Archive for June 20, 2011

The Mysterious Mr If, Part the Third

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , on June 20, 2011 by dcairns

In part three of this unfilmed screenplay, I originally had a character crushed to death by a falling refrigerator, then realized with mortification that I’d unconsciously nicked that image from Grant Morrison’s Doom Patrol comic, which was a major influence on the story’s absurdist supervillainy in the first place. I swiftly replaced the gag with something else, but I’m not sure it’s as good.

Turner the detective was my attempt at writing a character as boring as the ones in Taggart, the Scottish television cop show. I thought a film as silly as this might need a character with no interesting attributes just so the audience could rest their eyes a little.

The idea for the occupation/residence of Howie, my third protagonist, came from writer and ideas foundry Colin McLaren. I was describing the plot of a dull social realist Scottish film, TICKETS FOR THE ZOO, and told him it was about poverty-stricken youngsters. “So they go and live in the zoo?” he asked. “Brilliant!” Alas, they did not go and live in the zoo, but that meant I could use the idea.

Howie’s name is the first of this week’s tributes to THE WICKER MAN. Now read on…

EXT. EDINBURGH ZOO  - EVENING

A dusk chorus of ANIMAL noises.

An elderly ZOOKEEPER hobbles from the Monkey House, a sack of nuts under his arm.

He passes a cage. Stops.

A man sits on a stool in the cage.

A crude hand-lettered cardboard SIGN is marked “Human”.

The human reads a copy of THE SUN. A headline barks “PEBBLES STOLEN!” over a photo of a beach.

This human is called HOWIE.

ZOOKEEPER

You can’t stay in there forever, Howie. They’ll chuck you out one of these days.

Howie lets his paper droop.

HOWIE

Give us some nuts, man.

The Zookeeper looks affronted, but hey, it’s his job…

He pours some monkey nuts into a bowl in Howie’s cage.

ZOOKEEPER

You can’t live on monkey nuts.

HOWIE

The other monkeys seem to do alright.

ZOOKEEPER

If my boss finds out you’re here -

HOWIE

You keep saying that. I don’t believe he exists.

The Zookeeper waddles off, fretting.

Howie is on the point of raising his paper again when out the corner of his eye he notices a cloaked figure distributing leaflets to the winds.

An abandoned leaflet blows past Howie’s cage and he grabs it. It is hate literature:

DIRTY PENGUINS!

THEY COME OVER HERE AND EAT OUR FISH

SAY NO TO ARCTIC SCUM!

Howie frowns.

EXT. THE FORTH BRIDGE – EVENING

The sun sinks into Fife, painfully inflamed.

DETECTIVE INSPECTOR TURNER arrives at the scene of his baffling.

Emerging from his car he finds first a pot of spilled orangey-red paint – Forth Bridge Red. Then a MAN in overalls, with an antique golf bag stuck through his torso. There is no blood, and the corpse looks peaceful.

FORENSIC NERDS take pictures and dust the chair for prints.

Pulling on a rubber glove, Turner boldly removes a club.

TURNER

Hickory. Interesting.

PC THROWER

Old-fashioned, sir.

Turner shoots him a cross look. THROWER is an idiot.

TURNER

Cause of death?

PC THROWER

The forensic nerd says he was stabbed to death with a blunt instrument. It’s a real headscratcher, sir.

TURNER

Any object can become a stabbing weapon if used with sufficient force. Even this golf bag. The man we’re looking for – and I believe it IS a man – must be both incredibly strong… and diabolically clever.

He practices his swing with the club and suddenly notices minute Forth Bridge red lettering delicately painted on the business end. It reads -

IF IS!

TURNER

“If is”? It’s not even grammatical.

PC THROWER

(eager to please)

Sir? Should we dust the bridge for prints? It might take a while…

But Turner just stares off at the CAWING gulls which arc into the infernal sunset.

TURNER

It CAN’T be…

INT. STAIRWELL, SHEENA’S FLAT – NIGHT

Water spatters the steps. Sheena plods upstairs, passing an old woman, MISS HING, who is mopping the stair.

SHEENA

Hullo, Miss Hing. Did you look in on Edward Woodward?

MISS HING

Oh aye, he’s a lovely boy.

INT. SHEENA’S HALL – NIGHT

A wall of green: old Penguin crime paperbacks.

Sheena closes the door and drops to her knees.

SHEENA

Edward?

A dozy, plump moggy pads up to her and she pets it.

SHEENA

Hello Edward. Who’s a good boy? Who’s a lovely stupid boy then? Who’s a lovely stupid smelly Edward Woodward, who’s a stinky ugly boy?

Her tone of voice is one of endearment…

SHEENA

Who’s a great fat git? Who’s a dirty great idiot? Who’s a stinky fucker?

INT. SHEENA’S LIVING ROOM – NIGHT

Sheena and the cat share a tin of tuna with cream. Sheena adds pasta to her share, under a poster for NANCY DREW, GIRL DETECTIVE starring Bonita Granville. The TV news drones:

NEWSCASTER (TV)

- a shower of trousers inNewington. Officials suggest some kind of mad trouserer may have been involved. In other news -

Sheena mutes the TV and looks at the file she’s liberated from theBlueMuseum, and the cow mask. There’s some writing on the inside of the mask, but it’s too small to read.

She takes off her specs, holds them in front of her face, and squints. They magnify the writing until she can just make out the words:

my mask

She throws the mask to one side, opens the If File, and boggles.

DISTINGUISHED V.O. ARTIST

(possibly Donald Sinden)

NEWS – ON THE MARCH! The comical chronicles of a chronic ironical criminal!

Headline: IF IS! Victorian PRINTS and BARREL ORGAN MUSIC dramatize the following:

DISTINGUISHED V.O. ARTIST

STATUARY RAPE! The bizarre criminal mastermind known only as If has sexually assaulted several prominent public statues. The statues were laid out flat and had their clothes chiselled off.

Crudely doctored Victorian prints illustrate this idea, while headlines scream “RAVISHMENT!” “STATUES!” and “WITH PRONGS!”

DISTINGUISHED V.O. ARTIST

THE CHERRY LIPS VANISHMENT! Another of If’s celebrated outrages was the theft of a confectioner’s. The shop was later found abandoned in the Queen’s Park, but now staffed entirely by pygmies.

An old print of a shop cut and pasted onto an old print of the park. A print of the interior with cut-out pygmies, wielding spears, pasted in. Headline: “PETITE SWEET TREAT.”

DISTINGUISHED V.O. ARTIST

GREAT SCOTT! If was barely thwarted in his monstrous scheme to fire the Scott Monument to the moon, using an enormous subterranean cannon operated by drunks.

Artist’s impression of the Scott Monument blasting through space. Caption: DEARY ME!

DISTINGUISHED V.O. ARTIST

A WAREHOUSE OF WOES! If was also associated in the popular press with outbreaks of hysterical fatness, a walking church, man-eating furniture, the seduction of a ventriloquist’s dummy, and a boat-full of soiled divans which alarmed fishermen in Newhaven, though nothing was ever proved.

A bunch more illustrations. Headlines: BEEFY PLAGUE, CHAPEL TART, CUPBOARD EATS JOCKEY, HE PUT HIS HAND UP ME and RIDE EM, COUCH-BUOY!

DISTINGUISHED V.O. ARTIST

POSTAL EROSION! After each horror, If sent taunting letters to The Scotsman newspaper, declaring his intention to throw off forever the bonds of reality and liberate the world from its own existence. He claimed: “Dear Boss: The world is my oyster and I mean to shell her.”

Uck puck.

Sheena lays down the file and frowns – was that the cackle of a hen?

Edward Woodward pads through to the bathroom to investigate. Sheena follows, leaving the file on the back of the settee.

As she leaves the room, the file falls and slips through a crack in the floorboards.

INT. SHEENA’S BATHROOM – NIGHT

Dark.

A sheep BAAS.

The toilet FLUSHES.

Sheena yanks the light cord, and the bathroom is illuminated.

There is no one there, except Edward Woodward, who has been blacked up, minstrel-fashion, a small banjo strung over his shoulder…

TO BE CONTINUED!

What connects a police museum guide, a detective and the human exhibit of Edinburgh Zoo? What is Mr. If’s diabolical master-plan? Can feline blackface routines catch on? Tune in to our next exciting episode!

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