Skip to main content

This is my only chance to assemble a disreputable past, and I'm going to take it.

Jeeves and Wooster
3.1: Bertie Sets Sail 
(aka Safety in New York)

Full disclosure: I don’t much care for the series' excursions to New York, however canonical some of them may be. The studiously ropey accents, the same low-angle buildings doubling for the Big Apple and repetitive elevator conversations grow wearisome quite quickly, veering from the sense of time and place the series gets so right generally and causing too much distraction. 


BertieI told them I was going to Manhattan and they came up with the goods.
JeevesNo mention was made of a carnival or fancy-dress occasion, sir?

Bertie Sets Sail is quite faithful in outline to its source material, a 1916 (so only a year into Wooster's life) short story, albeit with a shipboard prelude in which we establish Jeeves' disdain for Bertie’s new hat ("I shall be the Beau Brummel of Broadway") and the addition of one Tuppy Glossop, replete with doomed plans to be the sole British importer of the Spritz Polecat (alas, he only has the money to buy the one car).

BertieThere, it doesn't look at all bad, does it?
JeevesA violin case would complete the effect very creditably, sir.


As ever, Robert Daws' Tuppy is a performance of explosive irritation and ignorance. He's first seen here throwing a roll at Bertie, which proceeds to splatter the ship's captain with soup on landing. What follows is the upper-class equivalent of Del-Boy Trotter's cultural delicacy:

TuppyWho's the chap in fancy-dress?
BertieHe's the captain. Nice fellow. Speaks very good French.
TuppyLook, I'm terribly sorry, senor. Quelle fromage and all that. That'll hold him. They love it when you speak the lingo.


Naturally, Tuppy is making a romantic fool of himself, besotted with Pauline Stoker, despite being engaged to Angela, and naturally, he makes a completed hash of things (in order to talk shop to her father, he brushes up on his cars with The Boy's Book of the Automobile); when he places his order ("Let’s start with four"), Pauline helpful adds "Four Dozen, daddy":

TuppyI couldn't just order one car. I'd look such a fool.
BertieYou'll look an even bigger fool when you tell Stoker that you don't want 47 of them after all thank you very much.


The result is the inveigling of Bertie into a plan to steal back Tuppy's cheque, hinging on a burglar alarm Tuppy forgets to turn off, leading to the hapless Wooster being shot at by the police. Later, dining out with Tuppy, he resorts to hiding under a table when the Stokers arrive, which naturally goes wrong ("Well, I was just looking for a spoon"). As approximations of the Wodehouse formula go, this is perfectly serviceable; it's just a shame that neither Don Fellows (Stoker) nor Kim Huffman (Pauline) are a patch on Manning Redwood and Sharon Holm respectively in the previous season.


Also on the debit side in terms of casting is John Fitzgerald Jay as poet Rockmetteller "Rocky" Todd; there's more of him in Episode Two, but suffice to say the combination of a slightly wet character and an over-enunciated New York accent (I believe Kay is Canadian) makes the character positively irksome. No wonder Bertie can't wait to get away from his retreat. 


A retreat he's forced on due to the behaviour of Wilmot "Motty" Lord Pershore (Ronan Vibert, unlike Jay annoying in all the right ways), who has been foisted on Bertie by his mother, Lady Malvern (Moyra Fraser), while she tours US prisons for her book America from Within (that prisons are crucial to the climax is a fortuitous circumstance indeed). We first see Motty sucking on his cane, announced as a "strict vegetarian, teetotaller and devoted to reading" (Wodehouse's view that abstinence can only be deleterious is nothing if not consistent); the second trait elicits a disbelieving "Good lord!" From Tuppy.


BertieHas he had some sort of dashed fit or something? Jeeves, someone's been feeding him meat.
JeevesSir?
BertieHe's a vegetarian, you know. Probably been digging into a steak or something. Best fetch a doctor.

It turns out, however, that no sooner has Lady Malvern embarked on her tour than Motty's embarked on his own, of New York nightlife; discovered by Jeeves and Wooster with a stinking hangover, he announces "I drank too much. Much, much too much. Lots and lots too much. And what's more, I’m going to do it again. I'm going to do it every night" on account of "This is my only chance to assemble a disreputable past, and I'm going to take it".


The episode follows the short story to the extent that crucial events occur off screen, with Bertie returning (from Rocky's) to discover Motty has been incarcerated, but diverges in showing Lady Malvern come across her son in prison. Jeeves' ludicrously implausible explanation for his presence – even by the gentleman's gentleman's standards – stands as is, that he chose to go there to research her book:

Lady MalvernI find that very hard to believe.
JeevesBut surely, your ladyship, it is more reasonable to suppose that a person of his lordship's character would go to prison of his own volition… rather than by committing some breach of the law which would necessitate his arrest


Unsurprisingly, given it's straight from the source, this is the most effective passage of the story, and culminates in Bertie unsurprisingly sacrificing his hat, only to learn it has already gone:

BertieNow Jeeves, that Al Capone hat of mine. Get rid of it, burn it or something.
JeevesI've already taken the liberty of disposing of it, sir.


Also of note in the line-up is New York sojourn regular Ricco Ross as liftman Coneybear (who takes delivery of Bertie's hat); as an American actor living in the UK during the '80s he eked out a number of notable roles (Frost in Aliens, the Ringmaster rapping rubbish in Doctor Who story The Greatest Show in the Galaxy) and not so notable ones (Slipstream). The character is well-intentioned, attempting to offer the perspective of a contemporary African American amid privileged New York society, but for that reason also seems rather on-the-nose, over compensating for the series' exclusive whiteness by imbuing him with knowing moral superiority; plain good sense is identified as a fact of his race and so the effort taken by Clive Exton comes across as slightly patronising.



Sources: 
Jeeves and the Unbidden Guest (Carry On, Jeeves, Chapter 3)


Recurring characters:

Tuppy Glossop (1.1, 1.2, 1.4, 1.5, 2.6, 3.1)
Rockmetteller “Rocky” Todd (3.1)
J Washburn Stoker (2.4, 2.5, 3.1)
Pauline Stoker (2.4, 2.5, 3.1)
Liftman Coneybear (3.1)










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…

What we sell are hidden truths. Our territory is the mind. Our merchandise is fear.

The Avengers 5.1: The Fear Merchants
The colour era doesn't get off to such a great start with The Fear Merchants, an Avengers episode content to provide unstinting averageness. About the most notable opinion you’re likely to come away with is that Patrick Cargill rocks some magnificent shades.

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.

Just make love to that wall, pervert!

Seinfeld 2.10: The Statue
The Premise
Jerry employs a cleaner, the boyfriend of an author whose book Elaine is editing. He leaves the apartment spotless, but Jerry is convinced he has made off with a statue.

Never compare me to the mayor in Jaws! Never!

Ghostbusters (2016)
(SPOILERS) Paul Feig is a better director than Ivan Reitman, or at very least he’s savvy enough to gather technicians around him who make his films look good, but that hasn’t helped make his Ghostbusters remake (or reboot) a better movie than the original, and that’s even with the original not even being that great a movie in the first place.

Along which lines, I’d lay no claims to the 1984 movie being some kind of auteurist gem, but it does make some capital from the polarising forces of Aykroyd’s ultra-geekiness on the subject of spooks and Murray’s “I’m just here for the asides” irreverence. In contrast, Feig’s picture is all about treating the subject as he does any other genre, be it cop, or spy, or romcom. There’s no great affection, merely a reliably professional approach, one minded to ensure that a generous quota of gags (on-topic not required) can be pumped out via abundant improv sessions.

So there’s nothing terribly wrong with Ghostbusters, but aside from …

Do not run a job in a job.

Ocean’s 8 (2018)
(SPOILERS) There’s nothing wrong with the gender-swapped property per se, any more than a reboot, remake or standard sequel exploiting an original’s commercial potential (read: milking it dry). As with those more common instances, however, unless it ekes out its own distinctive territory, gives itself a clear reason to be, it’s only ever going to be greeted with an air of cynicism (whatever the current fashion for proclaiming it valid simply because it's gender swapped may suggest to the contrary).  The Ocean's series was pretty cynical to start with, of course – Soderbergh wanted a sure-fire hit, the rest of the collected stars wanted the kudos of working with Soderbergh on a "classy" crowd pleaser, the whole concept of remaking the '60s movie was fairly lazy, and by the third one there was little reason to be other than smug self-satisfaction – so Ocean's 8 can’t be accused of letting any side down. It also gives itself distinctively – stereo…

There’s still one man out here some place.

Sole Survivor (1970)
(SPOILERS) I’m one for whom Sole Survivor remained a half-remembered, muddled dream of ‘70s television viewing. I see (from this site) the BBC showed it both in 1979 and 1981 but, like many it seems, in my veiled memory it was a black and white picture, probably made in the 1950s and probably turning up on a Saturday afternoon on BBC2. Since no other picture readily fits that bill, and my movie apparition shares the salient plot points, I’ve had to conclude Sole Survivor is indeed the hitherto nameless picture; a TV movie first broadcast by the ABC network in 1970 (a more famous ABC Movie of the Week was Spielberg’s Duel). Survivor may turn out to be no more than a classic of the mind, but it’s nevertheless an effective little piece, one that could quite happily function on the stage and which features several strong performances and a signature last scene that accounts for its haunting reputation.

Directed by TV guy Paul Stanley and written by Guerdon Trueblood (The…

It’s all Bertie Wooster’s fault!

Jeeves and Wooster 3.4: Right Ho, Jeeves  (aka Bertie Takes Gussie's Place at Deverill Hall)
A classic set-up of crossed identities as Bertie pretends to be Gussie and Gussie pretends to be Bertie. The only failing is that the actor pretending to be Gussie isn’t a patch on the original actor pretending to be Gussie. Although, the actress pretending to be Madeline is significantly superior than her predecessor(s).

I take Quaaludes 10-15 times a day for my "back pain", Adderall to stay focused, Xanax to take the edge off, part to mellow me out, cocaine to wake me back up again, and morphine... Well, because it's awesome.

The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)
Along with Pain & Gain and The Great Gatsby, The Wolf of Wall Street might be viewed as the completion of a loose 2013 trilogy on the subject of success and excess; the American Dream gone awry. It’s the superior picture to its fellows, by turns enthralling, absurd, outrageous and hilarious. This is the fieriest, most deliriously vibrant picture from the director since the millennium turned. Nevertheless, stood in the company of Goodfellas, the Martin Scorsese film from which The Wolf of Wall Street consciously takes many of its cues, it is found wanting.

I was vaguely familiar with the title, not because I knew much about Jordan Belfort but because the script had been in development for such a long time (Ridley Scott was attached at one time). So part of the pleasure of the film is discovering how widely the story diverges from the Wall Street template. “The Wolf of Wall Street” suggests one who towers over the city like a behemoth, rather than a guy …

Do you read Sutter Cane?

In the Mouth of Madness (1994)
(SPOILERS) The concluding chapter of John Carpenter’s unofficial Apocalypse Trilogy (preceded by The Thing and Prince of Darkness) is also, sadly, his last great movie. Indeed, it stands apart in the qualitative wilderness that beset him during the ‘90s (not for want of output). Michael De Luca’s screenplay had been doing the rounds since the ‘80s, even turned down by Carpenter at one point, and it proves ideal fodder for the director, bringing out the best in him. Even cinematographer Gary K Kibbe seems inspired enough to rise to the occasion. It could do without the chugging rawk soundtrack, perhaps, but then, that was increasingly where Carpenter’s interests resided (as opposed to making decent movies).