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The Case of the Mukkinese Battle-Horn

Updated: Oct 12, 2021

One of the few examples of the Goons in a live action movie is The Case of the Mukkinese Battle-Horn, starring Peter Sellers and Spike Milligan, and based on a story by Larry Stephens.

Dick Emery stood in for Harry Secombe, who apparently was too expensive for the film’s low budget. Had this been attempted a few years later, I think Sellers would have been, too.

The film is great fun, and is available on YouTube in its entirety.

Sellers plays Detective Quilter with Milligan as his assistant, Brown, who are called in to investigate a theft. Other Goon Show characters drop in, including Eccles, who masquerades as “J Smith” the nightwatchman, at around 7:09. Look out for his return later in the film to perform a gag later used in ‘Dishonoured – Again’ (Series 9 Episode 13).

Henry Crun appears around 16:55, with Minnie Bannister audible in the background. Crun advises Detective Quilter that “you can’t get the wood you know”.

Goon Show afficionados will recognise several gags, including an extended version of this one from ‘The Missing Prime Minister’:

Willium: Well, sir. At 12:30 a monster lorry pulls up outside. Ten men jumps out an' wallops me on the 'ead. I turned round to see who it was, an' wallop, wallop on the 'ead again. As I stood up, wallop, wallop, wallop. All on me 'ead - then, as I was takin' me notebook out - wallop, wallop, wallop, wallop ... wallops on the 'ead all the time, I ... Seagoon: Yes, yes, yes, yes - but did you notice anything about these men? Willium: Yes. Seagoon: What? Willium: I noticed they kept wallopin' me on the 'ead.

(from ‘The Missing Prime Minister’, Series 4 Episode 15, broadcast 8 January 1954)

Find that at around 8:25.

One of the joys of this is watching Spike Milligan trying so hard not to laugh and ruin the takes.

It actually follows a fairly ‘normal’ Goon Show structure, descending into chaos towards the end with Sellers involved in a swordfight with a pistol, and using ketchup to persuade his opponent that he is mortally wounded. The Three Musketeers enter the fray, prompting a free-for-all – during which Sellers turns to the camera and says: “It’s all rather confusing, really.”

IMDB claims this is “an adaptation of an episode”, but as far as I’m aware it isn’t. Larry Stephens wrote the story, and collaborated with producers Harry Booth and Jon Pennington on the screenplay. Sellers and Milligan contributed “additional material”, according to the credits.

Harry Booth went on to direct On The Buses, among other film and TV projects, while Jon Penington produced a number of other comedy films and shorts, including Eric Sykes’ slapstick masterpiece The Plank. He was also associate producer on The Mouse That Roared, which starred Peter Sellers.

Michael Deeley is also listed as a producer, and – according to Julie Warren's biography of Larry Stephens – listed The Case of the Mukkinese Battle-Horn as his most profitable movie in terms of the ratio of budget to box office returns (£4,500 to £45,000), in part due to it being shown as the opener for Monty Python and the Holy Grail. This coming from the man who produced The Italian Job, The Deer Hunter, and Blade Runner. If he’d just cast Eccles in any of those they’d have done better.

Eagle-eyed viewers are probably wearing comedy contact lenses, but they may also spot a 'Ferne Muleboot' in the opening credits. Down as the film's editor, this is actual a pseudonym for Booth and Deeley, who were editors and didn't think they needed another credit. Ms Muleboot also features in one of the Goons' spoof ads posted in The Stage, alongside Arnold Fringe and Harold Vest.

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