Skip to main content

What ho, Brinkley. So, do you think we’re going to get along, what?

Jeeves and Wooster
2.4: Jeeves in the Country 
(aka Chuffy)

The plundering of Thank You, Jeeves elicits two more of the series’ best episodes, the first of which finds Bertie retiring to the country with a new valet, the insolent, incompetent and inebriate Brinkley (a wonderfully sour, sullen performance from Fred Evans, who would receive an encore in the final season), owing to Jeeves being forced to resign over his master’s refusal to give up the trumpet (“not an instrument for a gentleman”; in the book, it’s a banjulele).


Chuffnall Hall is the setting (filmed at Wrotham Park in Hertfordshire), although the best of the action takes place around Bertie’s digs in Chuffnall Regis (Clovelly, Devon), which old pal Reginald “Chuffy” Chuffnell (Marmaduke Lord Chuffnell) has obligingly rented him, much to the grievance of the villagers, who have to endure his trumpeting disrupting the beatific beach (it’s a lovely spot, one of the most evocative in the series).


Jeeves is snapped up into the employ of Chuffy almost as soon as he leaves Bertie’s service, and then (as a scheme by Chuffy) passed on to J Washburn Stoker, so he gets around in this one. And again, the interweaving of mistaken conclusions, undesirable encounters and conflagrant altercations (and actual conflagrations) translates perfectly from the page, albeit the plotting has been pared down and streamlined in order to divide Wodehouse’s plot into two distinct but connected episodes.


Naturally, jealousy abounds when Chuffy (Matthew Solon, also in The Adventures of Sherlock HolmesThe Norwood Builder) learns that Pauline Stoker, whom he plans to marry, was once betrothed to Bertie (“I can honestly say, Pauline’s one of the nicest girls I’ve ever been engaged to”), which is nothing next to the apoplexy with which Stoker views our favourite privileged chump.


None of this is helped by Bertie’s reckless plan to inspire in Chuffy sufficient jealousy that he proposes to Pauline (being proud, Lord Chuffnell believes he should be able to support his bride-to-be sufficiently, so won’t pop the question until he has made a deal to sell the hall to J Washburn), which inevitably backfires. There’s much amusement to be garnered from Bertie’s attempts to deflect an accusatory finger, as he attempts to explain his proclivity for engagement (one friend suggested once that “the sight of me hanging around like a loony sheep arose the maternal instinct in women”) and protests that he only bestowed a brotherly kiss on Pauline in congratulation her putative engagement to Chuffy.


None of this is remedial, as Stoker locks Pauline up on his yacht to prevent her from eloping with Bertie; she promptly swims ashore, breaks into his cottage and climbs into his bed (“You’re in my heliotrope pyjamas!”) Sharon Holm is very likeable as Pauline, and as Bertie says of her in his PJs, “They suit you, I must say”.


Bertie WoosterWell, Sergeant Voules is an ass.

The ensuing string of farcical incidents finds Bertie opting to sleep in the potting shed, where he is discovered by nosy members of the local constabulary who earlier pestered him: Sergeant Voules (Dave Atkins) and his nephew, Constable Dobson (William Waghorn), with the now-arrived Chuffy convinced Bertie is “Tight as an owl”. There’s some very funny “stupid coppers” dialogue (the police are always idiots in Wodehouse, just as children are always little beasts), concerned as they are over “The Danger of marauders getting through”, warning “The marauders are probably lurking, sir”, claiming that Bertie is “Shackling the police in their duties” and leaving unimpressed when Bertie refuses to play (“Come, Dennis. He’s being obdurate”).


Bertie Wooster: The Chuffnells look like a French army who just got to Moscow and discovered it’s early closing day.

It’s the beastly children who do for the plan to sell the hall (Chuffy can’t afford the upkeep, although he still maintains the village) after a serious incident involving Chuffy hitting Stoker’s son Dwight and J Washburne giving Chuffy’s nephew Seabury a kick (“the dark inevitability of Greek tragedy” as Bertie puts it).


At no point are we intended to feel sympathy for Seabury, and it’s always refreshing how little Bertie is persuaded by juniors’ charms (such that 2.6 is a particular aberration). When Seabury, a devotee of gangster films, announces “I want five shillings, for protection” Bertie’s response is an immediate “What? You won’t get five shillings out of me”. The urchin is also blessed with a dreadfully indulgent, apologetic mother Myrtle (Fidelis Morgan), given to such wet remonstrations as “Don’t run, Seabury dear. You might hurt yourself”. When Bertie hears Stoker aimed one at the little tyke, his response is an awed, “Oh Jeeves, tell me he got him”.


Pauline: I sometimes feel that he was a king in Babylon, when I was a Christian slave.
Bertie Wooster: Really? Well, you know best, of course. Very doubtful I’d have said, myself.

The supporting cast are all on good form, although there is a tendency to lay on the Noo-Yawk accents a bit thick, even from natives like Manning Redwood (Stoker). His “Woooo-stir” is always a very memorable bit of disdainful flavouring, however.


Bertie Wooster: What ho, Brinkley. So, do you think we’re going to get along, what?
Brinkley: I don’t know yet.

Evans’ Brinkley is the highlight of the episode, though, even if Anne Dudley is prone to overdoing the “wa-wa-wa-wa” music that accompanies his antisocial activities. He’s entirely antithetical to Jeeves, and any notion of civility and decorum come to that, preparing Bertie’s meat pie with a fag in his mouth and then, when Bertie has demurred after getting a sniff of it, commenting “I’m not eating that”. If there was a valet’s union, he would no doubt be first in line (“I told him, I’m not a machine, you know”). He doesn’t even feign interest in Bertie’s troubles. It’s entirely appropriate that Brinkley should be responsible for burning down the cottage (which leads to the discovery of Pauline, hidden within, and blows rained down on Bertie).


Bertie Wooster: We shall meet at Philippi, I dare say.

As such, Bertie’s response (“I blame you for this, Jeeves”) is, as usual, entirely fair, since it was Jeeves who initiated the turn of events, and who ensured the trumpet was killed in the inferno. All is forgiven of course, with the valet revealing his cow milking skills and that “Neither Mr Stoker nor Lord Chuffnell feel themselves quite able to measure up to the required standard”. The best adaptations have tended to require minimal pruning in order to keep the essential brisk farce intact, and this is one of them, returning Season Two to the high standard of the first couple of episodes.



Sources: 

Thank You, Jeeves
(The “Babylon” line comes from Bingo and the Little Woman, Chapter 17 of The Inimitable Jeeves)


Recurring characters:

J Washburn Stoker (2.4)
Pauline Stoker (2.4)
Lord “Chuffy” Chuffnell (2.4)
Brinkley (2.4)
Seabury (2.4)
Myrtle (2.4)
Dwight Stoker (2.4)
Sergeant Voules (2.4)
Constable Dobson (2.4)












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…

I added sixty on, and now you’re a genius.

The Avengers 4.3: The Master Minds
The Master Minds hitches its wagon to the not uncommon Avengers trope of dark deeds done under the veil of night. We previously encountered it in The Town of No Return, but Robert Banks Stewart (best known for Bergerac, but best known genre-wise for his two Tom Baker Doctor Who stories; likewise, he also penned only two teleplays for The Avengers) makes this episode more distinctive, with its mind control and spycraft, while Peter Graham Scott, in his third contribution to the show on the trot, pulls out all the stops, particularly with a highly creative climactic fight sequence that avoids the usual issue of overly-evident stunt doubles.

Exit bear, pursued by an actor.

Paddington 2 (2017)
(SPOILERS) Paddington 2 is every bit as upbeat and well-meaning as its predecessor. It also has more money thrown at it, a much better villain (an infinitely better villain) and, in terms of plotting, is more developed, offering greater variety and a more satisfying structure. Additionally, crucially, it succeeds in offering continued emotional heft and heart to the Peruvian bear’s further adventures. It isn’t, however, quite as funny.

Even suggesting such a thing sounds curmudgeonly, given the universal applause greeting the movie, but I say that having revisited the original a couple of days prior and found myself enjoying it even more than on first viewing. Writer-director Paul King and co-writer Simon Farnaby introduce a highly impressive array of set-ups with huge potential to milk their absurdity to comic ends, but don’t so much squander as frequently leave them undertapped.

Paddington’s succession of odd jobs don’t quite escalate as uproariously as they migh…

Where is the voice that said altered carbon would free us from the cells of our flesh?

Altered Carbon Season One
(SPOILERS) Well, it looks good, even if the visuals are absurdly indebted to Blade Runner. Ultimately, though, Altered Carbon is a disappointment. The adaption of Richard Morgan’s novel comes armed with a string of well-packaged concepts and futuristic vernacular (sleeves, stacks, cross-sleeves, slagged stacks, Neo-Cs), but there’s a void at its core. It singularly fails use the dependable detective story framework to explore the philosophical ramifications of its universe – except in lip service – a future where death is impermanent, and even botches the essential goal of creating interesting lead characters (the peripheral ones, however, are at least more fortunate).

He's going to emasculate our nuclear deterrent and bring the whole damn country to its knees… because of his dreams.

Dreamscape (1984)
(SPOILERS) I wasn’t really au fait with movies’ box office performance until the end of the ‘80s, so I think I had an idea that Dennis Quaid (along with Jeff Bridges) was a much bigger star than he was, just on the basis of the procession of cool movies he showed up in (The Right Stuff, Enemy Mine, Innerspace, D.O.A.) The truth was, the public resisted all attempts to make him The Next Big Thing, not that his sly-grinned, cocky persona throughout the decade would lead you to believe his dogged lack of success had any adverse effect on his mood. Dreamscape was one of his early leading-man roles, and if it’s been largely forgotten, it also inherits a welcome cult status, not only through being pulpy and inventive on a fairly meagre budget, but by being pretty good to boot. It holds up.

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.

The aliens are not coming, just so you know.

The X-Files 11.1: My Struggle III
(SPOILERS) Good grief. Have things become so terminal for Chris Carter that he has to retcon his own crap from the previous season, rather than the (what he perceived as) crap written by others? Carter, of course, infamously pretended the apocalyptic ending of Millennium Season Two never happened, upset by the path Glen Morgan and James Wong, left to their own devices, took with his baby. Their episode was one of the greats of that often-ho-hum series, so the comedown was all the unkinder as a result. In My Struggle III, at least, Carter’s rewriting something that wasn’t very good in the first place. Only, he replaces it with something that is even worse in the second.

I'm going to open an X-file on this bran muffin.

The X-Files 11.2: This
(SPOILERS) Glen Morgan returns with a really good idea, certainly one with much more potential than his homelessness tract Home Again in Season 10, but seems to give up on its eerier implications, and worse has to bash it round the head to fit the season’s “arc”. Nevertheless, he’s on very comfortable ground with the Mulder-Scully dynamic in This, who get to spend almost the entire episode in each other’s company and might be on the best form here since the show came back, give or take a Darin.

He's a wild creature. We can't ask him to be anything else.

The Shape of Water (2017)
(SPOILERS) The faithful would have you believe it never went away, but it’s been a good decade since Guillermo del Toro’s mojo was in full effect, and his output since (or lack thereof: see the torturous wilderness years of At the Mountains of Madness and The Hobbit), reflected through the prism of his peak work Pan’s Labyrinth, bears the hallmarks of a serious qualitative tumble. He put his name to stinker TV show The Strain, returned to movies with the soulless Pacific Rim and fashioned flashy but empty gothic romance Crimson Peak (together his weakest pictures, and I’m not forgetting Mimic). The Shape of Water only seems to underline what everyone has been saying for years, albeit previously confined to his Spanish language pictures: that the smaller and more personal they are, the better. If his latest is at times a little too wilfully idiosyncratic, it’s also a movie where you can nevertheless witness it’s creator’s creativity flowing untrammelled once mo…

You’re never the same man twice.

The Man Who Haunted Himself (1970)
(SPOILERS) Roger Moore playing dual roles? It sounds like an unintentionally amusing prospect for audiences accustomed to the actor’s “Raise an eyebrow” method of acting. Consequently, this post-Saint pre-Bond role (in which he does offer some notable eyebrow acting) is more of a curiosity for the quality of Sir Rog’s performance than the out-there premise that can’t quite sustain the picture’s running time. It is telling that the same story was adapted for an episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents 15 years earlier, since the uncanny idea at its core feels like a much better fit for a trim 50 minute anthology series.

Basil Dearden directs, and co-adapted the screenplay from Anthony Armstrong’s novel The Strange Case of Mr Pelham. Dearden started out with Ealing, helming several Will Hay pictures and a segment of Dead of Night (one might imagine a shortened version of this tale ending up there, or in any of the portmanteau horrors that arrived in the year…