Rare colour photo from Taste of Evil, from the Radio Times billing - Maurice Roëves as Stephen Chambers

OUT OF THE UNKNOWN

SEASON 4 CLIPS GUIDE

by Colin Cutler


The fourth season of Out of the Unknown emerged in 1971, commencing with John Wiles’ quasi-supernatural thriller Taste of Evil. Thankfully the season has fared slightly better than its predecessor, with five productions from the eleven week run originally retained on 625-line colour videotape. Some uncertainty still surrounds the fate of two plays (The Chopper and The Shattered Eye) apparently documented as being dispatched to Dubai in the 1970’s but not returned. Some BBC records continue to list these as still extant (including the BBC’s official Treasure Hunt website listing).

The surviving material from non-extant productions is comprised of an audio recording from the series’ repeat broadcast in 1972 and a short clip excised from a 16mm b/w print sold to Australia in the same year.

Overseas sales brochure promoting the fourth season.

THE LAST WITNESS

TX. 2nd June 1971

A single thirty-three second clip survives from this production.

Story Context: A dying man called Harris (Anthony Bate) is washed up on the shores of an island in the Channel Isles. To assuage his guilt at killing his wife Anne (Denise Buckley) , his fevered mind attempts to construct a different turn of events, in which he pictures himself as an observer to the brutal act rather than its perpetrator. The story unfolds through a series of cleverly constructed ‘flashback’ sequences, which allows Harris to re-construct himself as the survivor of a shipwreck who has lost his memory. Within this imagined reality, he suffers a series of hallucinations which feature a man called David (Michael McStay) strangling Anne on a remote cliff top. It is only in the last stages of the play that the viewer becomes aware that in reality Anne had fled with David to escape an unhappy marriage to the abusive Harris, who had pursued them both to this remote location and eventually killed her (falling to her death from a hotel window).

Clip: The surviving clip derives from one of the play’s film sequences, in which Harris is seen to be observing the murder taking place on a cliff top pathway. The sequence exemplifies how Harris’ need to reconstruct his past actions frequently suffers ‘intrusions’ from those real events that he is desperately attempting to repress.

As the clip begins, we intercut between shots of David clutching at Anne’s throat and Harris watching the event from the cliff edge. As we zoom in closer to Harris, we cut to the struggle again, which goes on to feature Anne’s right hand reaching out to grasp some vegetation on the cliff-edge. This cross-fades to her hand clutching at some drapes which fall out of frame (an echo of the ‘real ‘murder, in which Anne had clutched at some curtains as she fell).

As the struggle continues, the shot cuts between the strangulation and a close-up shot of David in a completely different context (at night and with the sound of a strong wind blowing). As the viewer will realise later, the latter is another intrusion into Harris’ reconstruction of events, as this shot is actually that of David seen from Harris’ point of view as he himself is pushed overboard in a later act of revenge (the real event that precipitated Harris being washed up on the shore at the beginning of the play).

This shot of the ‘real’ David goes into an extreme close-up, before cutting away again to his imagined counterpart finally releasing his grip on Anne’s throat, whose lifeless body falls from view.

The sequence is accompanied by a section of Dudley Simpson’s incidental music for the play.

Duration: 33"

The clip has been retained alongside a number of other ‘cuts’ from television material excised by the Australian Censorship Board. The cut was made in 1972, the year that Australia purchased and originally broadcast the fourth season of Out of the Unknown. A copy is retained on 16mm film at the Sydney office of the Australian National Archives.

Radio Times billing

THE UNINVITED

TX. 23rd June 1971

Complete Duration: 46'53"

A complete audio recording of this episode exists in a private collection. The recording stems from the play’s repeat broadcast on BBC2 on 15th August 1972.

 

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

With many thanks to the following people whose direct correspondence and guidance (or whose forum postings I’ve gratefully scanned for relevant information) has assisted in the development of this guide:

To Trevor Wells, Keith Underhill, Martin Townley, Mark Slater, Roslyn Connors, Paul Hillam and Anthony Carr for their invaluable help with the surviving off-air audio recordings.

To Daniel King, Bernard Newhman and John Gorrie for kindly helping out with numerous photographs from their personal collections. Thanks also to Daniel for his diligent research regarding the surviving material held by the Australian National Archives.

To Dave Auger, Christopher Barry, Ian Beard, Scott Burditt, Tristram Cary, James Cellan Jones, Malcolm Chapman, Nick Cooper, John Kelly, Andrew Martin, Erin O’Neill, Dave Rice, Ian Riley, Steve Roberts, Steve Rogers, Lee Rose, Damian Shanahan, Neil Somerville, Vaughan Stanger and Mark Ward for their helpful correspondence or forum replies regarding background information, Radio Times reference material, sources of clips, durations etc.

And finally, to Julian Knott for continuing to support and host this article!


Colin Cutler

September 2010

 

> INTRODUCTION

> CLIPS LISTING - SEASON TWO

> CLIPS LISTING - SEASON THREE

> CLIPS LISTING - SEASON FOUR

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