In the final of our current run of Network Releasing reviews, we take a look at the DVD release of The Hanged Man and Turtle’s Progress, both released today.
Devised and scripted by Edmund Ward of ATV’s The Power Game fame, this six disc set from Network Releasing comprises of both The Hanged Man and Turtle’s Progress on one complete release. The Hanged Man follows Lew Burnett, who after three attempts to kill him decides to stay ‘dead’ in order to remain alive. Lew is the owner of an international construction company who goes undercover and on borrowed time must draw his enemies out while confronting some painful truths.
The Yorkshire Television production stars Colin Blakeley and Michael Williams the powerful eight part thriller also features appearances from Jane Seymour and Gareth Hunt.
In ATV’s Turtle’s Progress the spin-off show adopts a much lighter tone with the exploits of some of the characters from The Hanged Man taking centre stage in the follow up series which predates Thames Television’s Minder which shares the same gritty London setting and sharp humour.
We’re going to mainly focus on The Hanged Man two discs of the set, there are four discs for Turtle’s Progress. For those who haven’t seen the series before we don’t want to give too much away so will keep to the basic points of the plot.
The Hanged Man is a long forgotten ‘gem’ of a drama which was produced at the Leeds studios of Yorkshire Television in the mid-1970s at the peak of the company’s power as a drama and comedy centre of excellence, think of shows such as Rising Damp and Tom Grattan’s War. Episode One opens with Lew facing another attempt on his life via a wooden workers bridge and a digger leading to his decision to ‘die’ and discover just who is behind his regular assignation attempts.
Colin Blakely provides a strong performance in the lead role with Michael Williams appearing as the smooth and charming Alan. The show is also host to plenty of other well known faces including Jenny Hanley and Julian Glover.
Production wise the theme tune comes from Alan Tew, who may be better known for his incidental scores used in shows such as The Sweeney and The Two Ronnies. The scripts are average verging on occasionally very good and while Turtle’s Progress has more wit content, the episodes are still enjoyable to watch. They are obviously ‘of their time’ the story stands up well and other than being set in the decade it was made it hasn’t aged in any other way.
The programme generally is kept entertaining by the cast, who were at the time of the production in the peak of their careers. Technically the videotaped studio scenes don’t sufferer from age-related issues, tape defects or strobing which is a regular feature of EMI 2001 cameras of the day. The outdoor scenes are, as standard at the time, shot on film rather than video tape, these are grainer than the studio footage but doesn’t detract from following the storyline.
The follow up sees Yorkshire Television and Leeds left behind for the more entertainment-focused ATV Elstree centre in Borehamwood, North London. Turtle’s Progress is less dark, less dramatic and more of an attempt at dry wit rather than laugh-a-minute comedy. Its the kind of show you’ll either get the humor, or not. In this ATV production the storyline centres around the Turtle and his sidekick – the comparisons today to Minder were to be expected, although by the time George Cole and Dennis Waterman hit the air Turtle’s Progress would have been a long distant memory in the minds of viewers and critics alike at the time you would think however the reality is both shows were airing in the same years of 1979 and 1980. Obviously the best show of the two had the longevity while Turtle’s Progress faded into television past..
While there is again a nice mix of guest stars in the episodes – including the charming Peter Bowles and Joss Ackland – the show can be at times a little slow, however the plot once you get into it may leave you wanting to find out what happens next so carry on to get to the conclusion. Each edition sees the leading duo in search of the contents of a stolen safety deposit box.
In all thirteen episodes were produced, and it can be best described as a hit-and-miss kinda show, especially if the wit isn’t to your taking. However as it comes with a great cast and decent enough storyline its enjoyable enough if you like shows such as Tales of the Unexpected and, yes, Minder. It’s almost a strange mash of the two which only ATV could really manage in the 1970s having previously given us big business dramas such as The Plane Makers, camp action shows like The Persuaders and gritty serial such as Hunter’s Walk.
Technical wise its again recorded onto videotape and isn’t bad looking picture wise for its age, the theme tune is performed by former The Animals member Alan Price.
The Hanged Man and Turtles Progress (Yorkshire TV/ATV Productions) are released today (January 23rd) by Network. RRP £59.99. Six Disc set.
A final note, from everyone here at ATV Today we wish all the best for the future to Sabina Maharjan at Network Releasing who is leaving the company for new adventures. All the best Sabina for the future and thank you for all your assistance with the DVD reviews.