Sunshine (1973) + R.I.P. Nick Redman (1955-2019)

January 19, 2019 | By

Films about friends & relatives plagued with an illness affect viewers in highly subjective manners – what seems clichéd and melodramatic can still work on an emotional level if the characters, performances, writing, and direction work in concert to tell a human story without direct attempts to manipulate or massage audiences into submission.

There is a stark difference in the way the respective writers and directors of Steel Magnolias (1989) and Sunshine (1973) approached a young woman’s eventually death from cancer; the former builds up a tight extended family & friends before introducing the tragic elements, whereas the latter begins with the scattering of a mother’s ashes before rolling back the clock and starting the story just as the young woman learns her problematic knee is rooted in a rare disease. Instead of a rich score by Georges Delerue, Sunshine’s musical elements stem from the woman’s musician husband, and location or wild audio that gives the drama a deliberate documentary feel.

The intimate nature of Sunshine’s drama – a family of three, a doctor, and a handful of friends – make the story of Kate Hayden more challenging because unlike Steel Magnolias, there are no peripheral characters to give us pause between moments of struggle, nor watching the continuing physical weakness of its tough lead as she makes her own difficult choice for quality of life vs. longevity. Her decisions aren’t right or wrong, but personal, done with risks she’s willing to tackle to achieve a unique goal: preserve her thoughts on audiotape so her newborn will grow up with the best impression of her mother outside of photos and second-hand memories & anecdotes.

Sunshine was a 1973 TV movie broadcast by CBS, and is often cited for its potent use of several delicate John Denver songs, as performed by Cliff De Young, a character actor perhaps better know for playing dads, detectives, bureaucrats, and disingenuous agents. The role of Kate may rank as the best role of Christina Raines’ career, and a potent rendition of the real-life mother who, at 20, died of cancer, leaving a published memoir derived from hours of audio recordings.

Joseph Sargent’s career spans a variety of genre – The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (1974) is arguably his best work – yet he repeatedly revisited dramas involving characters fighting against social stigmas, illnesses, social upheaval, and transcending tough odds, often in TV movies which often became highly formulaic within the rigid 2 hour, ad-heavy network time slot.

Sunshine was produced early enough that it was aired at 8:30pm to preserve its unusual 2 hour running time – a frankly bold move by the filmmakers and the network, showing trust and faith in the carefully produced drama.

Redwind Productions released a lovely Blu-ray of the teleplay, and the label is the personal arm of Twilight Time’s Brian Jamieson, who co-founded the Twilight Time label with Nick Redman, the veteran soundtrack producer, filmmaker, archivist, film & filmmusic historian, raconteur, and moderator.

On Friday January 18th, it was reported Redman has passed away from a 2 year battle with cancer, at the young age of 63. Redman’s legacy goes beyond his film, video, and filmmusic productions. He was a consummate raconteur, exceptionally generous to colleagues in allowing them to shine in interviews and commentaries. His trips abroad for interviews yielded delightful commentaries with actors, directors, and associates who captured the making of a film (as well as his youthful haunts in London and its environs, detailed in the excellent Redman-Judy Geeson chat on the Brannigan disc).

Through Twilight Time, the history of specific films were preserved in audio form – the casual, respectful, joyful, buoyant dialogue among fellow film & filmmusic lovers and makers of classics and unknown & forgotten gems, but his name became important when he worked with colleagues at Bay Cities Records, an ephemeral label which released limited CDs of music by film composers – David Shire, Jerry Fielding, Christopher Young, to name three favourites – and classical works by concert and film composers. These were influential, class A productions that remain treasures because they set a standard in producing restored, near-complete works by artists who were highly regarded by peers and filmmusic fans.

Redman’s work with Fox resulted in further gems on CD, plus The Omen laserdisc, which featured the score (plus unedited and unused cues) in stereo on a separate audio track, a ‘bonus special feature’ which became almost standard on the Twilight Time discs, because championing composers was part of his mandate: educating, broadening the scope of cinematic art in visual and aural form, and putting on record facts and history – vital elements the major studio labels abandoned when they foolishly wrote off DVD, Blu-ray, and home video formats as dead, and digital as the new norm, round 2006.

It is amusing that several of Twilight Time’s releases – Fright Night (1985), Christine (1983), Body Double (1984), Night of the Living Dead (1990), and Summer Lovers (1982) – were later release / slated for reissue by Sony, as though, like their kindred, the studio jumped too far with the forced implementation of the cloud concept and catalogue licensing, and realized movie fans do care about film, do want to own a slice of history, and do want a special edition, because a movie is something worth treasuring and revisiting. It’s also a chunk of history that collectors no doubt use to tease and edify friends & family, passing on knowledge that may seem as insignificant to the studios, but are gold to newcomers to the writers, directors, producers, composers, cinematographers, editors, actors and former tsars of the studio system that thrived from the silent era to the withering end of the 1960s.

Nick Redman’s standard as a writer, producer, historian, educator, and sublime peer within the home entertainment realm are exceptionally high, but not impossible to achieve; you just have to care enough to work towards making a difference, have respect for the iconic and forgotten talent deserving long-due nods, and be genuine. No ego, just a devotion and delight in having the best gig that involves learning, discussing, and disseminating why the art within moviemaking matters so much.

Among his family, Redman is survived by his wife Julie Kirgo, a superb essayist, film historian, raconteur, and dry wit; fellow peer, Twilight Time partner, and film fan Brian Jamieson; and an enormous body of friends, colleagues, and film & filmmusic fans who will miss his brilliance, and that lovely cadence which launched each commentary track with the welcoming intro ‘Hello, this is Nick Redman, moderator and music producer….’



Read Jon Burlingame’s In Memoriam at Variety.





Mark R. Hasan, Editor

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