Monday, February 20, 2012

REVIEW: The Face Of Evil DVD

The Face Of Evil
Starring Tom Baker & Louise Jameson

1 Disc DVD

See HERE for Extras
UK March 5 (£20.42)
US March 13 ($24.98)
Canada March 13 ($30.98)


STORY

This mid~period Baker offering is an odd affair. Whilst never being cited as anyone's favourite of all time (not in polite company anyway), The Face Of Evil is also notable for never being poorly regarded. A journeyman of a story, perhaps. There is, in actual fact, much to admire about the four~parter, despite its slight unmemorableness. (Is that even a word?)


The film work on the story is an absolute treat and, as always with Doctor Who on film, makes you wish that the whole series had been captured this way and not just the odd scene here and there. Everything becomes alive and that more magical in the "jungle" scenes whilst Baker's features light up the screen with luscious cinematic luminosity. As does his new co~star Louise Jameson, the beautiful yet feisty "savage" Leela.


Indeed, matching the brilliance of the filmic visuals is the instant spark of the Time Lord and his new companion. Considering all the behind~the~scenes nonsense (and by that I mean Tom Baker's intransigence) the two hit their stride from the off; seeming like best friends who've just met. I'd also like to draw your attention to some delightful Tommy B posturing pre~meeting his new TARDIS traveller as he chats to the camera directly (or is he?) - classic Baker. The rest of the cast aren't quite as engaging and the mob mentality, unsurprisingly, rather blandisises (?? - Ed.) the supporting actors.


In part this is due to the complexity of the story itself, which is more concerned the merging of sci~fi and savagery than background characters. The notion of the Doctor coming across a problem, that he inadvertently caused in the past, is first class (though, even better if he'd done it in the future) and the use of the immense Baker face carved in stone is certainly one of the most remarkable images in the series' history.


Likewise the "computer~generated" face of Baker screaming whilst the real one collapses on the floor also lingers in the mind (particularly when the child's voice comes into play). It's not hard to see why a generation of kids were just as scared of Tom as they were of any of his foes (I include myself in that group) and just as equally easy to see him as The Doctor who could go "bad".

The Face of Evil is remarkable is some facets but doesn't live up to its fantastic premise; though with Baker and Jameson on screen you'll hardly notice/care.

EXTRAS
The special features for this four~parter, and, as discussed, an unremarkable one at that, are a very handsome bunch indeed. And most generous too. First up is the making~of documentary, Into The Wild, a very stylish affair that makes full use of the wonderful model of Tommy B'[s huuuuugggeee heeeeeed. Jameson makes up for the lack of Tom Baker by referring to her, wait for it, "huge arse" (I would like to point out that her derriere was far form large, but hey, that's just me).


It focuses, for the most part, on the actress's introduction to the show (including the odd reference to her and Baker's "difficult" relationship) with the always VFM Philip Hinchcliffe and Mat Irvine. The docco ends on a sad note, however, with a number of moving tributes to director Pennant Roberts (who is also featured in some archival footage). Accompanying this tremendous film are further instalments of Doctor Who Stories (featuring Louise Jameson talking about her time in the TARDIS) and Tomorrow’s Times (looking at press coverage of the Tom Baker era). The latter is always a fascinating watch and none more so here, studying the contemporaneous reaction to the man that many still refer to as THE Doctor.


And yet, there's even more fun to be had on the disc: in From the Cutting Room Floor, you'll find some intriguing (and hilarious behind~the~scenes footage (all on film); there's a Louise Jameson interview from Saturday morning BBC children's show Swap Shop; and the all too brief television advert for the Denys Fisher Doctor Who toy range. Look a little further on the disc and you'll be rewarded with the most welcome inclusion of a PDF with all sorts of materials from the 1976 Typhoo Tea Doctor Who promotion.


The commentary, like The Face of Evil, is a pedestrian affair but does its best to entertain (the overlapping of anecdotes, as always, gets a bit wearing - note the "Janice Thorn" gag). It features Louise Jameson, Leslie Schofield, David Garfield, Michael Elles, Harry H Fielder, Philip Hinchcliffe and film cameraman John McGlashan (with various people popping in from episode to episode). Points are definitely taken off moderator Toby Hadoke for stating that Star Wars (being discussed as two of the cast starred in the George Lucas film) was released in the UK in 1979. (December 1977, fact fans!*)


The unsung heroes, if you like, of the classic DVD range are, for me, always worth giving a "shout out" to, if I may use such a disgustingly urban phrase. Here the Production Notes will inform and raise a smile (I didn't realise the re~appropriation of Colonel Bogey March was a "anti Nazi" song, for example. Anti Hitler, yes...) whilst the Photo Gallery will really question the tastes of the day with those promotional images of actress Jameson with a tad too much tan (pictured here).


This is almost the perfect release; with numerous brilliant extras and a most satisfactory story but one can't help but feel that some Tom Baker involvement would have only enhanced this disc. (I realise that many factors could have prohibited this.) There's plenty of archival footage of the man chatting about the story and it would have been a boon to have his voice and opinion somewhere on the DVD. Other than that, The Face of Evil is another must buy from the "classic" range.
BLOGTOR RATING 9/10

Thanks to BBC Worldwide Consumer Products
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* Pedantry: Star Wars did, however, receive a theatrical re~release in 1979.

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