The Mysterious Mr If, Part the Twelvtieth

So, I was looking at my Master Copy of the script of THE MYSTERIOUS MR IF, our Monday serial, and finding it rather funny, if I do say so myself. This is a good bit. Also quite exciting. Normally it’s easy to pick a cut-off point for an installment, I just end at a cliffhanger, but this is was fast-cut dramatic sequence and it’s ALL cliffhangers. Then I realized it would be better to cut it off BEFORE we get to the good bit. Sorry about that.

This episode seems to touch on the creepy, intrusive feelings I got from watching Vincent Price saw Arthur Lowe’s head off as he slumbers in bed in THEATRE OF BLOOD, as well as the paranoid phone-booth anxiety of LA CABINA and THE PRESIDENT’S ANALYST. And also by an experience I actually had on the High Street, when a phone booth unexpectedly started ringing. I was waiting at the traffic lights, and the only other person at the lights was a girl, and we looked at each other, and neither of us answered the phone. 

If we had — who knows?

Now read on…

(Why are the Norwegian soldiers standing to attention for a penguin at Edinburgh Zoo? It’s a good story…)

EXT. EDINBURGH ZOO – DAY

A copy of THE UNBEARABLE LIGHTNESS OF BEING.

Howie mopes in his cage, riffling through this library book.

The Zookeeper appears carrying an old phone on a silver tray.

HOWIE

Cheers.

Reaching through the bars he picks up the receiver and dials.

SHEENA’S ANSWERPHONE (OS)

Apparently I don’t want to talk to you but you can talk to my phone. Beep.

HOWIE

Sheena, I’m sorry about last night. I behaved like a lower primate. I’d like to make it up -

A rude COYPU severs the phone cord.

ZOOKEEPER

If she doesn’t take it in the right spirit, she’s not the girl for you.

Howie smiles weakly. The Zookeeper wanders off.

ZOOKEEPER

(to himself)

Bloody loony.

Howie returns to flicking through his Milan Kundera. He can’t concentrate – the page swims out of focus. Unintentionally he focuses on the ground outside his cage. He spots something. A trail of bacon leading past his cage.

Howie releases himself and goes to investigate.

Seeing him exit the cage, an OLD WOMAN drops her ice cream and runs off shouting.

OLD WOMAN

The human’s escaping!

INT. REPTILE HOUSE – DAY

Howie follows the trail into the shadowy reptile house.

Empty. Skinks scuttle about boss-eyed, all else is silence.

The bacon trail stops at a SIGN that reads “FEEDING TIME”

From behind Howie, a growl.

EXT. ZOO – DAY

SCREAMS from the Reptile House. A ROAR.

EXT. THE BLUE MUSEUM – NIGHT

The RUMBLE of a closing metal shutter.

After locking the shutters of the museum, Mr. Netherbow heads up the High Street for home.

A voice from behind!

SHEENA (O.S.)

Help me…

Netherbow spins. Sheena stands before him in a transparent raincoat and vicar’s vestments. Netherbow is disgusted.

MR. NETHERBOW

Ms. McQueen! Cover your shame!

Her face crumples like a bag. Her whole figure folds up into a PUPPET. Operating it – a sinister figure in black.

Netherbow splutters and flees.

EXT. HIGH STREET – NIGHT

Hurrying down the sooty street, he passes an empty phone box, the old-fashioned red kind.

The phone inside rings. Netherbow hesitates, then decides to ignore it. He hurries on, the ring hectoring him from behind.

Rounding a corner, he finds another identical phone booth, also ringing. He tuts and hurries past.

He passes another ringing booth, and another.

INT. MR. NETHERBOW’S LONELY GARRET – NIGHT

Netherbow arrives home at his lonely garret and slams the door on the ringing phones, immediately silencing them.

He turns and switches the light on.

RING!

RING!

Standing in the middle of the room is a red phone box. Netherbow is livid. Purple-face, he opens the door and lifts the receiver.

MR. NETHERBOW

What IS it?

A JET OF WATER smacks him in the face, the receiver behaving like a shower head.

Netherbow drops it and backs away, but the door of the booth has jammed shut. He shoves against it, as the dangling phone soaks his ankles with a continuous spray of water.

Netherbow shoulders the door but can’t budge it.

Water laps at his shoes.

He pounds on the glass but it won’t break.

He’s ankle deep.

Picking up the receiver, Netherbow tries to hang it up, hoping the water will stop, but the powerful jet of fluid refuses to let the receiver rest in its cradle.

Knee deep.

He yells into the phone, getting sprayed in the mouth.

MR. NETHERBOW

What do you want from me? I’m – glub – just a museum curator!

Mr. If, shadowy, sits up in Netherbow’s bed, next to a nude Police mannequin.

MR. IF

That’s right, Mr Curator, put things in boxes, categorize them, file them away. Let’s see how you like it in a box.

He circles the police mannequin’s nipples with lipstick.

Netherbow is up to his waist. He hammers on the glass with the receiver.

MR. NETHERBOW

I’ll give you money! Sex! Anything!

If gets out of bed and crosses to the DRESSER.

He scrawls NO SALE on the mirror in lipstick.

MR. IF

Riddle me this, museum fellow. Did the enchantress McQueen return your dossier – the one celebrating my modest escapades?

MR. NETHERBOW

I don’t know what you glub! I have powerful friends! My mum’ll glub glub -

He’s struggling to keep his head above water.

If strolls up to the booth and draws a set of full lips on a pane of the glass.

Drowned, Netherbow sinks down until his face rests against the glass and the lips seem to be his.

MR. IF

Alexander Graham Bell was a great Scotsman. But not as great as Esther Williams. Let that be a lesson to you.

(singing)

A sailor went to sea sea sea

To see what he could see see see

But all that he could see see see

Was the bottom of the deep blue sea sea sea.

As he strolls off, we see that the phone booth is gone.

Netherbow, waterlogged and dead, is in bed with the dummy.

If flicks the light off and closes the door.

DARKNESS.

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4 Responses to “The Mysterious Mr If, Part the Twelvtieth”

  1. Nice Elizabeth Taylor tribute.

    I adore Theatre of Blood and both of the Phibes films.

  2. I was traumatised by Theatre of Blood as a kid. It disturbed me so much I felt the need to understand it, so I kind of schooled myself in black comedy and my slightly dark sense of humour probably derives principally from that experience.

    Music by Michael J Lewis who also scored 11 Harrowhouse and seemed to specialize in making things sound more beautiful than was strictly necessary.

  3. What was it that most got to you about Theatre of Blood as a kid? Robert Morley being served his pet poodles for dinner?

  4. No, but I had a flatmate who was put off chicken pie for life by that scene. With me it was Arthur Lowe losing his head – the fact that his bedroom was invaded freaked me out as a child. You’re supposed to be safe in bed… from Vincent Price and a tranny Diana Rigg…

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