from the TV serial by Keith Waterhouse
Charters & Caldicott
BBC, London, 1985
The blurb on the back:
Charters and Caldicott first achieved public fame in Alfred Hitchcock's The Lady Vanishes when, as passengers on that fateful railway journey across Europe, they anxiously demanded news of the latest Test score at every station. Now settled comfortably into retirement, their leisurely routine of lunch at the Club and amiable argument about cricket averages achieved beneath the blue skies of yesterday is abruptly shattered when the body of a strange girl is found in Caldicott's flat.
Charters and Caldicott first appeared in Hitchcock's 1938 classic The Lady Vanishes, where they were played by Basil Radford and Naunton Wayne. They were clearly intended as minor characters, representing the innate decency of the English upper-middle-class, more interested in cricket than politics but still the people you'd want on your side in the trenches. But then a curious thing happened: as the tension of the Munich era gave way to the certainties of war, their value became ever more apparent. And so the pair returned in Night Train To Munich (1940) and in a series of movies thereafter. Sometimes for contractual reasons, they appeared under other names, such as Bright & Early, but they were still the same characters.
In the 1979 re-make of The Lady Vanishes (which is much, much more fun than film critics are prepared to admit), Arthur Lowe and Ian Carmichael provided the definitive version of the duo. And then in 1985 Robin Bailey and Michael Aldridge brought them to TV in a version scripted by Keith Waterhouse and resembling nothing so much as two Mr Marples stumbling upon a murder, and bumbling towards a solution.
This is the novelization of that series. And it's quite pleasant really. Nothing too special, and the plotting is really quite sloppy, but the idea of two ex-public schoolboys behaving in their near-dotage as though they're still at school is an attractive proposition in an English kind of way, and their tut-tutting at the foolishness of the modern world is quite charming.
In a word: agreeable.
One of these days, they'll make a comeback, ideally in a film directed by Peter Hewitt.
ENTERTAINMENT VALUE: 2/5
HIPNESS QUOTIENT: 1/5