable sound of Buddyboy. Suddenly, she gets totally into it with Dave and passion ensues. After they are done, she goes to use the bathroom and starts running water to take a bath. The whole time Dave is going on and on about how he wants to expand the business and actually get her into the business in some seedy way. After she doesn’t answer him, Dave goes into the bathroom to check out what’s going on. He opens the door. I swear we were going to see Buddyboy in the bathtub looking back at Dave and that Lucy was Buddyboy the whole time! I had hoped for a big payoff to the last 45 minutes of dullness I had just endured. I wanted Buddyboy to not only be in that bath tub but pissed off. I wanted him to jump out of that tub and beat the shit out of Dave. Give me something interesting! Instead, it was just Lucy and she had drowned in the bath tub.

I have a very strange relationship with the series Beasts. I don’t think it is quite the masterpiece that some think it is but it is by no means bad television. The episode During Barty’s Party is exceptional. Kneale exhibits the same type of writing which made me such a fan of his. A lot of During Barty’s Party is explained to us from actions happening off screen and from the description the visuals are left up to us. It’s very similar to what I said in my article for Quatermass II, especially episodes Five & Six. Unfortunately for Buddyboy, I really have no idea what happened and the episode had no impact on me.

Hubbard said he never harmed Buddyboy, yet Buddyboy fell ill and eventually died. Part of the story is that Buddyboy was an arrogant dolphin and seemed to not like Hubbard. That being said, what happened to Buddyboy and was Hubbard directly involved? Was it the captivity which eventually leads to Buddyboy dying? I also didn’t like how some things were just shoe horned into the script almost for shock value. Early on in the episode, back at the night club/theatre, Dave’s associate Jimmy brings in an Usherette who he thinks would be great if they could start making movies with her. To prove his point, he has the Usherette take of her top and his topless as the camera just sits on that shot. I am not a prude. This just doesn’t feel right and it derails the story a little bit. Is this meant to show how different this world of night clubs is to our “normal” lifestyle? If so, they didn’t do a very good job with it. I know. PRUDE!

I watched this from the Network release of the entire series Beasts. It’s a two disc set and it is presently very nicely. Some of the stuff Network puts out isn’t always the best in terms of encoding but I think Beasts looks fine. Some of the masters tapes may not be in the best shape either and as something like Beasts is not exactly a big seller, I hardly would expect Network to commission any restoration. Though, Network has come through many times in the past for other releases such as Public Eye.

One of my silly fascinations is with Broadcast countdown clocks/slates. A slate is often a countdown clock which networks use as a way to cue the program they are about to air. It is an identifier of the series and the episode which will follow. I love them, think they are neat and have no idea how to explain any of this. I just like them. For a while, whatever they released, Network would leave the countdown clock on the episode on the DVD. It wouldn’t be presented as part of the episode when you would start an episode from the menu but you would know it was there because your DVD counter would not be at zero when the episode started. It would be maybe fifteen to thirty seconds in and all you would need to do is rewind the picture on the DVD and you can see the countdown clock. Here is a picture of it!

All of you who enjoyed Buddyboy, go on, right a comment below and let me know why it is good. What did I miss?

Next Week: I take a look at a series I really enjoy but hardly ever watch. In fact, there are still episodes I have never seen before and I think the one for next week is one of them. I look at The Vicar of Dibley and the apt title Summer especially as that is winding down for us. Also, please check back as I continue to write up my articles on Doctor Who Series Five!


Etron Memke said...

"There is a belief held by some fans that all of Nigel Kneale’s works are great. I am about to dispel this notion. My evidence? A little episode of Beasts called Buddyboy!"

You mean Kinvig wasn't enough proof?

Greg said...

I haven't actually seen Kinvig though it reputation is quite well know. Touche! :)

Anonymous said...

buddyboy was an incredibly intelligent but unappreciated dolphin who was exploited by Hubbard, and kept out of the water until his lungs collapsed. Buddyboy possessed Lucy which is why Hubbard was terrified of her. Lucy/Buddyboy demands to be loved but after a shagging it becomes clear our hero wishes to exploit her too. Having sought love and found exploitation in both dolphin and human form she commits suicide in the bath.
not only tragic but worth noting the poetry of Buddy drowning on land and Lucy drowning in water, both seeking to be closer to each other.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the comment above. Like The Dummy, this should be ridiculous but somehow it isn't. I wonder if there's a parallel between Hubbard's exploitation of Buddyboy and Dave's exploitation of Lucy. I'm not sure if Lucy is somehow possessed by Buddyboy's spirit or just really liked him. It's not perfectly executed by a long way and suffers from being stagey and very 1970s, but it's lingered in my mind, so it must have done something right.

Greg said...

I still stand by my dislike towards Buddyboy as I feel that this is trying to be edgy for edgy sake. It's cool to see people defend the episode. Like you said, it's lingered in your mind. That being said I do think Lucy was possessed by Buddyboy.

Anonymous said...

I'm watching it for the first time right now and it's utter nonsense.

From the Archive said...

I still agree with that!

tbowler said...

I rewatch Beasts perhaps monthly and love every one. the scripts are so rich, i notice new details even on the 50th rewatch.

Buddyboy's puts a bizarre plot in a seedy setting, with a script full of tiny details and rich, densely layered dialogue.

It's hard to order them most to least favorite (and even the least is a 90/100). Here's a first pass. Honestly can't pick a favorite within each tier

Tied for #1: Baby
Tied for #1: During Barty's Party

Tied for #2: What Big Eyes
Tied for #2: Buddyboy

Tied for #3: Dummy
Tied for #3: Special Offer