Saturday, 15 June 2013

Saturday 15 June 1963

This week's episode (it's called Lost in Transit, by the way) sees the Squad (I've never called them that before; possibly I never will again) up against the New Link, a dangerous Berlin-based neo-Nazi organisation led by the powerful Mr Van Tempel (the extremely sinister-looking Anthony Jacobs).

Van Tempel's propaganda chief Karl Eppler (the always very welcome John Woodvine) is on his way to London, where Ghost Squad's Tony Miller's waiting to see what mischief he plans to get up to.

The smoking chap above is played by Walter Randall, a ubiquitous TV bit player of shady types.  His role here's no different from usual, as he swiftly meets up with the new arrival from Berlin in the gent's lavatories (which feature some fantastic wall tiles).  "Van Tempel told me you had something for me," "That is correct - I have it right here."  I'm sure this sort of thing goes on in the gent's loos at airports all the time - but in this case it ends up with Eppler apparently shot dead.

Ghost Squad boss Geoffrey Stock's livid at finding out that Miller's quarry's been killed under his very nose.  It turns out, you see, that Eppler was in fact a Ghost Squad agent who had infiltrated the New Link and was preparing to destroy it from within.  Miller's sent to see if he can get any information from Eppler's estranged wife (Delphi Lawrence) who left him because of what she thought were his Fascist views.  Mrs Eppler's been receiving strange messages about her husband from an unknown source that she's been unable to make head nor tail of.  Miller accompanies her to identify the body - which isn't Eppler at all (explaining why we only saw the back of his head).  And look - it's Dalek Operator extraordinaire John Scott Martin playing the morgue attendant! Miller and Mrs Eppler head out to Berlin to try and find the real Eppler.

Van Tempel, we learn, replaced Eppler on the trip to London with an errant New Link member at the last  minute.  The double agent himself's still in Berlin, attending what look like extremely dull meetings with the very drab inner circle of the New Link at the bar where they have their secret hideout.

The organisation are planning to blow up the Berlin Opera House during a performance at which a number of  the great and good will be present.  Eppler manages to get an obscure message to his wife before being exposed as a traitor and getting tied up with a bomb in his face.  By the time Miller manages to work out what he was blithering on about the is the device has gone off, but Eppler looks surprisingly intact and even manages to get a few words out, alerting Miller to the coming disaster.

Lost in Transit is, sadly, an extremely dull episode of Ghost Squad in which little happens and what does is interminably drawn out.  The scene where a New Link member plants the bomb at the opera house, for instance, feels like it takes at least 15 minutes.

Miller, of course, gets there, puts Opera House boss Arnold Diamond in a flap, and manages to disarm the bomb.  Perhaps the most interesting thing about this sequence (and indeed the whole episode) is the vast amount of eyeliner Neil Hallett appears to be wearing.

Now on to this week's Man of the World, which is surprisingly free of anything of such international import as sinister far-right organisations, with Michael Strait instead poking his lens into the affairs of one Spanish family.

Unsurprisingly, given the title, we're at a bullfight, where the young chap we see in close-up (saucer-eyed Joseph Cuby) seems to have no connection whatsoever with the fellow actually fighting the bull.

In the audience are Michael Strait and a cigar-chomping Spanish friend (Ferdy Mayne, who must have played every European nationality at one point or another).

Strait's here to do an article on the young bullfighter, Luiz Rivera - son of Francisco Rivera, one of the most revered matadors of all time.  The plain and simple reason for Strait taking this assignment is that Luiz's sister Carmen (Marla Landi, from Hammer's The Hound of the Baskervilles) is an acquaintance from New York, and he's trying to get his end away with her.  ("Do you know a place round here I could use as a darkroom?" he asks her at one point, the dirty beggar).

Strait's whisked off to the Villa Rivera, where he meets an assortment of characters including Luiz's mother (the marvellous Eileen Way), his manager (the John Shuttleworth-ish Richard Montez) and the family's doctor and lawyer (Michael Peake and George Street), all of whom behave very shiftily.

This being (pretend) Spain, we're treated to an elaborate Flamenco performance at the Villa.  Pictures can't do justice to how ridiculously camp the man in the spotty top is, you'll need to see the episode for yourself.

A room in the house is kept as a shrine to Luiz's father (the artefacts including his enormous moustache, by the looks of things), who supposedly died in an accident in the ring, though nobody likes to talk about it.  Strait takes some photos of the room for the article, but they mysteriously disappear...

Later, inspecting the villa's very own bullring, Strait has a (tiny) bull set on him.

Who could be responsible for these misdeeds? And why? Strait finds Luiz's manager skulking around the bullring but sadly doesn't tell him his unlikely excuse is a load of bull.

It turns out all the furtive characters we've met are in on the plot to sabotage Strait's article, the reason being - in true gothic melodrama style - that Francisco Rivera's still alive (in the form of John Bailey, Hattie Jacques' gay best friend), and hidden away in a room accessed through a secret door in the trophy room.

Disappointingly, Francisco's not insane or hideously deformed or anything like that, he just lost his nerve in the bullring and ended up paralysed because of it, and decided it would be better for Luiz to think he was dead.  "Look into my eyes," he tells Strait, "do you recognise what you see? The worm of fear!"

Mr Wormy Eyes
Francisco thought hiding himself away would prevent the worm infecting his son, but Strait harshly informs him that it's actually had the opposite effect.  Still, knowing his dad's alive after all spurs Luiz onto a splendid performance in the ring.  Hurrah.

The explanations of what's going on in The Bullfighter are laughably unconvincing, but that's gothic melodrama for you.  It's unusual enough to remain interesting throughout, the small scale of the drama making an enjoyable change from the usual espionage-type stuff.

Also departing a bit from its usual style tonight is The Human Jungle, focusing on two contrasting disturbed patients, rather than the usual one.

There's an especially gripping start to this week's episode.  A young woman, Fay Bridges (Reggie Perrin's Pauline Yates) arrives home to find the lights aren't working.  She calls out to her husband but there's no answer, though we can see a man skulking in the darkness, heading upstairs.   Fay hears sobbing coming from her young son's room and tries the door, but it's locked.  Turning round she sees the scary man (her husband David) advancing up the stairs with a belt...

Fay consults Dr Corder, begging him to give her the strength to leave her abusive husband, which somehow she's just unable to do.  Strangely, she seems to expect him to be able to do this in just the one session, and becomes distraught on learning that's just not the case.

Meanwhile, Jimmy Davis is stumped by the case of a new mother, Doreen Stokes (Susan Burnet) who's determined that her baby be adopted, claiming the hovel she lives in just isn't good enough for it.  Here she is having a fag against a backdrop of spectacular 60s NHS posters.

Jimmy's investigations reveal that far from living in grim surroundings, Doreen and her husband (Minder's Glynn Edwards) live in the whole top floor of her mother's perfectly nice house.  And far from them being poor, her husband earns over £20 a week (!).  So what's the real reason she doesn't want the child?

As Jimmy tries to get to the bottom of this, Fay Bridges is admitted to hospital after being assaulted.  She won't admit it, but it's obvious who the culprit is.  David visits her alongside his domineering parents (Frederick Piper and Beatrice Varley).  He's a frightening, silent character, and strangely, he's not even credited (if anyone recognises the actor I'd love to know who he is).

After initially refusing to see Dr Corder again, Fay secretly meets up with him and reveals an alarming fact about her marriage: she had initially had doubts about marrying David, but his parents sent her to a psychiatrist, who rapidly hypnotised them out of her - she'd been expecting Corder could do the same to get her to leave her husband.  Corder's horrified that Fay's had such a cowboy rooting about in her mind, and having taken over the case of Doreen Stokes, sends Jimmy to track down this  unscrupulous character, who goes by the name of Algernon Wirral.

Corder himself tries out a spot of (responsible) hypnotism on Doreen, and learns that the root of the rejection of her child is the secret happiness she felt at age six when her brother died.  She was overjoyed that she'd now be the centre of attention, and the coming of her baby now has stirred up subconscious worries that it'll steal the limelight from her.

Doreen's deeply upset to learn she has these feelings, but Corder sets her on the path to dealing with them and accepting her baby.  Fay's case might be trickier: it turns out that Algernon Wirral isn't a psychiatrist at all but a confidence trickster and bigamist currently in Wandsworth Prison.  He's played by the wonderful Roger Delgado with a great deal of roguish charm (it's a refreshing change to see him playing something other than a generic foreign baddie).  Seeing Delgado as a wicked but charismatic hypnotist serving time at Her Majesty's Pleasure should be especially resonant for Doctor Who fans.  "I think she was quite my most successful client" says Wirral of Fay.  "Financially?" asks Jimmy, contemptuously.  "My dear fellow," responds a bemused Wirral, "How else does one measure success?"

David's parents paid Wirral £50 to ensure Fay married their son - a dangerous paranoiac who's now been readmitted to a mental hospital.  In a wonderful display of blazing indignation from Herbert Lom Corder turns the full force of his wrath on them, scandalising the awful Mrs Bridges: "At least that Mr Wirral was a gentleman!"

The Two Edged Sword's a fantastic episode with superb dialogue (from star writer Bill McIlwraith) and performances - though Fay's storyline could easily have been extended to fill the whole episode, with David built up into more of a proper character and more screen time for the gleefully amoral Mr Wirral.  

In between dealing with the problems of Fay and Doreen we're treated to another endearing glimpse of Corder's home life, focusing as usual on overprotective daughter Jennifer's fearsome inability to cook.

I'm sad to say that next week's episode will be the last in the current series of The Human Jungle.  Don't miss it, I know I won't.

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