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

You guys sure like watermelon.

The Irishman aka I Heard You Paint Houses (2019)
(SPOILERS) Perhaps, if Martin Scorsese hadn’t been so opposed to the idea of Marvel movies constituting cinema, The Irishman would have been a better film. It’s a decent film, assuredly. A respectable film, definitely. But it’s very far from being classic. And a significant part of that is down to the usually assured director fumbling the execution. Or rather, the realisation. I don’t know what kind of crazy pills the ranks of revered critics have been taking so as to recite as one the mantra that you quickly get used to the de-aging effects so intrinsic to its telling – as Empire magazine put it, “you soon… fuggadaboutit” – but you don’t. There was no point during The Irishman that I was other than entirely, regrettably conscious that a 75-year-old man was playing the title character. Except when he was playing a 75-year-old man.

I just hope my death makes more cents than my life.

Joker (2019)
(SPOILERS) So the murder sprees didn’t happen, and a thousand puff pieces desperate to fan the flames of such events and then told-ya-so have fallen flat on their faces. The biggest takeaway from Joker is not that the movie is an event, when once that seemed plausible but not a given, but that any mainstream press perspective on the picture appears unable to divorce its quality from its alleged or actual politics. Joker may be zeitgeisty, but isn’t another Taxi Driver in terms of cultural import, in the sense that Taxi Driver didn’t have a Taxi Driver in mind when Paul Schrader wrote it. It is, if you like, faux-incendiary, and can only ever play out on that level. It might be more accurately described as a grubbier, grimier (but still polished and glossy) The Talented Ripley, the tale of developing psychopathy, only tailored for a cinemagoing audience with few options left outside of comic book fare.

So you want me to be half-monk, half-hitman.

Casino Royale (2006)
(SPOILERS) Despite the doubts and trepidation from devotees (too blonde, uncouth etc.) that greeted Daniel Craig’s casting as Bond, and the highly cynical and low-inspiration route taken by Eon in looking to Jason Bourne's example to reboot a series that had reached a nadir with Die Another Day, Casino Royale ends up getting an enormous amount right. If anything, its failure is that it doesn’t push far enough, so successful is it in disarming itself of the overblown set pieces and perfunctory plotting that characterise the series (even at its best), elements that would resurge with unabated gusto in subsequent Craig excursions.

For the majority of its first two hours, Casino Royale is top-flight entertainment, with returning director Martin Campbell managing to exceed his excellent work reformatting Bond for the ‘90s. That the weakest sequence (still good, mind) prior to the finale is a traditional “big” (but not too big) action set piece involving an attempt to…

Poor Easy Breezy.

Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood (2019)
(SPOILERS) My initial reaction to Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood was mild disbelief that Tarantino managed to hoodwink studios into coming begging to make it, so wilfully perverse is it in disregarding any standard expectations of narrative or plotting. Then I remembered that studios, or studios that aren’t Disney, are desperate for product, and more especially, product that might guarantee them a hit. Quentin’s latest appears to be that, but whether it’s a sufficient one to justify the expense of his absurd vanity project remains to be seen.

You're skipping Christmas! Isn't that against the law?

Christmas with the Kranks (2004)
Ex-coke dealer Tim Allen’s underwhelming box office career is, like Vince Vaughn’s, regularly in need of a boost from an indiscriminate public willing to see any old turkey posing as a prize Christmas comedy.  He made three Santa Clauses, and here is joined by Jamie Lee Curtis as a couple planning to forgo the usual neighbourhood festivities for a cruise.

It's their place, Mac. They have a right to make of it what they can. Besides, you can't eat scenery!

Local Hero (1983)
(SPOILERS) With the space of thirty-five years, Bill Forsyth’s gentle eco-parable feels more seductive than ever. Whimsical is a word often applied to Local Hero, but one shouldn’t mistake that description for its being soft in the head, excessively sentimental or nostalgic. Tonally, in terms of painting a Scottish idyll where the locals are no slouches in the face of more cultured foreigners, the film hearkens to both Powell and Pressburger (I Know Where I’m Going!) and Ealing (Whisky Galore!), but it is very much its own beast.

He tasks me. He tasks me, and I shall have him.

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
(1982)
(SPOILERS) I don’t love Star Trek, but I do love Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. That probably isn’t just me, but a common refrain of many a non-devotee of the series. Although, it used to apply to The Voyage Home (the funny one, with the whales, the Star Trek even the target audience for Three Men and a Baby could enjoy). Unfortunately, its high regard has also become the desperate, self-destructive, song-and-verse, be-all-and-end-all of the overlords of the franchise itself, in whichever iteration, it seems. This is understandable to an extent, as Khan is that rare movie sequel made to transcendent effect on almost every level, and one that stands the test of time every bit as well (better, even) as when it was first unveiled.

The guy practically lives in a Clue board.

Knives Out (2019)
(SPOILERS) “If Agatha Christie were writing today, she’d have a character who’s an Internet troll.” There’s a slew of ifs and buts in that assertion, but it tells you a lot about where Rian Johnson is coming from with Knives Out. As in, Christie might – I mean, who can really say? – but it’s fair to suggest she wouldn’t be angling her material the way Johnson does, who for all his pronouncement that “This isn’t a message movie” is very clearly making one. He probably warrants a hesitant pass on that statement, though, to the extent that Knives Out’s commentary doesn’t ultimately overpower the whodunnit side of the plot. On the other hand, when Daniel Craig’s eccentrically accented sleuth Benoit Blanc is asked “You’re not much of a detective, are you?” the only fair response is vigorous agreement.

What beastly luck!

The Jungle Book (1967)
(SPOILERS) The greatest Disney animation arrived soon after Sir Walt had pegged it, but, given its consistency with, and progression from, Wolfgang Reitherman’s previous Disney entries during the decade, its difficult to believe he wouldn’t have wholeheartedly approved. The Jungle Book is a perfect Mouse House distillation of irreverence and sentiment, of modernity and classicism, of laidback narrative cohesion and vibrant, charged set pieces. And the songs are fantastic.

So much so, Jon Favreau’s new version will include reprises of The Bare Necessities and Trust in Me, in a partially motion-captured world that seems (on the surface) entirely at odds with the goofy, knowing tone Reitherman instilled in Rudyard Kipling’s classic. That wouldn’t surprise me, as Favreau’s sense of material has been increasingly erratic since the giddy high of the first Iron Man. Andy Serkis’ competing Jungle Book: Origins (despite the abject misery of its title) will be entirely perfo…

You're a dead tissue that won't decompose.

Collateral Beauty (2016)
(SPOILERS) Will Smith’s most recent attempt to take a wrecking ball to his superstardom, Collateral Beauty is one of those high concept emotional journeys that only look like a bad idea all along when they flop (see Regarding Henry). Except that, with a plot as gnarly as this, it’s difficult to see quite how it would ever not have rubbed audiences up the wrong way. A different director might have helped, someone less thuddingly literal than David Frankel. When this kind of misguided picture gets the resounding drubbing it has, I tend to seek out positives. Sometimes, that can be quite easy – A Winter’s Tale, for example, for all its writ-large flaws – but it’s a fool’s errand with Collateral Beauty.