Summer Winos»Archive for June 2015

Archive for June 2015

Getting Sam Home Again

After falling in love with the feature-length 1983 Last of the Summer Wine special, Getting Sam Home, the Summer Winos decided to spend a glorious May afternoon in Holmfirth tracking down some of the episode’s more notable locations.  Thanks to all at Sid’s Cafe and the Shoulder of Mutton pub for allowing us to film there, and to our regular, long-suffering cameraman Andrew Orton! He’s rapidly becoming our ‘Third Man’…

Getting Sam Home

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In which Compo, Clegg and Foggy ain’t got no body…

Andrew: Let’s be upfront about this. We’ve both seen Getting Sam Home before and we both think it contains some of the best material Roy Clarke has ever written, that Alan JW Bell has ever directed, and that any of the actors have ever performed. This is going to be less of a review and more of a love letter.

Bob: Don’t give things away this early, we want to build up an air of tension! But yeah, you’re right… and is this the most wistful start ever to a British comedy film? The church bells chime, a melancholy flute solo rises into the autumn sky, and craggy-faced Wally Batty lets loose a flapping pigeon to the heavens. It’s like he’s sending a message to the world; from Holmfirth… from Summer Wine country. And you know what? It feels like a message from my younger self to the modern-day me, as well. Because there aren’t many pieces of TV from my childhood that have meant more to me than Getting Sam Home. I was eleven years old when this first aired, and it made a lifelong and profound impression on me. It’s like a platonic ideal of Summer Wine for me; the very essence of the show. And it’s also an encapsulation of the end of my childhood… those people; those places, the feeling of an innocent era slowly drifting away. There are hardly any TV shows that have to power to transport me in this way.

The rural primary school with the cows grazing outside; the kids being called in from the playground; the first bars of the opening theme, and blimey… it’s got lyrics now. Beautiful, heartfelt lyrics. Oh gawd, we’re barely into the title sequence and I’m a mess already. Honestly, I’ve got tingles everywhere. I’m eleven years old again, and I want it all back.

Andrew: Obviously I had a very good excuse for not seeing this when it originally went out, but it does hold a similarly nostalgic pleasure for me. I grew up with the series during the second Foggy era of the 1990s, but at some point I must have caught a repeat of this film because for years I had odd memories of the chip van that features in it. Not only that, but I distinctly recalled the fact that there was no laugh track and that it looked somehow different from the shows I was used to. It wasn’t until the DVDs came along that I finally got to experience it all over again.

Bob: Repeated on the 8th May 1994, according to BBC Genome! You were seven years old. I blame the parents.

The reason David Walliams is David Walliams?

Fairburn gets his divvy…

There’s a perfect, unbelievably economic bit of character work here in these opening scenes. Clegg is unfavourably comparing the weather to the same time last year, Foggy contrasts it with his experiences in the Far East, and Compo lusts after the girl in the dry cleaners who strips naked beneath her uniform whenever the sun shines. And there you go – your three main characters in a nutshell.

Andrew: I absolutely agree with you that this perfectly sets up our main characters, but that’s actually rather strange when you think about it. This film was based upon Roy Clarke’s novel – simply titled Last of the Summer Wine – and in that book the three protagonists are Clegg, Compo… and Blamire. It’s strange to consider that everything Foggy says or does in this film actually originates in some way with Blamire. Clarke does a bang-up job of adapting his own work, mind you. You’d never guess this wasn’t created for the screen unless somebody told you.

Bob: And yes, no laugh track! A bold but very wise move, I think… this isn’t a studio sitcom any more, it’s a proper film. It has elegance, grace and a lavish sense of style. Huge credit to Alan JW Bell for pulling this off.

Andrew: Although the film was really his pet project, Bell was only awarded the job of directing after putting in a lower quote than Sydney Lotterby, so I can’t begin to imagine the uphill battle he must have faced to create such a polished-looking film as this. It’s also worth pointing out that this is starting to look much more like Last of the Summer Wine as I remember it from my childhood. As much as I appreciate the unique mix of videotape and film inserts in classic British television, by the time I was watching the show in the early to mid 1990s, it had switched entirely to film production.

Bob: How many times do our trio inadvertently stumble across illicit courting couples in some remote area of the countryside? This time it’s Fairburn, the Co-Op tailor, sneakily ‘getting his divvy’ with ‘her from the bacon counter’. And Fairburn is playing by David Williams, who I suspect might be the reason that David Walliams is David Walliams!

Andrew: It does seem a tad farcical that our trio would keep stumbling across these secret trysts in the countryside, but I’ve also encountered a fair few couples of an evening who were doing far more than courting!

Bob: They have sexual intercouse in Gateshead these days? The place is coming on leaps and bounds. This is a brilliant introduction for Lynda Baron, as the voluptuous Lily Bless ‘Er… and we’re instantly shown what a different proposition she is to the rest of the women in Summer Wine country. ‘I like your knickers’ leers Compo, grimacing through the skimpy underwear on the line. ‘Do you, love?’ beams Lily, a clear battle-line being drawn between her warm brand of sauciness, and the thunderous response that the same compliment would have elicited from Nora or Ivy. Some cracking curtain-twitching in the street, too! My mum still does this. She’s unbelievable. If a car passes within fifty yards of the house, she’s at the front window with more unseemly haste than you’d expect from a woman who’s had two hip replacements. ‘Oooh, it’s Gary coming back early,’ she’ll muse. ‘Sandra must be on days this week…’ I have no idea who any of these people are.

Drew's dad's curtains are twitching already...

Drew’s dad’s curtains are twitching already…

Andrew: My dad’s the curtain twitcher in our family, although he manages to sense everything from the comfort of the sofa. Honestly, I think he must have Sonar or something. He can’t hear us if we try to ask him what he wants for his tea, but he’s straight on the case if there’s a neighbour outside parking a car where they shouldn’t be. It’s an art.

Bob: I was fascinated by the name ‘Lily Bless ‘Er’ as a kid, it just seemed so outlandish to me. Does it imply that Lily is viewed with a degree of sympathy by many of the people in town? For all her flouncy sex appeal, she’s quite a sad figure… a lonely, middle-aged woman grasping for fleeting encounters with married man. A proto-Marina, I guess, in many ways? Her front room just reeks of solitary desperation, too. The ticking clock, hammering away the days. And Compo is offered a can of Tetley’s bitter from the fridge. How long do you think that’s been in there, waiting for the right gentleman caller to pass by? I bet it’s as flat as a fart.

Andrew: There’s a touch of Marina about her, perhaps, but the key difference between the characters is that Lily Bless ‘Er’ is actually getting some from time to time. Given that, at this point in its run, the series was transforming into a much more family friendly show, its quite striking to me how adult this film is. Later in the run, much will be made of how chaste and innocent Howard and Marina’s affair is – but I think I prefer the honesty on display here. Sam and Lily aren’t usually getting together for a kiss and a cuddle!

Bob: And so we discover that Lily is desperate to get messages through to the miserably married Sam, currently languishing in hospital with an unspecified malady, and smuggling out hilariously garbled messages to the lady of his dreams. ‘There’s a bloke here who knows you from the Three Horseshoes with a hernia called Trevor’, she reads out loud, with deadpan concern. I laughed out loud.

And Sam, in hospital, really does look dreadfully ill! I hope that’s all make-up. Played with more wistful melancholy by Peter Russell, who was actually a very respected stage comedian… as well as playing Eldred in the 1965 Doctor Who story The Time Meddler! (I know, I know…) His thoughtful voiceover, envying the happy lives of his fellow patients while his stony wife Sybil knits furiously, is a lovely touch. ‘She’s 45, and badly dressed… and lovely’ he muses, eyeing up Mr Cosgrave’s wife with a resigned sigh. How long has it been since this poor old sod had any love in his marriage whatsoever? Nobody weaves lonely resignation into a comedy script with more elegance than Roy Clarke. Nobody.

Andrew: I think that inner monologue is one of the few signs we get that this film has been adapted from a novel. It’s not a technique Clarke uses much in Summer Wine. In fact, I can’t think of a nother example off-hand. But in order for us to get to know and care about Sam in the limited time we’re going to spend with him, making use of this device makes perfect sense.

Bob: It works, and it’s a nice luxury to play with when you’re not worrying about the live rapport with a studio audience.

Sam is taken home via the only transport that our trio can muster… Sid’s ramshackle, semi-derelict fish and chip van. A little word for John Comer here, as it’s an incredibly sad story… poor John had lost his voice for this recording, and so is dubbed throughout the entire episode by fellow Yorkshire actor Tony Melody who, you have to say, did a magnificent job. I was a seasoned Summer Wine watcher by the time this was first broadcast, and I didn’t notice it at all. And I was rather taken aback years later, when I first read about it, as I think I’d even seen it on DVD by that stage, and still not noticed! With the benefit of hindsight and experience… yes, you can tell it’s not John Comer, but it doesn’t detract at all. And, tragically, what nobody realised at this stage was that John had throat cancer, and would die only a few short months after filming was completed.

Andrew: It was an incredibly unfortunate situation, to put it mildly, but Tony Melody does indeed do a fantastic job. I guess the dubbing works so well because none of Comer’s dialogue made it into the film, so it’s not a case of swithching back and forth between a sound-alike and the real thing. It might also have helped that this film stands on its own. If Tony Melody had had to step in during the middle of a series, it probably would have been a lot more obvious.

Bob: Another lovely scene here, with Sam on the moors, picking out the spot where he’d like his ashes scattered. It’s beautifully poignant. ‘I can see Ducketts Foundary, and Mottishaw’s Bakery… I shall know where I am’. You wonder how many of those traditional landmarks would have lasted much longer beneath the relentless march of progress… or had they gone already, even in 1983? Is Sam gazing into his own past here? Either way, a huge word of praise to Ronnie Hazlehurst, who scores this scene beautifully. Another gorgeous moment of melancholy.

Andrew:  On a good day, my life is scored by Ronnie Hazlehurst. By the way, I’m assuming you want to be scattered under the table closest to the loo in Sid’s Café? I’m not sure what Laura will make of that plan, but I’ll do me best.

'Ravenous sexual activity'

‘Ravenous sexual activity’

Bob: Just sprinkle me on a doughnut. And so we get to the crux of the episode… Sam, now imprisoned in his home (and shed) by the fearsome Sybil, wants our trio to break him out for a night of passion with Lily Bless ‘Er! I love Foggy’s self-conscious ‘not acting suspiciously’ as they creep towards the house. And ‘Mamsy and Dadsy’ in the house next door, with that bloody poodle! Yegods, Roy Clarke’s obsession with sterile, loveless marriages knows no bounds. But he writes them brilliantly.

We see frustratingly little of Nora and Wally in this episode, but this tiny cutaway to Wally, drunkenly ascending the steps to his house, is a perfect little showcase for a bit of vintage Joe Gladwin. Such great physical comedy! We don’t see a lot of out-and-out drunkenness in Last of the Summer Wine, do we? Just lots of women complaining about it.  It’s surprising that we’ve seen so little of Nora in this episode, given that Kathy Staff was such a famous and integral part of the show by this stage. But I guess the original 1974 novel must have been written concurrently with the first series… before Nora really became the sensation that she did!

Andrew: Unless, of course, you buy the reissue of the book that was published to coincide with this television adaptation. It seems pretty much everything remains the same as the first edition, except for the fact that the book replaces every mention of the name ‘Blamire’ with the name ‘Foggy’. Of course, this means that Foggy is weirdly out of sorts throughout. The cheeky beggars! Actually, it’s a bit annoying this buggered-about with version is now much easier to find than the original. If you can, folks, pick up the Coronet Books paperback edition!

Bob: Sam is dead! In the arms of Lily Bless ‘Er! While our trio idle away their time in her tick-tocking living room, clad in her frilly cardies after a soaking from the rain. ‘He only wanted a cuddle…’ weeps Lily, which gives the whole thing even more poignancy. Was Sam in the throes of some wild, illicit passion? No… he just wanted a flicker of comfort, lying chastely in his buttoned-up pyjamas with a final smile of affection upon his face.

Andrew: At this juncture can I just point out that we are looking at a corpse? Once again – this is not a family film!

Bob: We’re heading into quite traditional farce territory though, as our trio have to beg to borrow Sid’s van (which involves tapping on Sid and Ivy’s bedroom window… is this the first and only time we actually see them in bed together? At least they still snuggle up of an evening – unlike virtually every other married couple we see in this series!) and smuggle Sam back into his own marital home.

A nice bit of vintage Roy Clarke during this steamy bedroom scene, too…

Ivy: It could be anybody! Some lunatic desperate for a woman.

Sid: Well there you are, you see… it’s for you.

Andrew: Out of all of the characters in the series, Sid and Ivy are the only ones whose bedroom I expect to be a secret hive of ravenous sexual activity. There is far too much passion in their ranting and raving for them not to be absolutely gagging for one another… What, too much?

Bob: Not enough! Keep going! You could be tbe Jilly Cooper of the Blogsphere. You can have my arse, in jodhpurs, on the cover of your first novel.

So Sam is safely home, and the ensuing daytime scene outside our trio’s old primary school is – I think – not just one of the finest scenes in Summer Wine’s history, but in British comedy as a whole. With another one of their childhood friends having passed on, Compo finds himself discussing his own early encounters with death. ‘The morning that little yellowhammer flew straight into the glass,’ he muses, ‘I picked it up. And it had a drop of blood on its beak. One drop. Identical same colour as ours’.

And Clegg joins in, wistfully reminiscing about former classmates who ‘ran smack into World War Two’. ‘Including Little Tommy Naylor, lying in a field in Africa. Blood on his beak. Identical same colour as ours’.

RIP Little Tommy Naylor...

RIP Little Tommy Naylor…

It’s everything to me, this scene. How could a young boy, idling away his childhood in such idyllic surroundings as this, find himself – just a few short years later – dying so brutally, so far away? Tommy Naylor must have once imagined Clegg’s life ahead of him, and relished it. The quiet contemplation, the dull but secure warmth of marriage and work and, ultimately, old age. And yet all the while, the clouds were gathering over Europe. Who would live, and who would die? It was horribly, cruelly random. And Clegg knows that. Tommy Naylor’s blood was the same colour as his, and it could so easily have been Norman Clegg, aged 18 or 21 or 25 or whatever, dying in a field in Africa and thinking one last time of his childhood in this playground. Of his mother, of his friends, of the missing years he’d never grow to know.

No other sitcom would attempt this. None. It’s magnificent, and real, and can only be borne of Roy Clarke’s own feelings.

Andrew: Agreed on all counts. In fact, if I was to pick one scene to represent the best of Last of the Summer Wine as I see it, it would probably be this one. It’s shot in beautifully grim surroundings on lovely 16mm film stock, features an absolutely typical meditation upon the nature of life and death, and ends with a pratfall ­– what more could I ask?

Bob: And then, just to ram the point home, we see Foggy jostled down the steps outside the café by a crowd of cheering 1980s schoolkids! And the wheel has come full circle. He was them, just a few blinks in a short lifetime ago. But time is cruel, and now he’s just an old man in the crowd. Oh, this is glorious and profound.

And Sam’s relatives arguing over his possessions, and lumping his gear out of the shed before the funeral has even taken place, is fabulously real! And curiously Northern, I reckon? Oh, the free-for-all that takes place after a death in the family is something I’ve come to find incredibly blackly funny. And my name is ON that hostess trolley. I mean it.

Andrew: So you’re saying I’d better get round to your gaff sharpish if I want to get my hands on your collection of Peanuts books? Noted.

Bob: Into the Shoulder of Mutton pub! For any of our readers who have never visited Holmfirth, I recommend you do… and you’ll be staggered at how delightfully tiny the place really is, and how close together all of these seemingly disparate locations actually are. The Shoulder of Mutton is thirty seconds walk around the back of Sid’s Café, and the yard where Sid kept his ramshackle van is another few yards around the corner from there. But I LOVE this pub scene! The sultry, brassy pub singer, pointing and pouting like a Yorkshire Shirley Bassey. And again, this has a lovely, filmic quality… it’s clearly shot inside the actual pub itself.

Andrew: We’ve actually visited this pub a couple of times now on our jaunts to Holmfirth and I must confess to a slight feeling of disappointment every time we cross the threshold. Not that it isn’t a nice pub ­– it is – but it isn’t the bustling social gathering place that was captured in this film. Saying that, I’d probably flee the pub as featured in the film in search of a tobacco-free breath of fresh air.

Bob: And doesn’t Brian Wilde make for a fabulous comedy drunk? I’m not much of a boozer these days, but I used to love sitting at a pub table that was covered in empty glasses. It gave me such a heartfelt feeling of achievement.

It's kicking off in the Shoulder of Mutton!

It’s kicking off in the Shoulder of Mutton!

Andrew: Brian Wilde makes for a fantastic everything.

Bob: When I watched this episode on DVD this time around, for the first time ever I started to think ‘Oooh… it’s a bit padded here, isn’t it?’ The fact that Lily decides that Sam – now deceased – needs rescuing from Sybil’s clutches AGAIN (and taking back again afterwards) felt like one of those episodes of Doctor Who that relies on our heroes being captured, escaping, recaptured and escaping again for a fake sense of tension and drama. But I’m wrong! Totally wrong! The two halves of this film are like a mirror image of each other; with death the dividing line between. So in the first half, the living Sam is smuggled from home, taken to Lily Bless Er, and smuggled back again. In the second half, the same thing happens to his dead body. Is there a message here? I’m going to be pretentious and suggest this: that death is no obstacle to our feelings for each other. Lily adores Sam; and wants his body to be as rested and comfortable in her house in death as much as it was when he was alive. Sybil can’t stand him; and kept him exiled to the shed both before and after he’d died. And on both occasions, he provides equal quantities of fun, terror and inconvenience to our heroic trio. There you go… I should be running a media studies course. It’s the early mornings that would do for me, though.

Andrew: I think you’re on the money there, but I should point out that ANY film would start to feel padded if watched the same number of times that you have seen Getting Sam Home.

Bob: I love these scenes on the moors, with Sam’s body hidden in the van as Sid fobs off a passing police car. And it’s Ken Kitson playing the copper! Brilliant. I was watching an old Children’s Film Foundation movie recently (Terry On The Fence, 1985, for those that want to check) and he plays an amiable policeman in that as well. Did Roy Clarke write him into The Trials of PC Penrose, by any chance? I’m off to check…

Andrew: Oh God, don’t go! I don’t have your talent for filling space! What am I supposed to talk about? I like Getting Sam Home… I really like Getting Sam Home… that’s it; I’m out. Please come back!

Bob: Ken Kitson was NOT in The Trails of PC Penrose. At ease, everybody.

Andrew: Phew.

Bob: The scenes with the bickering Mamsy and Dadsy, Sam and Sybil’s neighbours, are some of the funniest in the film. Accused of not checking whether their pampered poodle has ‘done his business’, Dadsy is indignant. ‘What am I supposed to do, dabble for it with me fingers?’ There’s a brilliant comedy faint from Dadsy too, as Foggy – ‘sitting in’ as a substitute in Sam’s coffin – rises up in the shed. I laughed like a drain. And probably smelt like one as well.

Sitcom Rule No 47: Any kind of ‘weird business’ conducted in a darkened suburban street, MUST take place outside a house in which the residents are nervously watching a horror film on TV. Which we NEVER see… we only hear the chilling music and the bloodcurdling screams. Them’s the rules!

Andrew: Except – and I’m sorry to make you question your entire belief system here – we DO see one shot of the film Dadsy is watching! Here’s a challenge for our all-knowing readers ­– what is the name of the film?

Bob: There’s something lovely and reassuring about seeing a flickering TV in a front room from a darkened street, though. As I kid I was scared of EVERYTHING, and all manner of imaginary ghosts and vampires followed me on my travels around Teesside. But a glimpse of normality like that, just a flash of The Generation Game through a gap in the curtains, would swiftly drag me back into the world of the ordinary.

Oooh, do you want a bit of controversy here?

Andrew: Always…

Bob: I distinctly remember sitting in my Gran’s front room, possibly the day before this was broadcast, reading an article in the Daily Mirror stating that Getting Sam Home was set to cause a rumpus due to the inclusion of an unprecedented four-letter word, claiming the existence of a scene in which Sid refers to a customer as ‘f*** face’! That’s what it said, ‘f*** face!’ Now, naturally you can imagine what I assumed the phrase was going to be, and I was genuinely mortified by this. With my friends, I swore like a navvy, but I was incredibly embarrassed by any of that business actually filtering through to my parents, and the thought of hearing such a word IN THEIR COMPANY filled me with horror.

So I think I genuinely sat through Getting Sam Home with a sense of uneasy dread bubbling away throughout. And, of course, it’s ‘fart face’! ‘Listen, fart face!’ Which didn’t bother me at all. The Daily Mirror, eh? F***ing t***s!

Boys Keep Swinging…

Andrew: Not to ask too much of our readers, but surely someone out there must be able to track this article down?

Bob: God, this is macabre stuff, isn’t it? Sid is serving chips on a dark, windswept moor to drunken idiots as the stiff arm of his dead friend swings from the parapet above the bubbling chip pans. Has the show ever been quite THIS dark before?

Andrew: Absolutely not, and I don’t think it ever will be again. This has got to be down to the fact the film started life as a novel, hasn’t it? Freed from the shackles of broadcast restrictions, Clarke really went all out!

Bob: The policeman to Mamsy, distraught over the disappearance of her fainting husband… ‘They’re not usually dead, Madam… they’ve usually just run off with some other woman’. Magnificent!

And so, as the dawn begins to rise and the church bells chime, Sid’s van has broken down and there’s seemingly no chance of getting Sam’s body back to Sybil in time for the funeral. And – it seems – the tailors dummy blackmailed from Mr Fairburn will be sent for cremation instead. Clegg’s offer to confess all to Sybil is very noble, but VERY unlike him! But I like Foggy and Compo’s ‘all in this together’ attitude. When there’s genuine trouble, they do stick together like the best of friends. It’s heartwarming.

Andrew: The whole film is about friendship and loyalty as much as it’s about mortality. Sam isn’t a character we’ve seen before and certainly isn’t part of the main trio, but he’s their mate and that’s enough to ensure they go absurd lengths to carry out his final wishes. There’s also the school days connection made during the opening credits, and that beautiful speech from Clegg that we mentioned earlier. These are blokes who have known each other for decades – of course they’re going to stick together. It’s lovely.

Bob: Are coffins left open any more? Thankfully I don’t think they are, so we’re spared exchanges like ‘Who coloured that? Get the lid on, quick!’ Sybil was ahead of the game with the smoking ban, as well. All the seasoned nicotine chuffers are exiled to join Sam’s coffin in the shed, so it’s no wonder he’s gone a funny colour.

Andrew: I knew somebody whose father died a couple of years ago. Apparently when all the family gathered together at home to prepare themselves for the funeral, it was just expected that the body should be there too. This really rather freaked out this person’s partner, who wasn’t expecting to be chatting, eating and drinking next to a dead person for the better part of a week. It’s really not something we should be made uncomfortable by, but I think most of us are. I suspect it’s a cultural shift. As the population has gone up and up, death has, by necessity, come to be treated in a much more conveyer-belt fashion. You’re bagged, tagged, prepped and delivered to the crematorium with great efficiency these days. We simply don’t have to deal with the dead in the same way that we used to, unless for whatever cultural reason we choose to. A generation who went through World War Two, however, are much more used to and practical about the idea.

Bob: Good grief, really? I’m with your friend’s partner. I’d never sleep! I have a ventriloquists dummy in the spare room wardrobe, and even that keeps me awake at night.

Coconut Mushrooms not pictured

More glorious dialogue as our trio, convinced that a shop window dummy is about to be cremated, forlornly make their way to the church. ‘Would anyone like a coconut mushroom?’ inquires Cousin Olive, cheerful to the last. Clegg is gazing wistfully out of the window. ‘From the standpoint of heaven, how magical must Mottishaw’s Bakery be?’ he muses, in melancholy voiceover. And, again, I like to imagine that Mottishaw’s Bakery has long since been demolished, and that Sam is gazing from some celestial standpoint into the long-lost childhood that all these characters constantly yearn for.

And, when it comes down to it, Ivy has bailed them out. The dummy is in the chip van, Sam is in his coffin, and she kept it to herself as ‘I thought it might do you all good to sweat a little bit’. And, as The Lord Is My Shepherd plays in the church, a lonely Lily Bless ‘Er is taken into the funeral car by a relenting, sympathetic Sybil. It’s a really touching end to an incredibly accomplished film.

Andrew: A touching end, and a very important one in terms of not misrepresenting Clarke’s view of women! He may create truly terrifying female characters, who keep a like to keep a tight leash on their husbands, but they are absolutely the ones who keep the world he has created from falling apart. It’s a balance between masculinity and femininity, as much as it is between childishness and dour maturity.

Bob: What can I say about Getting Sam Home? It was one of my favourite pieces of TV when I was eleven years old, and nothing in the last thirty years has changed my opinion one jot. It’s full of poignancy and melancholy, shot through with deliciously black humour, and has some of the show’s funniest-ever lines and performances. And, on top of that, it’s beautifully directed, with a real flair for both sweeping countryside and all of those intimate little scenes in pubs and cafes and tiny front rooms. This isn’t a TV special… it’s a film. And it’s one of the best British comedy films of all time.

Andrew: It’s such an unassuming little film, but it really does deserve classic status. Sadly, I think the fact it was made for television robs it of the prestige it deserves. Had it been released to cinemas, I think it could have single-handedly done away with that silly myth about television programmes not working on the big screen. They do when they’re done as well as this!

In a fair world, Getting Sam Home would have been restored in HD from the film rushes and would be transmitted on BBC1 on bank holiday weekends instead of endless repeats of Carry On films. Well a chap can dream, can’t he?

Bob: And a little word for John Comer, Drew? It’s terribly sad to think that this is the last time we’ll see him. Sid is a magnificent character, and has some of the funniest lines in the first ten years of the show… all delivered with absolutely immaculate comic timing. But he’s a great straight actor too, and I absolutely believe both in Sid and in that marriage. There’s a gritty truth to Sid, and he’s given these early years a lot of heart and soul. He made a great double act with Jane Freeman, but also an hilarious foursome with the three main characters, and I’ll miss him enormously. RIP Sid… and John.

Andrew: I’ll miss Sid enormously. Of all the things I’ve discovered in returning to these early series of Last of the Summer Wine, it’s the chemistry of John Comer and Jane Freeman that has been the most revelatory. Together, they brought vibrancy and charm to some of Roy Clarke’s very best scenes and, as you say, there’s a real truth to that relationship that’s quite rare in sitcom. They should have been given at least a pilot episode of their very own. It is very sad to watch him here with the knowledge that his voice was so weak that he had to be dubbed by another actor. Still, I’m glad that he made it to this film, the jewel in Summer Wine’s crown. It wouldn’t have been nearly as special without him. Here’s to you, John.

Comer
Getting Sam Home

STOP PRESS EVERYONE!

We’re now proud to unveil Getting Sam Home Again, our little feature film tracking down some of the more notable locations from this episode. Thanks to all at Sid’s Cafe and the Shoulder of Mutton pub for allowing us to film there, and to our regular, long-suffering cameraman Andrew Orton! He’s rapidly becoming our ‘Third Man’…

An Interview with Laura of Sid's Café

The Summer Winos were recently delighted  to sit down for an interview with our friend Laura Booth, proprietor of Sid’s Café. Press play to hear about the ins and outs of running a national treasure, and hear the story of how a sitcom facade ending up becoming a real-life business…

LINK

Series 7 Episode 6: The Arts of Concealment

In which Compo’s trousers go west…

Bob: Oh, now HERE’s a throwback… I think! Compo reveals he once gave ‘twenty fags’ to a child, in exchange for a football rattle. Tell me Drew, when you were a small boy around the turn of the millennium, did you and your peers still think it was cool and ineffably ‘adult’ to puff away on a crafty Rothman’s King Size? Because at the time this episode aired, approaching my eleventh birthday, that was undoubtedly the case! It wasn’t ubiquitous, but there were eleven and twelve-year-olds of my acquaintance who were not averse to a sneaky toke around the back of the bike sheds. And my school toilets frequently had an unmistakeable whiff of cigarette smoke about them. Although admittedly it paled in comparison to the billowing clouds of smog that rolled out of the staff room windows throughout the school day.

Andrew: I wouldn’t say it was ‘cool’ across the board, but there was definitely a smoking subset at school and it was kind of expected that you would at least try a ciggy at some point before leaving. I never did – I’m a good boy, I am. It was also completely accepted that, even if they claimed otherwise, certain teachers would disappear for a crafty cigarette break during the course of the lesson. Thinking about it, the last time I saw a school kid smoking a tab was probably over five years ago. Take that, lung cancer!

Bob: I’ve not always hugely taken with the more slapstick elements of the show, but Foggy disguised as a giant walking bush – attempting to demonstrate ‘the art of concealment’ to his friends – is genuinely hilarious. Great physical comedy… even moreso when the cyclists arrive!

Battleship Potemkin (1925)

Battleship Potemkin (1925)

Andrew: Beautifully directed, as well. The edited chaos of bicycles tumbling around him is almost reminiscent of Eisenstein’s Battleship Potemkin… What? I said, almost!

Bob: CAFEWATCH UPDATE! Cottage pie, mushy peas and jam rolly poly on the blackboards. Yes, ‘Rolly poly’! Terrible spelling again. I’m disappointed Foggy didn’t correct that with a piece of chalk and a disapproving tut. And a tray of ketchup in squeezy tomato-shaped bottles! When was the last time anyone saw one of those? The mid-1990s for me, I think… during my ‘greasy spoon for breakfast’ phase at the height of my hangover years. Hipster hang-outs in Camden probably still have them.

Andrew: We should be scouring eBay for all of this stuff, you know. Can you imagine how glorious your kitchen would look with the simple addition of a checked tablecloth, a squeezy plastic tomato and a matador poster?

Bob: I’ve already got a checked tablecloth in the kitchen. Although admittedly it’s usually invisible beneath our rising mutual collection of Getting Sam Home paperbacks. Hey, is this the last bona fide Sid and Ivy scene that we get? I know they’re both actually in Getting Sam Home, the following episode, but I don’t think I’m spoiling things too much to reveal that poor John Comer was so unwell by that stage that his voice had to be dubbed by a soundalike actor. So I think this might be our final glimpse of full-blooded Sid and Ivy. We’ll doubtless write more about John Comer’s extraordinary contribution to the series in the next instalment, but in the meantime this is a poignant moment to savour.

Why’s he hitting me with that stick, Norm?
Because he hasn’t got anything heavier…

Vintage Roy Clarke. There’s always something.

Andrew: Yep. I’ll save my full comments for Getting Sam Home, but this is indeed our last taste of their back-and-forth banter at full volume. The dissolution of this partnership is going to leave a massive vacuum.

Bob: Oooooh… check out Harold and Phoebe in their broken-door car, on their way to visit the Lord Lieutenant. We’re seven years away from Keeping Up Appearances here, but this feels like a prototype Hyacinth and Richard! Bucket v0.1. And it’s fascinating to see how Foggy, who obviously has pretensions to this lifestyle of semi-nobility, gets genuinely flustered in their presence. He can pretend to Compo and Clegg that he’s part of a plummy-voiced ruling elite, but there’s no fooling a couple who genuinely are part of that social set. And that threatens to undermine his perceived superiority over his friends, and he bloody well knows it. Oh, you can’t whack the British class system as a goldmine for the comedy of embarrassment!

Andrew: Actually, I’d say Phoebe was Bucket v0.2 – don’t forget to count Ivy’s sister as another prototype. The character is obviously one that rattled around in Clarke’s mind for years before he had the chance to perfect her with Keeping Up Appearances. I love the idea that we’re seeing his redrafting actually go out on broadcast television, so here’s hoping this isn’t the last we’ve seen of the type!

Bob: Peter Hughes, playing Harold, was a golfer in the Series 3 episode The Kink in Foggy’s Niblick. And Phyllida Hewat, who plays Phoebe, went on to appear in The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles! Over to you, Drew…

Andrew: In an episode written by my friend Rosemary Anne Sisson, no less! It’s a funny old world.

Bob: You and your showbiz lifestyle! While you globetrot, I just stand in the kitchen, staring at my checked tablecloth. Hey, Harold’s car has a manual choke! That takes me back. My first car had one too, and was an absolute bugger to start on a frosty morning. Starting a car was virtually an artform in those days, you had to gently coax the engine into life while easing out the choke, but too much of said easing would flood the engine completely. Computers take all of this out of hands in your average modern automobile, but it has cost us OUR SOULS. And robbed us of priceless exhanges like this:

Harold: I think I might have flooded her.
Compo: (Glancing at Phoebe) Never mind, it doesn’t show…

Filth.

Andrew: Is it shameful to admit that I have no idea what a choke actually does, or rather did? I’m not sure if this is because I’ve never driven a car or because I’m – ahem – slightly younger than you.

Bob: It was basically a manual way of ‘choking’ the flow of air from the carburettor into the engine, so that more petrol would get through – it made the car easier to start when it was cold, and was all controlled by pulling out a little knob under the dashboard. Insert your own jokes here.

Bucket v0.2

Bucket v0.2

Oh, this class war stuff – as our heroes attempt to get the car started – has sparked into life an episode that was ambling a little bit. Clegg grumbles that he feels that the upper classes always take advantage of the lower, and Foggy’s conscience is split asunder when Harold and Phoebe offer him a crisp pound note as a gesture of thanks! It’s been firmly established over the years that he’s extremely tight-fisted, and turns pale at the prospect of buying a round of drinks – but if he accepts a financial reward from the posh knobs then he’s absolutely conceding that he’s NOT on their social footing! This is class-consciousness comedy worthy of Sgt Wilson and Captain Mainwaring. It’s sparkling.

Andrew: You just couldn’t have this scene in a sitcom today, could you? I’m in no way suggesting that we’ve suddenly become a classless society, but the principle doesn’t preoccupy the nation anywhere near as much as it seemed to in the 1970s and earlier.

Bob: I know my place. Oh, forget what I said about Captain Mainwaring – suddenly there are trousers flying off! Arthur Lowe would NEVER stand for trouser comedy… I believe he even had it written into his contract. I love trousers, though. Trousers ARE funny. You can get a lot of laughs from the humble trouser. I’ll NEVER stop laughing at a bit of trouser business.

Andrew: Absolutely – in the Gerry Anderson documentary I worked on last year, we received a big and unexpected giggle at the premiere when an HD scan of some behind the scenes footage revealed a rather unfortunate tear in the seat of the pants of the Four Feather Falls cameraman … it’s what he would have wanted.

Bob: A slightly mean-spirited end though, with everyone being rather nasty to each other – would our heroes really remove Wally’s trousers by force, so that Compo could wear them? Trousers AREN’T funny any more. Only an idiot would ever claim otherwise. Anyone laughing at trousers after this needs to take a good, hard look at themselves. Trousers? Pffffffft.

Andrew: Then, for no real reason, our trio are soaked by a farm’s irrigation system. It’s an odd one, this episode. Lots of lovely moments, but none of them really hang together to form a coherent whole. It would have made a lot more sense, plot wise, to have had Foggy wandering in to a café full of irate cyclists at the end of the episode. It would have neatly tied things together.

Bob: That was a curious episode of two halves… a gentle, ambling first half about the benefits of moorland camouflage; and then it turned on a sixpence and became a gripping little exercise in class conflict. I’m tempted to wonder if Roy Clarke had the opening of one episode, the climax to another and just decided to cut his losses and bung them both together? I’m not averse to that approach at all. It gave us the B-side of Abbey Road.