David Nixon’s Magic Box – DVD Review
By @Roger Crow
Having spent a lifetime obsessed with television and film, there’s a feeling old TV shows are like the opening lines of Fellowship of the Ring. “Much that once was is lost; for none now live who remember it.”
In this case ‘some’ remember David Nixon, the amiable sorcerer who entertained millions during the early 1970s. In the days before Paul Daniels and Dynamo, Nixon was like a kindly uncle who would pop round your house once a week, do a little magic, invite some friends over and then vanish again.
Watching David Nixon’s Magic Box, a four-disc DVD set, it’s a chunk of nostalgic gold, not least because of the eponymous magic man. His delivery is a delight, though in an age when smoking cigarettes on family shows was seen as normal (these were the days when passive smoking was unheard of), the sight of a smoking fag as a prop seems very odd.
The first episode alone is a treat with veteran singer and actress Anita Harris belting out a song here, providing glamour as Nixon’s assistant there. (She’s a constant throughout the series).
Then there’s a young Ray Allan and Lord Charles (the latter like a puppet version of Jacob Rees-Mogg), one of the best ventriloquism acts ever. My other half has no memory of them, which tells you a lot about how folks in their forties may have missed a sublime turn.
So these discs aren’t just for folks like me who go a little misty eyed over memories of Nixon, but also that wealth of guests who popped by and did their turns before vanishing into obscurity or going off to bigger things.
Having never seen these shows in colour, they’re exceptionally eye-popping, and another feather in the cap of Network, the label which continues to turn out some of the best vintage TV and film titles ever made.
The more eps I watch, the more of a treasure trove it becomes. There’s Billy Dainty, who used to be a staple sidekick on the Rod Hull and Emu Show; Jimmy Young, back in the days when he propped up Radio Two playing a floating piano (yes, really), and a guy with a small army of budgies who puts them through all manner of stunts. Threading it all together is the lovely Nixon, who manages to paper over the cracks when one chap discusses his assorted inventions, including a tie-tying contraption that half works.
And then there’s good old Arthur Askey. Some of his material falls flat as a pancake, but his banter is so joyous it hardly matters. So the show I vaguely remember from my early days turns out to be far more joyous and bizarre than I remember.
Not all of the eps survived, but the fact any are still around, and in such good condition after almost 50 years is a wonder.
You may never have heard of David, or most of the guests who turn up with their comedy routines and magic acts, but if you love quality family entertainment from an era before soaps and psycho boyfriend dramas dominated ITV, then this is a must.
‘David Nixon’s Magic Box’ is released on 4-disc DVD by Network, £18