Tuesday, 29 December 2009

Go now, to the dustheap of history... Morecambe and Wise, Charlie Chester and Larry Larkin

Welcome, chums, to what probably won't become a new occasional series of articles focusing specifically on popular cultural items held in the House of Cobwebs Archive that I have somehow acquired, and have some kind of vague, fleeting interest in, but that I cannot ever foresee myself actually using, reading, watching or listening to... the kind of millstones of clutter that I profess to wish to throw out or give to a charity shop or foist on to an unwitting pal as an "ironic" gift, but end up proclaiming a renewed interest in, and carry from one flat to the next, like some kind of madman. Apologies in advance to international readers who don't have a clue who Charlie Chester is. Don't worry, hardly anybody in the UK knows (or cares) either.

Exhibit 001:
Morecambe and Wise in Night Train to Murder

Format: VHS videogram
Source: Gift?
Time held: 2-3 years

Description: This choice addition to the Thames TV "Best of British" Collection features the much-loved comedy duo in a feature length "spoof comedy thriller".

The case for the Prosecution:

Take a look at the cover picture for a start. Wise looks tired, Morecambe looks ill, and if that's the most enticing image they could conjure up from this end-of-the-line TV special (from when they'd gone back to ITV again) dating from their twilight years (1984), who needs it?

Incidentally, I don't know about you, but I never thought Morecambe and Wise were anywhere near as good as everyone would have you believe, and my least favourite bits were always those tedious long sketches with celebrity guests (like the creepy Angela Rippon) in them that everybody is supposed to howl with laughter over (according to minor celebrities on those rotten "100 funniest comedies" type TV shows). So I'm biased to begin with. Also, this tape was passed on to me by my very close friend Fred Karno, and, highly suspiciously, he told me that he didn't want it back.

The case for the Defence:

According to the back cover, it was written not by the team's usual writers, but, unusually, by Morecambe, Wise and director Joe McGrath. So, even if it's awful and self-indulgent, it'll be interestingly awful and self-indulgent...won't it? Also the pictures on the back suggest that there are two attractive young ladies in the cast. Yes, I'm shallow like that.

And Fulton Mackay is in it, too...that can't be bad, can it?

Even if Eric looks like he's slipping into a coma in this lively production still.

Verdict: Back on the pile for another few years at least.

Exhibit 002:
Charlie Chester: The World is Full of Charlies

Format: Hardback book in horrific faded orange photo dust wrapper.

Source: Probably a charity shop. But according to the price pencilled inside the front it cost £1.50, which is a bit of a puzzler, because I couldn't see myself paying any more than 10p for this highly desirable item. In fact, to be honest, I couldn't see myself buying it at all.

Time held: 8 - 10 years?

Description: Recollections of a lifetime in show business by the old variety performer.

The case for the Prosecution:

"His first job after leaving school was as a grocer's errand boy but it was not long before he was augmenting his meagre earnings by entering and winning many talent competitions as a yodeller and guitarist. At seventeen he ran his own accordion band."

The case for the Defence:

"His first job after leaving school was as a grocer's errand boy but it was not long before he was augmenting his meagre earnings by entering and winning many talent competitions as a yodeller and guitarist. At seventeen he ran his own accordion band."

Additional evidence for the Defence:

Ernest Marples, former Minister of Transport having fun with Bud Flanagan, Jack Solomons and Charlie.

(No glass in Bud's glasses? Oi!)

Charlie, as King Rat in 1951 with guest of honour Charlie Chaplin. Georgie Wood and Fred Russell, OBE, in background.

(Chaplin looks like he wishes he wasn't there. But then so would I if Wee Georgie Wood was lurking behind me, wearing a strange sash, peering over (or under in his case) my shoulder.)

Verdict: Back on the shelf for another few years at least.

Exhibit 003:
Larry Larkin: Is the World Ready for Larry Larkin? (Answer can be found below)

Format: 45rpm Extended Play record

Source: A charity shop in Amersham

Time held: Approximately 8 years
Description: Supposedly humorous record by a forgotten beardy comedian.

Track listing:

1. I'm Just Here to Make You Laugh.
2. Flasher.

1. You're 16 Stones (You're Ugly and You're Mine)
2. They're Coming to Take Me Away, Ha! Ha!

The case for the Prosecution: I have, in fact, listened to this, and it was a grisly experience. I reckon any comedian who feels they have to come right out and tell you that they are insane (or zany, or wacky, etc.) is highly likely to be extremely unfunny and tedious in the extreme. And any humorist who claims that they are slightly insane is likely to be worse still. It's like he wouldn't want you to think he was too silly: he might be clowning around like a genius for two sides of a 45, but at heart, he is a cool clued-in kinda guy.

Nonetheless, I had high hopes that this record might be a contender for the "so bad it's good" section of my Archive and be garbage of the highest order, but alas it is merely mediocre.

The question on everybody's lips: Is the world ready for Larry Larkin?
The answer: No. However, the local charity shop is. Not that anyone will buy it.


The case for the Defence:

Larry's autograph on the inner sleeve - his shaky felt-tip bestowing "luv" upon one Sarah (where is she now, was she the only one who asked for an autograph that night at the holiday camp ballroom, and did he buy her a gin and orange?) - makes Larry seem somehow more human.

It seems to me to evoke a wistful glimpse of the inner man, and makes me feel more sympathetic towards this slightly insane figure, who, let us not forget, got his first break as a baby boy when his Dad dropped him on his head. It makes me feel more kindly disposed towards Larry Larkin, and to his years of struggle, playing "Pantomime and Top Cabaret Venues", afterwards desperately trying to flog copies of "this excellent production".

Verdict: It doesn't take up much space. Back on the record shelf for another decade.

Unfortunately, as soon as I start writing about this old rubbish, I always find myself suddenly more interested in it. Sigh. You will find these three items in THE HOUSE OF COBWEBS. At the bottom of the pile. Covered in dust.

POSTSCRIPT: Yes, you guessed it. As a result of digging this junk out from the heap, I spent much of yesterday evening watching Night Train to Murder. It is a full life I lead. It wasn't as bad as I thought it would be - an amiable enough if failed experimental attempt to break away from the Morecambe and Wise sketch show format, structurally very similar to a British comedy film of the 1930s, in fact. Unfortunately, though, the script was pretty duff, and exceedingly corny. Times had moved on. And though it appeared to have had some money spent on it, and there was a bit of location stuff, it was all shot on that particularly ghastly garishly-bright early eighties video tape. What's more, Eric looked like he might collapse at any moment (shades of Stan Laurel in Atoll K). Well, it can leave the house now, at least. The World is Full of Charlies remains here, however.

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

"You've got it wrong, love..." Mirabelle, No.1, 19th February, 1977

Greetings from beyond the grave, chums. To celebrate the fact that there are now at least 10 discerning culture-vultures who actually want to read this stuff (thank you, pals!) I thought it was about time I exhumed myself and dug into the fun-cupboard to reveal another useless, fusty artefact we can all enjoy.

Today we turn our attention to the fair sex and the ways of LOVE. Not something I am particularly expert in, it must be said. But, putting my own neuroses aside for a moment, I have always enjoyed girls' comics - a fact that, when mentioned over the years, has prompted many a raised eyebrow amidst the conspicuously weedy but distinctly hetero ranks of the comics cognoscenti, who generally prefer an adolescent power-fantasy to girly stuff like relationships, flowers, and all that rot.

Way back in the days before we males could admit to having any kind of sensitivity I used to keep it quiet. Indeed, I remember afternoons in the school summer holidays when I was a lad, circa the early 1980s somewhereabouts, when the best thing about the dismal prospect of having to be "looked after" by the next door neighbours was the chance to read their teenage daughter's copies of Misty, the now-cult British girls' comic that featured stories of ghosts, witches, strict schools and naughty girls getting their come uppance in inventively supernatural ways. In my heart, I always wanted to be able to get Misty delivered every week myself, but how could I? It was a girls' comic. So I thought I had to read Warlord and Victor instead, unfortunately for me. Have a pineapple, Fritz! Himmel! Boom! Argghh!

Maybe we'll talk about Misty one of these days. Or maybe not. But for now I want to draw your attention to another British comic for girls. One I certainly didn't see at the time, and one that I had never heard of until I stumbled across a copy at one of those aromatic comics fairs of which I am so inordinately fond. Today I would like to introduce you to Mirabelle. This, the first (and possibly the only issue) was recently found in one of the cheap boxes among a load of rotten British reprints of dull 1970s Marvel Comics and cost me 25p. I may have imagined it but I think the stall holder may well have given me a look of what could only described as sceptical disdain when I purchased said item: is there something wrong with you? I don't care. It's terrific! But it is definitely not Love Stories in Pictures as the cover misleadingly claims.

In fact, I can't find any of your standard love stories in pictures in here at all. Instead, I find romance fused with horror, bleak post-apocalyptic sci-fi and sleazy sex comedy. Take a look at the comic's opener, The Poison Valentine.

It's like a Mills and Boon paperback crossed with a Pete Walker movie. Splendid. Dig the "skull" motif. Paperchase, take note. These cards would sell.

Could it have something to do with her boyfriend? It's a serial, but the moral of the story might be: never trust a guy with gypsy looks, an enigmatic smile and a David Essex neckerchief. He may secretly be a "freak". But we'll never know...

Flip the page and we have a strip about a fashion model desperate to get the photographer to "notice me as a person". This is how she goes about it. Hang on a tick, I thought this was a mag for girls!

I say, ding dong! Something for the Dads, eh? But, wouldn't you just know it...

"You've got it wrong love...pop off and change." Methinks it is this Leo Sayer-esque snapper who has got it wrong. But each to their own, I suppose...

Anyway, there's three pages of that. What shall we have next? How about some love stories in pictures? If you insist, but let's combine it with the story of a girl and her dog in a post-apocalyptic world. As you do.

Oh Jacko. Sometimes I feel like I can't move another step. Probably the radiation poisoning. Didn't you read the government leaflet about painting your doors white, buy in the dustbin bags for the family corpses, or stock up on tinned fruit? Jacko looks happy enough, though. He could be doing an ad for Pedigree Chum, if you ignore the rubble.

I fear that, deep in her heart, she may already know the answers to both these questions. If she's hungry, it looks like Jacko has plenty of meat on him.

She's also being chased by a load of sinister, vaguely Russian-looking soldiers. But hang on, this is all a bit bleak, isn't it? Where are the love stories in pictures? Time for some irradiated love interest...

Not a bad spread, eh? Armageddon can be quite nice, really. Less competition from other chicks when you're attempting to snare a guy, and that's the main thing, eh? Even when you're vomiting every ten minutes.

Hmm, a few pages left to fill. How about some lust stories in pictures? How about an exceedingly seedy comedy comic-strip reminiscent of Confessions of a Driving Instructor, reinforcing every stereotype about women drivers you can possibly think of? That's sure to appeal to the young ladies, don't you think?

Check out this lost sleaze-classic. They don't do comic strips like this any more. Not that they ever did, apart from here, as far as I'm aware...

Wa-hey, eh? Every girl loves a driving instructor in Tartan flares. Irresistible.

So much for Mr. Grimes... but there are other cravatted Lotharios to contend with...

Hel-lo indeed. You get the picture. But there is a happy ending to Sue's tale.

Here's how she did it.

Do you know, I could have sworn there was this movement called "Women's Lib" in the 1970s. But I must have dreamed it.

Whatever happened to Mirabelle? According to an advert inside the back cover, number two was on the way...but did it ever make it to the newsagents' shelves? I wonder.

Eight great stories and free shampoo? Girls, how did you manage to resist?

Mirabelle is the weirdest British comic for girls I've ever read. You will find it in THE HOUSE OF COBWEBS.

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Wood-and-String Music Men, Adam Faith, an Empty Record Sleeve and the Extended Holly Hiccup

Hey, what's cookin', you hep cats? These wood and string music men live on the desk here amidst the detritus in the House of Cobwebs. Generally, however, as they are not very stable and fall over at any opportunity, they are usually to be found sitting in a small pile, often with their heads broken off, gathering dust. But I have posed them resplendently here for your enjoyment.

I can't remember where they came from but they used to live inside a vintage cocktail cabinet I had in Amersham in one of my previous lives. I'm guessing that they are circa 1960s and that there might be one missing. In repeated efforts to convince myself that they are supposed to be The Beatles I have often found myself trying to assign the identities of one member of the Fab Four to each of them, but to no avail. You can't get round the fact that this bass player is not left handed. Still, pretty groovy, eh? Straight outta the fridge, Daddio.

While we're on the subject of music, take a look at this - from a time in British music before Beatles.

If you haven't seen it, Beat Girl is a terrific British rock n' roll exploitation picture from the late 1950s. Everyone goes on all the time about how it features a young Oliver Reed (and, yes, it does) but perhaps more importantly, quite apart from the foxy chicks (Gillian Hills and Shirley Anne Field) pictured here, it is a showcase for the much maligned but much underrated Brit fop-pop star and actor Adam Faith.

Soon after this film was made, with the first wave of rock 'n' roll rebellion tamed and morphing into 'pop' music, Mr Faith's image was revamped somewhat - he was given smart tailored suits, and some foppish pretty-boy songs to sing (e.g. Poor Me, Someone Else's Baby and, recommended for die hard devotees only, the ultra-saccharin seasonal number Lonely Pup in a Christmas Shop, complete with kiddie choir). Popular with the young ladies, he became rather a fixture in the Hit Parade in the early 1960s, before The Beatles came along and changed everything. Adam tried to keep up with the beat groups, and he recorded some rather fine tougher-sounding waxings with his own backing combo, The Roulettes, but the kids weren't fooled. But, in his day, he was big. My old man assures me that, once upon a time, so famed was the young Mr Faith that he was known simply as 'Adam' the same way Presley was known as 'Elvis'. Yeah, right. But I love the idea, and, though I suspect that my old man has allowed his own enthusiasm for Adam to cloud his memory, I choose to believe him. Anyway, everybody laughs it up these days when they hear Adam's slightly flat, drippy, ultra-twee Buddy Holly-esque vocals (hiccups all over the place - where Buddy would use one every now and again, Adam would often attempt to get as many as he could into virtually every line, with his own particular twist on the idea being to extend the hiccup as far as possible; e.g. Poor Me becomes P - aw-aw-awa-awa-ahaw-oor Me-ee-ha-her-hee-ee) but it's all great fun and the early singles all feature great, lush, echoing orchestral backings by John Barry, and I like to listen to Adam warbling along with them while I am in the bath.

Let's have another close up look at sulky Adam and his 'dolls', down at the espresso bar drinking the new continental invention 'frothy coffee', the young rascals.

He's so mean and moody. Unfortunately, there is a sad end to today's tale. I have the Beat Girl E.P. sleeve, but not the record that goes inside! Horrors! This was another Hounslow Heath Car Boot buy, for 50p, from a bewildered seller that couldn't understand why I would possibly want to buy a record cover with no record. I combed the stall for the platter, but alas...

That was many years ago. Of course, I live in eternal hope that one glorious, happy day I might locate a sleeveless copy of the disc, and then...but why torture myself, eh?

You will find this empty record sleeve in THE HOUSE OF COBWEBS.

Sunday, 25 October 2009

Kinky Mouse Bondage!

Not only are pre-Comics Code funny animal comics funnier and more imaginative than those that came later on - they also contain all kinds of weird subtexts to disturb your brain.

This one here, recently obtained from an Ebay seller who finally cut the price on this choice item (unbelievably, it would seem that no-one else but me wanted this - and he must have spotted me watching it for about six months), is full of all kinds of crazy stuff.

I suspect this was its writer's first crack at a Disney comic. He doesn't seem to have much of an understanding of the characters he's handling - so they all act a bit oddly - and, unusually, he draws attention to the fact that the main protagonist is a mouse. I've never seen Mickey act so rodent-like.

You wouldn't care much about the entertaining but ridiculous plot; suffice to say that Mickey gets framed for stealing some jewels. But Minnie takes centre stage in this one. Goofy only turns up for one out of character - but funny - bit:

Considering how he's usually Mickey's closest compadre, it's amusing and slightly weird to see the Goof as a full-on "village idiot" type labourer - complete with wheel barrow - stupider than usually depicted. I particularly like his blank stare, and the whizz clouds behind him. It would be interesting to see him this dumb more often.

But the most striking thing is, that through the course of this story, Mickey gets tied up over and over again. The cover pretty much sums it up. I'm not kidding, not much else happens.

So, even if Minnie's glossy black gothic mouse-lipstick doesn't do it for you, if you're one of the growing number of deviants into MBSM (Sad0-Masochistic Mouse Bondage), with enforced bow-ties, you'll love this. Made sure the missus is out? Good. Then we'll begin.

Chonk! Rough stuff. What's more, everything really does look painful. Yow! It's like Mickey Mouse directed by Tarantino. But if the bad guy cuts off this dude's ear, he'd better put down some plastic sheeting first.

Mickey remembers he's a rodent and gets chewing. Mmm, delicious rope. Mind your bow-tie!

Simply being tied to a chair combined with nose-play no longer fulfils the fetishist's need. The whole mouse body must now be tied, and left in a country lane. Only the enormous cartoon-character shoes can be exposed. Then the ropes are eaten to achieve climax.

As the fetishist's sexual needs escalate, to find satisfaction, he must now be fully tied in an armoured car with a lady mouse, and talk dirty about ham sandwiches, whilst he forces himself to ingest rope.

Mutual mastication.

I don't know about you, but I'm full. I couldn't eat another bite. No, not even some string.

Aha, here comes the denouement:

I wouldn't dream of giving the end away, kids, but maybe - just maybe - you might be able to figure it out. Suffice to say - it's all tied up at the end! HO HO HO HO HO! Scream! Guffaw! I still got it.

Bizarre old stuff, eh? You'll find this comic in the kinky HOUSE OF COBWEBS.

Sunday, 4 October 2009

Baron Von Charlton's Spooky Comics Casebook: The Hounslow Spine-Roller

As the autumn nights draw in you will often find me, cosily perched atop my deluxe Argos oil-filled radiator, amidst the splendour of my luxurious wood chip-panelled hovel, enjoying my comic collection. If you got a ladder, placed it against the wall, climbed up it and peered through my third floor window, you might perchance spot me carefully arranging my beloved comics in numerical or alphabetical order, worrying whether they should be sorted according to publisher, checking them against the price-guide, sniffing at the smell of their glorious decaying newsprint, lamenting the fact that modern printing methods cannot replicate a particularly vivid cover hue, or engaging in some other similarly useful and fulfilling activity. Sometimes I even read them.

You will remember my Old Man, who spotted that Man From U.N.C.L.E. Annual. Well, he came up trumps once again recently when he stumbled upon a stash of early 1970s Charlton horror comics at the legendary Hounslow Heath Car Boot Sale. I must confess that though I have long been an aficionado of Marvel and DC horror comics of the Silver Age, I had generally written off the Charlton stuff, assuming it must be as lousy as other Charlton product, like Freddy. I was wrong.

The Pater - calling me up direct from a muddy field - had brokered a deal with a seedy chap peddling old comics and obtained a stack of Charlton horrors at 50p a time (the seller regretted offering them so cheap once he realised someone - at the other end of a mobile phone - was interested - ho ho!). I wasn't expecting much, to be honest, but when I got hold of said issues, and dug out a similar pile that lurked unread in a cardboard box on top of a wardrobe, I was both shocked and pleased to discover that Charlton were the unexpected masters of crazy, outlandish 1970s horror comics.

As we know, the 1970s saw a resurgence in the popularity of the horror comic genre. Charlton were publishing small-fry compared to market-leaders Marvel and DC, and couldn't offer their writers and artists as much in the way of spondulicks as their hy-tone competitors; but, as I gleaned from the enthusiastic discussions going on in the letter columns the comics contained, something else was on offer: artistic freedom.

Hence cheesed-off, exiled unpredictable genius types like Spiderman co-creator Steve Ditko found a haven here, and were allowed to plough their own bizarre artistic furrows without editorial tampering.

I expect we'll chat about these again, but in the meantime, let's have a quick look at a few covers...

Afraid of women, moi? Don't be ridiculous. Do I detect just the merest hint of repressed male sexual anxiety here? I must be imagining it. Great cover, though. As per the eternal rules set down by EC in the Tales From the Crypt days, all the Charlton horror comics had to have "hosts" who introduced the tales within - in this case it was the delectable Winnie The Witch (you can see her up on the top left corner, in all her vivid blue glory).

From the quaint looks of this one, the 1950s never ended... Artwork by Rocco "Rocke" Mastroserio, apparently, who, from the sound of his name at least, gave up boxing to draw this (this is a 1981 reprint of a comic first seen in 1967). Your horror host: Doctor Graves. All the stories within come from his "casebook". Since the first case in the issue is No. 805, I wouldn't want to be the one carting that tome around in my briefcase. And, more importantly, how come my hair didn't go grey in that cool way?

This one is rather more 1970s, is it not? You'll note that this comic bears unmistakable marks that identify it as one of "The Hounslow Horde": to wit, the previous (slightly unhinged?) owner has rolled the spine so carefully and excessively that a fair amount of the back cover seems to have ended up on the front. I'm not sure how he managed this; but you have to hand it to the poor nerd, he's done a splendid job. I've never seen such a bizarre and distinctive damage-marking technique employed before. In fact, I can almost imagine him, alone in a bedsit, perhaps in Feltham in 1978 - unconsciously? - marking ownership of these comics in this "special way". Incidentally, I spent some hours trying to flatten this out again, and thought I had succeeded, but slowly, insidiously, overnight, it sprang back.

Top marks to artist Mike Zeck, who drew this, one of the best giant-furry-spider-menacing-a-sleeping-child covers I've ever seen. Terrific. But sadly his efforts were in vain: this was the last in the series. Horror host Mr. Dee Munn just didn't catch on. I guess that middle-age and pot-belly is no competition for sex-pot micro-skirted blue witch-chicks, and the unfortunate Mr. Munn was obviously at the back of the line at Charlton HQ when it came to handing out the pun-tastic names.

Another one from the "Hounslow Horde" with an even heavier spine roll. Boy, he sure was a nutcase. Coverwise, I don't have much of an idea what's going on here, but anything featuring killer mummies and a sacred scarab amulet is fine by me. That chap at the front looks a bit stressed, and may perhaps be in a spot of trouble here; but, on the bright side, it doesn't look like he ever has any trouble with his teeth. You have to count your blessings. Artwork from Rich Larson's fevered brain, apparently. Your horror host for this one is the lively Mr. Dedd, who's opening words are And now you will pay your debt in full! Just thought you should know.

Ah, Ditko. Good ol' Ditko. Only Ditko would contemplate a bizarre composition of this sort, and only Ditko could pull it off. Sort of. Just about. OK, maybe not. But the story inside is about mad ventriloquists, so that's all right. Get back in the box. I don't want to get back in the box. You know what happens in it.

This one is weirder still - baffling, balmy and proudly defying all rules of composition, it's surely a fine example of the kind of cover image that the other, more fraidy-cat publishers would have rejected. Great. Love the guy with the flower-pot on his head, and the devil-man pointing out at us. Hey, you squares, yeah you! I'm a devil-man. I don't think this is by Ditko, but definitely by an artist who wishes he was Ditko. A freaks' parade. Don't ask me what it means. And it has nothing to do with the stories, either. Your horror host is a lanky fellow in a natty suit with an enormous blue forehead (blue seemingly being the groovy colour of choice for 1970s comic-book horror-hosts). I don't know his name. But it doesn't matter, they're all interchangeable anyway. Try not to let it worry you.

I really enjoyed reading these. If the sample I have studied so far is anything to go by, the Charlton horror comics of this era contain some of the weirdest, least predictable and most entertaining tales of the strange and uncanny to emerge from the genre since its late 1940s/ early 1950s pre-Comics Code heyday. I will find more of these and do further research. And every issue I find I'm going to roll the spine right round to the front.

You will find these comics in THE HOUSE OF COBWEBS.

Saturday, 19 September 2009

"Ze alcohol! You are spilling ze alcohol!" The forgotten genius of Danny Kaye in The Man From the Diners' Club (1963)

Greetings. As well as old comics, I love old films. Especially comedy films. The incredible rubber-faced multi-voiced high-speed comedy genius Danny Kaye has always held a particular place in my affections. When I was a kid, I remember watching his 1955 comedy The Court Jester with my Paw and laughing so much at it that I thought I my sides would split - really, I'm not just saying that. Twenty years later, it finally came out on DVD and I got the chance to see it again. I was rather worried - supposing that it wasn't that funny after all? I sat down to watch it with my flat mate (who also hadn't seen the film for 20 years) and luckily it was just as funny as ever - perhaps more so. Or perhaps I'm just even dumber than I was as a kid. But seriously: it may, in fact, be the funniest film ever made. Yes, folks. If you have no idea what I'm talking about, get yourself a copy right now.

But that's not the film I'm writing about today. No, today let's rap about The Man From the Diners' Club. This is a lesser-known Kaye comedy, directed by Frank Tashlin, a one-time director of Warner Bros. cartoons who moved into live action work, notably directing some films by comedy genius clown / unfunny conceited club comic (depending on your opinion ) Jerry Lewis in the 1960s. More about Lewis another time, maybe.

The Man From the Diners' Club is not available on DVD. I find this astonishing. It is an unduly ignored comedy film about nervous, twitchy credit card company employee Ernest Klenk, who accidentally issues a card to a gym-running mobster (splendidly played by Telly Savalas), then spends much of the film trying to get the card back from the gangster before his boss notices he's issued it. For ridiculous reasons, he has to get a job as a gym instructor in the gangster's gym to do this. Meanwhile, the gangster has decided that he will murder Klenk because he has the same size feet as himself and steal his identity (along with his credit card) and split to Mexico. The plot's pretty muddled up at some points and a bit over-complicated but it doesn't matter that much - the main thing is that you get to see some great energetic twitchy gulpy Danny Kaye routines. Savalas is great, and there are some very sexy 1960s gals on hand to take a peek at too, which all adds to the fun.

Danny Kaye as nervous employee Ernest Klenk. He's probably just about to start twitching, rolling his eyes, and gulping. I wouldn't be at all surprised.

These are the best bits:

1. Ernest/Danny attempting to get a card out of a giant computer, which is in fact an enormous card index. Of course, his tie gets stuck in the mechanism, and all the cards fly out, with sound effects of springs twanging. Cue Danny twitching, pulling faces, and cards flying everywhere, as he frantically tries to collect them up, while they blow about like they were in a gale. The scene just goes on and on. He falls over, etc.

2. An amazing beatnik party scene, with a groovy young Harry Dean Stanton spouting brilliantly well-observed Ginsbergesque hokum about "The Cosmic Laundry" to the bongo accompaniment of his polo-necked pals. Cue Danny twitching, pulling faces, etc. Fantastic.

3. Ernest/Danny, pretending to be a gym instructor, attempting to give one of his office colleagues a massage, without him catching on who he is. Cue Danny pulling his jersey over his face, and pretending to be a brutal Bavarian masseur, twisting the poor guy's neck, hammering his back, and pouring massage oil in his face every few seconds whilst shouting "Ze alcohol! You are spilling ze alcohol!" and such like, in a cod-German accent, over and over. The scene just goes on and on. It looks genuinely violent. Then, having run out of script and ad-libs, he throws talcum powder all over the place. Brilliant stuff.

FOH Stills from the film (which was in fact in good old fashioned Black and White). Note bottom right - Ernest gets his tie stuck in the giant computer card index... guess what happens next...

The tie-in paperback adaptation of the film. If you look closely you can see the cards all flying about while Ernest tries to gather them up. Also note Danny's doll-like screen girlfriend, whom you can't possibly believe would go for drippy old-man Klenk. Nice cover, but the problem with the novelisation is that it can never replicate the experience of hearing Danny shout "Ze alcohol! Ze alcohol!" over and over until you think he can't possibly do the line again, and then he does.

I must stress that Danny isn't given much to do here in terms of his trademark witty, clever quick-fire verbal humour, and there's no singing at all; I guess many Kaye fans would be disappointed for that reason. It seems more like a Jerry Lewis vehicle, crossed with a Jacques Tati film, crossed with a Bugs Bunny cartoon. All of which suits me fine. But if you don't like your comedy broad, loud, childish, overdone and with humorous German accents, you probably won't like The Man From the Diners' Club.

Indeed, difficult though it is to contemplate that there are such philistines out there reading this, I must point out that if the thought of watching 90 minutes of Danny Kaye relentlessly mugging, dashing about, rolling his eyes, stuttering, twitching nervously and shouting "ze alcohol!" doesn't fill you with a sense of buoyant joviality and an air of expectant glee, you may conceivably find this film a laughter-free zone. You humorless old buzzard.

But you will find a bootleg copy in THE HOUSE OF COBWEBS.