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Switch on, tune in, and settle down to yesterday's TV

By Black Country Bugle User  |  Posted: February 21, 2008

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BEFORE the innovation of colour TV, remote controls, freeview boxes, and giant dishes on the roof to capture satellite signals from outer space, there was the little box in the corner, a small, square black and white screen, a tune-in knob, and Dad working his magic at the back of the set trying to get the best signal, with his outstretched arm invariably doing the trick.

Home entertainment has come a long way in the past fifty years, and we shudder to think what the boffins will come up with over the next half century. In the meantime we can switch on, tune in, and settle down to another helping of Alan Keeling's TV archives from yesteryear. Alan writes:

"Can anyone remember the The Mysteries of Edgar Wallace? It was a series of cinema 'B' movies that ran from 1959 until 1965 (47 in total), with running lengths varying from 55 to 60 minutes. These monochrome crime/murder thrillers featured splendid opening sequences, including a somewhat sinister looking man in silhouette, slowly turning in his chair against a dimly lit background, with smoke wafting upwards from a cigar, and a well carved bust of the author also turning slowly to face the audience. Ron Goodwin provided the theme tune called Man of Mystery, and it became a hit recording for The Shadows in 1960.

"The series was produced at Merton Park Studios in London by Jack Greenwood for Anglo-Amalgamated Distributors Ltd., and featured star names such as Kenneth Cope, Paul Eddington, Bernard Lee, Mark Eden, Hazel Court, a very young John Thaw, Jack Watson, Zena Walker, and in one episode the one and only Michael Caine. In the US, the films were edited to fit 50 minute TV slots and were called either The Edgar Wallace Mystery Theatre, or Invitation to Murder, distributed by Allied Artists.

"After the series was initially shown on UK TV, The Mysteries of Edgar Wallace made a come back in various ITV regions in the late sixties, and again on Channel Four in the early eighties, and on both occasions proved a hit all over again.

"Whilst Dr Kildare was enjoying tremendous success on BBC TV in the very early sixties, various ITV regions were screening another medical series called Ben Casey to woo the viewers, with Vince Edwards playing the lead role Ben Casey, as a young neurosurgeon. On this particular occasion I can't remember whether the series was ever screened in the Midlands during its first showing, and will accept bouquets or brickbats from Bugle readers, but if someone could let us know for definite it would be terrific. But in the deepest recesses of my mind I can vaguely remember seeing at least a couple of episodes on our very old 19" television set which occasionally could pick up a transmission from the Granada area.

"The series was based at the County General Hospital, and the show's famous title sequence featured symbols chalked up on a black-board with the narrator saying 'man, woman, birth, death, infinity,' followed by a patient's eye-view of being wheeled down to the operating theatre. Vince Edwards' co-stars in almost all of the shows were Sam Jaffe, who played the chief neurosurgeon Dr David Zorba at the hospital (later in the series Dr Zorba was replaced by Dr Freeland played by Franchot Tone), and Betty Ackerman who played Dr Maggie Graham and was involved in the romantic story lines with Ben Casey. One hundred and fifty three 60 minute episodes were filmed, all in monochrome, made between 1961 and 1966 by Bing Crosby productions."

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