Saturday, 26 June 2010

Episode 12

Does this look like a whore's wedding to you? Lynne Warner, now released for a crime she didn't commit, has fallen in with a "bad crowd" because nobody else will have her. I really wish I'd had this scowling bridesmaid at my wedding. She looks like someone who just auditioned to be in early Madonna video and didn't get in. And the best man looks like a zombie.

Episode 11

Carol Burns who played Frankie Doyle deserves many plaudits - I think she was responsible for the early success of Prisoner, with her explosive acting which still managed to make a deeply disturbed character also incredibly sympathetic and at times funny.

As a "ground-breaking" adult soap, Pris was never afraid at tackling the big issues of the day - and although Frankie may have been a stereotypical butch dyke (who was also emotionally and literally illiterate, on top of being a violent criminal), she was at least the start of lesbian visibility. And there is no doubt that anyone watching Prisoner, ends up rooting for Frankie. Here she is, ransacking the rec room for the millionth time. You'd think they would have learnt to screw those bookshelves to the wall by now. Out of respect, I'm saying nothing about the dungarees.

Episode 10

Poor old Vera - she only has two modes: authoritarian bitch and pathetic submissive. In this scene she hurtles from mode 2 to mode 1 to mode 2 again. All dressed up and loaded on dutch courage, she's released her hair from the prison-regulation bun and tried to go for the Farrah Fawcett look. However, she's realised that 70s night-life isn't all stomping at the Savoy and coming on down to Studio 54. Instead it involves being ignored at a bar while you are simultaneously lit with red and green lights so you look like you're in a Vincent Price film. Here's a secret. Vera was always my favourite. I have a LOT of time for her.

Episode 9

Neighbours from Hell. It's the evil Bentleys. He raped the help (Lynne Warner), and she decided to take it out on their baby by burying the poor thing in the garden. You can tell she's evil because she's scraped her hair back into a tight bun, which emphasises her witchy nose, chin and neck veins, and to complete the enesmble, she's wearing a poly-blend MESS that looks like the sort of thing satanists would use in one of their rituals. Sadly, this is the last episode that they appear in, which is a shame because they were kind of fun.

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Episode 8

Finally! A couple of "elites" enter the world of Prisoner. We can tell that they're elites because they don't have Australian accents and their clothes are made of better quality polyester. Viewers, when you first encountered Helen Masters, the glamorous and powerful business leader who has come to Melbourne to push her fabulous range of beauty products did you wish to BECOME her? Did you wish to have a gorgeous assistant called James Brandon, complete with a full head of perm and a suit borrowed from John Travolta who is "contractually obliged" to fulfil your every whim? Did you?

Well if you do ever find yourself in such a situation you may want to treat him with kindess. Because, before this epsiode is out, due to a series of bizarre co-incidences, Helen is going to find herself IN PRISON... and nobody will ever be the same again.

Episode 7

This picture goes a long way in explaining all of Vera "Vinegar Tits" Bennett's behaviour. Poor old Vera - behind every dour, rule-driven, sadistic co-worker is a disappointing and humiliating home-life. And while Vera might get to call the shots at Wentworth, at home it's she who is has to slot in to the bottom of a pecking order which involves herself and her oppressive mother.

The Vera/Mother relationship is also very reminiscient of Psycho (were the early writers overdosing on Hitchcock??) And the Bennett house is very different from the "normal" 1970s decoration of Meg Morris (who favours psychedelic patterns). Instead it has fusty old furniture (probably all tat that wouldn't fetch very many Australian dollars at a clearance sale).

We've barely got to know nasty old mother, when she's sudden screaming at Vera for not being a good enough daughter. And then she's gotten herself so angry she's had a massive heart attack - leaving Vera free to... wear a wig and become an alcoholic. But that's for later.

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

Episode 6

Cor Bea! Who's this hunk o spunk? Why Lizzie, it's Eddie (Iddie as he is rendered in Australian spoken English) the electrician and that explains all of those pools of drool in the rec room. We prisoners can't get enough of him - especially baby-voiced Marilyn.

Seriously Prisoner! We know these women have been starved of male company, but are we so credulous that we will believe that they'll go wild for this? I. Don't. Think. So.

Episode 5

These early episodes are so chock-full of flashbacks that they make "Lost" appear practically linear! In this soft-focus slow-motion sequence our worst fears about husband-stabber Karen Travers and "pommie" doctor Greg Miller are confirmed - they were once lovers. And they both were trapped in a sick co-dependent denim-enabling relationship. When they thought nobody was watching, they would dress FROM HEAD TO TOE in denim and run through parks. This scene explains EVERYTHING. Karen didn't kill her husband because he made her have an abortion/had an affair. No - she just wanted to live in a place where she would get to wear demin all day long...

Monday, 21 June 2010

Episode 4

I warned you that Meg's husband was going to be horribly stabbed in episode 3, and just look how fast moving this soap is - we're now at his funeral. But let's not be glum and wear black. Instead, let's CELEBRATE the life of Bill Jackson by raiding our dressing-up boxes and putting on muted yet fun colours. Erica has spent her entire month's salary on this jaunty "Send-off" outfit. It's chocolate brown. It has a hat at a jaunty angle. The hat has little "go faster" arrows on its band. And to complete the look - white gloves - because at funerals there is a strong chance that you might have to "touch" someone, and Erica is too posh to have human contact.

Meg, on the other hand, is going for chemotherapy-chic with this speckled head-dress and matching plain button-up top. Nothing says grieving like "I'm pretending I just had treatment for cancer."

I love how both women are looking at each other as if thinking "But why are you wearing THAT? It's so INAPPROPRIATE!"

Episode 3

It's Erica Davidson, Wentworth's hard-working "received pronunciation" governess - looking like a cross between an Enid Blyton Headmistress and a Hitchcock blonde. Judging from those enormous glasses, I'd guess she's pretty blind, which probably explains why the prison is so badly run and keeps having riots and suicides every episode. Or it may be that Erica spends a lot of her time doing her hair and making sure that her clothing choices are all impeccable. Say what you like about her, but I am loving this "power" ensemble. Who says that there was a glass ceiling in semi-rural 1970s Australia? Erica proves it isn't so!

Episode 2

"At home" with "nicey-nicey" screw Meg Jackson (that's Mrs Jackson to you, you ANIMAL!), and her psychologist co-worker husband Bill. This scene of happy domesticity will soon be shattered when Bill is horribly stabbed and killed by nasty pock-marked, Busby-haired Chrissie Latham during a poorly-justified prison riot.

As a natural "autumn", Bill is a big fan of mustard polo-necks, and in other scenes he wears chunky cardigans. It is probably just as well he was written out so early on. I can imagine that he would have been quite sweaty and smelly in this costume - especially with all of that lighting - and it probably would have been quite difficult for other actors to be around him.

And check out Bill and Meg's "unit" as they call their home. Some people really did take the 1970s a little bit too seriously didn't they. Geometric kitchen tiles in various shades of purple at least meant you didn't have to waste money on LSD - you could just make yourself a cup of tea and get the same effect. I also love the serving hatch and the "under-stated" beige feather-print wall-coverings of their "sitting room".

Meg rarely bothers to change out of her uniform. Which, judging from our later postings, is probably a kindness.

Episode 1

Here we are, right at episode 1 of Prisoner Cell Block H, and the episode begins with a montage of some of the prisoners we are about to meet, and hopefully become obsessed with over the coming weeks. The show's early "star" is Karen Travers. The year is 1979 and Karen is a "modern" young lady, tripping around the cosmopolitan streets of Melbourne with not a care in the world. We know she is carefree because it is "referenced" with that ascot and the open-necked beige blouse. And constrast with the grim-faced harridens who flank her. Pretty, normal Karen could be your neighbour, your child's school-teacher, or your wife. Not your wife hopefully - as in a series of chilling flashbacks we see Karen stab her husband to death in a shocking homage to Psycho. We'll later learn that she had "justification" - he'd made her have an abortion "Just get rid of it!" and she found him in bed with another woman when she got home from the clinic. Catholic guilt!

The early heroines of PCBH were "traditionally" pretty - perhaps the writers didn't think that audiences would be able to empathise with wizened old hags. Later, as we'll see, once the pretty heroines get their happy endings, all that's left is those old hags.