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Out (1978)

Courtesy of FremantleMedia

Main image of Out (1978)
Thames for ITV, tx. 24/7-28/8/1978
6 x 52 min episodes, colour
Directed byJim Goddard
Production CompanyEuston Films
Produced byBarry Hanson
ScriptTrevor Preston
PhotographyPhil Meheux

Cast: Tom Bell (Frank Ross); Brian Croucher (Chris Cottle); Lynn Farleigh (Anne); Peter Blake (Pretty Billy Binns); John Junkin (Ralph Veneker); Brian Cox (Tony McGrath)

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Frank Ross is out of prison and will stop at nothing to find the man who put him there.

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Out is dominated by Tom Bell's iconic portrayal of Frank Ross. His stillness, immaculate three-piece suit, and imposing facial expression mark him out as an avenging angel in the tradition of Lee Marvin's Walker in Point Blank (US, d. John Boorman, 1967) and Michael Caine's Jack Carter in Get Carter (d. Mike Hodges, 1971). Even the characters within the serial recognise his striking appearance. "I remember that profile. Frank Ross isn't it?" says one nervously, and he's right to be nervous. Ross is consumed by his need to discover who grassed about his bank robbery, and had him locked up for eight years. Since being inside, his wife has been institutionalised, his teenage son is going off the rails, and he has no money to pay back his friend for funding his wife's hospital bills. But once released, Ross puts all of his efforts into revenge, and over a period of just a few weeks manages to piece together the facts behind his incarceration.

Tom Bell may dominate proceedings, but the look of the serial is as hard and compelling as its protagonist. The story is told in a deliberately expressionistic manner, with the director Jim Goddard using lighting techniques that 'burn out' the windows during the intense interior scenes, and this intensity is increased by the stylised flashbacks to the events of the robbery, which are also used as stills over the closing credits. These techniques not only reflect Ross's corrosive obsession with the past, but they also demonstrate that the production team of Out wanted to develop some of the elements they had previously used in Play for Today (BBC, 1970-84) and their work at Pebble Mill with David Rose, but in the context of a Euston Films production.

Producer Barry Hanson once commented that "we wanted to do a picture... that would be popular, and about something that wasn't being done," and, to achieve this, writer Trevor Preston used the best elements of his earlier work on Euston series in conjunction with "a longer look at characters and relationships". Out stands above the other Euston productions because of the pedigree of those involved in combining a genuinely cinematic vision with the length and psychological complexity that the serial form offers. The unusual combination of genres confounded critics at the time, but Out demonstrates what Euston was capable of before it lapsed into predictable series formats.

John Williams

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Video Clips
1. Interrogating Frank (3:41)
2. Billy confronts Frank (1:59)
3. Eddie and Billy (5:55)
Complete episode - 'Maybe He'll Bring Back a Geisha' - Part 1 (16:52)
Part 2 (20:19)
Part 3 (13:36)
Fox (1980)
Bell, Tom (1932-2006)
Goddard, Jim (1936-2013)
Lambert, Verity (1935-2007)
Preston, Trevor
Euston Films