Films of my life – 1971

Films of my life – 1971

I am currently making my way through an excellent book called “1971- Never a Dull Moment” in which the author (music journalist David Hepworth) claims this year to be the greatest in rock history. This inspired me to cover the same year for the next entry in this series.


Empire Theatre Consett (courtesy of Consett Magazine) – long before I went there

Nineteen seventy one has a real significance for me and my life through movies, as it is the first year I can remember actually going to see movies. Specifically, I remember going to see the James bond flick “Diamonds Are Forever” with my dad at the old Empire Cinema / Theatre in Consett. One of the prevailing memories of watching movies in the 1970s was the poster advertising the movie, with 3 still images and tempting text underneath. To this day, Diamonds are Forever is one of my favourite Bonds, but I suspect more for nostalgic reasons than for it’s quality. DAF, like Goldfinger, had an iconic Corgi toy – the Moon Buggy, and I still remember playing with it at our caravan near Crook.


Courtesy of 007 Magazine

This was the start of regular, almost weekly trips to the Empire with my dad, and sometimes my uncle David and one of dad’s best friends – Johnny. My abiding memory of these visits was my dad’s annoying habit of just deciding we would go to see a movie. In those days, you could just go in when you wanted, so most of the movies we saw at that time, we came in half way through! We would then stay for the next showing, and dad would try to leave when we reached the part where we arrived. I always refused to leave, and insisted we stay to the end. I especially remember song this with another film released that year – “Escape from the Planet of the Apes” and being totally confused about what was going on (doubly so as this was the 3rd in the “Apes” series, but the first one I saw). To this day, I still hate missing the start of a movie, especially as they now clear the cinema and you can’t just stay for the next showing.

Much as I love DAF, it is not my favourite movie of 1971. Most of the films on the list below I fell in love with years after they were released, usually after seeing them on TV. “Willy Wonka” is a great example of this. I love this version of the Roald Dahl story.

Here is my list of runners-up (in no particular order)

  • Get Carter (Michael Cane as the least likely returning Geordie)
  • Straw Dogs (infamous rape scene)
  • The French Connection (great car chase, and very gritty)
  • Bed knobs & Broomsticks (the mixed animation / real life football match)
  • Dirty Harry (“You feeling’ lucky, punk?” iconic 1970s cop, originally written for Frank Sinatra)
  • Walkabout (Jenny Agutter nude was a staple of 1970s movie viewing)
  • McCabe & Mrs Miller
  • A Clockwork Orange (banned until after Kubrick’s death in 1999, due to the violence it inspired)
  • The Last Picture Show
  • Willy Wonka
  • Diamonds Are Forever


AStrainposterMy favourite movie of 1971 was another in Michael Crichton’s repertoire of warnings about  science and technology going wrong (he also wrote Westworld, soon to be remade as a TV series, and Jurassic Park). This film is almost documentary like, but many of the images are truly terrifying, especially the walk through the tiny village wiped out by a virus. The climax is one of the most tense ever, as the scientists race against a countdown that will result in the  destruction of the lab they are in, designed to contain any breach of infection. This has been repeated many times in movies, most notable in Alien (1979) and Aliens (1986), but it was never done better than here.

It is also important to put this movie into the context of the time it was made; this was the height of the cold war and fear of biological warfare was very prominent in the minds of the pubic.

Andromeda Strain

The Andromeda Strain – my favourite movie of 1971

Quite simply, The Andromeda Strain is one of the best science fiction movies of all time.


Films of my life – 1975

“1975 is one of my favourite movie years. Not all of the movies were great, but the memories certainly were”

Films of my life – 1975

What a year! This is the year when I remember becoming more “independent” in my movie habits. Not as in seeing more independent rather than mainstream Hollywood movies, but in being able to go to the cinema without my parents.

At this time I was growing up in Gateshead, and most of the movies I saw were shown at the Classic Cinema in Low Fell. I used to go with my Three Amigos – Tessa, Andy & Sean

Classic Cinema

Title: Classic Cinema, Durham Road, Low Fell Courtesy of: Photographer: Manders, Frank Date: 28/7/1977 iSee Gateshead Old Photographs Ref: GL001191

and the certificates in those days were;

  • U (universal, same as today)
  • A (a bit like today’s PG, but many cinema’s would not allow children to see movies on an evening, without an adult, especially for popular films)
  • AA – like a 15
  • X – like an 18

I remember trying to go and see “The Towering Inferno” in 1974 with my mates, and getting turned away from a evening show, despite queuing for 30 minutes!

So what were my favourite movies of 1975? Well, I got to see my first AA (despite being 11) when we got into “Tommy”. I barely enjoyed the film on that occasion as I kept expecting the police to come in and arrest us for being under age! I have to say, Tommy is still one of my favourite movies, a crazy mix of a great album from The Who and the trippy visuals of Ken Russell.

The following week, I tried to get into “Rollerball” and failed. After several failed attempts I eventually got to see it in 70mm at the Queen’s Cinema in Newcastle (with a giant curved screen) about 2 years later! It is still one of my favourite movies of any year.


courtesy of Queens Cinerama Theatre


Here are my favourite movies of 1975

  1. Jaws
  2. Rollerball
  3. Tommy
  4. One FlewOver the Cuckoo’s Nest (Jack Nicholson classic)
  5. Three Days of the Condor (classic 1970s conspiracy flick)
  6. Picnic at Hanging Rock (spooky Australian mystery)
  7. Barry Lyndon (Kubrick does Thackeray)
  8. Dog Day Afternoon
  9. Monty Python and the Holy Grail (which everyone my age could quote)

one of the most famous movie posters in history

Jaws confirmed my love of cinema. It came out on boxing Day 1975, 6 months after taking the USA by storm. I remember the hype and build up (done in a very 1970s under stated way). There were jigsaws,  an advert for Tudor crisps and the original book and the soundtrack with that theme (Da dum Daa dum). In the days before the internet, building the buzz was a long drawn out affair.

I got to see Jaws over the Christmas holiday. It was showing at the ABC Haymarket in Newcastle, and there were queues for every showing. If you wanted to see it in the first week, you had to queue for up to 2 hours. I went with my friend Dave, who’s dad was best friends with Sandy, the concierge. We walked to the front of the queue and got in first. Just like we were VIPs, though we did pay!

My abiding memories of watching the film were;

  1. I’ve never seen anything like this
  2. Seeing a fat woman in the row in front of us scream and throw her large box of popcorn all over her and us when that head comes out of the bottom of the boat. Simply magic.

1975 is one of my favourite movie years. Not all of the movies were great, but the memories certainly were

Labour (Leadership) Pains

Labour (Leadership) Pains

This lack of cohesion and alignment in philosophy and values is not that far from the mix that seems to have led to the aborted coup in Turkey last week

Jeremy Corbyn

Jeremy Corbyn

So, today the battle for the soul of the Labour party really begins. We now know that there will be only one challenger to the current leader Jeremy Corbyn, and that is Owen Smith.

Corbyn has been leader for less than a year, and his ascendancy to the role signalled a clear shift to the left for the Labour Party. Despite gaining more than 60% of the votes in last year’s leadership contest, Corbyn has failed to establish his credentials with the Parliamentary Labour Party (or MPs to you and I). Over 80% of MPs recently expressed no confidence in their leader, resulting in the upcoming leadership contest. Why is this? The key to the answer is in that “clear shift to the left”.  For many Labour MPs elected in or inspired by “New Labour” and the Blair Labour Government, this shift challenges their beliefs and, even the identity of the Labour Party. For all sitting Labour MPs the contest is not just for leader of the Labour Party. but for the very soul of the party.

For all sitting Labour MPs the contest is not just for leader of the Labour Party. but for the very soul of the party

It is worth remembering that the Labour party tried to go down this route once before. At the height of the Thatcher government in the early 1980s, the Labour leader was Michael Foot. His political beliefs were not that different to those of Jeremy Corbyn, and once again the Labour Party was solidly left wing. This resulted in a group of more centralist Labour MPs breaking away and forming the Social Democratic Party (SDP). After failing to gain any real traction on their own, the SDP amalgamated with the Liberal Party to form the Liberal Democrats. It is not difficult to imagine history repeating itself, if the “centralist” coup should fail.

By the 1990s, after a sustained period of being unelectable, the extreme left wing of the party (Militant) was banished and the party moved back to the centre-left under Blair. Their new identity built around social mobility and aspiration won over traditional Tory voters (as it was not that different from centre-right or liberal-conservatism). Labour won 3 elections with the Blairite approach.

But what of the left wing? Well, like Sauron in “Lord of The Rings”, they never really went away, just bided their time and re-built. And as we know, they resumed control of the party last year.

If the recent EU referendum has taught us anything, it has taught us not to be too certain in predicting anything where voting is concerned

Owen Smith

Owen Smith

This has resulted in a minority of left wing Labour MPs with hard core socialist views leading a group of MPs who are predominantly centre-left (Blairite) in beliefs. This lack of cohesion and alignment in philosophy and values is not that far from the mix that seems to have led to the aborted coup in Turkey last week. A different arena, and different political issues and, thankfully, a different approach to the solution, but be in no doubt, the result of this leadership challenge will have repercussions for the Labour Party and its aspirations to be in government. If a left wing, socialist Labour Party couldn’t get elected at the height of Thatcherism, is it more electable now? If the recent EU referendum has taught us anything, it has taught us not to be too certain in predicting anything where voting is concerned

What May the future hold?

What May the future hold?

Theresa MayToday (July 13th 2017) The UK has a new Prime Minister. Theresa May has emerged as PM after the recent bloodletting in the Conservative party following the EU referendum.

It’s worth reflecting on the last few weeks in British politics. Now I know this has been done by many people in many ways, but I’m interested in looking at these events from a leadership perspective.

In this blog post, I will focus on the events in the Conservative party. Who is our new PM and what are her values? I will look at the Labour party in a separate post.

By definition, leadership is about persuading people to follow you. There is a debate about how our next PM was decided upon. In the end, May was the last woman standing, as previous candidates to lead the Conservative party fell by the wayside, either through their own choice or that of their party. So, actually, nobody has directly chosen May to be PM. That said, it is within the constitution and May feels she has sufficient mandate that she has stated she does not feel the need to call a general election to get one. Although May made a speech on Monday outlining her philosophy, nobody actually voted for it! All of this presents May with her first challenge; how to inspire people to follow her.

UK politics has undergone a seismic shift over the last few years

A profile in The Guardian describes May as “unpredictable and moralistic”. She  is also seen as a detail person and someone who struggles to delegate. Think micromanagement. This attention to detail is going to be important going forward, especially in leading the negotiations for “Brexit”. Don’t be surprised if May takes her time in appointing the cabinet; in common with many politicians, she displays the cautious low emoting analytical style. Relatively risk-averse, it is more important to get it right than it is to get it done quickly. In social types terms, May is definitely more task focused than people focused. She is described as hard to get to know, sharing little personal information. She is not interested in gossip. This could be either the driving style or analytical style. It is the measured delivery and softer tones that suggest the latter for me.

May has also given us some insights into her values.  One  analysis  reviewed her only campaign speech, last Monday, just before here last rival, Andrea Leadsom, dropped out of the contest. Three themes emerged;

  1. to govern for “everyone, not just the privileged few”
  2. to unite the party and the country
  3. to negotiate EU withdrawal successfully

All 3 points highlight May’s priorities, but it is point 1 that gives the most insight into her values. May is a believer in “One-Nation Conservatism”and point one is an effective definition of what that is. It will be interesting to see how this belief is translated into action, and this is vital if she is to meet the aspirations of points 2 and 3.

UK politics has undergone a seismic shift over the last few years. The surprise with which the Brexit win was received confirmed that large parts of the population have become disillusioned with the norm or the “establishment”. It started with the rise of UKIP and the coincidental fall of the labour party since 2010. This led to the first peace time coalition government in generations. Labour responded by moving more to the left. The two leading political parties are further apart in their philosophies than they have been for 40 years. In the 1990s they competed for the centre ground. Now, they fight from the flanks.

UKIP was mistakenly believed to appeal only to the right, but their rise in the last election and the success of Brexit (their only policy) has shown that actually they really appeal to frustrated blue collar workers in rural and northern areas, as well as the more hardline right.

If Theresa May is to unite the country, the government she leads will have to negotiate these shark infested waters. She appears to want to step into the void that was vacated by labour (the centre ground) but this will put her at odds with her own party.

Here is her first speech as PM

In the next part of this discussion, I will look at what is happening on the left, and how the civil war currently being fought in the Labour party will almost certainly see the party split in 2.