Daily Archives: July 26, 2021

Doomwatch (1972)

*. As a general rule, British TV has never been very popular in North America. There are still some people who enjoy classic Britcoms and can endure Coronation Street, but they are dying out. Even Doctor Who is a niche taste over here.
*. Doomwatch was a program that ran on the BBC from 1970 to 1972 about a government agency set up to deal with the unanticipated consequences of scientific research. Apparently it was quite popular but I’ve never seen it, and given the BBC’s policy of wiping master tapes after transmission I’m not sure all the episodes even survive. I think it was a bit like the X-Files of its day, and like that show it led to a big-screen spin-off.
*. Anyway, the story here has it that a chemical company dumped a bunch of experimental growth hormone with Food of the Gods properties off the shore of a remote island. The barrels sprang leaks and contaminated the fish, which, when eaten by the local fishermen, led them to develop a form of acromegaly and drove them mad. A doctor from the Doomwatch patrol (Ian Bannen, not a regular on the show) is sent to the island to investigate an unrelated oil spill and slowly twigs to what’s going on.
*. That’s all there is. About as much plot as you’d get in an hour television show. As a timely ecohorror thriller it’s not very scary, especially when you figure out that the “monsters” are only to be pitied. Nor is there anything terribly interesting going on. The only highlights are the locations, with the picturesque town of Polkerris in Cornwall standing in for the island.
*. The lowlights are another matter. I’d list the wardrobe here, though there may be some out there who will groove to Dr. Quist’s odd belted sweater-jacket or Dr. Shaw’s mauve turtleneck. More distressing is the appearance of George Sanders as the Admiral. Doomwatch was one of his last films, with only Endless Night and Psychomania to come, which lets you know that he had a lot to be depressed about on a professional level. On first seeing him my mouth fell open and I had to say to myself “This man is not well.” He wasn’t. He was suffering from dementia as well as depression, had perhaps experienced a stroke, and apparently had very basic mobility issues. His appearance is just sad.
*. So I’d pass on this one. The next year there’d be a much better British horror movie about an authority figure visiting a strange island where the locals guard a deadly secret. But this would be the end of the line for Doomwatch.