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Series 9 Episode 4: The Really Masculine Purse

 

S9E4gIn which Crusher fears he’s developed a squeak…

Bob: What an incredible view across the hills at the opening of this episode! I think this might be most we’ve ever seen of the Holme Valley in a single shot. There’s a reservoir just visible on the right-hand of the screen, too. Where we can we find that? We need to go there. I love a good reservoir.

Andrew: I think that now he knows how much Alan Bell is up for shooting on location, we’re going to see more of Roy Clarke’s love of the Yorkshire landscape coming across – a love that probably reaches its peak with the publication of 1989’s Summer Wine Country book. This scene also has a fantastic transition… from Seymour contemplating a Power behind the Universe to him immediately discounting it, due to his own lack of success in life.

We next see the trio travelling through the countryside via tractor, and a subtle bit of visual trickery. I’m 99% sure that stuntman Stuart Fell, rather than Bill Owen, is sitting on top of the tractor’s cab and that the reason the vehicle stops next to a gap in a dry stone wall is to allow the two performers to covertly switch positions. That’s some daredevil stunting right there!

Bob: I like the continuing character trait of Compo’s friends reminding him of Hollywood film stars, in increasingly unlikely fashions. Nora has previously reminded him of Dorothy Lamour, and now it’s Seymour that makes him think of the 1930s and 1940s Western movie legend Randolph Scott. Only from the back, though! It’s lovely that all of the celebrities in his head are from that golden age of Hollywood, too – all dating from around the time of the Second World War, when the young Compo was more than likely down the local flicks every other night. Like everyone, he’ll have a ‘cut-off point’ when it comes to popular culture… I bet he hasn’t seen a film made later than about 1965. It’s also the cue for a superb little Ronnie Hazlehurst ‘Cowboys and Injuns’ sting; it’s pure ‘get off your horse and drink your milk…’

I like this exchange, too:

Seymour: Would you know a cowslip if you saw one?
Compo: I didn’t know cows wore them….

What a long-lost item of lingerie is the humble ‘slip’! Do any women even wear them any more? I bet this confuses our American readers…

Andrew: In the cafè, our trio are charged 60p for three cups of tea. This is your department, Bob; how does that rate compare to what we’ve seen on the blackboard in previous series?

S9E4hBob: What do you think I am, some kind of insane obsessive? Anyway, it transpires that Seymour keeps his loose change in a small purse, something that Compo fears will fatally compromise the collective masculinity of all three of them! ‘Another tulip…’ he mutters. Although how can a man who looks like Randolph Scott from behind ever be considered effeminate? Nevertheless, we’re thrown into an episode that I’m going to pretentiously claim is an examination of traditional masculinity in the mid-1980s, and whether it even needs to be maintained in modern-day Britain. In the age of equality, is fair to consider a man a tulip for keeping his small change in a purse?

Andrew: Ivy’s reaction to Seymour’s counting out his change – much like her reaction to anything he does at this stage – isn’t a positive one, but Compo still suggests that Seymour ‘could be lucky there’. Is this a rare acknowledgement that Sid has passed on, as opposed to him just hiding upstairs somewhere?

Bob: Gosh, really? A suggestion of impending romance between Seymour and Ivy? The mind boggles. She’d never let a man like Seymour finger her buns.

Clegg is often referred to as the ‘philosophical’ member of the trio, so I’m delighted to point out that the following musing…

Clegg: How fortunate it is that your lips are at the front… if they were at the back, you’d never know what you were eating.

…is remarkably similar to a philosophy lecture that I once enjoyed at university. Yes, you read that right – I ENJOYED it! It was the final lecture of the autumn term in my first year, and the man at the lectern was the extraordinary Colin Lyas, a very respected philosophical writer, and a man who would illustrate complicated academic points by showing clips from Laurel and Hardy films in his bachelor flat on campus, while dishing out coffee and brandy to little gatherings of us pasty, wide-eyed students. He was utterly fabulous, and – in his final lecture before Christmas that year, a study of the theories of evolution vs intelligent design – said ‘I’ll leave you to mull this over during the festive season… is it any coincidence that the fur on a dog’s face stops in exactly the right places for its eyes?’

Pure Clegg, that. We should put together a Tao of Clegg compilation of his most profound utterings.

Andrew: Is the world ready for such a publication? Just look at the bother Mao’s Little Red Book got everybody in to.

From the philosophical to the physical, I’d like to draw everybody’s attention to the lovely little ballet that Compo dances, as he stands behind – and mimics – Seymour. We really must track down some of the original shooting scripts at some point, as I’d love to see how much of this kind of material was outlined by Clarke and how much was workshopped on location.

Bob: He’s a lovely little mover, Bill Owen. Anyway, back to the main theme of today’s lecture: gender stereotyping. Seymour makes it his mission to ‘rid the purse of all feminine associations’ so I guess the answer to my previous hypothesis is this: yes, in the age of equality, it IS fair to consider a man a tulip for keeping his small change in a purse. I like Clegg’s musing on Seymour ‘s diligence, too… ‘If people didn’t persevere, we’d never have such things as the Sinclair Electric Vehicle, or the Titanic!’

What a timely but unexpected reference to the Sinclair C5! Launched in 1985, it was computer magnate Sir Clive Sinclair’s ill-fated attempt to revolutionise the British transport system with a white, plastic buggy that was half-pedalled, half-electrified. For the benefit of our younger (and American) readers:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sinclair_C5

Only 5,000 were ever sold, and – by the time this episode aired in 1987 – they were already seen as something of a laughing stock. And there were plenty of them in stock.

S9E4fAndrew: There’s a rare burst of continuity here, as Seymour once again attempts to perfect his voice-activated front door lock. This time, ‘Codfanglers’ is out and ‘Marjorie’ is in, but our trio unfortunately aren’t – meaning Compo has to be stuffed through the pantry window. Once inside, we get to take in the faded Edwardian pomp of Seymour’s living room, adorned as it is with mementos of his old days as the headmaster of a boy’s school. The aesthetic is suddenly very All Creatures Great and Small, isn’t it?

Bob:  I’ve said it before, but Michael Aldridge would have made a brilliant 1970s Doctor Who. That front room is exactly how I’d imagine his TARDIS. Ronnie Hazlehurst is on sensational form here. too… as Seymour clatters away, unseen, in his workshop, his rhythmic hammering and sawing is turned into an almost-experimental little musical motif. It pretty much anticipates the entire 1990s output of Tom Waits.

Andrew: It’s an interestingly Radiophonic turn from Hazlehurst. Isn’t it also unusual to have this prominent a musical cue over a studio-bound scene? I may be wrong here, but I always associate the series’ score with its location work. It jarred me, anyway.

Bob: And ooh, another mid-1980s pop culture reference! ‘Right, little tatty Rambo…’ says Seymour to Compo, and indeed – in 1987 – Sylvester Stallone’s mumbling lunk was one of the best-known film characters on the planet. I even had a Rambo computer game for my Sinclair ZX Spectrum, so that ties everything together neatly, doesn’t it? This exchange also suggests that Seymour has a slightly more up-to-date knowledge of popular modern cinema than Compo, with his Randolph Scott and Dorothy Lamour obsessions.

Andrew: Speaking of cultural milestones I should probably point out that this is the final episode of Last of the Summer Wine to have premiered prior to me appearing on the scene. That is to say, this first screened on January 25th 1987, and I was forcefully brought screaming into the world with a pair of forceps, three days later! Obviously this makes little difference to us right now, but it will be interesting to see how my perceptions of the series change once we reach the episodes that I watched first time around.

Bob: Seymour’s solution to the problem of the non-masculine purse is to strap it to the ankle. I’ve got to say, if he launched that in 2018, it would likely become a hipster sensation. It’s a really good look.

S9E4dAnd… Wally Klaxon! WALLY! WALLY! WALLY! Oh, always a pleasure. Wally lends Compo his new boots to accommodate the ankle-strapped purse, grumbling in his own inimitable fashion that he needs ‘a bit of help breaking them in, anyway’. Do you still need to break in new shoes and boots, or do they come pre-broken in now? I can’t remember having done it since my late 1980s winklepicker phase. I just put new shoes straight on now, and they’re fine. Has there been a big footwear breakthrough at some point in the last thirty years?

Anyway…

Clegg: He’s not only married to Nora Batty, his boots are too tight.
Compo: Looks like real tough leather.
Clegg: She does to me…

Poetry.

Andrew: I know I keep saying this, but the knowledge that our time with Joe Gladwin in the series is coming to an end really does make each new scene with him feel extra special. This one really is a belter, though. At first he seems to be on a shorter leash than usual; barely making it past the front step. There’s a beautiful wistfulness to his dialogue too, amplified by a gorgeously sentimental and Chaplinesque musical cue.

Wally: I never get a chance to do things like that. You don’t when you’re married. She gives me security and full employment, but they’ve no idea how a bloke misses sheer stupidity.

Nora appears to escort him inside, of course, but she seems to do that with an extra air of tendernesss this time – at least by her own standards. I wonder if this is a slight acknowledgement of Gladwin’s waning health. This scene is so pitch perfect, in fact, that I almost wish it was the last time we got to see him.

This being Last of the Summe Wine, the air of melancholy is soon punctured by the sights of Compo’s trousers falling to his ankles. In something of a running theme, this trouser malfunction has been caused by the removal of another treasured memento of Nora – a purloined section of her clothes line. Spoken of in only the loftiest terms by Compo, he remembers her looking strikingly like Joan Crawford on that day. ‘Do you not mean Broderick Crawford?’ asks Clegg. For the sake of comparison…

Broderick Crawford Joan Crawford

Joan Crawford
Broderick Crawford

Bob: Our trio road-test the purse (and Wally’s squeaky boots, now sported by Compo) by catching the 356 bus from Blackmoorfoot to Dean Bottom. Was this a real bus route? I’m guessing so, and I’ve actually inadvertently answered my earlier questions in trying to look this up… Blackmoorfoot is clearly the home of the picturesque reservoir that I mentioned earlier!

Blackmoorfoot Reservoir

Andrew: It’s less the bus route and more the passengers themselves that fascinate me. Who are/were these people? I suspect they’re locals drafted into a bit of extra work. Are many of them still around to watch repeats of their starring moment on cable? Are their children and grandchildren thrilled to spot them? If you’re out there, get in touch!

Bob: There’s actually a bloke in the bus queue that’s a dead ringer for you! Glasses, beard, flat cap and blue cagoul. Have you time-travelled in Seymour’s TARDIS?

S9E4c
Anyway, Jane Freeman’s shriek when Compo dramatically lifts his leg to access the ankle-bound purse made me laugh out loud. This is a really funny climax, actually… just a marvellous bit of silly, physical comedy as Compo’s squeaky boots (in the background) coincide perfectly with Crusher’s dainty stroll around the front of the café. And Jonathan Linsley is SUPERB! ‘I’m only a lad, and I’ve been struck down with squeaky boots…’ he gasps, his face a mask of terror. What a fine piece of smalltown nonsense. There’s something truly heart-warming about the silliness of all this.

Andrew: Fantastic direction, too. For the second time in this review I’m going to invoke Charlie Chaplin. If I was to sum up Bell’s visual style in one word then that word would have to be ‘depth’. The way in which the action is framed, with Crusher bouncing in the foreground and Compo pacing in the background. conveys the gag in such a visual manner that you would still get the joke if the sound was turned off. That’s good storytelling!

S9E4aI also feel the need to note that we get to see Wally and his whippet again. I know this goes against what I was saying earlier about being content for the previous scene to be his farewell, but this is a joy.

Bob: And we end, as we began, with a glorious bit of direction from Alan Bell! A lovely final shot of Compo’s wellies teetering along a dry stone wall, with Seymour and Clegg frame in the background. Combine it with Seymour’s musings on mechanical trousers…

Seymour: You press a button, and out comes your small change.
Compo: I had a pair of trousers like that…

… and you’ve got the perfect combination of smut and beautiful scenery. That was a nice, gentle little episode that meandered along in a rather lovely, understated fashion. It’s been a very enjoyable series so far.

Andrew: That, I think, is about as good an episode as Clarke has written to date. A perfect blend of silliness, whimsy, and the oh-so-subtle grit that makes the series what it is. I much prefer the more grounded, yet equally ludicrous invention from Seymour this time around. I bet the series’ budget did, too!

12 comments

  • Visit site
    June 6, 2018 8:20 amPosted 6 months ago
    Keith Davies

    Superb guys

    Reply
    • Visit site
      June 6, 2018 8:43 amPosted 6 months ago
      Bob Fischer

      Thanks, Keith!

      Reply
  • Visit site
    June 6, 2018 8:52 amPosted 6 months ago
    Jonathan Linsley

    Excellent work as always gentlemen 🙂

    Reply
    • Visit site
      June 6, 2018 9:29 amPosted 6 months ago
      Bob Fischer

      Aw, cheers Mr L. Honestly, your squeaky boots routine in this is magnificent.

      Reply
  • Visit site
    June 6, 2018 9:34 amPosted 6 months ago
    Chris Orton

    I love the rare appearances of Wally’s miserable dog. You wouldn’t think that anything alive could possibly look as forlorn as Wally, but this hound is surely it.

    I’m AMAZED that he’s even allowed to have a dog!

    Reply
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      June 6, 2018 4:24 pmPosted 6 months ago
      Bob Fischer

      There was a backstory to Wally’s whippet… he and Nora were up on the moors in their motorcycle combination when it started following them. Wally hid it in his leather jacket, much to Nora’s disapproval… but she eventually gave in and let him keep it.

      Drew will be along shortly to tell you the exact episode in which all of this took place.

      Reply
      • Visit site
        June 6, 2018 9:24 pmPosted 6 months ago
        Andrew T. Smith (Author)

        Uncle of the Bride of course!

        Reply
        • Visit site
          June 7, 2018 9:30 amPosted 6 months ago
          Bob Fischer

          There you go, doddle.

          Reply
  • Visit site
    June 6, 2018 9:47 amPosted 6 months ago
    Nick Griffiths

    Now here is another example of cheating memory, for ages I recalled this one as being a Foggy episode, don’t know why.

    I wonder what happened to the dog after Wally’s gone. Does it get mentioned? Come to that, what about his pigeons?

    Reply
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      June 6, 2018 12:53 pmPosted 6 months ago
      Andrew T. Smith (Author)

      As a practicing Ancient Egyptian, Wally was entombed with all of his earthly posessions, dog, and pidgeon loft.

      Reply
      • June 6, 2018 2:45 pmPosted 6 months ago
        Nick Griffiths

        Sounds more likely then Nora looking after them. At a push I could imagine Compo might look after the pigeons, take them to market and see how many times he sell them before getting rumbled.

        Reply
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          June 6, 2018 4:26 pmPosted 6 months ago
          Bob Fischer

          Ha! I once had a radio listener who told me this exact story… whenever his Grandad was of a few bob, he’d sell his homing pigeon to some unsuspecting punter down the pub, pocket the cash, and just wait for the bird to fly back the moment it got the chance. Repeat until rumbled.

          Reply

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