14 October 2017



Binge-watching this hugely successful BBC television series this last week really took me back to a time and a place that I wasn't really around for but that I feel a great sense of nostalgia for nonetheless, that is, England in the late 'Seventies.

I love that time and place. So many marvellous films, books and television series came from that exact era and location. Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing were still working away and brilliantly written TV comedies such as SOME MOTHERS DO 'AVE 'EM, FAWLTY TOWERS and the marvellous SYKES (another Network Distributing product in conjunction with BLUE DOLPHIN PR & MARKETING) were coming into their own.

The TV series SHOESTRING, on release now from NETWORK DISTRIBUTING in its entirety, is set in the West Country and the scenery there is famously beautiful. Little country villages, quaint little old churches and ancient graveyards abound and the pace of life seems less frantic, somehow. It's hard to be in a hurry when a flock of sheep or cows going at a snail's pace is ambling lazily in front of your car. People took things a tad easier then.

It helped that there was no stupid social media to constantly be panicking about, no annoying cell-phones interrupting your every attempt at an independent thought and no Kardashian-lookalikes strutting around the place with their carrier bags from posh boutiques and fake tan rubbed into every orifice. It was a much nicer time.

I don't even really remember a time before Facebook and mobile phones myself, even though it wasn't that long ago. This is the way we live now and that just seems to be the way it is. So different from Shoestring's day. Let me introduce you to Shoestring, by the way. He's a hell of a quirky character and I think you're going to like him.

He's a private dick, actually. A private detective who conducts some of his work in public, so he's kind of a private and public dick. A dick both in private and in public, haha. Just ask his attractive barrister landlady, or should we leave that story for another day? Nah, we'll tell it now, we've got plenty of time...

Eddie Shoestring (great name) is a private eye hired to do a job of investigation for a radio station in the West Country called, um, Radio West. Then the station manager gets the bright idea of hiring Eddie to do a regular radio slot for the station called EDDIE SHOESTRING: PRIVATE EAR. Eddie, played by a rather handsomely-moustached Trevor Eve, likes the idea. 

The public phone the station with their problems, everything from missing people to, um, more missing people, and then Eddie gets on the case and pounds the beat until he finds his man. He gets a proper expense account and everything, just like a real professional.

Sporting a bit of a Shaggy-from-SCOOBY-DOO haircut, Trevor Eve (WAKING THE DEAD) is a bit of a heart-throb. He actually had a big part in the Frank Langella DRACULA movie, and that's where I knew him from. 

He played the boyfriend of Lucy, the woman who was hell-bent on throwing caution to the wind and getting jiggy with Dracula, no matter what it cost her or her loved ones in blood (mainly blood), sweat and tears. Anyway, Trevor Eve's character mucked in good-style alongside Donald Pleasence and Laurence Olivier to fight Dracula. He was no slouch in DRACULA, and he's no slouch here either.

He's one of those maverick-type, idiosyncratic private detectives who have their own methods of solving various crimes. Shoestring's method isn't that complicated, though. He normally seems to just walk up to the suspect and say: 'Didya do it, then?' and that's that.

He wears his heart on his sleeve mostly (the sleeve of the pyjama top he wears as a shirt to denote his quirkiness), and he isn't afraid to say just what he thinks, which can get him into trouble at times. He's a talented artist too and he draws these amazing little caricatures of the people he's chatting with. He could actually make a living out of drawing peoples' likenesses if the Sherlock Holmes business ever goes tits-up.

He's a shameless flirt and he gets on extremely well with women, with his boyish good looks and cute disarming grin. He doesn't need to go out for hamburger as he's got steak at home in the form of his barrister landlady Erica, but the hamburger is definitely there for the taking nonetheless. 

In fact, it's usually laid out on a flippin' plate with salad, fries and dressing on the side. In fairness, I think that Shoestring limits himself to just looking, maybe with a little light nibbling the odd time. He's only human, after all...

I loved that early episode about the furniture knockers and the posh bird. Shoestring was investigating a hit-and-run accident in which a man was killed, and it led him to a seriously attractive, middle-aged piece of posh totty with an antiques dealership and a keen eye for a fit younger bloke like Eddie Shoestring.

The furniture knockers come from an era that's long gone now. Antiques dealers driving a van would cold-call on people at home and ask them if they had any furniture to sell. They'd of course have a sharp trained eye for what constituted a possible valuable old family heirloom or good saleable piece, and they'd have a wide repertoire of well-used banter with which to break the ice.

Frequently they'd target elderly people and con them out of their antiques and the old folks wouldn't even have a clue that they'd just been robbed blind. They'd just be pleased that they'd been given a few bob for that worthless old Queen Anne walnut bureau with the little secret drawer, the poor old dears.

Anyway, when the hunt for the perpetrators of the hit-and-run leads Shoestring straight to the antiques business run by the posh bird, he's made an offer by this classy, plummy-voiced lady that he normally, I'm guessing, wouldn't be able to refuse. 

But Shoestring, a computer whizz and former mental patient (don't ask, just watch!),
is on the hunt for justice and truth as well. How does the lady's offer sit with Eddie's conscience? Not lightly, I'd say...

I noticed that another Eddie, Eddie Powell the stuntman, worked on SHOESTRING too. He- Eddie Powell- actually used to be Christopher Lee's stand-in in the Hammer DRACULA films because Christopher Lee had a bad back and couldn't carry the ladies off in his arms to his sex-lair like the scripts generally called for. 

So Eddie Powell would be all got up as the Count and filmed from the back carrying off the swooning females. Eddie got all the great jobs. Once in the bedroom, I presume that the Count was able to resume his normal duties, snigger snigger.

Actually, Eddie Powell used to do more for Christopher Lee than just carry his birds around in his arms. Christopher Lee had this nude scene in the horror film TO THE DEVIL A DAUGHTER where he was supposed to make love to Nastassja Kinski, the actor Klaus Kinski's stunningly beautiful daughter who was then about sixteen, I think. Christopher Lee was meant to be impregnating her with, like, some sort of evil Devil-offspring. It's a dirty job, by Jove, but someone's gotta do it...

Anyway, long story short, Eddie Powell stripped off manfully and took that nudie bullet for Christopher Lee. He simulated sex on-screen with Nastassja Kinski. What a man, what a noble spirit, what a... jammy little sod, haha. 

He gave an hilarious interview in later years about the time he stepped up to the plate and stood in for the greatest Dracula of all time. I personally remember being gutted to discover that what I thought was Christopher Lee's bare butt was, in fact, just Eddie Powell's, the stand-in stuntman...

Anyway, the excellent news is that SHOESTRING: THE COMPLETE SERIES is available now for the first time on DVD from the aforementioned NETWORK RELEASING and BLUE DOLPHIN PR & MARKETING. Subtitles are provided for all twenty-one episodes.

The collection comprises six discs and the episodes feature such guest stars as the fabulous Diana Dors, Harry H. Corbett, Geraldine James (remember this classic beauty in BAND OF GOLD?), Christopher Biggins, singer Toyah Wilcox, the late Lynda Bellingham (the OXO mum and former LOOSE WOMAN) and Celia Imrie.

The series was created, incidentally, by the man who also invented BERGERAC, the famous detective series where MIDSOMER MURDERS' gumshoe John Nettles solved crimes in and around the island of Jersey. SHOESTRING has a kind of BERGERAC-y feel to it at times for, obviously, this exact reason. BERGERAC was always a glamorous kind of series. They clearly weren't operating on a SHOESTRING budget, then...!


Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger and movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens' fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra's books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

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