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Dead Head
BBC 1986
Why Me?
TX : 15th January 1986

Notes : Rob Walker recently directed the British gangster film Circus (2000) starring Eddie Izzard. His further TV credits include Lovejoy, Dangerfield and two episodes of Chiller (The Man Who Didn't Believe in Ghosts and Number Six).

Denis Lawson also wrote and directed Solid Geometry, which starred Ewan MacGregor. He is probably best known worldwide for his recurring role as Wedge Antilles in the Star Wars films. Prior to Dead Head his TV credits included Survivors (The Future Hour), Rock Follies and The Kit Curran Radio Show. Post-Dead Head he has appeared in Natural Lies, Cold Feet and Holby City as Tom Campbell-Gore.

Born in Edinburgh on 7th November 1950 actress Lindsay Duncan studied at London's Central School of Drama. Her early career was mainly theatre based, but she did crop up in episodes of The New Avengers, Dick Turpin, Reilly: The Ace of Spies and a couple of BBC plays (Grown-Ups (1980) and On Approval (1982). Her star was still ascending when she made Dead Head and her later career has seen her able to pick and choose parts with appearances in Traffik, GBH, Jake's Progress and Shooting The Past. One of her more obscure credits was as the voice of protocol droid TC-14 in Star Wars, Episode 1: The Phantom Menace.


Anything For England
TX : 22nd January 1986

Notes : Writer Howard Brenton had previously written the play Brassneck with David Hare (adapted as a BBC play in 1975) and most recently three episodes of the hit series Spooks. Other TV plays include Lushly (1972), The Saliva Milkshake (1975) and A Desert of Lies (1984). He is perhaps more famous for his stage work including the controversial The Romans In Britain which he also wrote.

Actor Simon Callow made his movie debut in Amadeus (1984) and cropped up in the likes of Room With a View (1986), Maurice (1987) and the hugely successful Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994).
Actress Susannah Bunyan had previously appeared in an episode of Juliet Bravo (Abuse) during its fifth season. She now seems to have quit acting altogether.

Winston Crooke went onto appear as Fusilier Joe Meakin in the first season of Soldier Soldier.
Film cameraman John Kenway has most recently applied his skill to Our Friends In The North and the ITV series Fortysomething.


The War Room
TX : 29th January 1986

Notes : Producer Robin Midgeley used to be a director and had previously directed an episode of Out Of The Unknown, the episode of Detective (The Speckled Band) that spawned by inspired Douglas Wilmer's run as Sherlock Holmes and had previously worked on Tuesday's Child prior to Dead Head. Currently he divides his time between theatre productions and teaching.

Actor Norman Beaton (1934-1994) enjoyed nation popularity with his role as Desmond Ambrose in the Channel Four sitcom Desmond's (1989-1994). In 1986 he published his autobiography, Beaton But Unbowed.
James Warwick who appears as the psychopathic Clive is most familiar to genre TV fans for his role as Lieutenant Scott in the Doctor Who adventure Earthshock. Earlier credits include Jason King, The Onedin Line, Rock Follies and Rentaghost. He also turned up in an episode of the third season of Babylon 5 (Exogenesis) and more recently has provided voice over work for numerous animated cartoons and the film Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace.

Designer Gavin Davies had previously overseen the bizarre BBC play Artemis 81. His credits after Dead Head include Vanity Fair, Martin Chuzzlewit and Dalziel and Pascoe.


The Patriot
TX : 5th February 1986

Notes :
Actress Tacey Kneale is the daughter of writer Nigel (Quatermass) Kneale. She has also appeared in episodes of Boon, The Greek Myths and Casualty.

Lighting Cameraman Dave Bushell began as a vision operator for BBC Bristol in 1968. In 1984 he worked with producer Robin Midgeley on Tuesday's Child and would go on to work on Howard's Way, Vanity Fair (1987) and Chalkface (1991).

Don Henderson (1932-1997) made a career out of heavies, blunt authority figures and left of centre loners with a tremendous amount of credits to his name on both film and TV. Notable credits include his role as DS George Bulman who featured in the series The XYY Man, Strangers and Bulman. After working on Dead Head he popped up in episodes of Doctor Who and Red Dwarf as well as having regular roles in the series Knights Of God, The Paradise Club and Dandelion Dead.


Characters
Portrayed By
Eddie Cass
Denis Lawson
Dana
Lindsay Duncan
Eldridge
George Baker
Hugo Silver
Simon Callow
Caractacus
Norman Beaton
Inspector Malcolm
Don Henderson
Stoker
Larrington Walker
Jill
Susannah Bunyan
Clive
James Warwick
Clyde
Winston Crooke
Sandra
Tacey Kneale
Angela
Leonie Mellinger
The Man
Ernest Clark

The series was written by Howard Brenton and directed by Rob Walker with Robin Midgley producing.
The series was transmitted on Wednesdays.

Text © Andrew Screen, 2003.


A four-part London based drama from BBC Pebble Mill about Eddie Cass, a small time crook, who becomes embroiled in a grisly murder and a pawn in a game played by the authorities. The series was filmed with distinctive film noire stylings and overtones. All the main protagonists wear 30s period dress, but the setting is evidently current day, multi-cultural London, and Eddie Cass narrates the proceedings in a hard-bitten style.

Written in 50-minute episodes by playwright Howard Brenton and directed by Rob Walker the series had a strong cast including Dennis Lawson as Eddie Cass, Don Henderson, George Baker, Simon Callow and Lindsay Duncan. The series had an effective title sequence featuring a clockwork figure (in 1930s period dress and presumably meant to be Eddie Cass) walking down a dimly lit alleyway waving a Union Jack flag. The episode credits and titles are projected onto the brick wall behind the figure (actually applied in post production electronically). The angles and lighting used are evidently meant to evoke film noire, with the whole sequence reminiscent of The Third Man.

The story features Cass agreeing to pick up a package and courier it across the capital. When nobody answers the door at the drop off address Eddie opens the package and finds a severed woman's head in a hatbox. He panics and dumps it in the River Thames. Returning home Cass is kidnapped by the mysterious Eldridge (George Baker) and his heavies who inform Eddie that he has been framed for the murder. The hatbox belonged to his ex-wife and his fingerprints are all over it. Eddie panics and goes off the rails - boozing and sleeping rough. Eventually he ends up at his ex-wife Dana's house, played by Lindsay Duncan. She has evidently gone up in the world, living in luxury and whilst he sleeps informs on him. Eddie once again has to go on the run. The next morning the newspaper headlines reveal the discovery of the gruesome hatbox. Eddie's own private atom bomb has gone off...

Transmitted between 9:25pm and 10:15pm on BBC 2 the location work for the series was completed on 16mm film, by cameramen John Kenway and Keith Froggart, with studio work on video. London locations include Camberwell and Tower Bridge, with filming on an actual train (including in an old style BR toilet) for the first half of the second episode. The score, provided by Richard Harley, relies heavily on synthesized strings giving the production another contrasting, and jarring, feel when compared to the period dress and detail. With a sizeable portion of the plot and Eddie's inner thoughts delivered by voice-over actor Denis Lawson (in a faux Cockney accent) has to contend with lots of reaction shots and "eye" acting. The production has a very 80's pop video feel to it with coloured lighting consisting of browns, greys and blues and liberal use of a smoke machine throughout to generate atmosphere. The Times newspaper described the series on 15/01/1986 as follows: "Dead Head (BBC-2, 9:25pm) is neither a pleasant thriller to watch not to contemplate. Its characters are a particularly unsavoury lot. Its quotient of sex and violence is just about acceptable. Yet, there is no denying that it spins an intriguing tale, or that Howard Brenton knows how to find given humour in the most unlikely places, or that the director (Rob Walker) and his lighting and camera team (David Bushell, John Abbott, Keith Salmon and John Kenway) have between them made a terrific job of creating a sinful world in which severed heads, official corruption and two-legged and four-legged scavengers are almost de rigueur. Even I had not read about it. I think I should have guessed that, as preparation for scripting this drama serial, Brenton immersed himself in film noirs and old B-movies". The series has never been repeated and is not currently available on DVD or video.