Mad Dog 2003

Mad Dog audio commentary

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Morris Perry and Tristan de Vere Cole at the Survivors series three studio day

The audio commentary track for Mad Dog was the first of the 'special features' to be recorded on the Survivors series three DVD studio day on 4 August 2005, as The Sound Company studio in central London.

It had been hoped to reunite lead actor Denis Lill (Charles) with episode director Tristan de Vere Cole for the commentary, but the recording schedule on ITV serial The Royal (in which Lill has a recurring role) ultimately meant that he was unavailable. Lill was required to remain on stand-by on location in case he was required for filming, and was extremely disappointed not to be able to contribute in-person to the series three DVD set as he had been able to do the previous year, for series two (when he had provided an on-camera interview, discussing his return to the show as a leading character and the programme's relocation to Whitecross, and joined director Pennant Roberts for an audio commentary on Lights of London II).

Tristan de Vere Cole and Morris Perry in the recording both of the studioAt very short notice, DD Home Entertainment's consultant for the release, Andy Priestner, was able to secure the participation of Lill's Mad Dog co-star Morris Perry (who had played the role of Dr Richard Fenton). It was extremely fortunate that Perry was already scheduled to be in London, preparing to open in a new stage play the following day. Perry was delighted to have the opportunity to discuss the episode afresh, and took the opportunity to view a VHS cassette of Mad Dog on the previous day to reacquaint himself with the episode. After the briefest of reunions over a welcome cup of coffee, de Vere Cole and Perry descended to the basement studio, where moderator Rich Cross explained how the commentary track would be recorded. After checking for sound levels, Perry and Cross opted to wear headphones (which would allow them to hear the episode's original soundtrack) while de Vere Cole, deciding that this might be distracting, chose to watch what would be a 'mute' version of Mad Dog. This was the first time that de Vere Cole and Perry had had the opportunity to view a fully remastered version of the original BBC tape of the episode.

As is usual in such cases, the resulting commentary track was recorded in a single continuous take. There was one very brief interruption, when the sound engineer picked up the sound of fingers tapping on a table-top, but aside from the few seconds' worth of 'pick-up' that this required, the commentary was an unbroken 50 minute conversation.

Remastered BBC video of Mad DogDiscussion ranged over all aspects of the production process, including Mad Dog's 'distinctive' status as a Survivors episode; the casting of the guest characters; the selection of the locations; the mechanics of the shoot; and the qualities of Don Shaw's superlative script. De Vere Cole was quick to offer praise and recognition for his production team, including: Production Manager Gordon Elsbury; Lighting Engineer Hugh Cartwright; Sound Engineer Ian Lieper; Designer Geoff Powell and Make-Up Artist Lisa Westacott. Perry was equally keen to acknowledge the talents of his fellow guest-stars and the acting abilities and strong sense of screen 'presence' of Denis Lill in particular. Both participants offered numerous memories of the various different challenges that the recording of Mad Dog posed: the physical demands of the shoot; the scarcity of available daylight in early January; and the impact of the freezing and inclement weather.

De Vere Cole was also more than willing to acknowledge those moments in the episode where, in retrospect, he felt disappointed by the finished results. These sequences included: the shot of the river water by which Fenton is repulsed (which he felt was not sufficient strong visually); and the scene in which Charles first escapes from Sanders and Jim (which he thought was not edited as convincingly as it should have been).

Together the reflections of two creative talents from both sides of the camera provided a genuinely entertaining and informative insight into the making of Mad Dog.

Overall it was clear by the commentary's conclusion that both the director and the episode's celebrated guest star were both particularly proud of their work on what both are aware is one of the best regarded episodes of Survivors' third series. Perhaps the most obvious candidate for an audio commentary, this contribution to the third series' 'special features' is further enhanced by the inclusion of English language subtitles - the first time that such a facility has been available on a Survivors DVD release.

Read more about the inclusion of Mad Dog on the series three Survivors DVD release here.

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Page last updated:
08 January 2006