On January 29th, 1997, the first episode of Chris Morris’ Brass Eye aired, and television hasn’t been quite the same since. Fresh from the success of The Day Today, Morris was given near carte-blanche with his latest televisual venture, a programme that would, primarily, parody the self-importance of “hard-hitting” documentary shows and current-affairs-magazine style programmes. Morris’ slick, sick and silly satire remains a landmark in television, and as its 20th anniversary approached, series director Michael Cummings sought to commemorate this. Thus, Oxide Ghosts – The Brass Eye Tapes, came to be.
Screen 1 of Broadway Cinema was near-full of people who, twenty years after the broadcast of a Channel 4 programme a mere six episodes long, were still affected and infected by Brass Eye. Before Cummings introduced his film, we were treated to a selection of what he considered (rightly) to be some of the most memorable, oddly quotable and hilarious moments from the show. It was a testament to the show’s unique and brilliant writing and fantastic performances, including some superb turns from Mark Heap, Doon Mackichan, David Caan and Kevin Eldon.
Oxide Ghosts itself is a fascinating glimpse into some of the goings-on behind the scenes, as well as a last-chance opportunity to see some of what didn’t make it into the final cut. Michael Cummings narrates his re-discovery of the tapes that would make up his film, as well as Brass Eye’s most bizarre and, as in the instance of the episode Drugs (in which Morris, wearing an adult nappy, a sleeveless jacket and a space hopper, approached dealers in London alleyways demanding “clarky cat” and “yellow bentines”), potentially quite dangerous moments. From the practicalities of filming with a live elephant in the studio, to the complications that can arise when attempting to gain support for made-up charity “W.O.F.D.C.A.P” from Reggie Kray, Oxide Ghosts showcases perfectly Morris’ genius, inimitability and nerve.
After receiving Chris Morris’ blessing, both Morris and Cummings agreed that Oxide Ghosts should not be commercially available following its select number of screenings across the UK. This somewhat bold decision lends the film a sense of exclusivity that seems very much in-keeping with the spirit of its subject.
A full list of screenings is available on Michael Cummings’ website, and I’d implore anyone who considers themselves a fan of Morris to see this film. You’d have to be a one-off-man-mental to miss it.
Oxide Ghosts – The Brass Eye Tapes screened at at Broadway Cinema on Sunday 10th September