Another helping of Christmas pudding adventures
Over Christmas we learned of the origins of the Great International Christmas Pudding, and the Goons’ adventures in tracking it down and claiming it for the British Empire.
For the second episode of 1956 on 10 January, the gang revisited the famous festive food in ‘The Raid of the International Christmas Pudding’, as per page 24 of the Radio Times.
To set the scene, as Peter Sellers explains, there is a tribe of non-saxophone playing “Senapati” people moving through Northern Waziristan on the trail of the recipe for the Great International Christmas Pudding.
Waziristan is a part of Pakistan, on the border with Afghanistan. Senapati, meanwhile, is a district of Manipur in the far east of India, nearly 2,500 kilometres away as the Google-bot flies. Then again, accurate geography was never really a priority for the Goons.
To further muddy the geographic waters, Captain Ned Seagoon introduces China in 1884 – specifically Sinkiang, or Xinjiang as it is now properly known. As this region is “bleak, barren, and desolate. There are no gas works and all the rivers are under water”, the Goons shift their setting to India. Confused? You and me both.
Captain Seagoon is outlining to colleagues the plot: The tribe’s leader, the Red Bladder, has stolen a gramophone record of their victory over the British Army, to inspire a rebellion.
The Red Bladder – played, as ever, by Ray Ellington – and his men have surrounded the British radio station in Chittagong (in Bangladesh, obviously) and are threatening to acquire all 400 records in the British collection.
Major Bloodnok is tasked with leading the Fourth Battalion Night Schlappers to relieve the radio station.
Bloodnok: Men of the Chittagong radio station. You've all heard of me, Major Bloodnok, haven't you? [Cast: Variations on “no” and “no, sir”] Bloodnok: Oh. Well in that case I appoint myself mess-treasurer.
Suddenly, in bursts the Red Bladder to demand Bloodnok hands over the 399 remaining records.
Bloodnok: And betray my secret trust? What do you take me for? Red Bladder: Rogue, liar and a coward. Bloodnok: Sit down, I think we can do business.
Bloodnok keeps the attacks at bay by handing over a record a day. However, as the episode unfolds, it becomes clear that the Senapati have also stolen recordings of British victories and are playing them backwards to make it sound like the British have lost.
Seagoon, Eccles and Field Marshall Carruthers (played by Peter Sellers) charge to the radio station to find out what has happened.
Seagoon: Take off that Sabrina outfit, and explain how the Red Bladder has been getting these records of British victories. Bloodnok: He employed a mean, low, cunning trick, sir! Seagoon: What? Bloodnok: He bribed me!
Seagoon concocts a counterattack involving commandos specially trained in removing gramophone needles and destroying them, in Operation Needle Nardle Noo. They train for eight years at a specialist training school in Ambala, Northern India, where they are taught to insert nitro-glycerine into the needles.
Just as the instructor and his class withdraw to a safe distance from the explosive, who should wander in but Bluebottle.
Bluebottle: Oh! What are all them funny things on this lecturer's desk? Oh, it is a little needle full of needle juice. Oh, and what is this big box here with the red labels, saying "danger, nintroglmcerine... explosive"? Thinks: I wish I had not readed that bit. I know, I will tiptoe out of the room. Thinks: This is one week Bluebottle is not going to be deaded. Reaches door, so far so good. Opens door, very carefully. [FX: Door opens quietly] Bluebottle: Turns back for one last look of triumph. [FX: Explosion] Bluebottle: You rotten swine, you! You have exploded me! Where's my leg? I don't like this game!
Just when we think he’s learning. However, the objective of blunting the gramophone needle has been achieved. Now to track down the Red Bladder.
Seagoon: Now let's check our position. Put on that gramophone record of a map. [FX: Marching feet] Seagoon: Ah yes, just as I thought, we're marching up a road. Bloodnok: Wait, listen. [FX: Car approaching] Seagoon: Look out! [FX: Car receding] Seagoon: Swine! He was driving on the wrong side of the record.
The other side of Ray Ellington – this time playing himself and his quartet, singing Gracie Fields’ ‘Sally’, and a tad more rockin’ than the original too – Seagoon and his gang find themselves just an elephant’s throw from the secret radio station. They have the empirical evidence to prove it.
Arriving at the front door we descend into true Goonishness, with Seagoon, Eccles, Bluebottle and Bloodnok pretending to be plumbers, brain surgeons and carol singers in various attempts to gain access to the radio station.
Eventually they gain access to the South American turntable. How do they know it’s South American? “It says 78 revolutions per minute,” says Bluebottle.
The Red Bladder returns and Seagoon, Bluebottle and Eccles disguise themselves as gramophone records.
Seagoon: I watched horrified as he put Bluebottle on the turntable. Would Bluebottle succeed in deceiving the Red Bladder? Bluebottle: [Singing] Ding a ding a ding a ding, ding a ling a ding a ding. Hey, wait a minute, this needle's full of the dreaded nitro- [FX: Explosion] Greenslade: And it was. A heroic British victory, with the loss of only three idiots. This show was recorded on a double-sided Bluebottle. Good night listeners.
Thinking about it, this episode doesn’t have anything to do with Christmas puddings. It’s an outrage and I demand my money back.
The Raid of the International Christmas Pudding
Series 6, Episode 17
Broadcast: 3 January 1956
Written by: Spike Milligan
Producer: Peter Eton
Indian temple image by Jeswin Thomas from Pexels.