Posts tagged ‘Euston Films’


The return of Van der Valk

08.09.2021

I came across an old post of mine on Euston Films remakes, at the time the American version of Widows hit the big screen. My last question, after going through Minder, The Sweeney and Widows reboots, sequels and remakes: ‘Now, who’ll star in a new Van der Valk?’
   Since local TV programmers and I have entirely different tastes, I only happened across the new Van der Valk from 2020 recently thanks to a French reviewer on Twitter. I wish I knew earlier: I rate Marc Warren as an actor, it has a great ensemble cast, and for those of us who are older, the theme tune is based on the original (Jack Trombey still gets a credit in each episode, though it should be noted that it’s a pseudonym for the Dutch composer Jan Stoeckart).
   As far as I know, few (if any?) of the Van der Valk episodes with Barry Foster were based on the Nicolas Freeling stories, so I didn’t really mind the absence of Samson and Arlette. Mentally I treated it as a prequel, pre-Arlette, till I found out that showrunner Chris Murray had killed her off in a flashback sequence in episode 3 (giving stuntwoman Wendy Vrijenhoek the least screen time of the four actresses who have played her in the British versions). Which is, of course, the opposite to how Freeling had it, since he had killed off van der Valk and had Arlette star in two novels.
   I read that one reviewer noted that the stories weren’t particularly Dutch, but then, were they ever? I didn’t really get into Broen or Wallander because of how Scandinavian the storylines were (though it must be said, I enjoyed Zen for its Italianness). I do, however, appreciate the change of scene from London or Los Angeles, which seem to be the home of so many cop shows. I even welcomed Brighton with Grace, starring John Simm, and produced by Kieran Murray-Smith (of the Murray-Smiths), or, for that matter, Sheffield with Doctor Who.
   But a Van der Valk sans Arlette does mean the heart of the old stories is gone, and we have yet another emotionally broken TV detective, a ploy that we’ve all seen before. But the casting is solid, and the very likeable Marc Warren shows he can lead a series ably.
   Of the Euston Films shows I followed as a youngster, it does appear they have all now been revisited in my lifetime, except for one: Special Branch. Bring back Craven!

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Remakes: Widows joins other Euston Films series

04.11.2018

I see British filmmaker Steve McQueen has remade Lynda La Plante’s Widows.
   I was younger than he was when it aired, and didn’t appreciate the storylines to the same extent, though I have recollections of it.
   What I did recall was a Smith and Jones sketch, which had a voiceover along these lines: ‘From the makers of The Sweeney and Minder, Eusless Films presents Widows: exactly the same, but with women in it.’
   The reality was that La Plante wrote Widows because she was unimpressed with how men wrote female parts in scripts (she was the actress Lynda Marchal, and I still remember a small role she had in The Professionals). It was actually ground-breaking. Verity Lambert produced.
   I hope McQueen does well with his remake, with Viola Davis, and the setting shifted to Chicago.
   I worry a bit given that Hollywood also remade Edge of Darkness or State of Play: pretty decent miniseries that weren’t as good when transplanted and turned into feature films, according to period reviews.
   I saw the former and while it was a pacy actioner, even as far as employing the same New Zealand director, Martin Campbell, it lacked the depth and suspense of the original; I daren’t even see the latter as the original remains one of my favourite miniseries and I don’t want to see it butchered, even if Scottish director Kevin Macdonald helmed it. It was a wave of American efforts to remake anything with John Simm and Philip Glenister.
   But tonight I did think about the other famous Euston Films series that were remade or reimagined.
   The Sweeney was remade but with the action still in South London. The 2012 version by Nick Love had a tight budget but plenty of violence, perhaps recapturing the grittiness that audiences would have felt when they first saw the Armchair Cinema special of Regan. Ray Winstone, who guested on the original, took the lead, and channelled Jack Regan well; Ben Drew (Plan B) had even more of a coldness and wild tension on screen as George Carter than Dennis Waterman did. It’s perhaps best known for a car chase involving the crew from Top Gear, who took the opportunity to build a sketch around it during production. It wasn’t as special as the original, and I didn’t rush to repeat the DVD. Reviewers didn’t like it, but in my opinion it ranks above Sweeney!, the first attempt to turn the TV series into a silver screen film but using the original cast. There, we saw countless acts of violence explained away at the end in one meeting with Thaw and Michael Latimer’s characters after a plot that seemed to build up a complex conspiracy. Sweeney 2, by Troy Kennedy Martin (the brother of the creator), was far tenser and the better effort, and it was fun to spot the Ford press fleet vehicles with the VHK prefix on the number plates.

   Minder never went to the big screen, but a remake, or sequel, appeared in 2009, with Shane Richie and Lex Shrapnel. I sat through the first, found it tolerable, and at least in the spirit of the original, but it always felt like an imitation trying to live up to its forebear, not something that carved its own direction. Many don’t seem to remember that Minder was created as a vehicle for Dennis Waterman, not George Cole, even if more and more scripts wound up focusing on the latter’s Arthur Daley, leading to Waterman quitting the series. The 2009 series’ première followed on from that later formula, whereas to me it always required the two stars being on par with each other.

   So, will the Americanized Widows follow suit? Will it be ‘exactly the same, but with women in it,’ or, with McQueen as talented as he is, will it be a solid retelling with the same sense of ambiguity at the conclusion as the original? I might have to see it because of McQueen and screenwriter Gillian Flynn, and McQueen says he has been a fan of the series since he saw it as a teenager. Even the original Dolly Rawlins (Ann Mitchell) has a cameo.
   Now, who’ll star in a new Van der Valk?

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