Friday, 22 August 2014

Saturday 22 August 1964

The mysterious Doctor Who magazine columnist known only as the Watcher pens a highly entertaining regular feature singing the praises of some of the series' more noticeable extras.  While I don't want to muscle in on his racket (I'd only be a pale imitation anyway), this week's episode features such a plethora of stand-out wordless performances that I feel obliged to bring them to your attention.  We fade from the recap of last week's cliffhanger, with Ian helplessly watching as Barbara and Susan are carted off to the guillotine, to a Parisian street scene, and this little chap, patiently waiting for his cue to start striding purposefully toward us.

Following him are various other citizens going about their business, the standout among whom is a beautifully essayed old crone, hacking up a lung and waddling at great speed, pausing only to spit at one of her fellow pedestrians.  For my money she's the star of the whole episode.

The nominal star appears on screen not long after, having arrived in Paris in search of his imprisoned friends.

These two chaps are Jules Renan (Donald Morley), who you may remember Ian being told to seek out by his dying cellmate last week, and his friend Jean (Roy Herrick), dissidents planning to liberate the occupants of the next tumbril that passes.

Back in the conciergerie, the incompetent jailer is being given a ruddy good bollocking by his superior, Lemaitre.  Ian uses the opportunity to steal a key so he can effect his escape later on.

Meanwhile, Susan and Barbara are en route to their public execution (it will come as no surprise that Susan in particular isn't taking it well).  They're watched by another very game pair of supporting artistes.

The tumbril judders to a halt when the horse throws a shoe, giving Jules and Jean the opportunity to rescue the inhabitants.  Here's yet another wonderful extra, giving us "I've just been shot".

The Doctor's first port of call is a tailor's shop, where he intends to find clobber that might help him in coming to his fellow travellers' aid.  The proprietor (John Barrard) finds him very suspicious, what with his strange outfit and all.

The Doctor's greatly taken by the absurdly grand uniform of a Regional Officer of the Provinces, which he sees hanging up.  "In fact it's a post that I myself personally occupy," he bluffs ridiculously in the face of the tailor's scepticism.  Deciding he may as well be bold he admits "The price is of no matter, I haven't any money."  But he's hoping to swap his own clothes for the new outfit.  The tailor insists on his giving up his ring as well, but he at least gets some parchment and a pen chucked in.

Susan and Barbara have been taken by their rescuers to Jules' house, where they recuperate in the care of his sister Danielle (Caroline Hunt).

At the prison, the jailer has collapsed drunk outside Ian's cell, so Ian takes the opportunity to high-tail it out of there.  However, he's being watched by Lemaitre, keen to let him go so he can find out if he was given any instructions by the dying Webster.

We get a very good look here at actor James Cairncross's truly remarkable profile.

Jules and Jean discuss their suspicions that there's a traitor among their ranks, informing on their activities.  Jules takes a personal interest in his latest guests, determining to reunite them with their fellow travellers.  Susan's got a headache.  Susan is a headache.

Barbara's attention's distracted from her needy companion by the arrival of Jules' dapper friend Leon (future Rentaghost star Edward Brayshaw), who reveals that the escaped Ian's been asking after Jules, and very swiftly joins the intergalactic ranks of Barbara's admirers.

The Doctor arrives at the Conciergerie in all his preposterous new finery, demanding to see Ian, Barbara and Susan (who he rather oddly describes as "a young child").  He's disappointed, of course.

And things get worse when he falls foul of Lemaitre, who doesn't believe he's who he says he is for an instant, and insists on taking him to see Robespierre himself to clear the matter up.

Things look even bleaker for him after his departure, when the tailor turns up with his ring: "Evidence against a traitor"...

Next tonight, a sad moment as we say goodbye forever to one of TV's longest-established couples.

The final episode of The Larkins follows in the footsteps of the show's 1960 movie spin-off, Inn for Trouble, by relocating the thoroughly urban Larkins to the countryside.  Here, though, it's only for a holiday, which Ada and Hetty have been looking forward to for ages.  As they prepare for the off, we're treated to an inventory of the types of sandwich available in 1964: "Salmon and cucumber, ham, sardine, roast beef, egg and cress, cheese and tomato" (What, no houmous and falafel? And where's the chorizo?).

Alf's not keen on going at all, having hoped to join the caff's regular patrons on a motoring tour of the south coast.  He's not even allowed to take any beer with him.  While Alf's been humping all the cases, Osbert's been exercising his artistic talent.

Hetty numbers the telly among the essentials she intends to take, but happily there's one in the country cottage already.

Henry, who's commandeered a bus for the boys' tour (Summer Holiday came out the previous year), offers to drive the Larkins and friends to their temporary sylvan dwelling.  The journey is impressionistically conveyed to us with one (very long) shot of a spinning wheel.

Taking pity on Alf and Osbert for being cooped up in the alarmingly poky dwelling with nothing to do, Lofty sacrifices one of his crates of beer for their benefit.

The cottage proves not to be all that was promised.  For a start, the telly's ancient, and minuscule.

Ada claims she likes the place because it's "bee-jew", but begins to change her mind in the face of a tiny fridge and a complete lack of plates and cutlery.

The bath's not up to much either.

Worse is to come with the discovery that all the food for the holiday was left aboard the bus, and what's more there's no gas or electric.  And with a terrifying storm raging outside, very little that can be done.  The only entertainment available is Osbert's piano playing, and dinner is a tin of cold baked beans between four (that's 14 each).

The ladies retire to bed early, and Alf and Osbert hatch a foolproof plan for retrieving their beer from where they hid it outside without getting wet.

But before they can leave, they're brought the grim news that Alf left the windows upstairs open, soaking all the beds, so everyone will have to sleep in the living room.  Alf tries to help his fellow holidaymakers relax by relating the plot of a film he once saw featuring an escaped homicidal maniac.  Hetty's especially wrought up by it, especially when she hears the sound of someone else in the cottage with them...

Turns out it's Lofty, Henry and Paddy, who've returned the lost food and, what's more, discovered the meters for the gas and electric.

So perhaps the holiday isn't going to be such a disaster after all.  Osbert's even found a way of improving the televiewing experience.

It's a fun way to end the series, and as the womenfolk smile indulgently on in the show's very last shot, a mysterious figure passes by in the background.  Is it a hapless crew member who's accidentally got into view, or is it an escaped homicidal maniac? WE'LL NEVER KNOW.

But, as we wave goodbye to one TV Minus 50 favourite, we say "Oh! Hello again!" to another.  One of my regrets about this blog's hiatus earlier in the year is that I missed an entire 13-episode series of Sergeant Cork, but happily there's a few episodes that haven't been broadcast yet, meaning the show's back for a shorter six-week run.

This latest set of episodes kicks off with a plot most crime series get round to eventually: the return of a criminal seeking vengeance for the detective putting him away years before.  The disgruntled felon here is Charles Garnet (Donald Hewlett, later the ineffectual CO in It Ain't Half Hot, Mum), who's teamed up with respectable Mrs Wilson (Jane Griffiths), clearly in love with him, in the hope of making Sergeant Cork's life a misery.

Crucial to their plan is a chimney sweep named Brady (Robin Ford), who Mrs Wilson tracked down especially.  He's a former cellmate of Garnet, who offers him £1000 to break into this very house, and promises to cause problems for him unless he co-operates.

After the break-in (jewellery and money have been stolen) Cork arrives on the scene to meet with uptight uniform man Inspector Price (Gerald Cross, whose finicky tones will be immediately recognisable to Doctor Who fans from his sterling voice work as a Megara justice machine in The Stones of Blood).

After a brief row with Price (who finds the whole notion of non-uniformed police distasteful), Cork heads to a pub notorious for its criminal clientele, named, with unsubtle irony, The Honest Man.  He's been summoned there by an anonymous note promising information about the break-in at Mrs Wilson's.  "Get me a couple of saveloys and a meat pie," he calls out to the barman, this being set in the days before artisan pork scratchings.

The note was sent by Garnet, who's in the pub with Brady, and points out the sergeant as the object of their vindictive campaign.  At the bar, Brady ostentatiously spills beer all over Cork, then helps to wipe him down.

Shortly afterward, the sergeant's horrified to discover that his wallet has been stolen... occurrence that brings the greatest of amusement to Constable Marriott and Superintendent Rodway.  "Some people would laugh at their own grandmother's funeral," the embarrassed sergeant huffs.

Any laughter soon evaporates, though, as Garnet's net begins to tighten around Cork, and the policeman starts to look increasingly compromised.  Brady's been identified as the man who broke into the house, and it seems very odd that Cork didn't pick up on this known criminal being around the property, as Mrs Wilson insists she told him (we know, of course, that she didn't).  Hauled up before the magistrates, Brady claims he gave Cork a bribe of £50 to keep quiet.

John Barrie's particularly brilliant in this episode, as the frustrated Cork becomes increasingly desperate to clear his name, at one point taking the unwise step of visiting Brady in his cell and roughing him up.

Brady's finding it all too much (the prison longjohns probably don't help matters).

Things look increasingly black as Cork's wallet is found - with £50 in it.  The sergeant realises it was Brady who stole it and heads back to the cells to confront the thief.  Brady doesn't have very much to say for himself, however.

It seems that Cork's chickens have come home to roost, with the "powerful enemies" he's made through his scorn for authority, including the Chief Commissioner (A J Brown), keen to seize on this scandal as a way of getting rid of the troublesome sergeant.

Suspended from the force, Cork's reduced to spending his days in the pub, where the criminal fraternity who were once so scared of him (represented by Michael Segal as Freddy) now point and laugh.  Bob Marriott determines to do something to help his former boss.

And so, sticking to what he knows best, he heads round to Mrs Wilson's and seduces the parlourmaid, Polly (Kate Story), in the hope of getting some useful information out of her.  It works - she tells him all about Garnet, and reveals that a stolen pendant Mrs Wilson claimed was a treasured heirloom was in fact bought for her by the ex-convict just a few weeks previously.

Bob obtains a copy of Garnet's receipt from the jeweller and brings it to the trial of Cork, who's been "busted down to uniform" in American parlance.  Cork confronts Mrs Wilson with this evidence, and all is revealed about Garnet, whose chief animus against Cork is that his wife, who was arrested with him, died in prison.  She was also Mrs Wilson's sister.

As Cork is cleared and Garnet apprehended, the sergeant realises that Mrs Garnet was in fact innocent all along.  "We're only men," Cork insists, choking back the tears, reinstated but forced to confront the at times inescapably grim nature of his job.

The Case of the Vengeful Garnet isn't Sergeant Cork at its absolute best, but it gives John Barrie a chance to turn in an incredibly moving performance, and there's a lot of fun in seeing hoary cop show clich├ęs played out against a Victorian backdrop.

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