Sunday, 29 March 2015

Weird 1970's Kid's TV: Children Of The Stones

Another one of those fantastically strange kid's drama serials from the maniacs at HTV, Children Of The Stones freaked out a generation, and is regularly referred to as 'the scariest programme ever made for children.'
It's about astrophysicist Adam Brake ( Gareth Thomas off Blake's 7 ) and his son Matthew, who journey to the village of Milbury, the site of a neolithic stone circle ( played by Avebury, a site in Wiltshire that predates Stonehenge. )

Adam is there to investigate the stones, and Matthew, being actually cleverer than his dad but not too annoying with it, has tagged along to help.
Almost immediately, something is very evidently wrong with Milbury. Everyone walks around smiling at nothing, and constantly wishing Matthew a 'Happy Day'.
There are strange pagan rituals going on at night, led by Hendrick, the Laird of the village ( the magnificently urbane and chillingly charming Iain Cuthbertson )

There's a local madman wandering about, with more knowledge of what's happening than anyone, if only someone would actually listen to him ( played by ace mad actor Freddie Jones ).

There's also a painting of a neolithic ritual involving a black hole, and time seems to be not just repeating itself, but repeating itself into infinity. And anyone invited to the Laird's manor for supper, comes back.... changed.

Adam & Matt team up with Margaret, the curator at the village museum, and her daughter Sandra, to try and figure out what's going on, they being the other new arrivals seemingly unaffected by the psychic forces at play in Milbury.

Interestingly, Hendrick recognizes Matthew as his arch-nemesis straight away, and respects him as a worthy opponent, while Adam, being an adult, is sure he already knows all there is to know, so misses every portent that comes his way.
Like a lot of kid's TV at this time, Children Of The Stones freely takes in such subjects as mythology, leylines, the Gaia principle of the Earth, pseudo-science and the fate of humanity in it's seven episodes.
It's full of atmosphere and dread, and people glancing meaningfully at each other, not daring to speak the awful truth. And then there's the opening of the show, where the stones seem to be singing to you. Or maybe warning you away.

Children Of The Stones is a bit Wicker Man, a bit Stepford Wives, and a bit like The Prisoner, what with their seemingly innocuous phrases like 'Happy Day' and 'Be Seeing You'  given sinister intent, and with it's final ending where everything almost, but not quite, goes back to the beginning.
I'm guessing no kid at the time, and very few adults, understood the ending of Children Of The Stones, and the revelations given as to what it had all been about. But that's the mark of the HTV kid's serials, versus the pap children are fed these days. You actually had to think.

And it's all on youtube, so as you're not doing anything Sunday afternoon, put your feet up and watch the whole thing. But be warned. Once you enter Milbury, you might not ever leave.

Friday, 27 March 2015

Doc Savage At British Marvel

Over here, we first encountered Pulp's greatest hero Doc Savage in the pages of reprint weekly The Super-Heroes, a catch-all jamboree of a title that also featured The Silver Surfer, The X-Men, The Cat, The Scarecrow and Giant-Man, among others, in it's roster.
We'd never read anything like Doc before, and loved him and his gang of kooky experts, particularly the Ben Grimm-esque Monk. I was also massively impressed with The Man Of Bronze's exercise regime, mainly because I knew there was no hope of me ever being that focused about anything.
I also loved the way Doc always called his pals 'Brothers'. In essence, he and his Fabulous Five are really a boys' gang, like Tom Sawyer & Huck Finn all grown up, always looking for adventures to go on and trees to climb.
This, the debut story reprinted from the US Doc mag, is still the best one, I think, with superb Buscema / DeZuniga art and of course, a great script from Doug ( I never slept in the Bronze Age ) Moench.
Just for fun, let's read The Doom On Thunder Isle the way we read it in The Super-Heroes, with the British covers and specially commissioned linking splashes for each episode. These covers are actually quite good, but the splashes are just as bland, though professional, as I remember them. Well, we can't all be John Buscema can we?
For the full effect, read each installment a week apart.