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Western Story

Episode 26 of the fourth series was ‘Western Story’, broadcast 22 March 1954. The Radio Times listing is on page 18.

A recording of this episode only emerged relatively recently, being made commercially available on the 2018 release The Goon Show Compendium 14, along with other fourth series recordings including ‘The Toothpaste Expedition’ and ‘The Silent Bugler’.

What would a Westerner be without his horse? Much shorter.

‘Western Story’ was based loosely (VERY loosely) on the 1953 movie Shane, starring Alan Ladd – widely recognised as one of the best Westerns of all time. Ladd was obviously a man in the news at the time given the number of times he was name-dropped in series four.

Greenslade: Before commencing our pulsating, gripping western yarn, let us introduce the characters. First, the hardened killer himself. Henry "Drain" Crun. A lone wolf married to his gun. Henry Crun: Yes, it's been a hard life. Greenslade: Next, the law enforcement officer. An honest, dedicated man. Sheriff Secombe: Yep. Mah name's Sheriff Secombe and I'm married to mah job. Greenslade: And lastly… Eccles: My name's Joe DiMaggio, and I'm having a good time!

(Joe DiMaggio was, of course, married to Marilyn Munroe.)

The sheriff is searching for someone to drive out dangerous Ernest McGrew and his gang – and plans to get the equally dangerous Drain Crun and his gang to help him.

First though, there are other prisoners to deal with. Max Geldray is charged with sabotaging rival harmonica player Larry Adler’s instrument with one and a half pounds of garlic. The judge gives him 10 years and orders his record smashed over his head.

Henry “Drain” Crun and Eccles approach the town, accompanied by their porter from the railway station – Leeds station, by the sounds of his accent. They are in search of the last American town without television. Upon arriving at Bed Springs Creek they enter a bar.

Porter (Secombe): You know them people playing roulette over there? Barman: Yeah? Porter: They're only betting on the black. Why doesn't somebody back the reds? Barman: What? With McCarthy's committee in the town?

The McCarthy committee is a reference to Senator Joseph McCarthy, a Republican politician in the US who led a vociferous and largely baseless campaign against communism, alleging that communist spies were rife throughout various parts of American society. This was at the height of Cold War tensions between the US and the USSR.

This particular committee haul up Crun, Eccles and the porter, Jasper Vast, before them to explain their un-American activity, namely drinking tea.

Secombe: Oh, yes, now, then, here y'are. Eccles medical report. Jasper Vast, medical report. And Henry Crun, findings of post-mortem. Chairman (Ellington): Huh? Crun is dead? Eccles: Shhh! Quiet. He might hear you. Secombe: You mean, he doesn't know? Eccles: Well, we never had the nerve to tell him. And if he suddenly heard he was dead, well, you know. Secombe: What? Eccles: The shock might kill 'im.

Before the trial can be completed, Ernest McGrew’s gang appear on the scene and Crun, Eccles, the sheriff set off in pursuit with their posse. They finally corner the villainous McGrew – or should I say, Bluebottle.

Bluebottle: On the count of three, I will step out, guns blazing. Voice trails off with fear. Bangeddy-bang. Blatt. Zowie. Thun. Blun. And other science-fiction fight sounds. Blam. Blam. Blatt. Blun.

McGrew/Bluebottle’s gun is loaded, but Eccles doesn’t believe him: “Loaded? My foot!”

While attempting to prove he loaded his gun and not Eccles’ foot, Bluebottle is deaded. Mission accomplished!

Throughout this episode, various characters answer ringing phones, even when travelling on horseback, and are heard denying that they are Julius Caesar. This leads to (in my mind) a weak payoff with Eccles answering the phone and saying he is Caesar, thus winning himself a television set.

This isn’t the best script by a long way and lacks the gag rate of subsequent shows. Without a proper lead character – Secombe contributes several voices, none of which take charge – it also struggles for pace.

Fortunately for fans of spoof Westerns, the Goons returned to America in series nine for 'The Call of the West', and it was far more successful. Don’t worry, folks – the best is yet to come.


Title: Western Story

Series 4, Episode 26

Written by: Spike Milligan

Producer: Peter Eton

Available on The Goon Show Compendium 14

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Roger the Saurus
Roger the Saurus
22. 3. 2023

Is it's subtitle "Drain" or "Strain"? I've seen both. Ted Kendall favours "Strain".

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