Thursday, July 10, 2008

Sins of the Flesh: Dennis Potter’s Brimstone and Treacle

On any short list of things that MUST come out some day on DVD in America are the brilliant television plays of British TV genius Dennis Potter. Currently, the only place to discover these slices of innovation, raw emotion, and just incredibly fine writing are at the Paley Centers in New York and L.A., but at least one of Potter’s many “missing” masterpieces is available on YouTube. Two posters in fact have put up the original television version of his Brimstone and Treacle. I thank them both heartily, and any other Potter gems they can throw our way would be more than appreciated.

The 1976 play was banned from the BBC, and didn’t air until 1987, but by that time the British public had the opportunity to see it on stage (in ’77), and in a big-screen version starring Sting and Denholm Elliott. It concerns a drifter who scams his way into the house of a couple tending to their daughter, who is in a coma because of a hit-and-run incident years before. It is implied that the charming-yet-sinister drifter could well be Old Scratch himself. The play is only one of the many brilliant Potter productions that need desperately to reach a broader audience (currently it's only easy to find his Singing Detective and Pennies from Heaven in the U.S.). If I needed to make a short list (having seen most of the stuff the Paley Center has in its simply amazing coffers), I’d also include Moonlight on the Highway, Joe’s Ark, Schmoedipus, Double Dare, Blue Remembered Hills and, most definitely, Follow the Yellow-Brick Road. For the time being, feast thine orbs on the original Brimstone:

No comments: