80,000 Suspects - Blu-ray and DVD

Sunday, 18 October 2015 23:00 Written by 

80000 Suspects - out now on Blu-ray and DVDOne of BAFTA-winning director Val Guest's most memorable films, “80,000 Suspects” is now available in a brand-new High Definition transfer from the original film elements. It’s also in its as-exhibited theatrical aspect ratio on this new Blu-ray and DVD release from Network. Hitting screens in the UK in 1963, with the tale of a crisis which begins one New Year’s Eve, Richard Johnson (Hugh Drummond in “Deadlier than the Male” and “Some Girls Do”) and Claire Bloom (a BAFTA winner for “Shadowlands”) star as marriage-on-the-rocks couple Dr Steven and Julie Monk. The duo would go on to star in Robert Wise’s “The Haunting”, but here they are at the centre of a smallpox epidemic in the city of Bath.

Dr Monk suspects there’s a very serious problem when he is asked to examine a patient with unusual symptoms, after the good Doctor pops by the hospital following a party which has been uncomfortable at best – and he’d only gone in to pick up a camera! The results come back from ‘the lab’, and it is indeed his worst nightmare. Alongside all this, there are complications of a soap opera variety, which entwine with the medical plot as a love triangle plays out alongside the traumatic events.

Early on, at the New Year’s Eve shindig, we meet Ruth Preston (Yolande Donlan, who played Dixie Collins in another Val Guest feature, “Expresso Bongo”), a ‘Mrs Robinson’ style figure who is dancing with, and making overtures to, rookie Doctor Brooks (Bruce Montague - Leonard in Butterflies). It turns out she’s a serial adulterer, much to the despair of her husband and work colleague of Steven’s, Doctor Clifford Preston (Michael Goodliffe – Hunter #2 in Callan, Jack Barraclough in Sam).

Agnes Davis (Vanda Godsell – Katie Heenan in The Newcomers) is the one who turns up first in hospital with the disease, and she’s the patient that Monk examines. She has caught it from her son Sidney (Stewart Guidotti – Geoffrey Wedgwood in the Pathfinders trilogy), who works as a steward on a ship which has been to the ‘Far East’. Straight away husband Harold (Norman Bird – Mr Braithwaite in Worzel Gummidge), and children Jane (Rachel Clay – Victoria in “These are the Damned”), Daphne (Kim Tracy – Mary in “Konga”), and Brian – although his character is listed on an on-screen log as ‘Edward’ (David Weston – Phil Mitchell in UFO “Survival” and “The Dalotek Affair”) are quarantined and vaccinated at home.

Cyril Cusack (Danty Duff in 1992’s “Far and Away”) plays Father Maguire, on hand to be a sounding board for the characters involved in the love triangle, trying to turn a mirror on the three of them to work through how they can unravel the mess they have made.

There is a fine balancing act between the melodrama of the adultery and the procedural business of trying to contain the outbreak. Richard Johnson gives the film credibility with his performance, frustrated by his wife’s almost subliminal hen-pecking, and one does wonder why he even stays with ex-nurse Julie, so difficult does she make it to be loved. However, there is a brilliant twist when we find out the reason why she has been so awkward, and it shows a depth of characterisation which is sadly missing in soaps of our modern day.

Look out for Ray Barrett (Peter Thornton in The Troubleshooters, voice of John Tracy in Thunderbirds) as Health Inspector Bennett. Incidentally, Ray also played a character called Bennett in the William Hartnell era Doctor Who story “The Rescue”.

For those of a certain vintage, there are some familiar faces to look out for. Basil Dignam (Cabinet Minister in UFO “Identified” and “Mindbender”) is Medical Officer Boswell, Jill Curzon (Louise in “Daleks’ Invasion Earth 2150 AD”) is Nurse Jill, Ursula Howells (Barbara in Father Dear Father and Elizabeth Woodford in The Many Wives of Patrick) plays Joanna Duten, and Kay Walsh (nominated for a BAFTA for her role in 1958’s “The Horse’s Mouth” alongside Alec Guinness) is the bombastic Matron.

There are some blink-and-you’ll miss uncredited appearances in the film, too, from the likes of Suzan Farmer (Hammer actress, who was also Tina Duvall in UFO “Survival”), Peter Madden (Hobbs in Danger Man), Felix Bowness (Fred Quilley in Hi-De-Hi!), and Norman Mitchell (Corporal Mould in Danger UXB).

Real-life reporter Bruce Lewis of TWW (Bristol) also makes an appearance to add credibility for the UK market, informing his audience of the crisis as it spreads, all from his well-branded television studio.

Written, produced and directed by Val Guest, the plot is based on the novel “The Pillars of Midnight” by Elleston Trevor. Val was one of the UK’s most prolific directors – his TV work included three episodes of The Persuaders!, three of Space: 1999, three of Hammer House of Mystery and Suspense, and bizarrely eight episodes of The Adventurer. Some of the big screen classics he was responsible for included “The Quatermass Xperiment”, “The Day the Earth Caught Fire”, and “When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth”. Bond fans may be interested to know that in the 1967 disaster which was “Casino Royale”, he was brought in, uncredited, to film additional scenes with David Niven and Woody Allen in a futile attempt to save the picture.

Special features on this release include:

  • Image gallery
  • Press and publicity material PDFs (for the Blu-ray, you will need a Blu-ray drive in your computer to access the stuff)
  • Booklet by Professor Neil Sinyard

The treatment of the smallpox outbreak is very matter-of-fact, with the vaccine given to all and sundry, but the medical staff are very slack in how they handle the procedures, even despite the fact they all take regular showers and have their clothing deep-cleaned in a big drum washer after every session. It would never do in this day and age! There is genuine suspense as the hunt is on for a final contact the health officers become aware of, and the mystery of who this person might be.

All in all, this is a great spectacle for those who like star spotting, as so many of the cast, even in uncredited roles, went on to be much better known. The print on the Blu-ray is, as you would expect, absolutely immaculate, and save for it being in black and white there are no marks or blemishes to distract you from the unfolding plot.

“80,000 Suspects” is out now from Network Distributing. It has a running time of 109 mins approx, a ‘PG’ certificate, and a RRP of £14.99 for the Blu-ray or £9.99 for the DVD, or grab either for less at www.culttvstore.com

denizli escort denizli escort