The Mysterious Mr If, Part the Tenth
Just re-reading the 1910 installment of Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neill’s The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, and reading for the first time the new 1969 episode, and am surprised to find a “Mr. Simon Iff” in it — this being a character from Aleister Crowley’s novel The Moonchild, a stand-in for the Great Beast himself. One of Moore’s amusing conceits is to suggest that all film & literature’s pseudo-Crowleys — Oliver Haddo in THE MAGICIAN, Julian Karswell in NIGHT OF THE DEMON, Mocato in THE DEVIL RIDES OUT and the suspiciously-similar Adrian Marcato in ROSEMARY’S BABY (remind me to do a whole piece on the occult significance of names in the movie) — are the same person, endlessly faking his own death and reinventing himself via metempsychosis — a word from Ulysses which Moore doesn’t use but which popped into my head due to the fact that I’m reading Joyce.
Anyhow — this week’s installment of my inexplicably unproduced feature script sees us visit a location familiar to movie buffs: GREYFRIARS BOBBY: THE STORY OF A DOG and THE BODY SNATCHER recreated the place on sound stages, while THE PRIME OF MISS JEAN BRODIE shot there for real.
The idea of a surreal intermission is clearly swiped from Lester’s HELP! and the line inscribed on a tree is from HELLZAPOPPIN! so I must have been invoking Hel, Norse goddess of the underworld, for this appropriately funereal episode.
Now read on…
EXT. GREYFRIARS CHURCHYARD – NIGHT
The little bronze statue of feared hound “Greyfriars Bobby” is garlanded with onions and adorned with a suspicious rabbinical beard.
The shadowy figure of If sweeps through the ancient cemetery scattering Scots Porridge Oats from a packet.
By the Endymion moon above, arise, my proud beauties! In the shadow of the bronze pup, I give life to these clay puddings.
Mist rises from the ground in an unnatural manner.
Get born, you terpsichorean terrors! Your master calls you, with whistle and lyre!
He blows on a silent dog whistle and strums a washboard.
A slender feminine hand bursts through the lawn at his feet.
That’s it, Pansy! This world welcomes careless girlies! The night is young and we’re all so beautiful!
Two more hands spring forth, clutching at the night air.
Come, Prancer, come Fido, come Barbara and Steve! Come Nervo, come Brando, come Compo and Spock!
Six young BALLERINAS in dog masks emerge from the earth.
My Borzoi Ballet! Our bridal gowns shall be plywood and paint. In a chariot of frozen milk drawn by four daffodils, we shall storm St. Giles’ Cathedral and force the city rat catcher to pronounce us man and wives. But first, a word from our sponsors.
He thrusts his porridge pack at us and we CUT TO:
EXT. GREYFRIARS CHURCHYARD – DAY
A group of MOURNERS, many of them in police uniform, including a squad standing in formation with rifles.
The PRIEST is in full drone.
…although Inspector Shinty’s life was not so much cut short, as prolonged beyond all reason…
DI. Turner and Mr. Netherbow are among the group.
Netherbow, hat clamped on head, sneaks a look at his watch.
Turner spots a cloaked figure lurking behind a tree. Squinting, he sees that it is just a tattered black bin liner caught in the branches. He smiles ruefully.
…with the full ceremonial honours befitting an officer of his extraordinarily long service.
And speaking of extraordinarily long services…
The squad raise their rifles and fire into the air as one.
As if in reply, a harpoon WHUNGS out from behind the bin bag tree, and a policeman crumples, impaled.
The squad turns as one man and blasts away at the tree. Branches and chunks of bark fly through the air as half the tree is destroyed.
At length the guns fall silent and Turner hurries over to the shattered elm.
Rounding the tree, Turner finds a spray-painted graffita written down the length of the trunk:
HA HA YOU MISSED ME YOU NEED GLASSES.
Trotting over to the grave side, Turner finds Netherbow kneeling by the slain copper. The curator is examining a slip of PARCHMENT attached to the harpoon. His pinched face is a study of superstitious terror.
“Egg tower mouth doo go jet wren.”
High in the branches of the bullet-ridden tree… high, high up…no, higher… that’s it: a bird’s nest. In it, an egg. Closer. The egg cracks open to reveal a brass dog statuette.
A melodramatic LAUGH echoes as we go to:
Scratchy black and white film stock of hands working at a Potter’s Wheel. The hands gently shape the blob of wet clay until it has formed an approximation of an erect male organ.
TITLE: WE NOW RETURN YOU TO THE MAIN PROGRAMME.
EXT. GREYFRIAR’S CHURCHYARD – DAY
Netherbow and Turner stand over the slaughtered cop.
Monstrous insolence! The fiend!
And I thought the service had gone rather well until…
Don’t blame yourself, Father. Still, I wonder what that note means…
INT. COMPUTER ROOM, EDINBURGH UNIVERSITY – EVENING
The Prof examines an unusual computer printout. Strange.
I wonder what it means…
The binary data is arranged to form a picture of a hen.
A distant barnyard CACKLE echoes…
To be continued…