Thursday, 20 May 2010
SEASON OF THE WITCH (1970)
May’s cultural highlight came yesterday at the NFT for the Flipside screening of Season of the Witch, a BBC Wednesday Play made in the summer of ’69 with Julie Driscoll playing Mel who runs away from London, her parents, and her job and heads to Brighton. There she meets various “beats” (interestingly there are plenty of references to beats and beatniks – no one is a freak or hippie) and they mooch about doing very little.
Mel takes tips on scavenging for food (get a skinny dog and plead with the butcher for meat) and sleeping on the beach before hitch hiking to Cornwall, traipsing back to London for a rally, getting arrested, moving on again, getting a pad with Jake (Paul Nicholas) and Shaun (Robert Powell), and upping sticks again.
With plentiful location shots, unscripted segments of dialogue, a few “what’s it all about?” moments mixed with genuine interviews and footage (greasy bespectacled longhairs arguing half cocked political idealism and watching drug education films at a youth drop-in centre), Season of the Witch is as much sympathetic coming of age documentary as it is Beat Girl On The Road. As such, it’s aged well. Da yoof may not say “scenes” and “pads” anymore but the spirit can’t be much different.
Julie Driscoll is a far better singer than actress but the role suited: neither ditzy dolly bird nor down at the heel desperado; it made a change to see a portrayal of a together, likeable and eminently sensible young woman in a 60s film.
The best line came from Mel’s Dad (played by Glynn Edwards, better known as Dave from the Winchester Club in Minder), who in a long rant about the state of young people today said “I saw one of ‘em the other day wearing cowboy hat. In ‘arrow. There ain’t any cowboys in ‘arrow”. Director Desmond McCarthy gave a good Q&A session afterwards and explained all the lines in that monologue were taken from a real Panorama documentary. He also confirmed the sign in a B&B window of “We reserve the right to refuse beatniks and other undesirables” was also genuine.
Add to all that a soundtrack by Brian Auger and the Trinity and a bit of Blind Faith in Hyde Park and you’ve a real treasure that’s screaming out to be issued on DVD.