Our second date with Ronnie whisks us back to 1899 A.D. A madman in top hat and cloak is terrorising law-abiding citizens, beginning with The Prime Minister no less, of the foggy, gas-lit streets of London. No it is not Jack The Ripper ( he's presumably on holiday ) but none other than ( gasp ) 'The Phantom Raspberry Blower'!
Sound familiar? It should. Five years later, the story was remade by 'The Two Ronnies'. On the first edition of 'The Two Ronnies Sketchbook', Ronnie Barker announced that it would be shown, eliciting a cheer from a member of the studio audience. The fact that it was well remembered as late as 2005 tells you something of its tremendous popularity.
It was written, of course, by the great Spike Milligan, meaning that there is an unmistakable air of Goonishness about the whole thing. A suspect in a photograph is identified by an arrow. When Alexander calls him in for questioning, we see a giant arrow stuck to his head! When the Phantom visits Number Ten, he hands his calling card to the Prime Minister's butler. Aside from a picture of a raspberry, it is blank. "I'm never in!" the Phantom explains. A character called 'Lady Penelope Berkley-Hunt' appears in one scene. 'Berkley-Hunt' is Cockney rhyming slang for...oh, work it out for yourself!
Barker takes up the main role of 'Inspector Alexander' of Scotland Yard, a detective so brilliant he is able to interview a lady who has important information about the Phantom even though they are not in the same room. He suffers a nervous breakdown in the middle of the case and goes into an asylum, where he spends his time sitting in the grounds reading comics while dressed as Napoleon. In 'The Two Ronnies' version, it would be Ronnie Corbett who played the role, with Barker as his trusty sidekick 'Sergeant Bowles'. Barker himself extended the story to eight weekly episodes, but graciously did not give himself a credit, hence: 'By Spike Milligan & A Gentleman'.
Sexy Moira Foot ( 'Effie' the whispering maid of Barker's previous series 'Hark At Barker' ) pops up as both a newspaper vendor and Miss Maureen Body, the Prime Minister's ( ahem! ) close friend. The late John Sharp is the butler. The raspberries were supplied by David Jason. Its daft, hilarious stuff, enjoyable even if you are overly familiar with the 'Two Ronnies' version. In a nice touch, a raspberry appears at the very end, alongside the L.W.T. logo!
Funniest moment - the graveyard scene where Inspector Alexander stabs a coffin with a pitchfork. What looks like blood oozes out. Lifting the lid, he finds the box to be full of...raspberries!
Things To Look Out For - following a global pursuit of the Phantom, Inspector Alexander is seen sporting travel badges on his Long Johns!
2 of 2 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?