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Dead Head (BBC Thriller, Denis Lawson, Lindsay Duncan)

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In four part thriller serial Dead Head, after witnessing a murder small time crook Eddie Cass (Denis Lawson) is somewhat disturbed to find himself targeted by the Secret Service.

Howard Brenton is not a writer to shy away from the seamier side of life and Dead Head was no exception so much so that the drama got a Daily Mirror front page splash on Thursday 9 January 1986 with the paper very concerned about some of the graphic scenes that were an integral part of the production.

The Derby Evening Telegraph of Wednesday 15 January 1986 had a preview of the drama: ACTOR, Denis Lawson had to develop a rather nocturnal lifestyle for his part in ‘Dead Head’, a new four-part serial beginning tonight (BBC 2, 9.25) Denis plays Eddie Cass, a small-time crook, in this visual tribute to the “film noir” genre, and to get the moody, seedy atmosphere just right an awful lot of night shooting was called for. In Episode 1 ‘Why Me?’ Eddie is given a chance to earn some easy money. All he has to do is get a parcel from one side of London to the other, a hundred quid down, another £400 when it arrives. Simple! Eddie jumps at the chance, but when he tries to deliver the box at its destination there is no-one there. So, being a curious chap, there’s only one thing he can do . . . he opens the box. From that moment on Eddie’s whole life is turned upside down. The author, award-winning writer Howard Brenton, explains: “I wanted to write about a journey through the high and low social stratas of the country. It’s the story of Mr Nobody who gets a job and suddenly finds himself “falling” through all the levels of the country.” ‘Dead Head’ also features Lindsay Duncan, Simon Callow, Norman Beaton, Susannah Bunyan, George Baker and Don Henderson. It is directed by Rob Walker and produced by Robin Midgley for BBC Pebble Mill.

The Dundee Courier (Thursday 16 January 1986) reviewed the first episode: Whether the controversy surrounding BBC-2’s new series Dead Head is misplaced or not it was certainly different. This four-part tale of small-time crook Eddie Cass is portrayed in a film noir style and would not be as compelling without the skill of Denis Lawson. As he proved in Local Hero he is one of the best British actors around and it is good to see that he has been rewarded with the starring role in a prestigious TV series.

Dead Head BBC Thriller

By the end of the series critics were disappointed that the series wasn’t as full on as they had been promised. Not least Hilary Kingsley in the Daily Mirror (Sat 7 Feb 1986): Swizz. No kinkiness in this week’s Deadhead, unless you count Eddie being forced to pour bottles of Scotch down the lav. The plot of this BBC-2 thriller is absurd and I wouldn’t watch another moment if it weren’t that Denis Lawson’s Eddie is just yummy.

The Daily Mirror also (Sat 1 Feb 1986) previewed the final episode: LEONIE Mellinger nearly turned into an icicle when she filmed the last episode of the controversial series DEAD HEAD (BBC-2, 9.25 Wednesday). She had to run about half naked as she entered the life of runaway ex-crook Eddie Cass (Denis Lawson). But Leonie is nothing if not practical. She says: “It was very cold doing it. “I had two hot water bottles to hug, a dressing gown and moon boots on in between shots. It was a giggle—but not exactly sexy.”

Cast: Denis Lawson (Eddie Cass), George Baker (Eldridge), Lindsay Duncan (Dana Cass), Simon Callow (Hugo Silver), Norman Beaton (Caractacus), Susannah Bunyan (Jill), Don Henderson (Detective Inspector Malcolm), Larrington Walker (Stoker), Winston Crooke (Clyde), Forbes Collins (Benny), Peter Attard (Detective Sergeant Cross), Barrie Houghton (Detective Inspector Agnew), Edita Brychta (Young Woman), Neil Munro (Taxi Driver), Eric Francis (Newspaper Seller), James Warwick (Lord Ludlow), Tacy Kneale (Sandra), Ellen Sheean (Mrs Epworth), Gabriel Connaughton (Williams), Leonie Mellinger (Angela), Ernest Clark (The Man), Tim Potter (Teddy)

Writer: Howard Brenton / Music: Richard Hartley / Production Design: Gavin Davies / Producer: Robin Midgley / Director: Rob Walker

UK / BBC Two / 4×50 minute episodes / Broadcast 15 January – 5 February 1986