Monday, September 29, 2014

The Marksman: A BBC drama from 1987

The other day I blogged about the Channel 4 drama Brond from 1987. Since then, I have not only had a tweet from John Hannah, I have swapped tweets with the person who played the boy on the bridge in its extraordinary opening:

But there is another television drama I remember from that year that is even more obscure. Some sources even maintain it was never shown, but I know they are wrong because I watched it.

The Marksman was due to be shown in August 1987, but suddenly became controversial because of the Hungerford massacre. Here is Robin Corbett, Labour MP for Birmingham Erdington, speaking in the Commons in December of that year:
I suspect that the House will want to take this matter more seriously than does the hon. Member for Thanet, North (Mr. Gale). Does the Minister agree that it would be quite proper to request the BBC to change its decision to start showing the three-part series "The Marksman", which was withdrawn immediately after the violence at Hungerford? The pain and distress that would be caused by that film, which I understand concerns a character who goes round blowing people apart in order to get what he considers to be vengeance, would hit immediately those families in Hungerford and elsewhere who have been involved in shooting incidents.
But the BBC did show The Marksman, though it seems to have been re-edited in the light of events in Hungerford. It remained, however, a gory drama in which a hitman revenged the killing of his young son.

The cast list is impressive: David Threlfall, Richard Griffiths, James Ellis, Leslie Ash, Craig Charles. And the theme music was by Richard Thompson, aided by some poetry written and performed by Charles.

Yet today there is not a clip from The Marksman to be found on Youtube and nor will you find any of Richard Thompson's music there.

What I recall most of all is the performance of Michael Angelis, a stalwart of BBC dramas in those days.

He played a club owner who, after auditioning a new comic, would put an arm around his shoulders and say: "It's not enough to be Irish [or Jewish or whatever]: you've got to be funny." Then he would slip a banknote into the comic's top pocket and say: "But don't ever change."

I think his fondness for that last phrase did for him when he used it in what was meant to be an anonymous phone call.

I don't suppose The Marksman will ever be seen again, but I still use the "It's not enough to be..." line today when I see some new comedians on television.


Frank Little said...

There is an earlier instance: "It's not enough to be Hungarian any more" from The Ghosts of Berkeley Square - no doubt a dig at the domination of the British film industry by Hungarians from the Kordas to Leslie Howard.

Gareth King said...

I remember the series began with a poem which built up with each episode.
I can remember the it began
"Is strange the way we go through life never daring o commit or touch
and settle for so very little when we longed for so very much"
a very good series which like Brond should be re shown.

Anonymous said...

It's so strange how we extinguish guilt with all the fire of our hate
And realise who was at fault, too late
And its so strange that in confusion that the hunter is the prey
And revenge and retribution are the order of the day

(Anybody can fill in the rest?)

Unknown said...

Ha! Found this while I was looking for information about the soundtrack.

I can assure you and all your doubting mates that it did exist and it was a fabulous bit of drama. The BBC at its best. It was so good that it is the only TV series soundtrack I ever bought. It's in a box, packed away in storage with about a thousand other vinyl. One day...

Now you have told me who the composer was, I looked him up on Spotify. Yes, he's there but, sadly, not The Marksman soundtrack.

Unknown said...

As much detail as I could find on the show is here

Unknown said...

If anyone has a copy I would be prepared to buy it as I think it was amazing -

I do have the book and it is pretty good: the TV series was much better.

Rick Howarth

Unknown said...

I still have this on dvd,copied from a vhs recording at the time. Mainly started to watch it for Leslie Ash, but got hooked by Griffiths & Ellis. When I can get the disc from storage, I'll be watching again.

Unknown said...

I now will red ring this day as a very fortunate one. Thank you for your post.

I am very, very interested in obtaining a copy of the Marksman. Could you make a copy and post it to me - I will be delighted to pay any expense in doing this and any 'incidental expenses' that you might require.

I had a copy on VCR and watched it many times. Then of course I needed the disk to copy something else, believing that I could get a copy any time I wanted . . . . . Now 30 years later I would love to see it again, and again. I have the book too which is different and good, but I would like to see the movie. The characters are brilliant and Griffith is a favourite in Pie in the Sky and in the movie Guarding Tess. A great loss when he died.

My email is and my postal address is:

Rick Howarth
8D/20 Oriental Tce
Oriental Bay
Wellington, 6011
New Zealand.


Rick Howarth

Anonymous said...

I lived in the Netherley Flats in Liverpool that where in the series I actually was present during filming where the car hits someone, I have a photo of David There all in Netherley Flats I watched the series at the time on the BBC back in 1987 but I would love to see it again.