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…

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…

That be what we call scringe stone, sir.

Doctor Who The Ribos Operation (1978)
Season 16 is my favourite season, so I’m inevitably of the view that it gets a bad rap (or a just plain neglected one), is underrated and generally unappreciated. Of its six stories, though, The Ribos Operation is probably the one, on balance, that receives the most accolades (on some days, it’s The Pirate Planet; many moons ago, back when DWAS was actually a thing of some relevance, The Stones of Blood won their season poll; there are also those who, rightly, extol the virtues of The Androids of Tara). I’m fully behind that, although truthfully, I don’t think there’s an awful lot between the first four stories. Why, I even have great affection for the finale. It’s only “KROLL! KROLL! KROLL! KROLL!” that comes up a bit short, which no doubt makes me a no good dryfoot, but there you are. If that Robert Holmes script is on the threadbare side, through little fault of his own, The Ribos Operation is contrastingly one of his very best, a hugely satisfyi…

Angry man is unsecure.

Hulk (2003)
(SPOILERS) I’m not a Hulk apologist. I unreservedly consider it one of the superior superhero adaptations, admittedly more for the visual acumen Ang Lee brings to the material than James Schamus, Michael France and John Turman’s screenplay. But even then, if the movie gets bogged down in unnecessarily overwrought father-son origins and dynamic, overlaid on a perfectly good and straightforward core story (one might suggest it was change for the sake of change), once those alterations are in place, much of the follow through, and the paralleling of wayward parents and upright children, or vice versa, translates effectively to the screen, even if the realisation of the big green fella is somewhat variable.

I do… very competitive ice dancing.

Justice League (2017)
(SPOILERS) Superheroes, and superhero movies, trade in hyperbole, so it shouldn’t be surprising that DC’s two releases this year have been responded to in like, only each at opposite ends of the spectrum. Wonder Woman was insanely over-praised in the rush to fete a female superhero finally leading a movie, crushing all nuanced criticism in its wake. Justice League, meanwhile, has been lambasted on the basis that it’s more of the same as Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, only worse – to the extent there have been calls for a Zach Snyder Director’s Cut, which is quite an extent, as extents go – as it’s guilty of being an unholy clash of styles, grimdark Zach scowling in one corner and quip-happy Joss pirouetting in the other. And yes, the movie is consequently a mess, but it’s a relatively painless mess, with the sense to get in and get out again before the viewer has enough time to assess the full extent of the damage.

‘Cos I’m the gringo who always delivers.

American Made (2017)
(SPOILERS) This is definitely more the sort of thing Tom Cruise should be doing, a movie that relies both on his boyish™ charm and at least has pretensions of ever so slightly pushing the envelope of standard multiplex fare, rather than desperately attaching himself to an impersonal franchise (The Mummy) or flailingly attempting to kick start one (Jack Reacher: Never Go Back); remember when Cruise wouldn’t even go near sequels (for about 20 years, The Color of Money aside, and then only the one series)? American Made is still victim to the tendency of his movies to feel superstar-fitted rather than remaining as punchy as they might be on paper (Made’s never quite as satirically sharp as it wants to be), but it at least doesn’t lead its audience by the nose.

Rejoice! The broken are the more evolved. Rejoice.

Split (2016)
(SPOILERS) M Night Shyamalan went from the toast of twist-based filmmaking to a one-trick pony to the object of abject ridicule in the space of only a couple of pictures: quite a feat. Along the way, I’ve managed to miss several of his pictures, including his last, The Visit, regarded as something of a re-locating of his footing in the low budget horror arena. Split continues that genre readjustment, another Blumhouse production, one that also manages to bridge the gap with the fare that made him famous. But it’s a thematically uneasy film, marrying shlock and serious subject matter in ways that don’t always quite gel.

Shyamalan has seized on a horror staple – nubile teenage girls in peril, prey to a psychotic antagonist – and, no doubt with the best intentions, attempted to warp it. But, in so doing, he has dragged in themes and threads from other, more meritable fare, with the consequence that, in the end, the conflicting positions rather subvert his attempts at subversion…

Sometimes when you take people away, they don't come back.

The Ward (2010)
(SPOILERS) I’d felt no particular compunction to rush out and see The Ward (or rent it), partly down to the underwhelming reviews, but mostly because John Carpenter’s last few films had been so disappointing, and I doubted a decade away from the big screen would rejuvenate someone who’d rather play computer games than call the shots. Perhaps inevitably then, now I have finally given it a look, it’s a case of low expectations being at least surpassed. The Ward isn’t very good, but it isn’t outright bad either.

While it seems obvious in retrospect, I failed to guess the twist before it was revealed, probably because I was still expecting a supernatural element to be realised, it being a Carpenter movie. But then, this doesn’t feel very much like a Carpenter movie. It doesn’t have a Carpenter score (Mark Killian) or screenplay (Michael and Shawn Rasmussen) and it doesn’t have Gary B Kibbe as lenser (Yaron Orbach). I suspect the latter explains why it’s a much more professi…

You diabolical mastermind, you.

The Avengers Season 4 Ranked – Worst to Best
Season Four is generally held up as the pinnacle of The Avengers, and it certainly maintains the greatest level of consistency in the run. Nevertheless, as I noted a few reviews back, one viewer’s classic is another’s ho-hum with this show, perhaps because it doesn’t elicit the same kind of exhaustive fandom to establish any level of consensus as some series. There follows my Worst to Best ranking of the season, told mostly in pictures. The index for full episode reviews can be found here.