Wednesday, 19 August 2015

This Body Is Mine

Out of the Unknown was a science fiction anthology show from the BBC, but it was always more likely to show two people chatting in a kitchen than any kind of special effects.  A sort of speculative Play for Today, it was broadcast in the 60s and early 70s and due to the infamous lack of foresight of the era’s TV executives, few episodes still exist.  This one, from 1971, does.  Obviously.

Not one of the more conceptually ambitious episodes, This Body is Mine uses the well-worn notion of the bodyswap, adding a dollop of domestic drama and, most importantly, a splendid cast.  Strapped into the requisite mind-switching machine are Hammer stalwart (as he seems destined always to be referred to) John Carson, and Jack Hedley, whose later career highlights include the lead role in Lucio Fulci’s infamous The New York Ripper.  Carson plays milquetoast (I’ve always wanted to use that word) scientist Allen Meredith, who’s been shafted (in a financial sense) by his boss, gruff businessman Jack Gregory (Hedley).  Allen’s charmingly simple plan for revenge is to swap bodies with Gregory (drugged) and then embezzle a large amount of money from his firm.  Manning the controls of the machine is Allen’s bullying wife Ann, played by the wonderful Alethea Charlton, known to all Doctor Who fans as cavewoman Hur in the show’s very first story.  Charlton’s good value in anything she pops up in, and I can think of few actors who do “devious” as well.  Here are some pictures of Allen in a silly helmet and Ann looking evil in a remarkable pair of earrings:

Allen and Ann’s plan immediately hits a couple of snags: they’re seriously under-informed about Gregory’s stormy home life, and Allen’s a terrible actor (unlike Jack Hedley, who brilliantly conveys the scientist’s sheer awkwardness with the whole situation).  The highlight of the episode is the scene where Allen (in Gregory’s body) returns to Gregory’s home, startling his wife in the middle of a dalliance with one of his accountants.  She’s played with histrionic fervour by Sonia Graham, whose earrings are almost as impressive as Alethea Charlton’s.  She spills out her frustrations with her marriage to the man in her husband’s body, who can only react with embarrassed bewilderment:

Things get worse at the office, as the hapless Allen has to contend with an amorous secretary, business dealings he doesn’t understand, and the violent lackeys of a gangster Gregory owes a lot of money.  Meanwhile Ann’s keeping her husband’s body captive and is beginning to take a shine to its new, more assertive inhabitant, while Gregory’s starting to see his new anatomy as the perfect escape from his problems.  Carson's just as good as Hedley, gleefully addicting a whole new body to nicotine.

As I’m sure you can imagine, it doesn’t end well.  This Body is Mine is a diverting way to spend 50 minutes, especially if you have a particular interest in earrings.  

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