Worst to Best
The Frighteners

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7 You Remind Me
Of Someone

Barry Jackson (Midsomer Murders, Barry Lyndon... and, let's face it, Drax from Doctor Who) guest stars as a long distance lorry driver taken hostage by a psychotic passenger. While the series is quite sympathetic towards mental health, people having breakdowns leading to violence is a common theme of the series, and acts as the climax to at least three of the episodes, this one included. Jack Hedley (credited only as "man") plays the passenger who believes those giving him lifts are sleeping with his wife and need to be killed.
     The sound on the series was credited to just four men: while David Jones and Arthur Payne got just an episode each, the majority were left to Bill Cross and Alan Mills. You Remind Me of Someone is one of half a dozen episodes to be scored by Bill Cross. His minimalist closing credits score adds to the sense of unease placed within this tale. The final shot sees another vehicle drive off with the man in question, his belief that he "knows them from somewhere" unchecked...

6 The Classroom

The Frighteners was released on DVD as a joint venture between Network and a History of Forgotten Television Drama in the UK project. Based in Royal Holloway College, University of London, the project is funded by The Arts and Humanities Research Council and launched the "forgotten" range with this release.
      The Classroom features familiar themes for the programme, with Clive Swift as a pupil visiting his old schoolteacher (Patience Collier) and wanting revenge for perceived slights. While the motif of "revenge for the past" features in more than one episode, it's given an extra edge here by the casting of Collier and Swift, two actors with a reputation for being somewhat difficult to work with.
     Direction by Graham Evans takes in some touches that are not in the current TV lexicon, such as multiple zooms, but also has rewarding hand held sequences. Most significant of all is the bleak script by William Trevor. The "redemption for past wrongs" plot may have been done before in the series, but never better than this...

5 The Disappearing

One of the most memorable and surreal episodes, with character actor Victor Maddern as an anonymous, put-upon man who feels that no one can see him. Pains have been made to avoid spoilers wherever possible, so the striking climax won't be discussed here, but there's almost a metaphorical, symbolic quality to this strange tale, one which still resonates today...

4 The Minder

The Frighteners was largely buried in ITV regions, or often not shown at all, meaning it's such an obscure show that internet searches are more likely to bring up the first episode of The Avengers or the Michael J Fox comedy movie than this nearly forgotten series. The premier of the programme on London Weekend Television had the series first being screened at 10:40pm, a rough timeslot that it would occupy for its first six weeks.
     There followed a break for a golfing tournament, and when the show returned it didn't go out until 11:30pm. The show aired later and later thereafter, and while the tenth episode, You Remind Me Of Someone, got screened to the capital's audiences at 9pm on a Saturday night, the final three episodes aired at ten past midnight, after an eight-month break in transmission. With such haphazard scheduling, it's no wonder that the series is so little-known, to say nothing of all the ITV regions that didn't show the programme.
      With the gritty 16mm filming and bleak locations, there's a desolate air to The Minder, a clever albeit slight script about gangsters. It's a 1970s world where criminals say stuff like "occurrence" and "skullduggery", but they also do things like threatening to remove each other's teeth. Starring Tom Bell, Kenneth J. Warren, Warren Clarke and Brian Glover, there's a pleasingly nasty, brutal edge to the depicted events, though it was met with a disappointed critical response as the series opener, and is even disparaged in the DVD viewing notes.

3 Miss Mouse

The majority of The Frighteners was produced by Paul Knight, who (with Associate Producer Peter Wildeblood) had worked on the 1970 anthology series Tales of Unease. However, for four of the episodes Geoffrey Hughes took over the producer role instead of Knight. The four episodes are Glad To Be Of Help, The Manipulators, Have A Nice Time At The Zoo, Darling and the episode here. While three of Hughes's episodes rank very highly, there's no major qualitative difference between the two, and it's cited more for trivia-based information rather than any specific difference between the two.
     Miss Mouse is one of two episodes hit by industrial strike action, causing them to be made in black and white. If anything, it only adds to the atmosphere of an episode where John Normington's henpecked husband accidentally kills his bullying wife. If there's a criticism of The Frighteners, it's that many of the episodes are "slight", allowing the feel and mood to build in a less demanding time, rather than cramming them full of incident as too many modern television programmes are want to do. If this is a criticism, it's a very mild one, as mood and nuance are what all television programmes should contain. It's notable here as Miss Mouse is the most plot-based, with the murder occurring just a third of the way in, and various twists and turns taking place thereafter...

2 The Manipulators

Probably the most famous episode of The Frighteners, The Manipulators was written and directed by Mike Hodges around the same time as his film debut, Get Carter!. Thematically dense and with some nice twists, there's not a shot wasted in this story of spies, psychological manipulation and the nature of what humans are capable of doing to one another.

1 Have a Nice Time
at the Zoo, Darling

Perhaps a certain amount of bias has to be admitted in ranking this episode, whereby the twin thrills of black-and-white, artistic direction (as with the large image at the top of this page) and the presence of Geoffrey "Catweazle" Bayldon combine towards can't-miss television.
     The screenplay pulls a wonderful sleight-of-hand, whereby the viewers are led to believe that Bayldon's uncredited character is predatory towards a 13-year-old girl at a zoo, but who turns out to be his estranged daughter. The two of them debate the nature of love, God, forgiveness and existence, with Gillian Bailey (Here Come the Double Deckers!) providing strong support. Bailey is now a professor and theatre academic, and wrote an introduction to the eight page booklet that comes with the DVD set.
     With two other episodes under his belt (Firing Squad/The Disappearing Man), Henri Safran was the most common director on the series, and he builds up a nice sense of unease, before leaving viewers with a suitably macabre finale. The episode is so good that a shot of it was used for the cover of the DVD, where it was released, rated "15", under the "Forgotten TV Drama" banner. While the use of black and white was dictated by a strike rather than a choice, this isn't obvious from watching a very well crafted tale, where it could be mistaken for artistic intent. Sadly Bayldon passed away on May 10th 2017, just five days before the DVD was released...


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