“Looks like I’m going to become dangerously involved with the Abbot of a monastery in Belgium…”
Plot – A girl named Maria has been left some charts by her late sea-faring grandfather, and these charts point to the location of valuable pieces of stained glass lying in crates at the bottom of the ocean. Whilst Parminter and co try to buy these charts from her Gene reads some old books with Father Quatermass. Cheese sandwiches, Roney!
Starring – ‘Gene Barry and Barry Morse as Mr Parminter’. Parminter’s cavorting gaily through the London streets, bless im, oblivious to the fact that Catherine Schell and Garrick Hagon don’t even get a credit for their work on this episode.
(Is that a case of ‘Special Guest Editor – Gene Barry’ I detect?)
Guest Cast – Andre Morell (Father Antonius), Prunella Ransome (Maria Gustav), Peter Jeffrey (Ryman), Michael Gwynn (Sir Richard), Rona Newton-John (Nurse), Judy Matheson (Claire Adams), Donald Eccles (Andre Gustav)
Writer – Donald James.
Director – Val Guest.
Locations – Plenty of location shooting in Antwerp this week. Again.
Mission Briefing – Father Quatermass begins an infodump on Gene:
“Before the war, the cathedral was known throughout Europe for the magnificence of its stained-glass windows…”
Cut to the church, we go inside, and who should be waiting there? Yes it’s our old chums Diane Marsh and Sir Parminter, who takes up the story. “However, you observe now that there are several of plain glass.” Yes. I noticed that. Do I win?
Diane asks what happened to the missing windows and Parminter explains that they were taken down in 1939 “as a precaution against bomb damage. Thousands of pieces of glass, dismantled and packed in fifteen water-proof cases.” And where were these cases stored? “In the safest possible place.” replies Parminter enigmatically. “Under the sea.” Under the sea? There’s no safer place to store stained glass in cases than under the seeeea!
Now outside the church Parminter explains further. “Each location was carefully charted but somehow or other, at the end of the war, when they came to check the number of the charts, three of them were missing.” Ooh dear.
Diane holds off her next question until she and the Parminter monster have hopped onto a bus – that question being “Why are we interested?” Because it’s damn fascinating, that’s why. Charts going missing and stained glass at the bottom of the sea, that’s drama, is that. I think the more important question would be “Why are we only doing something about this nearly thirty years after the war?” Nevertheless Parminter explains that it’s “Diplomacy…well, public relations, really. You see, there’s a rather important personage visiting Belgium next month.” At this point he taps his bowler hat as a sign of respect (he keeps his sandwiches under that thing, you know) and a sudden cut to Diane shows that she’s on the point of falling asleep. Anyway the government is hoping that this important personage will be able to present the windows to the church…yeah.
“I have a meeting this morning with a courier who’ll sell me the charts!!” cries Parminter, and I must say he looks thrilled by all this. “Her Majesty’s Government has agreed to put up £30,000!”
Excellent, yes…but why can’t the Belgians do all this themselves? I mean, it’s not like they’ve got anything else to do, is it?
The Bradley Way – Gene lives at number 20. So now you know, and knowing is half the trouble. Or something.
Anyway, at number 20, Gene is being interviewed by a rather pretty freelance lady reporter who just happened to stop by. He’s guzzling down what looks like tomato juice (could be blood, I suppose) and, rather charmingly, we get to see his wrinkly throat bulging as the liquid begins its long journey to Gene’s equally-wrinkly bladder.
OK, OK. I know you were wondering, so let’s have this drink explained to us. It’s a Prairie Oyster, and this is how you make it. Over to you, Geney Longbone:
Yes, yes, go on.
“It’s the yolk of an egg…with…Worcestershire sauce…vinegar…tomato ketchup…sprinkle on the top a little bit of pepper…and the important thing, now this is very important!…you never break the yolk!”
Gene ends this little speech with a ‘So there!’ nod, which is almost enough to make me forgive the fact that he pronounced it “Wooshtersa sauce.”
Almost. Anyway, this is apparently a very good remedy for post-opera-party hangovers, so remember that.
Mr Parminter is a Very Cautious Man – Parminter’s meeting with Maria the courier doesn’t go too well, as the baddies have already offered her $100,000 for the missing charts. At least that’s what I assumed, but I was of course wrong and I’ll go into that later. Poor Parminter looks terribly hurt, as indeed he has every right to be. Poor poor Parminter just about manages to cover his disappointment by mumbling “This is highly irregular…”
Parminter comes into his own shortly after this as he follows Maria, having noticed that the baddies are tailing her. They try to grab her but she escapes, heading for an old railway station. Our man Parminter gets to the station before them and sets about plotting their downfall with impish glee, tripping them up with his magic brolly and that sort of thing, but it’s not enough and he ends up taking a punch to the face, which really isn’t on.
Later he blows the whole thing of all proportion when recounting it to Diane. “Oh, yes, there were four or five of them! Terrible looking villains…or was it six?” And for some reason, he doesn’t want “any sort of help from the department!”, so that’s you told.
Parminter then heads to the docks, looking for an “old seaman”. Ooh dear, not again. Said old seaman was a friend of Andre Gustav’s, “and it’s inconceivable that he doesn’t know something about those charts!” Well, is it really? I mean…why should he know anything? Anyway, we don’t know whether or not the old seaman did know because the baddies have already popped over and murdered him by the time Parminter and co arrive. At least, I think they have – a body is discovered “in one of those buckets” but there’s no real evidence to suggest it was the old seaman…or even that they killed him. He might just have tripped or something.
After stumbling across a discarded pipe on the deck Gavin suggests that the poor fellow was shot with a telescopic rifle, which is the sort of thing that only a stupid person would say cos it’s wrong. I’ll let Parminter explain. “Observe – the wind is blowing off the land. Now, as a former pipe-smoker myself I can tell you that pipes are very difficult to light in a stiff breeze.”
Yes, but…what does this have to do with anything? All you’ve done is look at a dead guy lying in the bottom of a bucket – how do you know he was shot? How do you know he’s even dead! There’s absolutely nothing to-
“Therefore he turned his back to the wind, and was actually lighting his pipe when the shot hit him!”
No, no, no – you’ve still not checked the body. He could just be asleep, or maybe injured, bleeding to death whilst you witter on…All of this is speculation, isn’t it?
“I used to read a lot of Sherlock Holmes when I was a boy.”
Oh, come off it. The only thing you’ve ever read is Noddy books, and that’s only when you’ve got Diane there to explain the long words to you…
“What About Diane?” – Well, Diane’s around, which is always a plus, but she’s really just used in order to have someone for Parminter to chat to. About the most interesting thing she does this episode is treat Parminter for a blow to the noggin, that girl scout’s first aid course coming in handy again.
“And Gavin?” – Gavin doesn’t show up until the second half of the episode. He’s escorted one Sir Richard over to Antwerp and decides to stick around to help out, following Parminter to the docks and looking somewhat suspicious in doing so I might add. Still, later on he gets to continue the ‘dispatching villains using parts of their own cars’ theme from the previous episode by opening a car boot door in Otto’s face. Clever, that.
And just who is Sir Richard? I have no idea – some long-necked civil servant type who shows up, says “I’m very disappointed, Parminter!” and then buggers off again. Thanks for that invaluable contribution, Sir Dick.
The Oldest Swinger in Town –
No fighting and no dancing, but there are some clown trousers for Gene to wear at the start of the episode so all’s well in that department.
They even clash with his coffeepot, would you believe…
“Alright, old friend – let me see you!” – This week’s old friend comes to us all the way from Belgium, so let’s give him a big hand, ladies and gentlemen!
I don’t know who he is or what his connection to Gene is, but Father Antonius says that it’s “delightful” to have Gene back, to which Gene replies it’s “…nice…” for him to be here. And that’s it. But at a guess, they’re old drinking buddies. Or lovers. But I’d rather they weren’t that.
“Shall we take them?” – This week’s main villain has given the episode an extra star already, because it’s Peter Jeffrey and he’s a somewhat dastardly fellow, posing as a doctor in order to do something or other. Something dastardly, I’ll wager.
Anyway the villains are barely in this. There’s a nurse, and a thug called Otto, and they have a car.
It’s crimson-colored, in case you were wondering.
Quotable Quotes – There isn’t much dialogue in this one, and most of it is just too complicated to follow, so…I can’t really do anything here…
Cracking Cliffhangers – The dodgy doctor and dodgy nurse inform Maria that her grandfather has just passed away, so she goes in to see him. Even evil Peter Jeffrey looks a bit sorry for the poor lass, bless im. Anyway she discovers a hidden compartment in the bedpost, containing…a wrapped up something, we know not what it is. But she thanks him for it anyway, which was the polite thing to do under the circumstances.
The Irony of It All – Um…er… “Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear.” There we go.
“What’s it all about, Gene?” – OK, here we go. This is it. I don’t understand this story.
What is it I don’t understand, I hear you awhisper? Well…all of it, really.
Firstly – how does anyone know that Gustav has these sea-charts?
Secondly – how do the baddies manage to get themselves set up as a doctor and nurse in order to take care of him?
Thirdly – how do they find out Maria’s got the charts?
Fourthly (a) – who was this other person who offered Maria $100,000 for the charts? It wasn’t the baddies. It wasn’t Gene, because he says he was “offered those sea charts and turned them down for £100,000.”
Fourthly (b) – who offered Gene those charts and why did they offer them to him of all people?
Fifthly – what the hell is going on here? I admire the writer for attempting to tie together the Gene subplot with the main Parminter plot, but…he failed. Spectacularly.
And then, and THEN – the whole thing’s been for nothing anyway. The crates containing the glass have been concreted over, apparently. So…yep. That presentation ceremony won’t now happen, the ‘important personage”ll be somewhat put out, and you? You just wasted 25 minutes of your life watching this. Well, I did, anyway.
On your behalf, of course.
“It’s all rather difficult.” – No technical problems as far as I can see…oh, except that the ‘Gene throwing sack’ and ‘Gene getting hit by stick’ pictures on the end titles have swapped places. And colours. Mmm.
The Defining Moment – And also, there’s no real silly moment to speak of. Not doing very well this week, are we?
Ramblings – The evil nurse seems to channel most of her performance through her left shoulder and elbow. In contrast Peter Jeffrey is all arms and legs when trying to get across a railway line. I find this Somewhat Interesting.
The ad-break point is silly. Cut Gene reading a book. The music builds, and…fade out. Well, I’m certainly going to be back for the second half after that pippins of a cliffhanger. Good grief…
I know that Parminter should be irritating me with his wacky antics (certainly that lady on the right there isn’t too impressed) but he isn’t. The comedy he’s involved with isn’t funny in itself, but somehow Barry Morse’s performance raises a smile or two regardless. He’s a good egg, old Barry, and he’s clearly ab-libbing like a mad bugger.
Oh, and end-of-episode laughter is never a good thing, especially not with an echo effect added to it. Gene in particular sounds like Vincent Price…
Rating – 3/5. As the third and final ‘Parminter/Diane/Gavin without Gene’ episode, this one isn’t very good, mainly because it’s mostly Parminter by himself with the other two in the background. While it’s always a delight to watch Barry Morse just kind of blundering around I did miss seeing the three of them in action together one last time. Throw in an even more incomprehensible story than usual, then Gene showing up at the end having magically worked out the ending of the story by reading it in a book with a silly title, and it’s a bit of a disappointment all round.
Give a Prairie Oyster, Gene. I’ve got a headache…