By Vivian Stanshall
"English as tuppence, changing yet changeless as canal water, nestling in green nowhere,
armoured and effete, bold flag-bearer, lotus-fed Miss Havishambling opsimath
and eremite, feudal still, reactionary Rawlinson End.
"The story so far..."
- Sir Henry Rawlinson
- Lady Florrie Rawlinson (née Maynard)
- Ralph (`Raif') Rawlinson, son
- Candice Rawlinson, daughter
- Hubert, Henry's younger brother
- Humbert, Henry's dead older brother, now a ghost
- Lord Tarquin Portly of Staines (née Maynard), Florrie's brother
- Lady Phillipa of Staines (née Maynard), his wife
- Old Scrotum the Wrinkled Retainer, the butler
- Mrs. E, the housekeeper
- Seth One-Tooth, landlord of the Fool and Bladder
- Reg Smeeton, Newsagent and walking encyclopedia
- Mr. Cumberpatch, the former gardener
- An elfin tissue curdled [Florrie's] mind with muted chimera.
Through dancing-dark, neon-bright, saraband eels,
gauzes of filmy Fellini, glimpses further than the rocket fathoms,
rythmic, fading and in unending procession.
- It was chill but a beautiful morning. During the night soft snow mattressed the
vast acreage of Rawlinson. Yet, defiant, hoyden heralds thrust emerald from the
woodlands and window boxes of nearby Concreton.
A pale Sun poked impudent marmalade fingers through the grizzled lattice glass
and sent the shadows scurrying, like convent girls menaced by a tramp.
Gorgeous beyond imagining were brassy hoars of winter-depression-fierce
daffodils blaring yellow-white reveille and croci, gingering the lawns in
- "Filth hounds of Hades!"
Sir Henry Rawlinson surfaced from the blackness, hot and fidgety, fuss, bother and itch,
conscious mind coming up too fast for the bends, through pack-ice thrubbing
seas, boom-sounders, blow-holes, harsh-croak Blind Pews tip-tap-tocking for
escape from his pressing skull.
With a gaseous grunt he rolled away from the needle-cruel light acupuncuring his
pickle-onion eyes, and with key-bending will slit-peered at the cold trench
Florrie had left on her side of the bed. Tongue like yesterday's fried cod:
"Mind over batter? Tongue sandwiches? Bleah! Eat what? But it's been in somebody
else's mouth!" Black spot! The Blind Pews were now thrashing with their canes.
"God's turban and tutu! Do I need a dare of the hog?"
He reached for the bellrope, yanked savagely to summon the housekeeper, and
discovered himself, nighty round his waist, turned tortoise on the rug.
Paralysis lasted... scarce a blink but with impotent rage he bellied his
unwilling hulk to the wardrobe. Cold comfort, as his palsied hand found the
shotgun. Good stock. "Roll over!" One action: commando stuff. "Cock over!"
Safety off, both barrels through the ceiling. Stunned shock and then Henry's
eruptive bellow "Mrs. E!". The plaster had not setted before the housekeeper stood
lurcher-backed at-your-servile-sir in the room.
"Yes?" she said.
"I don't know what I want but I want it now".
"Fried or fried?"
"With or without, dear?"
"Within. Get out."
"Fried, without... Mmm... Off, dear."
- Some of Sir Henry's wisdom:
- "If I had all the money I'd spent on drink, I'd spend it on drink".
- "That was inedible muck and there wasn't enough of it".
- "After-life, after-shave: I don't hold with any of it."
From the Kilroy's Renaissance pamphlet (1982), by Debbie Schaefer:
- Trevor Howard: Sir Henry Rawlinson
- Vivian Stanshall: Hubert Rawlinson
- Henry Magee: Rev. Slodden
- Harry Fowler: Buller Bullethead
- JG Devlin: Scrotum (footnote)
- Denise Coffey: Mrs. E.
- Sheila Reid: Lady Florrie Rawlinson
- Suzanne Danielle: Candice Rawlinson
- Daniel Gerroll: Ralph Rawlinson
- Ben Aris: Lord Tarquin of Staines
- Liz Smith: Lady Phillipa of Staines
- Jeremy Child: Peregrin Maynard
- Vernon Dudley Bohay-Nowell: Nigel Nice
- Talfryn Thomas: Teddy Tidy
- Simon Jones: Joachim
- Gary Waldhorn: Max
- Written by Vivian Stanshall and Steve Roberts.
- Music composed by Vivian Stanshall.
- Charisma Films, 1980, black & white.
- Locations: Knebworth House and Gloucestershire.
- Produced by Tony Stratton-Smith.
- Directed by Steve Roberts
The film broke box office records during its London run but in the
U.S., despite critical acclaim, was poorly promoted and only
played in New York and Los Angeles.
However, for a different view, here's what the (anonymous) film
reviewer of the Radio Times said of the film in the 22nd March 1997
edition. I think it says more about the reviewer than the film.
A mercifully brief, and smirkingly unfunny, British oddity, with Trevor
Howard as an eccentric, boozy aristocrat at odds with an army of characters
seemingly left over from other comedies. The Goon Show it isn't,
though it would like to be. And the fault lies firmly at the door of former
Bonzo Dog (Doo Dah) Band member, the late Vivian Stanshall, who wrote
the film and contributed the music to it.
Mike Weaver reckons that there's a WS Gilbert (not Gilbert & Sullivan) comic opera from which Vivian
nicked Scrotum the wrinkled retainer and Baron Tostoff the ruined Pole.
(1995) Q: The same as the Steve Roberts who worked on
Max Headroom? (c1985)
(2003) A: Yes, according to IMDB.
(Autumn 2002) The Radio Times mentioned that J.G. Devlin and
Ronnie Fraser were second choice for Steptoe and Son if
Harry H. Corbett and Wilfred Brambell had been unavailable.