Since joining the Goons near the start of the fourth series, BBC announcer Wallace Greenslade had thrown himself whole-heartedly into the melee, adopting French accents and generally joining in with the shenanigans. In this episode, it was Wal’s time to shine.
The year is 1898. QC Hairy Seagoon is tasked with defending Mr Nugent Dirt in court on charges of concealing his bald head from his now wife. Outside the courtroom, Greenslade is doing a brisk trade from his portable tobacco kiosk. Join the dots yourselves.
Judge Schnorrer (Sellers): Now, then, Nugent Dirt - the jury of three just men and twenty-nine criminals finds you guilty of hiding your bald nut from your wife until after you had married her. Nugent Dirt (Secombe): It's a lie! Schnorrer: Silence! Dirt: Silence! Schnorrer: Thank you. Therefore - I sentence you to pay a fine of three shillings or do sixty years in the nick. Dirt: I'll do the sixty years - I'm not throwing three bob down the drain. Schnorrer: Dirt - for refusing to throw three bob down the drain I sentence you to sixty years in the nick.
As the action unfolds, more and more people are “balded” and Greenslade’s tobacco business grows and grows. Incidentally, Harry Secombe does a very good impersonation of a smoker’s cough.
Sellers: In the months that followed, the Phantom struck again and again. Fifty men were balded while they slept. Milligan: Brighton became a city of terror - the holiday trade was threatened. That year only two gentlemen came to Brighton. Winston Churchill (Sellers): Come on Clem [Labour Party leader Clement Attlee], what've we got to lose?
Brighton leaders discuss how to keep people safe. Henry Crun suggests bald wigs be distributed, leading to a classic Minnie and Henry argument about whether or not Crun really knows a man with “a hairy bald head”.
By this point the situation is critical, with more than 300 victims of the Phantom. The military is called in to surround Brighton, and Seagoon and Bluebottle head to Haywards Heath to confront the villain.
Bluebottle: I am ready, my capitain - let justice be doned. He will fall under the wrath of my Boys' Wonder mag cardboard sword. Pulls up trousers - tucks in shirt. Hehehehe - my hands are cold. Seagoon: The Shaver's a dangerous man - he might kill. Bluebottle: Eh? (Gulp) What! Hehehehehehe - I just remembered, I gotta go and shampoo my goldfish, I won't be long. Seagoon: Come here, Bluebottle - don't tell me you're a coward? Bluebottle: I won't, but you're bound to hear about it sometime.
The Haywards Heath exit is guarded by crack British troops – i.e., Eccles and Bloodnok.
Eccles: Who's dat out dere? Who's dat? Who's dat out dere? Bloodnok: I warn you, sir, one step nearer and we'll scream.
Bloodnok is confident of his ability to outwit the Phantom, until it is pointed out to him that he too has been shaved. However, it’s only half his head, meaning the Phantom was interrupted and is still in the vicinity.
Bloodnok: What? You mean you want me to wait here for him to come back and shave the other half? Seagoon: It's your duty. Bloodnok: I refuse! Seagoon: Then, under Chinese law, I subpoena you. Bloodnok: You filthy swine you. Oh, very well, I'll do it. Just leave me that book about Scottish Regiments. Seagoon: But it's called The Decameron. Bloodnok: Of course - it's all about Decameron Highlanders.
The Decameron is a collection of short novels by 14th author Giovanni Boccaccio. The Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders was a regiment that saw significant action in both World Wars, including in places in southeast Asia, where it’s likely they crossed paths with Larry Stephens’ commandos.
The Phantom is cornered in an ammunition hut. Who better to go in and confront him than Bluebottle?
Bluebottle: Eehehehehe, little me? Go and get him? Seagoon: Yes. Bluebottle: What, little tiny rotten weak frightened Bluebottle go in and get him? Seagoon: Yes. Bluebottle: I don't like this game! Let's play another game, let's play doctors and nurses! [FX: Whoosh] Seagoon: Come down from that tree! Bluebottle: I'll be nurse Florence Nightingoon, the Lady with the Lump.
Seagoon persuades our favourite boy scout to enter the hut armed with his Jet Morgan cardboard cutout space catapult, a reference to the Journey Into Space radio series that was airing on the BBC at the time, and was a creation of future Goon Show producer Charles Chilton.
Alas, Bluebottle falls victim to the Head Shaver too…
Bluebottle: Nooooooo, you rotten swine you - I've been balded - you've ruined my Tony Curtis type haircut! I told you I didn't like this rotten game!
As a last resort, Seagoon throws in a stick of dynamite – only for it to apparently go out. He, Bluebottle and Eccles venture inside, but – boom.
Bloodnok arrives, but too late. He finds only a travelling tobacco salesman.
Greenslade: Care for a pipe of tobacco? Bloodnok: What? Oh that's very nice of you. Thank you! Greenslade: Good night. Bloodnok: Goodnight - charming fellow. Tobacco eh? Mmm yes lovely. Gad, it's almost the same colour as my hair. It IS the same colour... Stop that man! That naughty man!
And roll end credits.
How's this for a spoiler alert from the Radio Times listing?
During the hot summer of 1898, Mr and Mrs Nugent Dirt were just one of many honeymooning couples enjoying the bracing air of Brighton. Then, one torrid night, like a bolt from the blue the Phantom Head Shaver struck, and Mr Dirt woke up - bald! Prunella, his wife, summoned him for concealing his baldness during courtship, and the great QC, Hairy Seagoon, was briefed for the defence. No sooner had he arrived on the scene than the dreaded Phantom struck again! This time the victim was Mr Seagoon. As the court case dragged on the Head Shaver struck again and again - fifty times - until Brighton became a city of terror. The Military flung a cordon round the district leaving only one exit at Haywards Heath, and it was there, in a lonely railwayman's hut, that the fearless Hairy Seagoon finally came to grips with the dreaded 'Shaver.'
(from the Radio Times listing for Series 5 Episode 4, issue 1614, 15 October 1954)
At least it's more or less accurate. As this series progressed, synopses became less and less attached to the script they purported to represent, leading the RT to abandon the practice part-way into series six.
Title: The Phantom Head Shaver of Brighton
Series 5, Episode 4
Broadcast: 19 October 1954
Written by: Spike Milligan
Producer: Peter Eton