Eighties TV Season: The Steam Video Company, Episode 3: I Was Hitler's Bookie


Hot on the heels of my post on End of Part One, we have another comedy series which draws on the Pythonesque humour of some years before and is placed just before the alternative comedy explosion of the eighties. In fact The Steam Video Company, as you can tell by the title, is distinctly looking backwards. The Steam Video Company is more securely in the eighties, being broadcast in 1984, although there is a connection between the two shows, because writer of this show, David Renwick, also wrote End of Part ONe as well as The Burkiss Way, the radio show which was the inspiration for End of Part One. He is a well-known TV writer, having also written at least in part, One Foot in the Grave, Jonathan Creek, Cosby, Poirot, Alexei Sayle's Stuff, There's a Lot of It About, Whoops Apocalypse, The Dick Emery Show, Not the Nine O'Clock News, The Little and Large Show, The Les Dawson Show, and The Two Ronnies. 

We are not only in the presence of truly great writing, but also in the presence of an all-star cast. To start off with we have Bob Todd whose roles are incredibly versatile, including playing the prime minister's mother and having a fruitbat down his trousers in a parody of What's my Line. It would honestly take too long to list the shows William Franklin was in, but I guarantee you'll recognise him as the head spy type. You all know that Barry Cryer's life was spent in comedy, and of course we know that we are among comedy royalty here. Anna Dawson has been in all sorts of things, but we will be coming across The News Statesman again during this series of posts and if you like this show I think you will like one of my favourite films, Bloodbath at the House of Death. The variety of talent is illustrated by the presence of Madeline Smith, who my mother would probably have called a sexy piece, and the up and coming comedy world is represented by Jimmy Mulville, who has done more as a producer than an actor but he's been in loads of comedy shows and has not long ago produced Prince Andrew the Musical.

I would identify several obvious influences including radio shows going back some time such as I'm Sorry I'll Read That Again and even going back as far as the fifties in Round the Horne. There are also echoes of The Goodies, or perhaps there are echoes of The Goodies in as much as they echo those earlier radio shows. Each episode opens with spoof trailers voiced by Bob Danvers-Walker, who voiced the Pathe News for many years.

There isn't that much about this on the internet but a review on IMDB suggests that ATV's Carry on Laughing was also an influence because each episode parodies a movie genre, with titles such as The STrange Case of Dr Jekyll, Creature from the Black Forest Gateau, I Was Hitler's Bookie, and Amittyville 2 - Luton Town 3. You might have to be British to get the last one. It was made by Thames Television.

The above is a summary of all the information about it I could find on t'internet. The individual episode I've chosen to focus on is episode 3, I was Hitler's Bookie. Because there is so little on this online, and in fact I only discovered the existence of this show last week, I am once again going to be more descriptive than usual.

It begins with spoof adverts for films: You're Only Dead Once (a spoof of the shower scene in Psycho combined with Jaws, because a shark appears in the shower and starts eating the woman), The Life and Loves of an Indian Rubber Man (referencing The Life and Loves of a She Devil by Fay Weldon, which we all know was subsequently made into a TV show) in which we see a man in bed with a woman and he can get his feet out of the top of the bedding, and Tinker, Tailor, Shepherd, Spy, where a man goes up a ladder to an advertising hoarding, there is a crash, and he has replaced one of the characters in the ad. The original character is in a heap on the ground.

Then we move on to the actual adventure of I was Hitler's Bookie. The first scene is in a court where the judge does all the voices to call Flight Leftenant Deadeye Dawlish (who used to be a pantomime dame in Puss in Boots - just wait till the anti-drag queen crowd find that drag is a traditional part of white British cultural entertainment for children every Chistmas) who turns up head to foot in bandages. He was injured shelling peas in the NAAFI and his wife has divorced him because he takes so long to unwind at night. We see him entering a bookshop in 1939 and having a conflab under a table with other spies clad in trenchcoats and bowler hats. It turns out something's come up on the Y front, but luckily Y managed to send in a microdot before being shot. It's invisible to the naked eye so one of the other agents gives Deadeye Dawlish an eye wearing underpants to read it.

Somebody is trying to fix the Second World War: the Germans have been bribed to lose in the sixth year. They think Honest Joe Wibley, bookmaker and body snatcher, is behind this. WIbley is due to hand over the necessary documents to Heinrich von Scrofula in a club in Berlin the next week. They decide who will do this by all drawing a straw on a piece of paper.

The next witness is Fifi la Smut, Soho good time girl and proprietress of the Indian Rubber Massage Parlour, Southall. This just means the barrister rings her up from the court to make an appointment for 8 o'clock that evening.

Next comes the defendant, Honest Joe Wibley, turf accountant to the Third Reich. He was also a former Cellmate of the Month for the magazine Kray Brothers Only (you all know what this is referencing and I'm not going to explain it lol). The barrister gives the judge a copy and invites him to take a look at the centrefold. The barrister asks Honest Joe whether he denies having a criminal record as long as his arm (he produces his arm from behind the witness box, which is of course incredibly long).

You get the idea. This show is absolutely insane and it's great. I won't carry on with a detailed description because you've got the idea and I know you're all going to run away and look up the entire series on a YouTube channel called Filmnet, which has other good things on it too.

I don't have any major criticisms escept that I just wish there were more than six episodes in total. I expect this is one of those shows you either like or you don't, though, depending on your sense of humour.

Finally you didn't think you'd escaped without yet another picture of me when I was Cellmate of the Month in Kray Brothers Only, did you? This is actually my favourite photo of me ever and I've only just learned to reduce the green in it so it's now my profile picture. The other picture below shows the current weather in Pudding Island. I can't wait for some sun!



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