Monday 4 June 2012

The Worm that Turned: If 2012 could get any worse

Of all the Two Ronnies serials, (The Phantom Raspberry-Blower of olde London Town, Farley and Malone), my favourite is possibly the most dated, The Worm that Turned. It is set in 2012, a world where Thatcher created an all-female dictatorship of England (only England) and women wear men's clothes and have men's names, but still are pregnant, and all men wear dresses, have ladies' names and do feminine things. The Tower of London is now Barbara Castle, the Union Jack is now the Union Jill, which resembles a pair of knickers, and Diana Dors is the State Police leader.

Our intrepid heroes are Betty Chalmers (Ronnie Barker) and Barbara Castle tea-boy Janet Cartwright (Ronnie Corbett) two married househusbands who decide to revolt, after a female spy in a dress and moustache, to look like a man interrupts a showing of male chauvinist films such as John Wayne and Humphrey Bogart flicks at a Sewing Circle, i.e. middle-aged blokes dressed as WI ladies and a search for an Ursula Debenham, tall, balding, with a beard, led by the Shake 'n' Vac lady. It is eight parts, and incredibly complicated, involving a raid on Barbara Castle in order to burn identity files, which involves spraying water on kinky lady-Beefeaters and Neil McCarthy as a fearsome cleaner called Deirdre, an escape to a country house with Barker disguised as a woman (ie not wearing a dress, his tache shaved and with a ginger wig and a Westcounty accent) only to be surrounded by armed women and an escape dressed as a cow, a pet mouse called Herbert, Wanda Ventham as a sexy ex-classmate of Betty's called Jack who turns out not to be as nice as she seems, help by Betty's landlord brother-in-law Diana who plans to smuggle them across the border to Wales, by using an underground organisation disguised in a dress shop for men.

As a serial, it has dated. It's remarkably sexist, with references to Danny La Rue being locked up in Barbara Castle, and Germaine Greer and Pat Phoenix being leaders and Larry Grayson being neither one or the other. And the ending doesn't quite work, i.e. Diana Dors' Controller finds our heroes at the checkpoint to Wales, where men are still men, i.e. it's still 1979, and still called Ianto and Dai, and don't wear dresses. Janet's mouse, Herbert is left to guard the Controller, who is afraid of mice, and Janet and Betty escape to Wales. But there are laughs, and it is really an excuse for men in dresses, including big pink puffy ball gowns that Barker had to wear (and he hated wearing women's clothing, yet doesn't seem at ease, although he obviously looks out of place, Corbett less so) yet what it delivers is at times compelling, at times hillarious, and it's all up on youtube.

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