Saturday, November 30, 2002

Was the dream just a kind of shadow?

Things on the cinema front are looking less promising, I'm afraid: both the December 2002 and January 2003 copies of Total Film have been checked minutely, and there is no mention of a rerelease. The Dec 2002 edition has a feature on film rabbits, which mentions Watership Down (of course), but there's no indication whatever of any rerelease. It looks as though we were all getting excited about nothing :-( So it's back to scouring the listings pages in the local papers, on the remote off-chance that a cinema owner puts the thing on other than in some blasted Kids' Club showing...

Friday, November 29, 2002

Boo to the Beeb!

Good news/bad news time...

Good news: the BBC has apparently been intending to release the recent Radio 4 adaptation of Watership Down by Neville Teller on their own label of audiobooks.

Bad news: they've now decided not to.

I don't understand this, to be honest. I wasn't really expecting them to release it anyway, but having decided to, why change their minds now, at a time when WD is more in the public eye than it's been for some while? That's thanks to the 30th anniversary of the book's publication (and new Penguin and Puffin covers), plus the pleasingly wide distribution of the DVD, which I reckon I've seen in more than half the video shops I've checked in.

And then there are those few tantalising hints of a cinema rerelease, as I mentioned in my last post - though nothing comes up on Google, the January 2003 Total Film is completely free of WD references, and Universal's website is a great victory of style over substance, though I can't see anything there either. Maybe we were all misled? I hope not, but it's always a possibility.

Of course, it is at least possible that Mr Teller has unwittingly undermined his own case here (though I doubt he had much say in the matter), as his other adaptation, the Puffin reading by Andrew Sachs, is also pretty widespread, at least in WH Smith, so perhaps it's considered that one adaptation is all the market can bear.

It's still a shame, though: for all I could find a lot wrong with the radio version, there's a good deal to enjoy about it, too, and I think it would have done pretty well as an audiobook, as it would avoid one of the obvious problems with the radio series - the hour-long episodes. So a big BOO! to the Beeb here.

Thursday, November 28, 2002

Oh is it a dream come true?

This is third-hand information, but it seems that Watership Down may indeed be given a 25th anniversary cinema rerelease next year, at least in the UK. More details as and when I get them, but this is probably the most exciting news in the WD world since the TV series was announced. (Which I don't like, of course, but that's beside the point here.) Please, please distributor types, don't restrict it to arthouses in the West End of London... and don't only put it on in kids' clubs etc - I want to see it on a main screen at a major showing. I reckon it might well be a Christmas 2003 release - if so, it's going to be a long wait!

Wednesday, November 27, 2002

Ah me, a DVD

Another little moan: why is it that the DVD and video of Watership Down use such an utterly appalling print? It's ridiculously dark - for example, you can barely tell when Fiver's eyes go all red just before Cowslip appears. When I've seen the film on TV, it's been much better than that - and someone told me that the Region 1 (USA etc) DVD had a better print, so there's really no excuse. Is there, Warner Home Video?

Sunday, November 24, 2002

O what a tangled webring we weave

(Though I hope it doesn't deceive anyone!) The Watership Down Webring is taking on a new lease of life, thanks to "tesandco" (probably better known to most readers as "Entei-rah"), who is going to set up a proper homepage for the ring here. He's also in the process of sorting out some up-to-date navigation code, which he hopes to have done around the New Year. Look on the Thank U Stars page's news and updates pages to keep up to date.

(Actually, that's an interesting site to visit in any case - without doubt the best resource for the TV series [even those, like me, who hate the series, will find the site interesting], and with a large and growing picture gallery from both the TV series and the Nepenthe film.)

Entei-rah's obviously hard at work on the Webring improvements - I can personally vouch for the fact that the Webring link banner has already improved noticeably in appearance! Vao-nyt, Entei-rah!

Thursday, November 21, 2002

All the news that's fit to post

People might be interested (and even if they're not, I'm telling them anyway) in a thread on the rec.arts.books.childrens Usenet newsgroup about whether Watership Down qualifies as a children's book. As with most Usenet discussions, it wanders off topic a bit, but you might find something of interest therein. Here's a link to the Google archive of the thread.

Sunday, November 17, 2002

But is it Art?

In this case, it certainly is. Channel 4 last night put on a three-hour special, counting down the UK's hundred best-selling singles of all time. It will surprise no-one at all to discover that Candle in the Wind '97 was at number one, having sold close on five million copies, but it was perhaps more startling to discover that only 76 records have ever sold a million (what I still think of as "going gold", despite the fact that the required sales threshold for that is now far lower) in this country. And one of them, I'm pleased to say, is Bright Eyes, which managed number 53, with total sales of 1,155,000. Most sites I've looked at say something more like 1.7 million, but I assume that that figure includes the various cover versions, most notably Stephen Gateley's.

The programme was marred by the world's unfunniest presenter, an unbelievably feeble and tacky Craig David impersonator, but luckily the Bright Eyes section avoided him by not being on next to an advert break. Instead, we got some short but interesting interview clips with Art Garfunkel ("this was the one singular experience where the cassette that came in the mail knocked my socks off") and some more or less random clips from the film, only one of which was from the actual Bright Eyes sequence! See this message for a more detailed transcript.

Friday, November 15, 2002

A serious post

Yes, really. This is a more traditional blog entry, if you like, which is to say an extended complaint about something that's a storm in a teacup.... Yesterday, I was on the train when we stopped at a signal. It was an electric, so it was pretty quiet, and we could hear the birds and so on (and the traffic on the nearby roads, but never mind that...) But then we (I was with three other people) heard a horrible scream - hard to describe exactly, but in tenor it was very much like a small child in great - and I mean great - distress. The train started up after a few seconds, so we only heard it for that short time, but it scared the hell out of us, to be honest. No-one quite thought that it was a child, because the countryside around was empty of people as far as we could see, but nevertheless we worried. When the guard came along to do the tickets, I told him about what we'd heard, and asked whether he'd heard it too. He said he hadn't, but was pretty sure it was a rabbit, maybe being attacked by a fox cub.

Now, anyone who's read Watership Down knows that rabbits do indeed scream in terror, but I should think that most of us - including me - have never actually heard the sound. So last night, I posted a question to the alt.pets.rabbits Usenet NG, on account of its members being the most likely to know, asking whether the scream was indeed likely to have been a terrified rabbit. Most people gave answers in the affirmative. One said that it was a most upsetting sound - which it was even to me, who doesn't keep rabbits and only heard it for a matter of seconds - but one, answering that answer, said "that's why the troll posted it". In other words, this poster was accusing me of deliberately posting a distressing article with the intention of upsetting the NG's subscribers. That really upsets me - I don't do trolling, and I certainly don't make jokes about sounds like that. I sent this person (whom I'm deliberately avoiding naming, as I'm sure it was an honest mistake) an email explaining, and if there's any reply I'll put the gist of it up here.

As a postscript, on the train this morning, I overheard a couple of people who had obviously heard the scream too, and from the way they were discussing it they were certain that it was a rabbit. I didn't hear enough of their conversation to be certain, but it did sound as though they knew what they were talking about. Anyway, I'd like to make one thing absolutely clear: no-one who hears a scream like that and has a heart is going to be exploiting it for laughs.

Thursday, November 14, 2002

Happy Birthday, Watership Down!

14th November is the anniversary of two great events in British cultural history. In 1922, the BBC began broadcasting. And exactly 50 years later, Rex Collings issued the first edition of Watership Down. Here's to you, Mr Adams!

Wednesday, November 13, 2002

!!L@@K!! !!RARE!!

Yes, folks, it's eBay madness time again. Click ye here, and you'll find a seller on Amazon's zShops offering a copy of the Film Picture Book - a snip at £32! Now, it's described as "very fine", which sounds good, though booksellers' jargon generally bears little resemblance to what an ordinary person would use... but thirty-two quid? And, I have to say, not the greatest feedback record either... more than one buyer complaining about the prices charged. Of course, the seller is entitled to charge whatever they think they can get, but my advice to anyone after the FPB is not to even think about getting out of single figures unless you want one in genuinely mint condition.

Monday, November 11, 2002

Roll in the barrel?

It seems from a couple of comments I've read (though I can't be sure) that said pub (below) has given up on the rabbits it used to have in the garden. A shame if so, though it's hardly the end of the world.

Much more annoyingly, I find from an old Hampshire County Council blurb that on 6th October they (or possibly Basingstoke Council; it's unclear) organised a walk entitled "Watership Down and Bigwig's Tree". Now, I was under the impression that the famous big tree at the corner of the beech hanger had been cut down some months ago... so which tree was the one mentioned here? If anyone knows, do drop me an email.

Friday, November 08, 2002

Roll out the barrel

The North Hampshire branch of the Campaign for Real Ale has voted the Watership Down Inn in Freefolk, just outside Whitchurch, as North Hampshire Pub of the Year 2002. Well done them!

Tuesday, November 05, 2002

It's the final countdown... "WD30"! Rex Collings published the first edition of the Great Man's Great Work on 14th November 1972, so there are just a few days left to the actual anniversary. Frith in a cake, what larks, eh?

Monday, November 04, 2002

Off-topic moan

Well, sort of. I've been nosing around the various "top 100 books of the century" list that appeared around the turn of the millennium, so that I could get irritated when some idiot had left off you-know-what. The thing that really got to me, though, was the terrifying number of Americans (in particular) who think that the vastly overrated Ayn Rand is the best author of the last hundred years. Quite apart from Rand's complete inability to distinguish democratic socialism from Stalinist-style communism, Atlas Shrugged is a waffly, poorly edited mess. Why is this in print in Britain, and Tales from Watership Down not? There's no justice in the world...
First in the queue?

Sadly not, as it's way out of my price range. But over on eBay, there's the Holy Grail - a genuine Rex Collings first edition of Watership Down. As I write this, it's over the £200 mark already, with four days to go, and still hasn't reached its reserve. It looks in very good nick, so I wouldn't be surprised to see the price approach four figures. Here's the link for them as has the dosh, or for those of us who just want to gaze enviously:

Friday, November 01, 2002

Tucker's Luck

Anyone who's read the Puffin Modern Classics version of Watership Down will know that it contains a short Afterword by Nicholas Tucker. However, what you might not know is that said Afterword comes in two versions! The version I have, the first printing of this edition, contains a whole paragraph which has been excised - without any acknowledgement of the fact - from later reprints. Here it is:

However satisfying such stories are for male readers, they now fit rather uneasily into the modern world of equal consideration for both sexes. If there is a fault in Watership Down, it is in its treatment of the does. All the rabbits in this story know that they must reproduce themselves soon if their warren is to survive. Yet while one male rabbit is shown capable of talking in great detail to another about their hopes and fears, these same males are shown as having a far more mechanical attitude towards the opposite sex. There is none of the sensitivity here with which Hazel treats Fiver, for example; merely a question of "Some mating and a scuffle or two". This is hardly fair to the does, who are shown as little more than passive baby-factories.

I think that judgement is rather unfair, and indeed that last phrase - "passive baby-factories" - spurred me to write an essay on this very subject over on Bits'n'Bob-stones itself. But I'm still surprised to see the whole argument removed in later printings, and to be honest I'm unhappy with the rather sneaky way in which the change has been made. Perhaps I should write to Mr Tucker and ask him why it was done.