Thursday, 8 July 2010

Unmann's choice: Great Telly

On this week's conference call, Unmann reminded me about Harold Baim's 1981 short film 'Telly Savalas Looks At Birmingham', and we realised that it had to be posted on here as a matter of urgency.

This wonderful short film was produced as a 'quota quickie', i.e. the mandatory UK produced element of a cinema programme in the days when audiences expected a package of entertainment, not just one mega long, mega loud film and a massive drink that costs a tenner.

'Kojak' star Savalas didn't visit the second city for the film, instead recording his voice over at the de Wolfe studios in London. I like the way that Telly pronounces some words as if he's never, ever heard them before and his constant 'incredible, just incredible' enthusiasm is both charming and inadvertantly comic.

I'm sure this film had the required effect and boosted tourism to Brum (Baim only filmed on sunny days so that UK locations looked like Monte Carlo), as Baim and Telly also looked at Portsmouth and Aberdeen before going their separate ways.

Why don't we have over-40's disco competitions nowadays? Broken Britain, baby, broken Britain.


Reimer said...

'Kojak' was the only US cop show I ever cared for. Both my Mum and Auntie fancied him.

The story behind this excellently-stilted little film (1981? 1975 or so, surely) is available in documentary form here -

Whilst the core of the city centre looks rather smarter in the standard glossy Euro-cool-aspirational way now, the outer core is dingey and frightening. Plus, it appears to be twinned with Lagos and Kandahar.

Unmann-Wittering said...

The film was released in 1981, but, according to Baim's website, most of the filming took place in 1979.

I went to Birmingham a couple of months ago. Luckily, I stuck to the Euro-cool-aspirational core!

Reimer said...

I suppose the Disco competition should have given it away - couldn't be earlier than about 1978. 1981-82 was when the next big changes in fashion rippled out to those outside Bohemia (aside from the gauche like me) - their absence in this film made me query its date.

Speaking of complete entertainment packages at Ye Olde Picture House, the now-defunct 1 screen cinema in St Helens was still projecting oil-lamp/wax-blob patterns over Ken Dodd's greatest hits during intermission into the late 80s.

Whilst I dislike the constant dissing ordinary Brummies suffer from the metro twats my reaction to post-industrial poly-everything world-city Brum's human content on a pre-Xmas Friday night was one of unmitigated horror and repulsion.