Thursday, September 25, 2014

Channel 4's Brond from 1987 - John Hannah and Stratford Johns

We are used to films and television programmes being available to watch pretty much whenever we want to view them. But I have strong memories of a series that was shown only once in 1987 and has never been issued on video or DVD.

Brond marked the first screen appearance of John Hannah as Robert and a late starring role for the mighty Stratford Johns.

I remember it most for its stunning opening, which Notes from New Sodom describes for us:
it opens with a young John Hannah ... as a young Glasgow Uni student who's out jogging. He stops to catch his breath on a bridge ... where a wee kid is leaning over, looking down into the river. 
As the Hannah character watches we see Stratford Johns (from classic British cop show, Z-Cars) walk down the road towards him and, in passing, with the utterly casual callousness of a one-handed shove, push the kid over the edge. And then wink at Hannah as he walks on.
It is that wink I remember most of all. In winking at Hannah he is also winking at the camera and us the viewers.

The plot was hard to follow and hard to recall after so many years - I must have watched it on a snowy portable someone lent me shortly after I bought my own house. But I recall that it involved Scottish and Irish terrorism and Stratford Johns as Brond was an intelligence boss or gang boss or quite possibly both.

The video above is the only extract from Brond I can find online (there is another television series from 1987 I shall blog about one day where nothing seems to remain).

But there are stills on a couple of unlikely websites. VHiStory goes through an old video tape - and shows Brond flipping the boy off the bridge - and IMCDB is interested in the cars used in the production.

Notes from New Sodom quotes some dialogue from the series that has a contemporary resonance:
BROND: You shouldn’t upset him like that. He’s a good man. 
ROBERT: A good soldier. He told me before. 
BROND: Oh yes. Kilts and trumpets at dawn. Loyal and brave. A Scottish Soldier. 
ROBERT: How can he be so stupid? Doesn’t he know how much you despise him? 
BROND: He has medals, did you know that? Soldiers get them. And he has some that are not given easily, or for nothing. He went to the wars and came home again. He’s a patriot. He’s been going to war a very long time. He’s the man who built the British Empire. 
ROBERT: What’s the British Empire to do with this? 
BROND: He’s fought against Napoleon, and in the Crimea. In the last war he fought in the desert. In 1916 he fought on the dry plains of the Somme and drowned in its mud when winter came. Kenya, Korea –- he’s been there. He’s still in Ireland. And only last week he came back from a little group of islands in the South Atlantic. And every time he came home, he found things were worse that when he’s gone away – but he had never learned to fight for himself.
What I remember above all about Brond is its atmosphere. And that had a lot to do with this extraordinary theme music by Bill Nelson and Daryl Runswick.

Even later...
Later still. Another clip from Brond has appeared on Youtube.

And yet later. The whole of Brond is now on Youtube.


Iain Coleman said...

I well remember Brond. It was an excellent serial, and I'm mystified that it has never been released commercially.

The book it's based on, by Frederic Lindsay, is also out of print, but if you can get hold of it through a library I strongly recommend it. Short, taut and intense.

Frank Little said...

Wasn't James Cosmo, at his intimidating best, also in Brond?

Jonathan Calder said...

He was indeed. He is in the video clip from about 1:30,

Phil Hollins said...

One of the best series ever - the haunting music, Primo, Hannah, and the fantastic Stratford Johns. A dark brooding plot about the British government ensuring the British Empire still rules all from way back behind the surfaces of ordinary life. (A similar theme to John Le Carre's early stories of the psychological control of politics deep within the secret services.) Hannah is used (and protected by his users - as seen in the clip) for the dark purposes of keeping the UK whole and using Scottish soldiers to do their bidding despite Scottish wishes for independence. The closing theme was the song that begins 'There was a soldier, a Scottish soldier, and he lived far away...'
It was Michael Caton-Jones's stepping stone to Hollywood but he never directed anything this dark again. Great shame, it was a fantastic piece of television from everybody all round. I'd love to see it on Blu-Ray. Hope C4 are reading this.

Anonymous said...

Available on DVD from July 30 2018 on Amazon