Nicholas (nwhyte) wrote,
Nicholas
nwhyte

Happy Haunting: Episode 5 of Here Come The Double Deckers



No screenshots this time, I'm afraid - my picture quality for this episode is rather poor.

Episode 5: Happy Haunting
First shown: 10 October 1970 (US), 28 January 1971 (UK)
Director: Harry Booth
Writers: Harry Booth and Glyn Jones
Appearing apart from the Double Deckers:
Melvyn Hayes as Albert the Street Cleaner
Clive Dunn as Hodge
Pat Coombs as Doris
Frederick Peisley as The Duke
Ruth Kettlewell as The Duchess

Plot

Albert takes the gang on a trip to a stately home, but Billie and Tiger get locked in; the others' rescue attempts cause chaos to the castle's aristocratic owners and their staff, until all is made good by finding hidden treasure.

Soundtrack

"A Day and a Half", sung by the regulars (with some valiant whistling in the middle). It's by Joan Maitland and Richard Kerr, both well-known musuicians in their own right, who had previously written Blue Eyes, a No 3 hit for Don Partridge in 1968. Maitland co-wrote Oliver! with Lionel Bart, but received no credit for it; she did receive credit for later West End musicals Blitz!, Tom Brown's Schooldays and The Young Visiters. Kerr went on to write hits for the likes of Barry Manilow and Dionne Warwick, most notably "Mandy". This is the opening song on the album of music from the series, and it's a good choice.

While we're on music, note the Laurel and Hardy salute as Clive Dunn's character tells the gang to "Walk this way", and Scooper and the other boys imitate him.

Also NB a musical trailer for next week's episode, Summer Camp (I guess this one was running short).

Glorious moments

Once again, this is sheer farce once we get into the ghostly running around. Billie and Tiger do a good double act as scared little girls in the dungeons, Melvyn Hayes as Albert is on top form for cavorting and gurning, and Clive Dunn towers among the guest cast - possibly the highest profile guest star of the entire 17 episodes - starting off with the business of breaking the valuable bowl that, like Chekhov's gun, has been left in a vulnerable place. Pat Coombs as his colleague is also pretty good. And Doughnut gets some high-class suit of armour antics (though I feel this slightly misfires at the end).

Less glorious moments

Those were innocent times, when a caretaker could just take six young teenagers and a little girl on an unannounced trip in his car; also we are asked to believe that the kids react to the notion of visiting a stately home with nothing but unalloyed enthusiasm, which makes them unusual among teenagers.

Poor old Doughnut is funny because he's fat again and ends up chasing the car with all the others in, still in his suit of armour.

What's all this then?

Here Come The Double Deckers was co-funded by the American Broadcasting Company, and part of its mandate was therefore to provide entertainment by showcasing "traditional" England. And what could be more English than a stately home? (The cast courageously explain this to each other, for the benefit of American viewers, at two minutes in.)

Haunted houses, like invisibility gadgets, again go back to classical times with Pliny the Younger's story of Artemidorus. But you can't have anything too threatening on a kids' programme, so it's made very clear that there is no ghost except in the imaginations of the characters.

Where's that?

The castle is an early screen appearance by Knebworth House, home of Victorian writer Edward Bulwer-Lytton, and also the exterior of Bruce Wayne's mansion in the 1989 Batman, the location of the stairs for the Yule Ball in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, and Balmoral Castle in The King's Speech. It's also been the location of a series of music festivals since 1974, most notably the three-day Robbie Williams concert of 2003, reputedly the largest musical event ever staged in the UK.

Who's that?

Clive Dunn (Hodge) needs no introduction, though it's interesting to see him playing a character of roughly his own age rather than the much older roles that he was better known for. By the time this was made, he was already a couple of seasons into his nine years as the elderly Corporal Jones on Dad's Army, followed up by the sitcom Grandad. Born in 1920, he retired to Portugal in 1984 and died in 2012.

Pat Coombs (Doris) was born in 1926 and by this stage was a recognisable sidekick to Irene Handl in the 1965-66 sitcom Barney Is My Darling and to Barbara Windsor in the 1968-9 series Wild Wild Women (Coombs bumped a young Penelope Keith out of that one), as well as being a foil to Dick Emery. She continued working until the turn of the century, including a 1989-90 spell on East Enders and as Kim Wilde's fairy godmother in the 1984 video for The Touch.

Frederick Peisley (The Duke) was born in 1904 and had been acting for almost half a century. His career possibly peaked some time earlier with top billing in the 1935 film Gentleman's Agreement. though he was also one of the leads in the 1960-62 Carry On TV spinoff Our House. He died in 1975.

Ruth Kettlewell (The Duchess) was born in 1913 and played numerous small roles, including in Room At The Top, Cathy Come Home (as the judge), Oh, What a Lovely War and No Blade of Grass, tending towards landladies and mothers-in-law. The biggest before Double Deckers was as Mrs Pugh-Critchley i the fiorst series of All Gas and Gaiters (later replaced by Joan Sanderson). Immediately after Double Deckers she got another visible regular comedy spot as Mrs Grapple, the cook in Hope And Keen's Crazy House. She died in 2007. We shall see her again in a few weeks.

See you next week...

...for Summer Camp, as advertised in the trailer
Tags: tv: double deckers
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