One good thing about this being the positively final chapter of THE MYSTERIOUS MR IF, my unaccountably unproduced feature script, is that we’ll be free to do week-long celebrations again — starting next week with a series of posts on a filmmaker well-known but underappreciated, and hitherto rarely discussed on Shadowplay. Shall I tell you who it is? Not yet!
Another good thing is that you need no longer stand in silence, awed by my genius, but can once more join the discussion, my creative juices discretely hooded ‘neath a veil of criticism.
Last we saw, things were coming to a head, as Mr If, Victorian master-criminal, took over the Big Computer at Edinburgh University (come on, we all know it exists!) in some one-tenth-baked scheme to end the universe. The forces of reason — including Duffle, a narcoleptic policeman; Turner, a less interesting cop; Thrower, a dunce; Sheena, a tour guide; and Howie, the human exhibit from Edinburgh Zoo — gather to stop him.
Can they succeed, or will cause and effect go up the lum, with reason besmirched and reality a-tatter?
Now, for the last time, read on!
INT. UNIVERSITY LOBBY – NIGHT
Duffle halts, holding the others back, a grim look dampening his visage.
Shit – the ballerinas.
Dancers of death!
The Ballerinas have set up a practice bar at one side of the lobby, where they are stretching and bending. They leave the bar and advance on the forces of order. One of them activates a CD player which blasts outSwanLake.
We can’t let them delay us. Thrower – arrest them.
Thrower gulps and charges forward. The Ballerinas go into kung fu mode and kick him senseless with slippered feet.
Leave these bitches to me. I know what shits them up.
She whistles. The Ballerina nearest to her covers her ears and Sheena belts her one. The girl crumples to the floor.
Of course – they can’t stand high frequency sound!
Howie doesn’t get the “0f course” part, but shrugs.
Turner and Duffle draw their police whistles and emit piercing blasts. Sheena and Howie wade in, punching the dancers into unconsciousness.
You are tutu much!
Cop this, twinkletoes!
Thrower manages to handcuff one Ballerina to his wrist while she’s covering her ears.
Right, let’s go.
They sheath their whistles and move on. Thrower’s Ballerina immediately recovers and starts kicking the shit out of him. He’s left behind.
The elevator has a sign hung on the door – THE END IS NIGH. They take the stairs.
INT. COMPUTER ROOM, EDINBURGH UNIVERSITY – NIGHT
The computer workshop is lit like a disco, a mirror ball above. Shadowy figures lurk in the corners. Upon entering, they find a giant birthday cake.
No candles – this is If’s work.
Muffled cries. Turner punches the cake, breaking the icing.
Twenty-four blackbirds take wing.
Howie peeps into the gateau and finds the Prof, bound in spaghetti and gagged with a balled-up printout.
Howie, look after the professor.
Huffily he starts unwrapping the Prof.
Footsteps. Materializing from the feet up as though emerging from a dark shadow that isn’t there, If himself.
I’m glad you could all make it to my little un-birthday party.
If himself wears a paper party hat and reads from a copy of The Dummy’s Guide to Computers.
It seems I can programme this computer to subtract facts from the area, weakening existence. My power is at its height – it is time for my apotheosis!
It’s true – my factatron has become a world-sucking truth-crumpler! He has perverted science and made it gay!
Don’t do it, If!
Duffle draws an outdated pistol and levels it at the mad genius as he plays the computer keyboard like an organ.
Then, shambling figures emerge from the far corners of the room – THE PROCLAIMERS!
Covered in tar and feathers and wielding guitars.
Fly, my pretties! Smite their brute flesh with your unreasoning fists and things!
Duffle switches his aim from If to the advancing zomboids.
Don’t shoot them! They don’t know what they’re doing.
Free will all piffle now, my mind-slave zomboids do my bidding and dream of yams! No hospice for the brain dead, but lovely fights!
The lights flicker as If nears the end of his programming.
Duffle hurls himself at the dirty zombies.
It takes a dreamer to catch a dreamer. I’ll put paid to their malarkey.
The Proclaimers throw him out the window. A scream and thud as Duffle impacts upon Turner’s car bonnet.
Strobe lights on. The Zombie Proclaimers grab Turner. As one tall singer attempts to throttle him, another marches towards him, instrument raised.
My underlings are better than other people’s overlings!
Sheena draws her gun and shoots down the mirror ball. It lands on the approaching Proclaimer’s head, and he staggers off aimlessly, making the room dance with light.
Passing Sheena, he BIFFS her head with his flailing guitar.
Turner rabbit punches the other Proclaimer, winding him.
Howie is still tearing spaghetti bindings from the Prof when he gets bored.
I want a go!
He charges between the zombies and wrestles If away from the doomsday computer. But If is becoming more and more unreal, and Howie can’t get a grip on him.
It’s like wrestling with mist, is it not? Puny human, my unreal flesh defeats your corporeal fumblings.
He growls like a wolf, but to no avail. His arms slip through If like swimming.
If’s hands solidify on his throat and do some choking.
Turner grapples with his musician while the mirrorballed Proclaimer bedevils him with his guitar neck. It snaps off, shedding straw from within.
Sheena casts around, nursing her injured head.
Think! Be detective. Solve, not fight. Poirot, Sherlock, Nancy Drew. Must – use – brain!
In a corner – a Gladstone bag marked “Dr. Trumpton Mondo”.
She opens it. The If file!
She passes it to the Prof and whispers something.
Then she empties her gun into If.
Get off my boyfriend’s neck!
If laughs satanically and carries on strangling Howie.
Howie is on the verge of losing consciousness. Everything goes blurry:
INT. ZOO – NIGHT (HOWIE’S VISION)
Everything shimmery and badly drawn.
The zoo, a sign reading ZOO.
The little furry animals – a sign reads LITTLE FURRY ANIMALS.
A possum. A sign – POSSUM.
The sign shimmers, and reforms as PLAY POSSUM.
INT. COMPUTER ROOM, EDINBURGH UNIVERSITY – NIGHT
Howie plays possum. He lets his body go limp and his tongue loll out.
If relaxes his grip and Howie kicks him in the balls.
Swine! My knackers are still solid!
Just then, an expertly flung mirrorball knocks Howie cold.
Staggering back, If sees the Prof entering details from the If File into the computer.
“As a boy, froze milk and used it as meteor. Confused bishop with wooden dress.”
No! You’re making me real!
“Burst woman with goal post at school. Lost virginity in wilderness.”
We’ll fact you up! You’ll be a pushover without your fanciness!
Sweeping Sheena aside, If advances on the Prof, but as his white hands reach for the hapless scientist’s throat, two outsize pencil erasers sweep into view, erasing If’s hands. True Crime has his revenge.
You doled out the power of erasure: little thought you that my rubbers would be your undoing!
The Prof types like fury, flicking through the aged pages of the If File.
“1889… nailed panda to Queen Victoria… covered Stuttgart in bacon…”
I’m becoming real… heavy… substantial… I can feel my feet on the ground…
“Born for third time in 1892, this time as Negro…”
Duffle, staggering back in through the door and wiping broken glass from his nightshirt, shoots If through the heart.
The zomboids recover their minds and wonder where they are.
Where am I?
Where are you?
Howie wanders over, rubbing his head. Sheena takes his hand.
If lies dying, his cape spread around him like a pool of ink. One hand flutters, a shadow of his melodramatic gestures.
All I wanted was a world that didn’t exist. A happy world with nothing in it. Alright, I may have ravished a few statues. I dressed up a cat and shot a pensioner. I may have gone too far. But who is the true criminal here among us today?
Turner puts his face very close to that of the dying man, and whispers:
If dies, a smile playing about his lips.
Well, he doesn’t exist now.
If only we could be sure. If only… if only… if… if…
EXT. GREYFRIARS CHURCHYARD – DAY
A gravestone marked “THE MYSTERIOUS MR IF”.
Draped with a string of onions.
Glib newscaster monologue #158.
So peace falls again upon our fair capital, like an unwanted figurine from a high window.
EXT. STREETS – DAY
Montage of discarded banners.
The Iffies return home, sadder but none the wiser.
The Proclaimers are led away by kindly MEN IN WHITE COATS.
Bruised Ballerinas are dragged off in handcuffs.
The followers of Mr. If’s insane death-cult have dropped their nasty placards, forgotten their right of free assembly and returned to their meaningless lives. Peculiar violations have fallen by 700%, and the surfaces of things have recovered their pleasing dull solidity. For some time to come, the good folk of Edinburgh will not take reality for granted.
The Prof walks down the street, glancing this way and that in paranoid terror. Then he shakes his head, laughs, and walks off jauntily, twirling a cane.
EXT. GREYFRIARS CHURCHYARD – DAY
The “IF…” grave.
The floral Tramp walks by, his head now free of horticulture. He carries the flowers as a bunch in his hands.
Nobody will get in a boat without first affirming it is a REAL boat, but soon our former indolence and neglect shall return, and we shall squander our lives and despoil our world as ever before.
The Tramp lays his bouquet on If’s grave.
EXT.BLUE MUSEUM – DAY
The Blue Museum, open for business.
God bless us, every one.
INT. EXHIBITION ROOM, THE BLUE MUSEUM – DAY
Bunting hangs generally.
Just another case successfully solved by the Lothian and Borders Police.
Duffle shows a new batch of uncomprehending foreign TOURISTS around the Blue Museum.
A mannequin of Mr. If has been added to the displays. He towers over a cut-out of the Edinburgh skyline, clutching a black sphere marked “BOMB”.
Turner smiles at this understatement and sips a cup of tea.
Come back in fifty years and we’ll be able to reveal the REAL story.
Now, now, Chief Inspector, mustn’t confuse the punters.
PC. Thrower, heavily bandaged, enters with a tray.
More tea, anyone?
Cries of joy from the coppers.
EXT. ZOO -DAY
Sheena hurries up to Howie’s cage, whooping.
I’m going to be a detective! They’ve waived the height restriction. I saved the universe so I get to fight crime!
That’s brilliant. All I get is some extras hay and a tire to swing on.
He clangs a bell.
In his cage, Howie tears a pizza in half and gives Sheena the section with anchovies.
So…do you think the zoo would be interested in having a breeding couple of humans instead of just the one?
Hmm. You never know. Some day humans in the wild might become rare. Better safe than sorry.
Or alternatively, I have a nice flat, you could move in.
Edward Woodward meows.
Watching their ever-more passionate embrace, the Rotund Dutchman snaps a picture and a CHILD turns to his MUM:
Mummy, what are the humans doing?
Meanwhile, a bronze statue of a great ape:
TITLE: THE END…
A tear dribbles down its cheek.
…OR IS IT?
MR. IF (V.O.)
The world shall hear of me again…
A melodramatic LAUGH.
EXT. ALLEYWAY – DAY (END CREDITS)
Scratchy black and white, overexposed sky.
An Old Testament Prophet stands in the alley with his slabs. A thirties-style British jazz song plays while the Prophet periodically drops a stone tablet.
The words on the tablets are unrelated to the song.
1) YOU HAVE BEEN WATCHING:
2) THE MYSTERIOUS MISTER IF
3) LADIES! PLEASE REPLACE YOUR HATS
4) PLEASE ADJUST YOUR DRESS
5) PAWKING METAS
6) FOG FOG FOG
7) A FILM BY HECTOR BABENCO
8) WHERE EAGLES DARE TO TREAD
9) WHERE THE JUMBLIES LIVE
10) THE WORLD SHALL HEAR OF ME AGAIN…
Mr If folds up the screen into a tiny square, pockets it, and sweeps off into a white void…