Friday, 24 October 2014

Saturday 24 October 1964

The Arthur Haynes Show originally broadcast on this date is yet another programme lost to the ages, leaving us with just the one show to take a gander at this evening.  It's episode two of...

The pre-title scene tonight is extremely brief, simply showing Sergeant John Mann hiding in the shadows as he watches a soldier climb a flight of stairs.

We're at the border of East and West Germany, and the soldier is Freddie Pendlebury (Michael Robbins).  He's come to see his sweetheart Gerda, a "dancer" at a local nightclub (Gwendolyn Watts in a wig that won't stay still), bringing the highly romantic gift of a tin of ham.  She's keen to get rid of him so she can get ready for work, but he suspects she's seeing another man.  She laughs this off, but he's not wrong - Valentino Musetti, a bit-part heavy often called on to fight Honor Blackman in The Avengers, is hiding in her bedroom.

When Pendlebury departs, he's greeted in the hallway by Mann, who offers to take him for a drink.  When he refuses, Mann makes it clear it's not actually an offer.  Marching Pendlebury off to a beer garden, Mann asks him about an acquaintance of Gerda's called Frink, known to blackmail girls into procuring information from British soldiers, who he saw precede Mann up the stairs to her flat.  Pendlebury denies all knowledge, but before Mann can press him further he's called to deal with an emergency.

By the time Mann gets back to barracks the emergency's been dealt with by Staff Sergeant Coulter (Glynn Edwards).  The pair catch up over Pendlebury, who's broken a lot of rules but got away with it by pleading marital difficulties - he was wed when he returned to England on his last leave, but his new bride has decided not to come out and join him.

Mann asks Coulter and his CO, Colonel Matheson (Peter Copley) for some advice on the Frink case (note that practically everybody in this episode lights up at some point - Mann's refusal of a cigarette marks him out as a maverick).  Pendlebury's been stealing items like the ham for Gerda, and he thinks that if she's under Frink's influence she'll be getting him to bring her more important items.

Mann heads to Gerda's place in the hope of finding Pendlebury there.  Instead, he finds Gerda unconscious and is ambushed by Frink (the skirmish is accompanied by exactly the same percussive noises that soundtracked the fights in The Avengers).

Matheson finds it hard to believe that Frink would have returned to the flat after beating up Gerda, and suspects it was a jealous Pendlebury who laid her out.  Decidedly fey welfare officer Captain Frost (Malcolm Douglas) brings a pair of  startling pieces of news: Pendlebury's wife has arrived at the camp, while the man himself has hopped over the wall, headed for one of the East German "love towns": "A mixture of propaganda, hard labour and free love."

The newly defected Pendlebury is interviewed on the other side of the wall by a Soviet major (Tony Steedman) called, believe it or not, Kalashneekov.  Pendlebury claims total ignorance of politics ("I don't know nothing, I went to a local council school"), he just thinks things on this side can't be any worse than on the other.  On learning Pendlebury's dad worked in a sawmill, Kalashneekov welcomes the British soldier with open arms.

Back over the other side, Gerda regains consciousness for just long enough to confirm to Coulter that it was Pendlebury who attacked her.

Matheson, worried by how obsessed Mann is becoming with the Pendlebury case, orders the sergeant to take 72 hours leave.  But before he can clock off he's paid a visit by Mrs Pendlebury (curiously, she's also played by Gwendolyn Watts - but in a different wig - adding a strange poignancy to her questions about the injured woman: "She's attractive, is she?").  Poor Mrs Pendlebury's a pathetic figure who blames herself for her husband's actions and is desperate to have him back, even if it means waiting for him to serve a prison term.  Her hope that they'll be allowed to try for a baby beforehand is both absurd and heartbreaking: "I mean, it'd be nice, wouldn't it?" He wouldn't have to see me looking all fat and sloppy, me ankles getting all swollen."

Eventually she breaks down, begging Mann to return her Freddie to her.

And so Mann decides to do just that, by following Pendlebury over the wall in the guise of cheeky Private Rogers.

Kalashneekov's a bit suspicious of this new addition to the Communist ranks, and asks Bob McGregor (Garfield Morgan), chief British defector at the love town, to keep an eye on him.  McGregor assigns the task to nightclub hostess Magda (Yootha Joyce, who was co-star Glynn Edwards' wife at the time).

Magda puts her moves on so-called Private Rogers when he arrives, but he manages to sneak off and talk to Pendlebury through the door of a lavatory cubicle (I think this is the first time I've featured one of these at TV Minus 50, and if that's not a milestone I don't know what is).  Pendlebury tells Mann that Gerda slipped and knocked herself out.  Mann tells him his wife's waiting for him and gives him instructions to escape.

Kalashneekov discovers Mann's real identity and has him summoned before him, but by this time Pendlebury's already gone back over.  Mann faces 10 years of hard labour for being a spy, but luckily there's a Soviet recently rescued from the river on the West side that Matheson's able to exchange him for.

Matheson decides not to court-martial Mann for his actions as he managed to get Pendlebury back.  Which is a major coup because, as Mann finds out to his horror, Gerda has now died, so Pendlebury is to face a trial for murder.  Oh dear.

1 comment:

  1. Saturday October 24th 1964,Independent Television Drama Redcap Starring The late John Thaw as Sergeant John Mann broadcast by ABC Television(UK).

    The Episode A Town Called Love set in East & West Germany with guest star,The late Michael Robbins as Freddie Pendlebury,best known as Arthur Rudge in London Weekend Television's Comedy Show On The Buses from 1969-73 and it ran for the last four years.

    Gerda is the great dancer and the nightclub singer when she got rid of Freddie and she's got a work to do played by Gwendolyn Watts and also Freddie's wife Mrs Pendlebury talking to Sergeant John Mann and she's had a breakdown.

    The Famous Stars with Tony Steedman,Yootha Joyce,Glyn Edwards,Peter Copley,Garfield Morgan and Malcolm Douglas.

    Redcap is The Great Original Independent Television Drama Series of 1964 and The Star of The Show icon is The late John Thaw as Sgt John Mann.

    Terry Christie,from Sunderland,Tyne & Wear.