Named that film

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A recent conversation in the comments section of a post on Rick Murray’s blog saw Rick trying to identify an old children’s TV show. It reminded me of the time I was trying to identify something from a memory of one basic scene.

The discussions surrounding this at the time, where I outlined what I remembered and asked people if they had any idea, took place online. The most likely place being the usenet newsgroup alt.babylon5.uk, and a quick search shows that to be so, but I won’t link yet because SOILERS!

What? “Soilers”?

Yes. Soilers. It’s an old in-joke from that group. Somewhere down the line someone accidentally referred to ‘soilers’ instead of ‘spoilers’ (plot details being revealed) and it stuck.

Anyway, back to the topic.

There was a scene that I remembered from either a TV series or a film I’d seen many years previously and had been trying to dredge up a more complete memory of (such as the most useful element of all – its title). This had been bubbling in my mind for a while; something would remind me of it, and I’d puzzle over it some more before something else would come up and I’d forget all about it again.

Until, in mid-2005, I watched a film called Plague (1979). That wasn’t the film or series in question, but it served as yet another reminder of that scene. And this time, I brought it up on the group.

The film (or series) was about a virus of some kind spreading out of control, and I was sure the scene I remembered was from the end – either the end of the film, or a cliffhanger ending to an episode if it was a series. The specifics were that it took place in a stairwell. Someone – probably a scientist or doctor – had made an important discovery that could have led to a cure, and was trying to make his way through a crowd of panicking people. However, he didn’t make it, and got knocked to the ground and trampled.

I also suggested that it was probably from the 1970s, on the basis that I thought I saw it while at junior school. What I didn’t say was that I was sure I saw it at my grandparents’ house, with (at least) my granddad and uncle present.

Probably the most obvious guess was that it might have been Survivors, a 1975 British TV series about a group surviving after a global pandemic, not to be confused with the 2008 remake. However, while the timing would be right (and I’m pretty sure I saw that at the time, and probably at my grandparents house), I’d already explored it as an option and dismissed it. (I’d quite like to watch it again, though, and I see the complete series is available on DVD…)

There was a brief discussion, with suggestions such as Survivors, which soon fizzled out.

Although I’m sure I brought the topic up again, it was probably as asides or comments on other threads as they veered off topic, so I haven’t bothered searching broadly enough to find those. However, later the same year I’d bought a book called The Book of the Dead – The Complete History of Zombie Cinema by Jamie Russell (which I see has been updated, and I opened a discussion on the group.

In particular, I referred back to the April discussion, and commented that reading through the section of the book that covered the 1970s, I’d found a film mentioned and I thought there might be a small chance it could be the one I was thinking of – The Crazies (1973). Whether it was the film in question or not, though, it looked right up my street – I’ve been a fan of apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic stuff for as long as I could remember (and still am, in fact) – so got myself online and ordered a copy on DVD.

I also pointed out that if it did turn out to be the one, that it was directed by George A. Romero was interesting. I was (and again, still am) a particular fan of films in which zombies are central to the apocalypse, and therefore what I call ‘Romero-esque’ zombies; the type we’ve generally seen in the movies (and on TV and in books) since his seminal Night of the Living Dead (1968).

The DVD arrived, and I didn’t bother to watch it – because by that point I’d somehow decided it probably wasn’t the film in question. Don’t forget, this was in 2005. Now let’s fast forward to 2008…

I again posted to alt.babylon5.uk on the subject, mentioning that it had come up elsewhere (so this wasn’t the only place I’d been discussing and seeking help identifying the film/series). I mentioned the time I suspected it was The Crazies, and even bought it on DVD, and that without watching it at the time I’d concluded it wasn’t the film I was looking for. However, following the discussion elsewhere, I’d decided it probably was the film I’d been trying to identify, but I couldn’t find the DVD to check.

Now, however, I had, and I was about to watch it.

It turned out that it was indeed the one.

So what happened was that at one point I thought there was a small chance it could be the film in question, and I’d purchased it on DVD – but having then decided it probably wasn’t the one, I carried on trying to identify the film for three more years, even while it was sitting there in my collection!

I may have done a very big facepalm at about this point!

My recollection of the scene in question wasn’t entirely correct, but that’s not all that surprising if I saw it – as I suspected – in the late 1970s. I thought the scientist in question was grey (or white) haired, for example, whereas he was dark haired and bearded; he was pushed in with the people (some of whom I think were infected) by the military who didn’t realise who he was; and he died by falling down the stairs, rather than by being trampled under the panicking people (although this was due to some of them running into him as they tried to get out).

And it wasn’t quite at the end of the film, but near enough. The film is on YouTube, and this is the relevant part.

As for the memory of when I saw it, that might have been slightly out, but where was almost certainly correct. My uncle, who lived with my grandparents, was the first person in my family (as far as I can remember) to get a video player – that was at the very end of the 1970s, or perhaps the very beginning of the 1980s, and I saw quite a lot of films on video at their house, including films of this type, and quite a few of the so-called video nasties that were later banned in the UK.

But given my age at the time, I won’t dwell on that! 😉