Friday, 15 March 2013

Friday 15 March 1963

As the Danzigers' semi-historical adventure series returns for a second series, Richard I of England and his merry Crusaders are campaigning through Palestine, but there's an obstacle in their path: the forces of grim Count Otto (Walter Gotell, in the rather extravagant hat).

Otto (who's not really a prince, just a power-mad minor noble with delusions of grandeur) prides himself on the impregnability of his castle, and if Otto says Dickie's men can't get past, they can't get past.

It's great to see the doom-laden frog-features of Michael Peake, playing Otto's tricky cousin Conrad.  Conrad's formed a fragile alliance with Richard in the hope that once the Crusades are over he'll be crowned King of Jerusalem, and tries to convince his intransigent relative to let the Crusaders through - but for Otto, Conrad's promises of power aren't enough.  Otto's daughter Marianne, held captive and just as impregnable as the castle, is played by Jill Ireland - later to head for Hollywood and marry Charles Bronson (the actory one, not the prisony one).  She certainly grabs hold of her role with both hands, giving it the full Shakespearean tragedy bit.

Meanwhile, at the camp of the Lion, Richard's men are thoroughly bored.  A few of them start swapping stories of their sweethearts' beauty, when Gaston De Fleury (Max Faulkner) reveals he's never even met his: he's in love with an unknown lady whose image he once saw in the window of Chartres Cathedral.  If a soldier in a warzone today was to announce this it seems unlikely the reaction he'd get would be as supportive as that of Gaston's chums.

Some of the knights stage a mock-duel over their respective ladies' honour, only to be expelled from the camp and forced to live as outlaws by an unusually draconian Richard, who's forbidden duelling of any kind. It's all a set-up though: Richard (sporting a fetching false beard - perhaps it's best not to speculate what he made it from) masquerades as Sir Kenneth Stewart (which sounds more like a newsreader than a medieval knight), and leads the outlaws to Castle Otto, where they beg to join the Prince's army.

On their arrival, it turns out that the Lady Marianne is in fact the woman of Gaston's vision - and coincidentally enough she falls in love with him just as rapidly as he does with her - much ye olde snogging ensues.

Dickie and the boys manage to hoodwink Otto for long enough to mount an attempt to take the castle by force, even though there's just four of them against the Prince's massed hordes.

Otto goes berserk when he finds out what's going on in his castle.  Things are so serious that he even spurns a reminder from a servant (Hubert Rees) to wear his spectacular helmet.

Otto pursues the Crusaders across the desert.  With Richard happy for him to chase them, there's some brilliant rhyming dialogue as the other knights make it to the spot where Gaston and Marianne have already fled.

"Where's Richard?"
"He is the fox!"
"What next?"
"Behind these rocks!"

It all ends with poor Otto being laid low by Richard's men and rather harshly sentenced to live as a prisoner in his castle for the rest of his days, under Gaston and Marianne's supervision.

If you've been affected by the issue of falling in love with a stained glass window, please don't tell me.  I've got enough worries of my own.

Radio Minus 50 - The TV Lark: The Potarneyland Election

The foreign news usually featured on TTV is supplied by characteristically dodgy members of the Pertwee clan living abroad, but this week the station finds itself chosen to cover the election in the newly independent former colony Potarneyland.  As well as the election, Murray, Phillips and Pertwee (The Chipmunks, as the Deputy Controller's secretary calls them) are told to capture the local atmosphere in the country. It's an atmosphere they're all familiar with, Potarneyland having featured in The Navy Lark various times.  It's the kind of colonial caricature you'd expect of the early 60s, the inhabitants all talking with comedy Indian accents.  Ronnie Barker plays Samuel Pepys Washington Burt, the frontrunner in the election (mainly because he's threatened physical harm to anyone who doesn't vote for him), Michael Bates is his campaign manager Harold Golfball, and Janet Brown is Burt's sultry wife, also his chief rival in the election.

The TTV crew are strongarmed into joining the Potarneyland navy and serving aboard the S.S. Poppadom, where the usual hi-jinks ensue.  The highlight of the episode is a brief scene in the House of Commons, with Bates as Wilson and Barker as a senile Macmillan.  Janet Brown plays Labour backbencher Edith Summerskill, perpetually interrupting everyone with her calls for boxing to be banned - though as Summerskill had actually left parliament in 1961 it's perhaps not the most topical of references.

There's another Hanna-Barbera reference this week, confirming my belief in Lawrie Wyman's peculiar obsession.  And my favourite joke this week is this sublime pearl of crappiness:

"We've just escaped from the Pontarneyland election!"
"Have you, by George?"
"No, by boat"

"We hope your imagination will boggle at the same time next week," says the ultra-serious announcer as the episode ends.  I'm afraid it will have to, as the next episode, The Top Secret Rocket Trials, is sadly missing from the BBC archive so I'm unable to cover it here.

You may be interested to learn that Come Inside, starring Jon Pertwee, is now at the Duchess Theatre, London.

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