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The Quest for Brigadier Winchmole

Updated: Oct 13, 2021

On 3 March 1953, the Goons attempted to solve ‘The Mystery of the Monkey’s Paw’ in episode 17 of the third series.

'False advertising, I call it.'

The Monkey's Paw is a short story by William Wymark Jacobs, first published in 1902. It's become quite a famous horror trope - the main character buys a preserved monkey's hand that is supposed to grant wishes, but every time a wish is granted it comes at a terrible price for the wisher. The text is available here, if you're interested. As you'll see below, the Goons strayed from this plot by some distance.

Page 24 has the listing for the show, while on page 3 there is news of a dramatic development in British broadcasting history: television transmissions will be extending by a whole hour, to three hours a day! Of course, this means the end of the horse-drawn wireless…

This broadcast marked Milligan’s return to the microphone, although regular deputy Dick Emery stayed on.

As with yesterday’s episode, there is a partial script based on the audio held in the archives of the US branch of the Goon Show Preservation Society.

In the opening sketch, the fiendish Moriarty tempts Harry Secombe into travelling to France to flog counterfeit francs to tourists. First, he needs a yacht.

Secombe: Now, this yacht. How fast can she go? Grytpype-Thynne: As fast as you can say to the crew, 'In, out, in, out'.

No sooner has Secombe arrived in France, then he finds a willing customer.

Secombe: Would you be interested in a few thousand French francs? MacDougal: Interested? Aye. Very interested. Secombe: Good. Now, er... Let's have your name and address in England. MacDougal: Inspector MacDougal. Secombe: Yeeeeeeeeeeees? MacDougal: Scotland Yard. Secombe: Scotland Y... Sc...? Heeeeeeeeeeeeelp! Heeeeeeeeeeeeelp!

The other side of Max Geldray is ‘The Quest for Brigadier Winchmole’ – “a true story based on documents discovered in an abandoned wash stand near Arnos Grove”.

McSecombe: It’s about this explorer, Brigadier Winchmole. He’s lost in the Amazon jungle. What do you suggest we do? Eccles: Um. Send him a map?

Eccles wasn't always an idiot, obviously.

Instead, the decision is made to bring in the intrepid hero Handjunk (Harry Secombe) to track down the elusive brigadier. He springs into action:

Handjunk: (Yawns) Have you brought the papers? Abdul (Milligan): Yes, here you are, sir. Cup of tea and the papers. And oh, the papers are very sad this morning, sir. Make you cry. Handjunk: They will? Abdul: Yes. They're all call-up papers.

Ignoring this trivial matter, Handjunk hires Eccles and teams up with his uncle, Henry Crun, to travel to Brazil in search of Winchmole. The first thing to do is to secure a means of transport.

Handjunk: Eccles! Eccles: Yer? Handjunk: Blow up the rubber escape raft. Eccles: Okay. [FX: Explosion]

The team’s journey through the Brazilian jungle is fraught with danger. Handjunk warns of "men who would be willing to drive us out of the country" - taxi drivers.

Abdul: Look! … A notice board, sir. It says, ‘Do not go past here because of the Mahlu-Pahli’. Handjunk: Ha, ha, ha, ha! Nonsense. I don’t believe in these native superstitions. Mulgraven? Lead the way. Mulgraven: Ooh, right. Forward, men! [FX: Marching boots] Mulgraven: (Sings, then falls down hole) Ahhhhhhhhhhh… Handjunk: Abdul? Abdul: Yes, sir? Handjunk: What does Mahlu-Pahli mean? Abdul: ‘Two thousand foot drop’, sir.

Having navigated these challenges, Handjunk & co then meet a native of the Brazilian jungle, played by BBC announcer Andrew Timothy.

Handjunk: You-um guide us um-white men quick chop-chop to King of M'Gagas, or else we um-white men get killed chop-chop, fall dead. Native (Andrew Timothy): Oh, I say, what a frightful bore. Handjunk: Oh. You speak English. Native: Yes, do you?

The team does eventually find Brigadier Winchmole, but he doesn’t want to come back to England due to something related to the coronation. The episode peters out somewhat without a big payoff, which seems a shame. And they never did find the Monkey’s Paw.

Photo by Ludwig Kwan from Pexels.

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