Oxide Ghosts: the Brass Eye Tapes

16/09/17

It’s hard to believe that it’s twenty years since Brass Eye was first screened on Channel 4. This is something that has not escaped the attention of original director, Michael Cumming. He has been lugging around a suitcase full of VHS tapes of the outtakes ever since and has finally taken the opportunity to show them to the public. Michael is currently touring cinemas all over the UK to show audiences the contents of those tapes. Tonight it’s the Cameo’s turn to grab an eyeful.

Few people would dispute the fact that Chris Morris is a comic genius and even fewer that over the years he has repeatedly gone where few comedians dare to tread. His ‘Paedophile Special’ briefly had him tagged as ‘the most evil man in Britain.’ (I happen to know that he keeps a framed copy of that tabloid cover hanging in his toilet.) More recently, of course, he’s made a successful transition to the big screen with Four Lions. But is Oxide Ghosts really the tribute he deserves?

What we get is an hour of fuzzy, time-coded excerpts thrown together onto the big screen. In some cases what we see is genuinely funny, but more often it’s just glimpses of Morris corpsing, or (whisper it) trying something that doesn’t really come off. There are reasons why many of these clips didn’t make it into the final cut. In the end, it feels rather like watching some DVD ‘extras.’ I can’t help feeling that a ‘best of’ compilation would have been a much more satisfying way to commemorate this anniversary.

There’s a Q & A with Cummings afterwards, where he tells us that he has Chris Morris’s blessing on this project, but like his film, the talk isn’t particularly edifying. This is one for Morris completists, I think. If you have no idea who he is or what Brass Eye was, this really isn’t going to be much help. And the chances are you’ll leave the cinema feeling distinctly underwhelmed.

3 stars

Philip Caveney

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