Thursday, 29 July 2010

Rescue the Hitchcock 9

The BFI is appealing for donations to fund the restoration of nine of Alfred Hitchcock's silent films: The Pleasure Garden; The Lodger; The Ring; Downhill; Easy Virtue; The Farmer's Wife; Champagne; The Manxman; and Blackmail.

I was lucky enough to see two of those, The Lodger and The Ring, as part of a Hitchcock triple bill at the cinema last year (the other film shown, Sabotage, was a mid-30s talkie). I'd wanted to see The Lodger for years, if only because it starred Ivor Novello as a young man whose landlady suspects may be a Jack the Ripper-type killer of young blonde ladies. Innovatively shot, it's a great thriller, and the line 'To-night - Golden Curls!' has stuck in my mind ever since. Ivor Novello, needless to say, was just beautiful.

The Ring was a Hitchcock screenplay as well as a film he directed, and it's a simple enough tale: boxer meets girl, boxer and girl marry, girl meets champion boxer, boxer fights his way to the top to take on wife-stealing champ... If you love the 1920s you'll love the house and party scenes, and be frantically taking notes on the decor!

I was really pleased to have the opportunity to see these films in a cinema, because it really is the best place to see black-and-white films, and will be making a donation. If the restoration goes ahead, here's hoping all nine will come soon to cinemas countrywide.

Monday, 26 July 2010

Dick Barton, Special Agent (DVD)

This series was originally broadcast on British television in 1979, and was based on the late 1940s radio programme of the same name. It used the same theme tune and was, like the radio programme, broadcast in 15-minute episodes.

I wanted to like this, I really did. My main problem is the emptiness of everything; apart from Dick and his friends, their enemies and whoever they're helping, they seem to occupy a completely empty world. There isn't even much traffic noise or radios in the background. The heroes, villains and victims seem to be all there is, which makes the whole programme feel really artificial. You need a believable background to make a tale of derring-do have a chance of working, because there's only so much disbelief a viewer can suspend at any one time, and poor old Dick Barton doesn't get one. You do feel the people making the programme had access to actual 1940s pieces when they made it and the cars, especially, are stunning. If you like vintage cars, it's worth watching an episode or two just to see some of the beauties on show.

The stories are fast-paced and, for something of its time, there aren't as many non-PC moments as you might expect, possibly because this programme was made in the late 1970s. They're all a little foolish, but then Dick Barton always has been a little foolish, with improbable escapes and silly plots, and a notable reluctance on the part of the villains to do anything as sensible as shooting Dick, Snowey or Jock, instead relying on tactics like burying Dick up to his neck on the beach for the tide to get.

I enjoyed knitting along to this. Mr Robot did not enjoy it at all. It's fun enough as background noise, but you probably wouldn't want to sit and watch it like you would a film.

Saturday, 24 July 2010

Repro china

Can’t afford or find a full set of vintage china? I spotted a couple of things recently that might appeal. Sanderson has released the 1950s-style ‘Dandelion Clocks’ pattern, although the body shapes of the items look quite 21st century to me.

Possibly of more interest, although limited in range, is Royal Albert’s ‘100 Years of Royal Albert’ collection, which includes tea cups, cake plates, cake stands, tea pots, sugar basins and milk jugs. I especially like the 1930 Polka Rose and 1950 Festival designs, but there’s a design taken from each decade. The base shapes, however, are the same. It would have been nice to see a different classic shape for each decade, but I appreciate that that probably would have bumped up the prices of the pieces, plus this way the pieces will probably appeal more to people who like sets of china with different patterns - the trio collectors. (I like things all to look the same, but mix-and-match seems trendy nowadays.)

I do find the Royal Albert pieces very feminine. Afternoon tea is the most feminine of meals, and the items are clearly intended for that rather than eating more substantial meals off, so that may have influenced their choice of florals from most decades rather than a more graphic pattern from the 1930s or 1950s such as Safari. I do wonder if the patterns reflect the modern tea-taker, or whether these patterns would be more likely to have been in most people’s houses than something very on-trend.
I won’t be buying any myself as I have no more room for china, but if you’re as matchy-matchy as me these sets are worth taking a look at.


Welcome to Crinoline Robot! I suppose as this is the first post, I should say something about what the blog is about. Crinoline Robot brings together a few of my interests: early to mid 20th century style, vintage books, classic films, crafts (especially knitting) and science fiction and fantasy. I love alternate histories, retro-futurism, the quirky and offbeat. In case you're wondering where the blog's name comes from, it was inspired by a piece of embroidery I'm working on.

The blog is being written in the first person, because referring to 'The Robot' would sound pretentious, but there won't be any chitchat about family and friends here unless it relates to events, books or something else that's the main topic of discussion.

I hope you enjoy Crinoline Robot.