BBC Television, Series 7 Episodes 10 & 11
Episodes Summarised by Emma Shane
© August 2006 (ammended April 2007)
Well they certainly made
pretty good use of having a big strong loud-voiced girl with the nimble fingers
and near-perfect comic timing of a famous puppeteer and the graceful movement
and singing abilities of a
Series 7, Episode 10
The episode opens in the Cafe, where Rene, played by Gordon Kaye is stuffing a string of cooked sausages down his trousers, which he explains directly to the audience (the only time somebody does this) is to feed the British Airmen who are currently stuck on a ledge down a drain under the town square. It seems they were hiding in the cellar of the chateau, the plan had been to float them out to see through the sewers, but they went along the wrong sewer. One of the waitresses Yvette, played by Vicki Michelle enters, just in time to help Rene try to hide a mustard pot on a string down his trousers. It which crucial moment Rene’s wife Edith, played by Carmen Silvera enters, and shoes Yvette away (clearly not liking her being so intimate with her husband). Michelle of the resistance enters, played by Kirsten Cooke, and with her Allo Allo catchphrase “Listen very carefully I shall say this only once” (actually it sounds more like “Lesson very carefully I shall say zis only once” informs Rene that her resistance girls are busy adapting his mother-in-law Mme Fanny’s wheelchair, so that a tank of soup can be hidden under it, to deliver to the airmen. Enter the other waitress, Mimi, played by Sue Hodge, with the news that Mme Fanny has had a row with LeClerc and gone off on a visit somewhere. Michelle decided that Edith will have to pretend to be Fanny (her mother).
In the square, Alfonse, the undertaker, played by Kenneth Connor, is attempting to see what can be done about the rusty grating, when Crabtree the Gendarme, played by Arthur Bostrum walks up, and enquires what he is doing. Alfonse explains about the Airmen, Crabtree understands, he is evidently in on this. We are also shown the two Airmen, Fairfax and Carstairs played by John D Collins, and, Nicholas Frankau down below, who speak with accents that mark them out as classy Englishmen. It is noticeable that when Crabtree speaks to them he adopts the same accent. (It should be noted Crabtree is actually meant to be a British Secret Agent).
Back at the Cafe, Edith is disguised as her mother, and looking rather convincing. Alfonse turns up to suggest using his old ice-cream truck, which Rene points out hasn’t run since it broke down in 1934, as a cover to help them get the airmen out, after all he can’t go hammering at the rusty grating in the middle of the town square anyone could see. Rene sets off, walking awkwardly to deliver the sausages.
In The Square, standing over the grating, Rene is accosted by one of the German Officers, Lieutenant Gruber, played by Guy Siner; and hastily invents a cover story about getting rid of old food from the cafe that is passed it’s “Eat By date” by dropping it straight down the drain. If they put it in the dustbin someone might find it. It’s noticeable how good Gordon Kaye is at delivering this script with a perfectly straight face. Actually that is true of all the actors.
At Herr Flick’s hideout, Herr Flick, of the Gestapo (played by Richard Gibson), is instructing his assistant Von Smallhaussen (played by John Louis Mansi) to forge a painting by numbers. It is a painting of “the fallen madonna with the big boobies” which they have stolen from the Chateau. The plan is to put the forgery in the desk of one of the German officers, and then get a message to the General saying that is where the stolen painting is, so that the Colonel will then be sent to the Russian Front, thus getting him out of their way. Meanwhile, Herr Flick is going to take some flowers to Private Helga (his girlfriend).
At the, well I’m not quite sure what to call it, so I shall refer to it as the German Officer’s Office, or perhaps just The Office. In the outer office, Private Helga, played by Kim Hartman, is packing to go away on a training course. She is standing behind her desk, sitting, somewhat demurely to right of this (Helga’s left) is another girl, whose red curls are pinned up neatly and like Helga she wears the hat and uniform of a Nazi Private, a pair of distinctive sparkling brown eyes gaze out at the camera. You can’t help but notice her. This is of course Private Elsa Bigsten played by Louise Gold. When she speaks she uses an interesting guttural accent, which had I just heard it on record I might not have immediately recognised as one of the many in Louise Gold’s vast repertoire of accents, except that her shear volume is distinctive. While packing Helga is also explaining to her replacement where to find the stationary. Finishing with the instruction that if she needs to know anything else, to ask Lieutenant Gruber; Who of course promptly enters, and introduction over, informs Elsa that he may have some overtime for her one evening, her expressive face conveys just how very keen she seems on that idea. In the Inner Office, the German Officers, Lieutenant Gruber along with the Colonel played by Richard Marner and Bertolli played by Roger Kitten, are discussing the new girl, she seems keen and very attractive. She has also given them all the eye, even Gruber, and he “Can’t think why” (the latter being a reference to Gruber’s sexuality). At this point Elsa flings open the door and loudly announces General Von Klinkerhoffen, prompting The Colonel to remark “We shall have to get some cheese for our ears, this new girl is worse than Helga”. In fact it soon becomes obvious that the scriptwriters have made good use of Louise Gold’s powerful voice, having her frequently bellow her lines. Elsa salutes fairly neatly, as General Von Klinkerhoffen played by Hilary Minster enters. He has come to demand to know what progress the trio have made in recovering the painting of the fallen madonna which was stolen from his headquarters, in The Chateau. The three state what are presumably their usual excuses, to which he says dryly “In other words you’ve made no progress at all”, and departs threatening them with being sent to the Russian front. In the outer office, we have a camera angle now from behind Helga’s desk. Elsa is seated, busy with a typewriter, Louise Gold’s nimble fingers look convincing at carrying out this activity. You also can’t help noticing her bright lipstick (it turns out there’s a reason for this). Herr Flick arrives with his flowers, and on enquiring after Helga is informed by Elsa “She has gone on a course, I’m her replacement.” As Helga is away, Flick decides that Elsa will do, and suggests a date. She replies that as she is new here, she had thinks she should ask permission first. Rising to her feet she marches graciously to the inner office. The trio initially try to dissuade her, as Flick is not very nice, but then the Colonel has the bright idea that actually it would be a good opportunity to spy on Herr Flick and orders Elsa to go on the date and report back on everything Herr Flick says. They also ask her to keep an eye open for a painting of a woman “with big boobies”, at which some bright spark says “They may not seem big to you, but they do to us.” Clearly the script-writers have noticed that the actress herself is rather well endowed in that department. Elsa returns smartly to the Outer Office, and informs Her Flick that she may date him, and tells him he can kiss her. Whereupon she lifts him up by his coat lapels, so that he can do so. She is rather taller than him, especially with heels on. The camera momentarily cuts to a shot of the floor, where we can see that Richard Gibson’s feet are about a foot or two off the floor. Though I am not sure if Louise was actually holding him up herself or if she had some assistance, that was not quite clear (as the camera never showed them both full length during this moment). Back on terra firmer, as Herr Flick exits we can see the lipstick smudges on his face.
Back in the square, Leclerc played by Robin Parkinson is wheeling Edith in the wheelchair, but stops over the wrong grating, involving the airmen having the splash through the sewer to reach the soup, and just as they get their, Rene noticing the mistake has sent Leclerc away and moved the chair to the correct grating, so they have to splash back, by which time the soup has run out.
At Herr Flick’s HQ, there is a knock on the door and on enquiring who it is, a distinctive loud voice informs him it is Private Elsa Bigstern. Flick sends Von Smallhausen to “his cupboard”. Elsa marches in smartly, and very soon takes complete command of both the situation and the scene. If you have an actress with such a distinctive commanding presence as Louise Gold has, then it makes sense for the scriptwriters and the director to make use of it, which they certainly do. Elsa instructs Herr Flick to remove his glasses, when he objects, quick as a flash she does it for him. Clearly a strong powerful woman, and a strong-minded one too; as she informs him that she thinks a woman should take the lead in a relationship. Von Smallhausen tells Herr Flick he is on his own, as he is locking himself in his cupboard. Next Elsa demands that he removes his tie. “I don’t strip on a first date” protests Herr Flick. So Elsa’s nimble fingers, swiftly do it for him. If you have an actress with the skilful hands of an experienced hand-and-rod-puppeteer then it’s sensible to make use of her abilities. That done, she lunges towards him with a smile on her expressive face and a glint in her eyes. At which point the camera cuts.
Back at the square, Rene drives the Ice-cream truck over the grating. Inside are Yvette and Mimi, suitably attired, and Alfonse with his equipment. Unfortunately, the German Officers, Gruber, The Colonel and Bertorelli arrive, but they settle themselves down at the Cafe’s outdoor tables some way away. Then General Von Klinkerhoffen drives up, and asks his staff who gave permission for the Ice-Cream truck to be in the square. None of them did. Gruber calls Rene over, who has to defend trying to sell ice-cream without a licence. Eventually he invites all four Officers over for some ice-cream, unfortunately when the waitresses try to produce a cornet the ice-cream squirts all over the German Officers. Concluding the episode.
Private Elsa certainly made her presence felt in the episode, especially with her loud voice, and impressive height, and majestic movement. She scriptwriters and the director have made good use of Louise Gold’s capabilities. Though it is perhaps a little strange to have such a brown-eyed redhead as a Nazi officer. But this is a comedy so one need not worry too much about the fine details like that, especially not when the Amazonian actress is used so effectively.
Series 7, Episode 11
The episode opens in the backyard of Cafe Rene, where Rene himself is standing with a tray. He explains that the town square is too full of Germans, so they are going to lower a tray of sandwiches down the grating in the cafe backyard and float it along to the airmen, who are still stuck down the drain in the town square. Mimi enters, clad in a rather revealing blue outfit. She explains she is going sunbathing, and suggests Rene join her. He declines, retrieving the bottle of olive oil (which she has been using as a sun tan lotion), as he needs the rest of it for his cooking. Just as she exits, Yvette enters, even more scantily clad, in a red outfit (bikini perhaps). She embraces Rene, just as Edith enters. Rene pretends that Yvette fainted, due to sunstroke, because she didn’t have her hat on, and he caught her. She exits. Rene and Edith carry on preparing the tray, at which point Michelle enters. They lower the tray down. With her famous “Lesson very carefully I shall say zis only once” catchphrase Michelle tells them of her latest plan to get the airmen out, under cover of a Gypsy Fair (she has found some paperwork giving some right to hold a Gypsy Fair) and enlists Rene and Edith’s assistance in asking the Gypsies; threatening them with some of the more “trigger happy” of her resistance girls if they do not. On learning that Mimi and Yvette have gone sunbathing, she decides to join them. When Rene protests that she is not dressed for it, she takes off her coat, to reveal that underneath she is wearing a revealing black outfit, just right for sunbathing; as she says in the resistance they have to be ready for anything.
Down the drain we meet the two hungry airmen. Soon the tray comes floating along. However rats have eaten the sandwiches all but the crusts, they have left the rock cakes, but when they airmen taste them, they decide the rats can have those too, and throw them in the water.
At Herr Flick’s place, Herr Flick tells Von Smallhausen to stand by the door, as he expecting Elsa, and she is never late. He looks at his watch and counts down from ten to -1 at which point Elsa enters. He tells her she is late. She apologises, saying that she “was titivating” “That would take some time” acknowledges Herr Flick. Tall Elsa strides in gracious and swift. She informs Herr Flick that he can press against her bosom. But when he says he is not up to that today she steps back gracefully. Herr Flick informs Elsa that he has a job for her. He wants her to take The Colonel, Lieutenant Gruber, and Bertolli out one evening, so that he can slip into their office, and hide a painting. “Of the fallen Madonna with the big boobies” interrupts Von Smallhausen, who is swiftly cut off by Herr Flick telling him not to reveal too much to Elsa. Herr Flick continues, to explain that The General will think the three officers have stolen it, and have them all sent to the Russian Front. Elsa, with that extraordinary guttural accent (what a deft mistress of accents Louise Gold is) tells Otto (Elsa and Herr Flick are on first name terms by now) that “it is a masterly plan”. At this point the telephone rings. Herr Flick tells Von Smallhausen to answer it. “It had better not be another woman” growls Elsa swiftly embracing Otto her big strong arms, and kissing him, passionately. There is a quick cut to Helga, away on her training course, using her last coins. She thinks she is talking to Herr Flick and enjoys hearing his heavy breathing. Cutting back to Herr Flick’s place, as Von Smallhausen removes the telephone from his ear, to say “I think it’s a wrong number”, Elsa takes her lips away from Otto’s, as soon as Von Smallhausen says “I’ll just check”, Elsa goes back to passionately kissing Otto. There is a brief cut to Helga talking on the phone, and then, when the money runs out, back at Herr Flick’s, with Von Smallhausen declaring that “It was a wrong number”, and that he is just going “to take a cold shower”. “Leave it running” says Otto, whom Elsa has again momentarily released enough for him to speak, although he is still in her arms. This scene is really very funny, not least for its role reversal qualities. There are similar moments in other comedies, and in musicals (Kiss Me Kate has one example), where someone, usually a leading man, is kissing one of the women passionately in order for her not to say something he doesn’t want someone else in the room to know about. But this time it is the woman who has the man in her embrace. Which of course makes rather good use of having a rather tall woman and short man together.
Rene and Edit visit the Gypsy camp. The old Romany reads their palms. He thinks he met Edith when she was a child, and wonders if she is a lost Gypsy Princess, but decides that in the end she is only a distant cousin of one. However, more importantly he agrees they will hold the fair, as they need the money.
We come to one of the highlights of the episode, an evening in the cafe. The Colonel, Lieutenant Gruber, and, Bertolli are all present, as is Private Elsa, who is leaning against the piano. Gruber is seated at it. Elsa asks loudly if they would like her to sing. The Colonel thinks that seems like a good idea. Elsa asks Gruber “Lieutenant, do you know Naughty Lola?” He replies “You lead and I’ll Follow” At which with all the presence of a real professional, and a sassy twinkle in her sparkling brown eyes, Louise Gold strikes a pose and begins to sing, wrapping her glorious voice around the song. The song incidentally is in fact, They Call Me Naughty Lola, an English translation of the Marlene Dietrich classic Ich Bin Die Feche Lola, from the film Der Blaue Engel (English translation The Blue Angel). She moves swayingly like the accomplished performer that she is, and soon takes up a classic Dietrich position with her right foot on a chair, hiking up her skirt, to reveal the stockings and suspenders underneath. One cannot help noticing how much she is acting the song, as though she really means it. Her face, especially her eyes, are very expressive and convincing (as they usually are when she is singing). There is a cut to Edith and Rene who are polishing glasses at the other end of the room, with Edith saying “That girl is singing, and off key.” To which Rene retorts “Your ears are cleaner than mine”. This is in fact a joke on on-going joke, Madame Edith is the cafe’s regular singer, but in fact Carmen Silvera couldn’t really sing in tune. Thus the idea of having her complain about another woman singing off-key is funny, especially when the women is someone who happens to be a rather good singer). Edith may not take too kindly to Elsa’s singing, but judging by the expressions on their faces, The Colonel and Bertolli evidently find it very attractive. Coming to a repeated chorus, Elsa loudly asks everyone to join in, which many of them seem only too delighted to do, although we can of course still hear her loud and clear. However, they do not get very far, for the door opens, and in comes General Von Klinkenhoffern, with some soldiers. Elsa immediately stops singing, takes her foot off the chair, letting her skirt fall back to its usual correct position, and then swiftly strides round to stand with the other Officers standing to attention. The General informs the other Nazi Officers that they are under arrest for stealing the painting, which he has found in The Colonel’s desk draw; and tells the soldiers to take them to the dungeons of the chateau. Lieutenant Gruber points out that the dungeons have no doors to them, because the doors had woodworm and were sent away for repairs, on the General’s orders. So The General tells the soldiers to take them to the town gaol. “This won’t look good on my CV” remarks Gruber as they are led away. Edith remarks on how sad the arrest is. Rene agrees, but only because they haven’t paid for their beer. At this point LeClerc enters, disguised as a Gypsy clothes peg seller. He has come to inform them that the Gypsy’s have pulled out of doing the fair, something about a black cat walking backwards crossing the chief Romany’s path, which he takes as a bad omen. Just then Yvette enters, to say that Michelle is in the back room.
Leaving Yvette to mind the bar, Rene and Edith go into the back room. On hearing that the Gypsy’s have cancelled, Michelle says that in that case they must just do the fair themselves. She suggests that Rene be the Great Romany, Edith the bearded lady. While the resistance girls will also help out. Between them they plan it.
In the town gaol, the four Nazi Officers are sitting in a row on a bench, from left to right they are: The Colonel, Bertolli, Lieutenant Gruber, and, Private Elsa. In turn each bemoans the situation, until they get to Elsa, who declares “There’s one way out”. She gets up and walks swiftly to a convenient chair, near the colonel. By standing on it, this tall woman can reach the window. She grasps the window bars in two of her powerful hands, and starts to pull them apart. But The Colonel says, with conviction “No Elsa we’d be in even more trouble if we escaped”; reluctantly she moves the bars back, and steps down off the chair. I couldn’t help noticing how Richard Marner spoke that line with such feeling. It is also clear that the scriptwriters evidently decided to make the most of having such a big strong girl, with her broad puppeteer’s shoulders in the cast. For Louise Gold is fairly strong anyway (being a Spitting Image puppeteer she has to be), but she also looks so Amazonian. Thus is made good sense to hype her strength up for comic effect. As Elsa steps off the chair, The Gendarme enters with a tray, “Good Moaning” he says (his catchphrase), and informs them he has brought “Four migs of two”. Each takes a mug. When one of the guys asks about breakfast, he replies that this is prison and they are lucky to get the two. At the point General Von Klinkerhoffen enters, to say that it’s all a mistake. On closer examination he has realised that the painting is a fake. Therefore they are all released. He does however ask the colonel “But what is a forgery doing in your desk?” The colonel says it was left over from the forgeries they had done to fool the resistance. The General invited them to a slap up breakfast at the chateau. As they troupe out, passing The Gendarme left to right, each puts their mug awkwardly on the tray with their right hands, except Louise Gold (the last to exit), who (typically of her) uses her left. The door slams shut, accidentally shutting the Gendarme in the gaol.
At the Gypsy Fair, the three German Officers (The Colonel, Lieutenant Gruber, and Bertolli) soon recognise Rene, despite his boot polish. Rene explains that the Gypsies had to cancel, so they are doing the fair themselves because “We didn’t want to disappoint your men”. Mimi is running the shooting gallery (after all she is also a resistance girl and Rene’s bodyguard). Bertolli has a go; he is not too good a shot, and hits one of the vases that is a prize by mistake. Meanwhile, The Gendarme is running the coconut shy. If a coconut is knocked down Yvette, who is sitting on a platform above them will also tumble. The Colonel has a go, he doesn’t hit any coconuts, but leaning too heavily on the set brings Yvette down anyway. Leclarec meets up with Edith, who does not like being dressed as a Bearded Woman, but she will do it for the resistance. Michelle meets Rene in the fortune tellers tent. She lifts a rug to get at the stones, and a grating underneath, to speak to the airmen. It is interesting to note how quickly Kirsten Cooke can switch accent, to indicate whether her character is meant to be speaking English or French. When Michelle is speaking French Kirsten uses her classic Allo Allo accent, when Michelle is speaking English, she goes into this very classy English accent. Michelle explains that the airmen are to come up at the other grating by the rifle range, where they won’t be heard. She departs to the toffee apple stall next door she is manning. Lieutenant Gruber enters. Rene pretends to tell his fortune. Down in the sewers the airmen find to get to the other grating they will have to wade through much water, so they decide to come up this one, which is half off anyway by now. Desperate to keep Gruber in his tent, so as to keep him away from the rifle range, Rene asks Gruber if he would like to contact anyone dead. Gruber says yes, he would like to contact Rene’s twin brother to apologise for shooting him. At this point the rug begins to heave (Rene realises it’s the airmen), Gruber thinks it is the ghost of Rene’s twin brother and runs out of the tent. Michelle enters to find out why Gruber has run out. Edith also enters the airmen emerge, soon followed by three more (who have been lost in the sewer system for months). Michelle introduces the newcomers to Rene and Edith, and explains that the Cafe is a safe house. But the new airmen are so appalled by Edith’s appearance, with her still being dressed as the bearded lady, that they decide to take their chance in the sewers); and with that the episode ends.
Private Elsa had been good in the previous episode. This time Louise Gold got a chance to really use her talents as both a comedy actress and a singer, not to mention her size. The scene with Herr Flick was particularly funny. The scene in the gaol amusing. But Louise’s real triumph was in the cafe, when she got to sing that Marlene Dietrich song. It’s lovely to see her singing talents made such good use of.
Clearly Jeremy Lloyd
and Paul Adam are intelligent knowing exactly how best to make use of Louise
Gold, for the two episodes in which she appears. She was incredibly well
cast as a performer, with the result that for the purposes of this comedy, one
can ignore the fact that her red hair and brown eyes are not exactly typical
looks for a Nazi officer. But this is a comedy, so it doesn’t matter, and
besides she acts it so well. With her flair for accents, she fits right into Allo
Allo with its clever use of accents, to indicate what language is meant
to be being spoken at a given point. Private Elsa is an interesting character
for Louise, it could even be a sort of forerunner to some of the monstrous
women she has since found herself playing on the