Review: Return to Scatterbrook – Memories of Worzel / Cert: E / Director: Derek Pykett / Screenplay: Derek Pykett / Starring: Jon Pertwee, Geoffrey Bayldon, Lorraine Chase / Release Date: Out Now
Kiddies back in the '70s who were fans of Jon Pertwee's dapper, dandyish Doctor must have had a bit of a shock when, for his next big TV role, he donned muddy rags, a straw wig and a turnip nose to play the part of the kindly scarecrow, Worzel Gummidge. But in fact, it was a chance for Pertwee to return to the sort of whiskery, comical grotesques that had been his bread and butter for years in Carry On films and the like. And the show was a reasonable success, running for four series from 1979.
This feature-length documentary takes the viewer methodically through the development of Worzel Gummidge (from what was originally a film script by Keith Waterhouse and Willis Hall, based on the children's novel by Barbara Euphan Todd), through the casting process, and then the happy days of location-shooting in Hampshire in invariably sunny weather that became known to the cast and crew as “Worzel summers”. We hear from some of the key behind-the-scenes talent and from several of the actors, including Lorraine Chase and the venerable Geoffrey Bayldon, and there's some rather blurry archive video of Pertwee being interviewed backstage in a dressing room with a quart bottle of whisky at his elbow. Sadly, there are no actual clips of the show, but the whole thing is enlivened with a wealth of continuity shots and design sketches.
Along the way, you pick up plenty of interesting nuggets – the fact, for instance, that the dog who played Ratter in the first series was replaced in the second one because its owners wanted too much money (and, we can only assume, all sorts of stringent riders about regular walkies and tummy ticklings and heaps of nice, chewy bones). Some of the actors' reminiscences go on a bit, but overall this is entertaining stuff.
There's also an interesting extra in the shape of a 16-minute home video recording from 1996 of Pertwee appearing in front of an appreciative audience, sharing polished anecdotes of his theatrical forebears, his apprenticeship in variety and one very funny story about Roger Moore in rehearsals for the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical, Aspects of Love. Only a passing mention of Who and Worzel Gummidge though – you can't help but wonder whether the bits of the talk dealing with these topics, if they ever existed, have been flogged elsewhere. The picture quality here is actually pretty good. Elsewhere, variable audio tends to be the problem, with occasional off-screen noise, and Starburst found that the DVD wanted to play in a rather annoying windowbox aspect ratio. But with money raised from sales of the disc going to charity, it seems churlish to dwell on such flaws in what is otherwise a very worthwhile exercise in nostalgia.
Extras: An evening with Jon Pertwee / Worzel picture gallery