BROADCAST: 6 Dec 1955 [1]

Script by Spike Milligan

GREENSLADE: This is the BBC Home Service. Now here is a record.
GRAMS: (Recording) GRAMS: Surface hiss of old gramophone record.
                          Greenslade: (Over) This is the BBC Home Service.
GREENSLADE: Thank you. We present the story of Fred Fu Manchu and his Bamboo Saxophone.
ORCHESTRA: Tatty chord in C. Cymbal snap.
SELLERS: [2] Now let us turn back the clock to the year 1895 – the year of the Great Exhibition at the Crystal Palace. [3]
ORCHESTRA: Fanfare – quasi William Walton.
GRAMS: Crowd murmuring. Add echo as if in a large hall.
PATSY HAGEN: My Lords, ladies and gentlemen! We come now to the concluding round of the world's international heavyweight saxophone contest. From the Orient, with his bamboo saxophone – Fred Fu Manchu! [4]
GRAMS: Light clapping.
FU MANCHU:[5] I thank you all.
PATSY HAGEN: And on my right, representing the Empire and wearing a kilt, a
shamrock, four leeks and a thistle, with a turban made out of our glorious Union Jack, Major Dennis Bloodnok – an Englishman!
GRAMS: Football crowd cheering.
BLOODNOK: Oh argh!
PATSY HAGEN: Thank you! Thank you! First we will give a fair hearing to Mr Fred Fu Manchu.
FU MANCHU: I thank you. (Clears throat) Ahem.
ORCHESTRA: Saxophone solo (in the style of Rudy Wiedoeft) 'Valse Vanité' (Final 8 bars.) Played floridly with lots of slap tongue and nanny goat vibrato.[6]
PATSY HAGEN: And now the British contender – Major Bloodnok!
GRAMS: Vast applause.
BLOODNOK: Thank you. Thank you. (Clears throat) Ahem.
ORCHESTRA: Saxophone solo. Single note.
GRAMS: Huge crowd cheering. Massed applause. Fade in ‘Last Night of the Proms’ crowd singing 'Land of Hope and Glory’ – final four bars.[7] Swell applause.
PATSY HAGEN: Quiet! Quiet please! Quiet! Settle down. By the merest chance, it so happens that Major Bloodnok's name is already engraved on this magnificent silver cup.
FU MANCHU: STOP! STOP! Ahhahheia! English people most dishonest. I make terrible revenge on white man!
ORCHESTRA: Dramatic link.
GREENSLADE: 'The Fearful Revenge of Fred Fu Manchu, the disappointed oriental
bamboo saxophonist. Chapter One – ‘A Blow Is Struck’.
FX: Blackjack on punching bag.
SELLERS: [8] Chapter Two – ‘Funeral Of An Announcer’.
GRAMS: Funeral march – vary the speed widely. 
HARRY: Chapter Three.
GRAMS: Gradually fade in the sound of bubbling liquid underneath. Hold under.
GREENSLADE: The scene is in Outer Mongolia, where within a life-sized reproduction
of the Kremlin, three sinister figures are stooped over a hellish brew in a magnificently equipped laboratory.
CAST: (Various wicked Oriental babblings.)
FU MANCHU: Listen to me! Oh Boy! – you see this liquid here? It will bling just letlibution on all white men for foul tlick played on me at Clystal Plarrallack Ellexpollition. CAST: (More wicked Oriental babblings.)
FU MANCHU: Listen boys! – anybody dlinking one dlop of this liquid will immediately explode at anything he points at. Oh boy! Now we have plenty fun with white devils.
SECOMBE: (Chinese) But how are we going to get fatal liquid dlunk by stlupid white man?
FU MANCHU: It is vlery slimple. Put in whiskey bottle and leave bottle in Hyde Plark.
ORCHESTRA: Passage of time.
BLOODNOK: (Approaches singing) Ah! Here I am, six months later, in Hyde Park. And see! – someone has put a naughty bottle of whiskey by my ancestral home, i.e. the dustbin. Any questions? Ooo! – and whaat! Unless I am much mistaken I am about to open the bottle.
FX: Champagne cork.
BLOODNOK: Thank you. (Drinks) Argh! That's better.
GRAMS: Hand grenade explosion.
BLOODNOK: Manners!
FU MANCHU: (Approaching) Ahhh, pardon me please.
BLOODNOK: What do you want, you fiendish yellow devil carrying a bamboo saxophone? Are you one of those Boxer villains?[9]
FU MANCHU: Pardon?
BLOODNOK: Have you never heard of the Boxer Rising?
FU MANCHU: Only after the count of ten.
BLOODNOK: I don't wish to know that.
FU MANCHU: Neither do audience. Now listen klind fliend, will do honolable flavour for me, please?
BLOODNOK: What do you want me to do? What do you want me to do? How much? Anything for money, you know – anything… Here's the advertisement I put in the paper. Look here,  'Wanted – money! No reasonable offer refused.’
FU MANCHU: Now, please. Here, take five shilling. Now, point finger at policeman over there.
GRAMS: Distant sharp explosion.
BLOODNOK: Good heavens, I've exploded a Constabule. I've never known a copper 
go so far. What does this mean?
FU MANCHU: It means you will point at everythling I tell you and POOF!
BLOODNOK: I won't do it. I won’t do it – d’you hear me! You'll have to force me.
FU MANCHU: What with?
FU MANCHU: Velly well. But you are my plisoner. Only I can remove your fatal plower. Raise hands and ears above head please, and follow me. 
BLOODNOK: (Self fade) You've got me. You got me! (Suddenly very close.) But don't worry, dear listeners. I will secretly type a help note and leave it with a life-like oil-portrait of this yellow fiend underneath a convenient stone, along with this recording of Max Geldray. There.
MAX GELDRAY -  `Exactly Like You' [10]
GREENSLADE: The Dreadful Revenge of...  er... that fellow -- you know, that chap with the explodable finger... What's his I'll get it in a minute. Don't go away... erm…
SELLERS: (Very close) I'd like to tell listeners that Mr Greenslade is the only BBC
announcer not so far approached by commercial television.[11]
GREENSLADE: I've got it! ‘Fred Fu Manchu’ part two.
SEAGOON: (You’ll get it one day, Greenslade.) Ahem. That night I was in my office at Scotland Yard listening to the commercial television with the picture turned down.
GRAMS: Recording (Distorted) ELLINGTON: We interrupt this advertisement to give
police message. Scotland Yard anxious to contact man with explodable finger, accompanied by sinister Chinaman who have already blown up twenty-seven thousand metal saxophones. Birmingham – four, Arsenal – nil, cor-blimey.[12]
FX: Click of television set being turned off.
SEAGOON: Sergeant!
SEAGOON: This is terrible! 
SEAGOON: Birmingham four, Arsenal nil. Yes, and then there’s that dreadful Chinese saxophone destroyer. My honour as Chief Commissioner depends upon his instant apprehension. 
FX: Coconut shells under Seagoon’s following declamation.
FX: Door opens smartly.
MORIARTY: A thousand pounds for what? What? What? What?
GRYTPYPE: (Aside) Let me do the talking, Moriarty. (Aloud) Our card.
SEAGOON: What's this? (Reads) Grytpype-Thynne and Moriarty, Eiffel Tower Specialists. That's no good to me. I want men to track down a saxophone exploder.
GRYTPYPE: Exactly. These Eiffel Towers are simply a disguise. Moriarty, take off your Eiffel Tower would you. 
MORIARTY: (Strains)
GRYTPYPE: There! You can see underneath he's wearing his anti-saxophone exploding set.
SEAGOON: The very men I want! Get Fred Fu Manchu.
MORIARTY: Oooiehaha! What about the money… the money?
SEAGOON: I'll give you an advance. Here's an oil painting of a cheque for three hundred pounds.[13]
GRYTPYPE: Good, good. Moriarty, take this to the Royal Academy and cash it.
GRAMS: Single whoosh.
GRYTPYPE: Back to the case. Now then, Neddie, whom do you suspect?
SEAGOON: The referee. He was obviously on Birmingham's side. I mean, Arsenal should have been three up by half time, till Fred Nurk...
GRYTPYPE: I know that. I meant the saxophone exploder.
SEAGOON: Oh yes… Fred Fu Manchu. He's trying to finish Britain as a saxophone-playing nation.
GRYTPYPE: Gad, that goes pretty deep. Well it’s obvious we've got to stop him. Where is this fiend?
SEAGOON: I'm told he's in the vicinity.
GRYTPYPE: Then we must wait until he comes out.
SEAGOON: But he'll recognize us in these uniforms of plain-clothes men.
GRYTPYPE: Then we shall disguise ourselves. I know, you put on Moriarty's Eiffel Tower and I'll walk behind him in mine.
SEAGOON: But wait! If Fu Manchu sees two Eiffel Towers together, he'll know one of them is a phoney.
GRYTPYPE: Neddie, you have a sharp mind.[14] Two Eiffel Towers must never be seen
together. Take it off and we'll use my portable Nelson's column instead. You stand on top and I'll wheel you along.
SEAGOON: Yes, but won't that be rather conspicuous?
GRYTPYPE: Certainly not, Neddie. I'll enclose the whole thing in a cardboard replica of Charing Cross Station.
SEAGOON: To think I doubted you! Have this water-colour of a cheque for 50 pounds.
GRYTPYPE: Thank you. Moriarty!
GRAMS: Whoosh
MORIARTY: Hoihoieiah! Yes, yes?
GRYTPYPE: Take this to the Royal Institute of Water-Colour Painters and have it
changed into woodcuts.
GRAMS: Whoosh
GRYTPYPE: Now then Neddie, are you on top of the column? 
SEAGOON: (Distant) YES!
GRYTPYPE: Right! Off we go!
SEAGOON: (Distant) Curse these blasted pigeons!
GRAMS: Fade in sound of central London traffic.
GREENSLADE: And so, disguised as Charing Cross Station on wheels, they moved
cautiously up the Strand until they were suddenly halted at the Adelphi by a familiar voice.[15]
BLOODNOK: Roll up there! Roll up! Tonight for one night only, Jim Fu Manchu – amazing oriental conjurer, no relation to naughty Fred. Seats at the box office, or at a slight reduction, from me personally, a magnificent, simulation _______ here. [16]
SEAGOON: (Aside) Look, look – Dennis Bloodnok, the confederate of Fu Manchu! Jim must be Fred in disguise. Ha! No Chinaman could have a name like Jim!
MORIARTY: Neddie, we've got him! You cover the back and we'll cover the front.
GRYTPYPE: … and that's how he got away at the side.
GRAMS: Excited Chinese gabbling like Keystone Cops. Car revving up fast and driving away.
SEAGOON: There he goes!
FX: Two pistol shots.
MORIARTY: I think you've wounded him. Yes! Look! Here's a trail of fresh noodles.
SEAGOON: After him! Quick! Into the squad car and hold tight.
GRAMS: Recording of a rag and bone man’s horse and cart on cobbled street. Hold under.
SEAGOON: Can't you go any faster?
MORIARTY: Of course. Giddup!
GRAMS: Speed up horse and cart recording to top speed.
GRAMS: Recording stops instantly.
SEAGOON: We've reached a crossroads.
MORIARTY: Wait! The trail of noodles has stopped and continues with preserved
SEAGOON: We must hurry – he's reached his last course. Which road has he taken?
MORIARTY: The one to Dewsbury. All Jews lead to the Dewsbury.[17]
SEAGOON: (I don’t wish to know that.) Then we haven't a moment to lose. Giddup there!
GRAMS: Horse and cart recording continues at normal speed. Gradually speed it up.
GREENSLADE: Dewsbury! That was the significant word. As Seagoon well knew, in
Dewsbury resided the player-owner of the last remaining metal saxophone in England.
GRAMS: Bubbling cauldron, continuing under.
ORCHESTRA: Corny hot saxophone solo: "Yellow Rose of Texas" [18]
FX: Terrific burst of steam.
BANNISTER: (Screams) Aahhhhh! Ohh dear, dear. Oohh…
CRUN: Keep it still, Minnie. Keep still. Hold that saxophone still.
BANNISTER: But it's getting hot, Henry.
CRUN: I don't care, Minnie. How can I get this jet of green steam up it if you jiggle about?
BANNISTER: Why do I have to have a jet of green steam up my saxophone?[19]
CRUN: I keep telling you – that naughty saxophone exploder Fred Fu Manchu, is after your saxophone and this green steam will immunize it. Now, once again. One...two...
SAXOPHONE: Corny solo – “In the Mood” [20]
FX: Terrific burst of steam as before.
BANNISTER: (screams) Aahhhhoohoio!
CRUN: No, that's no good, Min. You were playing the wrong tune. It must be 'The Yellow Man from Texas'.
BANNISTER: I'm sick and tired of playing that one, buddy.
CRUN: Then play the modern rhythm style 'Riding on a Rainbow' and I'll put on this record of Mr Ray Ellington to accompany you.
SAXOPHONE: Corny solo – first line of Ellington’s number. Segue without a break.
RAY ELLINGTON QUARTET -  "Riding on a Rainbow" [21]
GREENSLADE: That was Ray Ellington of whom it has been said. Next we present 'The Dreaded Revenge of Fred Fu Manchu', part four – (and I quote, “Part Four”). The story up to now. By passing him twice, Seagoon managed to reach the Bannister residence ahead of the dreaded Fu Manchu.
SEAGOON: Now to organise the defence. Who'll volunteer?
BLUEBOTTLE: (Approaching) I will, my capitain, I will. Enter Balloon-bottle, son of the regiment with cardboard water pistol and water in empty lemonade bottle.
SEAGOON: Noble lad. Bluebottle, from the right – number!
SEAGOON: Curse! Sixty-two deserters. Oh, if we only had some more idiots to make up the number.
ECCLES: (Approaching, singing) Twenty tiny fingers, 
                                      twenty tiny toes, 
                                      dat’s my boy... [22]
SEAGOON: You! From the right – number!
SEAGOON: Eccles, form fours!
GRAMS: Recording of regiment performing squad drill – form fours.[23]
SEAGOON: Let's see them do that on television! Now Bluebottle, take this stick of dynamite.
BLUEBOTTLE: No, I don't like this game.
SEAGOON: Shut up!
ECCLES: Shut up!
SEAGOON: Shut up, Eccles!
ECCLES: Shut up, Eccles!
SEAGOON: Now, if you see Fu Manchu come up that road, light the fuse, count scramson and throw it under his car. Understand?
SEAGOON: Good! Farewell.
GRAMS: Whoosh
BLUEBOTTLE: You're going to light the nice stick of dynamite, aren't you?
ECCLES: Yeah, yeah.
BLUEBOTTLE: How many have you got to count up to before it explodes?
ECCLES: Ooo... um... I dunno.
BLUEBOTTLE: Well, you'd better light it and count how long it takes. Then you'll know, won't you?
ECCLES: Oh, yeah. I'll light it now.
BLUEBOTTLE: NO, NO! NOT YET! Wait till I get behind that tree.
GRAMS: Whoosh.
BLUEBOTTLE: (Distant) It’s all right!
GRAMS: Match struck and fizzle continuing under.
ECCLES: One... two... three... (Pause) four... five... um… six... It's getting difficult here... Ah!... seven. Good job I went to college.
BLUEBOTTLE: (Distant) What are you waiting for, Eccles?
ECCLES: (Shouts) What comes after seven?
BLUEBOTTLE: (Distant) What did you say? I can't hear what is you say.
ECCLES: (Shouts) I said, ‘What comes after seven?” 
BLUEBOTTLE: (Distant) I can’t HEAR you!
ECCLES: (Shouts) Ok. I’ll come over.
BLUEBOTTLE: (Distant) No, no, no, no! Do not bring that dreaded dynamite over here to me. I’ll come over to you. (Approaching) Now then, what is it?
ECCLES: Well, I want to know…
GRAMS: Enormous explosion. Hiss stops.
ECCLES: Bluebottle! (Calls out) Bluebottle! Oooooh... What's this custard on the wall?
BLUEBOTTLE: (Off mic) Don't you touch me, you rotten swine you. Scrape me off and take me home.
SEAGOON: Keep quiet, you two.[24] I'm just about to knock at the Minnie Bannister Home for part five of the fearful Fu Manchu Story.
FX: Knocking on door.
BANNISTER: Ooh! Who's there?
SEAGOON: (Distant) It’s me.
BANNISTER: Henry, there's a man called 'Me' at the door.
CRUN: Me? He'll have to prove it. (Calls out) You out there!
SEAGOON: (Distant) Yes?
CRUN: Prove you're me.
SEAGOON: (Distant) All right. I'm Henry Crun.
CRUN: That's me Minnie, yes. Min, open the door and let him in.
BANNISTER: But you ARE in, Henry.
CRUN: Well, you'll have to let me out again, won’t you.
CRUN: Because I'm out there waiting to come in.
BANNISTER: Oh, very well.
FX: Door opens.
SEAGOON: Ah, thank you.
FX: Door closes.
SEAGOON: Now then, Mr Crun, I want to warn you that…
FX: Knocking at door.
CRUN: Who's that out there?
BANNISTER: (Distant) It's me. You've locked me out.
CRUN: Nonsense. Me just came in. He's here now.
BANNISTER: (Distant) No, no. Me – Minnie.
SEAGOON: Good heavens! Quick! That's the woman I'm here to protect. Open the
CRUN: Very well. But I must let Minnie in first.
FX: Door opens.
BANNISTER: Ooh. Thank you, Henry.
CRUN: That's all right, Min. Now then dear, what were you…
FX: Knocking on door.
CRUN: Who's there?
SEAGOON: (Distant) It's me. She isn't here.
CRUN: Rubbish. She IS here, aren't you, Min?
BANNISTER: Yes, I'm here, Henry.
SEAGOON: (Distant) Well, you're not out HERE.
BANNISTER: Oh. Are you sure?
SEAGOON: (Distant) Yes. Come out and have a look.
FX: Door opens.
BANNISTER: (Distant) You're right. I'm not here. Help! I'm lost! We'll all be murdered in our beds! Oooh! [25]
SAXOPHONE SOLO: (Distant) 'Valse Vanite'. 
SEAGOON: Listen! That's Fred Fu Manchu playing his dreaded oriental bamboo
saxophone and the swine is playing in a different key.
MORIARTY: Quick! We must fly. He's closing in from all directions.
FX: Door bursts open.
BLOODNOK: Aiaough! Don't move, anyone! I've got you covered with my finger!
SEAGOON: Bloodnok – you treacherous renegade!
BLOODNOK This is no time for compliments. Where's that last English saxophone, ehi? Come on!
BANNISTER:  I won't show it to you.
BLOODNOK: What?! It's Minnie… Minnie Bannister, the darling of Roper's Light
Horse! (Also the darling of his heavy one.)[26]
BANNISTER: Oh, Dennis! Daring Dennis…
BLOODNOK: Ohh Darling, dance with me.
GRAMS: ‘Blue Danube’ waltz – vary the speed wildly.
SEAGOON: (Over) Stop this! Stop this, you crazy Sabrina and Michael Wilding![27]
GRAMS: Music stops.
BLOODNOK: Yes, I was forgetting my duty to friend Fu Manchu.[28] Now then, where's the saxophone, ehi? I intend to destroy it with my explodable finger.
ECCLES: Over my dead body!
GRAMS: Explosion
BLOODNOK: That's that settled!
SEAGOON: Bloodnok, you've killed the noble Eccles!
SEAGOON: Congratulations.
ECCLES: Yeah! Well done!
SEAGOON: Shut up, Eccles!
ECCLES: Shut up, Eccles!
BLOODNOK: Shut up Eccles. Enough of these pleasantries. Now where's that saxophone? Fu Manchu promised me ten pounds to destroy it.
SEAGOON: I'll give you fifteen pounds to join us.
BLOODNOK: The swine Fu Manchu can't buy me with money!
SEAGOON: Oh, noble Englishman!
BLOODNOK: Never mind that. Where's the cash?
FX: Cash register. Coin in till.
BLOODNOK: Ohh, the old Jewish piano. 
FX: Door bursts open.
FU MANCHU: Ah! Fiendish Bloodnok, you have betlayed me. I point explodable finger
at you. Take that!
GRAMS: Explosion.
SEAGOON: Gad! He's got Bloodnok.
GRAMS: Three quick explosions.
FU MANCHU: There! Have destloyed evellybody except you, Mister Seagoon and
SEAGOON: No, no, no! Spare our lives and I'll give you the last metal saxophone to destroy.
FU MANCHU: Oh boy! Hot toddy! Now I will be champion bamboo saxophonist of Universe.
GRAMS: Typing. Double the speed. Fade under.
SEAGOON: As he spoke, I surreptitiously typed a short note to Grytpype-Thynne and passed it to him.
GRYTPYPE: (Opening letter) Oh Neddie, listen – a letter from you. 
SEAGOON: Really? What does it say?
GRYTPYPE: (Reads) “Dear Grytpype, while I engage this bamboo saxophonist in mortal conversation, slip round under his kimono and bore a few holes in his bamboo saxophone.”
FU MANCHU: Please, no so loud – I can hear you.
GRYTPYPE: I'm sorry. (Reads again) “P.S. Don't let him hear you reading this letter or it will mean certain death for both of us.”
GRAMS: Two explosions.
GREENSLADE: And, by George, he was right. Tickets are now on sale in the foyer for
tonight's recital by Fred Fu Manchu, the world's only bamboo saxophonist. I thank you.
SAXOPHONE SOLO: 'Valse Vanite'. Fade under.
GREENSLADE: All complaints about the Goon Show should be addressed to 'Life with
the Lyons', Alexandra Palace, West Croydon – so good night.[29]
GRAMS: Short, sharp explosion
FU MANCHU: Oh boy! I got him, too!
ORCHESTRA: Theme music.
GREENSLADE: That was the Goon Show, a BBC recorded programme featuring Peter Sellers, Harry Secombe and Spike Milligan, with the Ray Ellington Quartet and Max Geldray. The orchestra was conducted by Wally Stott, script by Spike Milligan, announcer Wallace Greenslade, the programme produced by Peter Eton.
ORCHESTRA: Playout.[30]


[1] This show is one of six shows from the sixth series that were published during Milligan’s lifetime. As is common with many of Milligan’s published scripts, it is slightly at variance with the broadcast version, probably due to the fact that Milligan wrote the book using uncorrected scripts which were missing the changes made prior to the performance and which omitted the improvisations which occurred during the taping (eg: Sellers was in the habit of adding “d’you see” to the end of many of Grytpype’s lines), and also due to the fact that Milligan, a decade later,  inevitably fiddled with his own material before publication.

The idea for this show comes from the famous fictional character ‘Dr. Fu-Manchu’ who appeared from 1912 onwards in a succession of mystery novels written by the English author Arthur Henry Sarsfield Ward (1883-1959). Invested with “all the cruel cunning of an entire eastern race”, with the “accumulated resources of all sciences past present and future”, Dr. Fu-Manchu was the “yellow peril invested in one man.” Dr Fu Manchu and his other accomplices appeared regularly in books, magazines and films during the 20’s and 30’s, (eg: ‘The Mask of Fu Manchu’ starring Boris Karloff – 1932), making their author one of the most widely read and most highly paid magazine writers of his day.

The one thing about Ward which connects him to this Milliganesque tale of wicked musical revenge, is the fact that Ward used as his nom-de-plume the name Sax Rohmer. Undoubtedly Milligan had come to know Sax Rohmer’s name and his characters when he was a teenager. With adolescence also came Spike’s growing love of jazz and it is not absurd to imagine that somehow or other the title and the author’s name became associated in Spike’s fertile mind with the concept of an arch oriental villain who played the sax.

And played it very well too. The saxophone solos in this episode are all compositions of an extraordinary American saxophonist, Rudy Wiedoeft (1893-1940). His novelty solos, written in the ‘Tin-Pan-Alley’ style of post 1920’s jazz and usually for a ‘C-melody saxophone’ (see ‘Robin Hood and His Merry Men’ - SP/7th series ), made fiendish technical demands on the jazz performer –  using technical agility, strong musical line, effects like ‘slap-tonguing’, ‘laughing’ and chock tones, underlying the saxophone’s brilliance and its daring social reputation. The idea of a fiendish Chinese villain with all the world’s technical resources at his fingertips, who is also a saxophone virtuoso possessing the most bizarre technical facility, blends well in Milligan’s story, an amalgam of characteristics straight out of the underworld of the 1920’s.

[2] In a serious Edwardian tone.


[3] An obscure piece of nonsense; Milligan seems to have plucked the date out of a hat. The Crystal Palace was a glass palace designed by Joseph Paxton for the Great Exhibition, an international exhibition of Industry and Design, which opened in Hyde Park in 1851. Three years later the building was dismantled and moved to Sydenham where, after a fire in 1866, part of the complex was developed as a marine aquarium, so that Londoners might enjoy the therapeutic benefits of natural sea water upon the human body. In the 1890’s it became an underground zoo for monkeys. When in 1936 it was destroyed by fire, Spike Milligan’s cowboy-obsessed father observed the spectacular blaze through binoculars from the family home in Catford. “Navajo!” he said.  (‘Monty – His Part in My Victory’ – Michael Joseph 1976 – p35.)


[4] It is likely that Spike has ‘Gentleman Jim Corbett’ in the back of his mind when writing this scene. Corbett (1866-1933) an American heavyweight boxer, was called ‘the father of modern boxing’ and whose rise to fame was chronicled in the 1942 movie ‘Gentleman Jim’ starring Errol Flynn and Alexis Smith. The only mention of Patsy Hagen I can find is as the referee of an early fight between Corbett and Joe Choynski in 1889.


[5] Milligan, in cod Chinese.


[6] Rudy Wiedoeft (1893-1940) wrote Valse Vanité in 1923. In the decade of the 20’s there was a worldwide craze for the saxophone and Wiedoeft , one of the first true virtuosos of the instrument, organised the first US concert devoted entirely to the instrument on April 17, 1926. The concert was broadcast across the US and featured transcriptions of classical compositions as well as original works. During the last years of his life Wiedoeft fell foul of his flamboyant lifestyle, ill advised mining investments, alcohol abuse and on occasions his armed wife, dying in 1940 of cirrhosis of the liver. The laughter one hears during the saxophone performance is likely to have come from the band.


[7] Milligan’s published script says that the crowd sings ‘There’ll Always Be An England.’ My ears hear the phrase as “… make her mightier yet.”, which is the final line of ‘Land of Hope and Glory’ (Benson/Elgar.)


[8] Sellers reads this in a voice almost certainly based on the refined tones of Alvar Liddell (1908-1981).


[9] He refers to the Boxer Rebellion, known to indigenous Chinese as the Righteous Harmony Society Movement, an anti-imperialist, anti-Christian uprising directed against westerners between 1898 and 1901. Its members practised a form of martial arts, calisthenics and slow motion group boxing as a way of clearing their minds and bodies of impure thoughts, aggression and anxieties – thus Westerners named them ‘boxers’. The Qing Dynasty initially vacillated between suppression and support of the movement, but eventually gave in to their insistence that the foreign devils should be expelled from China, declaring war on all foreign embassies in June 1900, leading to the famous 55 day siege of Peking’s Legation Quarter.


[10] Written by Jimmy McHugh and Dorothy Fields, and published in 1930, it had first appeared in ‘Lew Leslie’s International Revue’ of 1930, sung by Gertrude Lawrence and Harry Richman. The depression had just struck, and the show – which opened in February of 1930, closed after a meagre 95 performances. TIME Magazine called it ‘gaudy, vulgar and providing little opportunity for the best talents of its best talent.’ Two of the show’s musical numbers, this and ‘On the Sunny Side of the Street’ went on to become some of the greatest jazz standards of all time. Sarah Vaughan, Carmen McRae and Errol Garner had each released their own versions of the song the previous year (1954).


[11] On the evening of the 22nd September 1955, a fire swept through Brookfield Stables, Borsetshire, killing the newly married and very popular Grace Archer. Nine million listeners heard her die as she tried to rescue her horse ‘Midnight’ from the flames, tuned in as they were to ‘The Archers’ on the BBC Home Service. The public’s horrified disbelief at her death stole the headlines the following day and relegated the news of the opening of Britain’s new commercial television channel (ITV) to the inside pages of newspapers. This ruthless decision by the BBC to kill the star of their favourite radio show so as to steal ITV’s first night audience demonstrated that it was ‘war’ between the public broadcasting corporation and commercial enterprise. There were many resignations from the ranks of the BBC as anchors, announcers, personalities and technical staff were poached or propositioned by the new broadcaster. It prompted Milligan to write ‘The Greenslade Story’ (14/6th) which premiered two weeks after this episode.


[12] This was a real match. On the 3rd December Birmingham beat Arsenal, scoring four goals, (two by Kinsey and one each by Brown and Astall) at home, to Arsenal’s nil. In the quarter finals the following March, the two teams once again faced each other, Arsenal going down 3-1.

[13] Another example of Milligan’s comic invention ‘transference of utility’. If legal tender is a piece of paper signifying cash value (courtesy of the Royal Exchequer), and if a painting is a piece of paper with inherent cash value (courtesy of the Royal Academy), then the function of both are the same and therefore their utilities are interchangeable. Milligan’s notion of ‘money’ was extremely fluid and he attempted many versions of this transference gag. At various times he presented it as; a gramophone record – (“Here’s a recording of a blank cheque,”) a photograph – (“Here’s a photograph of two shillings,”) the side of a horse – (“How do I know this horse won’t bounce?”,) singing – (“Sing this blank cheque. Higher… Higher!”,) cigarette cards – (“You will be paid in the current Bank of England cigarette card series of famous criminal footballers,”), and antiques – (“We’ll refund you the money and here is an advance in Hittite pottery vases.”)

The Monty Python team delved into this idea on at least one occasion. In episode 20 the team wrote a sketch called ‘The Idiot in Society’ – a ‘Panorama’ parody purporting to examine the place of the village idiot in a changing world. Like Milligan was wont to do, they brought idiocy down to its financial incentives – (“The more old fashioned idiot still refuses to take money… but of course they’re fools to themselves because the rate of interest over ten years on a piece of moss or a dead vole is almost negligible.”)

[14] Secombe replies “Needle-nardle noo.”

[15] An historic London theatre, it was originally known for melodrama, nicknamed ‘Adelphi Screamers’. Early stage versions of Charles Dickens’ works were mounted at this theatre, as were light French Operettas, and later musical comedies. Purchased by Andrew Lloyd Webber’s company in 1993, the theatre continues to present musical theatre to London audiences.


[16] Unclear word.


[17] Dewsbury, in West Yorkshire, has no claim to being a Jewish settlement and seems to have been a play on the pronunciation.


[18] The Yellow Rose of Texas’ is a traditional folk song of Texas, made popular during the 1950’s by Mitch Miller and his Orchestra, the Columbia label’s house band, whose hit recording of the number had knocked Bill Haley’s ‘Rock Around the Clock’ off the number one position on the charts in September 1955.


[19] Milligan corpses badly.


[20] In the Mood’ was one of the most famous big band numbers from the War years, and still considered one of the greatest saxophone numbers ever penned (in the Glenn Miller arrangement.) Its origins are murky, the composition credited to Joe Garland and Andy Razaf, but much evidence exists to suggest that the main theme was the work of Wingy Manone and was popular on the dance floors of Harlem in the 1930’s.

[21] Words and music by Harry MacGregor Woods (1896 – 1970), one of his many ‘tin-pan-alley’ numbers and was made famous by Cicely Courtneidge in the British movie ‘Aunt Sally’ (1933). Her idiosyncratic performance was part of her considerable appeal at the time – alongside her actor husband Jack Hulbert, although their humour and joie de vivre is nowadays considered overpoweringly twee.


[22] Eccles is singing his own version of “Twenty Tiny Fingers” (Tepper/Bennett), made famous by ‘The Stargazers’ with Syd Dean and his Band, in 1955 on a Decca recording which had reached #4 on the UK charts. This was the second week in a row Eccles had been caught singing Stargazers’ numbers.


[23] A standard regimental parade-ground drill, it involves the reorganisation of two parallel lines of soldiers into a phalanx, four lines deep.


[24] A short improvisation occurs here.

               Eccles: Keep quiet you two!

               Bluebottle: Keep you quiet you two!

               Eccles: You two be quiet!

               Seagoon: Ohhh, needle-nardle needle-noodle-nardle hugnymhooihooihooihooigynie-hooi…

               Eccles: (Off) Well said!


[25] Opinions vary about the comedic quality of Min and Henry’s scenes. Some – like this one, are arguably far too long and far too naff for a 21st century audience to enjoy, but in the fifties these blundering scenes between the elderly couple locking each other outside were considered hilarious. What is more important for modern audiences to appreciate is what Spike was trying to achieve in their scenes. Based on his parents who ‘never listened to each other,’ Milligan was experimenting, trying to find situations where their absent minded nattering would create genuine comedy.  So far in the sixth series, Spike had experimented by adding Old Uncle Oscar to their scenes (played by Secombe), by making them play exotic parts – eg: the Dalai Lama and his acolyte, or by giving them true to life occupations – members of the Foreign Service, fire fighters, board members, naturalists, station masters and lawyers.

The shows in which Min and Henry fill true to life occupations are some of the funniest Spike wrote for the two, for  whereas Eccles and Bluebottle could sit in a hole and for no reason chat about anything at all – like pulling the birds, looking up their fathers trousers legs or bus rides up the Edgeware Road, Min and Henry needed context to give their comedy some effect. Milligan’s problem was to find this necessary context, and it seems that in the sixth series he crystallized the idea of making them either artisans (eg: cardboard contractors) or petty bureaucrats. In show four, they played members of the Foreign Service, an idea Milligan liked and expanded on in the 23rd show, probably the greatest scene he ever wrote for them – ‘The Great Tuscan Salami Scandal,’ where they play the directors of MI5.   


[26] The practice of naming cavalry regiments by giving them the name of their commander was a regular occurrence in India at the time of the East India Company. However, following the Indian Mutiny and increasingly towards the end of the 19th century, the Indian Army was brought more and more into line with British Army organizational practices, so that eventually ‘Skinner’s Light Horse’, ‘Jet’s Lancers’, ‘Fane’s Horse’ and ‘Hodson’s Horse’ were absorbed into the regular cavalry regiments and retitled with the names of the Monarch or her children. The cavalry were considered the snobs of the British Army in India:

Few of them learnt the language or learnt to understand the native way of life, particularly the cavalry regiments which were more interested in their training and their polo.”


[27] Michael Wilding (1912-1979) was an English actor. He was married four times (though surprisingly never to Sabrina.) His current wife was Elizabeth Taylor to whom he was erratically faithful from 1952 until 1957. Sabrina – (Norma Sykes, born 1936), was known for nothing else except her looks, figure and Miltonesque name given to her by Arthur Askey. Milligan’s obsession with her peaks in the sixth series, where he refers to her in episodes 9, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 19, 20, 21, 23 and 24.


[28] For a split second, Sellers hesitates on the ‘f’ of the word ‘friend’. I wonder if the word he was deciding whether to say was ‘friend’ or ‘fiend’? That Sellers was confused for a moment is confirmed by Secombe breaking into giggles suddenly.

[29] Life With Lyons’ was a hugely popular BBC radio show, devolving in 1950 from an earlier show ‘Hi Gang’ and starring the real life couple Ben Lyon, his wife Bebe Daniels and their children. The show transferred to BBC television in 1955, produced two movies (in 1954 and 1955), and then jumped broadcasters to ITV in 1957, running until 1961. Alexandra Palace, in North London, was the centre of BBC television production at that time. The suburb of Croydon, (there is no West Croydon) is on the south side of London, slightly east of the road to Brighton.


[30] Some information used in the reference material has been sourced from ‘Plain Tales from the British Empire – Charles Allen. Abacus, 2008.)