Thanks to my ol' pal, Andrew Mercado, there is news of another boxed set of 32 "Number 96" episodes to celebrate the upcoming 40th anniversary of the show next year. Thanks Umbrella Entertainment and Andrew!
Due to space constraints on the DVD, Andrew has hand-picked the most important sixteen episodes from the 21 episodes from the b/w era that remain in existence. He promises nothing important will be omitted. As Andrew says on his website, "many of you asked for, and will now get, the first ever episodes. Every colour episode (from 585 – 1218) has been saved by the National Film and Sound Archive but tragically, nearly every black and white episode before then was lost, taped over or destroyed. Just 21 episodes remain from 1972-1974 which means most of the gritty groundbreaking stuff seems lost forever."
Disk 1 will commence with the first three episodes, that were originally broadcast together in Sydney on premiere night.
EPISODES 1, 2, 3. (First aired in Sydney: 13/3/1972) Mark Eastwood (Martin Harris) and his eight-month pregnant wife, Helen (Briony Behets), move into Flat 4 of Number 96. Dorrie and Herb Evans (Pat McDonald & Ron Shand) introduce themselves to the new neighbours. When Helen rejects her frustrated husband's sexual advances, Mark turns to young Rose Godolfus (Vivienne Garrett) for consolation. In Flat 6, actress Janie Somers (Robyn Gurney) worries about her meeting with an American producer, Alex Lederer (Harry Harris). Mark rescues Rose from a sleazy bikie, Cliff Stevens (Vincent Gil). Helen's condition after her tragic fall causes concern and the building's residents are generous in their offers of support. Flat 5's Bruce Taylor (Paul Weingott) plans his latest wild party. Episode #3 was a new version of the November 1971 pilot, reshot to blend with the other instalments. In Melbourne, the first two episodes were aired back-to-back on 14/3/72. Channel 0 elected to black out the lower half of the screen during Mark's attempted seduction of his wife. When repeated in a daytime timeslot, commencing 4/2/74 at 1.30 pm in Sydney, the episodes were aired in 30-minute segments. The "Janie/Alex" plotline was novelised for the 1972 Arkon paperback, Janie Stagestruck, while the "Mark/Helen/Rose" plotline was novelised in 1973 as The Wayward Husband.
4. (14/3) Dorrie, the self-proclaimed "conserge" of Number 96, continues her relentless interference into the lives of the building's tenants. Bruce's flatmate, Don Finlayson (Joe Hasham) admits that he sabotaged their latest party in order to pacify Dorrie. Flat 8's Lucy Sutcliffe (Elisabeth Kirkby) begins her job as manager at the new laundrette, but her day is cut short by electrical problems. Alf Sutcliffe (James Elliott) isn’t too happy that Lucy has got herself a job. Bev Houghton (Abigail) is thrilled with her nude shoot. Meanwhile, in Flat 7, Vera Collins (Elaine Lee) is being plagued by phantom phone calls.
5. (15/3) Vera hosts a party to celebrate Mark's good news about Helen and their baby daughter. Meanwhile, Janie and her flatmate, Bev, do their own celebrating: a double date with Alex and Charles (Max Osbiston). Delicatessen owner Aldo Godolfus (Johnny Lockwood) is unable to keep his daughter at home. In desperation, he tries to arrange a suitable match for Rose "just as they did in the old country", but she is unimpressed with his selection, Dr Julian Myers (Lew Luton). Vera advises Peter Harvey (Peter Guest) about future business ventures through a card-reading.
6. (16/3) How will Mark break the shocking news about the baby to Helen? Dorrie is eager to spread the gossip. Alf is bickering with Lucy again; he wants to return home to England, but his wife is determined to stay. Bev flirts with both Don and Alex and each responds in quite different ways. Helen is suffering from catatonic withdrawal. Rose expresses her true feelings for Mark, but Aldo overhears.
7. (17/3) Maggie Cameron (Bettina Welch) drops by her love nest as lover Bruce tries to hide his boyfriend Don. Dorrie makes it her special project to discover who is occupying the vacant shop in front of Flat 1.
8. (20/3) Maggie and Bruce find their time well occupied when they return to Number 96, but Maggie has to be home by eleven o'clock to avoid arousing the suspicions of her husband, Victor (Owen Weingott). Bev flirts with Don but can’t figure out why he becomes so uncomfortable. This plotline was novelised for the 1973 Arkon paperback, Bev & Bruce & Maggie & Don. Note that the actors who played Maggie's husband and lover were, in reality, father and son.
9. (21/3/1972) Dorrie discovers a chemist is opening in the building. Ethel Brinkman (Jenny Lee), the daughter of Alf and Lucy, returns from Newcastle in a desperate plea for help.
10. (22/3) The mysterious caller finally reveals his identity to Vera. It is her estranged husband, Harry (Norman Yemm), and he's not very friendly.
13. (27/3) Dorrie condescends to patronise Lucy's laundrette, at least on a trial basis, to give Lucy a boost. However, two young hippies (Chard Hayward and Cathy Jones) have no inhibitions about using the laundrette at all.
31. (21/4) Sonia feels that Gordon is using her and she forces the issue with him. Herb's solicitor, Mr Calthrop (Ken Fraser), oversees the contractual agreement that makes Herb and Harry partners. Maggie invites Cliff up to Flat 5 for a modelling audition. Vera and Harry try to conceal an intoxicated Herb from Dorrie.
33. (25/4) Chad Farrell (Ronne Arnold) and Sonia share an evening out and he confesses his true feelings for her. However, Sonia tries to convince him that she has been in love with Gordon for two years. Aldo leaves Julian and Rose alone, but will he find out that they actually played Monopoly? Alf and Lucy's 30th wedding anniversary is threatened by an impromptu drinking session with George Baker (Barry Donnelly) and Harry. Harry's bigotry reaches breaking point when he encounters Chad on the stairs.
34. (26/4) Bev tries unsuccessfully to face reality; Don is no longer the man with whom she first fell in love; ie. she reacts badly when Don tells her that he is a homosexual.
35. (27/4) Don is surprisingly sympathetic towards Bev when she apologises for her previous outburst. Maggie has a surprise for Don and Bev, as does Bev's mother, Claire Houghton (Thelma Scott). Sonia meets Gordon’s wife, Sylvia Vansard (Shirley Cameron). A development of this plotline was novelised for the 1973 Arkon paperback, Who Killed Sylvia Vansard?
450. (1/2/1974) Don's Aunt Amanda, the Baroness von Pappenburg (Carol Raye), takes Flo Patterson (Bunney Brooke), plus Dorrie and Herb, to her fancy dress farewell party, but Herb gets himself arrested. Claire vows to have her revenge over her daughter's death. Amanda resolves Herb's court ordeal. Lucy is uneasy about Mr Poreski (Tim Eliott) and his men, but Alf is determined to tell all on the "Names in the News" television show. Harry wants Vera to have an abortion. This is only surviving episode from 1974; and it's hilarious!
832. (27/8/1975) Jaja Gibson (Anya Seleky), and her latest escapades, infuriate Grace "Prim" Primrose (Pamela Gibbons). Norma Whittaker (Sheila Kennelly) can't understand the new mystery.
833. (28/8) Dudley Butterfield (Chard Hayward) has plans that amaze the Sutcliffes. Maggie confronts Jaja.
834. (29/8) Reg and Edie MacDonald (Mike Dorsey & Wendy Blacklock) receive a nasty shock. Roma Godolfus (Philippa Baker) loses her patience with Aldo.
835. (1/9) Roma speaks harshly to Aldo. Flo's behaviour baffles Dorrie.
836. (2/9) Reg and Edie are unsure how to handle a situation. Maggie has strong advice for Vera.
837. (3/9) Flo is desperately unhappy, while it seems that Vera has overplayed her hand.
838. (4/9) Maggie has infuriated Warwick Thompson (Kit Talor). Some unlikely visitors call on Reg at one o'clock in the morning. A bomb is hidden in a box of olives.
839. (5/9) The new Flo raises Dorrie's suspicions that her friend is shoplifting. Lucy and Alf think they have solved their house-hunting troubles: they decide to swap flats with Don. Prim sends Miles Cooper (Scott Lambert) on an errand downstairs. Les finds a note about a bomb in Number 96 and sounds a warning to all the residents, but will he have enough time?
840, 841. (8/9/1975) The explosion in the deli has claimed the lives of four Number 96 residents. Alf is worried about Lucy and the baby, while Vera turns to Warwick for comfort. Norma is in a critical condition. Nigel Morgan (John Allen) takes over and Maggie is determined to solve a new mystery. Two episodes were screened back-to-back to create a sixty-minute presentation. Episode #840 was later incorporated into an episode of The Golden Years of Television entitled "Salute to Australian Soaps".
842. (9/9) Arnold Feather (Jeff Kevin) is shocked by a visit from Aldo's daughter, Rose Myers (Vivienne Garrett). Don has some plans afoot.
843. (10/9) Dudley runs into trouble, while Reg has some explaining to do to Edie. Lucy discovers the truth about the tragic bomb blast.
844. (11/9) Alf blames himself for his awful mistake. Dorrie has a mystery to solve.
845. (12/9) Mystery continues to surround Maggie. Jack Sellars (Tom Oliver) lends a hand to trap the bomber. What is the truth behind Flo's strange secret? Lucy learns the truth about the blast.
846. (15/9) Dudley's reaction to Jaja's adventures thrill her. Arnold makes a noble sacrifice. Jack sets a trap for the killer.
847. (16/9) Dorrie is not sure if she approves of the changes in Flo. Some news brings out a strange reaction in Liz Chalmers (Margaret Laurence).
Be watching for this boxed set in March 2012!
"Bomb? What bomb?"