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[personal profile] petermorwood
That's how D just described me. :-)

The reason: satellite channel Yesterday is (re)showing the classic BBC POW series Colditz, something I last saw back in 1974, when I was still in Big School.

I've been watching it on and off, amused by the stiff upper lips (you could use SBO - Senior British Officer - Colonel Preston's upper lip as an ironing-board), pleased by how well the claustrophobic atmosphere stands up (there are very few scenes outside the castle walls), and delighted to find that even to this much older, more cynical viewer, bad guy Major Mohn (played with icy relish by Anthony Valentine) is as loathsome as ever.

But a flub of lines in last night's episode "Very Important Person" made me laugh out loud, and prompted D's comment.

I've mentioned before that I used to make model kits; I also painted the figures that went with them, which meant research (which is now being put to use in a new book.) I could geek out about vehicles painted the wrong colour, or uniforms with outdated rank tabs, both of which I saw, but what I heard was the funny.

An SS officer hands paperwork to a motorcycle despatch rider. "Give this to SS-Brigadeführer Schreck," he says. At least, that's what he was supposed to say. It came out as "Give this to Fifty-five Brigadeführer Schreck..."

Um. That's not just a geek error, it's a line error, and should have been spotted by whoever was script supervisor for that scene. ("It is a geek error," says D; "Only a geek would know what it was supposed to be." Like the original scriptwriter, then.) Anyway, in all the times it must have been reviewed before transmission in 1974, nobody - director, producer, editor, writer - caught it.

All right, I noticed it just last night, and maybe I am the only man on Earth who gives a whatnot (though historical and costume consultants get paid good money, as do continuity people) - but at least I don't feel so bad about the occasional typos in The Horse Lord any more! :-)

Date: 2011-06-16 02:11 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Hee! I haven't seen that series since 1974 either, and may have missed that episode (may have missed that season, come to think about it, we gave up having a TV set around that time). Well caught, sir!

Date: 2011-06-16 03:18 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
The really silly part is that the visual is of hands, paperwork and the dispatch-rider's document pouch. No faces. So correction by looping the dialogue would have been simple...

Unlike, say, Babylon 5's Jack the Ripper episode, where Sheridan refers to "a series of murders in the West End". When someone pointed out this mistake, subsequent versions were re-dubbed to "East End," though Bruce Boxleitner's mouth-movement (and apparently the subtitle) is still "West."

Or in Galaxy Quest, where Gwen deMarco's response to escaping through the "chompers" sounds like "Well, screw that!" but Sigourney Weaver's mouth is uttering...a shorter word.

I really am painting myself into a geekdom corner.

So all right, let's put the icing on the cake: when I'm able to announce, after hearing lines in German (in The Battle of Britain among others) that the subtitles didn't show what the character said, that the subtitles weren't a shortened version of what he said, but that subtitles were something completely different (why? is what I'd love to know) then there's no escape from the corner any more... :-P

Date: 2011-06-16 04:05 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Even weirder, D just reminded me that I caught an animated character who'd clearly been re-looped.

In Treasure Planet (a very underrated film, in both our view), Captain Amelia (voiced by Emma Thompson) shushes another over-talkative character thus:

"Doctor, again with the greatest possible respect, zip your howling screamer."

But her animated mouth shapes something more like "shut your yawning cakehole..."

Animation lip-sync is drawn from the character's recorded dialogue, so someone must have approved the original line (D says that "cakehole" is British rather than US, so it could have been an ad-lib by Thompson) for long enough to get the visual completed. It looks as if someone else must have suspected the word "----hole" was a naughty attempt to Get Crap Past The Radar (it happens a lot) got cold feet, and had the line re-dubbed.

Date: 2011-06-16 05:31 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Was that made for TV? They may not have had time to re-do the voice.

I'll join you in the geek corner. I've done that with subtitled translations of German. A few years ago on the Last Night of the Proms, the solist Anna Netrebko (Анна Юрьевна Нетребко) was singing a love song in German "Meine Lippen, sie küssen so heiß", and several of the phrases were translated in the subtitles, er, less than accurately *g*. I commented. My knowledge of German is enough to know what she sang, and it was rather more intimate than what the subtitles said...

Date: 2011-06-16 06:06 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
No, Treasure Planet was a theatrical release. $140 mil budget, according to Wikipedia, and released in IMAX as well as regular cinemas. Also, it wasn't the voice that needed re-done, but the animated mouth movement to go with it - and that's a much bigger piece of work.

A song titled "My lips kiss so hotly" sounds a bit steamier than the usual hearts-and-flowers! However, if the subtitles were trying to rhyme, like the translation here (, I would cut them a bit more slack. Lyrics and classic literature (plays, poems etc.) are always a problem: do you go for accurate literal sense or try to keep the poetry?

The Battle of Britain doesn't have much poetry, and I don't have a copy to check this next observation for accuracy, but I do remember a Luftwaffe bomber officer saying »Die totale Vernichtung der RAF auf dem Boden...« (remembered because it was the first time I'd heard Vernichtung outside its uglier context) and recall its subtitle as something like "Destroy the RAF at their bases."

Maybe the accurate translation, "The total extermination of the RAF on the ground," used a word with nastier WW2 implications than gallant air combat...

Date: 2011-06-16 02:30 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]

Date: 2011-06-16 02:37 pm (UTC)

Date: 2011-06-16 03:24 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
We all have our geek moments.
I was channel surfing and saw good old David McCallum on one of those TV police procedural shows. It took me a nano-second to not only realise he was pouring tea into a Portmeirion mug but that it was Pomona design.


Date: 2011-06-16 04:24 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I get those geek moments all the time... :-)

Your police procedural was probably NCIS - I like it better than D's forensic favourite, the various incarnations of CSI, because it manages to retain more of a sense of humour.

McCallum plays Dr "Ducky" Mallard, the medical examiner, and though dialogue often has him quietly insisting on his Scottish heritage (a bit like McCallum himself) the character is portrayed as more typical Hollywood "good Brit": extremely capable, slightly eccentric and rather endearing.

As a result, public school and British Army reminiscences, references to cricket, driving a Morgan and the consumption of tea. More than once he's used the same Royal Doulton "Old Country Roses" china tea-set as the one Mum kept "for best."

Well, not the same tea-set, my sister has that, but you know what I mean.

Date: 2011-06-16 07:33 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
You are obsessed with Portmerion china *g*.

NCIS is geek heaven - the most famous quote from the series is:

Kate: Gibbs? What did Ducky look like when he was younger?
Gibbs: Illya Kuryakin.

Date: 2011-06-16 07:54 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Yup. It took a few minutes to get the white wine off the cat when that happened (had to catch him first.)

I was a Man From Uncle fan. Used to have all the novels, the annuals, the cap-gun and the official United Network Command for Law and Enforcement membership/ID card. It made up for not actually seeing much of the show, since it was on the same Thursday night as the flaming Church Lads Brigade (Scouts with an Ulster Protestant bias.) Ack.

Also, I presume you've noticed the blink-and-you-miss-it bit in the NCIS opening credits that makes it clear Tim McGee is a Rocketeer fan....

Date: 2011-06-16 08:02 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
It is possible that I may have a set of MUNCLE bubblegum cards. My sister has charge of the 'Monthlys' (if they weren't junked in a housemove at some stage).

Still waiting for the DVDs.

I am currently kibitzing on [ profile] lil_shepherd's f-list, but am going to have to add you, aren't I?

Looking forward to falling in lust with your next fictional Bad Guy.

Date: 2011-06-16 10:45 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
You'll have a choice:

M. le Capitain Jean-David Nau L'Ollonais, Ahnenerbe-SS Oberführer Dr Otto Lange, or Fleet Admiral Vincent Duffy and his sidekick Lieutenant Simon Willis.

I'm not sure whether any of them are people to fall in lust with, or just run away from very fast...

Date: 2011-06-17 08:43 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Depends on which one looks like (a young) Anthony Valentine... *g*

Date: 2011-06-17 04:15 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
This is where I take refuge behind W.M. Thackeray's get-out clause from The Rose and the Ring. He was describing a meal, or rather not describing it...
At length the Groom of the Chambers announced "His Royal Highness the Prince of Crim Tartary!" and the noble company went into the royal dining-room. It was quite a small party; only the King and Queen, the Princess, whom Bulbo took out, the two Princes, Countess Gruffanuff, Glumboso the Prime Minister, and Prince Bulbo's chamberlain.

You may be sure they had a very good dinner — let every boy or girl think of what he or she likes best, and fancy it on the table.*
*Here a very pretty game may be played by all the children
saying what they like best for dinner.

The Princess talked incessantly all dinner-time to the Prince of Crimea, who ate an immense deal too much, and never took his eyes off his plate, except when Giglio, who was carving a goose, sent a quantity of stuffing and onion sauce into one of them.

Giglio only burst out a-laughing as the Crimean Prince wiped his shirt-front and face with his scented pocket-handkerchief. He did not make Prince Bulbo any apology.
(emphasis mine.)

That approach works just fine for characters too, and avoids all the "her eyes were two limpid pools of sapphire and her hair a cascade of gold..." stuff that sounds like a jeweller's shopping list and that I'm sure Diana Wynne Jones made fun of in The Tough Guide to Fantasyland.

I don't think I've ever laid a lumpen spot-the-missing-person descriptive paragraph on anyone; I prefer what they look like, sound like (and most importantly, act like under stress) to build up over the course of a couple of chapters. It seems to create quite a solid picture, because people have told me how they visualise, say, Aldric or Prince Ivan, and it's almost always a bit, quite, or sometimes utterly different from how I see them.

So you may find that not only Anthony Valentine (the Major Mohn/Toby Meres version) but Jason Isaacs, Benedict Cumberbatch, or even Martin Freeman (who I can see as Prince Ivan, no problem) may fit the bill more than my own tentative suggestions... (NB, this is very, very first draft)
The cap's silver skull grinned blankly above Lange's pale, bookish face, chilly blue eyes blinked behind spectacles as shiny as the man's immaculate high boots, and the whole lanky package was wrapped in a beautifully tailored dove-grey uniform with creases sharp enough to cut wrists. His heel-click and little bow were prissy-Prussian perfect.

"Mr Hunter. Mr Thomas James Hunter. Göttingen, 1936, was it not?" The language was English, the accent and intonation pure Eton-and-Oxford, the certainty of recognition frightening. "Yes. Yes indeed. And Princeton in '37, though you failed to see me then." One long-fingered hand made a deprecating gesture at the uniform. "Of course, I was dressed somewhat differently. But on both occasions we were studying the same restricted-access books. How very...coincidental. You must tell me all about it." Thin lips twitched briefly in a thin smile, like a sudden crack in ice far from shore.

"I insist..."
You couldn't describe that guy on a wanted poster, but I hope that already he's not someone you'd want taking such an interest in you...

Date: 2011-06-16 08:02 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Yes, I know you're a Man from UNCLE fan. I have fond memories of you and I spending half an hour quoting The Vampire Affair at each other at some Eastercon or other.

Date: 2011-06-16 10:20 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I think I still have that copy of The Vampire Affair somewhere. The one I really miss (it fell apart) is The Dagger Affair, which gave a lot of intriguing background on Thrush (Technological Hierarchy for the Removal of Undesirables and the Subjugation of Humanity.)

Er. Thank goodness for acronyms; you'd never get that on a business card and have room for much else.

Being fly-on-the-wall with the villains is always fun: some of Fleming's best set-up scenes aren't M telling Bond what to do, but the opening of From Russia with Love where the first ten (!) chapters, that's about 1/3 of the book, are devoted to the background and setup of the SMERSH konspiratsia against Bond.

And it is excellent.

Date: 2011-06-20 08:39 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lists a number of seller with secondhand copie of the dagger affair, from prices around GBP 2.81 (1p cost plus 280p shipping) shipped to the UK that is, not sure what's RoI shipping rates are.

Date: 2011-06-20 08:52 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
As usual with stuff like this, the books are cheap but the shipping is silly (the rates to RoI are about the same as within the UK; we just don't get any of the 'free shipping' offers.)

I've noted down several sources, and will get Dagger Affair and some other of the David McDaniel UNCLE novels when I'm buying enough other items from the same seller that the postage charges look a bit more sensible. :-)

(Of course if I find it in an Irish charity or 2nd-hand bookshop before then, so much the better!)

Date: 2011-06-20 09:05 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
While 1p cost plus 280p postage makes the postage look silly, I just look at the total cost and decide if it's reasonable.
Free shipping is only applicable to Amazon itself (plus a few of their new items partners but not all of them) and never to their secondhand stores.IIRC from selling a few things on Amazon before my move to Japan, the shipping costs are set by Amazon and secondhand sellers can't move it up or down - the price is dependent on type of item - so much for a DVD, so much for a book, etc. Also IIRC ordering multiple items from the same secondhand seller on Amazon at the same time may not decrease the shipping cost at all, again this only works with Amazon new sales.

Date: 2011-06-20 09:22 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Point taken. Since I'm not dying for the lack of the book, I can wait.

Of course if it was something I really wanted, hadn't seen anywhere at all for ages, and had a ridiculous price, I'd have to think long and hard quite quickly - and if unable to afford/justify it, would then do my best to forget I'd ever seen it.

Date: 2011-06-16 04:00 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
In 1974, WWII was practically still current events (in terms of TV programming and movies). The concept that somebody wouldn't recognize "SS-Brigadefuehrer" boggles the mind.

Date: 2011-06-16 04:36 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
For me, it's the fact it wasn't recognised during all the times pre-broadcast that the sequence must have been viewed. Surely someone must have compared the completed episode to the script once?

I wonder what the writer said when it aired for the first time... >:-[

Date: 2011-06-16 07:09 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Something unprintable, I assume. But it was only going to be broadcast once, before vanishing into the arms of BBC Overseas sales, and eventual wiped limbo (wonder how it did escape the 76 purges?)

Date: 2011-06-16 07:55 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
It slipped between the cracks in some way, I suppose, though the two recent appearances (now and just before Christmas) are the first time I've seen it since first transmission.

Secret Army pops up on satellite as well, every now and then, thought I haven't seen its sequel Kessler anywhere.

The Bad Guys in those three shows (Luftwaffe Major Mohn and SD-Sturmbannführer Kessler) are classic examples of how to portray malevolent, intelligent villainy without showing anything as crass as shooting someone in the head right in front of the camera. (I don't think that would have been allowed by the 1970s Beeb even after the watershed.)

The implication is that anything you can imagine these people doing, or more correctly authorising being done, is the mere tip of the iceberg. It's hard to build that up within the time constraints of a movie, but in a series (or indeed a novel) it's another matter.

I have been taking notes. :-)

Date: 2011-06-21 01:42 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Ah, so kessler on DVD is the thing you've seen online for a ridiculous price (GBP 45 for threee disks, six episodes) and aree trying to forget? Since it's on DVD it is of course almost certainly available for illicit download.
(deleted comment)

Date: 2011-06-16 09:54 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Good point.

The irony is that the one person who would have had a clue was the writer, and writers are usually at the very bottom of the heap when it comes to being told things. (D and I were incredibly lucky with Sword of Xanten, with an executive producer 100% on our side.)

There is a way around it, of course: write the script on a 1933-45 period German-keyboard typewriter with a double-sigrune key like this ( Whether you'd want one is another matter; besides all the other associations, I could never stop wondering "just what orders were written on this thing...?"

Apparently they're highly sought after by modern producers of Nazi memorabilia, who use them to create "genuine" provenance material for fakes that can then be sold as real, with price tags to match.

But at least you can't mistake that double lightning-flash for anything else.

Date: 2011-06-16 05:02 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
It's a long time since I saw that, mostly on its first transmission in the seventies. Am I right to think that they occasionally had the "Prisoner Cell Block H" wobbly wall problem?

Date: 2011-06-16 05:11 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Yes, I've seen a couple of instances where Colditz Castle isn't quite as sturdy as the stonework alongside various door-frames might suggest. Slamming a door is never a good idea, especially when its behaviour might upstage your dramatic exit...

Date: 2011-06-17 12:38 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Was this one of the series that was broadcast "live", i.e. there wasn't time for a re-edit or was it post that era? (I'm not sure when they stopped doing them like a play.)

Anthony Valentine made a very good "baddie". Though it is interesting that his signature scar here looks like a fresh wound.

PS found this:

Date: 2011-06-17 04:26 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
No, this was recorded. I can't remember when the live stuff (like the Peter Cushing 1984) stopped, but it was before my time.

IIRC he got the scar (and the other, unseen injuries that Valentine represented by that stiffness when sitting down) during Unternehmen Merkur/"Operation Mercury", the airborne invasion of Crete, in May 1941. By 1944-45 it should be fairly well healed, so I would blame the make-up department if it looked too fresh. Unless the stress of the past couple of episodes meant he was picking at it...

Newsbiscuit... Yes. Quite. :-/

Date: 2011-06-17 11:39 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
No, I meant Anthony Valentine has a scar, not his character.
Yes I know his character was injured, hence him being moved to Colditz from more active duty.

Date: 2011-06-18 12:16 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I wasn't aware he had a real scar - I can't see it on any of the IMDb photos - and hadn't noticed it in any of his other roles; most contemporary with Colditz would have been Callan and Raffles, I think. Are you sure the one under his eye is real Valentine rather than Mohn make-up?

My memory of it looking dramatic, sinister and stylish led me to give something similar to Aldric when I was writing Horse Lord. However, I've since seen pictures of what a real Mensur-schmiss (German university duelling-fraternity scar) can look like, and 'stylish' is not the word any more... Find a photo of Otto Skorzeny; they're often worse than that. Ew.

Date: 2011-06-18 09:41 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Yes because in later roles it is there, faint but there.
Having a definite crush on him, believe me I noticed the details!

Date: 2011-06-18 10:00 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Heh. A little touch of letch will always focus the attention more closely, whether the I-want-that is physical or just material.

Date: 2011-06-17 04:38 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
It's slightly after the 'live broadcast' era - but it has always been a hallmark of BBC drama that they do try to keep the cameras running as long as possible (to save expensive film/tape) and not do re-takes - and something of a matter of pride for the actors to be able to cover fluffs - unless they really lose it and resort to profanity to force a re-take. Hence the amount of swearing on the VT department's annual Christmas outtake reels (before the Beeb cracked down on illicit use of the editing suite).

Date: 2011-06-17 04:23 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Hello! I was linked here by a friend because I've just finished watching Colditz (for the first time) and have been boring all my f-list silly talking about it. Hope you don't mind my dropping in here to comment.

I think [ profile] jaxomsride is probably right that the show went out more or less live. In the second season especially, I noticed quite a few instances where the actors flubbed their lines and had to correct themselves or pause for recollection and then continue. Clearly there wasn't time for re-takes.

Date: 2011-06-17 04:32 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
As you can see from the post I was writing as you posted yours (!) my own view is that it was recorded. Best way to be sure is for me to have a look at the credits on tonight's episode.

It didn't need to go out "more or less live" to have line-flubs and hesitations; Auntie Beeb was running on a pretty tight budget and re-shooting something days afterwards would cost far more than a "Cut! Let's have that again, please!" take right after the mistake.

But the voice-only error prompting this thread is one that could have been fixed with five minutes, a microphone and a tape-deck - if someone had caught it, which it looks like they didn't. Until now... ;->

Date: 2011-06-18 07:43 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
It didn't need to go out "more or less live" to have line-flubs and hesitations

No. I wasn't very clear. I didn't mean actually live; what I meant was that I got the impression there simply wasn't the budget for retakes, so that it was like a live performance in the sense that if an actor screwed up his lines, too bad.

Date: 2011-06-18 11:54 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]

I think [ profile] inamac already nailed it - and explained as well why shows like It'll be All Right on the Night (collections of bloopers, for those who haven't seen one) so frequently feature scenes where a fumbled line turns into a flurry of bleep-outs. Forcing a re-take...? Makes sense.

It's really impressive that there weren't more hiccups and hesitations, and an indication of just how good the actors were.

Date: 2011-06-20 08:45 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
The "live recording" - i.e. exactly one take only for each scene, is of course responsible for the original Christmas Dr Who line to camera. Dr Who of course couldn't be broadcat live - too many cuts and scene changes in the episodes, but like many of the shows of the time it was generally filmed live, with single takes for each scene. If you flubbed, you had to cover, just like in theatre.
Of course you're still right that a line screwup like that should be correctable with a re-dub. Given the budgetary constraints, though, perhaps even that was beyond them and they just sighed and decided to live with it.

Date: 2011-06-20 09:10 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Either they decided to live with it or like Diane, concluded there'd be few enough who'd notice or even care.

Given all the restrictions involved, I remain more impressed with the lack of errors than annoyed by the ones that got through.

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