So here’s the sales spiel:
A woman comes forward as one of several claimants to the Romanov fortune. Is she really the Grand Duchess Tatiana, daughter of the last Czar of Russia?
A pint-sized parachutist proves too tough for the USAF; he is a ten-year-old Polish orphan, wearing a sergeant’s uniform and found as a stowaway on a British cargo ship.
In post-war Naples, a young priest, Father Maggiore Borrelli, lives and works among the scugnizzi – wild street gangs of abandoned children and teenagers.
April, 1945: a war correspondent arrives in Munich in search of a world scoop. Instead, in Hitler’s home, he finds and reveals one of the war’s strangest exploits…
Just a few of the accounts brought to life in this anthology of thirteen individual dramas based on the adventures of famous foreign correspondents – witnesses to some of the most extraordinary stories of the twentieth century. First screened in 1957 and unseen for over fifty years, Overseas Press Club – Exclusive! features performances by, among many others, Phyllis Calvert, Richard O’Sullivan, Peter Wyngarde, Robert Raglan and Peter Arne.
Sounds desperately exciting, doesn’t it? Certainly, it did to me – tales of journalists doing derring do things. Yey!
Wrong. Unfortunately, that’s not what Overseas Press Club – Exclusive! is about at all.
Here’s how the average episode goes. A real-life journalist (played by an actor) turns up and asks to talk to someone for a story they’re writing. Person they talk to actually has a different story they’d like to share. That story gets related for half an hour. Flashback to journalist who says, “Gosh, what a great story.”
Okay, I’m paraphrasing, but that’s basically it how goes. There is some variance. There’s barely a journo to be seen in The General’s War With Scotland, which is basically about a female Scottish missionary in 1930s China being threatened with being raped by a lot of white people putting on funny voices and pretending to be Chinese. But that’s largely the framing device for most stories.
Some are interesting stories in a general sense: Father Tiger sees an Italian priest go under cover in Naples among the street gangs to try to get kids out of trouble. To do that, he has to commit crimes, get into fights and more. Which is all very interesting as a paragraph, a feature in a magazine or potentially a five or ten minute news piece. But I can tell you it doesn’t stretch to a full half hour’s worth of story.
At least not these days. Back in the day though, there are suggestions (possibly inaccurate) that the show was so popular in the US that a further 26 episodes were planned, although that never happened.
So despite the all-star cast – well, not all-star at the time but in retrospect all-star – what we have is an anthology with no characters in common between episodes, with no journalists up to much derring do at all, in a series of moderately interesting tales that are stretched to at least twice the length they can sustain. With at least one or two that are a little bit racist.
But that was 1950s anthology TV for you.
Extras: None, but the quality of the prints are excellent, you’ll be pleased to hear.
Episodes: For a full rundown of the episodes, go here.