Saturday, 6 April 2013

Saturday 6 April 1963

Burly, bug-eyed, Hungarian-born Guy Deghy was a familiar face in British film and TV for decades, usually cast as a shifty foreigner of one kind or another (though one of his more unusual roles was as Father Christmas in ABC's 1967 adaptation of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe).   He's already popped up here a couple of times, including in an earlier Ghost Squad episode, but as the Mr Five Per Cent of this episode's title he gets a starring role for once.

Deghy plays Anton Durkavic, an international conman and drug peddler now living in London.  He claims to have gone straight, despite the authorities' suspicions: "I have heard that England is a country where the food is inedible but where one can live in peace, make an honest living and where nobody bothers you", he says, optimistically.  Faced with evidence that some of the profits from his legitimate business are being sent to a dodgy character in Paris, he's forced into helping the Ghost Squad on an assignment.  Geoffrey Stock's on leave this week, and it's his replacement, Supt Owen (Ross Hutchinson, who can't even get Stock's name right) who ropes Durkavic in.  He's to pretend to be interested in buying arms in order to help lead Tony Miller to whoever's supplying the rifles used in a deadly conflict in far-off Kwalum.

The pair travel to Rome, where Durkavic puts Miller in touch with exiled Cockney villain Tony Esposito.  Esposito's played by another actor ubiquitous on TV at the time, Edwin Richfield.  In the unlikely event that any readers have ever had any sexual fantasies regarding Edwin Richfield, they should be especially keen on his first scene, in which he wears very little and makes some... interesting faces as he's being massaged.

It quickly transpires that the ruthless Esposito is the man Tony's after.  He and his wife Liz (husky-voiced Naomi Chance) regularly hold parties chock-full of decadent Continental types getting up to all sorts of strangeness - my favourites of whom are the ancient, terrifyingly lecherous Count Giovanni and his wife, with her own pet youngster.

It's obvious it's not just alcohol being consumed at these parties, and we can tell from the blissed-out drag Liz takes on her cigarette that there's more than tobacco in there.

At one of these parties Miller meets Yvette (Juliet Manet), a young French student. Miller recognises her from a photo in Durkavic's flat - but far from being his daughter, as Miller had assumed, Yvette's a former client who despises Durkavic for his part in making her a dope addict.  From the vantage point of the 2010s Yvette's description of how she got hooked on marijuana seems charmingly overstated: "Some friends of mine thought I needed cheering up, taking out of myself.  Only they had a special way of doing it - to them, taking marijuana was fun: a new kind of excitement.  Within a few months, it had become my whole life."  It should be noted that Juliet Manet's accent is near-impenetrable, so that took me no short while to transcribe.

Thanks to a mystery benefactor, Juliet was able to go into rehab and then resume her university studies. For his own lecherous reasons Esposito has led her to believe he was her knight in shining armour (she doesn't seem to have noticed the conspicuously zonked-out behaviour of her fellow partygoers), but of course it was really Durkavic - his guilt over what he reduced her to having made him turn his back on crime and pay for her to get her life on track.  She never gets to thank him though, as he ends up shot dead by one of Esposito's henchmen.

Compellingly written by Louis Marks, Mr Five Per Cent's plain-speaking about the evils of drug dealing makes it surprisingly explicit stuff for early Saturday evening entertainment.  Durkavic is a likeable anti-hero, and his eventual fate is genuinely upsetting - particularly as we don't get to see Esposito brought to justice.

Tonight's show begins with Arthur wearing the hat that denotes he's playing his disturbing weirdo character.  As ever he's winding up Nicholas Parsons, who this week is in the guise of a bank cashier.

Arthur demands to see the pound note he deposited the previous day, and is livid when he's fobbed off with a quite different note altogether.  Parsons unwisely tries to explain the banking system to Arthur, but he just gets it into his head the bank's going broke, causing general consternation among the customers.  These Psycho Arthur sketches are starting to get just a little bit annoying, the character on the verge of becoming as much of a pain in the arse for the audience as for Parsons.

Microphone in shot!
Sketch number two is set in the wild west.  It's dialogue-free, possibly so the cast don't have to attempt the accent (Parsons had provided the voice for the hero of Gerry Anderson's western extravaganza Four Feather Falls, though it's probably best this isn't revived).

Meanwhile, in the squalid boarding house where tramps Arthur and Dermot are currently staying, there's trouble afoot.  Quite literally, as Dermot thinks he's lost a toe.

"Perhaps it's dropped off"
It turns out it's actually hiding behind a larger toe, Dermot having mistaken it for a corn (the first few minutes of the tramp sketches are always a sublime mixture of the banal and the surreal).  Arthur's just returned from the public library, where he's invested a good couple of hours in writing a play he's certain will be a massive hit.  Dermot's sceptical: it's only five pages long and he's sure they're meant to be longer than that.  He claims he was once in the library and saw a play that was one of the thickest things there.  Arthur suspects there was something thicker...

Landlady Rita Webb and neighbour Dorothy Dampier join in with a reading of Arthur's play, though the performance gets off to an inauspicious start with Dermot and Rita coming to blows.

Dorothy and Rita aren't too keen on their parts, suspicious of "all this sex stuff" in the play.  Arthur explains it's a kitchen sink play, "all about the low life that people lead in these here lodging houses."

The reading descends into chaos with the two women at each other's throats: "I remember you when them Americans come over," says Rita, helping Dorothy to define a word in the script that she refuses to read.

On second thoughts, maybe a musical about a dirty Irish tramp might be more acceptable to the theatregoing public...

It's an interesting sketch in that Arthur-as-playwright is edging close to the territory of the other great TV comedian of the day, Tony Hancock (though Hancock's star was very much in the descendant by this stage).  A comparison of their characterisation is illuminating: where Hancock would be blowing his own trumpet about his talent as a playwright, for Arthur it's simply that if some bloke can make a fortune from putting a load of old rubbish on the stage anyone can.  With Hancock it's about ego - with Arthur it's all about making sure he doesn't lose out on his slice of the cake.

Tonight's musical guest is Sheila Buxton.  By far the most memorable thing about her performance is her choice of outfit.

Now for tonight's edition of The Human Jungle, and the element of British society on the couch this week is the pop business and what it does to the youngsters it turns into overnight sensations.

Our old friend Jess Conrad gives a characteristically useless performance as "King of the Pops" Danny Pace, who's in the midst of performing before a crowd of screaming girls (they must have seen his acting) when he spots someone unexpected in the audience: himself.

Danny's convinced a rival singer (possibly "King Richmond") has planted a double in the audience in an attempt to freak him out (it's worked), but his frosty manager Lori Winters (Annette Carell) and kindly publicist (Hammer stalwart Michael Ripper) think he's cracking up, and send for Dr Corder.

Danny's response to the idea of seeing a shrink is one of anger.  Here's Jess Conrad doing "angry".

Later, he gets even angrier when he spots the double at the recording studio -  though nobody else can see it, confirming it's all in his troubled mind.

Jess Gonmad

Corder works out that Danny's hallucinating an image of himself in his past life as an everyday railway worker, before he got swept up in chart success and was ruthlessly exploited by Lori.  It turns out that before he became Danny Pace he was simple Freddie Daniels, who left his pregnant wife at home to take part in a singing contest at the local dance hall, where he won a recording contract.  In Danny's flashback sequence we get to see, er, quite a lot of young Mr Conrad.

On his return home, Danny found his wife dead after falling down a flight of stairs, and the guilt continues to haunt him in the form of a vision of who he used to be.  He finally flips out and drives to the dance hall, scene of his first success, where Dr Corder tries to prevent him doing himself a serious mischief.

Corder smashes the mirror Danny's issuing threats to, only to cause the pretty, potty popster to fall down a flight of stairs just like his unfortunate missus (perhaps not one of your greatest successes there, Doc).  While Corder rushes off to get an ambulance, Danny comes round and staggers out to his car.  Driving off, he swerves to avoid the very ambulance that's coming for him...

In order to find the perfect images for you lovely people I do a lot of pausing and stepping forward, and this enabled me to notice this subliminally brief shot during the crash sequence, which the naked eye of a viewer in 1963 would never have been able to pick up.

Corder's contempt for Lori and the rest of the music industry's just as strong as that he displayed for the business world last week.  His condemnation of Lori and her fellow managers' exploitation of vulnerable young people is uncompromisingly harsh.  The script and direction of this week's show, courtesy of Robert Banks Stewart and Sidney Hayers, are just as excellent as the show's debut episode.  Some aspects of the early 60s pop scene as depicted here may seem pretty risible now, but recent headlines about Justin Bieber's increasingly erratic behaviour suggest it's all pretty much the same as it ever was.

Considering the less than wholehearted endorsement The Flip Side Man gives to the music industry, it's perhaps a bit ironic that Decca released a Human Jungle cash-in EP featuring the four songs Conrad sings in the episode.  Sadly I've not been able to find any of them online, but here's Jess performing the magnificently ridiculous "This Pullover" from a couple of years previously.

1 comment:

  1. Saturday April 6th 1963,The Human Jungle,ABC Television Drama Series Starring The late Herbert Lom as Doctor Roger Corder also in Episode Two,The Flip Side Man with The Famous Pop Star Jess Conrad as Danny Pace and he sang It's About Time,One Of These Days and In Town Tonight when he smashed the window in the recording studio by the chair and he saw his double and in the end when Danny Pace is killed in a car crash through his depression and he had breakdown as well when Doctor Corder told Harry Dublane & Laurie Winters played by the late Annette Carell & Michael Ripper,best remembered in The British Hammer Horror Movies and Danny sang I Don't Care(What People Say).

    The Human Jungle,The Great Original ITV Drama Series and ran for two seasons from 1963-64 by ABC Television(UK) and The Star of The Star icon is The late Herbert Lom as Doctor Roger Corder and best remembered in The Pink Panther Movies with The late Peter Sellers.

    Terry Christie.