PROGRAMME-FILE#1: THE OTHER MAN [TX 07/09/64]





The Yorkshire Post 07/09/64

"The Other Man," which runs from 8 to 10.35 with a 15-minute interval for the news at 8.50, has been specially written for ITV by Giles Cooper.

Michael Caine plays the leading character, with Sian Phillips and John Thaw. Granada has decided not to reveal the story-line partly because it does not want to weaken the strong element of surprise in the plot, and partly because no short summary could do justice to the development of this dramatic play.

All it will say is that this is an epic on a disturbing theme: within us all exists "the other man."


The Yorkshire Post 08/09/64

The two-part presentation of "The Other Man," by Giles Cooper, the longest play ever run on one night by ITV, was a brilliant expansion of television art. With a cast of 200, including extras, and 60 speaking roles, it had an impact that riveted attention throughout. Its imaginative and frightening conception was worked out in extensive detail by its author in close collaboration with producer Gregory Savory and director Gordon Flemyng. Its focal point was a British regiment, its grim and alarming supposition a cease-fire and peace with Germany in the critical summer of 1940. For the sake of the regiment its officers went along with their overlords, sliding slowly but inevitably into mere tools of the iron hand in the velvet glove.

The story covered the subsequent degradation of a decade of lap-dog service. It finished with the making of a "master" hero from the shattered war victim of action against the Cossacks. And leading the mammoth broadcast in this ITV triumph were Michael Caine, the officer to whom the regiment came first, and Sian Phillips - as his wife. - H.F.


The Times 12/09/64

Questions of Value Much Too Close for Comfort

FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT

As the last shots in the theatre battle rang out last week with the suggestion that drama critics should be known collectively as a diatribe and a sober defence of the Aldwych productions from Dame Peggy Ashcroft, television moved quietly into the field and made its own contribution to the entertainment debate.

Given the recently announced plans for the shake-up of B.B.C. 2 and rumours of a closed-shop drama policy, the week's output was unexpectedly heartening. Even on the light entertainment level there was a holiday from the vacuous. Milligan's Wake, a new A.T.V. show, made nice use of still photography and brought together the promising combination of Spike Milligan and the Galton and Simpson script partnership; if a director can be found to keep Mr Milligan's anarchic talent on the rails, the programme may go on to inherit the position left vacant by Hancock and the Steptoes. ABC of Britain on B.B.C. 1 turned out toi be rather more than a sleek vehicle for Millicent Martin: besides some extremely polished production numbers including a balletic seance shot from above and danced mainly from the sitting position, it brought back the saw-toothed comedy of TW3 with a roundup of power-mad platitude from the magistrate's bench, and a superb sub-editor's oxymoron: "We Must Birch Sadists' Says Woman Liberal."

Meanwhile Diary of a Young Man, Troy Kennedy Martin and John McGrath's experimental Saturday night serial, continues to apply the techniques outlined a few months ago in Mr Martin's manifesto on television drama: expanded time, direct narrative, and the other non-naturalistic devices are now seen in action. So far the result is inconclusive: the narrative, for instance, certainly has its uses in cutting inessentials, but sometimes - in Victor Henry's stilted witness-box delivery - it becomes as purposelessly formal as naturalistic artifice. What the series has demonstrated is the importance of dramatic idiom: the moral objections it has aroused in some quarters are a consequence of form rather than content. By exchanging the closed world of the plot, where actions bring final consequences, for the open-ended world of the story, where people live on to sin another day, the style has the effect of proclaiming a moral armistice. It is for this reason that big-audience serials like the Dales have invariably been compelled to deny themselves the resources of violent action which the public will happily accept in self-enclosed plays.

Undoubtedly the main departure from standard entertainment was Granada's transmission on Monday night of Giles Cooper's The Other Man. It played for two and a half hours with an interval, its subject matter was a closely guarded secret, and it was billed as a major television event. So, indeed, it was. Mr Cooper produced one near-masterpiece in the 1950s with his radio play Mathry Beacon, and since then his writing has been split disconcertingly between frankly popular material for television and the increasingly quirkish [radio] Third Programme plays (which, to the cynical listener, sometimes seems to follow the minority audience formula as cannily as his Maigret adaptations followed the big public's requirements). He evidently has a highly developed sense of how much an audience can be expected to take; both of his West End plays, Everything in the Garden and Out of the Crocodile, began with challenging premises and subsided into third act reassurance. Happily no such tenderness towards the viewer's sensibilities was allowed to interfere with The Other Man - a play in which, for the first time since Mathry Beacon, he has found a public theme that coincides with his macabre talent, in particular his ability to show horror growing out of normal life and supplanting it as the new norm. He is a dramatist of human evolution; the situations he introduces never revert to a status quo - they stretch irrevocably into a transformed and terrifying future.

The premise of The Other Man is a historical question: what would have happened if Britain had capitulated to Germany in 1940? The answer is given by following the movements of a British infantry battalion, and in particular the life of the careerist officer who adapts his loyalties to his new masters. Mr Cooper grades his effects sparingly. There are no push-button appeals to emotions, no Sieg Heil salutes or rubber truncheons. In the early scenes, in fact, the officers are inclined to take the situation as a rather embarrassing joke, exchanging awkward pleasantries about the Führer with the new members of the mess and snubbing the smooth-faced young Captain who has the bad manners to retain his Potsdam arrogance in their company. However, things begin to look less droll when Jewish soldiers start vanishing from the ranks, and the battalion commander, another Jew, receives a posting to the Pioneer Corps.

By keeping the action within the sealed-off army community Mr Cooper is able to create powerful effects with the utmost economy: every change in the life of the privileged military caste represents a vast upheaval in the life outside, and rumours begin to drift in of iniquitous factory conditions and the digging of a Channel Tunnel with slave labour. Grant, the officer who accepts Nazi authority, takes it all in his stride, and leads the company on an operation to build a road from India to the Russian frontier.

The play is organized around three tests on his humanity: first when he opens a train window and sees an old friend, now hideously degraded, among a Jewish working party; then the task of trying and executing a brother officer for Communist treason; and finally when he placates a Gestapo investigator by passing on an unguarded remark of his former commander. The last test does shock him into human feeling and the battalion's German doctor (a soft-voiced, sympathetic figure marvellously played against stereotype by Vladek Sheybal) leads him off to a prostitute for emotional therapy. Here his despairing confession is interrupted by a Cossack raid in which he tries to get himself killed. But that is not the ending the play has reserved for him. He awakens a year later, apparently in perfect physical condition, not only as a hero of the Reich but as a masterpiece of German medicine - equipped with new leg, a new arm, new internal organs, and a new eye. Live donors, his doctor gently explains, are required for such operations.

In its inexorable action, its unempathic exactitude of human observation, and its fearsome demonstration of how men are changed by what they choose to do, this is far more than a superior piece of Grand Guignol. And although the specific evil it attacks is as dead as St George's dragon it asks questions about the value of professional duty and personal ambition which are still too close for comfort.


Theatre Facts #4 Nov-Jan 1975

The Other Man
Written 1963. Length: two parts, 90 mins and 60 mins.
Written in four acts, and broadcast in two parts, this television drama is as technically ambitious as a film but was executed in production with elements of spectacle under the tight control of the author's thematic and psychological interests. The ceremonial dedication of a regimental museum is interrupted by an extended reflection, in one mind present, on 'what might have happened.' This reflection becomes a would-be history play, tracing the career and personal life of its representative British protagonist (George Grant) from his youth in the Second World War through an imagined alternative to the sequence of events since 1941: an early British capitulation to avoid bombing, a reorganization of Britain's domestic and foreign policy along lines directed by the Reich (including a brutal reconquest of India), the subtle invasion of English culture by Nazi technical, military and cultural milieu, the gradual complicity in racial atrocities, and the 'inner migration' of those incapable of direct (and futile) rebellion. George, like Hitler, lives on (aided by miraculous medical transplants reserved for the state's elite) and seems destined to outlast even his will to live. The nightmare ends, ironically, in a double vision of the framing scenes, in which George - in both his 'real' and his alternative role - makes essentially the same speech about 'why we are here today.' The ending makes clear that the play as a whole reflects critically on England's present state and lack of self-awareness, rather than being the comfortable celebration of British survival that such a plot device might have elicited from a different writer. Cooper's eye and ear for minute verisimilitude, minimal exposition, and images that convey violence and degradation without mere sensationalism, make the parable convincing. A devastating portrait of Britain with its middle class 'virtues' corrupted.
Requirements: 39 men, 6 women, extras; 18 exterior sets, numerous film [sic] locations including scenes in Wales, other special effects.
First transmitted: Granada, 7 September 1964, director Gordon fleming [sic].


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