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Catweazle 2.8 – The Familiar Spirit

The bulk of this episode is built around twin brothers, played by John Ringham, and an endless game of telephone problems across three locations and one brother’s unfortunate wife, hanging up on each other, calling back before the other has put down the receiver, and so on. Our son absolutely adored it and laughed through the phone silliness, except he was really unhappy when one of the brothers “steals” Catweazle’s familiar, the toad Touchwood. Because Touchwood is not feeling good and not eating, he and Cedric take him to a zoologist in the village. It turns out Touchwood’s species has been extinct for hundreds of years and they think it’s a great discovery.

The phone shenanigans reminded me of a terrific gag about Call Waiting in the second episode of Ellen / These Friends of Mine in 1994. I pulled it up on YouTube to show our son the setup to the gag so he could laugh about how silly and strange landlines and all their “Custom Calling Features” were. I didn’t actually show him the gag itself, in which Ellen unwittingly insults Clea Lewis’s character, because it’s really a crueler humor than I’d like our kid to see so young, but the horrified noise that Ellen makes once she realizes what she’s done is extremely funny! The scene is about two and a half minutes into this clip, if you’re older than our kid.

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Catweazle 2.7 – The Enchanted King

Tonight’s episode featured just about the best setup for any Catzweazle episode. The Collingfords have left a TV set on to warm up while the picture clears before the match of the day, giving us the chance to explain to our son how oddly fragile TV sets used to be. Catweazle happens by as the set finally rights itself during the pre-match kiddie show, in which a storyteller host, played by Peter Bayliss, reads the latest installment of a story about a king cursed by an evil wizard and turned to stone. Catweazle thinks that this is a demon in his demon box speaking directly to him, and since, in that television way, there’s actually a sculptor in the house a few doors down talking to the Collingfords about turning them into stone…

Our son absolutely loved this episode. It’s pretty terrific even before the slapstick, because this demon box just blows Catweazle’s mind. I’m amazed by Geoffrey Bayldon’s ability to keep making the same gag – surprise at something new and modern – incredibly funny. But before long, Bayldon, Peter Butterworth, and guest star Graham Crowden, as the sculptor, are throwing plaster at each other in a studio, which had our kid howling with laughter. Then there’s another very funny scuffle at the unveiling of a statue, and a delightful coda which suggests that the tomfoolery might have been a rag week prank by students. That gave me the chance to remind him of the Avengers episode that we saw last month which introduced him to the concept of rag week!

Oh, here’s a funny coincidence. Last night, we watched a MacGyver episode that guest starred Christopher Neame, who was the main guest star in the well-known Doctor Who adventure “Shada.” Graham Crowden, in tonight’s episode, was the main guest star in the Who adventure “The Horns of Nimon,” which was the one made immediately before they started work on “Shada.” And the co-writer of tomorrow night’s Who wrote the one right before “Nimon.” If I can find a connection between the MacGyver we’re watching after that and “The Creature From the Pit,” I’ll think somebody’s trying to tell me something.

(And yes, I know Geoffrey Bayldon himself is actually in “Creature.” It’s very close, but you can’t force coincidence.)

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Catweazle 2.6 – The Wogle Stone

I spent the whole episode wracking my brain wondering who was playing the superstitious developer who wants to build a supermarket, and more, on Lord Collingford’s land, and tear down Catweazle’s home, Duck Halt. It’s Kenneth Cope, of course. He had finished filming his iconic role of the ghost, Marty, in Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased) maybe less than a year before making this, so it’s not like he looked significantly different or anything; I’m just a dimwit. Of course I plan to show our son Randall and Hopkirk as well. Hopefully next year sometime. Tony Caunter, who we saw in the Doctor Who adventure “Colony in Space,” is in this one as well; he plays Cope’s surveyor.

It’s a more amusing episode than a funny one. The script puts Cope through the wringer of silly superstitions, including his fears of black cats crossing his path, walking under ladders, and spilling salt. Moray Watson is even more of an upper class dimwit than usual, and Catweazle, after surviving his encounter with an excavator, takes advantage of the superstitions by either resurrecting one from his time, or inventing it on the spot. It’s called a Wogle Stone, and only a very foolish builder would move one. Cope’s character may be completely corrupt and obsessed with omens and signs, but he’s no fool!

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Catweazle 2.5 – The Black Wheels

Technology stuns our hero again in this story. Catweazle, digging in the local garbage dump, has unearthed an old album of 78 records. He doesn’t know what these black wheels are. Meanwhile, Peter Butterworth’s character is down with laryngitis and has lost his voice. The revelation that lost voices cannot be found as echoes in wells, but can be stored on black wheels, really is hilarious.

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Catweazle 2.4 – The Sign of the Crab

Me and my weird coincidence-creatin’ mouth. In yesterday’s post, I mentioned the Avengers parody of The Maltese Falcon, which I anticipate we’ll see a little later this year. And in tonight’s episode of Catweazle, there’s a guest appearance by Ronald Lacey, who played the Peter Lorre role in that very parody.

While not anywhere as madcap and ridiculous as the previous episode, this is still pretty funny. Lacey plays a burglar who uses a tramp disguise, Tearful Ted, to case potential homes for robbery. There’s mistaken identities and a late night chase with three policemen, lots of police whistles, Moray Watson running around with a knobkierie to boff somebody on the head, and Elspet Gray wishing all these silly men would go home so she can go back to bed. Our son had some big laughs over the slapstick.

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Catweazle 2.3 – The Heavenly Twins

Conventional wisdom suggests that the second series of Catweazle doesn’t click quite as well as the first, but as much as I enjoyed that first series, tonight’s episode has been the funniest episode of the show so far. We all laughed like hyenas tonight as Catweazle crosses paths with a stage magician played by Paul Eddington. Eddington thinks he’s in the trade like him, and invites him to work as his assistant at Cedric’s birthday party. Chaos ensues, and it’s wonderful.

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Catweazle 2.2 – Duck Halt

Catweazle acquires a new home in this episode, a disused railway station called Duck Halt. He also obtains his second sign of the Zodiac: a literal sign of “The Bull” which a pub by that name has discarded in favor of something more modern, “a bit Picasso.”

There’s the usual very amusing goofball slapstick and wordplay. The high point is Catweazle’s first trip on a bicycle and not knowing how to stop. But our son was probably most pleased by my solving a mystery I didn’t know needed clearing. The pub sign is removed by a “rag and bone man” played by Bill Owen. Owen would later find fame as Compo over about a quarter-century in the long-running Last of the Summer Wine, but he’d been acting for about twenty years at this point already, including a stint as Lestrade in the BBC’s 1951 version of Sherlock Holmes opposite Alan Wheatley.

The side of Owen’s truck reads “Scrap Metal Rags,” but our son complained that much of his stock wasn’t metal. I explained what a rag and bone man was and he was very pleased. There’s a rag and bone man in one of his Beano Books and that never made sense to him before now!

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The House That Dripped Blood (1971)

I read about this film and decided that I’d give it a spin by myself before showing the last segment to our son. I understood that the movie, written by Robert Bloch, was comprised of four segments: three traditional horror episodes before ending with one a little more lighthearted. This is true, and I enjoyed the heck out of it, but those first three are way too frightening for our gentle son. The last one, though, was just right.

The sadly defunct Amicus studio was Hammer’s biggest rival in making horror films between 1965 and 1974. Amicus’s big specialty was the “portmanteau,” an anthology film with four segments and a framing story. In The House That Dripped Blood, a police inspector from Scotland Yard comes to investigate the disappearance of a movie star. A local sergeant and the home’s estate agent tell him three terrifying tales that took place in the same house, setting up stories that star Denholm Elliot and Joanna Dunham, Peter Cushing and Joss Ackland, and Christopher Lee and Nyree Dawn Porter. Amicus could get these big name actors in because each segment took maybe a week or ten days to film. And they’re hugely entertaining, although far too frightening for our kid at this age!

The fourth story is just right, and it has a completely terrific cast full of faces he’s seen recently. The movie star is Jon Pertwee and he buys his cursed cloak from Geoffrey Bayldon! Plus, there’s Ingrid Pitt, who he’s seen in “The Time Monster,” and Roy Evans, from “The Green Death” and “The Monster of Peladon.” The police inspector is John Bennett, from “Invasion of the Dinosaurs.” This segment was made in between Pertwee and Bayldon’s first seasons of Doctor Who and Catweazle, and of course the actors would be reunited about eight years later in Worzel Gummidge, playing the scarecrow and his creator.

…not, of course, that our kid actually recognized anybody other than Pertwee, even with a heads-up at dinner about who to look out for!

The whole movie is really entertaining, and it builds really well, with each episode more fun than the previous one. Pertwee is having a hoot as a temperamental, egotistical movie star who has nothing kind to say about the low-budget movie that’s hired him, with a former – gasp – television director in charge. The sets are too flimsy, the costumes are too new, and horror films are no good anymore anyway. This “new fellow” they’ve got playing Dracula these days isn’t a patch on Bela Lugosi.

The movie star buys his own cloak for thirteen shillings from a strange costumier to bring a little authenticity to this silly movie – it’s called Curse of the Bloodsuckers – and then things start getting a little weird. The story builds to an amusing twist, and the police inspector goes to this blasted cottage to see what he can find there.

That’s where I left it. I did want our son to get a good night’s sleep! But should you, dear reader, investigate this house for yourself, do continue on and see what comes next. Pleasant dreams!

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