Saturday, 20 April 2013

Saturday 20 April 1963

Sabotage! (an exclamation mark in the title is always a hallmark of quality) is written by Reed De Rouen, who gave us the excellent Avengers episode Six Hands Across a Table a few weeks ago.  As with Six Hands, De Rouen uses Sabotage! to comment on Britain's decline as a world power.  The episode begins in comic fashion, with Sir Ian Rand-Fuller, the cranky governor of a British colony (Maurice Colbourne - not the Howard's Way star but the old theatrical trouper he named himself after) grumpily predicting doom and disaster as Britain prepares to grant independence.  But then, from his place of concealment, out rushes a topless man in a turban and tries to stab him.  Underneath the brown boot polish we can recognise stunt arranger Ray Austin, so we know straight away there'll be some fisticuffs with Neil Hallett later in the episode.

Tony Miller's sent out to investigate the links between the country's nationalist party and the shadowy organisation that's backing them.  This week he's undercover as a Dutch explosives expert who's undercover as a Harbour technician (got that?).  The only hotel on the island is run by shifty Emil Zadeck (big Eric Pohlmann, last seen in The Avengers a few weeks back), who also happens to be the police chief, as well as occupying any other position of authority he's able to buy.

Immediately after checking in, Miller manages to foil another attempted murder by Ray Austin.  The object this time is Sir Ian's daughter Nancy, played by the beautiful, languidly posh Jill Melford.  She and Tony strike up a flirtatious relationship, and what a charming couple they make.  Nancy introduces Tony to her father as well as harbourmaster Edmund Wilson (future Doomwatch star John Paul, sporting an enormous beard that it's very difficult to stop looking at).

Reporting to Wilson the next day, Miller's greeted by his beautiful secretary, played by Aliza Gur - obviously chosen for her looks rather than her ability with her lines: "Come in Mr Wilson, Mr Wilson is expecting you."

Neil Hallett looking very suave indeed
It turns out that Wilson is in the pay of the sinister Kuroc Industries, an international cartel that wants to gain control of all the country's resources - and to that end has employed the explosives expert he imagines Miller to be to help drive out the British.  Nancy knows all about what Wilson's up to: "Get orf this island" she warns Miller.

But it turns out that it's not Nancy who's in league with Wilson - it's her father.  Colbourne gives a wonderful character study throughout as the weary colonial official ("I never drink when I'm at home, it must be the heat" he says unconvincingly as he pours himself another gin) but for the most part he's a purely comic character.  His final speech, however, as he resigns himself to being found out as a traitor, is really powerful stuff in its bitterness at the treatment of the administrators of Britain's Raj, tremendously written and performed: "So this is the end, eh? The end of 35 years of being shunted and shuffled from backwater to backwater.  Pushed around by a string of political rabbits calling themselves Colonial Secretaries.  Yes... I could have amounted to something once, you know.  Oh yes, I had my foot in the door.  But there was always someone slightly better placed, as the saying goes."  Sir Ian's reason for throwing his lot in with Kuroc is movingly pathetic: "the chance to think for myself, and make decisions."

Along the way, Miller of course gets the chance of a good old punch-up with Ray Austin's silent henchman character:

Sabotage! was the last episode of Ghost Squad to be made, but don't despair, fans, as there are still plenty of earlier ones still to be broadcast in the coming weeks.  And now, for the benefit of anyone who might like to see it, here's a semi-naked Neil Hallett.

Nice curtains
The Arthur Haynes Show has changed its opening titles yet again.  It's quite an elaborate change considering we've reached the penultimate episode of the series, and I like the new ones so much I thought I'd share them with you in full:

The first sketch this week is a bit out of the ordinary: Haynes and Joan Newell (last seen here as Albert Steptoe's fiancee) play a warring duke and duchess.  Refusing to interact with each other, they use hapless butler Nicholas Parsons as a go-between, heaping various indignities intended for each other on him.

For the most part the sketch is pure slapstick, though the punchline carries on the show's vein of black humour as Arthur shoots Parsons dead then stomps out of the room with a parting shot at his wife: "Let that be a lesson to you!"

The brief second sketch is notable mainly for cheekily appropriating the theme to the BBC's Z Cars as Arthur leads a gang of thieves disguised as a band in robbing the attendees of the policemen's ball.  Finally, Arthur and Dermot visit the Irish embassy with the plan of emigrating.  Rather than the English-hating firebrand they were expecting, the embassy official they meet is plummy Parsons, bemused at their decision to move to a country that so many people are leaving ("I can tell from your Irish accent that you are an Englishman," he tells Arthur, who's trying a bit too hard).  Arthur explains their plan to raise an army and reclaim the six counties - to Parsons' horror.

We've already been told that Dermot was born in Paddington, but this week we discover he's never even been to Ireland and his accent was picked up on a trip to Liverpool.  He insists on his Irishness though, his father having fought against the English in England itself.

"When his father was drunk there wasn't an Englishman who dare come near him"
This week's musical guest is Jill Day.  I'd never heard of her before, and her smiley performance of standard numbers is pretty much par for the course, but I'll say this for her - she's got a way with a cape.

On the couch in this week's Human Jungle is British junior ice skating champ Verity Clarke (Janina Faye).

Verity's been plagued by a recurring dream where she falls into a crack in the ice rink - has this led to her recent skating accident? She had only a minor injury, but claims she's no longer able to skate.  It looks like her pushy mother (Jacqueline Lindsay), and her father (George A Cooper), often unable to see her skate as he's busy with his car hire business, might be at the root of it all.

They're planning to sue Verity's trainer, Dick Elbine (John McLaren) for £20,000 for causing Verity's accident, and Dick calls in Dr Corder to analyse Verity in aid of his case.  Dick's close relationship with Verity looks a bit suspicious to the jaded eyes of a viewer in 2013, and if Thin Ice was to be remade now it seems certain the impropriety of it would be played up.  Dick's choice of outfit, including fleece and bow tie, certainly seems to point to unnatural desires of some kind.

This is of course in stark contrast to the perfectly well-adjusted Dr Corder's superb taste in clothes, Herbert Lom being the best-dressed man on telly at this time.

Veteran Britfilm bit-parter Cyril Chamberlain pops up in an uncredited role as a gossipy mechanic who leads Corder to wonder if the accident might have been caused deliberately in order to make the Clarke family richer.

But it turns out that the solution to everything's actually much simpler.  Verity turns out to have caused the injury to herself deliberately as she'd overheard her parents talking about divorce and thought that if her skating career ended they might have less to argue about and stay together.  But in actual fact they weren't planning divorce at all: they love each other very much, and just argue a lot and threaten to leave each other as a way of blowing off steam.  Some might see this as a huge anti-climax after a great deal of angst, but I was charmed by its very ordinariness.  Summing up at the end of the episode, Corder expresses his view that Verity will never be a world champion because she'll always put her career second to the welfare of others.  But he suggests that maybe being a nice person is no less important than being a champion.  Hear, hear, Dr C.

1 comment:

  1. Independent Television Programmes of 1963 with Ghost Squad,The Arthur Haynes Show and The Human Jungle.

    Ghost Squad Episode Sabotage Starring The late Neil Hallett & Ray Barratt as Tony Miller & Peter Clarke also guest stars with Ray Austin & John Paul,Best Remembered in BBC Television's Sci-fi Series Doomwatch from 1970-72.

    The Arthur Haynes Show with Nicholas Parsons,Dermot Kelly and guest star is The Great Original Fabulous Fifties & The Swinging Sixties Singing Star Jill Day screened by ATV London.

    ABC Television Drama Series The Human Jungle Starring The late Herbert Lom as Doctor Roger Corder and best known in The Pink Panther Movies with The late Peter Sellers.

    The Fourth Episode Thin Ice when Ice Skating Champion Verity Clarke played by Janina Faye when the ice cracks and she fell on the ice rink and she's had a minor injury and they sued The Ice Trainer Dick Elbine played by John McLaren for £20,000 causing Verity's accident.

    The ITV Shows of The Early Sixties.

    Terry Christie.