Life On Mars

Life On Mars

DVD Rating: ***1/2

Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

Read Angus Wolfe Murray's film review of Life On Mars

The body of the extras is a thing called Take A Look At The Lawman, which is a mixture of cast and crew interviews and a Making Of. It comes in two parts and is well edited and carefully crafted so that you don't notice - well, you do, but not in an annoying way - that the gaps are being filled with scenes from the series. If I was asked, how could this be improved, I would say, get rid of everyone except Matthew Graham, one of the original co-writers. He is hilarious, informative, so laid back he's horizontal and should have his own TV chat show - no guests, just him.

This is being unfair on the producers, actors, director and assorted crew who contribute to this lengthy featurette, because everyone gives something. What do you learn, or rather what do you know better that you did before?

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1. They were going to call it Ford Granada. 2. Everyone loves Liz White. 3. Everyone respects John Simm. 4. Everyone agrees that Philip Glenister IS Gene Hunt. 5. Influences - The Sweeney, Starsky & Hutch, Get Carter. 6. Bharat Nalluri (director) sees it as a classic Western. 7. Graham and Ashley Pharoah (writers) were sent to Blackpool to come up with at least five ideas for a TV series. 8. They said, "The last thing we wanted to do was a cop show." 9. BBC rejected it. Channel 4 rejected it. Three years passed. 10. A BBC producer, working on Dr Who in Wales, read the script and loved it. 11. Bingo! 12. Nalluri: "Sam is a man with a heart, but he's lost it. He's become more CSI." 13. Simm (Sam): "He's a bit of a dick. Not a great sense of humour. An everyman." 14. Graham on Simm: "He's the most instinctive actor I have ever seen, very precise, with a fantastic feel for comedy." 15. Simm: "The storyline was so ridiculous, it was a challenge to make it believable." 16. Glenister on Hunt: "I based him on a football manager. Brian Clough in the Seventies." 17. Graham to Pharoah, after three days in Blackpool: "Let's rewrite The Sweeney." 18. Pharoah to Graham: "With a time travelling policeman?" 19. Graham and Pharoah: "Sod it! Why not?" 20. I made that last bit up.

The Music Of Life On Mars, with composer Ed Butt, is an interview with piano. Butt has long hair - heavy metal length - which looks good on a man over 40. He has a contagious enthusiasm and it's impossible not to warm to him. "I don't listen to any music when I am working on a score," he says. "They sent me DVDs of shows of the period, like The Sweeney and The Persuaders. I wouldn't listen to them. I wanted to do Ed's Thing." A control freak? Of course. "I didn't want to do a Seventies score," he says. Good move. Original and surprising.

Get Sykes, with designer Brian Sykes, is altogether more conventional. He sits at a table in a grungy set and talks to camera. He's a spade/spade man, nothing remotely phoney. What he doesn't do is show off and you think, or rather wonder, has he been forced to do this under duress? He talks of the Seventies, like another country. "The police stations were built like nuclear bunkers and the police women carried handbags." They didn't have an interview room, let alone a tape recorder or camera. He waxes lyrical about the cars they used - sleek, two-seater Capris. "In the CID, if they didn't smoke, they learnt to smoke and if they didn't drink, they learnt to drink." Things were more "free" in those days, which meant they could do what they wanted. Now the police are smothered in paperwork and political correctness rules. Gene Hunt would have flung political correctness into the back of his Cortina and driven it out of town. You can tell that Brian looks on those days as something special. He doesn't say so, but you can tell.

Reviewed on: 17 May 2006
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Life On Mars packshot
A police detective in 2006 finds himself in Manchester in 1973.
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Product Code: CTD10365

Region: 2

Ratio: 16:9

Sound: Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo / Dolby Digital 5.1

Extras: Take A Look At The Lawman featurette; Get Sykes - production design; Music of Life On Mars with Ed Butt; outtakes

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