Monday, 29 September 2014

Tuesday 29 September 1964

Tonight's show begins (even before the show's title and whirring intro music) with Leon Dorsey telling us exactly what's wrong with him: he's got Meniere's disease.  His obstinacy in discussing the matter leads to a classic "explaining to the audience something the character already knows" ruse as Alec Grant barks: "I see I shall have to talk to you like a first year medical student!" and proceeds to explain for the benefit of layviewers what Meniere's disease is.  It's a disease of the inner ear which has been causing Dorsey's unbearable tinnitus and frequent collapses.  Grant insists it must be operated on right away, but Dorsey refuses: the treatment would make him permanently deaf in one ear, and it could take years for him to recover his balance afterwards.  Despite Grant's dire warnings of the consequences if he faints during an operation again he'd prefer to just soldier on.

Elsewhere in the hospital, Les Large is still consumed with worry over his car accident and lack of insurance.  Things are looking even worse as Potter the porter (Douglas Ives) announces that there's a policeman to see him.

Michaela's still fretting about her part in Les's failure to renew his insurance.  One reasonably bright spot in the gloom is provided by Guy Marshall, who reveals that Lena Hyde's collapse was due to a penicillin allergy rather than a result of the crash.

Grant calls Mr Barrett (Geoffrey Russell), the hospital secretary, to try and have something done about Dorsey.  Barrett proves utterly useless and gets the phone slammed down on him as a result.

Guy asks Rex Lane-Russell to go for a drink with him, but Rex is off on his dinner date with Louise Mahler.  Guy admires Rex's ability to dally with women without getting fully involved: he's currently waiting for Barbara Dodge to get back from America so the matter of her extravagant gift to the hospital can be resolved.

Les and Michaela go for dinner, ordering a very 60s menu of entrecote steaks, "croquet" potatoes, petit pois, a grapefruit juice and a grapefruit cocktail.  The wallpaper matches the cuisine.  Unable to concentrate on anything other than his worries, Les resolves to visit Lena Hyde the following day.

Thanks to the largesse of her employer Gerald Frobisher (who, topically, is contesting South Oxbridge in the coming general election), Lena's living the life of Riley in her private ward, with vases of chrysanthemums, stacks of magazines and enormous baskets of fruit galore.  Frobisher even has a telly wheeled in for her.

Les sheepishly enters Lena's luxurious domain, and apologises for the accident.  Initially hostile, Lena repeats that she can't remember any of the details of the accident.  However, she soon starts to warm to Les, offering him a chocolate and showing off about her job.  Les is rapidly smitten.

There's nothing as fancy as Lena's posh chocs on offer in Sister Ransome's office, just plain old tea and biscuits.  But look at that tin! Incredible.  The Sister and Guy are having a quick cuppa before looking at a pair of new arrivals on the ward: a boy and his father who've been admitted after their experiment in DIY fireworks went horribly wrong.

Young Billy Cartwright (Martin Norton) lost two fingers in the accident, but seems remarkably chipper about the whole thing, explaining that he found the instructions on making the bangers in an old book from 1880.

Billy's father (Bryan Mosley, Coronation Street's Alf Roberts) has suffered facial burns.  He's a rather shifty character, curiously keen that nobody should know he and Billy are in the hospital.

In Lena's room, the garrulous Potter is busy tuning her TV in for her, though she's not enormously interested in it.  She's even less interested in Potter's endless stream of conversation, though for my purposes his thoughts on TV are pretty interesting: he wonders whether colour TV will come in any time soon, his sister now refusing to see anything other than colour films at the cinema, and asks Lena whether she often "looks in" ("looker-in" was an early term for a watcher of television, before "viewer" became universal - thanks to Joe Moran's engrossing Armchair Nation for that one - and the basis for the name of Look-In, the junior TV Times).

Potter's musings are cut shot by the arrival of the flashy Gerald Frobisher (Basil Henson) - he wears a cape! - who's keen on suing Les for every penny "they" can get for the damage to Lena's hand.  She's not so keen, but he might be able to talk her round - it looks like their relationship is more than just a professional one.

It's teatime for the patients, with bread and butter and a scone for all (nutrition clearly not being that much of a priority).  As Billy chomps his down he muses happily: "It'll be funny without two fingers... You know, Sister, it must have been a jolly good firework, mustn't it?"

Mr Price is less contented, smashing his cup in his anxiety over the consequences of taking the money for the union outing.

It's visiting time, and Mr Price's colleague Mr Dewhurst (Frank Crawshaw) pushes to the head of a queue of disgruntled visitors to get to the panic-stricken patient.  He gloats about the money, and suggests the men might want to prosecute.  He's then terrified when this triggers Mr Price to have a fit.

Ushered outside by an angry Sister Ransome, Dewhurst confesses that he covered up for Price and all is well with the money, but just wanted Price to stew for a bit.  He's sent away with a stern ticking off, and Sister Ransome brings Mr Price's little storyline to an end by telling him that he doesn't need to worry any more.

Grant and Dorsey discuss an upcoming operation, but Dorsey suddenly decides he can't take the risk, and agrees to be operated on...

Saturday, 27 September 2014

Sunday 27 September 1964

It's the penultimate instalment of the BBC's deluxe Dumas adaptation, and Monte Cristo's plans for revenge are on the verge of fruition.  But a fly has unexpectedly alighted on his vengeful ointment in the form of his long-repressed but still all-consuming love for Mercedes.  He's agreed to her request to spare the life of her son Albert, but insists he must die in the young man's place: "Mercedes, what I love most after you and myself is my dignity, and that strength that makes me superior to other men.  That strength was my life.  And with one shot you have blasted it!"

With a final plea that Edmond trust in God, Mercedes tearfully takes her leave of him.  She's watched by Haydée, who goes to tell the Count of a dream she had in which he was dead.  She asks about the woman she saw, "So pale and proud, like a ghost."  "You are right, Haydée," sighs the Count.  "She was a ghost."

The day has arrived for the Count's duel with Albert, a scene gorgeously shot on film.  Acting as the Count's second (and clad in the startling headgear of his regiment), Maximilian Morrel begs the Count not to kill Albert.  The Count promises that he won't, sliding into a reverie: "I've seen a phantom.  And the phantom said that I have lived long enough."  He makes Maximilian promise to look after Haydée as a sister.

But all does not go as Monte Cristo expected.  When Albert arrives he goes, against protocol, to talk to the Count.  He reveals that Mercedes has told him all about Edmond's long incarceration and his father's part in it.  He proclaims that the Count had every right to take revenge against Fernand, and thanks him for not delivering a more severe punishment.

The assembled gentlemen are startled by this turn of events, to say the least.

Having been banished to Italy by the Count last week, the roguish Cavalcanti surprises Benedetto, his erstwhile partner in crime, by revealing that he hasn't gone anywhere.  He's decided he deserves to get considerably more out of Benedetto's forthcoming marriage to Eugenie Danglars ("It was I who took you from nothing and taught you to prance like a dancing master!").  He threatens to reveal the truth of Benedetto's identity to the bride's father unless he's provided for by the couple.

At this, Benedetto quietly reaches for his stiletto and stabs his "father" to death, casually hiding the body under the bedclothes and requesting a handkerchief from the footman (his own foster father, Bertuccio) to wipe his hands.  Bertuccio didn't see the crime, but notes to the Count that Cavalcanti was seen entering the house at Auteuil but not leaving it.

The Count receives a visit from General de Morcerf, who wants to know why his son was denied satisfaction, not believing that Albert would have apologised.  He challenges the Count to a duel with swords, telling Monte Cristo of the bubbling hatred he feels for him: "I feel as if I had always known you, and always hated you."  The Count recounts the General's own inglorious history, and drops just enough subtle hints his real identity finally dawns on his old enemy: "I show you today a face that the happiness of revenge makes young again."

Reeling from the discovery of his adversary's identity, the General stumbles out.  The satisfied Count addresses the camera: "One."

In the dead of night. Benedetto buries his late partner, not realising that he's watched by the Count's silent slave Ali.

The dazed Fernand returns home, to discover only a single servant, Jacques (Dudley Jones) at home.  With barely suppressed glee, Jacques informs his master that the lady and son of the house have gone away, taking the rest of the servants with them.  Once he has made himself scarce, his master discreetly steps outside and shoots himself.

It's the wedding of Eugenie Danglars and the so-called Andrea Cavalcanti, and in the grounds of the Danglars home Maximilian and Valentine de Villefort rush to embrace each other, shot from above in an exact echo of Edmond and Mercedes' embrace in the first episode.  With her father still opposed to the match, they determine to flee abroad together.

In the house, the Count has a chat with the bridegroom: "You know", he says with irony so thick you could cut it with a rapier, "I think that you've managed this whole affair rather skilfully".  He's keen to brush off any suggestion that he might have had a hand in setting up the couple: "I don't believe in making matches, it's against my principles."

The Count is then approached by an angry Louise d'Armilly, the marriage he plotted spelling the end of her, erm, friendship with Eugenie.  She tells him that she despises Andrea.  The Count briefly feigns surprise.

"He seems no worse than a hundred other young men."
"No, he does not seem to be.  But I think he is."
"I think you are a very shrewd judge of character."

The Count assures Louise, however, that the marriage won't be taking place.

And of course he's right.  As the triumphant Benedetto and the reluctant Eugenie are brought together to sign their marriage contract (still unaware, remember, that they share a mother), an unholy uproar invades the Danglars home with the arrival of the police to arrest the groom.  A particularly wonderful shot sees the horrified Danglars caught in reflection behind the Count , who calmly sips at his wine.

Knowing the game's up, Benedetto grabs a handful of jewels carelessly left on a bed and makes his escape, only to end up in the clutches of the impassive Ali.

That night, Eugenie rages to Louise about her perfidious nearly-husband, and also the death of General de Morcerf: "He blew his brains out.  A pity all men don't follow his example."  The not-so-subtle characterisation of Eugenie as a man-hating lesbian isn't the greatest LGBT representation ever, but at least she's allowed a happy ending, as she and Louise decide to run away to Italy together before her father can find out about it.

The episode ends with Bertuccio paying his foster child a visit in prison.  He hasn't come for sentimental reasons, though, but on the orders of the count, who wants him to tell Benedetto the truth about his origins...

Astonishing, breakneck stuff as always.  Next week, the final chapter of Edmond Dantés' terrible revenge...

Friday, 26 September 2014

Saturday 26 September 1964

Tonight, a perfunctory but pleasing puzzle to bring the current series of Sergeant Cork to end.

At rich industrialist Harry Bell's country house in Norfolk, butler Yates (not to be confused with William Butler Yeats) gathers the household staff together for the return of their master from a trip abroad (Yates is played by Victor Brooks, the rest uncredited except for one we'll get to later).

Unexpectedly for everyone, Bell (Barry Keegan) has brought with him two new household members: brand new bride Ruth (Diana Coupland), some 25 years his junior, and her stern, imposing German companion Greta Schulz (Irene Sutcliffe, later to take over Coronation Street's corner shop - minus the German accent, of course, or Albert Tatlock would never have set foot in there again).  Harry's daughter Julia (Jennie Linden) downplays her shock at finding herself with a new stepmother, and indeed turns the situation to her advantage: now her father won't have so much need of her company, he surely can't object to her going to study in London to be a nurse (the name of the teaching hospital, St Olaf's, should raise a smirk among any Golden Girls fans watching).  Harry is in fact opposed to Julia's choice of a nursing career, but eventually her stubbornness wins through.

Irate maid Parsons (Anne Stallybrass), comes to Yates with a complaint about being expected to wait on a stuck-up German who's surely no more than a servant herself: "I don't care if she's queen of blinkin' Sheba, I ain't fetching and carrying for her."  Yates aims to soothe her worries with a tender snog, and sends her off with a smacked bottom to fetch a couple of mugs of cocoa to bring up to his room.  But they're disturbed by noises from upstairs.

This being his wedding night, Harry's a tad miffed to find his wife's room locked, with Greta acting as an impassive guardian.

Yates and Parsons exchange knowing glasses (these two are absolutely wonderful, and would have received their own sitcom spin-off if there was any justice in the world).

At Scotland Yard, Sergeant Cork returns from a case, insisting to Superintendent Rodway that it's public service rather than financial reward that matters to him, but that a couple of extra guineas on his expenses wouldn't go amiss.  Rodway gently refuses, and chuckles indulgently as Cork casts aspersions on his nationhood: "The Welsh are a very hard race, Charlie.  Sympathy and sentiment seem to escape them.  No sense of comradeship."

Talk turns to the leave that Cork keeps managing not to take, and as if by magic Harry Bell appears (his arm in a delightful paisley sling, a result - he claims - of a shooting acccident).  It  turns out that he and Cork are old friends, former drinking chums at an insalubrious hostelry called the Rising Sun in the days before Harry made his fortune.  He invites Cork to come and stay with him in Norfolk - with the ulterior motive of surreptitiously finding out who stole his first wife's jewels, which he'd obtained from the bank in order to share them out between Ruth and Julia, but which were stolen from his safe before he had a chance.  Only Ruth and Julia knew where to find the key, and Harry's sorry to say that he suspects his daughter.

Cork agrees to the busman's holiday, and rushes off to get pack his things.  He returns to the Yard briefly, only to be waylaid by Bob Marriott, who has a young lady outside to see him.  Cork's in no mood for meeting his colleague's popsies.

"Wouldn't she talk to you?"
"Well that shows some degree of common sense."

Cork agrees to see the lady briefly, and who should it be but young Julia Bell? At this intriguing turn of events, Cork tells Chalky to pay off his hansom, and settles down to interview his friend's daughter.  He tells her he knows about the jewellery but she pleads ignorance.  She's come to see him because she thinks someone's trying to kill her father, citing the shooting "accident" as evidence.

At the Bell residence Harry's going mad through frustration, having not yet been able to spend a night with wife.  Seating his clearly uncomfortable wife on his lap, he tells her he's not convinced she loves him.  She in return tells him she feels neglected, and seems very keen to know when she's going to get her hands on the jewels.

Cork and Marriott arrive at the Bell residence, pretending to be stranded after a day of business in Norwich, and in search of somewhere to spend the night.  As Julia goes to greet her young man she's waylaid by Greta, who wants to know why Julia's avoiding her, claiming (in a very unfriendly way) that she wants them to be friends.

Cork and Marriott talk to Harry about the jewels.  On learning that he suspects his daughter of taking her, Bob explodes with rage at the notion that such a lovely girl could do such a monstrous thing.  In his anger he mentions Julia's suspicions, which Cork had hoped to keep quiet.

Things take an even more suspicious turn when Harry's dog Bridget (a still photograph) is found poisoned.

The dog was alive when Cork arrived, and didn't leave the house in that time.  Cork suspects the cheese and chutney sandwiches left on a tray for Harry in his study.  The sandwiches were made by Yates, but who brought them to the study is strangely unclear.  Bob takes the dog to the police doctor in Norwich, and discovers that it died of an enormous dose of arsenic.

Ruth, apparently unaware of Cork's investigations, asks him to stay for longer.  He questions an evasive Greta about her mistress's previous marriage, getting no information of any use.

Yates eventually confirms that it was Julia who took the sandwiches in to her father.  Cork asks the butler about his accent, which despite his wide knowledge of such things, he can't place.  Dropping the posh chat, Yates reveals, to the detective's great amusement, that he's from Hoxton: "My old dad used to keep a winkle store down there."

Yates then comes upon a romantic scene between Bob and Julia, carefully tiptoeing back out.

Julia begins to ask Bob a question about her father's meeting with Cork, but is interrupted by the
arrival of Harry himself, clearly in a foul mood, and roughly ejecting Bob.  Harry proceeds to tell Julia to pack her things and leave.  She admits she took the jewels, but says she'll put them back.

Cork intrudes upon the scene, and Harry tells him that Julia hates Ruth.  She admits it, and that she couldn't bear for her stepmother to have the jewels.  Harry accuses Julia of trying to kill him, but when Ruth and Greta happen by Cork pulls them in for his final summing-up.  Greta was the killer, she and Ruth having also carried out the murder of Ruth's previous two husbands.  Greta rather indiscreetly kept newspaper cuttings about both cases.  The true nature of the relationship between Ruth and Greta is heavily implied through their tender clasping of one another's hands and heavy underlining of their shared disgust of the touch of men.  Here in 2014, Doctor Who was recently in the headlines after a tiny number of killjoys complained about a kiss between two female characters, so it's interesting to find that Saturday night Victorian lesbians are nothing new in the world of television (in that case it was an Englishwoman and a lizard rather than a German, though).

When Greta viciously shoves Harry, she earns a slap in the face from Julia.

And that's that, except for a sweet little final scene with Chalky White, under Cork's instructions, assembling champagne and nibbles in the Sergeant's office.  His recent adventure having made him a bit nervous, Cork insists that Chalky try one of the sandwiches first.

The occasion is the engagement of Bob and Julia, and the assembled cast raise their glasses (Cork mainly interested in sloshing the contents of his down).  Has Scotland Yard's resident lothario been tamed? You can find out when Sergeant Cork returns in 1966.