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ITV Playhouse: Last Summer (ITV Drama, Richard Beckinsale)

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ITV Playhouse Last Summer (ITV Drama, Richard Beckinsale)

In Last Summer, a one off entry in the ITV Playhouse strand, a young car thief, Keith (Richard Mottau) gets involved with a gang of professional crooks. He is taken under the wing of pro Johnny (Richard Beckinsale) but finds getting out of the game a lot harder than getting into it.

Another production that features a snippet from Police 5 with Shaw Taylor. This was specially filmed for the production though with Shaw talking about a car theft committed at the beginning of the drama.

Ann Pacey previewed the drama in The Sunday Mirror, 19 Jun 1977: If you watched television often enough I suppose it could teach you anything. This hugely entertaining, but rather moral, play will show you in some detail how people steal cars. Richard Beckinsale, those comedy talents are well known from such delightful series as Porridge and Rising Damp. an intensely funny as a rather sad young professional car thief who gets everything slightly wrong. His relationship with Keith (Richard Mottau), willing recruit to car stealing, is the pivot of the tale.

The Liverpool Echo, Saturday 18 June 1977 featured an interview with Richard Beckinsale: IF he ever finds himself out of work as an actor. Rickard Beckinsale reckons be could always make a nice little living out of crime. After playing Johnny, a young car thief in Tuesday’s play Last Summer (Granada 9.00), Richard reckons he’s picked up quite a few tricks of the criminal trade. “I know how to break into cars now,” he told me with a touch of pride when we talked about his latest TV role. “In fact, I helped a bloke out only the other day. He was parked right in front of me outside the theatre I’m playing at in London. It was obvious he had lost his keys and I was just sitting in my car watching him. He was fiddling around with a piece of wire – he’d got hold of a metal coat-hanger from somewhere but he didn’t have a clue how to get into the car. In the end I just got out, took the wire and opened it for him. He was really amazed.” Last Summer was made. appropriately enough, last summer, since when it has been waiting for a slot in the crowded ITV drama schedules. “It’s all about a car thief who takes on this other young bloke as a kind of apprentice. They are not particularly hard or dangerous, they are just typical workers – except they happen to be in the criminal world. It started out as a thing about how young people get involved in crime. It’s basically serious but funny in parts as well.”

There was an expanse and positive review by Brendan Hennessy in The Stage of Thursday 30 June 1977: Peter Prince’s Last Summer from Thames (ITV, 9.0 pm) in the 60-minute Playhouse spot, was a brilliantly observed study of car-thieves in operation, based on a story by Jeremy Sandford, who wrote Cathy Come Home. It combined the slickness of an American cop serial with a masterly selection of detail. Johnny, a young but experienced felon, took on Keith and Bobby, from a South London housing estate, as trainees. They had just made the dispiriting jump from school to dole, and were getting their laughs pinching cars for joyrides. Bobby was reluctant – the policeman Mum was living with at the moment (though not exclusively, it seemed) might be having a steadying influence. But Keith learned fast from Johnny. In the sharpest of suits from “up West” they drove around the suburban streets, taking nicked cars back to their repair shop to be matched up with pilfered log books. While they expertly dealt with steering wheel locks and other obstacles, the tension and vulnerability under their casual swagger came across. Stephen Frear’s direction achieved this by faultless timing and pace. There wasn’t a point overlaboured… The camera work of Chris Menges was sure and sensitive. The suggestion that Keith and Bobby were two misguided youths who found themselves heading for the scrap heap before they could get started, and were all too easily tempted into crime, served to thicken the interest, all the more effectively for lack of emphasis… Stephen Frears has worked very successfully with Peter Prince before, and he got exactly what he wanted from the cast. Richard Beckinsale as Johnny was outstanding sly and brittle, sadly cheeky, damaged but good inside, throwing away his lines to great effect. Richard Mottau was the fresh-faced but flawed Keith, with a nice study of puzzlement by Patrick Murray as Bobby, James Kennedy a kind of deadpan Scots version of Fagin, Edward de Souza a cameo of the sinister-smoothie boss, and Vickie Brown looking good and singing well as Velma, Johnny’s girlfriend.

Cast: Richard Mottau (Keith), Patrick Murray (Bobby), Richard Beckinsale (Johnny), James Kennedy (Bryant), Anton Phillips (Solly), Edward De Souza (Mr Mann), Vicki Brown (Velma), Doremy Vernon (Bobby’s Mum), Michael Elphick (Oscar), Ralph Nossek (Tattersall), Linda Goddard (Traffic Warden), Michael Cadman (Businessman), Alison Holloway (Schoolgirl), Gaynor Ward (Schoolgirl), Sally Anne Newton (Mr Mann’s Girl), Cino Berigliano (Car Thief), Stephen Price (Mechanic), Shaw Taylor (TV Commentator)

Writer: Peter Prince / Story Editor: Sally Head / Production Design: David Ferris / Producer: Barry Hanson / Director: Stephen Frears

UK / ITV – Thames / 1×50 minute episode / Broadcast Tuesday 21 June 1977 at 9.00pm