Whicker's World Volume 3

Tuesday, 02 July 2013 00:00
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Whicker's World - a third volume of episodes out now from NetworkAlan Whicker's death on 12 July 2013 makes this release even more poignant. A cultural icon, consummate interviewer and guiding light behind some of the most popular documentaries ever made, Alan Whicker's quiet brand of incisive, insightful television journalism enthralled audiences for the best part of six decades. This third DVD release from Network presents a diverse and memorable selection of films made between 1968 and 1980.

It is only when you see Whicker at work that you can truly comprehend the magnitude of his skills.  His was a disarming, casual approach, a light touch which disguised some very insightful and hard-hitting questions, all of which link together to squeeze answers from his subjects that are not guarded, and strike you as incredibly truthful.

The award-winning episodes were included within the first two volumes that Network have previously released, so it would be easy to think that what we are left with are, if you like, the bronze medallists in terms of quality. You couldn’t be further from the truth if you think this, as these snapshots of cultural history resonate with the world which is still around us today.

The rich are still so removed from the realities of everyday life that they might as well be on another planet. The attitudes to plastic surgery, which was at the time the stamping ground of the elite, remain the same today, although this has now trickled down to a greater percentage of the population – ‘inner beauty’ is still something that has no currency with these narcissists.

The major revelation is the episode “Immortality Inc”, which considers the emerging cryogenics industry, from 1969. It begs the question as to whether the freezer caskets are still being cared for some 44 years later.

The iconic 1980 series shot of Whicker and Concorde

The 1980 episodes feature opening credits that have a theme provided by Andrew Lloyd Webber, and an incredible freeze-frame caption of Whicker marching along a runway, with Concorde, the star of these particular titles, in the process of landing behind him. If this was pornography, they would describe this as the ultimate ‘money shot’.

It is very unlikely that the travel shows of today are going to be as timeless as the escapades of Alan Whicker – these are extraordinary slices demonstrating the craft of television, and a high point in the genre, the like of which we are never going to see again. I recall seeing many of the series when they were first broadcast, and for a youngster obsessed with science fiction, the otherworldly-ness of many of those individuals featured was probably why they resonated with me so much.

WHICKER’S WORLD VOLUME 3 (Exempt from certification), is released by Network Distributing on 3 DVD Discs, with a running time of 600 mins approx, and a RRP of £24.99, or get it for less at www.culttvstore.com

 

WHICKER’S WORLD VOLUME 3 – EPISODE GUIDE

 

“The Road from Rose Linda's - Alan Whicker Meets the Cats Eyes-Man”

(Original ITV TX: 8 October 1968, Half Hour, Series 1)

Whicker meets Percy Shaw who invented cats’ eye reflectors for roads. We discover how Percy Shaw was inspired on his way home from a pub named Rose Linda’s in Queensbury near Halifax in West Yorkshire, when he found himself guided by his car headlights reflecting off the tram lines.

 

“Immortality Inc”

(Original ITV TX: 2 June 1969. Half Hour, Whicker: USA)

Whicker looks at the cult of immortality in America, where people will pay $10,000 for the chance to live twice. They believe that while they are frozen for a century or two, science will find a way of re-animating them as medicine crosses new frontiers. A Michigan professor predicts it will become a trillion dollar industry. Twenty people are frozen already. On Long Island, Whicker talks to a Manhattan policeman, beside them, in a crate of dry ice, is his wife. His hope is that science will find a way to cure the cancer from which she died, and then invent a method of reviving her. On his death he will join her in the ‘freezatorium’. In the San Fernando Valley, Whicker meets the director of a scheme by which 20 bodies can be frozen in large tanks, liquid nitrogen preserves them in this frozen limbo and a salt solution replaces their blood. The hundreds who are willing to take out the $10,000 insurance policies for a second chance are formed into Cryonic Societies across America. This episode, above all, illustrates the complete rejection of the inevitability of death.

 

“Prince Johannes Von Thurn Und Taxis”

(Original ITV TX: 8 January 1970, Half Hour, Whicker in Europe)

Whicker meets Germany's most eligible bachelor, Johannes, Prince of Thurn and Taxis. This remarkable man owns more land in Germany than any other person and lives in a glittering palace in Bavaria. At 12-years old, he underwent bullying and interrogation by the Gestapo, but did not crack, and ended up openly defying his inquisitors.

 

“Husbands Shy Clear of Me, Boy...!”

(Original ITV TX: 27 July 1970 – Half Hour, Whicker’s Walkabout: Australia)

Whicker visits Norfolk Island, a tiny piece of paradise drifting through the South Pacific where the descendents of the Bounty Mutineers live, the seamen who set Captain Bligh adrift in an open boat and returned to their Tahitian women. Today most islanders are still called Young, McCoy, Adams, Quintal, making isolated Norfolk an 18th Century storeroom of people - the way we used to be, once upon a time. They speak a unique dialect, a soft and joyful blend of West Country English and Tahitian. Their most indomitable character is Girlie Christian, 76-year-old descendant of Fletcher Christian who tells an extraordinary story. Girlie is a television original.

 

“Anguilla - I Do My Duty When I Feel Like It”

(Original ITV TX: 2 August 1971, Half Hour, Series 2)

Alan Whicker, always daring, rediscovers two vanishing tribes. The first on Dominica - where remnants of the proud Caribs live who gave their name to cannibalism. The second tribe are also flesh-eaters - when they can get it. Tribesmen dance in the sunlight, bodies are strangely decorated as Whicker arrives amid a wild and curious ceremony. They are ... London coppers! Metropolitan police now keeping the Queen's peace on the small island of Anguilla.

 

“God Forgive Me for What I've Done - But it Was All Very Enjoyable...”

(Original ITV TX: 9 August 1972, Half Hour, Whicker: Within A Woman’s World)

Whicker meets 36 year old Patricia, a merry warm-hearted woman and the mother of nine children by a variety of fathers. She is also a criminal who has been an inmate of Holloway five times. She specialises in housebreaking and shoplifting, but her lifetime of crime has included smash-and-grab, hi-jacking, gaol-breaking and armed robbery. In this episode she discusses her crimes and reveals her techniques to Alan Whicker. Patricia provides a revealing picture of a criminals' mind, and then speaks of the revelation which transformed her moods and attitude from then onward.

 

“The Lord Is My Shepherd and He Knows I'm Gay”

(Original ITV TX: 2 October 1973, One Hour, Whicker Way Out West: California)

Gay liberation is one of the fastest growing movements in America. In this episode Alan Whicker attends a homosexual wedding in San Diego, meets a gay bishop, three transexuals and some members of a lesbian tide.

 

“The Most Beautifullest Brainwashing There Ever Was...”

(Original ITV TX: 17 October 1973, Half Hour, Whicker Way Out West: California).

Whicker looks at an extraordinary group of people whose belief is absolute and baffling, they are members of the first and largest of several hundred Jesus Communes - the 'Christian Foundation' of Tony and Susan Alamo. He investigates the position of this enigmatic couple, so lacking in charisma yet commanding such complete and astonishing allegiance. Why are there Jesus freaks content to exist 30 to a room in conditions of squalor, when their unlikely leaders live on the hill above in such style?

 

“Houston – A Gun is a Very Funny Animal”

(Original ITV TX:29 July 1974, One Hour, Whicker’s World: Houston)

In Whicker's investigation into this American city, we consider the background of America's greatest mass-murder, ride with the Police on their remarkable night-patrols, fly with the Helicops, shoot with the Fastest Gun in the West, play ‘The Game’ with Houston junkies, mingle with 140 widows in a club that costs £6,000 to join and sample life among the 'Never Sweat Set'.

 

“Large Sums of Money Have a Very Fusty Smell”

(Original ITV TX: 18 May 1976, One Hour, Whicker’s World Down Under)

Charmain Biggs, wife of Great Train robber Ronnie Biggs, talks at length for the first time on television about her life with Ronald. They discuss the background to his part in the robbery, his dramatic escape from Wandsworth and their life on the run in Australia where, eventually, a number of people knew who they were.

 

“How Can I Lie About My Age When My Son Needs a Facelift..?”

(Original ITV TX: 14 September 1977, One Hour, Series 4)

Americans have one Secret Society which everyone longs to join, based on an improbable sandbar down in Florida. For a century Palm Beach has been the Mecca of the Super Rich, living between tall walls and high hedges with only one money problem - how to spend it. Palm Beach, a never-never land, where no-one feels properly dressed without a yacht, is seemingly populated by bathroom billionaires known by their products, like Mr Kleenex, Mrs Listerine, Mrs Q-Tips and Mrs Gillette. In his remarkable study of America's new aristocracy at play, Whicker reflects that the rich should not be resented but enjoyed as a pageant - as they pass before us, a glittering entertainment. He talks to society hostesses, including Juliette de Marcellus, Helene Tuchbreiter, and Ann Hamilton.

 

“Even Though You're a Maharajah You're a Human-Being First”

(Original ITV TX: 31 October 1978, One Hour, Whicker’s World: India)

In this fourth revealing report from his Indian travels, Alan Whicker journeys through the princely state of Rajasthan to chronicle the end of this golden era in which a Sun God has been transformed into a Mister, and to see what has happened to this most exotic race of Maharajahs. He meets the dignified queen mother - the Rajmata of Jaipur, who tells of being cast into prison by Mrs Gandhi. The present Maharajah keeps a team of polo ponies, and also plays the game on elephants, but lesser mortals must use bicycles. Jodhpur's palace is now an hotel, as is the Lake Palace of the Maharana of Udaipur, whose family is the oldest in the world. In the 15th-century desert city of Bikaner, the Maharajah remembers sand grouse shoots with King George V.

 

“He'll Never Have To Divorce Me - He Can Always Change Me...” 

(Original ITV TX: 30 April 1980, One Hour, Whicker’s World: California)

Whicker revisits one of Los Angeles more unusual marriages - plastic surgeon Kurt Wagner & his wife Kathy (“I’d Like to Think I’m Nearer to God than Frankenstein”, ITv TX 3rd October 1973). He finds that Kathy, now 38, has had two more improving operations since they last met - a full facelift and an acid treatment. Whicker gives viewers that sense of privileged eavesdropping as he peels away the attitudes of this unusual couple and reveals some startling truths about the surgeon whose patients call him Mr God. Why would he turn to psychiatry? What has led the couple to get involved in ESP and marriage counselling? Rarely has there been such a sting in the tail of one of Whicker's films...

Last modified on Friday, 12 July 2013 16:33

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