Skip to main content

Old Boggy walks on Lammas Eve.

Jeeves and Wooster
2.5: Kidnapped 
(aka The Mysterious Stranger)

Kidnapped continues the saga of Chuffnell Hall. Having said of 2.4 that the best Wodehouse adaptations tend to stick closely to the text, this one is an exception that proves the rule, diverging significantly yet still scoring with its highly preposterous additions.


Jeeves: Tis old boggy. He be abroad tonight. He be heading for the railway station.

Gone are many of the imbroglios involving Stoker and Glossop (the estimable Roger Brierley), including the contesting of the former’s uncle’s will. Also gone, sadly, is the inebriated Brinkley throwing potatoes at Stoker, which surely would have been enormous fun. Instead, we concentrate on Bertie being locked aboard Stoker’s yacht in order to secure his marriage to Pauline (as per the novel), Chuffy tailing Pauline in disguise (so there’s a different/additional reason for Stoker to believe Bertie and she spent the night together, this time at a pub en route to Chufnell Hall) and the positively inspired “Boggy be about” plotline, in which some of Plum’s rather less politically correct, by today’s standards, plotting is alleviated by redirecting it into depicting some ignorant Devonshire yokels, always an acceptable target.


Seabury: Well, I think you tell rotten jokes, you can’t sing, and you look completely stupid.

Enough of the Glossop plotline remains intact, in which Stoker plans to sell him the hall to be used as a sanatorium, including the thawing of his relations with Bertie after both mutually agree on how horrid Seabury is (Glossop, having donned blackface to entertain the little squirt as a minstrel, is inspired to clout him one after enduring endless insults). Of course, Glossop is married in Jeeves and Wooster, so the book’s subplot regarding his potential union with Chuffy’s Aunt Myrtle – now his sister - is gone (Jane Downs is just dynamite as Glossop’s wife anyway).


Constable Dobson: You mean some of them creatures up there is not boggys?
Sergeant Voules: Some of thems is as human as you or me. The question is, which ones?

Ah yes, the blackface. In Thank You, Jeeves, Bertie escapes Stoker’s yacht, as here, by donning boot polish and slipping away with the minstrel act. Only they’re an actual all-black minstrel group, which wouldn’t translate so well nearly 60 years later. This episode was shown 13 years after The Black and White Minstrel Show shut up shop, so Barmy and gang dressing in blackface might generously be assigned the status of relatively innocuous period piece trappings without condoning the essential racism of the practice.


Although, the qualifier shoved rather gracelessly into the piece, whereby Jeeves notes of minstrel acts that they are “said to originate, sir, with the entertainments got up on the cotton plantations of the new world, by the slaves employed on those facilities, in order to express joy and happiness at their lot. An unlikely contingency one surmises, bearing in mind their situation” doesn’t really address the use of blackface itself. Exton is caught between the stools of acknowledging the inappropriateness of the entertainment while simultaneously wishing to ignore its ramifications for the purposes of an enormously silly plot device.


And for the purposes of said plotting, it’s an undoubted winner, as Bertie mingles with the minstrels, engaging in a spot of Lady of Spain, and escapes from the yacht while Jeeves, aware that “Old Boggy walks on Lammas Eve”, makes a covert phone call alerting the local constabulary to the creature’s presence. 


The results find various parties mistaken for Old Boggy, including Stoker (persuaded to don blackface by Jeeves as camouflage in his hunt for Bertie, an idea that doesn’t really wash-burn, any more than the butter used to get rid of the polish), leading to Voules and Dobson hunting Boggy down to Oofy Prosser’s parents’ bash, where the minstrels are performing next. The resolution is economical and attractive: with the various Boggys all banged up, Stoker and Glossop can be let off by the magistrate, because, luckily, he is Lord Chuffnell.


Chuffy: Bertie once dropped a blancmange on the Bishop of Woolwich, when we were at Oxford.

Director Langton has fashioned a very sprightly visual narrative from Clive Exton’s teleplay, fully alert to the slapstick potential, and there are numerous amusing diversions en route, from the neat dovetailing of Bertie being ineligible for the chairmanship of the Drones’ dining committee (because he has a criminal record) to the resolution in which all those who might put themselves forward also now have a criminal record, to the anecdote of Bertie and the bishop and the blancmange, (“He looked up to see what was happening, fell straight into the Cherwell”, much to Stoker’s disapproval (“I don’t find this funny”; “No? Well, you had to be there”). 


The replacement of banjo with a trumpet in the previous episode, meanwhile, is acknowledged by Oofy’s band’s playing (“Women and children are huddled in frightened groups as far North as Grosvenor Square”). Martin Clunes is on hand to make Barmy a peerless idiot (“I finished miles ahead of you fellows” he claims proudly, having completed their practice song first; later, he puts his hat on, busked coins still in it, and observes his mother will be absolutely thrilled, “She’s always saying I should work for a living”).


Stoker: Means well? A man who makes a mockery of the church? A jailbird? A womaniser? A drunkard?

The result is one of the series’ broadest and most satisfying episodes, acknowledging old favourites (giving a false name to the court – “Quiet, Dr Crippin!”) and ending on a just-about happily ever after: we see Chuffy and Pauline arguing, with Jeeves observing, “I imagine the young couple will spend much of their happily married lives in a state of similar emotional turmoil”.



Sources: Thank You, Jeeves


Recurring characters:

J Washburn Stoker (2.4, 2.5)
Pauline Stoker (2.4, 2.5)
Lord “Chuffy” Chuffnell (2.4, 2.5)
Seabury (2.4, 2.5)
Myrtle (2.4, 2.5)
Dwight Stoker (2.4, 2.5)
Sergeant Voules (2.4, 2.5)
Constable Dobson (2.4, 2.5)
“Barmy” Fotheringay-Phipps (1.1, 1,2, 1.4, 1.5, 2.1, 2.2, 2.3, 2.5)
“Oofy” Prosser (1.1, 1.2, 1.4, 1.5, 2.2, 2.3, 2.5)











Agree? Disagree? Mildly or vehemently? Let me know in the comments below.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

She writes Twilight fan fiction.

Vampire Academy (2014)
My willingness to give writer Daniel Waters some slack on the grounds of early glories sometimes pays off (Sex and Death 101) and sometimes, as with this messy and indistinct Young Adult adaptation, it doesn’t. If Vampire Academy plods along as a less than innovative smart-mouthed Buffy rip-off that might be because, if you added vampires to Heathers, you would probably get something not so far from the world of Joss Whedon. Unfortunately inspiration is a low ebb throughout, not helped any by tepid direction from Daniel’s sometimes-reliable brother Mark and a couple of hopelessly plankish leads who do their best to dampen down any wit that occasionally attempts to surface.

I can only presume there’s a never-ending pile of Young Adult fiction poised for big screen failure, all of it comprising multi-novel storylines just begging for a moment in the Sun. Every time an adaptation crashes and burns (and the odds are that they will) another one rises, hydra-like, hoping…

Dude, you're embarrassing me in front of the wizards.

Avengers: Infinity War (2018)
(SPOILERS) The cliffhanger sequel, as a phenomenon, is a relatively recent thing. Sure, we kind of saw it with The Empire Strikes Back – one of those "old" movies Peter Parker is so fond of – a consequence of George Lucas deliberately borrowing from the Republic serials of old, but he had no guarantee of being able to complete his trilogy; it was really Back to the Future that began the trend, and promptly drew a line under it for another decade. In more recent years, really starting with The MatrixThe Lord of the Rings stands apart as, post-Weinstein's involvement, fashioned that way from the ground up – shooting the second and third instalments back-to-back has become a thing, both more cost effective and ensuring audiences don’t have to endure an interminable wait for their anticipation to be sated. The flipside of not taking this path is an Allegiant, where greed gets the better of a studio (split a novel into two movie parts assuming a…

I don't like bugs. You can't hear them, you can't see them and you can't feel them, then suddenly you're dead.

Blake's 7 2.7: Killer

Robert Holmes’ first of four scripts for the series, and like last season’s Mission to Destiny there are some fairly atypical elements and attitudes to the main crew (although the A/B storylines present a familiar approach and each is fairly equal in importance for a change). It was filmed second, which makes it the most out of place episode in the run (and explains why the crew are wearing outfits – they must have put them in the wash – from a good few episodes past and why Blake’s hair has grown since last week).
The most obvious thing to note from Holmes’ approach is that he makes Blake a Doctor-substitute. Suddenly he’s full of smart suggestions and shrewd guesses about the threat that’s wiping out the base, basically leaving a top-level virologist looking clueless and indebted to his genius insights. If you can get past this (and it did have me groaning) there’s much enjoyment to be had from the episode, not least from the two main guest actors.

When two separate events occur simultaneously pertaining to the same object of inquiry we must always pay strict attention.

Twin Peaks 1.5: The One-Armed Man
With the waves left in Albert’s wake subsiding (Gordon Cole, like Albert, is first encountered on the phone, and Coop apologises to Truman over the trouble the insulting forensics expert has caused; ”Harry, the last thing I want you to worry about while I’m here is some city slicker I brought into your town relieving himself upstream”), the series steps down a register for the first time. This is a less essential episode than those previously, concentrating on establishing on-going character and plot interactions at the expense of the strange and unusual. As such, it sets the tone for the rest of this short first season.

The first of 10 episodes penned by Robert Engels (who would co-script Fire Walk with Me with Lynch, and then reunite with him for On the Air), this also sees the first “star” director on the show in the form of Tim Hunter. Hunter is a director (like Michael Lehman) who hit the ground running but whose subsequent career has rather disapp…

An initiative test. How simply marvellous!

You Must Be Joking! (1965)
A time before a Michael Winner film was a de facto cinematic blot on the landscape is now scarcely conceivable. His output, post- (or thereabouts) Death Wish (“a pleasant romp”) is so roundly derided that it’s easy to forget that the once-and-only dining columnist and raconteur was once a bright (well…) young thing of the ‘60s, riding the wave of excitement (most likely highly cynically) and innovation in British cinema. His best-known efforts from this period are a series of movies with Oliver Reed – including the one with the elephant – and tend to represent the director in his pleasant romp period, before he attacked genres with all the precision and artistic integrity of a blunt penknife. You Must Be Joking! comes from that era, its director’s ninth feature, straddling the gap between Ealing and the Swinging ‘60s; coarser, cruder comedies would soon become the order of the day, the mild ribaldry of Carry On pitching into bawdy flesh-fests. You Must Be Joki…

Luck isn’t a superpower... And it isn't cinematic!

Deadpool 2 (2018)
(SPOILERS) Perhaps it’s because I was lukewarm on the original, but Deadpool 2 mercifully disproves the typical consequence of the "more is more" approach to making a sequel. By rights, it should plummet into the pitfall of ever more excess to diminishing returns, yet for the most part it doesn't.  Maybe that’s in part due to it still being a relatively modest undertaking, budget-wise, and also a result of being very self-aware – like duh, you might say, that’s its raison d'être – of its own positioning and expectation as a sequel; it resolutely fails to teeter over the precipice of burn out or insufferable smugness. It helps that it's frequently very funny – for the most part not in the exhaustingly repetitive fashion of its predecessor – but I think the key ingredient is that it finds sufficient room in its mirthful melee for plot and character, in order to proffer tone and contrast.

Ain't nobody likes the Middle East, buddy. There's nothing here to like.

Body of Lies (2008)
(SPOILERS) Sir Ridders stubs out his cigar in the CIA-assisted War on Terror, with predictably gormless results. Body of Lies' one saving grace is that it wasn't a hit, although that more reflects its membership of a burgeoning club where no degree of Hollywood propaganda on the "just fight" (with just a smidgeon enough doubt cast to make it seem balanced at a sideways glance) was persuading the public that they wanted the official fiction further fictionalised.

Like an antelope in the headlights.

Black Panther (2018)
(SPOILERS) Like last year’s Wonder Woman, the hype for what it represents has quickly become conflated with Black Panther’s perceived quality. Can 92% and 97% of critics respectively really not be wrong, per Rotten Tomatoes, or are they – Armond White aside – afraid that finding fault in either will make open them to charges of being politically regressive, insufficiently woke or all-round, ever-so-slightly objectionable? As with Wonder Woman, Black Panther’s very existence means something special, but little about the movie itself actually is. Not the acting, not the directing, and definitely not the over-emphatic, laboured screenplay. As such, the picture is a passable two-plus hours’ entertainment, but under-finessed enough that one could easily mistake it for an early entry in the Marvel cycle, rather than arriving when they’re hard-pressed to put a serious foot wrong.

He mobilised the English language and sent it into battle.

Darkest Hour (2017)
(SPOILERS) Watching Joe Wright’s return to the rarefied plane of prestige – and heritage to boot – filmmaking following the execrable folly of the panned Pan, I was struck by the difference an engaged director, one who cares about his characters, makes to material. Only last week, Ridley Scott’s serviceable All the Money in the World made for a pointed illustration of strong material in the hands of someone with no such investment, unless they’re androids. Wright’s dedication to a relatable Winston Churchill ensures that, for the first hour-plus, Darkest Hour is a first-rate affair, a piece of myth-making that barely puts a foot wrong. It has that much in common with Wright’s earlier Word War II tale, Atonement. But then, like Atonement, it comes unstuck.

I didn't kill her. I just relocated her.

The Discovery (2017)
(SPOILERS) The Discovery assembles not wholly dissimilar science-goes-metaphysical themes and ideas to Douglas Trumbull's ill-fated 1983 Brainstorm, revolving around research into consciousness and the revelation of its continuance after death. Perhaps the biggest discovery, though, is that it’s directed and co-written by the spawn of Malcom McDowell and Mary Steenburgen (the latter cameos) – Charlie McDowell – of hitherto negligible credits but now wading into deep philosophical waters and even, with collaborator Justin Lader, offering a twist of sorts.