Active Topics | Member List | Search | Help | Register | Login
TV
Byrne Robotics > TV
Topic: Callan Post ReplyPost New Topic
Author
Message
Rob Ocelot
Byrne Robotics Member
Avatar

Joined: 07 December 2008
Location: Canada
Posts: 990
Posted: 27 September 2018 at 12:01am | IP Logged | 1 post reply

Having only been familiar with THE EQUALIZER for Edward Woodward's television work I had always meant to track down CALLAN to see what the fuss was all about.

Well, the fuss is very well founded.   

Absolutely loving the colour episodes (seasons 3 and 4) and it looks like I have no choice but to import what remains of the black and white seasons (about half were lost/destroyed) into North America.

Woodward completely nails the character of a disillusioned nearly-over-the-hill spy/assassin who can't help but get sucked back into the game because he realizes it's the only thing he's good at -- yet he repeatedly burns out because he asks too many questions about his targets and tends to get emotionally involved in his work.   He's a pawn in bigger games played by his superiors and his junior colleages resent him because he's occupying the top job and impeding their carrers.   This is a workplace that empitomizes the phrase "So, what have you done for me lately?".  You are only as safe as your last victory.   One slip up and you could be considered a liability and possibly subject to termination.  Callan has no friends to speak of, save for a pungent petty crook nicknamed Lonely who is convinced Callan is a crime boss rather than a spy...

I'm amazed no one has tried to 'reinvent' this show for modern audiences.

I have yet to see the 1981 reunion special, "Wet Job" but I don't hear good things about it.   Interestingly, I think the failure of "Wet Job" showed that there was story potential in a retired Callan who can't resist using his singular talents to help people who can't help themselves rather than his spymasters.

It's obvious to me now the writers of THE EQUALIZER (especially in its early seasons) wanted viewers to think that Robert McCall and David Callan were the same person.   They even have Woodward speak some very Callan-esque lines in the first season.   As THE EQUALIZER progressed they started to distance the show from it's CALLAN-esque roots, by deliberately making it so the timelines of Callan and McCall could never match up.   
Back to Top profile | search e-mail
 
Robbie Parry
Byrne Robotics Member
Avatar

Joined: 17 June 2007
Location: United Kingdom
Posts: 11968
Posted: 27 September 2018 at 12:32pm | IP Logged | 2 post reply

Mr Ocelot, I only saw a few episodes of CALLAN (back when DVD releases featured random episodes rather than complete series).

I did enjoy it mostly, although it was too bleak to binge watch. I did sort of have fun linking it with THE EQUALIZER. 

Edward Woodward's performance was very compelling. 

We often see a lot of glamour when it comes to British intelligence agencies depicted in fiction. Look at James Bond: women, alcohol, sunny locations, etc. CALLAN was the "other side of the coin".
Back to Top profile | search
 
Joe S. Walker
Byrne Robotics Member
Avatar

Joined: 16 April 2004
Location: United Kingdom
Posts: 516
Posted: 28 September 2018 at 4:17am | IP Logged | 3 post reply

There's also a class element to it. Callan was a common soldier who got into intelligence by way of being in action, whereas his colleagues in the Section (and many of the people he's called on to deal with) are old school tie or officer types.

The documentary CALLAN: THIS MAN ALONE includes on the DVD a lot of PDFs, among them camera scripts for all the missing episodes. If you know the series they make a very satisfying read.


Back to Top profile | search e-mail
 
Andrew Saxon
Byrne Robotics Member
Avatar

Joined: 19 June 2016
Location: United Kingdom
Posts: 287
Posted: 28 September 2018 at 11:03am | IP Logged | 4 post reply

I always thought of Callan as a reaction to the cool Sixties super-spies who dominated our screens in the 1960s. He was as far away from The Avengers or Man from U.N.C.LE. as one could possibly get. Edward Woodward gave an incredible performance as the conflicted spy/assassin. I enjoyed The Equalizer but it wasn't a patch on Callan.

BTW, Big Finish have resurrected the character for an all new audio series. I haven't heard it myself (their Doctor Who, Blake's 7 and The Prisoner audios are already a strain on my wallet to add another), but I'm told it's very true to the spirit of the original TV series.
Back to Top profile | search e-mail
 
Robbie Parry
Byrne Robotics Member
Avatar

Joined: 17 June 2007
Location: United Kingdom
Posts: 11968
Posted: 28 September 2018 at 11:07am | IP Logged | 5 post reply

 Andrew Saxon wrote:
I enjoyed The Equalizer but it wasn't a patch on Callan.

Those be fighting words around here.

*Puts on boxing gloves*
Back to Top profile | search
 
Robbie Moubert
Byrne Robotics Member
Avatar
Evertonian

Joined: 16 April 2004
Location: United Kingdom
Posts: 1201
Posted: 28 September 2018 at 9:44pm | IP Logged | 6 post reply



Callan is one of my favourite series. As a child the simple but iconic title sequence with the swinging light bulb made a strong impression (my dad used to watch it and sometimes we'd see the beginning before being sent off to bed!).

Although, as Rob mentions, a lot of the monochrome episodes are missing, luckily all the key episodes still exist. The first series of six had only been a moderate success and, partly due to the ITV franchise changes of 1968, series two sat on the shelf for the best part of a year. When it finally aired it was a massive hit and instead of ending as originally planned, it was decided to continue with a new series in colour. This entailed getting Edward Woodward back in the studio months after production had finished to record a single line of dialogue.

The surviving black and white episodes include the Armchair Theatre episode A Magnum for Schneider which survives as a 16mm film recording (made from the original master tape for overseas sales). This had originally been written by James Mitchell for a BBC anthology series but when he realised it was unlikely to get made, he bought it back from them and took it to ITV. The decision to make a series was made before Magnum had been transmitted.

Episodes one and six of series one survive on their original 405-line master tapes. Sadly only optical conversions (camera copies) have been made of these episodes. Episode one is interesting as it begins with a scene that effectively ignores A Magnum for Schneider. Presumably this was for the benefit of viewers who had missed Armchair Theatre but must have been slightly jarring for those who did see it.

Nine of the 15 series two episodes have survived. Six of them, including what I would call the four key episodes, were converted to 625-lines for a repeat run in 1971. Two others exist on the original 405-line tapes and one, The Worst Soldier I Ever Saw, exists only as a studio recording reel. An edited version was produced for the DVD collection. New opening and closing titles had to be created as they weren't made during the original recording.

Another interesting thing about The Worst Soldier is that the original series one Hunter (Ronald Radd) makes a return. The reason for this is that the next episode (Nice People Die at Home, which still exists) was made during production of series one. No-one seems sure why a seventh episode was made as the intention was only ever for a six-week run. They wanted to show the episode as part of series two but it couldn't be transmitted in its original form. In addition to Radd returning in The Worst Soldier, the following day six new scenes were recorded to be edited in to the master tape of Nice People.

I strongly recommend getting hold of the Callan - This Man Alone set in addition to the Monochrome Years collection. As well as the documentary that Joe mentions, it includes improved transfers of A Magnum for Schneider and The Good Ones Are All Dead (series one, episode one). It also features the complete studio recording reel for The Worst Soldier I Ever Saw. This includes re-takes of some scenes and film sequences being played in at the relevant points (to aid in the editing process). As the episode nears its climax the recording process becomes more disjointed as the action scenes are staged. It's a fascinating look at how a multi-camera studio drama was produced.

The set also includes The Edward Woodward Hour, a variety show (Woodward sang well and had a successful recording career) that features a sketch that is a crossover between Callan and the sitcom Father Dear Father. Add some film material of James Mitchell, image galleries and a PDF archive and you've got a very nice set.

At one point Network were planning a deluxe collection that so far has not materialised but TV historian Andrew Pixley's book, Callan - Under The Red File is available for only 3 from their website. Also published is The Callan File - The Definitive Guide. Alternatively, this website contains a detailed look at the first two series but be warned - it does contain spoilers! A good read for when you've seen the episodes.

Wet Job isn't great but I'm glad to have seen it and Woodward is always watchable.

In 1974 a feature film was made, called simply Callan, that was an extended version of A Magnum for Schneider. It contains one of my favourite scenes between Callan and Lonely. I won't spoil it except to say that it follows Callan's encounter with Arthur! It'll make sense when you see it!

James Mitchell also wrote five Callan novels between 1969 and 2002.  The first has been published as A Magnum for Schneider, Red File for Callan and Callan (the latter to tie-in with the film). The Sunday Express short stories have been collected in two collections called Callan Uncovered

The Big Finish audios are based on those same short stories. I've only heard a couple of clips but Ben Miles and Frank Skinner just sound completely wrong to me.

Did I mention that I like this series?!
Back to Top profile | search | www
 
Rob Ocelot
Byrne Robotics Member
Avatar

Joined: 07 December 2008
Location: Canada
Posts: 990
Posted: 30 September 2018 at 2:14am | IP Logged | 7 post reply

Did I mention that I like this series?!

Nope, not at all. :-)

Episode one is interesting as it begins with a scene that effectively ignores A Magnum for Schneider. Presumably this was for the benefit of viewers who had missed Armchair Theatre but must have been slightly jarring for those who did see it.

This used to be more common on television, where the regular episodes either ignored the pilot completly, summarized it in an expository scene, or remade the pilot wholesale into another episode -- particularly if there were cast changes or elements changed and the pilot wasn't sold as part of the TV episode package.

In 1974 a feature film was made, called simply Callan, that was an extended version of A Magnum for Schneider.

What's interesting about the Callan film is that it works equally as well as a sequel to the TV series (if you imagine Callan's 'retirement' was to the bookeeping job) as it does a standalone film or a prequel to the TV series (as the "Magnum for Schneider" play was intended to be).

In the same vein you can just as easily watch the colour series in isolation (as I did) and not feel you were missing anything.  Everything you needed to know about Callan, how he feels with regards to Hunter (both current and previous) and his relationship to Lonely can all be gleaned from "Where Else Could I Go?" -- it's technically a soft pilot and some of best television writing I've encountered, fulfilling it's dual purpose of informing viewers both old and new in a very slick fashion.

Episodes one and six of series one survive on their original 405-line master tapes. Sadly only optical conversions (camera copies) have been made of these episodes. [...] Nine of the 15 series two episodes have survived. Six of them, including what I would call the four key episodes, were converted to 625-lines for a repeat run in 1971. Two others exist on the original 405-line tapes and one, The Worst Soldier I Ever Saw, exists only as a studio recording reel.

Is there any specific reason why the B&W episodes are missing?  Or perhaps it's more more enlightening to ask why only certain episodes survived in poor quality?  For ABC/Thames it doesn't appear to be a 'videotape-is-expensive-to-keep' situation nor a 'we-are-a-broadcaster-not-an-archive' situation that led to many BBC shows being purged [EDIT: It appears to be the former situation, and the episodes only survive because they were given to the BFI].   There's evidence that CALLAN was sold abroad -- Phil Morris has reported he found extant episodes in his African travels while searching primarily for missing DOCTOR WHO.  It's not stated but I suspect they were colour CALLAN episodes since there's an even chance of a found B&W episode being in better quality than what's currently in the archive and we haven't heard anything else about them.   Perhaps equally likely is they were from the six episodes converted to 625-line for the repeat broadcast -- which only happened because the show exploded in popularity after Season 2 was broadcast so the quality would be the same or worse than what we already have.


Edited by Rob Ocelot on 30 September 2018 at 3:17am
Back to Top profile | search e-mail
 

If you wish to post a reply to this topic you must first login
If you are not already registered you must first register

  Post ReplyPost New Topic
Printable version Printable version

Forum Jump
You cannot post new topics in this forum
You cannot reply to topics in this forum
You cannot delete your posts in this forum
You cannot edit your posts in this forum
You cannot create polls in this forum
You cannot vote in polls in this forum

 Active Topics | Member List | Search | Help | Register | Login