Thursday, 19 April 2018

'The New Mobile Trio'

'The New Mobile Trio'

I can't work out which episode it was, but the first time I saw 'Last Of The Summer Wine' it was a mid -to-late 70s end-of-season episode. I enjoyed what I saw, but this was tinged with regret as I assumed that they wouldn't be making any more, taking the word "Last" in the title a little too literally.

Presumably, I thought that in its early years, the show was simply called 'The Summer Wine' but they'd renamed it for this run, to mark its final end.

My main period for watching it though was the mid 80s, and I was quite fond of Michael Aldridge as Seymour. I even recorded 'Uncle Of The Bride' on audio tape, an honour bestowed upon few very series - mainly because I didn't have many tapes at the time.

Only the frst two series are currently represented in our DVD collection, so I thought I'd pick one at random to look at today, having never seen it before.

Norman Clegg was always the character I most identified with, especially his reluctance to get involved with motor cars. I was learning to drive circa 1986 and regarded it as a chore rather than a pleasure. So the description of 'The New Mobile Trio' jumped out at me, where Clegg investigates the possibility of buying a car. Surely this wasn't going to go well?

Shown at 9.25pm on Monday 10th December 1973, it's part of a BBC One schedule that includes 'Sykes' and 'Z Cars' (with a certain John Challis popping up) along with Ken Dodd claiming that 'We Want To Sing'. This was always an over-optimistic claim, I feel.

(The above screencap says Saturday, I know, but that's as near as I could get!)

Clegg is gazing in the window of a car showroom, though his vision is somewhat clouded by the sweet wrapper stuck to his glasses.

With Compo and Blamire in tow as always, they visit a Road Safety exhibition in a rather cramped set. If you look in the background you can see a cardboard cutout figure of accident-prone WIlly Weasel plus some of his chums, along with a Green Cross Code poster, but sadly we're a little too early for any sign of Jon Pertwee reminding us to SPLINK!

Clegg wants to try his skill on the driving simulator, which is a cheap way to recreate the thrills and spill of 'Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em' without exposing Peter Sallis to undue danger.

I am a little confused as to how this device is meant to work. It seems to have a whole virtual world inside it and as Clegg wrestles with the steering wheel, a film is displayed showing where his imaginary car is headed. It's a sort of mechanical Yorkshire 'Grand Theft Auto' (although the film on the screen betrays that the machine is full of soft southern houses), but how you'd actually do that with the technology of the day baffles me.

If anyone can enlighten me ask to whether such machines existed (and how they worked) I would be grateful. If they've made it up for the story, then this is 'Last Of The Summer Wine' nudging over into the boundaries of science fiction.

Clegg's progress is as unsteady as one might expect, but it seems he has been bitten by the driving bug. Retiring to the library, he spots an advert in the local paper. Thirty quid will secure them a car that "goes like a bum", apparently. Possibly, the paper is being edited by Officer Crabtree from 'Allo, Allo'...

Visiting the address, a woman answers the door whilst battling an unseen dog that provides work for the Sound Effects department.

Inside the rather cluttered house, they meet Walter, played by a rather grimy Ronald Lacey, who is allegedly trying to teach his dog how to ride a bicycle...

Although the car in the advert has already gone, he does have another available, so they all go out for a test-drive. The car proves to be in less than mint condition, with bits hanging off and little in the way of brakes...

Going downhill on the wrong side of the road they have a slight encounter with a tractor that ends badly. There is much swearing from the tractor driver that is obscured by the car horn continually blowing off.

Everyone legs it back up the hill before things turn nasty...

Next stop, the cafe, where a mere twelve pee will secure you a ham sandwich, according to the price list. Chips are 5p or 10p, by the way. Ah, those were the days!

A visit to the car showroom shows off a bit of nifty handheld camerawork, and out trio are allowed to drive off without a salesman on board. But given that their chosen vehicle is also marked at thirty quid and also looks a deathtrap, I'm not sure I'd have accompanied them either.

The car needs a bit of help on the difficult stretches and we soon find ourselves heading down a rather familiar hill again. A pause. Then the inevitable crash sound effect.

We go into the credits (which use a rather jolly fat font) with a longish sequence of Compo, Clegg and Blamire making a swift exit in long shot. Peter Sallis nearly falls arse-over-tit at one point, so maybe there was only time for one take or it was deemed a funny addition to the scene.

Not a bad episode all round. It's nice to see Ronald Lacey pop up and the film work is as lovely as ever. There are some amusing and really quite strange flights-of-fancy in the dialogue and at least they're going down a hill in a couple of cars rather than a tin bath...

And long-term viewers might be surprised that Alan J W Bell's name does not come up at the end. But rest assured, he did direct the film sequences shown on the driving simulator, so this device is a look into the future in more ways than one...

(By Andrew Trowbridge)

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