Skip to main content

Now then, you show nanny where you keep those pretty little missiles.

The Avengers
5.14: Something Nasty in the Nursery

Once Upon a Time, the penultimate episode of The Prisoner, sprang to mind more than once while rewatching Something Nasty in the Nursery, with its regressed adults and distorted guitar twangs announcing the sinister. It's very nearly a great episode, the only thing letting it down being the lack of any rug pull or shift in perspective beyond the initial setup.


Mr GoatI can guess why you’re here.
SteedYou can?
Mr GoatAn aura of proud fatherhood surrounds you.

What it has in spades is style, very much of a woozy, psychedelic lilt thanks to James Hill's impeccable direction (he might be the most consistently impressive of the series' returning craftsmen). From the moment Wilmot (Dennis Chinnery, Gharman in Genesis of the Daleks, as well as appearing in The Chase and The Twin Dilemma) picks up a bouncy ball – baby bouncers – and the screen becomes a swirl off hypnotic blue and  yellow, accompanied by nursery rhyme music, we know we're in good hands. 


WilmotMinisters of the Crown, my colleagues, personal friends.
SteedIt's ridiculous.
WilmotQuite, these men are from the best families. They're British to the core!

Rather like What the Butler Saw, the setup finds suspicion falling on three individuals when vital defence secrets are known to be leaking. And at least two of them are very familiar faces, Paul Eddington's Beaumont (2.17: Immortal Clay – The Good Life co-star Penelope Keith is credited as Nanny Brown) and Patrick Newell's Sir George "Georgy Porgy" Collins (4.1: The Town of No Return, Mother-to-be, of course, The Android Invasion). There's also Webster (Paul Hardwick). 


The ruse, as (over-) elaborated by Mr Goat (great name, memorably played by Dudley Foster – the crazy dentist in 4.14: The Hour That Never Was, Cavan in The Space Pirates, and here memorably sinister in a Norman Bates kind of way as alter ego Nanny Roberts) to someone who knows full-well anyway; it requires the handling of a baby bouncer, whereby, "Absorbed into the skin, this drug produces feelings of infancy. But the memory remains unaffected, enhanced even, as long as they feel secure". And susceptible to being asked questions about top secret information. 



Mr GoatNow then, you show nanny where you keep those pretty little missiles.

Eddington and Newell, in particular, give commendably infantile performances ("Here cuddles. Come here. Here’s a good boy"), and there are some quality moments with our lead duo, Emma coming under the influence and a fake-out where Steed is assumed to be likewise (except he's wearing gloves, pretending he’s been dosed, and proceeds to rip up the map showing the locations of those pretty little missiles).


The episode features a number of incidental pleasures, including Steed's visit to Old Martin's Toy Shop ("Toys for the offspring of the nobility"), where there’s disappointment that, even though he’s gentry, he isn't landed – as Avengers Forever points out, Mrs Peel doesn't take that particular trip, as teased by the opening haiku – a sequence in which Gordon (Trevor Bannister as a loathsomely enthusiastic heavy) attempts to run Emma down, and Mr Martin's (Clive Dunn, 47 but playing 20 years older, and sans moustache) death via gun-in-a-box. 


There's also an attempt on Steed's life with a bomb that ends up in his tuba, which is unceremoniously straightened for a resultant sight gag. And Steed is left with a coterie of mewling babes, none of whom are ultimately revealed to be real (they're dummies in the prams); "Ah, just like you. You'd make a dreadful daddy" chides Emma on entering.


The crimes are at the behest of GONN (the Guild of Noble Nannies), not one of the best acronyms. The "Mrs Peel we're…" comes via a children's carousel, while the coda finds the duo self-reflexively crystal gazing ("I see some writing. It says 'Watch next week' "), as Steed leads off with some cryptically unanswered insights into the fathomless depths. 



















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…

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…

My name is Dr. King Schultz, this is my valet, Django, and these are our horses, Fritz, and Tony.

Django Unchained (2012)
(MINOR SPOILERS) Since the painful misstep of Grindhouse/Death Proof, Quentin Tarantino has regained the higher ground like never before. Pulp Fiction, his previous commercial and critical peak, has been at very least equalled by the back-to-back hits of Inglourious Basterds and Django Unchained. Having been underwhelmed by his post Pulp Fiction efforts (albeit, I admired his technical advances as a director in Kill Bill), I was pleasantly surprised by Inglourious Basterds. It was no work of genius (so not Pulp Fiction) by any means, but there was a gleeful irreverence in its treatment of history and even to the nominal heroic status of its titular protagonists. Tonally, it was a good fit for the director’s “cool” aesthetic. As a purveyor of postmodern pastiche, where the surface level is the subtext, in some ways he was operating at his zenith. Django Unchained is a retreat from that position, the director caught in the tug between his all-important aesthetic pr…

Must the duck be here?

The Favourite (2018)
(SPOILERS) In my review of The Killing of a Sacred Deer, I suggested The Favourite might be a Yorgos Lanthimos movie for those who don’t like Yorgos Lanthimos movies. At least, that’s what I’d heard. And certainly, it’s more accessible than either of his previous pictures, the first two thirds resembling a kind of Carry On Up the Greenaway, but despite these broader, more slapstick elements and abundant caustic humour, there’s a prevailing detachment on the part of the director, a distancing oversight that rather suggests he doesn’t feel very much for his subjects, no matter how much they emote, suffer or connive. Or pratfall.

I don’t think you will see President Pierce again.

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (2018)
(SPOILERS) The Ballad of Buster Scruggs and other tall tales of the American frontier is the title of "the book" from which the Coen brothers' latest derives, and so announces itself as fiction up front as heavily as Fargo purported to be based on a true story. In the world of the portmanteau western – has there even been one before? – theme and content aren't really all that distinct from the more familiar horror collection, and as such, these six tales rely on sudden twists or reveals, most of them revolving around death. And inevitably with the anthology, some tall tales are stronger than other tall tales, the former dutifully taking up the slack.

Whoever comes, I'll kill them. I'll kill them all.

John Wick: Chapter 2 (2017)
(SPOILERS) There’s no guessing he’s back. John Wick’s return is most definite and demonstrable, in a sequel that does what sequels ought in all the right ways, upping the ante while never losing sight of the ingredients that made the original so formidable. John Wick: Chapter 2 finds the minimalist, stripped-back vehicle and character of the first instalment furnished with an elaborate colour palette and even more idiosyncrasies around the fringes, rather like Mad Max in that sense, and director Chad Stahleski (this time without the collaboration of David Leitch, but to no discernible deficit) ensures the action is filled to overflowing, but with an even stronger narrative drive that makes the most of changes of gear, scenery and motivation.

The result is a giddily hilarious, edge-of-the-seat thrill ride (don’t believe The New York Times review: it is not “altogether more solemn” I can only guess Jeannette Catsoulis didn’t revisit the original in the interven…

I don’t know if what is happening is fair, but it’s the only thing I can think of that’s close to justice.

The Killing of a Sacred Deer (2017)
(SPOILERS) I think I knew I wasn’t going to like The Killing of a Sacred Deer in the first five minutes. And that was without the unedifying sight of open-heart surgery that takes up the first four. Yorgos Lanthimos is something of a Marmite director, and my responses to this and his previous The Lobster (which I merely thought was “okay” after exhausting its thin premise) haven’t induced me to check out his earlier work. Of course, he has now come out with a film that, reputedly, even his naysayers will like, awards-darling The Favourite

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 …

There's something wrong with the sky.

Hold the Dark (2018)
(SPOILERS) Hold the Dark, an adaptation of William Giraldi's 2014 novel, is big on atmosphere, as you'd expect from director Jeremy Saulnier (Blue Ruin, Green Room) and actor-now-director (I Don’t Want to Live in This World Anymore) pal Macon Blair (furnishing the screenplay and appearing in one scene), but contrastingly low on satisfying resolutions. Being wilfully oblique can be a winner if you’re entirely sure what you're trying to achieve, but the effect here is rather that it’s "for the sake of it" than purposeful.

Can you float through the air when you smell a delicious pie?

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018)
(SPOILERS) Ironically, given the source material, think I probably fell into the category of many who weren't overly disposed to give this big screen Spider-Man a go on the grounds that it was an animation. After all, if it wasn’t "good enough" for live-action, why should I give it my time? Not even Phil Lord and Christopher Miller's pedigree wholly persuaded me; they'd had their stumble of late, although admittedly in that live-action arena. As such, it was only the near-unanimous critics' approval that swayed me, suggesting I'd have been missing out. They – not always the most reliable arbiters of such populist fare, which made the vote of confidence all the more notable – were right. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is not only a first-rate Spider-Man movie, it's a fresh, playful and (perhaps) surprisingly heartfelt origins story.