Huddersfield, 1935. Barnstoneworth United is a small football club, once playing in the top leagues, now losing every game. One of their fans, Gordon Ottershaw (Palin), who has named his son Barnstoneworth United (John Berlyne), comes home after every lost match and smashes the furniture in fury. His wife Eileen (Gwen Taylor) quietly accepts this. She keeps trying to tell him that she’s having a baby, but he seems not to notice. After an 8-1 defeat by an elderly team, it is decided that the club be sold to a scrap dealer. The upcoming match against Denley Moor (the scene of The Testing of Eric Olthwaite) will therefore be the last. Gordon visits the owner, Mr. Foggen (Bill Fraser), and tries to persuade him to keep the club alive. Foggen refuses. But Gordon has another idea. He starts visiting the players from the great 1922 team, reassembling them for the last match. The day of the match it looks bad for Barnstoneworth. They have only four players (and three pairs of shorts), whereas the captain of the Denley Moor team is the famous Eric Olthwaite. At the last minute, Gordon arrives with the old team, who defeat Denley Moor. Gordon arrives home and the family smashes the furniture together in happiness. (John Cleese makes a brief cameo as a passer-by in the street, who peers at Eileen after she shouts to her husband.) The inspiration is Huddersfield Town F.C.‘s decline in the late 1970s, while Ripping Yarns was being filmed.
Scotland, 1926. Sir Clive Chiddingfold (Frank Middlemass), the irascible proprietor of Moorstones Manor has his birthday. His sons Hugo and Charles (both played by Palin) drive up with their fiancées. Hugo, the elder, is only interested in motors and seen as a loony by the rest of the family. He even leaves his fiancée Dora (Candace Glendenning) on the moor, when she makes him choose between her and the car. Charles, the younger, arrives with his fiancée Ruth (Ann Zelda). During dinner, Ruth drops unconscious into a cottage pie, due to Sir Clive’s stories of cruelty. Hugo comes down for a chat, his mother takes him up to bed again, when they hear a shot. Sir Clive has just been murdered. Charles claims having seen nothing as he just watched a trapdoor open. Lady Chiddingfold (Isabel Dean) then discovers that Ruth has choked on her pie. Charles offers to go and check whether Hugo still lives. There is another shot and Charles comes down saying Hugo was shot and that he again saw nothing due to the fact that he watched a secret passageway open. In the middle of the night, Dora reaches Moorstones Manor, in a terrible state. The next morning, Dr. Farson (Iain Cuthbertson) comes to check on Dora and the dead. He is obsessed with Lady Chiddingfold and at last confesses that he shot everyone to have her all for himself. The butler Manners (Harold Innocent) comes in and confesses to the murders. He did it as revenge, because he didn’t want to be ordered around anymore. Dora arrives and claims she shot everyone as a revenge for having had to bear Hugo for six years. Charles comes down and also confesses to the murders, having been after the money. The four confessed murderers then shoot one another and only Lady Chiddingfold is left.
Howard Molsen has a new shovel. Its a lovely shovel. It has a great big brass handle. Know what he is going to do? He’s going to put it next to the other one.
The Testing of Eric Olthwaite
Denley Moor, 1934. Eric Olthwaite (Palin) is interested in precipitation patterns in West Yorkshire, shovels and black pudding (his mother makes pudding so black, that even the white bits are black). His family avoids him. His mother (Barbara New) always gives him something to do the moment he starts talking, his sister Irene (Anita Carey) simply tells him to shut up, his father (John Barrett) pretends to be French in the hope that Eric won’t talk to him. One morning, Eric discovers that his family has left him. He tries to talk about it with his girlfriend, Enid Bag (Petra Markham), but she’s too busy having an affair with another man. Her father (Reg Lye), a vulture keeper, tells Eric what his problem is: He’s boring. He advises him to make something out of his life. Eric tries to start at a bank, but the manager (Palin again) tells him that he’s too boring for the job. Eric’s about to leave when the bank is robbed by a man called Arthur (Kenneth Colley), who takes Eric with him. They run for it and manage to escape. Arthur is about to shoot Eric, when the two of them discover how much they’ve got in common: They’re both interested in rain, shovels and black pudding. They decide to form a gang together. Their new fame actually makes Eric interesting. Enid joins them, Eric’s mother and father are interviewed about him and in the end, Eric Olthwaite is appointed mayor of Denley Moor.
Last episode of the first series of Michael Palin’s and Terry Jones’ priceless "Ripping Yarns", in which the two Ex-Pythons wittily lampoon cultural cornerstones of the British Empire. The terrifying story of a man who dabbled in the dark mysteries of the Orient, and lived to tell the tale.
Three days out of London I began to notice what a beautiful chief petty officer Mr Russel was….
The Curse of the Claw
Maidenhead, 1926. In a dark and stormy night, Sir Kevin Orr (Palin) is visited by a bunch of strange men: Captain Merson (Keith Smith) leading an expedition to the Naga Hills of Burma with a few natives in tow. On hearing this place name, Sir Kevin gets excited and tells Merson a long hidden secret. He grew up in a very strict house. His parents (Tenniel Evans and Hilary Mason) had his sister imprisoned for putting too much butter on her scone and his brother killed for walking on the flower beds. Young Kevin (Nigel Rhodes) had a secret sweetheart, Agatha (Bridget Armstrong) – so secret that she herself didn’t know. The only excitement in his life was visiting his Uncle Jack (Palin), who loved dirt and filth and had about every disease known to man. On his sixtieth birthday, Uncle Jack told his now grown nephew a secret: he had taken a sacred claw from the Naga hills in Burma, but had discovered there was a curse on it. The owner had to return it before his sixtieth birthday to the tribesmen or die. Kevin promises to do his best and on no account to touch the Claw. He tries to persuade his parents to let him go, but of course they refuse. His father touches the Claw in spite of Kevin’s warnings and breaks two legs just as a thunderstorm tears the house apart. Kevin runs away with the Claw. He becomes captain of the Greasy Bastard, a small ship carrying rubber goods between England and Burma. But the Curse starts to operate on him, and he finds himself attracted to the Chief Petty Officer Russell (Judy Loe). After some agonising, he discovers that Russell is a woman and that in fact nearly all members of the crew are. The voyage becomes a paradise and they don’t want it to end when they reach Burma. Kevin tries to explain the situation to his crew, but Russell throws the Claw into the sea. The ship explodes and Kevin is the only survivor. He returns to his uncle, who tells him that the Claw will find a way to return to him and that he shall live in this house until it does. Then he dies. Kevin, after his parents’ death, marries Agatha, and lives happily in his uncle’s house until the morning of his sixtieth birthday, when he finds his wife dead and the Claw lying next to her. He hands it back to the Naga tribesmen. But it has one final trick to play on him: his uncle and wife are returning from the dead, Kevin and Agatha become kids again and suddenly his father is standing in front of the door to fetch him.