THE CORRIDOR PEOPLE (1966)
"Introducing the most bizarre characters on television. Screwballs like Kronk, a fatherly C.I.D. man; a private eye Phil Scrotty; Inspector Blood and Sergeant Hound. They are all in a new off-beat thriller series 'The Corridor People', which starts on Friday." -TV Times introduction, August 26th, 1966
Consisting of only four episodes the Granada series 'The Corridor People' was very much a product of its televisual times, following in the footsteps of such contemporaries as 'The Avengers' and 'Adam Adamant Lives!' However, unlike these more popular series this stylized swinging sixties Mystery/Detective/Thriller/Spy drama has failed to develop any long-term fan base or appreciation. Perhaps this was due to its limited run which prevented the building of a viewing base or perhaps it was just too off the wall and leftfield even for the psychedelic decade. The otherwise excellent book the Guinness Book of Classic Television describes the programme rather unfairly as "...the Twin Peaks of its day."
The series was written by and created by Edward Boyd who had previously created the Granada series 'The Odd Man' (1962) and also wrote the screenplay for the Stanley Baker starring film 'Robbery' (1967) with George Markstein and Gerald Wilson. Featuring a Humphrey Bogart loving gumshoe named Phil Scrotty, comedy police duo Blood and Hound, a villainous Persian millionairess named Syrie Van Epp and the government intelligence agency Department K (headed by Kronk and his assistant cum assassin Miss Dunner) this series is pretty difficult to pigeonhole.
The series was transmitted on Friday nights over August and September 1966 and the Granada region TV Times featured a portrait of actress Elizabeth Shepherd in her role as the manipulative millionaires Syrie Van Epp. Inside the actress was interviewed to publicise the series. She stated: "I don't think I have ever read such an excellent script. So many scripts fall down on dialogue, but I loved this one. I want to appear in the kind of dramas I personally would watch, and I want to watch this one." Other ITV areas featured Jane Asher on the cover of TV Times.
Producer for the series was Richard Everitt who had also worked on the Edward Boyd created show 'The Odd Man' as a director. Everitt began his career as a floor manager and worked on the first episode of 'Coronation Street' in this capacity. In 1968 he began producing the soap opera and cast John Sharp in the role of Les Clegg. Further producer credits include 'The Dustbinmen', 'The XYY Man', 'Strangers', 'Bulman' and 'Lovejoy.'
Assigned as director was David Boisseau who had previously contributed to the series 'The Man In Room 17', 'Coronation Street', 'Six Shades of Black' and the 1960 production (previously produced in 1956) of the sci-fi drama 'The Burning Glass' for Associated-Rediffusion, one of many plays he would oversee. Born in 1924 Boisseau started his career at the BBC as a Floor Manager, before moving on to direct episodes of children' shows such as 'Muffin The Mule' and 'Andy Pandy.' Post-'Corridor People', he worked on episodes of 'No Hiding Place', 'The Liars' and 'Sanctuary.' He later dabbled in sitcoms contributing to episodes of 'Turn Out The Lights', 'A Class By Himself' and 'Doctor In Charge.' Boisseau died in November 2003.
Cast as Phil Scrotty was the actor Gary Cockrell who had at first trained as a dancer and choreographer and came to note when he appeared on British stages in 'West Side Story.' On turning to acting he spent the early 60's appearing in numerous films in small supporting roles including Kubrick's 'Lolita' (1962), though he did guest star in two episodes of 'The Saint' (The Careful Terrorist and The Benevolent Burglary) and in 'Danger Man' (The Actor). Scrotty was his only regular starring role and amongst his later credits he also appeared in an episode of 'The Persuaders!' (The Old, the New, and the Deadly) as Frank.
Portraying Kronk was the character actor John Sharp (sometimes credited as Sharpe) who was a familiar face to both TV and cinema viewers of the 60's and 70's. Born in Yorkshire in 1920 he became a regular in glossy film series including 'The Avengers' (Traitor In Zebra, Murdersville and Bizarre), 'The Prisoner' (A Change of Mind as Number Two) and 'Randall and Hopkirk' (Deceased) in the episode The Ghost Who Saved the Bank at Monte Carlo. After playing Kronk in 'The Corridor People' Sharp would star in 'Coronation Street' as Les Clegg. Further roles of note include 'Z Cars', 'Maigret' and 'Sergeant Cork.' He appeared in such classic films as 'Bunny Lake Is Missing', 'Jabberwocky', 'Barry Lyndon' and 'The Dresser.' He did have a role in 'The Wicker Man', but these scenes were cut before it reached the cinema. Younger audiences will remember him as the curmudgeonly farmer Ezra Biggins in 'All Creatures Great and Small.' He died in 1992. On hand for comic relief where Kronk's assistants, the blundering duo Blood and Hound, portrayed by Alan Curtis and William Maxwell. Curtis was an established sports commentator whilst Maxwell had previously featured in 'Coronation Street.'
Elizabeth Shepherd played the exotic Syrie Van Epp and was born in the UK in 1936, but has lived in Canada since 1972 to concentrate on her theatre work. Amongst her early small screen roles are the 1960 BBC mini series 'The Citadel', 'Court Martial', 'Danger Man' (Dangerous Secret) and perhaps her most infamous role as a potential replacement for Honor Blackman in 'The Avengers.' After moving to Canada her work concentrated mainly in North America with guest roles in episodes of 'Spenser For Hire', 'Poltergeist: The Legacy', 'Psi Factor: Chronicles of the Paranormal' and more recently 'The Secret Adventures of Jules Verne.' She has also provided vocal work for the animated series 'The Avengers' and 'The Silver Surfer.' Shepherd had already emigrated when she was cast as Van Epp, but returned to the UK on a short break to undertake the role. She was attracted to it because "Evil is no strain at all. She (Syrie Van Epp) never recants, and always wins. Another character says of her 'beauty should be paid to walk the Earth.' My sentiments exactly."
The series debuted on Friday 26th August at 9:40 pm and was described by Everitt as "an accentric surrealistic thriller." The jazzy theme music which featured on the start and end credits was composed by Derek Hilton who also contributed theme music to such Granada productions as 'Big Breadwinner Hog', 'The Dustbinmen', 'The Lovers', 'The Cuckoo Waltz', 'Cribb' and was also musical director on the variety show 'The Wheeltappers and Shunters Social Club.'
The first episode, 'Victim As A Birdwatcher', featured guest roles from Windsor Davies and Clive Morton in the story of a millionaire, Christopher Vaughan, who owns a cosmetics company that has developed a perfume that renders people unconscious for 24 hours. Syrie Van Epp kidnaps Vaughan in a bid to learn the perfume's formula and private investigator Phil Scrott is hired to find him. However the kidnapping has also alerted Kronk and his team, who are also hot on the trail. This episode was recorded in studio on 24th June 1966.
Episode two, 'Victim As Whitebait', was recorded in studio on 24th June 1966 and saw Aubrey Morris give an eye boggling eccentric performance as a mad scientist who can bring the dead back to life. Syrie Van Epp finances the scientist who has resurrected a man called Whitebait for her evil aims. Having died in the previous episode Phil Scrotty is also returned to life and sets about thwarting Van Epp's plot. This was followed by 'Victim As Red' and featured John Woodnut as Colonel Leeming (a defector to the Russians) who has been kidnapped by Van Epp. Scrotty is hired to look for him.
The final episode, 'Victim As Black', saw Scrotty hired to trace the ancestors of Queen Helen, monarch of a mythical country, and uncovers a plot for world wide black domination. Syrie Van Epp is again the power behind the throne. This episode was recorded only two days before transmission on 14th September 1966.
'The Corridor People' definitely held 'The Avengers' as a major influence, but could not really compete with the resources that Steed and Emma Peel enjoyed. Shot on video and practically studio bound with seemingly the budget of a soap opera the series concentrated on the bizarre scripts and got more surreal by the episode. Whilst the comparison to 'Twin Peaks' may give you a feel for the twisty left of centre storylines and characters, the general feel of the programme was more like watching a lost Harold Pinter play with an added dash of Monty Python. All episodes exist in the archives, but a commercial release seems highly unlikely, even in the present climate of nostalgia driven DVD releases, consigning an interesting and totally bonkers footnote in the 60's spy series genre to the cupboard marked "dimly recalled, but best left forgotten."
* Footnote: Six years on from this review The Corridor People was given a DVD release by Network DVD as a Web Exclusive purchase). Having viewed all the episodes it is hard to disagree with Andrew's summimg up of the series. Definitely one for the television completists. (LM)
Review: Review: Andrew Screen 2004 with thanks to Alistair D McGown.