Telly Savalas film about Portsmouth is a wonderful trip down memory lane

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Have you ever searched for ‘Portsmouth Telly Savalas’ on YouTube?

Well if you’ve yet to do so, you’re in for a wonderful trip down memory lane.

Harold Baim made many short films for cinema and in the late 1970s and early 1980s, he was behind three films to promote the delights of cities that, at the time, were down at heel – Birmingham, Aberdeen and Portsmouth.

To convey the delights of our fair city, slowing rising again in a mass of grey concrete after the devastation of the war, Harold decided these films needed a special kind of narration.

Out went the ‘Mr Chumley Warner’ clipped Queen’s English style of the Pathe Newsreel and in came the cool sound of 1970s America – Telly Savalas.

In the film he talks of the city with such affection, drooling at the history and being impressed by buildings that signalled the new Portsmouth of 1981.

But apart from the cheesy voice of Kojak, who clearly had never parked at the Tricorn Centre or caught a bus at The Hard, it is truly a fascinating film that captures our city 30 odd years ago.

In my mind, Portsmouth seemed a very dark, grey and grimy place back in 1981. Then again, I was only eight. But the memory lingers.

In the summer sunshine, you can see the delights of Southsea seafront though, looking much like it does today.

A bright orange Townsend Thoresen ferry leaves for France as a small Brittany Ferries ship arrives. A tiny Isle of Wight car ferry scurries into the Camber Docks and the Broad Street slipway.

The harbour is bustling with a vast array of warships and scenes of an official visit by the Prince of Wales in the year he married Diana.

In a city steeped in history, what struck me about the film (and what Prince Charles no doubt would have noted) was the lack of regard for Portsmouth’s historic architecture.

There were vast concrete high rises and black glass office blocks in Guildhall Square. Thankfully the more recent redevelopment of Gunwharf was far more sensitive.