To be honest, the final installment of this charming show isn’t anything like some of the laugh-a-minute episodes from earlier in this series. It wraps up all the lingering plot threads about the lost treasure, the thirteenth sign of the Zodiac, and Catweazle’s desire to fly, but it does so with warmth and happiness instead of lunacy. It’s a little more successful than the busy conclusion of series one in that regard.
Our son loved it, and wishes they’d made more. I agree! Catweazle is a hugely entertaining show for kids and adults. It’s been one of the most satisfying purchases that I’ve made to share with my son and absolutely recommend it for anybody with children. You’ll probably like it even without kids around!
Today’s episode really felt like marking time before they wrap up the series. They reintroduce the fact that Lord and Lady Collingford aren’t as wealthy as they appear, and that there’s meant to be hidden treasure on their property somewhere. Catweazle learns that something is trapping him in 1971, and he can’t use water to travel through time. And all the family catches a glimpse of the wizard for the first time. Since I haven’t used a photo to illustrate the supporting cast for this series, here they are!
Our son was so looking forward to this morning’s episode that he started humming the theme tune in anticipation. I wasn’t all that taken with this one, but he completely adored it. Part of the shenanigans involves a huge mob of cyclists racing around the village and everybody else on bikes chasing each other getting caught up in their lanes. I think that when you’re a kid, the sight of Peter Butterworth on a bicycle in his long johns swatting people with his hat because they won’t let him turn around is bound to be much, much funnier. And that’s fine, this is a children’s show and I’m so happy that he loves it.
This one was incredibly funny! We all really enjoyed it. It turns out that Lord Collingford and Groome have been competing with each other for years at a harvest festival to see who can grow the largest marrow. (We eat a lot of zucchini ourselves. Had no idea it’s the same vegetable.) On the day of the festival, both men are intolerable, and that’s before Catweazle unwittingly drops into the middle of things. There’s a ridiculous moment where identical buckets contain Groome’s fertilizer and Catweazle’s disgusting medicine, which seems pretty par for the course, but we weren’t expecting what would happen when the vegetables get a dose of medicine.
Arthur Lovegrove has a small part as the fellow who runs the local nursery and judges the vegetable competition. His character is called Archie Goodwin, and that strikes me as a little silly. Everybody knows the only plants that Archie Goodwin is qualified to judge are orchids.
We all really enjoyed tonight’s episode, in which Catweazle throws some military training exercises into complete chaos while searching for the sign of Capricorn. The main guest star is Tony Selby, who was in between series one and two of Ace of Wands, where he played Tarot’s original sidekick, Sam. Here, Selby plays a sergeant trying very hard to get this supposed “spy” to give up his name, rank, and number. Then Catweazle finds a live grenade and thinks it’s the Philosopher’s Stone. Just start counting the minutes until something explodes.
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.)
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!
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.
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.
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!
There was a rather huge change when Catweazle returned for a second series: the entire supporting cast was new. In part because there’s only so much you can do on a farm and in part to spotlight a little of that upper class toffery that international audiences were said to enjoy, when Catweazle returned to the 20th Century for thirteen more episodes filmed in the summer and autumn of 1970, it was around the grounds of the estate of Lord and Lady Collingford, played by Moray Watson and Elspet Gray.
The Collingsfords’ son, Cedric, is home from his school and becomes Catweazle’s new ally in learning magic. This time, he’s trying to find all the symbols of the Zodiac to fuel a spell to fly. And there seems to be another grownup who will be suspicious of what Cedric is up to, a combination groundskeeper and tour guide played by Peter Butterworth.
Interestingly, there’s a delightfully detailed booklet that comes with Network’s DVD issue of Catweazle that explains that LWT suggested the country house and aristocrats to appeal to American audiences because they hoped to sell the show here and British culture and accents were still very trendy back then. Catweazle would have fit in as a Saturday morning show just perfectly. The BBC had actually presold their kids’ series Here Come the Double Deckers to ABC before they finished filming it; that show debuted in September 1970 and its 17 episodes ran for two years, while The Bugaloos, an American production starring four British teen idols, took off on NBC the same day.
This is pure speculation, but Catweazle might have been under consideration by ABC as well for the fall of 1971, but in the end the program was never shown here. If ABC was thinking about buying it, that would mean that they eventually passed it up in favor of Sid and Marty Krofft’s Lidsville, which is by far my least favorite of all the Kroffts’ programs. There must have been some deeply bad magic behind a result that tragic.
They missed a trick in not giving this episode the name “The Demon Drink,” because that’s what we got to talk with our son about this time. Catweazle gets drunk! Boy, that doesn’t happen on American children’s shows. In point of fact, since I average about one pint of beer maybe every nine months, our son actually had no idea what I was talking about when I told him that Catweazle is going to get drunk. He remembered from a recently-viewed episode of The Avengers that you’re meant to sip wine and not guzzle three glasses of it, but had no idea what might happen if you do. So I had a lot of ‘splainin’ to do.
This is a very funny little episode. The main guest star is Peter Butterworth, who would return to this show in a different role in its second series. He was another semi-regular in the Carry On movies (16 of them!) and also appeared in many popular comedies like A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, but he may be best known in the US as the Meddling Monk, the first, and until the debut of Roger Delgado’s Master, only recurring villain in Doctor Who.
Butterworth plays an eccentric retired colonel who is hosting a lecture by an explorer named Nat Wheeler. He mishears Catweazle and thinks the wizard is Wheeler, and Catweazle thinks that the colonel is a great magician who can create thunder from a stick. Between them, they have a riotous misunderstanding about the colonel’s squirrel monkey, and whether the colonel’s thunderstick can put the monkey out of its misery by transforming it back into a human boy.
This was a great episode that our son enjoyed, and also left him curious whether you can see a muzzle flash from the end of a thunderstick. I don’t know much about guns, but I told him that I believe that a bolt-action rifle’s barrel is usually too long for that. Let me know if I told him wrong, won’t you?