Recently I watched the slick, bouncy and nowhere-near sinister intro to children’s show The Sarah Jane Adventures and wondered if it has anywhere near as much impact on today’s generation as some of the grainy, low-lit and downright terrifying classics of my youth. For me it’s a no-brainer but what do YOU think? Am I missing out on some current creepy classics, or is the 1970s the definitive era for nightmare-inducing TV? And I’m only talking about the intros. Take a dark and lonely walk with me down memory creek to sample my selection of weird and wonderful telly titles of yore. But don’t look over your shoulder. You might regret it…
70’s kids’ TV essentials: Mysterious Marc Bolanesque adventurer? Check. Funky theme music? Check. Occult/Folk visuals? Of course. A bizarre acid-laced composite of tarot cards, cosmic animal-faces and Gene Simmons make-up tests? Need you really ask?
A millionaire-heavy Tory government, Fat Cats creaming bonuses out of the City and a spud-faced footballer on £250,000 a week. Yep, it’s a pretty screwed-up economy but it’s nothing compared to the early 70s with its fuel crisis and Three-Day week . And The Changes, of course. The most depressing titles ever? Kids were tough as houses in them days but it scared the bewillies out of me.
It’s The Wicker Man for kids! Nuff said.
Hard to gauge the long-term psychological impact of this frankly insane masterpiece. Rumours that it was heavily used in Guantanamo Bay have yet to be disproved. Count the crash-zooms at your peril.
The pitch: a story programme for kids. The execution: a warped, fairground nightmare where you almost expect a pissed Jack-in-the-Box to slowly spring forward and vomit through the telly onto your shag-pile carpet. Hideous but unforgettable.
Psyche-swirled mushroom madness merging into a Triffid-faced Pertwee to the most alien-sounding music ever. To this day it’s an unrivalled promise of weirdness and excitement.
This was made by the Devil. That’s all you need to know.
And straight in at Number One… it’s Armchair Thriller. Simple but nightmare-inducingly effective. The combination of Andy MacKay from Roxy Music’s haunting theme and the spectral-shadow of a serial-murderer sitting down in his sparse, cold lair to watch terror TV kept me awake for months in the late 70s. Still gives me the shivers and that’s even before watching the ever-paralysing Quiet as a Nun.
So, there we have my hit parade of disturbing 70s TV titles. But there’s still room for a few bizarre inclusions that are creepy in their own particular way…
Supernatural forces are unleashed in this horse-powered saga. Or so it would seem by the disproportionate nature of the theme song. To a young child this was slightly perplexing. The programme’s called Follyfoot, not The Lightning Tree. In fact the closest the flipping Lightning Tree got to any kind of action was having Desmond Llewellyn tapping his pipe on it.
It wasn’t ecstasy-abuse that did for a whole generation. It was simply flashbacks to this singularly synapse-sizzling product.
This is nuts. The narration couldn’t alienate the casual viewer more with its clipped warning of transuranic heavy elements and medium atomic weights (?!). I particularly like the pause the narrator gives before saying ‘…Copper’ whilst he’s waiting for the animation to catch up with him. Great music though.
This is just about wrong on every single level. I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have put it on here.
King of the bizarre TV intros has to be this curio from the early 80s. At the time I thought the music and titles were completely removed from its subject matter (a middle-aged man treated like a boy by his mollycoddling mother). But its annoying fusion of neon eye-scorchery combined with the music; a baffling slab of strangled-cat aqua-reggae now seems curiously appropriate. Some insist on calling it a classic. I just call it plain bloody weird. Perversely, it’s almost impossible to whistle, which is odd, as it insists on loitering in your head for weeks like a methylated squatter.