This week's Ghost Squad, titled Hot Money, but not so's you'd notice, is great fun thanks to a splendidly witty script from Louis Marks and some fantastic guest stars. Chief among these is Lloyd Lamble as Granger, the hilariously sardonic brains behind a counterfeit money operation which hides behind the twin fronts of an exclusive nightclub (The Penumbra) and an import/export business. The urbane Granger runs the club, while his younger, less classy associate Max (Michael Coles) handles the rest. The pair are a wonderful double act and get some fantastic exchanges, like the following, as Max contemplates one of his more bizarre orders:
Max: What do they want with plastic tulips in Holland? You can't walk three lousy feet without
walking over a real one.
Granger: It's all to do with the common market, dear boy. Don't lose any sleep over it.
It should also be noted that the pair have fantastic taste in wallpaper.
The Ghost Squad get wise to the pair's dodgy activities after a badly forged pound note's handed in at a bank by elderly art dealer Giuseppe Del Piazzo. Mysteriously the note turns out to have the same serial number as one of a batch that were stolen two years previously and found burned in a fire. The squad's Nick Craig chances upon Max demanding money from Giuseppe at the old man's shop, and traces him back to the club, which he joins. "What does it mean?" he asks, intrigued by the club's name. Max is a bit embarrassed to be put on the spot: "Ah, well, it means... well, it doesn't really mean anything. It just means Penumbra, doesn't it?" Granger supplies a more definitive answer: "A penumbra may be defined as a slightly shady region, which aptly describes the club... we have the type of membership that believe enjoyment isn't real unless it's furtive."
Max has been romancing Giuseppe's granddaughter Mina for two years now, though he secretly depises her. She's played by the luminous Samantha Eggar, and on hailing a taxi outside the club she manages to pick up Craig instead - he claims to be a representative of a wallpaper company who want to use old Italian engravings for a dead trendy new line.
|Regular Arthur Askey co-star Max Bacon plays Sam the barman|
After a heart-to-heart in a coffee shop, Mina and Craig return to her grandfather's shop, unaware that Granger's sent Max to get rid of the unfortunate old man: "It's regrettable, I know, but it comes to us all in the end," the villain drawls. Mina and Craig find a shop full of gas, and a corpse.
Back at Ghost Squad HQ, Superintendent Stock causes his secretary Jean much consternation by setting fire to her week's wages as he tries to get the bottom of the money mystery. It's a wonderful little scene in which Stock briefly changes from grumpy boss into eccentric detective.
Once the baddies have been dispatched at the episode's end there's a cute little comedy coda with Jean ecstatic about getting her money back. As she heads off to spend it, Craig sums up by observing "There are all sorts of hot money, some of it hotter than others, but women are better at burning it than anybody!" Oh dear.
And there's more woman trouble tonight for Michael Strait in Man of the World.
The episode's title's quite a clever little pun. The Communist state of Groznya is ruled by an 87 year old Field Marshal who parades outside his residence for the public daily. But fuller public appearances are suspiciously absent, and those not in thrall to the Marshal's personality cult have begun to suspect the man who does the parading is really a double. Who they want to expose. Get it? Strait's sent on the job, sneaked into Groznya as the new chauffeur of rich elderly widow Mrs Rosewall (Cicely Courtneidge in battleaxe mode), who visits the country for the legendary health-giving properties of its water.
|You may recognise Communist Official Marshall Jones as the evil Communist Superman from crazed 1969 sci-fi horror Scream and Scream Again|
Briefly leaving the car on entering the country, Strait returns to be confronted with Trina Voldikov (Erika Remberg), an official translator he's been assigned whether he likes it or not. She's a regulation cold-but-beautiful-and-ripe-for-converting-to-the-ways-of-Western-decadence type.
Trina's close to wicked colonel Nigel Davenport, who plans to get a lot closer. On learning she's escorted Strait to the Field Marshal's residence, where he's taken unauthorised photos, the colonel tries to blackmail her into marrying him.
But of course, before you can say Ninotchka, Strait and Trina are getting very pally - she lets her hair down, dresses "like a girl", as Strait would have it, and he's working out a way to get her out of the country. All the stuff about the double is forgotten and left unresolved as we head into dizzy romcom territory (although the rom element's not very convincing as we know full well Strait will find another girl in another part of the world next week). Mrs Rosewall turns out to be a game old bird who's keen to help out with a spot of intrigue, and works out a cunning disguise for the errant translator.
|Trina comes out of the closet|
|Possibly ready to go back in the closet|
The foolproof plan is for Trina to pretend to be a poorly Mrs Rosewall and escape the country in the old lady's car. And indeed her disguise as an old lady with measles is near impossible to see through.
But the fly in the ointment is the new translator Strait's assigned, a far less glamorous Rosa Klebb type (Dorothea Phillips), who might not let the fleeing lovebirds get far...
Now let's find out who the angst-ridden citizen on Dr Roger Corder's couch is this week.
We start off with a young man (Jeremy Spenser), the worse for a few beers, paying the barman so he can keep the bottles. Next thing we see, he's lining them up on a wall, and throwing them at the upper window of a house, terrifying the female occupant. The police are called and he's carted off to the station, where it emerges that the house was in fact his own address...
The young man is Jan Zapotski, who lives in the house with his wife Rita, who we saw earlier (she's played by Catherine Feller, Oliver Reed's leading lady in The Curse of the Werewolf), but also both their sets of parents: Polish immigrants who are more than happy to live in each other's pockets. The whole crowd descend upon the police station to find out what on Earth's wrong with Jan. His dad's played by Meier Tzelniker, his mum by Survivors star Hana-Maria Pravda and the in-laws by ubiquitous character actor Arnold Diamond and Dear John star (and sister of Lilli Palmer) Irene Prador. They're all brilliant at conveying the various well-meaning waysin which they're systematically suffocating the young couple.
Jan's irascible father, determined to get to the bottom of his behaviour, takes the entire clan off to Dr Corder's office, where he's just finishing up with patient Miss Carmody (Rosamund Greenwood) who comes along to get her sexual fantasies off her chest.
Even the usually unflappable psychiatrist has trouble coping with the family's warm-hearted but exasperating pushiness. He finds himself unable to refuse their invitation to dine with them that evening, however much he might want to, and brings his daughter Jennifer along too.
But Jan, fed up with his family's customs, refuses to attend the meal. After dinner, Dr Corder visits he and Rita in their charmingly furnished upstairs flatlet, where the frustrated young wife shows the psychiatrist how her husband's taken to self-harming.
It's obvious that his inescapable family are the root of Jan's mental problems, but what can Dr Corder do about it? He starts off by sending Jan and Rita to a group therapy session run by 40s film star Joy Shelton.
Best known as a child actor (his roles included the young Dennis Price in Kind Hearts and Coronets), Jeremy Spenser later did a terrific line in moody, maladjusted but polite young men, and he and Feller are both brilliant in The Wall as a pair of shy young second-generation immigrants caught in the gulf between the ways of their parents and those of the only homeland they've ever known. Their nervous giggling and shy attempts to reach out to each other at the group therapy session are adorable, and deeply touching.
The Wall's investigation of the immigrant experience is fascinating, and John Kruse's bittersweet script is wholly believable. The eventual solution to Jan and Rita's problems is both simple and heartwarming, and manages to speak volumes about the episode's characters (I'm not telling you what it is - if you like classic British TV you owe it to yourself to buy The Human Jungle on DVD and find out for yourself).