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  Case of the Mukkinese Battle-Horn, The Watching The Radio
Year: 1956
Director: Joseph Sterling
Stars: Peter Sellers, Spike Milligan, Dick Emery, Pamela Thomas, Bill Hepper, Wally Thomas, Gordon Phillot
Genre: ComedyBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: There are many London landmarks you simply cannot miss around the capital, such as Nelson's Column, and by the sound of that crash in the fog, someone else has failed to miss it. However, there are some landmarks that are in out of the way places, such as Scotland Yard, location of the C.I.D. which investigates criminal cases. One such case has taken place tonight as the rare Mukkinese Battle-Horn, a priceless antique, has been stolen from its glass case in a museum by unknown ne’erdowells, so a pair of their very finest detectives, Inspector Quilt (Peter Sellers) and his assistant Brown (Spike Milligan), are assigned, heading over there straight away to investigate...

By 1956, the biggest comedy show on the radio, and indeed the British nation, was The Goon Show, and attempts were made to extend the brand to television that year, most memorably with Sellers and Milligan in A Show Called Fred, a short series that caused huge consternation in the audience for breaking so many rules as to how a programme should be presented, yet which quickly became essential viewing for those who were on its skewed wavelength. Meanwhile, both Goons were being kept busy on the radio and with occasional forays onto the big screen with a handful of brief films where various mixtures of the Goons and their pals would appear.

Down Among the Z Men was the "official" Goons movie, but not much liked at the time or by followers of the team subsequently, as it failed to capture what had been so revolutionary about their humour. At a mere twenty-seven minutes long, the even briefer The Case of the Mukkinese (mucky knees?) Battle-Horn was far more popular, a spoof of the well-known at the time Merton Park Studios' Scotland Yard series, presented by the unforgettably-named Edgar Lustgarten, that was made for supporting features, but by and by appeared on the small screen too. These would detail a true crime story that would be recreated in about half an hour in appropriately stony-faced fashion, basically a police procedural of the sort Stan Freberg was sending up across the Atlantic, so like him the Goons and their cohorts thought this ripe for parody, in the same anything goes, Hellzapoppin' live action cartoon style.

This turned out to be enormously successful, showing up as support to A films for years and regularly broadcast on television for decades afterwards, undoubtedly because it recreated something of the classic humour from the radio, quite often thanks to employing the same jokes and characters - Milligan's Eccles makes his presence felt under a pseudonym though the voice is unmistakable, and Henry Crun is seen while Min Bannister is merely heard. Harry Secombe proved too expensive for the production, therefore an up and coming comedian Dick Emery filled in, and proved just as funny as his co-stars: this was relentlessly silly and irreverent, but it was fun to watch because everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves making it, as if recognising they were part of a Golden Age of comedy that would be so influential for a long time to come. With sight gags, verbal ludicrousness, character bits and more, if you did not have access to the radio episodes, this was the next best thing unless you were a diehard Secombe fan in which case you would find something vital missing. Music by Edwin Astley.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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